Wednesday 31 January 2018

Jayne Bickerton's Cracking Carry On Prints!

One of the joys of Twitter for me over the past few weeks has been getting to know the very talented actress and artist Jayne Bickerton. Jayne is known for her work on the likes of Coronation Street, Phoenix Nights and Happy Valley, but she also runs a thriving business as a very creative artist. I love her work so much that I've just ordered a print myself.

Jayne has recently started creating prints of some of our favourite Carry On actors and being a fan herself, you can see the love and attention to detail that's gone into them. I can't wait to receive my Amanda Barrie print, pictured above, which sees the actress in full on Coronation Street Alma mode. 

Other crackers include prints of Joan Sims, June Whitfield, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Sid James and one of Jayne's mentors, the ultra talented Bob Monkhouse. Each print is signed and numbered in a limited edition run of 100 prints. They are available in two different sizes, professionally printed onto 230gm heavyweight high quality matte photo paper. 

Here are some of my favourites:

My comedy heroine, Joan Sims 

The wonderful Charles Hawtrey

Dame June! 

Brilliant Bob Monkhouse

You can check out the full range of Jayne's brilliant art here: 

You can follow Jayne on Twitter @craftedcreature 

And you can read my blog interview with Jayne here: Carry On Blogging Interview: Jayne Bickerton

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

Amanda Barrie leaves the Big Brother house

Carry On and Coronation Street actress Amanda Barrie left the infamous Celebrity Big Brother house last night. In what turned out to be a triple eviction, Amanda was the last of three celebrities to be voted out before the final at the end of the week.

When it was announced that Amanda was appearing in this series I wished her well but admitted this form of reality television doesn't really float my boat. Despite this and purely because she was appearing, I watched Big Brother for the first time ever. I'm not sure I'd be a repeat viewer. I love Amanda though and although she must be sick of hearing this, she really does look wonderful for 82 years young!

Although I'd have loved her to win the series, I'm actually quite relieved she's been released. It looks like a fairly exhausting experience, being constantly filmed and spending time with a bunch of people you've never met before. And being at the hands of the television editor can't be much fun either. I guess Amanda knew what she was up against though and she's a tough cookie who's seen it all many times before!

Amanda's stint in the Big Brother house wasn't without controversy and while I don't want to dwell on this negative side of the experience, whatever your views, some of the abuse Amanda has received via the wonderful world of Twitter has been pretty vile. My best wishes go to both Amanda and her wonderful wife Hilary. I bet Hilary is glad to have her back and I hope they manage some time out to recover!

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

Happy Birthday Carol Hawkins!

Many happy returns to the lovely Carol Hawkins who celebrates her birthday today. Carol was a regular presence in many classic British comedy films and television shows during the 1970s and 1980s and continues to delight fans at film conventions.

After making her name as Sharon in the big screen version of Please Sir! and the subsequent spin-off series The Fenn Street Gang, Carol joined the Carry On team in 1972 for the first of two adventures with the gang. As Marge in Carry On Abroad, she jetted off to Elsbells with her friend Lily (Sally Geeson) and found love with Brother Bernard! 

Carol returned to the Carry On films with another supporting role as Sandra in Carry On Behind in 1975. In this Carry On Camping II, Carol played a glamorous young camper alongside Sherrie Hewson. The pair led Jack Douglas and Windsor Davies a right merry dance. 1975 also saw Carol appear in two episodes of the ATV series Carry On Laughing, starring alongside the likes of Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw and Joan Sims. 

Away from the Carry Ons, Carol has had a long and successful career appearing in films such as Bless This House, Confessions of a Pop Performer and Now Now, Comrade. On television she has popped up in such diverse productions as The Two Ronnies, The Bill, Robin's Nest, Blake's 7, Porridge and Trial and Retribution. 


Now retired from acting, Carol lives in Spain. Whatever Carol is up to today, I hope she has a great birthday!

See also: Whatever Happened to Carol Hawkins?

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

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Carry On Originals: Leigh Madison

This is part of a new series of blogs looking back at the stars of the original Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant. 2018 marks 60 years since Sergeant was made and released so what better time to turn the focus on all those brilliant actors who brought our favourite series of comedy films to life?

We're continuing with an actress who played small parts in two early Carry Ons, Leigh Madison.

Role in Carry On Sergeant: Sheila, the girl in the car seen with Terence Longdon at the beginning of the picture

Other Carry On roles: Leigh returned to play the glamorous Dr Winn in the follow up film, Carry On Nurse later in 1958.

Other notable film performances: Diana in Make Mine A Million; Jean in The Giant Behemoth and Cashier in Please Turn Over (all 1959)

Best remembered for: Continuing on a Carry On theme, Leigh had her biggest television role in the ITV comedy series, Our House, playing Marcia Hatton in 37 episodes between 1960 and 1962. The series was written by Norman Hudis and co-starred Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtrey.

Did you know?: From 1960 until her death, Leigh was married to the producer and director Ernest Maxin, best known for his work on television with the legendary Morecambe and Wise.

Leigh was born on the 11 March 1934, exactly the same day and year as fellow Carry On actress Dilys Laye.

What happened to her?: Sadly Leigh died in December 2009 at the age of 75, following a battle with ill health. 

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

Monday 29 January 2018

Connor Carries On ... as Hengist Pod!

Next June will mark Kenneth Connor's centenary. This feels like the right time to celebrate the man's legacy and what better a legacy that his seventeen glorious performances in the Carry On films. As I've already done with the three main leading ladies of the series, I plan to embark on a series of blogs profiling each of Kenneth's roles in the Carry Ons, giving my own take on his contributions.

Kenneth is another one of those actors who worked steadily, prolifically and across all mediums throughout his career. From his very early days in film before the outbreak of World War Two, through the 1950s which saw him become an integral part of British radio comedy to the Carry Ons and his unforgettable roles in several 1980s sitcoms, Connor was an incredibly gifted actor. He worked right up until his death at the age of 75 in November 1993. However unlike Sid, Kenneth Williams or Barbara Windsor, I feel that Connor never really got the credit he deserved. He didn't have an outrageous private life, no scandals to be told. He shunned the limelight and his many performances as the ordinary man in the street mirrored his own life away from the cameras. 

Kenneth was also one of the precious few actors who's career spanned pretty much the entire run of the Carry Ons. He was there at the very beginning in Carry On Sergeant and, a five year gap in the mind 1960s aside, remained loyal to the films until the very end of the original run in 1978. Connor, along with Williams and Eric Barker were the only actors to appear in the very first and the very last of the series. Kenneth was still around when Columbus was made in 1992 but declined to take part, probably very wisely. This new series of blogs will be a celebration of all those wonderful comedy performances in the Carry Ons - from bumbling romantic lead through to crumbling character parts, Kenneth could play them all.

So let's continue with Kenneth's eighth role in the series, as Ancient Briton Hengist Pod in Carry On Cleo, released in 1964.

So much has been written about Carry On Cleo, one of the best known, most fondly regarded films in the entire series. So great is Cleo that even those sad souls who claim not to love the Carry Ons show grudging respect for the film. Kudos indeed! Taking advantage of a load of left over sets and costumes once the epic Elizabeth Taylor film Cleopatra had departed Pinewood for the warmth of Italy, Peter Rogers produced a plusher, richer looking film than usual. Cleo was oh so much more than just a parody of big budget Hollywood films though, it was and is quintessentially British in every way. 

The familiar cast of characters are playing their usual parts, only this time in funny period costumes. I always think the period Carry Ons have worn better than some of the modern day films from the 60s and 70s. They have a timeless quality to them and in many ways just don't date. Cleo sees a clutch of favourites having a ball with one of Talbot Rothwell's very best scripts. Everyone is on fine form here: Sid James playing a very Hancockian, Cockney Mark Anthony; Kenneth Williams wailing and snivelling as the pathetic Caesar; Charles Hawtrey as the cheeky old sage Seneca and Joan Sims, playing it for real in almost Shakespearean tones as Calpurnia. Amanda Barrie is just glorious as the dippy, bewitching Cleopatra and with a supporting cast of the likes of Warren Mitchell, Sheila Hancock, Wanda Ventham, Peter Gilmore and Jim Dale, you just can't go wrong.


Ah, but what of our main man, Kenneth Connor? Well for me, Cleo provides Kenneth with one of his very best Carry On roles. Times have changed since the early days of the series when he was the main star attraction in the likes of Teacher, Nurse and Regardless. Cleo sees the Sid James and Kenneth Williams adversarial starring combo reach new heights following its first try out in Cruising two years before. Those two fine comic actors would take top billing in the vast majority of the films which followed which meant a returning Connor in 1969 moved over to take on supporting roles and cracking character parts. Cleo can be seen as the middle ground in Connor's Carry On career. While Sid and Kenneth Williams grab top billing, Kenneth C really does grab one of the finest roles. Playing to type in the Horace Strong, Gregory Adams vein of early roles, Kenneth's Hengist is the rather hopeless, clumsy, pathetic little every man. Picked on by his domineering wife (Hancock), laughed at for his dreadful inventions (the square wheel), he is always running away from the fight until a typical Carry On mix up sees Caesar believe Hengist is a champion fighter and makes him his bodyguard! 

At the heart of the film is a wonderful buddy friendship between chalk and cheese characters - the bumbling, accident prone Hengist and the courageous, handsome warrior Horsa, played by Jim Dale. Connor and Dale didn't really get to work an awful lot together in the Carry Ons as when Jim grabbed most of his starring roles Connor was off doing other things. However here they work splendidly well together. Another great double act is Connor and Sid James as the macho Mark Anthony. Sid just can't believe Kenneth is capable of slaying Rome's finest soldiers and sends him up rotten whenever he gets the chance. Sid's irresistible twinkle is used to great effect in these scenes and the two old pros are obviously having a wonderful time together.


Another favourite scene sees Hengist take the place of Williams' Caesar for an assignation with Cleopatra. Following a priceless cameo from Jon Pertwee as a soothsayer who conjures up visions of a plot against Julius, Hengist must tackle Cleo in her boudoir. The scenes between Williams, Connor and Barrie are beautifully camp and knowing, perfectly timed and just a joy. Again, it made me wish these fine actors had worked together more often. At the end of the film, Hengist is victorious as he proves for real that he can tackle the muscle-bound enemy and win through. As he departs Egypt with Caesar and Horsa, he grabs Cleo's love potion and hot foots it back to England! Old Senna Pod just didn't know what was in store! 

Sadly after this, Kenneth decided to take a break from the Carry Ons to focus on other work. The next five years would see Connor concentrate on theatre roles and while it was great to see his career flourish in this way, it's always a bit of a shame to think he missed out on so many of the prime, classic Carry Ons of the mid to late 1960s. Fear not though, as Kenneth did return to Carry On Up The Jungle in the autumn of 1969 and that's what the very next blog in this series will be all about!

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

Saturday 27 January 2018

Carry On Faces in Different Places: Floodtide

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.
Most recently I blogged about the Sid James and Kenneth Connor comedy horror What A Carve Up!

Today I'm going off track a bit with a blog about the 1949 romantic drama, with a bit of ship building thrown in, Floodtide.

Carry On Faces?

Quite a few Carry On connections in this film. There is a substantial supporting role for the wonderful Jimmy Logan playing Tim Brogan. This role is miles away from his parts as Bert Conway in Carry On Abroad and Cecil Gaybody (!) in Carry On Girls, but there is still plenty of cheeky charm! Also in the film is reliable Scottish character actress Molly Weir, playing landlady Mrs McTavish. Molly had a cameo in Carry On Regardless and much later, in the film of Bless This House.

Floodtide also co-stars the brilliant Janet Brown, years before her fame as Mrs Thatcher impersonator extraordinaire. Janet was of course married to Carry On legend Peter Butterworth from 1947 until his death in 1979. And the film leading couple are played by Gordon Jackson and Rona Anderson, whose main Carry On connection was that they were lifelong friends or Carry On star Kenneth Williams.

What's it about?

David Shields (Gordon Jackson), the son of a Scottish farmer, dreams of a life in the city. Against his father's wishes he obtains a job in the shipyards where his flair for design moves him swiftly up the ladder. This is resented by many of his colleagues, as is his impatience and dislike for performing menial tasks. However, David designs a revolutionary ship which impresses his boss, whose daughter (Rona Anderson) he is deeply in love with. Will he succeed in all he wishes to achieve?

Best Bit?

Much of the film is carried by the easy, affable charm of Gordon Jackson and his terrific chemistry with Rona Anderson and Jimmy Logan. My favourite scene sees a drunken Jackson lured back to the flat of scheming temptress Judy (Elizabeth Sellars). He is rescued just in the nick of time by Logan and Anderson and as Judy's true colours are revealed, Logan's Tim Brogan deals with her perfectly with the line "you'll get the jail for that caper, ye daft wee besom".

Did you know?

Gordon Jackson and Rona Anderson first met on the set of this film. They would go on to marry two years later, in 1951. They had an enduring marriage, which lasted until Gordon's early death from cancer in 1990. They worked together again on film in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1969 and later still, when Rona surprised Gordon as one of the guest stars in an episode of The Professionals in 1981. The casting director Esta Charkham had kept Rona's casting secret from Jackson.

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