Sunday 17 February 2019

Catch Bless This House this evening on Talking Pictures TV!

This evening Talking Pictures TV are showing yet another comedy classic from the golden age of British film comedy. Possibly the closest any other film got to being an official part of the Carry On team without actually gaining the Carry On title, Bless This House was yet another quickly made, cheaply made picture from Peter Rogers Productions. A big screen version of the hit Thames Television domestic sitcom, bringing Bless This House to the cinema was just another part of the very 1970s trend of transferring TV comedy favourites to film. This had varying results with some performing better than others. I think we can agree Bless This House is probably one of the most successful.

Part of its success is down to the Carry On-like quality the film has, mainly down to the personnel employed both in front of and behind the camera. Bless This House remains a hugely popular film, 47 years after it was first released. It's easy going, has bags of charm, remains completely light, frothy, undemanding and innocent and in modern, more cynical times its special brand of escapism is very appealing. Nothing really happens across its 80 odd minutes and basically writer Dave Freeman, who would go on to pen Carry On Behind and Columbus, stitches together three potential small screen half hours into one film. 

There's the traditional suburban new neighbours move in and don't get on with those around them strand. So what you say? Well when the main opponents are Sid James and an extremely pompous pre-Terry and June Terry Scott, you have comedy magic. Then there's the farcical wedding strand which sees the offspring of Sid and Terry (Robin Askwith and Carol Hawkins) hitch up and get hitched. Of course nothing goes to plan but all's well in the end. In between all this there are several small plots of little consequence such as Sally Geeson's naive 1970s environmental activism, Diana Coupland and Patsy Rowlands hoarding junk for a future antiques business and best of all, Sid and best mate Peter Butterworth attempting to make their own alcohol in the garden shed, with startling results! 

In the hands of lesser actors, all of this would have fallen flat and this little film would be a very distant memory. As with the main Carry On series, the secret of this films' success is the casting. The film is mainly made up of instantly recognisable Carry On faces with only leading lady Diana Coupland failing to Carry On elsewhere (a great pity I think I as you can read here: Should Diana Coupland have carried on? Leading team members Sid James, Peter Butterworth and Patsy Rowlands are joined by Carry On supporting players Terry Scott, June Whitfield, Marianne Stone, Bill Maynard, Patricia Franklin, Julian Orchard, Molly Weir, Wendy Richard and Johnny Briggs. Phew! It seems to modern viewers that Peter Rogers basically arranged for the cast of the early 1970s Carry Ons to decamp to suburban Windsor for six weeks. Recent Carry On starlets Carol Hawkins and Sally Geeson also grab leading roles while rising star Robin Askwith, soon to appear in Carry On Girls and then the Confessions series, plays Sid's son Mike. Quite an ensemble!

Of course several of these actors transferred across from the television version of Bless This House. Alongside Sid, Sally Geeson played daughter Sally in all 65 episodes of the sitcom alongside Diana Coupland. Patsy Rowlands too was a semi-regular in the sitcom as neighbour Betty. However the actors playing Trevor and Mike did not appear in the film. I don't really know why Anthony Jackson and Robin Stewart were replaced by Peter Butterworth and Robin Askwith but I can't fault either of the actors who stepped into the film. To complicate matters further, the likes of June Whitfield and Marianne Stone also appeared in the television series, albeit in very different roles!

Many of the core Carry On crew also appeared behind the camera on Bless This House. Pinewood stalwart Alan Hume was in charge of photography, Eric Rogers did the music while even the hair and make up team moved across in the familiar guise of Stella Rivers and Geoff Rodway. It really was a team effort and a film family and us fans take great comfort from seeing all these names scrolling across the screen once again. 

So make a date to catch up with your favourite comedy character actors in an undemanding hour and half of slapstick, gentle humour and family fun. 

Bless This House is on Talking Pictures TV tonight at 7.10pm. Find out more here:

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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