Wednesday 16 May 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors - Number 11: Dilys Laye

This is part of a brand new series of blogs where I will take a purely personal look at my favourite Carry On actors. I will be doing a countdown of my top twenty actors and actresses in this, the sixtieth anniversary year of Carry On. So why top twenty? Well top ten didn't allow me to include all my favourites and any more than twenty and I'd be at it forever, as it were.

This top twenty will be a mix of regular top team actors and many of those instantly recognisable supporting actors who popped in and out of the series, adding superb cameos here and there. You will probably agree with some of my main choices and be vehemently opposed to others, but it's meant to encourage debate! 

So here we go with Number Eleven: a wonderfully warm, instinctive, natural actress who added class to four 1960s Carry On films Dilys Laye.

I've loved Dilys Laye for years. She's an actress who was never a star name like her contemporaries Joan Sims or Barbara Windsor but she worked consistently and beautifully across all media for seven decades and so many of these performances gained her a legion of fans and admirers. A bright, cheeky, sometimes alluring and always sparkly presence, Dilys popped up in many classic British comedy films but is best remembered today for her supporting roles in four wonderful Carry On films.

Dilys was a lifelong friend of Carry On regular Joan Sims, having met in revue in the early 1950s. Dilys landed her first Carry On role when Joan was too ill to play Flo Castle in Carry On Cruising in 1962. Although Joan will always be my favourite, I can't imagine anyone other than Dilys playing the energetic, husband-seeking cruise passenger who forms such delicious chemistry with Kenneth Connor. Two years later Dilys played the femme fatale Lila opposite Kenneth Williams in Carry On Spying, even singing a couple of gorgeous songs in the Cafe Mozart sequence.

In Carry On Doctor Dilys played the role of hospital patient Mavis Winkle, playing brilliantly with Bernard Bresslaw. Dilys shone in the climatic scenes which see the patients rebel against the horrid hospital staff of Dr Tinkle (Kenneth Williams) and Hattie Jacques' Matron. Dilys made her final Carry On appearance in the legendary Carry On Camping in late 1968. Teaming up with Sid James, Bernard Bresslaw and Joan Sims, the foursome go on a car journey from hell before pitching up at Paradise Camp! 

Dilys spoke so fondly of her time with the Carry On team and showed so much affection both for the films and the people she met making them. Always a joy to listen to as herself or in whatever role she played, her only regret was that she hadn't appeared in many more of the films. You can't help but love her!

So Dilys Laye comes in at Number 11 in my top twenty list of favourite actors. Who'll be next? 

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