Wednesday 28 February 2018

Carry On Originals: Shirley Eaton

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 became to the Carry Ons' first leading lady: Shirley Eaton

Role in Carry On Sergeant: Mary Sage

Other Carry On roles: Shirley returned for a starring role as Nurse Dorothy Denton in the following film, Carry On Nurse, also filmed in 1958. At the end of 1959 she returned one last time for a cameo role in Carry On Constable as Sally Barry.

Other notable film performances: Shirley also starred in two Doctor films: as Milly Groaker in Doctor in the House (1954) and as Nan in Doctor at Large (1957). Eaton also played Shirley Hornett in Sailor Beware! (1956); Melissa Right in The Naked Truth (1957); Jill Venner in Dentist On The Job (1961) and Linda Dickson in What A Carve Up! (1961).

Best remembered for: Without a doubt, Shirley is best remembered for her supporting role as Jill Masterson in the classic 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger, which saw her character suffer a memorable demise, painted gold.

Did you know?: Shirley married Colin Rowe in 1957 and had two sons. She retired from acting in 1969 in her early thirties to concentrate on family life. 

What happened to her?: Spending a lot of her later life in France, Shirley returned to the UK following the death of her husband in 1994. Although not returning to the acting profession, Shirley continues to appear in documentaries and at fan conventions.

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

Monday 26 February 2018

Carry On Researching: The Gerald Thomas Archive


As this year marks sixty years since the very first Carry On film was made, I wanted to do something special to celebrate the occasion. Following my recent trip to the British Library to view Kenneth Williams' diaries from the early 1950s, I'm going deeper into the archives later this week, this time at the British Film Institute on London's South Bank.

The BFI hold the complete Gerald Thomas archive and the collection is available for the public to view. Gerald made the wonderful decision to leave all his papers from his long career in film to the nation and following his sad death in November 1993, everything was passed to the British Film Institute. 

The archive is spread across his entire career behind the camera, directing all 31 Carry On films as well as many other pictures, such as Bless This House, Nurse On Wheels, Time Lock and The Big Job. Gerald was fastidious in maintaining records of his career and kept hold of a large amount of cast correspondence, artist contracts, reports from filming and details on budgets, advertising and even medical reports. This should provide a fascinating insight into the films themselves, giving a rare glimpse at the stars away from the sound stages. The archives will also hopefully shed more light on the man himself. Interestingly, Gerald also kept scrap books on each of the films he directed, pasting in newspaper articles, features and reviews.

I have been in contact with one of the archivists at the BFI and with her help, have selected some boxes of Gerald's wonderful archive to view. The files I have chosen cover a handful of my favourite films and over the next few weeks I will be blogging some of my highlights from my days in the archives. I can't wait to get started.


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

My Top 20 Carry On Actors: Number 20 - Peter Gilmore

This is part of a brand new series of blogs where I will take a purely personal look at my favourite Carry On actors. I will be doing a countdown of my top twenty actors and actresses in this, the sixtieth anniversary year of Carry On. So why top twenty? Well top ten didn't allow me to include all my favourites and any more than twenty and I'd be at it forever, as it were.

This top twenty will be a mix of regular top team actors and many of those instantly recognisable supporting actors who popped in and out of the series, adding superb cameos here and there. You will probably agree with some of my main choices and be vehemently opposed to others, but it's meant to encourage debate! 

So here we go with Number Twenty: that lovely character actor Peter Gilmore.

Peter Gilmore is one of those super-reliable, comfortingly familiar actors who appeared in many Carry Ons. In fact, although his parts were often small, Peter appeared in more Carry Ons than series regular Barbara Windsor and the same number of films (eleven) as leading man Jim Dale. Peter was never a star of the series but was loyal to the films throughout the 1960s. Never really appearing in anything more than a handful of scenes in each film, many of his appearances are still very memorable.

Peter made his first appearance in the series in Carry On Cabby in 1963 and featured in nine more up until Carry On Henry in 1970. He then returned for one final Carry On in the 1992 offering, Carry On Columbus. During his original run of films, Peter played everything from a gun-toting gangster (Cabby) and a pirate (Jack) to hospital doctor (Again Doctor) and a French king (Henry). Such was his versatility. From historical epics in period costume to present day fun and frolics, Gilmore, like many of his contemporaries was game for the challenge.

His biggest Carry On role was probably as ambulance driver Henry alongside Harry Locke in the 1967 film Carry On Doctor, popping up throughout the film. My own favourite Peter Gilmore roles are Private Ginger Hale, in a priceless scene with Charles Hawtrey in Up The Khyber and the aforementioned Francis, King of France in Carry On Henry. In Henry he camps it up beautifully with Sid James and runs off with the delectable Barbara Windsor! Not bad!

The Carry Ons wouldn't have been what they were and what they are without reliable actors like Peter Gilmore and they deserve to be celebrated to this day. 

So Peter Gilmore brings up the rear in my top twenty list of favourite actors. Who'll be next?

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

Sunday 25 February 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: Kaye Crawford on Beryl Reid

I have recently had the good fortune to be in touch with the writer Kaye Crawford, who back in 2016 published her biography of the late British actress Beryl Reid. Beryl is an actress I've seen countless times on television dramas and comedies and of course, in many films, such as Entertaining Mr Sloane, The Killing of Sister George and The Belles of St Trinian's. I was fascinated to find out more about Beryl's life both on stage and off so read on for much, much more...

First of all, can I ask you how you came to write your book, Roll Out The Beryl? What was the process like for you?

The strange thing is, I never thought I’d ever write a biography let alone a biography about the great Beryl Reid. I had retired from performing to focus on writing and I had written an article for a magazine about ‘Forgotten Funny Women’. Beryl was just one name on the list but oddly, she stayed with me and when I read her 1984 memoir ‘So Much Love’, I just knew there was something more to this woman that I wanted to explore. She was larger than life, eccentric, sensitive, determined, driven - vulnerable even. Beryl often said, “I hope they won’t forget me” and sadly, that’s exactly what seemed to happen after she died. So I decided that I would try to bring a little of that Beryl magic back and two years later, I had a book. 

The process of writing the book was just a wonderful experience. I have to say that it would never have happened had it not been for Beryl’s niece Sue who came on board right away and went above and beyond to help. But it’s a testament to how much Beryl was respected and loved that everyone I spoke to about her was thrilled to hear there would be a book and they couldn’t have been more eager to help make it a reality. I had access to the BBC Archives but also, Beryl’s pal Paul gave me access to B’s personal archive which was a treasure trove of information. And then I was truly lucky to have contributions from so many of Beryl’s colleagues; Barbara Windsor, Sian Phillips, Eileen Atkins, the late Terry Wogan, Maureen Lipman - the list just went on and on. I came to adore Beryl and I hope that she would happy with the book. 

I'd love to know more about how Beryl came to be an actress. What was her background like and what did she want to achieve in her career?

Beryl was a very precocious child. Not in a Veruca Salt way but in the true sense of the word. At a remarkably young age she had this very natural ability to make people laugh and at the age of 4 she told everyone who would listen that she was going to be an actress. Her father Leonard disapproved of that entirely. He wanted her to get a good job with a good pension and really had no time for anything even remotely connected with the theatre. By contrast, Beryl’s mother Annie was determined that Beryl should do exactly what she wanted to do. Annie Reid was something of a pioneer because she whilst wasn’t a Mama Rose type pushing her daughter onto the stage, she recognised that Beryl was special and she didn’t see why she should ignore that talent that she had. I think Leonard would have liked Beryl to have found herself a nice chap with a steady job and settle down as soon as possible. Annie thought that was nonsense. She even took on the role of Beryl’s first agent! 

I honestly don’t think Beryl could give two hoots for fame or fortune and she never really had time for the showbiz scene outside of her working life. I think that she just loved being on stage, creating characters and making people laugh. Some actors or actresses say “Oh I wanted to be just like….” But that wasn’t true in B’s case. She knew what she could do, she was very driven and she had that support she needed early on from Annie and also from her older brother Roy. That support meant that she never really had to consider any other career, it was always the theatre. Later on she did get a little frustrated that she wasn’t thought of for certain roles she knew she could do because she had been thought of for so long as “just” a comedienne but in her early career, she was doing pretty much everything. I think like so many others of her day, it was those years touring in variety that really shaped Beryl and made her the great actress she was. 

Beryl rose to fame on radio early in her career in the show Educating Archie. What can you tell me about that period?

Beryl absolutely loved radio as a medium and she’d actually had a lot of air time before she joined the cast of ‘Archie’. In fact, she once entered a competition to find fresh radio talent at the BBC in the late 1930s and was disqualified because (in the words of a BBC high up); “She’s performed everywhere on the BBC but the Director General’s bathroom!”. So she was known to the Beeb and I found an early report in the archives after an audition she did for them which said she was “probably going to be of some use in the future”. When ‘Archie’ came around, it was the most popular children’s show on the wireless and it had a huge following. Archie’s girlfriend had just left the show because the young actress playing the part had an offer to go to America. The BBC then had to find someone who could come in and take over. America got Dame Julie Andrews and we got Beryl Reid! 

Beryl had performed ‘Monica the Schoolgirl’ for about two or three years but ‘Archie’ really cemented that character in the public imagination. It was the perfect platform for Beryl and as audiences came to know her, the BBC realised that they were onto a good thing. Peter Brough (Archie) became fiercely protective of Beryl because he knew how integral she was to the show and he even sacrificed some of his own salary so that Beryl could get a pay rise and wouldn’t be tempted to move on. And from that came Marlene and other radio roles but also a move into early TV shows and then film. It was also around this point that her friendship with Hattie Jacques began which actually was one of the closest friendships B ever had. 

Beryl, while known for comedy, also made the transition into straight roles and serious dramatic performances. Other peers such as Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques or June Whitfield tended to stick to comedy parts - what attributes made Beryl different in this regard?

I think it’s more about the business at that time than it was the individual. Variety performers rarely crossed over to serious dramatic work and there was a lot of snobbery about it all. Beryl had long been pigeon holed as a comedienne but she saw herself more as a comedy actress. The word actress meant that she could do anything she put her mind to and I think it was a sort of relentless push to find the work she wanted and then convince people she could actually do it. She’d won a Tony Award for her role in Sister George but even then, she still wasn’t regarded by many as someone who could do a big dramatic role. That changed with Tinker Tailor and what that role actually did was to show audiences and the men with the money that she wasn’t just a one trick pony. Her colleagues had known that for years but the directors and producers and financiers? I think they got a shock. And quite rightly so. After that, Beryl did get lots of roles which were more serious and she just loved that. It meant a lot to her to be considered a “proper” actress who could do everything. Sadly it came a bit too late and Beryl’s health declined not long after that so that certain things became off limits. Someone told me a few months ago actually that Alec Guinness was quoted as saying that Beryl acted him off the set in Smiley’s People. That’s not a bad review is it?

Probably Beryl's most iconic screen role was in the then controversial, The Killing of Sister George. How did she come to take on that role and how did she view that production?

Everybody told Beryl not to take on Sister George when she was offered the play because it was such controversial material. When it first went on tour, it seemed like a complete disaster and it’s odd to consider that reaction to it now so many years later when social attitudes are so different. But Beryl always knew a good script when she saw one and I think that’s why she stuck with it. Beryl always maintained that she wasn’t playing a lesbian; she was playing a woman who just happened to be a lesbian. It’s worth noting that Beryl was incredibly open minded and she hated prejudice of any kind. When she was doing a play many years later, two old ladies approached her and said, “We loved you tonight Beryl, we’ve followed you for years. But we didn’t like that lesbian thing. That was disgusting”. Beryl snapped back, “Too close to home was it dear?” 

She loved Sister George and actually, it probably brought her the greatest reviews she’d ever had. When Bob Aldrich was casting for the film adaptation, he actually didn’t approach Beryl because he wanted someone like Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis. Davis refused and said, “That part belongs to Beryl Reid and nobody else”. And Sister George then led on to Mr Sloane, her favourite role, because I think it took her out of one world and put her into another. She didn’t mind edgy material as long as it was well written and she felt she could do a good job with it. Of course, there were limits to that and she could be a little contrary about what she found acceptable and what she didn't.

Another wonderful role was Kath in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane. What can you tell me about that film and Beryl's performance?

Mr Sloane really is a shocker because if you were thinking about who could play this strange adult baby with a gay brother and a bisexual lodger with murderous leanings, the last person you’d think of would be Beryl Reid! And yet Beryl just loved that part. I think because it was so different and it gave her the opportunity to showcase everything she could do. She was also a huge fan of Joe Orton’s work and though she never met him, she always insisted that he was her favourite writer. Sloane also gave her a chance to work with Harry Andrews and actually, Beryl was more than a little sweet on Harry!

One person who wasn’t overkeen on Beryl’s take on the role however was Kenneth Williams. It’s so strange because Kenneth had been a huge fan of Beryl’s and always had nothing but nice things to say about her. I don’t think Dame Barbara will mind me relaying this but she told me that when Kenneth was casting for a production of Sloane he was going to direct, he offered her the part of Kath. Barbara Windsor declined because she said it was so identifiably Beryl’s part. Kenneth wasn’t best pleased and said; “I knew Joe and I know what he wanted. Kath should be played by a woman you want to fuck. And nobody wants to fuck Beryl Reid!”. He later wrote some pretty catty remarks about Beryl in his diaries too. I wonder what went wrong there and why he changed his mind on B so starkly? A mystery! really because the two had Hattie Jacques as a mutual friend and spent time together over the years. Beryl was very fond of him. 

On television, Beryl had several of her own variety comedy shows. Can you tell me a little more about those?

Somebody will no doubt correct me but as far as I could work out with the BBC, Beryl was in fact the first woman ever to host her own sketch show. Pat Kirkwood (a school chum of Beryl’s) had been the first woman to have her own TV show but that was more music and monologues. Beryl Reid Says Good Evening was more a sketch show we’d recognise today in the line of French & Saunders, Catherine Tate or Tracey Ullman. Beryl collated the entire show herself, she had a big say in casting, she chose the sketches, the writers, the music - everything.

The series also gave her a chance to work with Hugh Paddick. Their relationship was a very complex one and my book is the first time it’s really been explored in any detail. I think with that in mind, it makes ‘Good Evening’ slightly more poignant because it really is the two sides of the mask. There she was being incredibly funny and making people laugh and actually, behind the scenes, this rather sad situation was unfolding. Much of the series has been lost now but it’s quite important because it really did make a difference to other performers and pretty quickly after that you began to see shows hosted by other comediennes. It’s amazing to think that she was the star of the show when in the late 60s, most women in comedy were sort of “comedians labourers” where the men got the laughs and led the material whilst the women were imposing matrons, frustrated spinsters or bunny girls. It’s pretty groundbreaking when you think about it that way. 

I must ask about Beryl's role as Mrs Valentine in Carry On Emmannuelle. Do you know what she thought about the part, and what are your thoughts on her involvement with the Carry On films at this stage?

I knew you’d ask this and I was dreading it slightly because though you and I adore the Carry Ons…..Beryl really didn’t! She was actually offered roles in them several times from around 1965 onwards and she always turned them down. Beryl was such a complex lady and sometimes, the decisions she made are hard to understand. Some of her own material was really quite near the knuckle for the time in which it was written and yet she admonished poor old Danny La Rue one night because she said he’d been too blue. With that in mind, she regarded the Carry Ons as too smutty and she didn’t think they were at all suitable for family audiences which is maybe why she turned them down with such regularity. It’s strange because she really was devoted to Hattie, she really liked Joan Sims and I think she would have loved being a part of that group had she given it a go. I think her argument was that whereas Mr Sloane was exclusively for adults, children might be watching the Carry Ons and she felt it was a bit too much.

Her appearance in Carry On Emmannuelle was really necessity I’m afraid. She was going through financial difficulties and her career was in a bit of a lull. This was just before Tinker Tailor and things got so bad that she had to sell her London apartment and her car. In that position, she couldn’t really afford to refuse anything (even though the Carry Ons were not well paid as you know) and that’s why she took on Carry On Emmannuelle. Personally I think she’s a welcome addition to the franchise and I would have loved to have seen her do more long before Emmannuelle. Unfortunately B didn’t feel the same and I’m sorry to say that she insisted that Emmannuelle wasn’t included in her CV after that. She did regret that decision to go into a Carry On and I think that’s sad because whilst I can’t say it’s one of my favourite Carry Ons, it’s lovely to see her there all the same. The experience of making the film however was one she did like. She had worked with Joan Sims on ‘Beryl Reid Says Good Evening’ and whilst she was closer to Hattie than to Joan when it came to the Carry On ladies, she really did respect Joan enormously and always jumped at the chance to spend time with her. I’m sorry I can’t give you happier news for your blog! 

I don't know very much about Beryl's stage career - can you tell me about some of her favourite roles?

Sister George and Sloane were probably the stage roles she'd be best known for but actually, Beryl’s favourite roles were in the Restoration Comedies which she had such a flair for. Mrs Malaprop and Lady Wishfort were particular favourites and she had some wonderful co-stars which was always important to the way Beryl worked. She was a slightly unpredictable performer when it came to theatre. Eileen Atkins and Sian Phillips both had first had experience of her breaking character and wandering down to the footlights to entertain the audience if she didn’t think the play was going all that well. She’d start doing Monica or Marlene and when she felt the audience was sufficiently warmed up, she’d go back to the script as if nothing had happened! She was a terrible flirt and was well known for making actors corpse if she could. When she was appearing with Donald Sinden in The Way of the World, she was wearing a very low cut dress with a corset that made the most of her assets shall we say. Moments before Sir Donald left the wings to go on, she whispered to him, “Would you like to wobble my tits for luck?”. And naturally he went onto the stage in hysterics. But she was incredibly well versed in the technical side of the business too. Lighting, scenery, props, sound - she knew what worked and what didn’t and she wasn’t afraid to tell a director so either! 

Without delving too much into her private life, I know Beryl lived for many years at the delightfully named Honey Pot Cottage on the banks of the Thames. What was her life like there?

I think that people think of Beryl as this strange little old lady who lived in a funny cottage on the banks of the Thames as a kind of Miss Haversham. Nothing could be further from the truth! Honeypot Cottage is a beautiful place but very very small. It’s more like a caravan than a house. But it was Beryl’s sanctuary from the world and she loved nothing more than hosting small dinner parties there or inviting old friends over to have a glass of “toff’s lemonade” by the river on a summer’s day. Most people know of B’s love for cats (she had 10 at one time!) but most people will be unaware that she was actually a gourmet cook and if she had time to herself, she was usually experimenting with new recipes. There are dents in the walls of Honeypot from numerous frying pans being hurled against them when things didn’t go quite right! 

Beryl was married twice and both ended in divorce sadly. She made a decision very on not to have children because she was scared that it would mean she couldn’t work anymore and would have to give up her career. That makes it sound as if Beryl was lonely but she absolutely wasn’t. Honeypot was never quiet unless she wanted it that way. One day you could row past and see her having a few drinks and a sing song with Peggy Mount or Harry Secombe and the next she’d be locked away there with the curtains drawn to avoid visitors. She said she suffered from “People Poisoning” when too many people crowded her and so when she was alone, that’s the way she wanted it. She said herself that she liked “men….and many of them!” And there were often new relationships on the horizon well into her 60s. But I think she was far too independent to consider marriage again and the life she made for herself at Honeypot was a happy and contented one. She certainly had no regrets. 

From researching Beryl and the life she led, how do you think she'd like to be remembered?

I think she’d like to be remembered not so much for her work but for her attitude to life. Her determination to succeed as a woman in a man’s world was made possible because of her great talent but she also needed to have courage and a confidence that let people know she wasn’t prepared to settle for anything less than what she’d set her mind to. I think she has been allowed to fade a little and that’s sad because really, she was legendary. Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques were both in very successful long running sitcoms and film franchises and Beryl never really had that so she’s not seen much on our screens anymore. But she deserves to be remembered for her unique talent and also for her zest for life. Beryl once said; “I never want them to be sick of me. I never want them to think ‘Oh there’s that silly old Beryl Reid again’. I want them to want me. Always”. And I think that’s a very touching quote because actually, I don’t know if she ever really understood how widely loved she really was.

Finally I'd love to know what's your own personal favourite out of all Beryl's roles?

I think for me, it’s actually a character she portrays in a sketch from Beryl Reid Says Good Evening. She wrote the sketch herself and it's remarkable. She’s a little cockney lady on her way back from bingo on a train and she’s seated between two very posh civil servants in bowler hats trying to do the Times crossword. Naturally the little old lady they've been so patronising towards is far more intelligent than they are and it's such a clever and witty take on the class divide. But also Beryl is also just simply delicious in it. It’s full of her own little ad-libs and other touches which make it so uniquely “Beryl”. It leaves me in hysterics every time I watch it and I know she was very proud of it. But there are so many and what I've tried to do with the book is not just walk people through her CV but to give some insight into what she was like as a person and how that made those great performances possible. There's always a little Beryl in every role she played and I have my favourites but really, it's just always a joy to see her again whatever she was doing.

I'd like to thank Kaye very much for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow Kaye on Twitter @BerylReidOBE and you can purchase your copy of Roll Out The Beryl here

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

Friday 23 February 2018

Marianne Stone: Her Carry On Story


I was watching the very moving, thought provoking prison drama Yield to the Night the other evening and who should pop up for a brief scene? Yes, Marianne Stone of course. Playing prison matron Richardson in just one scene with leading lady Diana Dors, Marianne utters only one line, but the film probably could not have been made without her involvement.

I just of course, yet Marianne at one point (not sure if she still does) held the record for the most appearances in British film. Over 200 I believe. How much this record had to do with Marianne being married to film critic Peter Noble, I don't know. Marianne Stone was instantly known to cinema goers despite the fact she was never really a star. A hard working character actress, Stone was able to appear in so many films because her parts were usually pretty tiny. 

A friend to the Attenboroughs and Stanley Kubrick, Marianne and Peter hosted famous theatrical parties at their large house in Abbey Road, London. She was well known in the business and respected by her peers yet she was almost always blink and you'll miss her. And then the roles dried up as she approached late middle age in the mid to late 1980s. Which is a shame given how prolific she had been for so long. While she flitted in and out of many films, it is arguable that Marianne really did find her niche in the Carry Ons. She was never one of the main team in those films but Stone still managed to appear in as many of the films as series regular Barbara Windsor.


A friend to producer Peter Rogers, Marianne provided reliable continuity for almost the entire run of the Carry Ons, making her first appearance in 1958 and her last in the spring of 1975. As with the majority of her film roles, her parts were usually small but the Carry Ons seemed to still give Marianne more to do. As Mrs Able in Carry On Nurse, she appears in only a couple of scenes yet puts in a very believable performance as the working class wife of patient Bert Able, played by Cyril Chamberlain. In Carry On Constable the following year, Marianne was not seen but still heard. For whatever reason, she overdubbed Lucy Griffiths' character in the short scenes with P.C Leslie Phillips.

Following a break of a few years, Marianne returned for a very brief role as one of the girls in the aptly named DIrty Dicks pub in the first historical Carry On, Carry On Jack in 1963. Engaging in some good natured horseplay with the likes of Juliet Mills, Marianne again played to type. In 1966 Marianne returned to Pinewood for two more historical Carry On epics, first of all in a blink and you'll miss it appearance as Mrs Parker opposite Joan Sims in Carry On Screaming. That September she was back again, this time playing a landlady in an eye-catching scene in which she gains the upper hand over Peter Butterworth's CItizen Bidet! 


Marianne had a recurring plot strand in the classic Carry On Doctor in 1967. She played an exasperated mother who visits Jim Dale's Dr Kilmore at various points throughout the film complete with naughty son, beleaguered granddad and a certain chamber pot! Marianne then took a break from the series, for unknown reasons - probably due to demand elsewhere. Stone was back at Pinewood for Peter Rogers Productions in the early 1970s and for probably her best remembered role in the series. In 1971 she joined the gang as Maud, an employee at Boggs' toilet factory. As Chloe Moore's best friend, Marianne again worked with Joan Sims and pops up throughout the film, complete with an appalling laugh to rival Betty Marsden's in Carry On Camping! Marianne got to enjoy a few days filming on location in Brighton with the team and is seen having fun on the dodgems with Geoffrey Hughes at one point!

Sadly, Marianne's next role in the series was cut. This was a fate that affected even the series regulars, with Terry Scott's entire performance disappearing from Carry On At Your Convenience. In Carry On Matron, made later in 1971, Stone played Mrs Putzova, a patient of Dr Prodd's although for whatever reason she was cut from the final print. In 1973 Stone played the very small role of Miss Drew, secretary to the Mayor in Carry On Girls. She joins Kenneth Connor, June Whitfield and Sid James for that very funny, near the knuckle scene in the boardroom at the very start of the film.

Probably my own personal favourite of all Marianne's Carry On roles was in the next film in the series, as Maggie in Carry On Dick. As the fruity old crone, Marianne is barely recognisable and is constantly on the make when providing Kenneth Williams' Desmond Fancy with information on Big Dick Turpin! It's a gloriously comedic performance and she doesn't miss a beat. I always think that role in particular gives us an insight into just what Marianne could do if given the screen time. That role could have been developed into a much bigger part.


Stone made her final Carry On contributions the following year, 1975. In Carry On Behind she plays Mrs Rowan, a customer at Fred Ramsden's butchers shop. Marianne shares scenes with fellow legends Windsor Davies, Liz Fraser and Jack Douglas. The same year Marianne made a one off appearance in the ATV Carry On Laughing series. In the episode entitled "The Case of the Screaming Winkles" she is reunited with Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth for her scenes as Madame Petra.This would mark Marianne's very last contribution to the Carry On story.

Marianne Stone was one of those actors who straddled the lines between small part actor and main team player. Along with the likes of Patsy Rowlands, Julian Holloway and Peter Gilmore, she may never have been a true star of the Carry Ons, but surely no fan would deny the importance of her contributions to the films. Without these superb character actors, supporting the leading players, the Carry Ons would not have been the quality comedies they remain to this day.

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

Thursday 22 February 2018

Happy Birthday Sheila Hancock!

Many happy returns to the wonderful Sheila Hancock who celebrates her birthday today. Sheila is well known and often celebrated for her long and illustrious career on stage, film and television. 

Sheila has also become a successful author in more recent years, publishing two memoirs - one about her life with her late husband, the actor John Thaw and another on her life after his sad death in 2002. She has also written her first novel, Miss Carter's War and I was lucky enough to attend a Q&A on this back in 2014.

Sheila has featured in many classic films and television shows over the years but is mainly known to Carry On fans for her definitive performance as Senna Pod, wife of Hengist, inventor of the square wheel, in Carry On Cleo. Sheila was on wonderful form opposite Kenneth Connor. She also worked with Carry On favourite Esma Cannon in the early 1960s sitcom, The Rag Trade and several years later, alongside her life long friend Dilys Laye in My Digby Darling. 

In the early 1960s Sheila co-starred with Kenneth Williams in the West End revue, One Over The Eight. Unlike many of Kenneth's other leading ladies, Hancock took very little of his usual pranks and nonsense, stood up to Kenny and the two became close friends. Sheila even appeared on Just A Minute alongside Kenneth in the late 1960s. It wasn't until recently that I realised Sheila also shares a birthday with the great man.

So whatever Sheila is up to today, I hope she has a wonderful birthday!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

Wednesday 21 February 2018

An Evening with Bill Maynard

Acting legend Bill Maynard is travelling to Borehamwood this July for a very special event. An Evening with Bill Maynard will give fans of classic British comedy and drama the chance to hear Bill reminisce about his long and impressive career on stage, television and in film.

Bill will share stories about how he got started in the business, his years working with Terry Scott on "Great Scott, It's Maynard" to television performances in the likes of Heartbeat, Coronation Street, The Gaffer, The Sweeney and Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt. On film, Bill stared in all four Confessions films with Robin Askwith, the big screen spin offs of both Bless This House and Man About The House and Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall, with Jim Dale.

Bill also made five Carry On films. Starting off with his cameo as Mr Dreary in Carry On Loving, he returned for roles in Carry On Henry, Carry On At Your Convenience and as Freddy, a member of Sid's gang in Carry On Matron. Sadly Bill's scenes were cut from Carry On Abroad but he returned for a final Carry On with the gang in Dick in 1974.

Bill Maynard will be talking about his career and taking part in a Q&A as part of the Sitcom Classics Day on 7 July 2018, at 96 Shenley Road, Borehamwood - you can find out more about the venue here 

And more about the event itself is here 

And you can follow Bill on Twitter @Selwyn_Magic

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

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Before Baldwin


I grew up watching the actor Johnny Briggs bring the Cockney factory boss lothario Mike Baldwin to life in Coronation Street. As a child I often got confused as at the time there was also a children's television show called "Johnny Briggs" - how could there be two? Anyway, for many of us, Johnny *was* Michael Vernon Baldwin, a fish out of water up North who brought capitalism to the back streets of Weatherfield and tried to take Deirdre from Ken.

As the role of Baldwin was so prominent and became incredibly iconic, it is difficult to believe Johnny Briggs did anything else. After all he played Mike for thirty years from 1976 until the character's death in the spring of 2006. However Briggs had an acting career stretching back to the post-war period, when, as a child actor he began appearing in small parts in various films. At the age of 12, Johnny won a scholarship to the famous Italia Conti stage school and from there, started earning a living as an actor. For many years he slaved away in small, often uncredited roles. His very first film was called Hue and Cry, made way back in 1947. Directed by the legendary Charles Crichton, it starred the wonderful Alastair Sim.


More films followed, among them Oliver Twist, The Lavender Hill Mob and Sink the Bismarck! - all small roles but Briggs kept going. Despite being known for drama, Johnny also appeared in countless classic comedy roles, mainly on the big screen. In 1960 he played Johnny Nolan in the Norman Wisdom comedy The Bulldog Breed. Coincidentally, another young actor who would become forever linked to Briggs also appeared in that film. Playing an uncredited role was William Roache, soon to be catapulted to fame as Coronation Street's Ken Barlow, Baldwin's greatest foe. Three years later, Johnny would have his first brush with the world of Rogers, Thomas and the like when he played one of the young medical students in the Betty Box/Ralph Thomas comedy, Doctor in Distress. He was in good company: his fellow students were played by Christopher Beeny, Derek Fowlds and Richard Briers. Although they didn't cross paths in the film, Johnny's future Corrie wife Amanda Barrie also pops up in Distress playing Rona. 

Also in 1963, Johnny Briggs was back working with Norman Wisdom. In the film Stitch in Time, Johnny plays a small time gangster who holds up Mr Grimsdale's butcher's shop at the start of the film, in a very funny scene featuring Norman and future Carry On legend Patsy Rowlands. Johnny went on to play small roles in the Morecambe and Wise film, The Intelligence Men in 1965, the character of Millet in the Reg Varney/Diana Coupland comedy drama The Best Pair of Legs in the Business (1973) and the part of a milkman in the 1974 big screen spin off Man About The House.


In between all that however, Johnny Briggs made his first appearance in the Carry On series. In 1968 he played the small role of "Sporran Soldier" in the classic Carry On Up The Khyber. Watch out for him sharing a few words with Terry Scott during the climactic battle sequence towards the end of the film. Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas were always loyal to actors they found easy to work with and true enough, Johnny did return to Pinewood to work with them again. Four years later, in 1972, Briggs was cast as a delivery driver in their big screen version of the classic Sid James sitcom, Bless This House. Johnny returned to the Carry Ons again in 1975 when he played one of the painters in the Clubhouse in Carry On Behind. That same year he also guest starred in one episode of the ATV Carry On Laughing series. In "The Case of the Coughing Parrot" Briggs played Norman in a cast which also starred Jack Douglas, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor and Johnny's future Corrie co-star Sherrie Hewson.

Johnny was given his biggest Carry On role the following year when he played Melly's driver in Carry On England. He shared a couple of decent scenes at the start of the film with its star, Kenneth Connor. This would be one of Johnny's last roles before taking on the life-changing part of Mike Baldwin up at Granada. Johnny turned Mike Baldwin into one of Coronation Street's most legendary characters and I loved following his ups and downs over the years. As I've written about in this blog, it's still worth remembering just what a varied career Briggs had before being cast in his most famous and long-lasting role.

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

Monday 19 February 2018

Elsie, Doris and Joan

We're going way back to 1956 for this treat from the airwaves today. Elsie and Doris Waters were a popular double act who were best known for their comedy performances on film and on radio during the Second World War, as characters Gert and Daisy.

Transplanting their Workers' Playtime characters to a family-run general store, Floggit's had a writing team of great pedigree: Terry Nation, John Junkin and Carry On Behind and Bless This House writer Dave Freeman. While providing scripts for this middle-of-the-road radio comedy, Freeman, Junkin and Nation were also working on Idiot's Weekly Price 2d, the first attempt to present Goon Show humour to a television audience.

Aside from the involvement of Dave Freeman, Floggit's had a superb supporting cast of rising stars. Ronnie Barker, Anthony Newley, Ron Moody and future Beyond Our Ken and Round The Horne voices man Hugh Paddick regularly appeared alongside a certain Miss Joan Sims. Joan had already made a name for herself on the stage in intimate revue by this stage and had taken tentative steps into the world of film, with eye-catching cameos in the Norman Wisdom film Trouble in Store, Doctor in the House, Doctor At Sea and The Belles of St Trinian's. 

Joan adds her excellent vocal talents to this particular episode of Floggit's, playing a switchboard exchange operator, a flirtatious barmaid and a rather canny little girl hoping to buy some sweets! Joan also gives an early outing to her toothless old lady act which gained greater popularity when she played Gran in Till Death Us Do Part. She's quite superb in the show and you can listen to it here:

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

Saturday 17 February 2018

Carry On Originals: Gerald Campion

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 actor who found lasting fame on the small screen, Gerald Campion.

Role in Carry On Sergeant: Andy Calloway

Other Carry On roles: None

Other notable film performances: Fatty Gilbert in Fun at St Fanny's (1956); George in Inn for Trouble; Proudfoot in School for Scoundrels (both 1960); Charlie in Double Bunk (1961) and Minister in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Best remembered for: Playing Billy Bunter on television between 1952 and 1961 - despite playing the school boy, Gerald was 40 when the series eventually came to an end.

Did you know?: After retiring from acting Gerald made a success of running various bars and restaurants in London's West End. The most famous was Gerry's, a private member's club in Soho.

Gerry's Bar in Soho is named after him.

Gerald's mother, Blanche, was Charlie Chaplin's first cousin.

What happened to him?: Gerald died in Agen, France in July 2002 at the age of 81.

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

Friday 16 February 2018

Passport to Fame: The Diana Dors Story

Although not strictly Carry On-related, I couldn't resist sharing the news that a new biography of the late, great British actress Diana Dors has been published by Book Guild Publishing. I've long been a fan of Diana Dors and her rich and varied acting career in some of the best of British film and television is equally as enthralling as her fascinating private life.

Huw Prall explores the fascinating career of the late Diana Dors in this enchanting biography

“Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe”, this tag was to hang around Diana Dors’ neck during the 1950s. However, as she would often point out, she had been working professionally a lot longer than Monroe. Her first appearance was in 1946 in The Shop at Sly Corner, while still a student at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Diana, like Marilyn, was blonde, curvy and sexy, but that’s where the comparison ended. Her range as an actress was broad – from comedy blondes to evil old hags, and even Greek tragedy in theatre.

She had a prolific career encompassing theatre, cabaret, film and TV. She was also a talented writer, compiling two autobiographies and three A–Z books.
With exclusive images and anecdotes, Passport to Fame is a comprehensive study of Diana’s work across her 40 years of filmmaking. Delving into her personal life, it is a must-read for fans of Diana, as well as those interested in the changing face of the film industry.

Huw Prall trained as a classical dancer before going on to study allied dance forms, acting and singing. He has worked in both classical and musical theatre, as well as in film and television. He teaches at several London Drama Schools and is Head of Dance for the Education Department at Shakespeare’s Globe. He is a member of the Royal Academy of Dance and is a Fellow and Life Member of the International Dance Teachers’ Association, to name a few.

You can find out more and buy the book here

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