Sunday 19 August 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors: Joint First Place - Sid & Joan

This is the final part of a series of blogs where I have taken a purely personal look at my favourite Carry On actors. I have written up 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 has been 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 at the end of this 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. The Top Ten featured all the main team players you'd expect, from Jim Dale and Kenneth Williams to Peter Butterworth and Hattie Jacques.

You will probably have noticed two names have been missing from my list so far, and there are two of the best known, best loved and longest serving Carry On actors. When it came down to it, I guess I chickened out of choosing one of the other so I've decided to give them joint first place in my countdown. Yes for me they are the King and Queen of Carry On - Sidney James and Joan Sims.

My favourite Carry On actor and actress, they both appeared for most of the original run of films. Joan appeared in the second film in the series, Carry On Nurse, in 1958 and remained with the series for 24 films in all, bowing out with Emmannuelle twenty years later. Sid meanwhile became the Carry On films' leading man in 1960 with Carry On Constable and remained at the top of the pile until Carry On Dick in 1974. For me they were the ultimate Carry On double act and their chemistry as boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife was just so believable, natural and irresistible that having them share top spot seems like, if you excuse the terrible expression, a no brainer.

It's the strength of their chemistry together than propels them to the top as far as I'm concerned. Although appearing in several Carry Ons together and not necessarily having much to do with each other, 1965's Carry On Cowboy changed all that. Cowboy saw Joan at her glamorous best as gun-toting saloon owner Belle. Sid's Rumpo Kid more than met his match in Belle and the pair share some sparkling dialogue. Without a doubt the success of this pairing in Cowboy led to them working together again and again as the series progressed.

Sid and Joan enjoyed a gorgeously comedic flirtation as Sir Rodney FFing and Desiree in Don't Lose Your Head the following year however it would be another costume epic two years later which cemented their roles as comedy King and Queen. In Carry On Up The Khyber they played the endlessly bickering Sir Sidney and Lady Joan Ruff-Diamond. James and Sims are out on top and playing at a blistering pace throughout this wonderful Carry On, firing on all cylinders. So strong is their pairing that Talbot Rothwell casts them with their own first names! Later in '68 they were back together again as a modern day boyfriend and girlfriend as Sid Boggle attempts to get back to nature with Joan Fussy at Paradise Camp! Carry On Camping sees the delectable foursome of Sid, Joan, Bernard Bresslaw and Dilys Laye travel about the Buckinghamshire countryside in an aged Ford Zephyr and you can just tell they all got on and were having as many laughs off screen as on.

In Carry On Up The Jungle, Sid is the ruggedly bogus explorer Bill Boosey, flirting outrageously with his rifle in front of Joan's upper class Lady Bagley. And later in 1970 Joan is the object of Sid's lust once more in Carry On Loving. As Esme Crowfoot, Joan finds herself in a bonkers love triangle with Sid's Marriage Agency boss Sidney Bliss and Bernard Bresslaw's hulking wrestler Gripper Burke! Carry On Henry saw the films come of age in late 1970 and in this outing, Sid and Joan really were the King and Queen! Possibly one of their best, most beloved appearances together in a Carry On came in 1971 with the joyful Carry On At Your Convenience. While Sid is married rather unhappily to Hattie Jacques, he's constantly on the make with his glamorous next door neighbour Chloe (Sims). While a lot of their scenes are classic Carry On double entendres, they share a beautifully comedic yet sad scene at the end of the Brighton day trip. Standing outside their houses late at night, they contemplate taking things further but in the end think the better of it. As Eric Rogers' finest musical score swells, Sid and Joan prove once again just what fine actors they were.

I think the last time Sid and Joan were truly great on screen together was in 1972's Carry On Abroad. As boringly frustrated married couple, publicans Vic and Cora Flange, they embark on a nightmare long weekend package holiday to a bizarre Spanish island. Vic is after a piece with saucy widow Sadie (who else but Barbara Windsor?) while Cora is flattered when frustrated middle aged husband Stanley Blunt (Kenneth Connor) takes an interest in her. It's probably the most down to earth, real character Joan ever played in a Carry On and while sadly there are battle-axe traits to Cora, she is far more sympathetic and believable than other roles she was given. Ultimately Vic and Cora are reunited and the scenes surrounding their faulty hotel doors are superb. They are having so much fun the joy goes well beyond performance. They are crying with laughter for real and we couldn't love them more. 

Sid and Joan shared their last major screen time together in 1973's Carry On Girls however for me it's a rather sad state of affairs to go out on. Sid is the ultimate dirty old councillor, chasing younger beauty contestants while Joan is on autopilot as his harridan girlfriend Connie. They deserved so much better than this! 

Despite this, Sid and Joan more than deserve first place in this countdown. For me, they were and are Carry On. It is inconceivable to imagine the series and so many of the films without them. Peter Rogers always said that it was very much a team, and it was. He said "Carry On" was the only star and while that may be true, Sid was the Carry On KIng and Joan was definitely his Carry On Queen. 

I hope you have enjoyed this rather mammoth countdown of my ultimate favourites. It's been great fun to do and while I've had to leave many wonderful actors and actresses out of the list, I hope you've on the whole agreed with my choices!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

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