Saturday 18 August 2018

Carrying On With a … Doctor in Distress

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 fifth film in the Doctor series, which saw the return of a very familiar face for the last time, 1963's Doctor in Distress.

What's it about?

Simon Sparrow, now a senior doctor at Hampden Cross Hospital, falls in love with Delia, a model and aspiring actress. They eventually move in together, but then she goes to Italy to try out for a film.
Meanwhile, Spratt injures his back in a fall. Placed under the care of physiotherapist Iris Marchant, he is initially hostile, but soon succumbs to her charms. He turns to his friend Simon for advice. Simon sends him to a nature cure clinic in a vain attempt to help him lose weight. Spratt has Iris followed, and, when his private investigator turns up at Hampden Cross as a patient, follows her himself (terrorising a nervous train passenger in the process). He proposes to her, but is eventually rejected in favour of another of her patients, retired army Major Tommy French.
Delia returns in England, having somehow acquired an expensive Italian car and expensive clothes, though she did not land a part in the film. It is implied that she and Simon get together again.

Who's in it?

Dirk Bogarde returns to the Doctor films for the first time since Doctor At Large in 1957 and for his fourth and final film in the series. Joining him once again is James Robertson Justice as Sir Lancelot Spratt while Doctor in the House original actor Donald Houston returns, although this time playing a different character.

Also starring are Samantha Eggar as Delia Mallory, Barbara Murray as Iris Marchant and Mylene Demongeot as both Sonia and Helga.

Carry On faces?

Following on from the previous film, Doctor in Love, Distress sees a huge cast of familiar Carry On faces trot across Pinewood Studios to join in the fun for Betty Box and Ralph Thomas. As already mentioned, Donald Houston, returns to the Doctor films. Donald played a major supporting role in Carry On Jack made the same year as this film.

Returning for her second Doctor film is Carry On Regardless and Screaming star Fenella Fielding, playing a rather distraught train passenger. Carry On Constable supporting actress Jill Adams plays in her second Doctor film in the role of Genevieve. Also look out for future Carry On Cleo leading lady Amanda Barrie who has a cameo role as Rona. Amanda made her Carry On debut this same year, 1963, as Anthea in Carry On Cabby.

Carry On Cruising actor Ronnie Stevens appears as a Hotel Manager while future Carry On legend Peter Butterworth plays the small role of an Ambulance Driver during the opening credits and the first few scenes of the film. Towering actor and stunt man Joe Robinson, who sadly passed away just last year, appears briefly as Sonia's boyfriend. Three years earlier he played Dynamite Dan the boxer in Carry On Regardless.

The renowned actor John Bluthal, who appeared in Carry On Spying, Follow That Camel and Henry, plays a Railway Porter while taking on the part of a Cafe Waitress is none other than the amazingly prolific Marianne Stone. And in the uncredited role of a medical student (alongside other such famous names as Christopher Beeny and Richard Briers) is future Coronation Street legend Johnny Briggs. Johnny went on to play small parts in Up The Khyber, Behind and England. Finally, there is a small uncredited appearance by Hilda Fenemore as a Railway Station Barmaid. Hilda played Brian Oulton's wife in Carry On Nurse and a lady in need of a copper (!) in Carry On Constable.

Did you know? 

One of the ten most popular films at the British Box Office in 1963.

Although some ideas were taken from the books of Richard Gordon, this film did not come from one of Gordon's books.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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