Saturday 21 July 2018

Carrying On with A … Doctor At Large!

This is part of a brand new series of blogs looking back at the wonderful series of British comedy films - the Doctor … series. There were seven Doctor films produced at Pinewood Studios between 1954 and 1970, all with Betty Box and Ralph Thomas at the helm. With Betty being Peter Rogers' wife and Ralph the brother of Gerald Thomas, there were bound to be a fair few Carry On connections.

These medical comedy films were extremely popular at the time and while perhaps they do not have the lasting appeal of the Carry Ons, there is no doubting their classic status. Always looking more lavish than their sister films in the Pinewood stable, they did share a cosy ensemble feel with many familiar faces appearing again and again over the years.

So let's continue today by looking at the third film in the series, Doctor At Large, which was released in 1957. 

What's it about?

Back at St Swithin’s, Dr Simon Sparrow loses out to the self-important Dr Bingham for a job as senior house surgeon. Feeling that he has no future as a surgeon, he takes a general practice job in an industrial town. He finds that he has to do most of the work, including night calls, and is also the target of his partner’s flirty wife.
He then takes a locum job with Dr Potter-Shine’s Harley Street practice, where most of the patients are dotty aristocrats and neurotic society women. Leaving after three months, he moves to a rural practice where patients pay in kind, ranging from home-grown raspberries to poached salmon.
Meanwhile, Tony Benskin fails his finals – again – and travels to Ireland where he buys a very dubious medical degree. This leads to a post as private physician to a rich elderly aristocratic lady in Wiltshire.
Sparrow and Benskin take a short holiday in France, where they save Dr Hopcroft, a governor at St Swithin’s, from an embarrassing incident. In return, he arranges for Sparrow and Benskin to return to St Swithin’s. Sparrow commences advanced surgical training with Sir Lancelot Spratt, whilst Benskin becomes personal physician to a rich Maharajah.

Who's in it?

Four of the original Doctor In The House cast from 1954 returned for this later film, all playing the same roles. DIrk Bogarde was the leading man for the third time playing Simon Sparrow. Playing his love interest for the second time is the lovely actress Muriel Pavlow as Joy Gibson. The raffish Donald Sinden also reprises his role as Benskin while who else but James Robertson Justice could inhabit the character of Sir Lancelot Spratt.

Carry On faces?

Having played a smaller role in the very first in the series, Doctor in the House, Shirley Eaton returned to play the major supporting role of Nan in At Large. Shirley would soon become the Carry On's first leading lady. 

Carry On Nurse cameo star Michael Medwin plays the role of Bingham in the film while fellow Nurse actor Terence Longdon also appears as George the House Surgeon. Playing Mrs Digby is future Carry On Regardless, Cabby and Spying actress Judith Furse. And fellow Carry On Spying star Dilys Laye grabs the featured role of Mrs. Jasmine Hatchet (wife to Lionel Jeffries).

Also look out for reliable character actor Harry Locke, making yet another appearance on screen as a hospital porter. Carry On Cruising actor Ronnie Stevens crops up as a hotel waiter while Carry On Doctor cameo player Dandy Nichols pops in as a Lady in the Outpatients Department. 

Another face to appear in his third Doctor film is that familiar face Cyril Chamberlain, this time in the uncredited role as a Police Constable. Also look out for small part Carry On Cleo actress Peggy Ann Clifford as a "Large Woman". And finally, playing O'Malley's Char is an actress best remembered for munching through Peter Butterworth's grapes in Carry On Doctor ten years later - Jean St Clair. 

Did you know? 

Doctor At Large was the second most popular film at the British Box Office for 1957, only beaten to the top spot by High Society. 

The screenplay was once again written by actor Nicholas Phipps, based on Richard Gordon's book. Nicholas again had a small role in the film, playing the solicitor Mr Wayland.

The film's music was composed by Bruce Montgomery, a year before he teamed up with Peter Rogers to provide the score for Carry On Sergeant, beginning a run of films before handing over to Eric Rogers.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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