Saturday 16 June 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors: Number 8 - Jim Dale

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 Eight: a multi-talented performer who left the Carry Ons while they were still in their prime and went on to ever greater success -  Jim Dale.

Writing this blog series started off reasonably well but it's not getting tougher and tougher to rate all my favourites. Jim Dale is a real favourite of mine and his extraordinary range of talents were on full display when I saw his one man show back in 2015. He can do comedy and play it straight; he can sing, he can dance, he can write and he even does all his own stunts! He's also probably the most handsome face ever to grace the Carry Ons, not that I'm biased.

Jim got his acting break thanks to Peter Rogers Productions with a small part as a musician in the film Raising The Wind. It wasn't long before he was joining the Carry On team proper with a brief but eye-catching cameo in Carry On Cabby with Sid James. Jim then became a permanent presence with the team for the majority of the 1960s, starring in some of the series' best-loved films. From Marshall P. Knutt in Carry On Cowboy and Albert Potter in Carry On Screaming to Bo West in Follow That Camel and the brilliant Dr Jim Kilmore in Carry On Doctor, Jim rose up the cast lists and gave superb performance after superb performance. 

Jim was perfect as the Carry On romantic lead, charming a host of leading ladies such as Angela Douglas, Anita Harris, Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor. I always think Jim and Angela had particularly good chemistry on screen and this is seen to particularly good effect in Carry On Cowboy. Not only was Jim great at comedy, he could tug at the heart strings and provided a much-needed injection of physicality to the films. He was legendary for performing his own stunts and that runaway hospital trolley has become the stuff of legend. You just can't imagine a star doing stuff like that now!

With a growing reputation in the business, Jim took a year off from the Carry Ons in 1968 to focus on stage work. He did return to the Carry Ons for one final role in the original run - Dr Jimmy Nookey in Again Doctor, 1969 - but then he was off and running in a host of acclaimed roles on stage in London and over on Broadway. Before long he had settled full time in New York but he has never forgotten his Carry On roots or the actors he worked with during those years. We can forgive Jim for Carry On Columbus as his loyalty to the brand and their past successes shines through on screen. 

I think it's testament to how great Jim was in all his Carry On performances that once he left the series in the late 1960s, despite repeated attempts Peter and Gerald never quite managed to find a replacement. Many great actors had a crack at the romantic lead in a number of the 1970s Carry Ons which followed but nobody quite brought the wonderful qualities to the films that Dale brought in spades. He's one of the, sadly all too few, Carry On actors still with us today and long may he continue to make us laugh.

So JIm Dale comes in at Number Eight in my list of Top 20 Favourite Carry On actors. Who'll be next?

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