Wednesday 29 August 2018

Carrying On with … A Doctor in Clover

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 sixth film in the Doctor series, the 1966 film Doctor in Clover.

What's it about?

The film is based at St Swithin's Hospital, with Leslie Phillips as Dr Gaston Grimsdyke, an accident-prone doctor and cad, more interested in the nurses than the patients.
Grimsdyke is sacked from his job as a medical officer at a men's prison, for his misbehaviour with the Governor's daughter, so he enrolls in a refresher course with his old medical tutor Sir Lancelot Spratt, who he is determined to make him a successful surgeon.
Grimsdyke discovers that a plum senior medical post is shortly to become vacant, and starts scheming to be considered, instead of his cousin, who has already been unofficially offered the job.
Spratt and the newly appointed hospital matron clash, leading Spratt to 'volunteer' Grimsdyke to romance her and 'soften her up'. But she mistakenly believes Spratt to be her admirer, and many funny and inevitable complications ensue.
At a hospital dance, a 'rejuvenation serum' which Grimsdyke has accidentally injected into Sir Lancelot, causes the latter to run amok at the party and romance the new matron. She decides to resign and a new matron is appointed. But she turns out to be equally opposed to Spratt's ideas of how the hospital should be run.

Who's in it?

Leslie Phillips returns for his second Doctor film, this time as the main star following the departure of Dirk Bogarde. Joining him once again is James Robertson Justice, in his fifth Doctor film as Sir Lancelot Spratt. 

Also look out for co-starring roles for Shirley Anne Field as Nurse Bancroft, John Fraser as Dr Miles Grimsdyke and television comedian Arthur Haynes as Tarquin Wendover.

Carry On faces?

As always, the Doctor films featured many familiar actors who were also mainstays of the Carry Ons. As well as the aforementioned Leslie Phillips, another Carry On star with a major role here is Joan Sims as Matron Sweet. This was fourth role in the Doctor films. Returning for her third appearance is Carry On Screaming legend Fenella Fielding, this time playing ballet dancer Tatiana Rubikov!

There is a supporting role for Carry On Sergeant, Constable and Spying actor Eric Barker, playing Professor Halfbeck while future Carry On leading player Terry Scott appears in the role of Robert. Also look out for Peter Gilmore as a Choreographer, Ronnie Stevens as a Publicity Man, Wendy Richard in an uncredited role as a Nurse with false eyelashes and Jack Smethurst as a long-haired patient!

Did you know? 

With Peter Rogers planning a return to the hospital wards with his next film, Carry On Doctor, Joan's performance as Matron Sweet in Betty Box's Doctor film initially made her ideal casting as Matron Lavinia in the Carry On. Eventually Joan passed over the role in favour of her good friend Hattie Jacques with Joan taking the role of hard of hearing hospital visitor Chloe Gibson.

The novel Doctor in Clover had been published in 1960 and while the film rights were purchased the following year and the title announced in 1964, it was a further two years before the film eventually came to fruition. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram


  1. ‘Doctor In Clover’ wasn’t a box office hit and so brought an end to the ‘Doctor’ series. However, the huge success of the television version of ‘Doctor in The House’ in 1969 persuaded Box and Thomas to bring the cinema series back. The original plan for a new film in 1970 was for the TV cast to appear (Evans, Nedwell, Layton, Davies, Clark etc.) but LWT and Rank failed to agree a deal regarding use of the TV characters. As such, Leslie Phillips was brought back and there was a brief cameo from Geoffrey Davis to try and link the film and TV series. Sadly, it wasn't successful and that was it for the 'Doctor' films. There was an attempt in 1972/73 (when lots of TV sitcoms were having film adaptations) for a film adaptation of the TV series 'Doctor In Charge' but Rank/Box still held the film rights and refused to relinquish them.