Wednesday 20 December 2017

Whatever Happened to Susan Beaumont?


After enjoying Carry On Nurse today I thought I would write a blog about one of the lesser known actresses to appear in that excellent, classic Carry On film. Susan Beaumont played Nurse Frances James, a supporting role in this, her only film in the series. I confess I only know Susan for this role so had to look her up on the internet to find out a bit more about her. 

Susan's character Frances James appears throughout Nurse, mostly working alongside Ann Firbank's character Sister Helen Lloyd. Mainly on night duty, her character gets mauled at by a sedated Terence Longdon and also has to deal with Cyril Chamberlain's Bert Able when he goes on the rampage without his pyjamas! The joy of Nurse is that many of the nursing staff play it straight and this makes them all the more believable. Writer Norman Hudis included elements of reality in his script, mainly provided by his wife Rita, a nurse in real life. This adds a great deal to the film and balances nicely with the broader comedy provided by the likes of Kenneth Connor and Charles Hawtrey.

Susan Beaumont, who was born in Balham, South London in February 1936, sadly didn't return to Pinewood to work again with the Carry On team. I like her performance in Nurse however I guess the character being quite normal and down to earth would mean perhaps she'd struggle to fit in with later, more outlandish efforts. Of course that wouldn't have happened anyway as Beaumont appears to have left acting by the end of the decade, her last credit coming in 1959. Aged just 23 at the time, it seems an odd decision but I can't find any details on why she left the limelight.


Susan was born to parents both involved in the business. Her father, Alfred Black, was a theatre producer and impressario, himself the son of George Black who was also a theatre impressario. George had been the Managing Director of the London Palladium from the late 1920s through until the war years and was even in charge of the Royal Variety Performance for a time. George Black was also the Managing Director of Moss Empires which, for a time made him one of the most important figures in the London theatre scene. 

George Black Senior died in 1945, leaving his business interests in the hands of his two sons - Susan's father Alfred and George Junior. Together, they began to investigate the new medium of television and once independent television came along in the mid-1950s, they were soon producing their own show, Strike A New Note. Billed as a talent show, it didn't last for long however it did see the teaming up of comedy great Arthur Haynes with the living legend that is Nicholas Parsons. Nicholas would continued to play Arthur's straight man for several years to come. Susan's father was also involved in setting up Tyne Tees Television, the regional station which served North East England from early 1959. So Susan came from quite a background!

Susan's mother was the musical comedy actress Roma Beaumont. It was therefore no surprise that young Susan took after her parents and was admitted to the Royal Academic of Dramatic Art (RADA). Despite this big step towards becoming a professionally trained actress, Susan only lasted one term at the prestigious school before leaving to take up a job in a pantomime. What may have seemed a rash decision at the time obviously worked out well for her as Susan was soon working with Norman Wisdom, dancing in a show with him at the London Palladium, the same theatre her grandfather had run twenty years before. From there Susan Beaumont went on to appear in a stage musical called Limelight. At around this time, at the age of just 19, she was spotted and signed up to the famous Rank charm school. A contract player, Susan went on to appear in several films during the 1950s.

Susan at Olympia in 1956

Susan Beaumont's first film credit was as a girl in a dream sequence in the 1955 film comedy The Lyons Abroad, directed by Val Guest and based on the famous, popular radio series. That same year she also had small parts in the film Simon and Laura, starring Peter Finch, Kay Kendall and Muriel Pavlow and an uncredited part in the Norman Wisdom comedy, Man of the Moment. A more substantial part came along the following year when she played Susan Storer in the Frankie Howerd vehicle, Jumping for Joy. The cast of this film included both Joan Hickson and Terence Longdon, actors she would meet again two years later on the set of Carry On Nurse. 

In 1957 Susan co-starred in the romantic drama, High Tide at Noon, which was set in Nova Scotia and starred Michael Craig and Flora Robson. Susan played the part of Kristy. She would work again with Flora Robson and for director Philip Leacock in another drama the following year, Innocent Sinners. In 1958 Beaumont had a starring role in the thriller The Spaniard's Curse and later that same year worked with Carry On Sergeant actor and future Doctor Who William Hartnell in the crime drama On the Run. This film was written by Brian Clemens who would go on to dominate the small screen in the 1960s and 70s with hits such as The Avengers, Thriller and The Professionals. 

Susan with Leslie Phillips in The Man Who Liked Funerals
In January 1959, Susan co-starred with Carry On Nurse colleague Leslie Phillips in the comedy feature, The Man Who Liked Funerals. This film, in which a man attempts to save a condemned youth club by blackmailing the families of the recently deceased (doesn't sound much like a comedy to me!) featured reliable support from the likes of Marianne Stone and Jimmy Thompson. Also in '59, apart from Carry On Nurse that is, came Susan's final two film roles, as Janet Shenley in the crime drama Web of Suspicion (again penned by Brian Clemens) and finally, No Safety Ahead, another crime thriller in which she starred with the infamous Soho legend and Carry On Regardless cameo-maker, Denis Shaw.

Susan only made two known excursions in the blossoming 1950s world of television. She co-starred in a one off play in the Theatre Night strand called Living for Pleasure, in 1958. In this play Susan worked for prolific director William Chappell, a veteran of theatrical revues, and a cast which included Carry On Sergeant star Dora Bryan, Anna Massey's older brother Daniel and George Rose, a close friend of Kenneth Williams in the 1950s and 60s. Susan also made two appearances in the popular series Ivanhoe, which of course starred Sir Roger Moore in the years before he found lasting fame as Simon Templar in The Saint and James Bond.

Roma Beaumont, Susan's actress mother
After No Safety Ahead in 1959, Susan Beaumont quietly retired from acting. As far as I am aware she is still alive at the age of 81. Her mother Roma passed away in 2001 at the age of 87 with Alfred passing away the following year aged 89. You can see Susan's parents as guests on actress Pat Kirkwood's This is Your Life tribute show in 1994 by following this link
and you can read more about Susan's mother Roma's career in her obituary which is available here.

If anyone knows what happened to Susan once she left the acting profession, I'd love to hear from you.

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