Friday 25 May 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors - Number 10: Bernard Bresslaw

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 we are now half way through my countdown of my all-time favourite Carry On actors. The first half of the list featured mainly supporting actors who popped in and out several times throughout the films, from the likes of Joan Hickson and Cyril Chamberlain to Margaret Nolan and Peter Gilmore. Now obviously the Top Ten is going to focus on the main team members as there aren't any I can conceivably leave out.

So here we go with Number Ten: a brilliant character actor who excelled at both dimwitted sidekicks and crumbling, fearsome villains - Bernard Bresslaw.

It was hard to decide which of the main team would bring up the rear, as it were. I love them all and I do love Bernie. He was a main player in the Carry Ons for a decade, appearing in fourteen films between 1965 and 1975 as well as many television specials and even a stage show in the West End of London. A quiet, intelligent family man away from the films, less in known about Bresslaw due to the apparent lack of scandal in his personal life. This is unfair really, as he should be celebrated for the superb character comedy actor and brilliant stage actor he so obviously was.

For me though, almost like Barbara Windsor, Bernard was unfortunately stuck in quite limited roles in the Carry Ons which do not allow him to show his true range or natural intelligence. He is either the slow, dimwitted mate to the likes of Sid James (Doctor, Camping, Convenience and Girls) or fierce, snarling villains (Camel, Khyber). He is undoubtedly brilliant in all his Carry On roles but I wish he hadn't been so stereotyped. Having said that, I love his interaction with Sid, Joan and Dilys in Carry On Camping. His innocence in the face of the worldly Sid is a joy to behold.

Likewise, Bernie works so well opposite love interest Dilys Laye in Carry On Doctor. They make a delightful romantic pairing and I only wish we'd had more scenes with them in that excellent film. As a similarly slow sidekick to Kenneth Cope's irritating little union leader in At Your Convenience, Bernard provides another wonderful comedy contrast and even manages a romantic interlude with the delicious Maggie Nolan on the Brighton Pier ghost train to boot!

Bernard, much like Peter Butterworth, was never billed particularly highly in the Carry Ons despite his unfailing support and the quality of his performances. Probably one of my favourites of all his performances was that of Ernie is Carry On Matron. Yes he's playing the stereotypical thick character once again, but there's a beautiful gentle quality to his performance even though he's part of a criminal gang. Bernard works so well with Sid, Kenneth Cope and Bill Maynard. The highlight for me is when Bernie drags up as an expectant mother for the raid of the maternity hospital! It's so delightfully bonkers! Bernard, unlike co-star Sid James, seemed to relish an appearance in drag in the Carry Ons. Who can forget his dragged up beauty contest entrant in Carry On Girls? Or his carol singing school girl in the 1969 Carry On Christmas television special?!

Bernard Bresslaw was the quiet, diligent, unstarry member of the Carry On team. For ten years he turned up at Pinewood again and again, putting in reliably funny, believable performances as an integral part of the Carry On repertory company. I have no doubt that Bernie's heart lay in the serious theatre as the latter half of his career demonstrates. I for one am glad he continued to appear in the Carry Ons as they provide a lasting legacy for one of our most unsung comedy acting heroes in Britain. Good on you, Bernie!

So Bernard Bresslaw comes in at Number 10 in my top twenty list of favourite actors. Who'll be next? 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

No comments:

Post a Comment