Sunday 28 April 2019

70 Years of Ealing Comedies with Art & Hue

Art & Hue has created a new collection of stylish pop art prints to celebrate the 70th anniversary of classic Ealing Comedies.

1949 saw Ealing Studios release "Passport to Pimlico", “Whisky Galore!“, and “Kind Hearts & Coronets”, all within the space of two months, and the British film institution of the Ealing Comedies was firmly established.

In many ways, the Ealing comedies set the groundwork for the Carry On films: an ensemble cast, much like a repertory theatre in that they were employed across different films, and a very home-grown British humour with no concessions made to international audiences. 

Sid James was in "The Titfield Thunderbolt" and "The Lavender Hill Mob", Charles Hawtrey was in "Passport to Pimlico" and "Who Done It?", Hattie Jacques was in "The Love Lottery", Joan Sims and Irene Handl appeared in "Meet Mr. Lucifer", and Liz Fraser's first ever film role was in an Ealing comedy.

Many Carry On actors cut their teeth in the Ealing comedies, for example, the cast of "Passport to Pimlico" included Sydney Tafler, who went on to appear in Carry On Regardless, Reg Thomason from Carry On Cowboy, Jim O'Brady from Carry On Jack, Hyma Beckley from Carry On Cruising, Fred Griffiths from Carry On Loving, and many other crossover connections of supporting cast.

Another example, the Ealing comedy "Who Done It?", starring Benny Hill, featured a whole host of supporting cast members who went on to appear in future Carry Ons, such as Fred Machon, Ernie Rice, Denis Shaw, Pat Ryan, Chris Adcock, Philip Stewart, Rita Tobin-Weske, Ronnie Brody, Mabel Etherington, Anthony Lang, Chick Fowles, Ian Selby, Gey Standeven, and Terence Alexander.

An official collaboration with Studiocanal, Art & Hue has delved into the archives to create these stylish pop art prints, featuring Ealing Studios regulars Alec Guinness, Alastair Sim, Stanley Holloway, Joan Greenwood, Gordon Jackson, and Basil Radford, who all appeared in more than one of the Ealing comedies.

Exclusively by Art & Hue, the collection is available in three sizes and 18 colour options, printed on museum-quality archival card of 310gsm, made from 100% cotton, with fine-art pigment inks for longevity. 

Visit to see the full collection.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Thursday 25 April 2019

Carry On Advertising - Carry On Cleo

This blog is part of a new little series on Carry On Blogging, looking back at the changing face of the Carry On films during their original twenty year run. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the way the films were advertised to the cinema-going public of Great Britain over the years. These days when I do go to the cinema, I try to avoid the trailers as they tend to go on for rather too long, but of course, with Carry On it's a different story!

Thankfully most of the original trailers are now available to peruse on the internet and they provide a unique time capsule of British film history. The changing tastes of mores of the film-going public can easily be traced through these adverts as can the changing face of the British film industry and the social attitudes of the time. It's also fascinating to see how first Anglo Amalgamated and then later on, the Rank Organisation, chose to market and sell these low budget, knockabout comedies. 

Moving on today to one of the series' biggest successes - the triumphant Carry On Cleo. Full colour all the way now and the films were growing in confidence. A sublimely sharp script from Talbot Rothwell poking fun at the recent big blockbuster film Cleopatra, Cleo features a tight-knit cast of class acts - Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Jim Dale and Charles Hawtrey, not to mention the star of the show, the amazing Amanda Barrie as Cleo herself. The Carry Ons were rarely as classy, as hilarious and as successful as this. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Monday 22 April 2019

The Star of … Carry On Cabby

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 then, moving forward to later in 1958, we focused on Kenneth Williams in Carry On Nurse. My star of Carry On Teacher, released in 1959, was that wonderful character actress Rosalind Knight, playing strict school inspector Felicity Wheeler and my star of Carry On Constable was the debuting Sidney James. More recently I decided that my star turn from Carry On Regardless was that man Kenneth Connor again and as for Carry On Cruising, well Dilys Laye was my top pick. Today we're moving on to look at my all time favourite in the series, the brilliant Carry On Cabby.

So who is my ultimate star of the film - of course it's got to be Mrs Glam herself, the super Hattie Jacques. 

Out of all Hattie's roles in the series, the central role of Peggy Hawkins in Cabby was her very favourite and it's not hard to see why. For once, Hattie wasn't playing the bombastic, severe Matron and nor was she the but of all the jokes about her size. Peggy Hawkins was a passionate, intelligent woman who wanted to progress herself in life, with or without the support of her husband. Frustrated by Charlie Hawkins' obsession with his taxi firm and rather old fashioned views on women in the workplace, Peggy goes behind his back and sets up a rival cab firm which employs only women. Glamcabs soon steals most of the business "from under their smug male noses". 

Carry On Cabby is the closest the series comes to a dramedy - comedy and drama brought together in an effective mix. At the centre of Cabby is the delighful, deep and extremely believable relationship between husband and wife Charlie and Peggy - beautifully brought to life by Sid and Hattie. While I always prefer Sid and Joan Sims together on screen, Sid and Hattie are just irresistible together in Cabby. When their marriage comes under strain, it feels genuine and the performances heartfelt. This takes Cabby some way from the usual Carry On fare and miles away from most of the films that followed. Don't get me wrong, Cabby still has many of the qualities fans admire in the series - plenty of saucy humour, classic comedy performances, slapstick and lots of lovely GlamCab drivers…

Hattie is an absolute joy as Peggy. The film is most definitely hers. It's a performance of terrific spirit and energy and Jacques dominates the film. Apart from her wonderful relationship with onscreen husband Sid, Hattie also works really well with Liz Fraser - they make for very believable best friends. Hattie is also great with the lovely little Esma Cannon and the two form a formidable double act. It's so refreshing to see Hattie given a role that allows the gifted actress to emerge and show the audience just how good she was. Of course Hattie's next role in the series would see her return to the comfortable confines of her memorable Matron, but Peggy Hawkins will always tower above all the rest.

At the end of the film, Peggy and Sally are put in peril by a fiendish bunch of criminals and it's Charlie and Ted (Connor) to the rescue. All is well in the end and the film gets the usual happy Carry On finale. Does this mean Cabby is not a feminist Carry On after all? I doubt the Carry Ons could ever be described as feminist films although without question the female characters are much sharper and more on the ball while the men are all a bit thick! Cabby is the closest the series comes to grit and kitchen sink drama, popular themes at the time of release. That's not why I love it though. I love Carry On Cabby for the strength of the story, the warmth of the performances and the joy of seeing Hattie grab a role that allowed her talents and quality as an actress to shine.

Sadly Cabby would be the last film Hattie Jacques made with the team for over four years. The popularity of her role in the Eric Sykes BBC comedy series "Sykes And A..." together with a desire to pursue other projects meant that the next seven films in the franchise would lack her own very special comedic gifts.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram  

Saturday 20 April 2019

Happy Birthday Leslie Phillips!

Today marks the inimitable Leslie Phillips' 95th birthday! I cannot quite believe someone like the wonderful Leslie is now reaching such a grand old age. 

Sadly Leslie has not been in the greatest health in recent times but I hope he does manage to enjoy his special day. As you will all know Leslie appeared in three classic Carry Ons from the early days of the series before popping back for a cameo in Columbus in 1992. He is also well known for appearing in many other classic British films including several of the Doctor series and films co-starring with Stanley Baxter. 

More recently Leslie played opposite Peter O'Toole in a funny, moving and incredibly poignant film, Venus in 2006, yet again showing that actors we tend to place in particular pigeon holes can always surprise us with what they are capable of doing.

When Pinewood Studios celebrated its 70th anniversary, Leslie played a bit part in those celebrations, being the only actor still alive who had worked at the famous studios from the very beginning. In a career spanning seven decades, he is indeed a true legend of British film and part of our illustrious comedy heritage.

So I'll be raising a glass to our lovely Leslie today. Many Happy Returns!

Ding Dong, Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

Thursday 18 April 2019

Carrying On with … Crooks in Cloisters!

It's time to take a look at yet another classic British comedy film with strong Carry On connections. Crooks in Cloisters, made in 1963 and starring Ronald Fraser, has recently premiered on the ever excellent channel, Talking Pictures TV. So it seems the perfect time to  feature it on Carry On Blogging. 

What's it about?

After pulling off a small train robbery, 'Little Walter' and his gang are forced to hide out on a remote Cornish island in an abandoned monastery, disguised as monks. With them comes 'Bikini' (Walter's girlfriend, who is given the job of cook to the group, despite never having cooked in her life. After a few initial setbacks, they slowly adjust to their new contemplative life of tending animals and crops, surviving the added tribulations of visits by a group of tourists and two of the real monks who had been forced to sell the monastery after falling on hard times, including Brother Lucius.

Gradually the gang adjusts to its new pastoral life, which turns out to be much to their liking. A return to a life In the city less appealing by the day. With the help of Phineas, a fisherman, they continue to receive and dispose of stolen goods. The crooks change and are kinder and gentler but 'Brother' Squirts begins to place bets on the dogs and the police become suspicious. When Walter decides it is safe to leave none of them want to go including Willy (Hayes), who has fallen for June, Phineas's granddaughter; these two manage to get away safely together. Walter gives the deeds of the island to the real monks who had originally owned the island and just as the rest of the gang say goodbye they see the police waiting for them.

Carry On Faces?

I can't go much further without mentioning Barbara Windsor's leading role as Bikini. Following her great success in Sparrow's Can't Sing, Barbara was hot property and this film showed off her comedic flair. It's no surprise that she was soon cast in a Carry On. Co-starring with Barbara is her Carry On Spying pal Bernard Cribbins. Bernard also starred in Carry On Jack and Columbus.

Future King Rat and all round entertainer Davy Kaye plays Specs in the film. He had supporting roles in two Carry Ons - as the Undertaker in Carry On Cowboy and Benny the Bookmaker in At Your Convenience. Future Carry On England and Carry On Laughing actor Melvyn Hayes appears as Willy. Hayes was already a star thanks to appearances in several Cliff Richard films. And future Steptoe and Son legend Wilfrid Brambell co-stars as Phineas. Wilfrid had a rather brief if memorable cameo in Carry On Again Doctor in 1969.

Two further, small mentions to make. Norman Chappell, an instantly recognisable character actor, plays Benson in Crooks in Cloisters. Norman played Albright in Carry On Cabby and returned for small roles in Carry On Henry and Carry On Laughing. He was also in Carry On Loving but sadly his role was cut from the final print. Finally, future Dad's Army great Arnold Ridley appears in the role of a Newsagent. Arnold went on to cameo in Carry On Girls as a councillor ten years later.

Did You Know?

The film features early supporting roles for two future stars - Francesca Annis plays Wilfrid Brambell's daughter June while Corin Redgrave, part of the famous Redgrave acting dynasty crops up as Brother Lucius.

Barbara Windsor credits Bernard Cribbins as helping her a great deal during the making of Crooks in Cloisters. The pair became close friends and met up again the same year in Carry On Spying, Barbara's first in the series.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram  

Listen Again: Play it Cool

If you are looking for a diversion this weekend and can't find anything on the telly (apart from all the Carry Ons on ITV£3 that is) then why not check out this vintage comedy series on the always excellent BBC Radio 4 Extra?

There are currently several episodes available to listen again to online and as the series stars a certain Joan Sims, it must be worth checking out. First broadcast in July 1964 on the Light Programme, Play it Cool was produced by that master of radio comedy, John Simmonds. Starring alongside Joan are those two wonderful comedy actors Ian Carmichael and Hugh Paddick.

Ian shot to fame thanks to starring roles in films such as Private's Progress, I'm All Right Jack and Double Bunk, while Hugh is of course much loved for his appearances as part of the regular cast in radio's Beyond Our Ken, Round The Horne and Stop Messing About. Joan of course needs no introduction.

Play it Cool was Ian's first radio comedy series and promised fast moving sketches, a plethora of comedy characters and a variety of 'potty and pompous' situations. It's written by the brilliant Eric Merriman and as was often the case at the time, musical interludes are provided by the likes of Rosemary Squires, The Mike Sammes Singers and The Ken Thorne Orchestra.

If you want to have a listen you can find it here.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Carry On Blogging Interview: Richard Latto

I'm absolutely delighted to bring you another interview exclusive. Richard Latto is a producer and presenter on BBC Radio, currently with Radio Solent. He's the host of Stereo Underground and is also passionate about classic comedy and archives. 

I've followed Richard on Twitter for some time but really came to appreciate his work last year when the lost Sid James interview was discovered. This was featured in the press and made quite a splash, showing just how popular Mr James still is. It was the centre point of Richard's documentary, Carry On Up The Archive, which was narrated by Carry On legend Jim Dale and broadcast over the Christmas period.

I caught up with Richard to find out more.

First of all, I’d love to know how you came to work in radio – how did you get started?

I used to adore listening to the radio as a child. There's something so special about communicating through what is an incredibly personal medium. It encouraged me to do hospital radio, then commercial and finally into the BBC, where I've worked at several sites across the UK on local, regional and national programmes. I currently do a weekly music show called Stereo Underground, which is broadcast on 5 stations across the south of England. Then the rest of my time is filled with working on projects for radio, television and online.

As a social historian, I’m fascinated by archives and I recently accessed Gerald Thomas’ archive at the BFI. I imagine a lot of your work involves that kind of research. What are the pros and cons for you of this kind of work?

It certainly does! You need a heck of a lot of tenacity as I'm sure you can appreciate Graeme. There's also a lot to be said for knowing the right people who are able to open doors and allow you to look properly. I've found some very exciting material in both obvious and hard-to-find places. The pros would be I've made some good contacts and friends when looking for material. There are some immediate go-to places where I can enquire because the people there are very kind and keen to help. The cons would be the frustrating number of archives that are poorly catalogued, but worst still have no interest in sharing their material or even attempting to provide basic information on what is held. I always advise anyone who is keen to deposit something with an archive that they should get a clear guarantee of access to their material established before parting with it! There are a lot of rabbit holes in the world of archives.

There was a lot of publicity before Christmas when the lost Sid James interview was discovered. What was it like to be a part of that discovery?

It was terrific to see how popular the story was around the world. We ran it locally on BBC South Today, but it was for a time the most-read story in England on the BBC website. Of course it's all down to the enduring popularity and fondness the public has for Sid. I originally made contact with former BBC radio presenter Jeff Link as I believed he may have a copy of the interview he did with Kenneth Williams. It was a delight to discover he had kept the reel of his Sid James interview. With a little research I was able to confirm this was the last surviving interview recorded with Sid before his tragic passing on stage.

You tracked down both of Sid’s daughters so they could hear their father’s last-known interview for the first time. What was that like?

This was the highlight of the whole project. Soon after establishing the rarity of the recording I managed to reach out to both of Sid's daughters Sue and Reina, and his son Steve. It was an absolute pleasure to reunite them with the precious recording of their late father. The friendliness and warmth they showed was very heartwarming and I thank them enormously for their time.

The Sid James interview formed a part of Carry On Up The Archive, which went out on BBC Radio over Christmas. It featured rare clips from many of our Carry On favourites. Apart from Sid’s material, what was your favourite discovery?

It would be a poor answer to say 'all of them'... but it honestly was the collection of all the many rare items that made piecing the whole show together so enjoyable. If I really had to pick one specific example it would have to be the interview that former Radio Victory presenter Matt Hopper did with Kenneth Williams. He didn't enjoy the experience and when he was labelled as an 'idiot' by Kenneth in his diaries he was genuinely shocked and disappointed! I like to think that playing the interview to him all these years later was perhaps a cathartic experience for him!

Why do you think it’s important that production material linked to classic comedy like the Carry Ons is preserved for future generations?

There is an incredibly important cultural value attached to the material consumed by the public as popular culture. Sadly this is something that still needs to be underlined today as some people continue to underestimate its importance. The love for the Carry On series is obvious and I'd like to think that surviving material from the films will be preserved for future generations. However, how great would it have been to have kept all the rushes and outtakes from the movies? More material is still turning up. Only the other month I stumbled across the original A & B camera negatives in an archive for Carry On Emmannuelle.

Your radio programme Carry On Up The Archive was presented by the brilliant Jim Dale. Was it easy to get Jim on board and what was he like to work with?

I always wanted Jim to front the show. After a short discussion with his agent I was delighted to learn he was keen to narrate the script for the special celebration. We had a chat beforehand and he was a pleasure to direct 'down the line' from a BBC studio in New York. At the end of the session he said "this is a show the fans will adore", which was very kind of him. I've got two small children and we've been watching Pete's Dragon and Digby: The Biggest Dog In The World... two films I also watched as a child. He's a legend and complete professional.

I love the radio and listen every day – as someone who works in radio can I ask  what you think makes it such a special medium?

Where I grew up as a child in the West Country the local radio stations had such a grip and reflection on what was happening in the area, much more so than any of the local newspapers as they were full of personality and you could hear fellow listeners taking part in a very down-to-earth manner. The local commercial station Plymouth Sound had a phone-in that everyone in the city listened to. You would literally hear it coming out of car windows and peoples houses as you walked down the street. You had a sense that what was being broadcast really mattered. Although the days of huge audiences are disappearing as more options appear both on the dial and online, the sense of a personal connection between the broadcaster and the listener has always remained. I often listen to community radio as there are some very clever and passionate broadcasters on there trying to find their voice and you can see so much potential. There are some excellent programmes and podcasts if you're prepared to look for them online. I get some lovely emails to Stereo Underground from listeners in random places all over the world. It's a privilege to broadcast.

There was a great reaction to Carry On Up The Archive which shows just how popular the Carry Ons and their stars remain. How would you explain their enduring appeal?

I think it's twofold. They remind people of a time when they saw them before and they were happy and carefree with life. They also picture a version of Britain that didn't actually exist, but we'd all love to feel did exist at some point. Both factors in my humble opinion make them almost the perfect nostalgia trip.

I ask everyone this question – What’s your favourite Carry On film and why?

It very much depends on my mood. My favourite is also usually the last one I've watched! However, I've always had a soft spot for Carry On Behind. Kenneth Williams really shines with buckets of energy in his performance as Professor Roland Crump, Elke Sommer is fantastically sparkly with her characterisation of Professor Anna Vooshka and Windsor Davies does a great job in the role that would have traditionally been for Sid. I'm 35 years old and I know a lot of people my age and younger who don't have the same interests as I do (one of my colleagues told me the other day she couldn't name any of the Beatles!) - usually I recommend Carry On Abroad to them, as it's another favourite and generally captures the whole Carry On feel really well.

Finally, can you tell me anything about future projects you might be working on?

Last year myself and two colleagues (author Stuart Manning and producer Paul Vanezis) found the original camera negatives for Worzel Gummidge. We'd like to see them transferred and released soon, as the current masters for the show are in an appalling condition. They would look stunning in high definition as the show was beautifully filmed. July this year also marks what would have been the 100th birthday for Jon Pertwee... I have some treats in store for a very special programme I'm currently piecing together. Most of my time is currently occupied with a confidential pilot I'm making for BBC TV, hopefully I shall have more news on that soon.

A big thank you to Richard for taking the time to answer my questions. You can read more about Carry On Up The Archive in my review of the programme, which can be found here.

And you can follow Richard on Twitter @RichardLatto

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram