Thursday 16 August 2018

Bernie Carries On … As Bernie Lugg!

Over the past year I have written a series of blogs covering each of the roles of some of our favourite Carry On stars. I began my looking back at each film role played by the three leading ladies in the series - Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor - and most recently I've written about all of Kenneth Connor's Carry On performances in the run up to the great man's centenary. 

Today I am continuing a new strand of this series by turning the spotlight on that gentle giant of British comedy, the late Bernard Bresslaw. Probably one of the most under-rated actors in the main team, Bernard was a part of the series for ten years and fourteen films, tackling a superb range of crumbling villains and delightfully dimwitted foils to the likes of Sid James and Kenneth Cope. Bernard enjoyed a long career away from the Carry Ons and spent much of his later life wowing audiences in legitimate theatre. However he will forever to remembered for his clutch of hilarious Carry On supporting turns. 

Bernard joined the Carry On team in the mid 1960s and along with Peter Butterworth was the last main team member to join the gang. Along with Butterworth, Bernard played a series of smaller, supporting roles to begin with before graduating to major roles towards the end of the decade. Bernard fitted in effortlessly with the rest of the team and he's the kind of actor who is working hard but making it look oh so easy. A quiet, erudite, thoughtful family man away from the film studios, I often think Bresslaw has never received the credit he's due as like Connor and Butterworth, he didn't ever seek the limelight or splash his life over the front pages.

So today, we'll continue this new series looking at Bernard's role as the gullible sidekick Bernie Lugg to Sid James' Sid Boggle in Carry On Camping, one of the best loved films in the entire series.

Carry On Camping really needs no introduction. Everyone knows it, everyone has seen it. Even those poor souls who don't enjoy the Carry Ons as much as we do have seen Carry On Camping. It's quite simply part of modern British culture and our way of life. It sums up a certain kind of life in Britain that both once was and to a certain extent still exists. Rubbish holidays, failed dreams and the realities of everyday life but of course, we see the funny side of everything. The film has no real plot, it's just a bunch of classic British eccentrics coming together to share in the dubious delights of a camping holiday in the glorious British summer time. Of course being a Carry On, British summer time is actually November in the Pinewood Orchard. As with Up The Khyber made earlier the same year, Camping topped the box office for 1969 and remains one of the biggest money spinners in the entire series.

It's not hard to see whyThe film features countless classic sequences and performances that have gone into legend from a prime cast of favourites. Everyone is playing their classic Carry On persona to the hilt, from Sid James as the lusty Cockney on the make, Bernard Bresslaw as his dim-witted accomplice, Hattie Jacques as the ample Matron, Charles Hawtrey the slightly peculiar loner and Kenneth Williams the upper class, pompous know it all. When most people think of Carry On they think of Camping and for many reasons, rightly so.

The first half of the film sees all the main character groups make their way to Peter Butterworth's Paradise Camp. They include Sid's gang (Bresslaw, Joan Sims and Dilys Laye) who wrongly believe Paradise is a nudist camp; Kenneth's charges from the Chayste Place finishing school (more of this later) and the Potters (Terry Scott and Betty Marsden) a dreadfully middle-class pair, Scott on fine form as a bored husband with a wife who never listens to a word he says. Add in wonderful cameos from the likes of Brian Oulton as an imperious shop owner, Valerie Leon as his glamorous assistant ("we don't sell toothpaste sir"), Amelia Bayntun as Joan's irritating mother and Derek Francis as a suspicious farmer and you have ninety minutes of innuendo-laden British film joy. It's a massive warm hug of a film.

Carry On Camping gives us quintessential Bernie Bresslaw. Slightly slow-witted, very trusting and loyal but easily taken in by wily Sid's latest Hancockian scheme. Although playing second fiddle to Sid, Bernard gets plenty of screen time and a lovely reunion with his Carry On Doctor co-star and love interest, the delightful Dilys Laye. Bernard and Dilys are great together and we thankfully get much more of them in Camping and Doctor two years before. Something about the height difference between Bernard's towering frame and the petite Miss Laye adds a nice touch of comedy to the pairing but they are generally very sweet together despite Sid's earthy efforts to divert attentions to Babs and Fanny.

Yes, for here we have the slightly dodgy plot development of Camping. Sid and Bernie, two middle aged men, chasing after "school girls" Barbara Windsor and Sandra Caron. Changed days and I'm sure nobody thought anything of it at the time but it probably wouldn't be acceptable these days. True, in their defence it's a finishing school they've come from and it's easy to confirm that neither Barbara or Sandra are in their teenage years. There's much comedy to be found in Sid and Bernie chasing the girls who could quite easily run rings around the blokes. And of course Joan and Dilys are never far behind. Ultimately of course Babs and Fanny take off with the trendier hippies in the next field leaving Sid and Bernie to rediscover their own girlfriends.

A great deal of the success of Camping comes from the natural chemistry between Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw. They had worked together in the Carry Ons since 1965 however this was the first time they operated in one of the films as a kind of double act. It's clear the two actors got on and they compliment each other brilliantly throughout. I believe Bernard was one of the actors in the team that Sid was particularly fond of and the pair socialised together away from Pinewood on occasion. It's a measure of the actors that despite the double dealing and sly goings on, we still love them and feel such affection for them!

In the end Bernie is thrilled to rediscover his relationship with Laye's Anthea and the film ends as it begins, focussing on our favourite foursome. With the other campers dispersed, it looks like a happy ending until Joan's annoying mother appears on the scene to ensure there is 'no unnecessariness'! The film closes on Sid and Bernie getting to know their girlfriends a little better while Mrs Fussy is chased off by an errant ram! 

So that's my thoughts on Bernard's role as Bernie Lugg in Carry On Camping. Stay tuned for my next blog in this series, as I look back at Bernard's role in Carry On Up The Jungle! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram


  1. Thoroughly enjoyable little read there's something about the carry ons which fill a void like no other, Will Hay movies are equally unique and enjoyable but the two are comedy chalk and cheese.
    Thanks for a great little read I really enjoyed it.