Friday, 1 December 2017

Carry On Reading: Brilliant Gifts for Christmas

It's Christmas shopping time once again so I thought I would bring you some of my favourite Carry On comedy related stocking fillers. I'll have more on this tomorrow with some of my favourite Carry On art but today I thought I'd start off with some brilliant books I've featured on the blog over the past year or so. I recommend them all to you for the classic comedy fan in your life:

Fenella Fielding: Do You Mind if I Smoke?

In these pages you will fall in love with the real Fenella, whose genuine innocence in her early days in often seedy and dangerous post-war London was her best protection. You’ll learn how she crafted the career she longed for in the face of determined and sometimes cruel opposition from her parents. How she went up the ladders of fame and down the snakes of self-doubt and despair. How she learned to live with, like and sometimes loathe the famous actors, impresarios, conmen and characters of the day.

So famous in the 1960s that she was chosen by Littlewoods to hand over a cheque for a third of a million pounds to a Pools winner, by the 1970s she had one of her own cheques returned and realised she was broke.

The story nearly ended there, but talent and sheer guts pulled her though the dark times and out into the light of new-found success. In 2017 she turned 90. The star known as the 'England’s First Lady of the Double Entendre' is still seducing audiences with that unforgettable voice, her perfect timing and wicked humour never better.

The memoirs very carefully kept the authenticity of Fenella's voice throughout and even though this is the print version, Fenella's voice comes over as beautifully resonate and utterly unique as ever.

You can find out more and order a signed copy here

Morris Bright and Paul Burton: Elstree Studios. A Celebration of Film and Television

Elstree Studios is a lavish tribute to ninety years of film and television production. These renowned film studios have been home to some of the most successful and enduring film and television programmes produced in the UK, from Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Avengers to The King's Speech and TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Big Brother.

With contributions from actors, directors and behind-the-scenes personnel, this book traces the studios' history, from humble beginnings, through the golden age of film, tough times and the threat of closure to becoming London's go-to film and television studio today. This fascinating history is lavishly illustrated with over 250 photographs and film stills.

Published in association with the studios, this is a celebration of world-class film and TV, and provides an intriguing insight into the past glories and hurdles faced by Elstree Studios and the film and television industry, looking forward to an exciting future.

You can buy the book here 

And you can read more about my visit to Elstree back in September for a very special evening here

Sarah Miller Walters: Joyce To The World

If you’re a fan of the early Carry Ons, chances are you’re a fan of the St Trinian’s films too. Pre-dating ‘Carry On Sergeant’ by four years, the first St Trinian’s film pre-empts the subversive style that we all grew to love. Alastair Sim is in drag as the headmistress and the school girls are learning how to be gamblers, moonshiners and petty thieves. One or two faces that will be familiar to the Carry On fan appear in the 1950s films, including Joan Sims, Sid James, Irene Handl, Renee Houston, Eric Barker and Dilys Laye. Liz Fraser also appeared in one of them and in her autobiography she tells of how honoured she felt to be working with Joyce Grenfell.

Joyce is the St Trinian’s highlight for many – she featured in the first three films of the series as Policewoman Ruby Gates.  She is quite a pathetic character, being engaged to a fellow officer who spends his time avoiding marrying her. She is sent to St Trinian’s for undercover work and has a terrible time of it. There are shades of ‘Carry on Constable’ and ‘Carry on Teacher’ here!

But there was a lot more to Joyce than her 1950s film appearances. She loved music and worked for ENSA in World War Two; singing to wounded servicemen. Also, she was queen of the monologue – most famously as a nursery school teacher wrestling with an imaginary class of tiny delinquents. She was well known for this type of performance in the revues of the 1950s. June Whitfield worked alongside her on one of these and, like Liz Fraser, remembers her fondly. Joyce invited June to her flat for tea one afternoon, and true to expectations served her cucumber sandwiches. 

As television developed in popularity, Joyce was in demand for her monologues and songs and she transferred to the small screen well. She became a firm fixture in our national consciousness and an influence on many women in the entertainment business. Most famously, Victoria Wood adapted Joyce’s style in her stand-up comedy routines. Victoria’s girl with the yellow beret and orange mac is probably the best example of this. One of my favourite of Joyce’s lines:

"They don't applaud in church but you can tell when they like it. They breathe heavy."

Could have easily come from the much missed Victoria too!

Joyce Grenfell died in 1979, aged 69. ‘Carry on Columbus’ actress Maureen Lipman helped to keep the memory of her work alive with her biographical show called ‘Re Joyce’. And while the memory of many of her contemporaries fades, those of Joyce remain strong and there is a great deal of love for her. The reaction to tweets from my tribute Twitter account (@callmesossidge) shows her lines to be as fresh, relevant and funny as ever. Her work has influenced me in my creative writing and I have recently published a collection of short stories called ‘Joyce to the World’. Each story is about a person whose life is touched in some way by a piece of her work – a song, a monologue or a film role. The stories follow the span of her career from the 1930s to the 1970s, and they reflect the times that they come from.

You can get it on Kindle or paperback here 
You can read about Sarah's five main inspirations here: Favourites in Five
And you can find out more about Sarah's other marvellous books here: Sarah Miller Walters' Amazon Page

Christine Ozanne: The Tome of the Unknown Actor

Christine Ozanne is an actress who has enjoyed a diverse and varied career across stage and screen. She is probably best known to Carry On fans for her role as the cleaner in the second film in the series, Carry On Nurse, made in late 1958 and released the following year. 

With a message from the esteemed actor, David Jason, on the cover, this newly published book, written by a show-biz veteran, pays homage to the jobbing actor, and is a perfect antidote to the current cult of celebrity. 

Sit back and enjoy rollicking through Christine Ozanne's career in theatre, television, radio and film. This largely anecdotal memoir exposes the ups and downs of an actor’s life, working with many of our best loved household names, and written with a gentle humour and admiration for fellow thespians. The book could also be described as a learning curve for young actors challenged by the pitfalls of today’s industry, with an insight into Shakespeare’s text, and performing at the Globe.

From the author’s wartime childhood in Leicester to her worldwide travels, Christine Ozanne has chronicled many hair-raising experiences, none more hilarious than times spent in theatrical digs.   For anyone intrigued by the revelations of a professional actor's life, this is a thoroughly entertaining read.

You can buy Christine's fascinating memoir via Amazon  Alternatively you can find it on Christine's website And you can read my blog interview with Christine here

Robin Le Mesurier: A Charmed Rock'n'Roll Life


I had the great pleasure of interviewing Robin Le Mesurier late last year. Robin, the son of legendary actors Hattie Jacques and John Le Mesurier, told me at the time he was finishing off his much-anticipated autobiography. Well now his book, A Charmed Rock'n'Roll Life, has now been published.

The book tells the story of Robin's early life growing up with two very famous parents. It charts his own career in the music industry. From my chat with Robin,  Here's what his publisher, The Book Guild has to say:

Robin Le Mesurier, the son of two of Britain’s best-loved comedy actors, John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques, and a hugely successful musician, has penned a tell-all book about his life. Robin cut his first single for EMI at 16 and was offered a place at the Royal College of Music but choose rock and roll. Playing in various groups and studio sessions led to a spell with The Wombles, the chart-topping band based on a children’s book – but his involvement with them came to an abrupt end after he was arrested.

Robin began his association with Sir Rod Stewart by working as a roadie with the band, but later on he became a key member of the group, with whom he recorded and toured worldwide. His love life was hectic at times – numerous girlfriends included Sharon Osbourne and Brogan Lane, Dudley Moore’s ex-wife, before he married a Playboy Bunny girl.

In 1994, Robin started working with Johnny Hallyday, one of the world’s bestselling recording artists and has since toured worldwide regularly with the French actor and rock icon, often described as ‘The French Elvis’.

Inevitably, the rock and roll lifestyle took its toll. In 2011 Robin was drinking a bottle of vodka a day and his second marriage was in trouble. He appeared on Rehab, in which a group of celebrities with addictions resided at a rehabilitation centre in Malibu. This treatment certainly saved his marriage… if not his life.

Robin also has his own website which you can visit here You can read my interview with Robin here

Whatever you choose, happy reading!

 You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

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