Monday 27 November 2017

Carry On Faces in Different Places: Sailor Beware!

Here we go with a brand new series of blogs looking at some of the cream of British comedy film making from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Although this blog is all about the Carry Ons, believe it or not, there were some other joyous comedy films made away from Peter Rogers Productions. However, given the quality of the actors Peter employed to make his series, it's no wonder that most of them popped up elsewhere.

So far I've looked at the wonderful 1959 crime caper Too Many Crooks , the 1954 domestic comedy starring Dirk Bogarde, For Better For Worse , the big screen spin off Please Sir! and the wonderful Up Pompeii and the brilliant John Gregson and Diana Dors vehicle, Value for Money.
Today we're going to cover another classic British comedy film, Sailor Beware! a 1956 British romantic comedy film directed by Gordon Parry. It was released as Panic in the Parlor in the United States.

The film is an adaptation of the successful stage play of the same name. It follows the story of a sailor betrothed to be married, but wary that home-life may echo that of her parents: a hen-pecked husband and battle-axe mother.

Carry On Faces?

The star of the film is the wonderful, larger than life Peggy Mount. Peggy had played the role of Emma Hornett on the stage and it became the role which made her name. Peggy would of course go on to star with Sid James in the ITV sitcom George and the Dragon. Playing Peggy's daughter is Carry On original Shirley Eaton. We all know Shirley from her roles in Carry On Sergeant, Nurse and Constable. Playing Aunt Edie Hornett (more on her later) is the gorgeous Esma Cannon, who added energy and laughter to four Carry Ons - Constable, Regardless, Cruising and Cabby.

Also, look out for Ronald Lewis as Albert Tufnell. Although Ronald never appeared in a Carry On, he did work for Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers in two films - Twice Round The Daffodils and Nurse On Wheels, both opposite Juliet Mills. You can read more about why I think Ronald should have made a Carry On here: Carry On Blogging: When Leslie and Terence Didn't Carry On

And I can't finish without mentioning the wonderful Gordon Jackson, seen here playing Albert's friend Carnoustie Bligh. Gordon, a long-time friend of Kenneth Williams, has always been a favourite of mine, for his roles in films like The Great Escape and Whisky Galore to television in The Professionals and Upstairs, Downstairs.

What's it about?

Royal Navy sailor Albert Tufnell is to marry Shirley Hornett the next day. He and his best man, fellow sailor Carnoustie Bligh, travel to the Hornett household.

However, Albert begins to have second thoughts when he spends the day with her family. He has no problem with her father Henry or with meek spinster aunt Edie, but her domineering mother Emma is another matter entirely. (Meanwhile, Carnoustie and Shirley's beautiful cousin Daphne Pink are attracted to each other.) When Albert announces that he and Carnoustie are going to see their pals that night, Emma objects strenuously, as does Shirley, but they go anyway. Later, Emma sends Henry to fetch them, but it is they who have to bring back a thoroughly drunk Henry.

Edie lets slip plans for the couple to live in a house three doors away, plans made without consulting the bridegroom. Albert gives Shirley a chance to inform him, but she does not do so, which concerns him.

Best Bit?

Without a doubt the best bit of this film is the character of Edie Hornett, played by the glorious Esma Cannon. Esma appeared in many, many films during her career but often was restricted to cameo roles or small supporting parts. In Sailor Beware, Esma has a brilliant starring role and works so well with Peggy Mount. The very visual different in their stature and shape provides instant comedy but of course, the way the characters look is also reflected in the way they behave. I love Esma's dithery, twittery performance - it's an absolute joy.

Did you know?

The film features an uncredited performance from a young Michael Caine. Very new to the profession and in one of his earliest appearances on film, Michael plays a Sailor who can be seen very briefly, so keep your eyes peeled!

There are also uncredited roles for future stars Henry McGee, playing a milkman and future Good Life and Yes Minister star Paul Eddington, playing a Bearded Sailor. 

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