Thursday 2 August 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: Julian Holloway (Part 2)

The other day I had the great pleasure of spending an hour on the phone with the actor Julian Holloway. Julian's enjoyed a long career on both sides of the Atlantic and of course in amongst over 140 credits on film, television and stage there were eight Carry On appearances, from Follow That Camel in 1967 through to Carry On England in 1976. 

In the first part of our interview, I asked Julian more about how he got started as an actor and how he became part of the Carry On team back in the 1960s. We also chatted about what it was like to work with the likes of Gordon Jackson, Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale. Now on to the second part of our chat…

We touched on some of your other work on screen in the 1970s and 80s earlier but I wanted to ask you about a couple of roles in particular. You appeared in an episode of Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson I think?

Yes, I was in the first episode of Elizabeth R (The Lion's Cub) and I remember everything was running late in the studios, I think there was or had been a strike. The director had a heavy workload to get through and nobody was particularly happy. It felt like a bad kick off for the series and the filming could have gone better but ironically I think it was that episode which one the Emmy Award!

This got me through Standard Grade English...

You were also in one of my favourite dramas from the late 1970s, the BBC's adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, starring Anna Massey, Jeremy Brett and Joanna David. 

Yes that was very well done. The director Simon Langton stayed very loyal to the book and Hugh Whitemore, who I worked with several times, produced a crackerjack script! 

…I ask about it particularly as that version is pretty special for me. I wrote an essay on the book at school and the book I used was a version issued with Joanna David on the cover, from the production you starred in! My mother told me last night that she remembers coming home from work in '79 and watching the first episode on her black and white portable TV while she was peeling potatoes for dinner. She got so hooked on it she watched the entire episode and when my Dad came home dinner wasn't ready!

Well thank you mother from me!! There's a story about that series as the BBC ended up only having the rights to run it twice. The rights to the story were owned by the actress Jennifer Jones who by then was the widow of the Hollywood producer David O. Selznick who had produced the Hitchcock film version of Rebecca in 1940. So the version we made for the BBC has never really been seen again although I gather there is a version around somewhere online. It's a shame as I think the BBC could really have cashed in on all the DVD releases, especially given what a big star Jeremy Brett was, going on to play Sherlock Holmes. But the BBC lost an enormous amount of material made before the late 1960s. A lot of productions were wiped with the idea then of saving on film which looking back on it is really tragic.

Publicity for Carry On Henry: Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Gerald Thomas, Joan Sims & Julian 

Back to the Carry Ons now if we may … you worked quite closely with Sid James in Carry On Henry. What was he like?

Oh I got on really well with Sid. I'd known him before the Carry Ons as he had worked on a couple of films with my father (Stanley Holloway). I think they did The Titfield Thunderbolt and also The Lavender Hill Mob together. I definitely met Sid on the set of The Titfield Thunderbolt as that was made during the school holidays and I went down to see my father and watch the filming. 

Sid was great. I think he evolved a persona which fitted the Carry On formula. He made the decision to stick with them, that that was what he was going to do and that's what he did! His face was like a comfortable unmade bed! You knew what you were going to get and what he was going to do. I had no intention to hang around and become too much a part of the set up though. I wanted to do other things. I remember Kenny Williams telling me I had to get out and do more elsewhere. I think a lot of them got pigeon-holed with the Carry Ons and then weren't offered a lot of other work because of that. I never wanted to be tied to one thing or a long run. I remember in 1984 my agent rang up and said I'd been offered a part in Emmerdale Farm. He knew I'd say no! I think the actor who took on the part ended up staying for about thirty years and died in real life while still in the programme. I'd have hated that.

Dare I ask what Peter Rogers was like to work for?!

Cheap! No, he was a businessman. I don't think he looked after people as well as he might have and he certainly didn't throw money around. I think for quite a while the public had the idea that the Carry On stars made a fortune from the films but of course that wasn't true. There was no provision at the time for repeat fees if films or shows were shown again and people like Joan Sims really suffered as a result. I think it was terrible that she was treated so poorly. I remember when she died she was on the front cover of the Equity Journal with them saying it should never happen again. I'm afraid it should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. Joan was a wonderful, lovely woman though. 

Sid and Julian up to no good in Carry On Camping

I imagine the director Gerald Thomas was quite different to Peter?

Gerald was a very gentle, kind man. As a director he was what I would call a journeyman. His experience on the cutting room floor had trained him to know how he'd edit the film before he'd started shooting. Gerald would never be a daring director, no surprises with him. 

You spent a long time living and working over in America. It might be a difficult question to answer, but I wondered what you felt were the main differences in working over there from life as an actor in the UK?

I think there is a very strong work ethic over in the States and they take everything very seriously. It's extremely competitive, particularly in California where there are tens of thousands of actors. There is such demand for roles over there. I remember when I got my first ever voiceover job out there my agent was terribly excited and I didn't understand until he explained I'd probably beaten around 650 other actors to get the part! 

I think there is also a lot of hiring and firing that goes on in film and theatre and that makes it extra difficult as not only do you have to fight to get a part you then have to fight to keep it once you've got it! Luckily that never happened to me! Also the union out there, the Screen Actors' Guild is properly run and they really do look after their actors. 

Julian in an episode of The Saint in 1964

I wanted to ask you if you had a favourite part out of all the roles you've played on television, film and stage? Also do you have a favourite medium to work in?

Dull answer to that one! No! I'll give you a typical actor's answer to that - I still haven't played the part which has given me the most satisfaction. It all depends on the script at the end of the day. I do know I no longer want to do theatre. Eight shows a week is a young man's game and it's such hard work to keep performances fresh in a long run. I also don't like long runs - I joined the profession for the insecurity, not for security!

Finally, can I ask what your abiding memory is of working on the Carry Ons?

Fun. By and large working with mostly nice people and having a good giggle. Being with people like Peter Butterworth, Kenny Williams and Joan Sims was just such fun. Joan was the worst giggler out of all of them. She could quite easily end up in hysterics on the set! So, really just getting to work with a lovely group of people. 

Sid, Joan, Julian, Peter Butterworth & Charles Hawtrey publicise Carry On Doctor

I'd like to thank Julian for agreeing to the interview - it was absolutely wonderful and a real highlight of running and writing this blog. To be contacted by someone you've watched and admired for years and then two days later to be having a giggle on the phone is just magic. I hope you have enjoyed both parts of our interview. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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