Monday 1 October 2018

Carrying On with … A Doctor in Trouble

This is the final part of 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 conclude today by looking at the seventh and final film in the Doctor series, the 1970 film Doctor in Trouble.

What's it about?

Renowned surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt arranges a cruise for his patient, the famous television star Basil Beauchamp. The captain of the ship is Lancelot Spratt's brother George Spratt. 
Doctor Burke becomes a stowaway by mistake when chasing his girlfriend onto the ship to propose to her. She is one of a group of models doing a fashion shoot with camp photographer. Other passengers aboard ship include pools winner Llewellyn Wendover  and Mrs. Dailey, a socially ambitious lady hoping to find a wealthy match for her daughter Dawn.
Burke is pursued by the Master at Arms who correctly suspects that he does not have a ticket. Burke tries various ruses to try to escape him, including dressing up as a doctor. Eventually he is caught and exposed as a stowaway. Captain Spratt orders him to serve as an orderly, scrubbing the ship.
When the ship's doctor falls ill from a tropical disease, Burke takes over his duties. He is called into action when a Soviet cargo ship sends a request for help due to a patient with acute appendictis. Burke is transferred to that ship to perform an operation. By the time he has finished his own ship has departed, and he is forced to stay on board the Soviet vessel until it reaches Grimsby. When the cruise ship finally returns to port, Burke learns his girlfriend has married the ship's doctor, now recovered from his illness.

Who's in it?

Leslie Phillips returns for one final starring role in the series, playing Dr Anthony Burke. It was his third Doctor film. Doctor in Trouble also features James Robertson Justice, playing Sir Lancelot Spratt for the seventh and last time. Also look out for Harry Secombe as Llewellyn Wendover, Robert Morley as Captain George Spratt and television personality Simon Dee as Basil Beauchamp.

Carry On faces?

As always, quite a few. Leslie Phillips appears once again in the leading role. The great Irene Handl, known to Carry On fans for small roles in Carry On Nurse and Constable, plays a major supporting role here as Mrs Dailey, mother of Dawn, played by another Carry On actress, Janet Mahoney. Janet appeared as Sally Martin's flatmate and fellow model Gay in Carry On Loving made the same year.

Returning for her fifth supporting role in the series, this time playing perhaps her most bizarre role of all in the Doctor films is Joan Sims as a Russian Ship Captain. There is also a small role for Jacki Piper playing a girl in a taxi at the end of the film. Jacki had recently filmed her Carry On debut in Up The Jungle for Peter Rogers and was cast in this role while at Pinewood. 

And keep your eyes peeled for small supporting roles for Yutte Stensgaard (Carry On Again Doctor) as a model called Eve; Jimmy Thompson (Carry On Regardless, Cruising and Jack) as the Ship's Doctor; John Bluthal (Carry On Spying, Follow That Camel and Henry) as a TV Doctor and Marianne Stone as a Spinster.

Did you know? 

This, the last Doctor film, proved a less than happy experience for Betty Box and Ralph Thomas. Their long association with the actor James Robertson Justice came to an end here after the actor suffered a stroke and was unable to film his dual role as Sir Lancelot and George Spratt. James still appeared in the smaller of the two roles but his health was very poor.

Box and Thomas felt so loyal to Robertson Justice that despite his inability to film both parts, the actor was still paid both salaries, as in the words of Betty Box, "he deserved it for long and loyal service".

The actor and playwright Tom Kempinski plays the role of Stedman Green in the film. During the 1960s and early 70s Tom was married to the actress Margaret Nolan, who made several appearances in the Carry Ons. 

This film was the first time Angela Scoular worked with leading man Leslie Phillips. The pair would eventually become romantically involved and married in 1982.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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