Tuesday 24 April 2018

Carrying On with You Rang M'Lord?

I have recently been enjoying repeats of one of the later Perry and Croft comedy series on GOLD. You Rang M'Lord? was originally broadcast on the BBC in the early 1990s and spanned four series, following a pilot in 1988. Focussing on life above and below stairs in a  respectable London house in the 1920s, this was their comedic take on the classic period drama, Upstairs Downstairs.

The series starred several actors who were by then well known for their work with Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Hi-de-Hi stars Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard all played key members of the below stairs staff. I remember the series with great fondness, watching it as a child when it was first shown. While not as popular as some of their earlier hits, I think the show has aged rather well. The production values are high, the period is an attractive one and the comedy works on several levels. There is the broad knockabout slapstick we've come to expect, there is a regular suggestion of innuendo and also some more subtle pokes at the class divide and issues from the era. It's still a satisfying watch although I believe when it was first shown, audiences were slightly put off by its longer running time (almost an hour) and some of the main characters being portrayed as not 100% loveable. Paul Shane's head butler is rather a rogue!

Despite this, I maintain a fondness for the series and have fallen in love with it all over again. There are also a number of significant Carry On connections in You Rang M'Lord? so without further ado, let's take a look!

Let's begin with a Carry On connection we can hear but never actually see in You Rang M'Lord? The rather catchy theme tune, written by Jimmy Perry and Roy Moore and performed with an authentic 1920s style orchestra, was sung by none other than Bob Monkhouse. It's only through watching the repeats that I've realised that was Bob although I don't know why I'm surprised as we all know what an endlessly talented man he was. Over thirty years earlier Bob had starred in the very first Carry On, Carry On Sergeant.

Of the main cast, several played notable roles in the Carry On series. Playing the head of the household, Lord Meldrum, was the late actor Donald Hewlett. Donald is probably best remembered today for his role in the Perry and Croft classic It Ain't Half Hot Mum, in which he played Colonel Charles Reynolds. Back in 1975, Donald had appeared in the cameo role of the University Dean in Carry On Behind. He starred in an early scene outside Maidenhead Town Hall with Kenneth Williams and Elke Sommer. Playing Hewlett's love interest in You Rang M'Lord was a lovely actress called Angela Scoular. While Angela never actually appeared in a Carry On, she was married to the legendary star Leslie Phillips from 1982 until her sad death back in 2011. 

The wonderful actor Bill Pertwee, probably most famous as ARP Warden Hodges, the thorn in Captain Mainwaring's side in Dad's Army, was a series regular in You Rang M'Lord? Bill played neighbourhood policeman, Wilson. Bill appeared in two Carry On films back in the early 1970s. In 1970 he played the role of the barman who encounters Jacki Piper, Richard O'Callaghan and Sid James in Carry On Loving. Apparently Bill was back at Pinewood the following year to play the owner of The Whippit Inn in Carry On At Your Convenience but his scenes were cut as it was felt the role was too similar to his part in Loving. Despite this Bill did go on to make one more Carry On. In 1973 Bill played the Fire Chief in Carry On Girls in a scene which saw Kenneth Connor's Mayor Bumble lose his trousers!

Another You Rang M'Lord? regular who had a small role in Carry On Girls was the actress Brenda Cowling. Brenda, in something of a homage to Hattie Jacques, played the maternity hospital Matron in Girls. Brenda returned to Pinewood two years later for an uncredited role as a lady in the audience at Professor Crump's (Kenneth Williams) accident prone lecture at the start of Carry On Behind. In You Rang M'Lord? Brenda played the wonderful role of Mrs Lipton, the cook. 

You Rang M'Lord? also boasted a fine array of guest actors during its three series run. Two mainstays of the Carry On series guest starred in the series. Appearing in two 1991 episodes as the character of Myrtle was none other than Barbara Windsor. Barbara of course starred in nine Carry On films between 1964 and 1974. The other Carry On legend to pop in for a guest role was the superb Kenneth Connor. Following on from his work as Sammy Morris in Hi-de-Hi, Kenneth was asked to play the role of Professor Heinrich Van Manheim in the 1990 episode "Labour of Love". Kenneth was one of the longest serving Carry On actors, starring in seventeen of the films. He was also one of only three actors to span the entire run of films from 1958 to 1978, the others being Kenneth Williams and Eric Barker.

Playing the part of Perkins in the 1993 episode "Come to the Ball" was reliable character actor Norman Mitchell. Norman had enjoyed a long association with the Carry On films dating back to 1963 when he played a bespectacled businessman in Carry On Cabby. The following year Norman played a Native Policeman in Carry On Spying. Later in 1964 Mitchell played a Heckler in the classic Carry On Cleo. In 1966 Norman played Joan Sims' Cabby in the Hammer Horror pastiche Carry On Screaming. After many years away, Norman rejoined the team for the last of the original run in 1978 film Carry On Emmannuelle, playing a drunken husband.

The wonderfully talented and much-missed Geoffrey Hughes, probably best remembered for his role as bin man Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street and Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances, guest starred as Fred Kendall in You Rang M'Lord. He appeared in the episode "Royal Flush". Twenty years earlier Geoffrey had played the supporting role of factory employee WIllie in Carry On At Your Convenience. Fellow Convenience actor Davy Kaye played King Boris of Dalmatia in the very same episode. As well as playing Sid's bookmaker Benny in Convenience, Davy had also co-starred as the rather enthusiastic undertaker Josh in Carry On Cowboy.

One final Carry On connection before I go and it's not in front of the camera this time. Jeremy Connor, the son of the legendary Kenneth worked on two series of You Rang M'Lord? In 1991 he worked as the Assistant Floor Manager while two years later Jeremy was the show's Production Manager. As well as being Kenneth's son, Jeremy also acted in the Carry On films in his own right. Way back in November 1958 at the age of three Jeremy played Bernie Bishop's son in the closing scenes of Carry On Nurse. Bernie was of course played by Kenneth Connor. Sixteen years later Jeremy returned to the series for a run of three further films. He played a Footpad in the Dick Turpin adventure Carry On Dick in 1974, an accident prone student with an ice cream which ends up in Alexandra Dane's dress (!) in Carry On Behind and finally in 1976, Jeremy was Gunner Hiscocks. 

So there you have it, some cracking Carry On connections with a really great, classic British comedy series. So why not check out the reruns of You Rang M'Lord? on GOLD? It's definitely worth a watch!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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