Tuesday 31 July 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: Julian Holloway (Part 1)

I was absolutely delighted to receive an email over the weekend from the actor Julian Holloway. I have long been a fan of Julian's work, both in the Carry Ons and elsewhere and often thought he would be a great person to interview. And all of a sudden here we are. I was surprised to hear that Julian not only was aware of my blog but had read several pieces I had written about his career. The power of the internet strikes again!

I tentatively asked if Julian would be up for a chat for the blog and thankfully he agreed. We spent a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining hour on the phone on Monday afternoon and the whole experience was a delight. Our conversation was fairly wide ranging so I have decided to split the interview write up into two different parts. While obviously I wanted to ask about the Carry On films, I was well aware that Julian has enjoyed and continues to enjoy a wonderfully diverse career. Looking up his career history on the internet I was spoiled for choice over what to ask about, but I hope you find the following interview a good read.

Julian first joined the Carry On team in 1967 with a small part as a ticket collector in Follow That Camel. A further seven film roles followed: Simmons in Carry On Doctor; Major Shorthouse in Up The Khyber; Jim Tanner in Camping; Adrian in Loving; Sir Thomas in Carry On Henry; Roger in At Your Convenience and finally Major Butcher in Carry On England in 1976. He also appeared playing several different roles in the 1973 Carry On Christmas television special.

Julian with his parents Stanley and Violet 

To begin, I asked Julian why he decided to become an actor in the first place and how he got started in the profession.

Acting was in the family. My father was the actor Stanley Holloway and my mother the actress Violet Lane. Violet had sort of been cut off in her prime, as it were so I was pushed towards it as a career whether I liked it or not! As a young person you sometimes accept these things in a way you wouldn't as you get older. I trained at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) and as with many other actors who come from famous acting families there are many positive and negative aspects. It can be a difficult business to establish yourself in and sometimes I wanted to be left alone to establish my own self and what I wanted to do. I found that having a well-known name opened some doors very easily but it closed others. 

Can you remember how you first came to be involved with the Carry On films?

Yes! Very clearly. When I was a child we lived out in Buckinghamshire and the likes of Betty Box and Peter Rogers, Gerald and Ralph Thomas all lived nearby in Beaconsfield. They all knew my parents so they knew me as a boy. I also would go quite regularly to see my father if he was making a film at Pinewood Studios so I was around these people from quite an early age. 

In the mid 1960s I landed a recurring role in a comedy series on television called Pardon The Expression, which starred Arthur Lowe (playing his character Leonard Swindley from Coronation Street) and Betty Driver. It was a well-received part in a popular series and through that I got a call from my agent to ask if I wanted a day's work in Follow That Camel…

…punching Angela Douglas's ticket…

Yes! They had obviously seen the series and they knew of me anyway. I never had to audition for a part in a Carry On. After Camel, I was asked to be in the next one which I think was Doctor and it went from there.

When Dick van Dyke met Sir Sidney & Lady Joan Ruff-Diamond! 

I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about Carry On Up The Khyber. There is a great photo somewhere of you on the set with Sid James and Dick Van Dyke. How did that come about?

Well Dick was making Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on another stage at Pinewood at the same time we were making Khyber. It wasn't a planned visit at all, I think he'd enjoyed a scoop or three at lunchtime and had gone walk about! I'm not sure he knew where he was or what we were doing! You have to remember that in those days at Pinewood there would be several films in production all at once, many of them very expensive international films. We, the Carry On lot were always the poor relation! The grounds at Pinewood were so extensive you could have three different productions being shot in them all at once.

…these days that shot of you with Dick Van Dyke would be a staged photo call so it's interesting to hear he just turned up!

Yes you're right it would be but no, he just appeared out of nowhere! 

The climatic dinner party scene from Up The Khyber: Joan Sims get a little bit plastered with Julian & Roy Castle

The famous dinner party sequence in Up The Khyber is probably my favourite scene in any Carry On and also one of the best loved generally. 

Well it took several days to do, it was about three days I think. They actually took some time over it which shows in the end result I think and is probably why it's one of the better scenes in a Carry On. I remember on the first day the food that was provided for us was pretty awful but by the third or fourth day it was inedible! Full of bits of styrofoam or whatever they used! How none of us became seriously ill I'll never know!!

My favourite actor in that scene who I wanted to ask you about was…

…Peter Butterworth?

How did you know?!

He was brilliant! A very unsung actor. He was very difficult to act with because he would deliberately do things to wind you up and make you corpse! He was merciless and once he'd seen he was making you laugh he wouldn't let up! I remember one scene we were doing on Camping and he kept making me break up laughing. The crew were laying bets behind the scenes that we'd never get it shot! 

But he was a lovely, clever man. Very sweet. 

Julian in the film version of Porridge in 1979

I wanted to ask you about another couple of films you made, after the Carry Ons. My all-time favourite comedy series is Porridge and you were in the film version in 1979. What was that like?

Well Porridge was the best written comedy series I think. The writers (Clement and La Frenais) were at the top of their game and Ronnie Barker as the star was captain of the ship. For a start Ronnie was a comedy actor, not a comedian and that's a big difference. He was such a generous performer all for sharing out the good stuff. He also genuinely loved to laugh which made him lovely to be with and around. 

And you worked with Richard Beckinsale on that film too?

Yes I did and he was a sweetheart. It was very tragic though as he died not long after we made the film. So sad, he was only 30, 31 years old. Richard and Ronnie had a terrific working relationship though and it was clear to see Ronnie was like a adopted father figure to Richard. Ronnie was clearly devastated when Richard died. 

I was recently at an event where Liz Fraser was being interviewed about her career. She recalled being in the Sex Pistols film, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle with you! Do you remember that?!

Ha! I don't think I made the final cut in that one! It's not a film I've heard of since and I've never seen it. Funnily enough it's not one I put on my selected list of credits! 

I think you were in a cinema with Liz and Irene Handl?!

Yes that's right! I remember there was a guy there in it who's now known as Edward Tudor-Pole but at the time he was going by the name Tenpole Tudor…

Julian with Charles Hawtrey, Terry Scott, Roy Castle & Sid James in Up The Khyber

Moving on…You have appeared in so many classic series on British television from the 1970s and 1980s (e.g. The Sweeney, Minder, The Professionals) that I didn't know what to ask about so a general question: what was it like to be working in television here during that golden era?

Well I think the quality of drama production back then was very high. That period certainly to me is better than our current output. British television was the envy of the world and we exported a huge amount overseas, for instance an awful lot of our shows went out on the American channel PBS. I wonder how much is today? For me reality television has been the death knell. When you look at situation comedy now, there's a reason why the BBC are still showing episodes of Dad's Army so regularly and why it's still so popular. 

I wasn't going to ask you about any particular actor, but I know you worked with the late Gordon Jackson in The Professionals. He was one of my favourites. What was he like?

Gordon was a lovely man and such a solid actor. But he was a worried man, always worried that he'd forget his lines or dry. I worked with him at least two or three times and he never ever dried, always totally professional. Gordon actually wrote out all his lines in long hand and used different coloured pens, so concerned was he that he'd not know them! I think he used to go through the long hand notes every night at home with his wife Rona before the next day of filming! Extraordinary. I also think he was a good influence on Kenneth Williams, I know they were very close for a long time and Kenny was also very fond of the Jackson family. 

Julian gets to know Babs and Fanny (Barbara Windsor & Sandra Caron) in Carry On Camping

So that's Part 1 of my interview with Julian. Don't worry, there's more on the Carry Ons in Part 2, including Julian's thoughts on working with Sid James and for Peter Rogers. And there's more on some of Julian's other television work and his thoughts on his years spent working in America. So look out for that coming up soon!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram


  1. Great interview with one of my favourite actors, looking forward to part 2!!

    1. Glad you liked it. Part Two is here: https://carryonfan.blogspot.com/2018/08/carry-on-blogging-interview-julian.html