Tuesday 20 March 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: Patricia Franklin (Part 1)


It was an absolute joy to ring up the actress Patricia Franklin for a good old natter this afternoon. Patricia will be familiar to Carry On fans for her appearances in five films in the series between 1968 and 1976 as well as the big screen version of Bless This House. I wanted to find out more about Patricia's time making the films but also a whole lot more about her acting career. 

First of all I'd love to know what made you want to become an actress?

It was quite strange. I was appearing in a matinee at the National Theatre some years ago when I was told there was someone at the stage door to see me. It was one of my old teachers who had come to see the play with her family. She told me that when I was at school I said one day that I wanted to become an actor. I said I didn't believe I'd said such a thing but she was certain! 

When I was at school we had put on a play with me in the part of Red Riding Hood and my younger sister as Bo Peep. I could remember all the lines really easily and my sister couldn't. The boy playing the lead ended up ill and the teacher wanted someone to take over who could learn lines quickly. My sister told the teacher I could so I ended up in the lead playing a boy! I had long pigtails and had to tuck them up under a hat! Perhaps my teacher was right after all.


And how did you get started?

My mother was always very encouraging. We used to go to the cinema together and I remember us seeing the film Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor. We found out that the local amateur theatre was putting on a production so we went to see it and started going along quite regularly. We noticed that they ran classes for students and my mum said I should join, so I did. This place became the Mountview in North London which is now a very respected theatre school. A couple of actors who were in the amateur productions with me went on to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) so I thought that's where I wanted to go too. My dad was quite strict but agreed I could apply as he liked the sound of the "Royal" part! Anyway I got in and that was me.

Can you tell me more about your first professional role?

Well I left RADA in the July of 1967 and I got my first agent at the end of term show we put on, Tis Pity She's A Whore. Greg Smith saw the show and told me he liked my work and wanted to represent me. Greg was part of an agency called Busby Management at that time and of course went on to produce films, most notably the Confessions series. He very quickly got me three auditions and I think my very first role was in a television series called At Last The 1948 Show for ITV. It was a sort of sketch show and I played lots of little parts in various scenes. It was created by Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Marty Feldman and it came along just before Monty Python. Just after that I got a commercial for Oxo and then I had my first introduction to some of the Carry On team in a theatrical farce at the Whitehall Theatre called Uproar in the House.

I spent nine months in the West End doing Uproar in the House and I had a really good, big part in that. It was great stuff to do and the cast was Joan Sims (who became a great friend at the time), Peter Butterworth and Nicholas Parsons. They were all lovely to me - Joan's dressing room was on one side of mine and Peter's on the other. Joan and I used to laugh a lot. And Peter's wife Janet Brown would often come in afterwards with their children. Years later I attended a special Carry On screening in London and Tyler Butterworth was there. I told him I'd last met him when he was a little boy in his dad's dressing room at the Whitehall. 


Can you tell me more about how you came to be a part of the Carry On films?

Well it was through that farce at the Whitehall really. Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas came to see the show and they liked what I was doing in it and it went from there. Peter Rogers then had a conversation with my agent and I remember being down on location when they were filming Carry On Camping. It was a scene where Terry Scott was going up the road into his house. I watched it being filmed and after that Peter and Gerald asked if I would like to be in the Carry On film and I said "Yes please!"

How did you find Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas to work with?

Oh they were great to work for. I know there have been lots of stories of them not paying their actors well and all the rest of it and there was that side to it but my experience was great. I played little character parts, just popping in for what I'd call "a lovely day out". Gerald was a lovely person, he was very paternalistic towards me. i think he had three daughters and every time I was cast in one of the films I seemed to have just had another child and he always asked after them all. I thoroughly enjoyed working for him and I loved the opportunities they gave me to play so many very different parts. 

I remember Peter Rogers asking for me for a part in one of the films and he went through my agent as I was working in Sheffield at the time. I was about eight months pregnant at the time, about to give birth. They were trying to persuade me to get on a train and come back to play the part and I had to explain my situation. Turned out the part involved wearing a bikini so there's no way I could have played it! But it was lovely to be remembered and asked back and it was always such jolly fun to be a part of.

Your first role in the series was in Carry On Camping in 1968. What are your memories of working on that one with Charles Hawtrey and Derek Francis?

Oh they were both lovely and very professional. It was all done very quickly and mine was quite a small part really. I just remember us getting on with it and having a lot of laughs about how silly the scene was, well it was quite ridiculous really, but they were both very straight forward and professional when it came to shooting the scene. Charles was such a unique character and I know there have been stories in the newspapers about him over the years but I honestly didn't have a problem with him or with any of the main actors. He was absolutely charming to me, they all were. The film was made at such a pace there was no time for egos! 

I was recently having a look at some papers in Gerald's archive at the BFI and I came across one of your Carry On contracts!

Oh how much was I paid, I bet it wasn't much!!


Well there you go!

I wanted to ask you about it as the contract was actually for one of the Carry Ons you didn't end up doing. The part was a Night Nurse in Carry On Again Doctor in 1969. Can you remember why you didn't do it?

Oh that's right! I think that was after Camping. I was doing something in the theatre at the time and I don't think the schedules worked out so they must have re-cast the role.

That must be it - it says on the contract that you were appearing in a play at the Royal Court theatre at the time. 

Yes, I was in a very demanding play at the Royal Court in 1969 called Saved, by Edward Bond. Quite a different job from one of the Carry Ons!

Watch out for Part Two of my interview with the wonderful Patricia Franklin, coming up soon. Find out what she had to say about returning to the Carry Ons to work with the likes of Kenneth Williams, Liz Fraser and Patsy Rowlands. And find out more about Patricia's brilliant career on stage and how she got back stage to meet a certain Mr Albert Finney while he was performing in Billy Liar!

I'd like to thank Patricia for agreeing to the interview. And also many thanks to Sarah at Beresford Management and to the lovely Andrew Lynford for helping to set it all up!

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