Sunday 2 December 2018

Carrying On with The Comedy Man

Every so often I like to blog about well known Carry On performers in other films from the era. Despite claims to the contrary, many of our favourite Carry On actors did escape the clutches of Peter Rogers Productions and do other, interesting things. During the 1950s and 60s in particular, there were so many films being made across London that a lot of actors just went from one production to another.

Spurred on by the recent 'My London' programme on BBC Radio London featuring Angela Douglas, I've decided to write about the 1964 film The Comedy Man. 

What it's about?

The Comedy Man is a 1964 British drama film directed by Alvin Rakoff, depicting the life of a struggling actor in swinging 1960s London. Sacked from his job in provincial rep, actor Chick Byrd moves into digs in London with Julian, a fellow actor. Julian's career soars after a successful screen test, but Chick's meets with continued failure. Mobilised into action by the suicide of a friend, Chick auditions for a TV commercial and finally finds fame. Confident of his talents for the first time, but fearing he may have sold out, Chick leaves London to return to rep.

Who stars in it?

Solid leading man of the time, the wonderful Kenneth More leads the cast as Chick Byrd. Kenneth was at the height of his powers at the time, well known for the likes of Genevieve, Doctor in the House and Reach for the Sky. Co-starring are Dennis Price as Tommy Morris, Billie Whitelaw as Judy, Edmund Purdom as Julian Baxter and Frank Finlay as Prout.

Carry On Faces?

Plenty! Angela Douglas, a year before making her Carry On debut as Annie Oakley in Carry On Cowboy, plays Fay Trubshaw. Angela would of course go on to marry the star of the picture, Kenneth More. Carry On Jack guest star Cecil Parker also stars as Thomas Rutherford. 

Carry On originals Norman Rossington and Gerald Campion both co-star in The Comedy Man. Norman is Theodore Littleton and Gerald, Gerry. Both actors starred in Carry On Sergeant way back in 1958 and while Gerald didn't return, Norman went to make appearances in Carry On Nurse, Carry On Regardless and the Carry On Christmas television special in 1972. 

Also look out for Carry On Constable supporting actress Jill Adams as Jan Kennedy and Derek Francis plays Merryweather. Derek had lovely supporting parts in several Carry Ons - Doctor, Camping, Loving, Henry, Matron and Abroad. Gordon Rollings, who appeared briefly as a porter in Carry On Doctor, crops up as Skippy while boxer turned actor Freddie Mills has the part of Indian Chief. Freddie popped up as a thief in Carry On Constable and a boxing promoter in Carry On Regardless. And finally, future Are You Being Served? star Frank Thornton plays a Producer in The Comedy Man. Two years after this Frank made his only Carry On appearance in Carry On Screaming.

Did You Know?

The Sunday Mirror proclaimed 'Kenneth More in the greatest performance of his career. Brilliantly directed'.

More, on reading the script, thought the story reflected his own life as an actor and that of many of his actor friends. 

Sadly The Comedy Man received only a limited distribution at the time, sharing a double bill with Lord of the Flies. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram


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