Saturday 28 July 2018

Guest Blog: Carry On Racing!

The other day I blogged over on Twitter, asking some of my followers if they'd like to pitch in with a guest blog on anything with a Carry On theme. Well, regular reader Brian Linsell got in touch and has submitted this lovely blog...

I'm sure most of the readers of this blog are aware of Sidney James’ love of horse racing, but as a big fan of the sport myself, you may not be aware of just how often Sid, and for that matter his Carry On co-star Joan Sims were involved in either racing themed movies, or ones where racing has been somehow crow-barred into them.

We all remember the scene in Carry On at your Convenience (1971), where Sid and Hattie Jacques find their pet budgie has psychic, winner picking powers – a mini-storyline so far from the main thrust of the movie, I wonder if Sid specifically asked to have it dropped in. Much reminiscent of my late father, Sid comes home from a hard day’s work, clears the living room table of detritus, and lovingly lays out his Sporting Life and Form Book!

But these links with racing go back much further, even before the Carry Ons started.

Dry Rot (1956) saw Sid as an unscrupulous bookmaker, and Joan Sims in a minor role as a hapless young housekeeper. Not the best of movies, but signs of the future in there.

Just My Luck (1957) was a wonderful Norman Wisdom movie, centred around his attempt to win big on the horses. Joan played the hapless young wannabe girlfriend (there’s a theme developing!)

By 1959, Joan secured her first Carry On role (as a hapless young nurse!), in Carry on Nurse (1959) with the fabulous Wilfred Hyde White in charge of the racing/betting scenes. Meanwhile, Sid was starring in an Arthur Askey vehicle called Make Mine a Million (1959), involving a scene at Ascot races. Again, not the best of Sid’s films, but it had early roles for Bernard Cribbins, Kenneth Connor, and look out for Barbara Windsor as an uncredited switchboard girl!

Two years later, and along comes What a Carve Up! (1961), a wonderful haunted house comedy/mystery with Sid and Kenneth Connor as an Abbott and Costello style double act, with Shirley Eaton (fresh from Carry on Constable) providing the glamour. Again, Sid manages to shoehorn into the story that he was a racecourse bookmaker, arriving home in the opening scene to count out his winnings straight from his bookie’s satchel.
When I watch this film, I imagine Sid and Ken hoped to run a series of these double act movies.

Finally, there was the thoroughly enjoyable The Big Job (1965) another Carry On in all but name, directed by Gerald Thomas, with Sid and Joan starring alongside Jim Dale, as well as Dick Emery, Lance Percival, Dereck Guyler and Sylvia Syms. Without the Carry On moniker, this film has been largely forgotten, but is as entertaining as any of the Carry Ons, even though it follows a well trodden path laid out by The Ladykillers (1955). Sid’s racing reference here is most subtle – Dick Emery’s character is known as Bookie, real name Fred Binns. The said Mr Binns was a real life course bookmaker, well known on southern tracks, no doubt one of Sid’s favourite sparring partners as a punter

Thanks very much to Brian for taking the time to write and submit this interesting post. You can follow Brian on Twitter @brianlinsell. 

And if you fancy having a bash at a guest blog all of your own, drop me a direct message on Twitter and we'll have a chat! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram