Wednesday 27 June 2018

Remembering Joan

I admit I had forgotten this rather sad anniversary this morning until I saw a lovely tweet from the brilliant Art and Hue. My comedy heroine Joan Sims passed away seventeen years ago this very day. Where did those years ago? I can't quite believe it.

I still remember sitting in my car on 27 June 2001 when Nicky Campbell announced that Joan had passed away. She had been a guest on his BBC Radio 5 Live show not that long before to promote her autobiography, High Spirits. I'll always remember Nicky seemed particularly sad at the news and quite obviously had loved meeting and talking to Joan. 

At the time we did not know that Joan's health had been in decline for quite a while following a hospital visit months before. After a few years in the 1990s which saw a series of mishaps and disappointments prevent Joan from reaching her full potential as a serious character actress, Joan returned to the limelight in a big way, starring in the BBC feature length drama The Last of the Blonde Bombshells with Judi Dench, Ian Holm and June Whitfield and releasing her life story, High Spirits. This was the talented, effervescent Joan we'd all known, admired and loved for decades. 

Sadly though, this was cut short and she left us at the relatively young age of just 71. Thankfully Joan has a wonderful body of work for us to enjoy and remember her by. Those twenty four delightful Carry On appearances spanning naive student nurses and buxom gym mistresses to gun toting saloon owners and giggly French mademoiselles. Joan stayed with the series for twenty years and demonstrated a range and depth of performance rarely seen in the Carry Ons. She always gave it her all. 

Joan Sims worked for years in rep theatre around the country, learning her craft. She graduated to West End revues when they were at their peak and finally legitimate London theatre. There were countless film roles with the likes of Norman Wisdom, Dirk Bogarde and Donald Sinden. For a lengthy time, you couldn't imagine a Pinewood-based British comedy film being made without Joan Sims. A gifted radio actress, Joan worked consistently on the airwaves from the early 1950s until 2000. And on television, there were stunning turns in everything from Till Death Do Us Part and Sykes to As Time Goes By, Miss Marple and On The Up. 

Dennis Waterman once said Joan was wracked with nerves before every recording of On The Up, only to go on and steal every scene. The nerves were real but so was the natural talent. Joan wasn't an actress who loved the limelight, she just loved her craft and the camaraderie of being with a troupe of fellow actors. And so many of those actors have been loyal to her memory. The likes of Liz Fraser, Leslie Phillips, Judi Dench and the late Dilys Laye and Norah Holland, have all spoken so fondly and with such affection about our much missed Joan.

So while it's so sad we mark so many years without her, I think it's best not to dwell. Instead, let's be thankful for all those delicious, delightful Joan Sims performances, whether they be on film, on television or on radio. So why not pick one of your favourites, pop it on and enjoy some classic Joan? That's the best way to remember her, I think.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

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