Sunday 11 February 2018

Remembering the actor John Carlin


Quite by accident yesterday I came across the obituary for the actor John Carlin, who sadly passed away back in November at the age of 88. The name might not be instantly familiar to many, but Carlin had a prolific acting career spanning five decades and over 100 screen credits. John also joined the Carry On team towards the end of their original run of films.

John first appeared alongside the likes of Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor and Sidney James when he played an assortment of supporting parts in Carry On Laughing in 1975. This ragbag series of half hours for ATV proved less than successful yet did give us some more precious times with the aforementioned actors. John Carlin appeared in six of the mainly historical "epics" playing a range of official types or camp attendants, stepping in for the absent Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey.

He obviously made an impression as Carlin was kept on for what would be the two last gasp attempts at keeping the Carry On flag flying on the big screen. The year after Carry On Laughing limped to the small screen, John was cast in the small role of an Officer in Carry On England. He also returned two years later to play a French parson in Carry On Emmannuelle. Never a main player in the Carry Ons fair enough, but his contribution does still deserve to be remembered.


John Carlin spent many years appearing on television, often in comedy roles. He appeared twice opposite Sid James - first of all in episode of the BBC comedy drama series Taxi in 1964 and a couple of years later in the hugely successful ITV series George and The Dragon. John also had a recurring role as Percy the Barman in the Richard O'Sullivan comedy Man About The House in the mid 1970s. Looking at John's CV he seemed to pop up in almost every successful television series of the era. Guest spots included roles in George and Mildred, The Sweeney, Bergerac, Robin's Nest, Shoestring, Taggart, Minder and Rumpole of the Bailey.

One further interesting detail that emerged from John's obituary concerned a comedy series he was due to star in back in 1971. Carlin had been cast in the ATV police comedy, Coppers End, however when leading lady Joan Sims was forced to give up her role due to illness, most of the parts were recast as they had all been picked to work as a team. John's role went to the bigger name of Richard Wattis while Joan's part was taken on by Josephine Tewson. 

Since reading John's obituary I have remembered his small roles in the Carry On story. What I did not realise was that he was actually Scottish, having been born in Johnstone, not far from where I grew up. John's obituary is well worth a read and you can find it in The Herald.

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