Sunday 16 September 2018

Guest Blog: Carry On Films were an Important Part of My Childhood

In the latest guest blog for Carry On Blogging, Trevor D'Silva writes about why the Carry On films are so special to him and have been an important part of his life.

Carry On films will always have a special place in my heart. I have watched most of them and everyone of them is unique in terms of the storyline and humor. Whenever I come across anything pertaining to any of the films or if someone mentions a title of one of the films, I can recall some of the funny moments from that particular film. It’s as if these films are a part of my psyche. 2018 marks sixty years since the first film came out. Happy Diamond Jubilee Carry On Series!

As far as I can remember, the first Carry on film I saw was Carry on Doctor (1967) in 1987 or 1988 on video tape. Ever since then I was hooked. Two other people that would watch Carry On films with me were my late grandmother and my aunt. We would laugh at all the funny scenes, even the risqué scenes, which they did not seem to mind. I guess the directors and the producers knew how to make them look innocent and tame and also left it to one’s imagination. An important detail that I would like to mention is that I was not born and brought up in England, but in a small town on the west coast of India, which used to be part of British India and until recently had a very anglicized culture among the Catholic families. That is why British and American movies and music were a big part of my childhood and that is how I got exposed to these series. Maybe it is why I’m such an anglophile. Besides, my grandmother dressing and talking like an English lady could have been an influencing factor. 

Even though this article is mainly about the Carry On films being a part of my childhood, I must begin with a brief history of the films. It’s for the benefit of non-British viewers/readers and also for those who were born many years after the films were discontinued or were simply never exposed to them. Surprisingly, I have met people from New Zealand and South Africa who were adults or grew up when these films were made and have never heard of them. Even here in America, nobody seems to have heard of them.

The Carry On series consisted of thirty one films, four Christmas specials, a television series (thirteen episodes) and three West End and provincial stage plays. I have seen most of the films and not the others in the series and so I will only concentrate on the films. The first film, Carry On Sergeant, was made in 1958 and the last was Carry On Columbus in 1992. The penultimate film Carry On Emmanuelle was made in 1978. The films’ producer, Peter Rogers and director, Gerald Thomas, made all thirty one films.   I have a vague recollection of watching Carry On Sergeant, on YouTube and do not remember the scenes very well. According to me, the films got better, funnier, and cheekier (as the British would say) during the 1960s. My favourite films from this decade are: Carry On Up the Khyber (1968), Carry On Screaming (1966), Don’t Lose Your Head (1966), Carry on Cleo (1964), Carry on Jack (1963), Follow That Camel (1967) and Carry On Doctor (1967).  To me, the 1960s were the hey days of the Carry On series. They had many guest actors who made the series very memorable. The 1960s were the zenith of many films and TV series which were made in England and America. In England, the 60s also had many other good films like the Doctor films from the Doctor series and the Hammer Horror films.  Actor Leslie Philips who played the Doctor in the later years of the series also had roles in some Carry On films. Many actors and actresses (some mentioned below) who became famous in the 1960s also had guest or recurring roles in the Carry On films.

The films continued to be made with the same class and innocent humour right into the 70s, but according to me, after Carry On Behind (1975), the last two films (with a big cast, not including That’s Carry On (1977)) made in the 70s, Carry On England (1976) and Carry On Emmanuelle (1978), lacked the usual innocent humour and class that was prevalent in the previous Carry On films. Both had to be AA certified by the British Board of Film Censors. Fourteen years later, Carry On Columbus was made in 1992, with Jim Dale as Columbus. Leslie Phillips also had a role, but it did not come close to the Carry On films made before 1976; probably because it lacked the regular cast that made the series popular. My favourite Carry On films from the 70s are: Carry On Up the Jungle (1970), Carry On Abroad (1972), Carry On Loving (1970) and Carry On Girls (1973).

As mentioned above, I watched these films with my late grandmother and aunt. Some cousins were also fans of the films and we used to watch the films when they came on Cable TV. Other family members did not appreciate these films as their tastes were different. They found British humour to be very dry, but the rest of us who enjoyed Carry On films loved British Comedy. Another example of a British comedy show we would watch together was Mind Your Language. I have many wonderful memories of that show as well. Now, the funny thing about Carry On films is that some of the actors used to remind me of people I knew who were a part of my family or were friends and acquaintances. Kenneth Williams reminded me of my cousin who would make funny faces and had the same kind of nose as Williams. Williams was also my grandmother’s favourite Carry On actor. Hattie Jacques reminded me of my piano and elocution teacher. Joan Sims, of my uncle’s wife’s sister. Charles Hawtrey, of my friend who always had an intoxicated look like Hawtrey and he sort of looked like Hawtrey. Barbara Windsor of another cousin who could yell like her. Some other actors and actresses reminded me of other family members and friends. It was funny watching these actors on television and at the same time being reminded of the people they reminded me of. One cousin told me that Kenneth Connor reminded him of me. I do not see it, but I guess he is entitled to his opinion.

My favourite Carry On film is Carry On Up the Khyber (1968). Maybe, because I’m a history lover especially of British Colonial history and besides, the film was very funny. It is about the rebels in colonial India rising against the British Raj. The story is set close to the Khyber Pass. Sidney James does a wonderful job playing Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond and Joan Sims as Lady Ruff-Diamond, Kenneth Williams as the Khasi of Kalabar and Bernard Bresslaw as Bungdit Din. Angela Douglas stole the show playing Princess Jehli using her innocence and charm to woo Captain Keene, played by the late Roy Castle. The last scene in the movie is most memorable. While the British soldiers were fighting with the rebels to save the residency, the elites were dining in the residency, acting like nothing was happening even as the residency crumbled around them and bullets were whizzing past them. Being British, they had to keep that stiff upper lip to show the rebels that nothing could faze them and that life goes on as usual in spite of danger. So, there is a lesson for us all to learn from that scene. I would definitely recommend this film and would gladly watch it again if ever the opportunity arises.

Many actors made a name for themselves and were regulars for many years. Their names were synonymous with the series and it was unusual to find a film where most of the regulars were missing. Regular stars like: Joan Sims, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, Sidney James, Charles Hawtrey, Jim Dale, Peter Butterworth, Terry Scott, and others gave the films that distinct Carry On flavor we are familiar with. A combination of their talents and even their presence gave each film its charm and I knew that the film would be good just by seeing their names in the credits. 

Many of the famous movie stars had either small or big roles in some films. Shirley Eaton who became famous in the James Bond film, Goldfinger (1964), where she was killed by painting her body with gold paint, acted in Carry On Sergeant. Juliet Mills, Valerie Leon, the German beauty Elke Sommer and many others appeared in at least one of these films during the three decades they were made. Therefore, along with the regular cast, these guest actors too made the films more memorable and entertaining.

Personally, I have learnt many facts about the films from the twitter pages ‘Carry On Joan’ and ‘What a Carry On’ which I follow. As a new author, it was recommended that I have a twitter account to promote my book. I stumbled across these twitter accounts and started following them. Almost every time I open twitter, I learn something new. Two are worth mentioning here. I learned that Prince Charles once met the late Sidney James in 1963. Wanda Ventham who played the Khasi’s first wife in Carry On Up the Khyber is the mother of the actor Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Sherlock Holmes. Therefore, I am very grateful to the twitter pages for making these facts available. It seems like even modern actors have some sort of a connection to the Carry On films.

Unfortunately, we have lost many actors through the years. I remember hearing about Joan Sims passing away in 2001 when I was at London’s Heathrow Airport. Before boarding my flight, I went to a magazine shop and as I was flipping through a magazine, I saw an article about the death of Joan Sims. Until then, I had taken it for granted that they were all alive and doing well. It was then that the harsh reality hit me. Actors and actresses are human, just like anyone else. I started researching other Carry On actors and found that most of them had unfortunately passed away. Sidney James passed away in 1976. Liz Fraser passed away on Sept 6th at eighty eight. Fortunately, we still have Barbara Windsor even though she is battling Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone knows that she played saucy characters in many Carry On films and also had that distinct laugh, which you knew meant that she was up to some mischief. She moved on and made a name for herself in the British soap East Enders as the owner of ‘The Queen Vic.’ Several years ago, when I visited Madame Tussauds, I was surprised and happy to see that they had a wax figure of her there.  Angela Douglas, Jim Dale, Valerie Leon and others are still alive and hope they are with us for many years to come. I wish I could meet at least one of them and thank them for the wonderful memories.

There were also some sad facts which I uncovered while researching these films. The actors were poorly paid, even though it was their acting that made the franchise very rich, a fact which was acknowledged by Peter Rogers, the series producer. Also, many of them did not have happy lives. Charles Hawtrey suffered from alcoholism, Kenneth Williams from depression, and Hattie Jacques from ill health. Some had bad marriages. However, in spite of their personal problems, they used their talents and should be remembered for the joy they brought to millions in the UK and the world over.

It is my opinion that the Carry On films should be preserved for all ages to come. Even though most of the cast have carried on to the next world, their legacy must be remembered. Carry On films are part of the British film industry just like the Hammer Horror films and Doctor films and hence part of British history. Sadly, as Britain moves into the 21st century, the modern generation consisting of ethnic British people and also immigrants may not know or even care about these films and these films are in danger of being confined to the dustbin of history. Every attempt must be made to ensure that this does not happen. It is like erasing a part of British history because these films were part of people’s lives at one point in time and reminds them of simpler times.  They also brought laughter and joy not only to people that grew up in the 60s and 70s, but also to people like me who grew up in the 80s and 90s. An important point I discovered while researching for this article was that the late John Lennon (Beatle) was a fan of these films. So, even famous people held these films in high regard.

Efforts have been made to make new Carry On films or possibly remake some of them. I hope that never happens, because I do not think any of the modern actors or actresses could take the place of the original Carry On cast. Those actors had their own unique style, class, and talent which cannot be replicated. Therefore, showing them on the television, having an annual festival, or commemorating an important anniversary of some films would ensure that they are not forgotten and that they will be available for many generations to come.

Bio: Trevor D’Silva has a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering; M.S. degrees in Engineering Management, and Environmental Engineering; and an Associate degree in Accounting. He has lectured in mechanical engineering and environmental science subjects at various colleges. He is an anglophile and loves British and world history, namely, European and American history. His first novel ‘Fateful Decisions’ is a historical fiction novel set in America, England and Europe between 1915 to 1946. He is writing his second novel which is a murder mystery set in England and Scotland in the 1920s and will be published in 2019. He uses his free time to expand his knowledge in history and reading crime, thrillers, and mystery novels. He hopes to write more books whenever time permits.
Please follow him on twitter @TrevorDAuthor and check out his website at

Thank you again to Trevor for taking the time to write and submit this really interesting guest blog. If you would like to have a go yourself, either drop me a message on Twitter or email me at

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

1 comment:

  1. In the summer of 1969 I went hitch-hicking in Poland. Walking down a street in Warsaw, I came across a queue of adults,100 yards long. I walked to the front of the queue, and found that it was a queue waiting to get into a Cinema showing 'Carry on Cowboy'. I hitched around Poland for a month, and returned to Warsaw. I walked down the same street and there was a similar queue there - 'Carry on Cowboy' was still showing!