Monday 16 April 2018

The Gerald Thomas Archive: Letters from Larry

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 and my second on the Carry On Abroad Draft Script the next item file I want to write about concerns final preparations for the release of Carry On Doctor in late 1967. 

The Carry On Doctor files contain some lovely, fascinating letters from the artist Terence Parkes, otherwise known as Larry. Larry designed the title sequences for several Peter Rogers Productions, including Carry On Doctor. The letters on file document Parkes' attempts to capture the kind of artistic feel which would suit the Carry Ons. Obviously a fan of the series, Terence Parkes went to great lengths to impress Peter with his efforts. Each of Larry's letters to Peter Rogers is accompanied by personalised cartoons, for example a nurse having the title card for Carry On Doctor projected onto her chest.

The first letter was sent to Peter on 20 November 1967. Larry seemed slightly anxious about the work he had enclosed for Peter's perusal:

I haven't a clue how my drawings will look 'blown up' to screen size. They may look bloody horrible! I await the results with some intrepidation. 

Peter Rogers didn't wait long before providing feedback to Larry, writing back with his thoughts the very next day:

Dear Larry,

I'm delighted with the drawings. They're superb. But I am returning one to you in the hope you can amend it. It is of the nurse pushing the trolley of 'spares'. For the sake of the customers I would prefer the spares to be arms and legs rather than 'internals'. If necessary you can have the fingers of one of the spare arms making the usual gesture!

Again, even though they were writing in the pre-email days, Larry still managed to get back to Mr Rogers the day after. Writing on 22nd November 1967 he said:

I wouldn't be sure it looks any less gruesome but at least it looks funnier!

The work Parkes completed was obviously a success with Peter and Gerald as this marked the first of several collaborations during the late 1960s and 1970s. The archive also includes a letter from the artist the following May (1968) where he addressed the producer's request for some cartoons to accompany their next big screen release, the majestic Carry On Up The Khyber. In typical Larry fashion, the letter included a wonderful little drawing of a snake charmer with a camera man sitting atop the snake!

These letters provided a priceless and fascinating insight into yet another aspect of producing the Carry On films. Rogers was obviously extremely shrewd with an eye for detail and these letters also demonstrate Peter's deliciously dry sense of humour. They also give us a lovely insight into the work of the late, great Terence "Larry" Parkes.

I wrote about Larry's superb art work back in 2016 and you can read that here: Carry On Blogging: Full Credit to Larry

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

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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