Saturday 14 April 2018

The Gerald Thomas Archive: Carry On Abroad Draft Script

Last month I made a rather delayed trip (thank you British weather) to the British Film Institute on London's Southbank. As I've mentioned over on Twitter, the BFI hold the entire Gerald Thomas archive which is chock full of delightful artifacts from Gerald's long, varied and illustrious career in British film. I was quite frankly dazzled by the array of material on offer and have only managed to flick through a fraction of it, but this blog today is the start of several pieces looking at different aspects of what I've had the very good fortune to see.

Following on from my first blog on Gerald's scrapbook for Carry On Abroad, the next item I came across in the archive is an annotated original typed script for Carry On Abroad. Written by the legendary Talbot Rothwell, the script is obviously well on in development as much of it remained for the final version, however certain aspects are different from what we saw on the cinema screens and in our living rooms. Before I discuss any of that, I also found Talbot’s descriptions in the script to be of particular interest. He provides his own thoughts on what the final character might have looked or acted like and it’s fascinating to compare with the versions we saw on screen.

For a start, Talbot’s script actually gives Sid and Joan’s pub in Carry On Abroad a name – The Bull and Bush. Quite apt really. Rothwell goes on to describe the Landlord and Landlady: “Part of a small cosy pub, run by Vic and Cora Flange. Vic is a tough looking Cockney in his late 40s – ‘the dangerous age’ and Cora an attractive woman a few years younger than him.”

We then come to the infamous cut scene set in the WundaTours office and featuring regular supporting actor Bill Maynard as Mr Fiddler. The scene, which lasts a couple of pages, also stars Kenneth Williams and Gail Grainger. It’s usual Carry On fare with near the knuckle humour and references to familiar things like “Littlehampton” and “Miss Fosdick”. I assume the film was over-running and Rogers and Thomas agreed the final print could do without the scene. Sadly, it meant seasoned pro Maynard was completely removed from the film. This of course wasn’t the first time a big name fell victim to the cutting room floor, with Terry Scott suffering a similar fate in Carry On at Your Convenience the previous year.

The characters played by Carol Hawkins and Sally Geeson are given full names in the script – Carol was Marge Mace and Sally, Lily Dickey. Rothwell describes the characters as” two 17 year old dolly girls, wearing gay new outfits and deadpan expressions…Lily is pertly attractive with a good slim figure whilst Marge is plumper, nowhere near as blatantly attractive, but has a much warmer personality.” As ever, Talbot’s descriptions of the women in his scripts could quite easily be described as sexist in 2018. While both Geeson and Hawkins are quite young at the time of filming, neither of them are 17 so obviously the characters were aged up slightly. Also, Carol Hawkins is certainly not as Marge is described in the script.

June Whitfield’s character, Evelyn Blunt is also described as being a “well built handsome woman who dressed as if she is just about to attend a Palace garden party.” And Charles Hawtrey’s loner mummy’s boy character Eustace Tuttle is given the following description: “A think bespectacled rather fragile looking character wearing black suit, wing collar, bowler hat and umbrella.”

I also discovered two further alterations to the script which was finally filmed in the April and May of 1972. A pair of newlyweds are written in the draft script I read at the BFI. Called Mr and Mrs Sockett, they are virtually inseparable throughout the early pages of the script and take part in a speeded-up scene once they arrive at the Palace Hotel when they can finally, as it were, get down to it. As far as I can tell no actors were ever cast in the roles so they were obviously felt to be surplus to requirements fairly early on in the development of Abroad.

There was also the scene set in the inside of the aeroplane. This has been documented elsewhere before, however until now I was not aware how long it went on for – seven full pages of script was eventually ditched including the entire performance of actress Lindsay Marsh as the stewardess. All the main cast playing the holidaymakers were included in the scene with Sid James, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw, Derek Francis, June Whitfield and Kenneth Connor getting the majority of the material. Again one can only assume it was felt unnecessary to the main plot of the picture.

After so many years of watching Carry On Abroad, it was quite something to get my hands on one of the original drafts of the script that formed the final print. The first time I saw Carry On Abroad was back in the early 1990s when I recorded it from STV’s late night line-up, part of the so-called “Night Screen”. As a ten year old, I was still amused by the pantomime qualities of the film, completely unaware of the innuendo and near the knuckle humour. It wouldn’t be long before it all became clear though! 

Stay tuned for the next in my series of special blogs on Gerald's archive coming up soon!

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