Monday 1 October 2018

Five Reasons Why I Love … Carry On Spying

I caught Carry On Spying again on television recently and once more I was struck by how much I enjoyed it and by how good a film it was. I remember Bernard Cribbins saying he much preferred making Carry On Jack as it was more of a comedy than a pure Carry On, however, for me Spying is just as good a film.

Sure, many of the regular actors - Sid James, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Connor - are missing from this Third Man / James Bond parody, but focussing on a smaller collection of lead actors allows each their turn and they all shine. The film also boasts some excellent supporting actors and for a picture almost entirely shot inside the studios, it doesn't have look a cut above. Gerald Thomas clearly had a lot of fun making this one.

So I thought I would pay homage to Carry On Spying by choosing five particular reasons why I love it and why I think it's yet another treasure in the Carry On vault.

Gerald Thomas, master Director

Gerald Thomas a superlative if straight forward director. As many actors involved in the Carry Ons have said, he edited each film as he went along, making the process speedy and efficient. He worked with the same actors time and time again because he knew they were good and he knew they were fast. There was certainly no hanging about. Gerald was also a highly skilled professional who had worked his way up from assistant editor to director. One of his earliest jobs was on the classic The Third Man in the late 1940s and you can see so many influences in Carry On Spying. Shooting in black and white worked so well on this film, it's so crisp and sharp. The lighting, as ever, is spot on and of real quality. And little touches in the Vienna section such as Jim Dale's blind match seller and the brief glimpse of the black cat are direct nods to the Orson Welles classic. It's a glorious film to watch, and not just because it features prime comedy talent in the likes of Williams and Hawtrey.

Barbara at her best

I've said it before and I'll say it again. As Daphne Honeybutt, Dame Babs gives her not only her first but her best performance in the Carry Ons. She looks beautiful in elegant black and white and mixes wide-eyed innocence with worldly charm. She forms a delicious double act with romantic interest Bernard Cribbins, her real life chum and the chemistry shines through. Barbara also blends in magnificently with established regulars Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey. Real friendships off the Pinewood stage were formed during the making of this film. Barbara also plays the smartest, more agile agent of them all in Spying and more than holds her own, both against the fiendish agents of STENCH but also alongside her more experienced comedy co-stars.

Carstairs, repeat Stairs

Jim Dale had already worked for Peter Rogers several times by the time Spying went into production in 1964. There had been small parts in Raising The Wind, The Iron Maiden and Nurse On Wheels as well the his expectant father in Carry on Cabby and his hilarious cameo in Carry On Jack. With his suave, handsome agent Carstairs in Spying, Jim assured his future in the series. It's somewhere between cameo and main team role and he pops up throughout the action in a bewildering array of disguises clearly demonstrating his amazing versatility. Jim was well on the road to becoming the Carry On series' dashing leading man and from the next film onwards, his part kept growing (as it were!)

Glorious Eric Rogers

Eric Rogers was the man behind the musical scores of twenty two Carry On films. Taking on the mantle from Bruce Montgomery in 1963, Eric managed to achieve the more contemporary feel Peter Rogers wanted. Eric was a genius at blending in catchy music and clever comedy themes throughout the films. With Spying, Eric was given the additional task of penning the song "The Magic of Love" for Dilys Laye's Lila to perform in the Cafe Mozart scene. It's a cracker worthy of the major league and it showed the depth and talent of Eric Rogers. Not only that, five years on, Eric reprised the tune during the party sequence in Carry On Again Doctor in which he himself appeared briefly as the band leader. What a man!

Lovely Lila

Without a doubt one of the highlights of Spying is the gorgeous Dilys Laye. She pops up briefly in the early stages of the film but really comes into her own in the finale as the double crossing double agent Lila. Working for Dr Crow, she falls for Kenneth's Desmond Simkins (and why not) but ends up admitting she works for another organisation, SNOG! Not only does Dilys look stunning as the foxy femme fatale, she earns her comedy stripes by matching Kenneth Williams all the way - even mimicking his famous catchphrase, stop messing about! And Dilys, the star of many a theatrical revue and musical extravaganza even sings both the songs in Cafe Mozart herself. Confirmed during the DVD audio commentary, Dilys recalled recording the songs in early '64. So not just a great actress with a flair for comedy, but also a cracking singer too. 

So those are some of my Carry On Spying highlights. What are yours?

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

No comments:

Post a Comment