Saturday 16 September 2017

Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Present


While many of the leading Carry On actors are no longer with us, although thanks to constant repeats they often feel very much alive, we thankfully still have a fairly strong collection of actors around in 2017 who played important parts in the Carry On story. It's to be expected that actors who played the leads in the 1950s and 60s may no longer be around in a new century, we still miss them and wish many had been given just that little bit longer.

Even though the Carry Ons hit their stride more than half a century ago, it still shocks and baffles on occasion when anniversaries come round and you realise the likes of Sid, Charles and Frankie would now be over a hundred years old. Most of the Carry On gang died far too young with only Kenneth Connor really making it to old age, and even then he was just 75. Of the main team today, we only have Jim Dale and Barbara Windsor left, both juvenile leads in the team at the time but now into their eighties. Although I'm sad the leading lights of the team are mostly all long gone, their passing has allowed supporting actors or faces who popped in and out of the series to receive the plaudits they are seriously due.


With yet another London Film Convention upon us - and one featuring a strong Carry On line up - it has made me realise how much affection I feel for some of the actors with links to the series who are still going strong in 2017. Most are still working and showing very little sign of their years. There is something very special about some of our more mature working actors which is so identifiably British and it's a constant source of joy for me. As with film stars of yesteryear there is always such a strong presence when one of these actors enters a room. They know how to carry themselves, they know how to conduct themselves and they are the ultimate professionals when meeting and greeting their admirers. They are grafters and despite grand reputations of films they have made and people they have worked with, the vast majority are warm, friendly and incredibly down to earth.

I've had the tremendous good fortune to interview or meet several of these actors over the past few years and they've never let me down or disappointed. Madeline Smith has to be one of the most memorable - a sheer joy to chat with over the phone and even more welcoming and friendly in person. Madeline is always entertaining to listen to and very open and honest about her career. Another lady who never disappoints is the glorious Amanda Barrie, long a heroine of mine thanks to her fantastic stint as Alma in Coronation Street. Meeting your heroes is always a risky business but Amanda has been a joy and everything you could wish for. I've had similarly pleasing experiences with the likes of Valerie Leon and Jacki Piper, two actors who belie their years still ooze glamour many years after their time in the Carry On spotlight.


One of the most memorable Carry On performances of all time must be that of Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming. Fenella, who celebrates her 90th birthday in November, is one of the old school while remaining down to earth and amazed by her own popularity. Probably one of the nicest of all is Anita Harris. Still remarkably unchanged from her glamorous sixties persona, Anita is working as hard as ever - still talented, kind and generous with her time. 

We simply don't seem to produce people with this kind of star quality these days. I don't know why but we just don't. While a lot of what I do on this blog is remembering and celebrating long lost heroes like Sid, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth, I think it's still important to cherish those that remain. These vital, still vibrant are a vital link to the past but also have much to offer in 2017.

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