Thursday 31 January 2019

Happy 70th Birthday Carol Hawkins!

Many happy returns to the lovely Carol Hawkins who celebrates her 70th birthday today. Carol was a regular presence in many classic British comedy films and television shows during the 1970s and 1980s and continues to delight fans at film conventions.

After making her name as Sharon in the big screen version of Please Sir! and the subsequent spin-off series The Fenn Street Gang, Carol joined the Carry On team in 1972 for the first of two adventures with the gang. As Marge in Carry On Abroad, she jetted off to Elsbells with her friend Lily (Sally Geeson) and found love with Brother Bernard! 

Carol returned to the Carry On films with another supporting role as Sandra in Carry On Behind in 1975. In this Carry On Camping II, Carol played a glamorous young camper alongside Sherrie Hewson. The pair led Jack Douglas and Windsor Davies a right merry dance. 1975 also saw Carol appear in two episodes of the ATV series Carry On Laughing, starring alongside the likes of Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw and Joan Sims. 

Away from the Carry Ons, Carol has had a long and successful career appearing in films such as Bless This House, Confessions of a Pop Performer and Now Now, Comrade. On television she has popped up in such diverse productions as The Two Ronnies, The Bill, Robin's Nest, Blake's 7, Porridge and Trial and Retribution. 


Now retired from acting, Carol lives in Spain. Whatever Carol is up to today, I hope she has a great birthday! 

See also: Whatever Happened to Carol Hawkins?

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Carrying On with … The Wildcats of St Trinian's

I've recently written a great deal about some of the other great series of British comedy films, such as the Norman Wisdom comedies and the Doctor films, and how the Carry Ons made an impression in these lovely films. I've now decided to write about another legendary set of films, the St Trinian's films. Set in the fictional unruly all girls private school somewhere in England, the films followed their adventures and those of both the staff of the school, the law enforcers chasing after them and the education department who frequently despaired of what they got up to!

The films featured countless wonderful performances and will always be synonymous with a handful of timeless actors. So without further ado, let's continue on today with the last film in the series, The Wildcats of St Trinian's from 1980. 

What's it about?

The girls of St. Trinian's hatch yet another fiendish plot—a trade union for British schoolgirls. Their friend and mentor, Flash Harry, suggests a plan which involves kidnapping girls from other rather more respectable colleges and substituting their own "agents". Thus begins a hilarious, often bloody, battle of wits as the girls meet resistance not only from Olga Vandermeer, their Headmistress, but from the Minister of Education, a private detective, and an oil sheikh. Despite all his desperate efforts to foil the conspiracy, the Minister has to face a growing realisation that the girls' demands will have to be met—for him this will mean a very great and very personal sacrifice.

Who's in it?

The cast includes the wonderful Michael Hordern as Sir Charles Hackforth and Joe Melia (perhaps best remembered for his role in Too Many Crooks with Sid James) as Flash Harry. Thorley Walters, one of the few actors from the original series to appear, takes on the role of Culpepper-Brown.

Wildcats also co-stars the likes of Rodney Bewes as Butters, Julia McKenzie as Miss Dolly Dormancott and Rose Hill as Miss Martingale. Hill is perhaps better known for playing Carmen Silvera's bedridden mother in 'Allo 'Allo.

Carry On faces?

Sheila Hancock leads the cast as headmistress Olga Vandemeer. Sheila had a supporting role in Carry On Cleo, playing Senna Pod, disgruntled wife of Kenneth Connor's Hengist. Maureen Lipman, currently livening up the cobbles of Coronation Street, plays Miss Katy Higgs. Maureen played Countess Esmerelda in the 1992 Carry On comeback, Columbus.

The aristocratic actress Ambrosine Phillpotts plays Mrs Mowbray in the film, her last before her death later that year. Ambrosine had, many years before, appeared briefly in both Carry On Regardless and Carry On Cabby. And finally, the great Rosalind Knight returns to the series following her role as a schoolgirl in Blue Murder back in 1957. This time Rosalind plays Miss Walsh. Rosalind is well known to Carry On fans for her performances as Nurse Nightingale in Carry On Nurse and Felicity Wheeler in Carry On Teacher. 

Did you know? 

It was hoped George Cole would reprise his role as Flash Harry once again however Cole wasn't free. The actor had begun his long running role as Arthur Daley in Minder on television the previous year.

Regular Carry On cinematographer Ernest Steward worked on this film.

The film was sadly not a commercial success and has not even been released on DVD in the UK.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Fancy being a Guest Blogger, well Carry On...

A couple of years ago I wrote a guest blog for the wonderful History Usherette Blog which is run by @agathadascoyne . I wrote about the social history of the Carry Ons, comparing Carry On Cruising with Carry On Abroad, highlighting how Britain had changed over that ten year period. This experience got me thinking.

I love hearing from fellow Carry On fans on Twitter. Back in 2015/16 I invited some of you to be my 'Carry On Fan of the Week" answering a few questions on your own personal Carry On favourite moments, actors and films. 

If there are any keen guest bloggers out there with a Carry On related subject you are burning to write about, don't hesitate to drop me a line. I'd love to feature your thoughts on the blog. It can be as long or as short as you like and you can provide photos or I can find some for you. 

You can write about anything as long as it has a Carry On connection.

You can contact me via Twitter by direct message, by using the Contact Form on the blog or by emailing

Carry On Scribbling!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Sunday 27 January 2019

The Star of … Carry On Nurse

I have decided to dedicate a new series of blogs to what I consider to be the very best performances in each of the thirty original Carry On films. As ever, it's a purely personal take on these films from yours truly and of course you are welcome to agree or disagree as you see fit! 

Since I started the blog in 2015 I have often championed the underdog or the under appreciated. The Carry On series employed hundreds of cracking comedy actors during their twenty year lifespan and while I've done my best to celebrate as many of them as possible, there is still much to do to preserve their legacy. Some of the actors featured in this new series will be household names and leading lights, others perhaps not so well known. Whoever they are, I hope you enjoy reading about my chosen few.

The first in this series saw me write about my love for Kenneth Connor's role as Horace Strong in Carry On Sergeant and today, moving forward to later in 1958, we focus on another Kenneth. Kenneth Williams, along with Connor and Joan SIms, was one of the true stalwarts of the Carry Ons and his memorable appearances spanned the entire original run of films. Kenneth was one of the core team members from the off and while some of his later turns in the series were wildly camp and full of obvious innuendo, Williams earlier roles, scripted by Norman Hudis, offered something a little bit different. Always recognisably Kenneth and always hilariously funny, but these early roles offered depth and a touch of pathos.

Carry On Nurse takes much from the success of Sergeant and follows a similar story pattern. Hudis, buoyed by his previous tale of national service recruits, plonked several familiar faces in not an army barracks but a hospital ward. There are much the same high jinks and low comedy but this time around the film gently targets the National Health Service and not the army. The film also benefits from a greater number of female characters bolstering the returning Hattie Jacques, playing her formidable Matron for the very first time. The addition of nurses in the shape of Shirley Eaton, Joan Sims, Susan Stephen and Ann Firbank and visitors such as Marianne Stone, Jill Ireland and June Whitfield takes the film in a refreshing new direction.

It's another case of the everyman against authority as the film pokes fun at some of the potentially ridiculous aspects of staying in hospital. In amongst a cast of actors which boasts Bill Owen, Charles Hawtrey, Terence Longdon, Leslie Phillips, Brian Oulton, Cyril Chamberlain and Kenneth Connor, Williams shines as the most interesting character and also possibly the funniest. As the bookish intellectual Oliver Reckitt, Kenneth is not quite the effete loner Hawtrey plays, but is definitely a stand alone character who looks down both on many of his fellow 'inmates' but also many of the bureaucratic medical men (and women). Upper class, fussy and sneering, Oliver takes pleasure in pushing back against regulation and regularly takes on Hattie's fearsome Matron. Seeing these two pros come face to face for the first time in a Carry On is an absolute joy to behold.

I love the interaction between the two Kenneths in Carry On Nurse. Connor is the working class, easygoing and down to earth boxing champ Bernie Bishop in the next bed. The two neighbours couldn't be any different in character. Bernie constantly misunderstands Oliver's highfaluting command of the English language and cannot understand why he's so stuck up, serious and removed from real life. In turn, Williams' Reckitt is curious about Bernie but clearly views his occupation as 'savage' and does not understand many aspects of his way of life. There is an earthy, if occasionally coy sexual awareness about Connor's character - happily married with a child and interested in the young nurses who tend to him. Oliver on the other hand is completely unaware of the various charms of Susan Stephen or Shirley Eaton. Which brings me to the most interesting part of the film where Kenneth's character is concerned.

Oliver is visited several times by Jill Ireland's character Jill. The sister of one of his friends, Jill takes an obvious interest in Oliver although it's all very coy and cosy 1950s romantics. Oliver meanwhile is totally oblivious and is merely interested with the books she has brought in for him. Connor's boxer in the next bed spots Jill and her clear fondness for Oliver which leaves the academic in a delightful fluster. What makes the scenes between Kenneth and Jill Ireland so charming is that in amongst the usual frothy Carry On comedy, their scenes are genuine and played for real. There is lovely chemistry between Kenneth and Jill and it's rather a unique experience to see Williams playing it straight (no pun intended) and developing an on screen romantic relationship. Compare these scenes with Hattie Jacques forcing her way into Kenneth's tent ten years on in Carry On Camping and it's light and shade. There is a place in the Carry On cannon for both but I have such an affection for these early scenes.

One of my favourite scenes from Nurse involves Kenneth taking on Hattie's Matron. During one of her rather tense, authoritative rounds of the ward with Joan Hickson's chastened Sister bowing and scraping behind her, Kenneth dares to question Matron's rule that male patients shouldn't lie on top of the bedclothes! Bruce Montgomery's music swells to a dramatic climax as these two legendary actors square off in the hushed ward! Williams wins through as he cuts Matron dead, returns his spectacles to his face and reclines on his made up bed to read one of his lofty tomes. It's a brilliant set piece which balances comedy, reaction shots, a cracking script and real proper acting! 

Kenneth also excels in the climatic scenes of Carry On Nurse. After downing a fair quantity of champagne with his fellow male patients, Kenneth boldly claims that he could easily operate of Leslie Phillips' troublesome bunion, therefore allowing him to go off for a naughty weekend with girlfriend Meg. With the help of a book of practical surgery, the tipsy Kenneth leads his band of men through the sleeping hospital to one of the gleaming operating theatres for rather a dramatic and beautifully lit scenes. As Leslie's Jack Bell (Ding Dong) sobers up and changes his mind, his mates use brute strength to hold him down as Surgeon Williams scrubs up and camps up! 

Kenneth is in full on toffee-nosed intellectual mode as he larges it over the rest of the men but unfortunately the laughing gas has been left on and slowly but surely the men all begin to feel the effects! Kenneth Connor's giggles are pretty infectious to the audience but it's the unmistakable campy cackle of Kenneth Williams which rules the scene as, nostrils flaring, he almost takes the turn into Hammer Horror. Scalpel in hand, he refuses to let go of Leslie's foot! It's one of the few times in the film that Kenneth loses grip of the subtle acting I so enjoy in the film. However given these moments are few and far between the instances of high camp and almost 'snide' character are refreshing, hilarious and an utter joy. Sadly as the films found their footing, Kenneth's 'snide' began to grow legs and take over. But for now, there's plenty to enjoy in his excellent performances.

Kenneth's character gets a happy ending as Nurse concludes. Discharged from hospital, Jill's character is there to meet him and the pair walk off, arm in arm. There aren't many other instances of this kind of thing in a Carry On, at least where Kenneth Williams is concerned. Yes, he joyously camped about down Brighton Pier with Patsy Rowlands, crushed Gail Grainger's itinerary in Carry On Abroad and dug up all kind of artefacts with Elke Sommer in Carry On Behind, but the screen partnership with Ireland is one of Kenneth's finest moments in a Carry On. So Kenneth Williams is my star performer in Carry On Nurse … stay tuned for my next blog in this series, looking at the star turn from Carry On Teacher.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

Thursday 24 January 2019

Carrying On with The Gentle Touch

I absolutely love the classic television series The Gentle Touch. I'd obviously heard of it before and was aware of its star, the excellent Jill Gascoine, for many years but until earlier this year I'd never actually seen the show. This all changed when Talking Pictures TV announced they were running every episode of the series, all 56 episodes across five series, made between 1980 and 1984.

The series starred Jill Gascoine as Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes, who has worked her way up through the ranks of the police force and is based at Seven Dials, a station in Central London. Maggie's husband, a police constable, is murdered during the first episode, leaving her to juggle her career and single parenthood, raising her teenage son. 

The Gentle Touch largely dealt with routine police procedures and offered a frank depiction of relevant social issues such as sexism, racism, homosexuality and mental health. It marked a major departure from other police action series such as The Sweeney or The Professionals as it mainly offered a more realistic and low key approach. Although the series mostly focused on Maggie's professional life in a male-dominated field, it also showed her home life with her teenage son Steve, who in one episode she castigated for looking at porn, as well as her occasional romantic involvements which sometimes clashed with her job. In real life Jill Gascoine could not drive so when Maggie had to be seen driving the scenes would be shot using a car towed behind the camera truck.

The Gentle Touch was a ratings success in the UK, where it was screened on Friday nights in a 9 pm slot (except for the final series which was shown on Saturday nights). One episode shown in January 1982 garnered over 18 million viewers and was the 5th most watched television programme in Britain that year.

You might wonder why I'm writing about this, apart from the fact it's just an ace piece of television drama. Well despite its subject and content not being exactly prime Carry On territory, the series did actually feature a fair few Carry On actors. Fancy finding out who they were and what they got up to? Well read on

Regular supporting actor in six Carry Ons, from Carry On Matron to England, Brian Osborne appeared the first series episode Rogue in 1980, playing Detective Inspector Jim Souter. A year later, the instantly recognisable character actor Harry Towb cropped up as Martin Hersh in the story, Scapegoat. Harry had a cameo role as the doctor in the sex film seen briefly in Carry On At Your Convenience! 

One of my favourite actresses, the fabulous Dilys Laye guest starred in the 1982 episode, entitled Vigil. Playing a rather feisty, upper crust and glamorous fraudster, Dilys displays both her natural comedic talent and flair for straight dramatics in the affecting role of Annette. We all love Dilys for her four 1960s Carry Ons - Cruising, Spying, Doctor and Camping. Two years later, in 1984, Angela Douglas joined The Gentle Touch in the role of Betty Farrell. Angela's character appeared in A Woman's Word, a story which sees Maggie Forbes struggle to keep the confidence of an informer.

The 1982 series also featured the legendary character actress and future Miss Marple extraordinaire, Joan Hickson. Joan, who appeared in five Carry Ons between 1958 and 1973, guest starred in the episode Auctions as Sarah Meade. This episode sees Maggie investigate the refined world of fine art. It also sees the actor Bernard Kay make an appearance, playing Finnerman. Bernard had a very small role as a Recruit in the very first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant, in 1958. 

Playing the excellently named Selina De Sade in the 1984 episode Exit Laughing is the glamorous Wanda Ventham. Yes, she's the mother of Benedict Cumberbatch, but Wanda has also enjoyed an extremely varied acting career which also includes small parts in Carry On Cleo, Carry on Up The Khyber and The Big Job. Also in 1984, the great Larry Martyn cropped up in Mad Dog as a Minicab Driver. Larry had cameos in two 1970s Carry Ons - as the shooting gallery assistant in At Your Convenience and as the bemused electrician in Carry On Behind. 

Are You Being Served? legend and Carry On Screaming supporting actor Frank Thornton guest stars in the 1982 story Right of Entry, playing Leo. While playing Elaine Campbell in Appearances Can Be Deceptive in 1984 is Carry On Behind star Adrienne Posta. The story revolves around a woman who has killed her abusive husband, apparently in self defence until new evidence emerges…heavy stuff! Fellow Carry On Behind star Sherrie Hewson guest stars as Steph in the story Joker in 1982, the tale of a jewel thief and one policeman's attempt to frame him. The episode also starred Diana Dors' husband Alan Lake. 

Another familiar face to star in The Gentle Touch is actress and author Linda Regan. Linda, best remembered for her regular role in Hi-de-Hi, starred as Marilyn in the 1980 episode, Break-In. Four years earlier, Linda made her only Carry On film appearance, in Carry On England. 

And last but by no means least is the South African born actress Olga Lowe. Olga played a Supermarket Detective in Tough, Mrs Rudge in 1982. Olga, a long time friend and colleague of Sid James, played Madame Fifi in Carry On Abroad. She was also working with Sid James on that fateful night on stage in Sunderland in 1976. 

I hope you've enjoyed this run through the various Carry On faces to pop up in the brilliant series, The Gentle Touch. And a big thank you to Talking Pictures TV for introducing this classic show to a whole new generation of viewers. Wonderful stuff. 

And remind yourself of the cracking theme tune from the series here:

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Remembering the Greats

The past six months or so has brought lots of sad news for fans of classic British comedy. I've found myself writing tributes to far too many great comedy actors who we have all watched on our screens, seen on stage or listened to on the radio for decades. 

Writing blog posts about the recently departed isn't something I ever relish and although I only do this as a hobby and a love of writing, I do take this side of it seriously. Some of these actors still have a media profile when they leave us, others have long since retired and left the public eye. No matter what their status, they deserve a great deal of respect when they depart. The past year has seen many familiar faces leave us, from the likes of Bill Maynard and Liz Fraser, to Fenella Fielding, June Whitfield and most recently, the brilliant Windsor Davies.

Although it's very sad, these actors do share one common trait - they all lived long lives. The fact they passed on in their eighties or nineties doesn't make it any easier for those closest to them, but they've all lived full, successful lives and brought pleasure and joy to so many. It gives us all a chance to reflect on their wonderful careers and all those performances they've left us to cherish for years to come.

I was struck once again just the other day by the surge of affection for these legends of comedy. Windsor Davies was an actor who made his name in the 1960s and was in his prime in the 70s and 80s, thirty or forty years ago. Despite retiring from the spotlight fifteen years ago and rarely giving interviews since, the outpouring of affection and sadness was really quite something. Hundreds of people shared memories of the great man on Twitter and many of you took the time to read my blog tribute - and a big thank you from me for doing that.

In these difficult times, with people at each other's throats over all sorts of nonsense, it's heart warming to see people from all over the place take the time to remember an actor like Windsor. So Carry On, you know it makes sense! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Frankie's Two Elephants

I finally caught up with the brilliant Comedy Legends series on Sky Arts the other evening. Hosted by Barry Cryer, the edition I caught focussed on one of my very favourite comedy performers, the great Frankie Howerd. 

The programme took us through Frankie's back catalogue, his rise and fall and rise again. Howerd was a star of stage and screen but made his name on radio and that's where the clip below comes in. In the days before we all gathered round the goggle box each night, families up and down the land gathered round the wireless. I am and always have been a big fan of the radio and radio comedy in particular. And Frankie was the master.

Howerd's breakthrough came thanks to several spots on the BBC's Variety Bandbox in the late 1940s. Variety Bandbox launched in 1941 and featured a mix of comedy performances and music. It helped launch the careers of many big names, Frankie chief amongst them. Frankie became a regular on the show, appearing from 1946 until the early 1950s. And cutting his teeth as a writer on the show was a certain gentleman called Eric Sykes. Never appearing as a performer on the show, Sykes definitely made his mark as a writer and it set him on the path to stardom too.

The following excerpt comes from an addition of Variety Bandbox and was the surreal sketch which pretty much launched Frankie's career. No small coincidence that it was written by Eric. This bizarre tale of Frankie transporting two elephants across London and down onto the Underground is so unbelievable but in his comedic hands it just works. He milks it for all it's worth and to be honest, it could only really work on radio. I love it, even after all these years and you can listen to it below. It's pure Frank.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Sunday 20 January 2019

Join Bernard, Bob and June for some Punch Lines!

Here's a lovely thing from the BBC Radio archives. As you'll probably know, the great Bernard Cribbins recently celebrated his 90th birthday. To help mark this momentous occasion, BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast a range of special programmes from the BBC archive.

Punch Line was a comedy panel game from Radio 2, originally broadcast in the mid 1970s. The show came from an idea by Myles Rudge, a song writer who was known for writing musical revues in the 1950s and 1960s and for crafting a range of novelty pop songs for the likes of Joan Sims and Cribbins himself.

This episode, from 1975 features the glorious Bernard alongside two other comedy legends, the great Bob Monkhouse and the recently departed and much-missed Dame June Whitfield. Another icon of radio, Terry Wogan, acts as referee.

You can listen to this slice of comedy magic right here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Saturday 19 January 2019

Remembering Windsor Davies

The actor Windsor Davies has very sadly passed away at the age of 88. Windsor, as has been seen by the reaction on Twitter today, was an actor held in tremendous affection by the British public, mainly thanks to a series of high profile and well received roles in television situation comedy. An instantly recognisable actor with an unforgettable booming Welsh voice, his death marks the latest in a very sad list of legendary Carry On faces we have recently lost.

Windsor came to acting relatively late on, turning professional in the early 1960s in his early thirties. He came to the Carry On films late in their run too. Joining the team for Carry On Behind in 1975, Windsor was an instant hit with both his fellow team members and the viewing public. His all guns blazing performance as lusty butcher Fred Ramsden was one of the highlights of the film and his double act with Jack Douglas was natural, easy going and very believable. I understand the role of Fred was written by Dave Freeman for Sid James, however with Sid touring overseas at the time, up stepped Windsor. He was the perfect choice. So popular was Windsor that he was quickly brought back for the following film, the Second World War comedy Carry On England in 1976. By now, sadly, Sid James had died and nothing would be quite the same again. Despite this, Windsor gives a spirited performance in a leading role, as the bombastic Sergeant Major, not a million miles away from one of his most famous small screen creations. Again forming a deliciously funny double act (this time with Kenneth Connor) Windsor is one of the few good things about England.

Windsor's Carry On association does not quite end there. Many years later he popped up for a cameo in the ITV drama, Cor Blimey! This adaptation of Terry Johnson's stage play Cleo, Camping, Emmannuelle and Dick, told the story of Sid James, Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams and their lives on screen and off. Windsor plays an actor rehearsing the role of Sir Toby Belch opposite Samantha Spiro's Barbara Windsor towards the end of the film. Curiously, Windsor had guest starred as Charlie, a co-worker of Sid James in Sid's classic sitcom Bless This House back in 1974, the year before he would take his place in the Carry On series.

Windsor Davies, one of our most famous Welshmen, was actually born in Canning Town on 28 August 1930. He actually shared a birthday with yours truly, although we were born quite a few years apart. Windsor was born to Welsh parents and the family moved back to Wales upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. After receiving his education in the Ogmore Valley, Windsor took on a variety of jobs including that of a coal miner before training to be a school teacher. He was also posted overseas to Egypt amongst other places during his National Service in the 1950s. During his time as a teacher, he also started to become involved in amateur dramatics in his spare time. This eventually sealed his fate, as his wife persuaded him to enrol in a drama course. 

The early 1960s saw Windsor well on his way to success as he began to rack up a long list of credits, mainly on the small screen. His debut came in 1962 when he played Wallace Morton in a television film called The Keep. This comedy drama focussed on a Welsh family tied to the memory of their revered and long dead mother. Before long recurring roles in television series came his way, with parts as Bill Morgan in Probation Officer (1962) and as Detective Sergeant Wade in Ring Out an Alibi (1964). Windsor also made his first forays in cinema at this time with supporting roles in two Agatha Christie adaptations - as Sergeant Brick with Margaret Rutherford in 1964's Murder Most Foul and a year later as Dragbot in The Alphabet Murders. 

He appeared several times as Willy the Gospel in the Sam Kydd family adventure series Orlando in 1966 before being cast as a Returning Officer in two episodes of Granada's Coronation Street later that year. His episodes see regular character Len Fairclough become a Weatherfield Councillor, beating the formidable Rovers Return landlady Annie Walker. Windsor also appeared in another soap opera around this time - as Dan Cray in The Newcomers, which also featured a young Wendy Richard. Later in 1967 Windsor also had a brush with Doctor Who, playing Toby in the Patrick Troughton saga The Evil of the Daleks. 

Windsor continued to play many supporting roles in a useful mix of comedy and drama across the late 1960s and early 1970s, appearing in series such as The Worker with Charlie Drake, UFO, Nearest and Dearest and Special Branch. In 1971 he even joined fellow Carry On actor Peter Gilmore to play Taffy in the classic serial The Onedin Line. However it was his starring role as Sergeant Major Williams in the Perry and Croft BBC sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum which catapulted this hard working character actor to lasting stardom. In a cast which also featured Melvyn Hayes, Michael Bates, Donald Hewlett, Michael Knowles and Don Estelle, Windsor played the most iconic character of all. It even led to a chart hit for Windsor and Don in 1975 - a certain Whispering Grass. The series ran to 56 episodes from 1974 until 1981 and became a huge hit, although it is rarely broadcast today due to certain themes broadcasters deem unacceptable. I'll leave you to make your own mind up on that one.

Despite the success of It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Windsor continued to make many appearances elsewhere, in what must have been a very busy schedule. Aside from the two Carry Ons, he also played Mr Truscott, father of Lynda Bellingham's character Mary in the 1976 film Confessions of a Driving Instructor. That same year he joined familiar Carry On faces Carol Hawkins, Leslie Phillips, Ian Lavender and June Whitfield for the Ray Cooney film farce, Not Now, Comrade. And in 1978 he took on what apparently proved to be his favourite part, as Welsh rugby fan Mog Jones in the comedy adventure, Grand Slam. As soon as It Ain't Half Hot Mum came to an end in 1981, Windsor launched himself into another long running sitcom role. He starred opposite Donald Sinden as two rival antiques dealers in the series Never the Twain. Produced by Thames, the series lasted for 67 episodes and for ten years, finally ending in 1991. The 1980s brought many other roles, quite a few of which were in children's television with appearances on The Sooty Show, Alice in Wonderland and Danger: Marmalade at Work. In 1985 he also starred in the comedy series The New Statesman, playing George Vance. 

Windsor continued to work right throughout the 1990s and although comedy still featured, with guest parts in the likes of Oh Doctor Beeching! and 2Point4 Children, both for the BBC, he also got to stretch his dramatic muscles in a range of period dramas. I remember him as Prime Minister David Lloyd George in Channel 4's excellent drama series, Mosley in 1998, with Jonathan Cake playing the infamous British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley. Windsor also played General Tufto in two episodes of the serial Vanity Fair, broadcast the same year. And in 2000, Davies was part of an all star cast for the BBC2 production of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast. Windsor played Rottcodd in a cast which also featured Warren Mitchell, Eric Sykes, June Brown and Christopher Lee. Windsor's last appearances came in the medical drama series Casualty in 2000 and four years later, in a cameo as a Night Porter in the Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker BBC sitcom, My Family.

Windsor Davies chose to retire from the acting profession in 2004 at the age of 74. He retired to the South of France with his wife, Eluned. Windsor and Eluned had married in 1957 and were together until her death in September 2018. Together they had five children. 

Windsor clearly had a long, successful life, both professionally and personally. Reaching the grand old age of 88 is a wonderful thing, yet that does not make his passing any easier for those who knew him and loved him. As fans of the very best of British comedy and drama, we can cherish his prolific career and all those brilliant roles he played as only he could. Rest in peace, Windsor, and thanks for all the laughs. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Friday 18 January 2019

Carry On Blogging Interview: Juliet Mills

It was an absolute thrill to catch up with actress Juliet Mills this week for a chat about her long career on stage and screen. Juliet, based in the United States for many years, is currently in the UK touring with a stage adaptation of the classic 1938 Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes. More on that below.

Catching Juliet between performances on a matinee day at the Theatre Royal Windsor, there was so much I wanted to ask her about her life and career and the people she has worked with. Of course, this being a Carry On blog, I had to ask about her association with the series having made her one and only starring appearance as Sally in 1963's Carry On Jack. I started however, in the present day with her current theatre tour.

First of all, I wanted to ask how the play is going? It’s based on one of my favourite films, the 1938 classic starring Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood

Oh it's a lovely play. It's a really interesting adaptation of the original film and it's directed by Roy Marsden who's doing an excellent job. We're at Windsor at the moment and it's going awfully well. We've had a great reaction from audiences so far. They seem to love the mix of thriller mystery and comedy. There's a lot of very funny moments in the play as there were in the film. 

Linked to the film of The Lady Vanishes, back in the early 60s you worked with the star of that film, Michael Redgrave on No My Darling Daughter. What was he like?

Oh Michael was a lovely sweet man. He was also just a very good actor. He played my father in that film and that was really my first leading role on screen, I was about 18, 19 at the time. But I already knew Michael well as he and Rachel (Kempson, Redgrave's wife) were friends of my parents (Sir John and Lady Mary (Hayley Bell) Mills). I also knew Michael's children, the actors Vanessa, Corin and Lynn and we all sort of grew up together. He was a great man and as I'd known him so long already it was great to be playing opposite him in that film.

You starred in several films for Peter Rogers in the 1960s. You worked with Ronald Lewis in both of those. What was he like to work with?

Oh Ronnie Lewis was a charming man and I worked with him quite a bit in those days. There was Twice Round The Daffodils and then Nurse On Wheels. And then a few years later we worked together in a production of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan in London. I was Lady Windermere and Ronnie was Lord Darlington. The cast also included Coral Browne and Wilfrid Hyde White. Ronnie was a very good actor and a gentle person to be with. I've been thinking about him recently as we've been staying near Windsor for the play and every time we drive past Datchett, he comes to mind as he had a house there for a long time. He was a nice man with a gift for light comedy. 

An actress I have to ask about is Esma Cannon. She played your mother in Nurse On Wheels, another classic. One of my favourite comedy actors…

Oh Esma! Didn't she do Carry Ons as well?

Yes she appeared in four of the films around the time you made Nurse On Wheels together.

That's right, I remember. Oh it was such a long time ago but wasn't she a wonderful actress! And such a sweet little person to work with, she just came on and did the scenes really. Just a joy to be with. I couldn't believe it was 60 years last year since the first Carry On. I know I wasn't in them at the beginning but I couldn't believe so much time had passed! 

On Carry On Jack you got to know Kenneth Williams and I remember he mentions you in his infamous diary. Was he fun to be with?

Oh I absolutely adored Kenneth. I got to know him quite well, as much as you could anyway. We saw quite a bit of each other when we made those films, going out to dinner and that sort of thing. He was also good friends with the actor Andrew Ray who we both worked with and Andrew became a good friend of mine too. Kenneth was probably the funniest man I've ever met. He could make you laugh so easily, the faces he pulled and his body language. Such a clever man. At one point I remember I was granted access to his flat, which at the time was near Madame Tussauds. He was quite solitary I think and didn't let a lot of people in, as it were. But he was a genius I think. 

I loved seeing you reunited with Bernard Cribbins for the Carry On Forever documentary. What was it like to see him again after all that time?

Oh that was wonderful! We went down to Virginia Water I think, where we shot a lot of the stuff for Carry On Jack! It was so incredible to see him after such a long time. I mean Bernie is a lot older now but he was still in such good form and as sharp as a tack!! I have such happy memories of making that film with him so to be reunited after all those years was wonderful. 

And he's just recently celebrated his 90th birthday…

Has he really?! Wow well he's doing well on it. He's still sharp and sounds exactly the same. Lovely man.

On the film Avanti you starred with one of my favourite actors, Jack Lemmon. What are your memories of working with him?

Well I think making Avanti is probably the highlight of my entire career. To work with Jack Lemmon and the director Billy Wilder was just unforgettable really. Jack and Billy had obviously worked together a lot and were the best of friends and as we spent a lot of time on location in Italy I got to spend time with them both. I had to put on 35lbs in weight for that part and Billy used to keep bringing me food onto the set or taking me out to dinner! Jack was such a wonderfully generous actor. He was very easy going, good to be with and good at reacting to you in a scene. So present in the moment and always with lots of enthusiasm. 

And I still do something to this very day that I saw Jack do when we were making Avanti. In fact I did it in the theatre this very afternoon. Before a take he used to rub his hands together repeatedly, very fast and say "Magic Time! Magic Time!" and apparently it helps to focus the adrenalin! It works for me and I've done it ever since!!

You worked with the legendary Maureen O’Hara on The Rare Breed – she was one of my dad’s favourite actresses. What was she like to work with?

Oh Maureen became such a good friend to me. I first met her when I went to New York in 1959 to transfer with the play Five Finger Exercise, by Peter Shaffer. I had played Pamela Harrington in the original London production. I went on to appear with her in a television version of the film Mrs Miniver in 1960 - Maureen played the title role and I was Carol. And then a few years later we starred in The Rare Breed with James Stewart. She also worked with my sister Hayley in The Parent Trap. 

I kept in touch with Maureen ever since and I think I last saw her at the Turner Classic Movies Festival in Los Angeles for a special screening of How Green was My Valley. She was over 90 by that stage but she still looked immaculate. Such a beautiful lady with an amazing complexion and that gorgeous red hair. We had tea in her suite and spent a couple of hours together. 

I know you’ve been based in America for a long time, so I wanted to ask what you think the main differences are of working as an actor in the US compared to here in England?

There's not a lot of difference really, Graeme. When you're in a television studio or on a film set you could be anywhere. It might just be because I was born here, but I always think the theatre audiences in England are more friendly! But the business has changed so much over the years and making television has changed an awful lot since I started out. I don't do as much television now but I still love the theatre. I still love the company of actors, I think they're a great breed. I was born into an acting family of course and it's all I've really known. And I love coming home to England to work. Working in the theatre here is wonderful, touring round new theatres and seeing places I've not been to before is great and I always love working with my husband (actor Maxwell Caulfield).

And with that I wished Juliet all the best with The Lady Vanishes and let her head off to relax before her evening performance. It was a joy to talk to Juliet, she was so warm and friendly. And what a thrill to hear her reminisce about her career and working and knowing the likes of Kenneth Williams, Jack Lemmon and Maureen O'Hara. You don't often get blogs that feature Maureen O'Hara AND Esma Cannon!

The Lady Vanishes is touring the UK right now, playing at Theatre Royal Windsor until Saturday 19 January and then Southend Palace from 21 until 26 January. The production will then move on to Theatre Royal Bath from 28 January until 2 February and after that, Theatre Clwyd, Mold from 4 until 9 February. The tour will continue on until the Summer.

Full details of the touring dates and schedule can be found here

And you can read my blog on the production here: Juliet Mills Stars in UK Tour of The Lady Vanishes

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram