Tuesday 24 April 2018

The Carry On Connections with the BFI's 100 Best British Films

My recent work researching the Gerald Thomas archive at the British Film Institute has led me to review their famous Top 100 British films list. This list was compiled back in 1999. The BFI surveyed 1000 people from the world of British film and television and voters were asked to choose the 100 films they saw as "the most culturally British". 

At the time, certain critics were amazed that a Carry On film was featured on the list. Carry On Up The Khyber comes in at 99, one above The Killing Fields. Of course as a Carry On fan, I have no problem with this decision and I'm proud one of our favourite films is on that list for the world to see. However, having looked through the rest of the list I was pleased to see films featuring so many other Carry On links. 

For a start, The Belles of St Trinian's is on the list at 94. This classic comedy features familiar Carry On names in Joan Sims, Irene Handl, Beryl Reid, Renee Houston, Sid James and Richard Wattis. Several places up the list at 88 is the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night. This Richard Lester film co-stars Wilfrid Brambell as Paul McCartney's father and Norman Rossington as the band's manager, Norm. Deryck Guyler also stars as a Police Inspector. If you look out, you can also spot uncredited appearances from familiar Carry On faces such as Julian Holloway, John Bluthal and Margaret Nolan. 

Two places up the list at 86 comes one of my all-time favourite films, Genevieve. As well as featuring small roles for Fred Griffiths (as an ice cream seller) and Michael Medwin (as a father to be), the dance numbers featured in the film were scored by none other than Carry On music man extraordinaire, Eric Rogers. Even the controversial Stanley Kubrick picture A Clockwork Orange (No. 81) has a couple of Carry On connections as Carry On Abroad and Dick actor John Clive appears as a Stage Actor while Philip Stone (who appeared in Carry On Loving) co-stars as Malcolm McDowell's father in the film. Margaret Nolan is another Carry On link in the film which comes in at 70 - the classic James Bond film, Goldfinger. Margaret not only plays Dink in the film but also features in the film's memorable title sequence. Original Carry On leading lady Shirley Eaton also stars, playing Jill Masterson who meets a memorably grisly end.

The classic children's adventure film The Railway Children comes in at 66 on the BFI list and this one features a whole host of Carry On actors. Leading the way is the wonderful Bernard Cribbins who plays Albert Perks. Also appearing are Ann Lancaster (Again Doctor), David Lodge, Amelia Bayntun, Brenda Cowling and William Mervyn, who plays the Old Gentleman. Charles Hawtrey is the Carry On star to appear in the next film, coming in at 63 is the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico. He plays Bert Finch in that classic film from 1949. Another very different classic is A Taste of Honey, the film of Shelagh Delaney's ground breaking play, made in 1961 and starring the amazing Dora Byan, who three years before had brought much joy in the original Carry On, Carry On Sergeant.

Tony Richardson's film of the Henry Fielding novel Tom Jones comes in at number 51. This Albert Finney adventure comedy features two wonderful British actresses, still well known for their time with the Carry On team. Playing Mrs Fitzpatrick in the film is Carry On Teacher star Rosalind Knight. And adding her own special brand of magic in the role of Honour is the brilliant Patsy Rowlands. The film was released in 1963. Coming in at number 47 is one of my very favourite British comedies, the Boulting Brothers' sparkling satire I'm All Right Jack. Made in 1959, it launched the career of future Carry On actress Liz Fraser and also co-starred a host of recognisable faces including Irene Handl, Brian Oulton, Esma Cannon, Victor Maddern and Terry Scott. 

The entry at 36 is a classic comedy crime caper, directed by Peter Collnson and starring the one and only Michael Caine. Yes, it's The Italian Job. This swinging sixties epic from 1969 co-stars the ever wonderful Irene Handl in a brilliant cameo as Miss Peach. John Clive, a familiar face from Carry On Abroad and DIck, appears as the Garage Manager while the ever glamorous Valerie Leon pops up as a Hotel Receptionist. Further up the list at 19 is another brilliant Ealing comedy, the classic film The Lavender Hill Mob, from 1951. This film features an early leading role for future Carry On legend Sid James, here playing Lackery Wood. There are also small roles for the likes of Richard Wattis, Cyril Chamberlain and Sydney Tafler.

Another Boulting Brothers' classic, this time a gangster film noir from 1948, comes in at number 15. Brighton Rock, which stars Richard Attenborough, features future Carry On Sergeant actor William Hartnell in the role of Dallow. Keep your eyes peeled too for the wonderful scene stealer Marianne Stone, who graced many many films, here playing a lazy waitress! Another film with strong Carry On connections comes in at number 13 - The Ladykillers stars Carry On Jack guest star Cecil Parker as Major Claude Courtney and also boasts Frankie Howerd as a barrow boy and future Carry On great Kenneth Connor as a taxi driver. Legendary director Lindsay Anderson's iconic sixties film If... came along in 1968 and it comes in at number 12. This film gives future Carry On Girls actor Robin Askwith one of his earliest screen roles, playing Keating. 

At number 2 on the BFI list comes the classic 1945 film Brief Encounter. Directed by David Lean and written and produced by Noel Coward, the actor Cyril Raymond plays Celia Johnson's husband. Over fifteen years later he played a cameo role in the "39 Steps" parody sequence in Carry On Regardless, opposite Kenneth Connor. Brief Encounter also sees Irene Handl in an uncredited role as an organist and future Carry On Cowboy supporting actor Sydney Bromley, playing a soldier called Johnnie. 

And so we come to the top film on the BFI's list of 100 best British films. It's no surprise that coming in in first place is The Third Man, the Carol Reed masterpiece starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten. And yes, there are Carry On connections with this great film too. Carry On Nurse guest star Wilfrid Hyde White plays the role of Crabbin, while Carry On Regardless and Spying supporting actor Eric Pohlmann plays the role of a waiter. And finally, future Carry On directing legend Gerald Thomas worked on The Third Man as an assistant editor. Many years later, Gerald would pay tribute to the film when making 1964's Carry On Spying, particularly during the sequence in Vienna. 

So there you have it, the talent collected in the Carry On films clearly knew no bounds! 

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