Sunday 27 May 2018

Carrying On with Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

Scrolling through the countless television channels the other evening in a desperate search for something to watch, I stumbled upon an episode of the 1960s series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). I watched repeats of this series avidly as a child but haven't seen the show for at least twenty years now. As with other classics like The Saint and The Avengers, it has a wonderful charm and quality that sets it apart from many others which means it's still very watchable today.
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) was a private detective series starring the late Mike Pratt and the brilliant Kenneth Cope, fresh from his fame in Coronation Street (as Jed Stone). The series was created by Dennis Spooner and was first broadcast in 1969 and 1970. Interestingly, when broadcast in the United States the show was renamed My Partner the Ghost. I wonder if American audiences were a tad squeamish back then?
In the very first episode Hopkirk (Cope) is murdered during an investigation but returns as a ghost. Randall is the only character who is ever able to see or hear him, although certain minor guest characters did so during the series. A single set of 26 episodes were produced by ITC between 1968 and 1969 and the first episode went out in the September of 1969. As I was now reacquainted with the marvellous series from days gone by, I wondered if I could write a blog on any Carry On connections with the show. As with so many other classics of the era, many familiar character actors appeared throughout the run, so without further ado, let's take a closer look at some of them.

I have to start with the wonderful Kenneth Cope who excels in the pivotal role of Marty Hopkirk. Appearing in all 26 episodes, Kenneth is amazing throughout, always seen in his ghostly white suit. It was not long after this major starring role that Kenneth joined up with the Carry On team for two madcap adventures. First of all, as shop steward Vic Spanner in Carry On At Your Convenience and then later in 1971 as the softer character, Cyril Carter in Carry On Matron. 

Playing a supposed reincarnation of Marty in the 1969 episode "The Man from Nowhere" was Carry On Abroad guest actor Ray Brooks. Ray of course played Peter and Hattie's son Georgio, who romances June Whitfield's Evelyn Blunt, in the Elsbells adventure. Another instantly recognisable face to appear, this time in the episode "The House on Haunted Hill" was Peter Jones. Peter played a character called Frederick P Waller. Peter Jones popped in for two Carry On cameos during the original run of films. In 1967, two years before he shot Randall and Hopkirk, Peter played the hilarious tone-deaf vicar in Carry On Doctor. And nearly a decade later he returned to play the dreadfully unfunny Brigadier in the 1976 series entry Carry On England.

The 1970 episode entitled "It's Supposed to be Thicker than Water", which sees members of the Crackan family gather to find out which one will be the heir, stars a very familiar Carry On face indeed. First broadcast on 13 February 1970, the sublime Liz Fraser guest stars as Fay Crackan. Liz is best known for her many comedy film roles which include parts in Carry On Regardless (as Delia King); Carry On Cruising (as Glad Trimble), Carry On Cabby (as Sally) and Carry On Behind (as Sylvia Ramsden). 

Appearing in the very first episode of the series, "My Late Lamented Friend and Partner", as a Night Porter, is reliable character actor Harry Locke. Harry played similar working class roles in three medical Carry Ons - Nurse in 1959 in which he played orderly Mick; Doctor in 1967 which saw him appear as ambulance driver Sam and finally as the porter in Again Doctor in 1969. Also appearing in that very first episode is another familiar supporting player, Anthony Sagar. Playing a hotel proprietor, Sagar cropped up in several Carry Ons - Sergeant, Nurse, Constable, Regardless, Cruising, Screaming and finally Loving in 1970.

Playing Calvin P Bream in the 1970 episode "When the Spirit Moves You" was sitcom star in the making Anton Rodgers. Anton would go on to star in Fresh Fields, French Fields and May to December, but before all that he appeared in small roles in two Carry Ons. In 1962 he played a young man opposite Dilys Laye in Carry On Cruising and the following year he was  Hardy in the very first scene of Carry On Jack. The episode which aired on 21 December 1969, "Who Killed Cock Robin?" featured another very familiar Carry On face. David Lodge, who must have appeared in nearly every series at around this time, played the character of Beeches. David made his first appearance in the Carry Ons as a wine tasting patron in 1961's Carry On Regardless. After a lengthy gap he returned for a run of four more films with the team, starting with Carry On Girls in 1973, playing the Police Inspector. Further roles followed in Carry On Dick, Carry On Behind and Carry On England as well as several starring roles in the 1975 ATV Carry On Laughing series.

The 1970 episode entitled "A Sentimental Journey" features not one Carry On face but four. The superb Victor Maddern (Constable, Regardless, Spying, Cleo, Emmannuelle) plays Det. Sergeant Watts while Billy Cornelius (best known as Oddbod Junior in Carry On Screaming) plays Albert. Larry Taylor, who played tough guys in Follow That Camel, Up The Khyber and Carry On Dick also appears in the role of a Man in a Phone Booth. Finally, the actor Anthony Baird, who played a Guard in Carry On Spying, turns up playing a character called Hamilton. Baird was also, for a time, the boyfriend of a certain Joan Sims.

The rather bizarrely titled "That's How Murder Snowballs" which originally aired on 19 October 1969 co-starred a young actress who had already made four Carry On appearances. Playing Kay was the gorgeous Valerie Leon. Another glamorous presence in the series was Carry On Cowboy and The Big Job star Edina Ronay. Edina played Sandra in "Never Trust a Ghost". That same episode featured the super character actor Brian Oulton, playing Dr Plevitt. Brian appeared in Carry On Nurse, Constable, Cleo and Camping. 

Future Carry On At Your Convenience and Coronation Street actor Geoffrey Hughes co-stars as Harper in the 1970 episode, "Somebody Just Walked Over My Grave". At the end of January 1970 the episode "Money to Burn" was broadcast. Co-starring in that story was the actress Olga Lowe. Olga made a brief appearance as Madame Fifi, the brothel owner in 1972's Carry On Abroad. South African born Olga was one of the first people a certain Sidney James looked up on his arrival in London after the war. In a bizarre twist of fate, Olga was also on stage with Sid in The Mating Game the night he very sadly died in 1976.

And finally, if the internet is correct, a certain Robin Askwith made a very early television appearance in the same episode of Randall and Hopkirk as future Carry On Girls co-star Valerie Leon. Robin had a small part (if you pardon the expression) as an Act Pageboy. 

So if you haven't seen Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) before or if it's just been a while since you last caught it, I hope this blog has been a bit of a nostalgic trip back in time. Next time you see it in the schedules, give it a watch! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram


  1. Robin Askwith is in the same episode as Valerie Leon (and David Jason). Theatre based with a murderer in drag so very in the Carry On tone.Gave me a phobia of men in drag ad a kid though.