Friday 27 July 2018

Carrying On with A … Doctor in Love!

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 fourth film in the series, Doctor In Love, which was released in 1960. 

What's it about?

Dr Richard Hare is a recently graduated medical intern at St Swithins Hospital. When his new romantic interest, nurse Sally Nightingale, suddenly leaves the hospital, he is devastated. He also leaves after being offered a job in private practice. But when his senior partner, Dr Cardew, has to visit California for a few months, Hare is left in charge. Dr Nicola Barrington joins the practice and Hare is suddenly in love again.
The romance doesn't go well, especially when Sally re-appears and takes the job of practice secretary. Nicola is hurt and stalks off. She is replaced by Dr Tony Burke who proceeds to airily order expensive equipment that the practice cannot afford.
Hare struggles through various comedic and other complications, mainly steming from Burke's amorous attentions to female patients.
After enlisting Sir Lancelot Spratt's assistance to save a young dying boy, he diagnoses Spratt with appendicitis and decides to operate, despite Spratt's loud objections. He objects even more when Dr Burke fills in at the last moment as the anaesthetist. Despite Spratt's vociforous protestations, the operation is a success.

Hare in reunited with Nicola and returns to St Swithins.

Who's in it?

Original Doctor in the House cast member James Robertson Justice is the only familiar name from previous films to take up the same role - he of course plays the irascible Sir Lancelot Spratt. For the first time, the series was missing its leading man, Dirk Bogarde. Filling his shoes are two great and very familiar actors - Michael Craig and Leslie Phillips. Doctor in Love also stars Virginia Maskell as Dr Barrington, Carole Lesley as Kitten Strudwick and Reginald Beckwith as Wildewinde.

Carry On faces?

As ever, quite a few well known Carry On actors appear in Doctor in Love. Aside from leading man Leslie Phillips (in the first of his three Doctor films), playing a couple of delightfully brash strippers are Carry On Regardless colleagues and real life best buddies Joan Sims (in her third Doctor film) and Liz Fraser. They play Dawn and Leonora.

Also look out for a cameo from future Carry On Screaming legend Fenella Fielding as patient Mrs Tadwich. This would be the first of several roles in the Doctor films for the gorgeous Fenella. 

Playing Lady Spratt, wife to Sir Lancelot is that lovely aristocratic character actress Ambrosine Phillpotts. Ambrosine had small roles in Carry On Regardless and Carry On Cabby. And popping up as Dr Hinxman in the first part of the film is none other than Nicholas Parsons, a few years before Just A Minute and several months ahead of his wonderful cameo opposite Joan Sims in the Carry On Regardless wine tasting sequence.

Irene Handl plays the rather butch, slightly sinister Professor MacRitchie with regular Carry On and Doctor series actor Cyril Chamberlain in the small uncredited role as her assistant. Another regular small part Carry On actor appears in the role of Dr Flower - the brilliant Michael Ward. And keep your eyes peeled also for Carry On Cruising drunk passenger Ronnie Stevens as Harold Green. 

There is also a fairly large collection of Carry On faces in small, uncredited roles in Doctor in Love. Esma Cannon plays a hospital visitor making raffia; Patrick Cargill (Regardless; Jack) plays a Car Salesman; Joan Hickson plays a Nurse; Rosalind Knight (Nurse; Teacher) plays a young Doctor; Sheila Hancock pops in to play a Librarian; Robin Ray (son of Ted, brother of Andrew and cameo player in Constable) plays a Doctor; Carry On Sergeant, Nurse and Regardless actor Norman Rossington plays a Doorman; Marianne Stone turns up as a Nurse and Jimmy Thompson (Regardless; Cruising; Jack) has a small role as a young Doctor.

Also look out for future Carry On glamour girl Sally Douglas (most notable as Kitikata in Carry On Cowboy) as one of Joan Sims' and Liz Fraser's fellow strippers.

Did you know? 

Doctor in Love was the most popular film at the British Box Office in 1960.

For the fourth time, Nicholas Phipps not only provides the screenplay for a Doctor film, but also takes on an acting role. He plays Dr Clive Cardew. 

Dirk Bogarde did not want to continue in the role of Simon Sparrow so producer Betty Box brought in Michael Craig and Leslie Phillips. Apparently Box later said the entire cast of Doctor in Love cost the same as Bogarde's current film fee at the time!

Sadly the two superb young actresses to star in Doctor in Love had very tragic ends. Virginia Maskell took an overdose in January 1968 after suffering from postnatal depression. She died on 25 January 1968 at just 31 years old. Carole Lesley meanwhile died from a drugs overdose at the age of just 38 in February 1974.

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