Saturday 7 July 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors: Number 5 - Hattie Jacques

This is part of a brand new series of blogs where I will take a purely personal look at my favourite Carry On actors. I will be doing a countdown of my top twenty actors and actresses in this, the sixtieth anniversary year of Carry On. So why top twenty? Well top ten didn't allow me to include all my favourites and any more than twenty and I'd be at it forever, as it were.

This top twenty will be a mix of regular top team actors and many of those instantly recognisable supporting actors who popped in and out of the series, adding superb cameos here and there. You will probably agree with some of my main choices and be vehemently opposed to others, but it's meant to encourage debate! 

So we are now half way through my countdown of my all-time favourite Carry On actors. The first half of the list featured mainly supporting actors who popped in and out several times throughout the films, from the likes of Joan Hickson and Cyril Chamberlain to Margaret Nolan and Peter Gilmore. Now obviously the Top Ten is going to focus on the main team members as there aren't any I can conceivably leave out.

So here we go with Number Five: An actress who became forever linked with one rather powerful, dominant character although there was a great deal more to her than that, yes it's the delightful, delicious Hattie Jacques.

Oh dear, dear Hattie. One of the most instantly recognisable faces in the entire Carry On series, her role as Matron transcends generations. Indeed anytime the NHS is discussed in the newspapers, editors go searching through the archives for a picture of Hattie in her Matron's outfit. Hattie appeared in fourteen Carry Ons, from the very first, Carry On Sergeant in 1958 through to Carry On Dick in 1974. She created a memorable character in Matron with her second outing, Carry On Nurse and would play various incarnations in all the medical Carry Ons which followed - Doctor, Again Doctor and Matron - as well as playing Sister in Regardless and another Matron, with strong links back to Doctor, in Camping!

I think my favourite of Hattie's Matrons was probably the last, playing the titular character in 1972's Carry On Matron. It's a softer character for a start and Hattie looks great throughout. However the success of Matron left Hattie pigeon-holed, certainly on the big screen. While she was always popular in all sorts of roles on radio and carved out a niche in the Eric Sykes rep company on telly, Hattie was stuck in a rut in film. Despite this, Hattie did manage some more interesting Carry On performances and these should be celebrated.

I love her kindly policewoman in Constable, bringing Kenneth Connor and Joan Sims together and falling for Sid's Frank Wilkins at the end of the film. Her sharp-tongued Maths teacher Grace Short in Teacher is a joy, particularly when getting the better of the smooth lothario Leslie Phillips! Hattie is delightful as the put upon Sophie Bliss who spies happiness with the uptight Percival Snooper in Carry On Loving and excels as the fiery Spanish cook Floella opposite Peter Butterworth in Carry On Abroad.

However for me, Hattie's finest Carry On hour comes in the 1963 film Carry On Cabby. A real leading lady starring role, a more glamorous than usual Hattie escapes the usual jokes about her size and plays a real woman with real feelings and real aspirations. In an almost feminist plot line, Hattie's Peggy Hawkins grows tired of her workaholic husband Sid James and sets up a rival cab firm which only employs glamorous young lady drivers. I told you it was almost feminist… Not only does Cabby allow Hattie to really act and get her teeth into a fully formed character, it also portrays her as an intelligent, mature married woman who runs the full gamut of emotions. It really did showcase so many more of her talents and my only complaint is that her opportunities to do this during her long career were few and far between.

Quite simply, the Carry Ons would not have been what they were without Hattie Jacques. A multi-talented, warm, gifted lady with a big heart. Everyone loved her and she was as important on set as off. There will never be another.

So Hattie Jacques  comes in at Number Five in my list of Top 20 Favourite Carry On actors. Who'll be next?

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

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