Saturday 2 June 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors: Number 9 - Patsy Rowlands

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 Nine: a brilliant character actress with an enviable career across all media, yet someone who was never quite given the credit she was due in the Carry Ons -  Patsy Rowlands.

What can I say about Patsy Rowlands? Peerless supporting actress for six decades, out of over a hundred screen credits she found time to notch up nine Carry On roles between 1969's Carry On Again Doctor and Carry On Behind in 1975. Only ever officially billed as a full member of the team once (At Your Convenience in 1971) Patsy's roles in the series grew and diminished in stature with alarming regularity. From her unforgettable turns as Hortense Withering in Convenience and Mildred Bumble in Girls to blink and you'll miss 'em cameos in the like of Matron and Henry, Patsy's appearances in the films were unlike any other regular or semi regular actor. I have no idea why.

For me Patsy is up there with actresses like Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques and Joan Hickson. She never lets us down, always turning in hilarious, naturally funny performances and working ever so well with whoever she's appearing opposite. Normally playing romantic interests to the likes of Kenneth Williams or Kenneth Connor, she matches these comedy legends laugh for laugh and gleefully holds her own. I adore her role as Miss Dempsey, Kenneth Williams' faithful love struck housekeeper in Carry On Loving. It's a role that allows Patsy one of her famous transformations from dull drudge to super-glamorous vamp. Patsy also excels as Mildred Bumble in Carry On Girls, turning from put upon wife to bra-burning feminist by the end of the film.

Probably Patsy's finest Carry On hour came in 1971 when she joined the workforce at W.C Boggs' toilet factory. Playing Kenneth Williams' rather randy secretary Miss Withering, Patsy sheds her inhibitions during a fun-packed trip to Brighton when she gets drunk, takes part in riotous high jinks at the shooting range, indulges in a high camp bit of fortune telling and beds the boss to boot! Nobody slinked around a bedroom in a negligee quite like Patsy Rowlands! It still beggars belief why even after such a tremendous leading role in Convenience, Patsy was relegated to such small roles in the films that followed - Matron and Abroad. 

Rowlands' remained loyal to the Carry Ons until Carry On Behind in 1975, a film which saw her play Bernard Bresslaw's wife and, somewhat amazingly, Joan Sims' daughter, despite the fact they were pretty much the same age. I don't know why Patsy didn't return for another Carry On after that, however she was certainly not short of work elsewhere, working consistently until the early 2000s. Interviewed for several DVD audio commentaries in 2002/03, Patsy remained proud of her association with the Carry On films and displayed a huge amount of affection for the films and the actors she met and worked with during that period. An unsung heroine if ever there was one, Patsy remains beloved by former colleagues, fellow thespians and fans of both the Carry Ons and British comedy. Over a decade after her sad death, we still cherish her memory and enjoy her great body of work.

So Patsy Rowlands comes in at Number 9 in my top twenty list of favourite actors. Who'll be next? 

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