FILM: THE CARRY ON MOVIES

by Peter Tatchell (copyright 2011)

For over fifty years the two words “carry on” have become synonymous with the movie equivalent of the bawdy, seaside-postcard style of British humour. Thirty films produced between 1958 and 1978 (and a 1992 revival) relied on the “honest” vulgarity originally found in the country’s music halls and variety stages. Sophisticated cinema they were not, but they were (and still are) inevitably funny.

But it wasn’t only the style of humour that appealed to motion picture audiences, it was their familiarity with an ensemble group of performers ever present no matter the situation or historical era. Years after their passing, the names Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and the rest are revered as jesters forever associated with the 1960s and 1970s way of life.

In 1957, commercial television’s first home-grown sitcom success was The Army Game, about a diverse group of conscripts in post-war Britain. But before a spinoff movie could be commissioned, rival producer Peter Rogers signed several of the players for a film of his own (also about an intake of national servicemen). Taking the military expression ‘carry on, sergeant” as its title, and a script by Norman Hudis, it sought laughter from the battle between an authority figure and his latest shower of recruits.

William Hartnell and Charles Hawtrey relocated from TV to the big screen and were joined by radio favourites Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Eric Barker. As ‘straightmen’ to the resident eccentrics, comedian and scriptwriter Bob Monkhouse and glamour girl Shirley Eaton rounded out the main cast. In the director’s chair, Gerald Thomas assumed the mantle of taking charge of this and every subsequent Carry On film.

The venture was a success and a follow-up Carry On Nurse became an even bigger hit (also gaining popularity in America). Writer Hudis would keep his ‘underlings vs. authority figure’ premise for all six Carry Ons he wrote before departing for pastures new in the U.S.

In charge of proceedings at the hospital was matron Hattie Jacques and Leslie Phillips replaced Monkhouse as the hero of the piece (a role he’d repeat in the two subsequent films). Joan Sims (who’d actually been in the unrelated Carry On Admiral in 1957) made the first of her many appearances in the series.

Radio perennial Ted Ray came aboard for Carry On Teacher before making way for Sid James in Constable, though it would take several entries before he’d become less of the antagonized figure in charge and more a protagonist of the craziness.

By Carry On Regardless in 1960, Rogers and Thomas had brought together the half dozen regular participants in what was quickly becoming a British movie institution … James, Williams, Hawtrey, Sims, Jacques and Connor.

The budget for the final Hudis effort Carry On Cruising was increased to allow for it to be made in colour. In place of an absent Charles Hawtrey, TW3 television favourite Lance Percival joined the team for his sole appearance in the series.

In 1963 Talbot Rothwell came up with the script Call Me a Cab but when James, Jacques, Connor and Hawtrey were signed for the lead roles it was retitled Carry On Cabby. Also appearing (in a supporting part) was Jim Dale, who would soon become a major player with the team, and assume the ‘leading man’ role not evident since the departure of Leslie Phillips.

For Rothwell too it was the beginning of a momentous association, being the first of twenty consecutive Carry Ons he’d pen. For his next effort he guided the team into previously uncharted waters … the historical sendup, and the series was about to enter its golden age.

Subjects would range from the glory years of the British navy (Carry On Jack), ancient Rome (Carry On Cleo), the wild west (Carry On Cowboy), gothic horror (Carry On Screaming), the French Revolution (Carry On … Don’t Lose Your Head) and the Foreign Legion (Carry On … Follow That Camel).

Ironically, Cowboy saw the addition of Army Game star Bernard Bresslaw, who would become a mainstay of the team and appear in over a dozen additional entrees. There was also time to lampoon the phenomenal success of James Bond films in Carry On Spying in a film that marked the arrival of buxom Barbara Windsor and the last time a Carry On would be shot in black and white.

The mid-1960s saw a change of distributor for the series, with Rogers switching from Anglo-Amalgamated to Rank, and for a time the “Carry On” prefix was abandoned (for Don’t Lose Your Head and Follow That Camel) before it was quickly reinstated.

With Sid James having suffered a heart attack, Bilko legend Phil Silvers was signed as the lead for Camel and Frankie Howerd for Carry On Doctor (with James well enough to appear, in bed, in a lesser role). Howerd would return in Carry On Up The Jungle before launching his own series of Up Pompeii, Up The Chastity Belt and Up The Front.

Doctor marked the first of three returns to the successful territory of Carry On Nurse (with Carry On Again Doctor and Carry On Matron appearing not longer after). Then (in the space of a handful of years) it was back to costume comedy with three of the funniest films of the entire series … Carry On Up The Khyber, Carry On Henry and Carry On Dick.

Along the way the team also returned to the contemporary era with sendups of camping holidays, overseas package holidays, matrimonial agencies and beauty contests. Less successful was the dig at trade unions in Carry On At Your Convenience.

By the end of the sixties, British television had embraced colour and Peter Rogers joined with the newly set up ITV company Thames to produce a Christmas special featuring eight of the Carry On regulars (and scripted by Talbot Rothwell). Carry On Christmas was the first of several annual festive offerings, and by the mid-1970s a half hour series Carry On Laughing would be aired by another commercial broadcaster A.T.V.

There was also a successful 1973 stage revue Carry On London at the Victoria Palace (longtime home of The Crazy Gang) which starred Sidney James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw and Jack Douglas.

Whether it was a case of over-exposure or just the changing of the times, the series was finally beginning to lose steam. Charles Hawtrey refused to continue after an argument over not being given top billing and Sid James was increasingly busy with his long-running television series Bless This House (though a movie version was eventually produced by Rogers). James bid farewell after Carry On Dick, which also saw the final appearances of Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor (though the latter would join Kenneth Williams to co-host the celebration feature That’s Carry On).

Three subsequent entries Carry On Behind, Carry On England and Carry On Emmanuelle failed to hit the mark with fans and reluctantly Peter Rogers could see that it was time to put his twenty year old cash cow out to pasture.

But there was one last encore … fifteen years later Rogers and perennial director Gerald Thomas signed Jim Dale, Bernard Cribbins and Jack Douglas (along with Leslie Phillips, June Whitfield and Jon Pertwee in cameo roles) for Carry On Columbus. And to attract a younger audience (and replace the now departed regulars Williams, Hawtrey, James and Jacques) a number of more recent comedians were added to the roster … Rik Mayall, Alexei Sayle, Julian Clary, Keith Allen, Chris Langham and Tony Slattery among them.

The result was moderately successful but (despite a number of attempts by producer Rogers up to his death in 2009) there were to be no follow-ups and it marked the end of the series.

 

Films

Carry On Sergeant (1958)
with William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse, Shirley Eaton, Eric Barker, Dora Bryan, Bill Owen, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams, Terence Longden, Hattie Jacques, Terry Scott, Cyril Chamberlain

Carry On Nurse (1959)
with Shirley Eaton, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Terence Longden, Bill Owen, Leslie Phillips, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Irene Handl, June Whitfield, Cyril, Chamberlain

Carry On Teacher (1959)
with Ted Ray, Kenneth Connor, Leslie Phillips, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Rosalind Knight, Cyril Chamberlain

Carry On Constable (1960)
with Sidney James, Eric Barker, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, Leslie Phillips, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Shirley Eaton, Cyril Chamberlain, Irene Handl, Terence Longden

Carry On Regardless (1960)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Bill Owen, Liz Fraser, Terence Longden, Esma Cannon, Hattie Jacques, Stanley Unwin, Fenella Fielding, Cyril Chamberlain

Carry On Cruising (1962)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Liz Fraser, Dilys Laye, Esma Cannon, Lance Percival, Jimmy Thompson, Ronnie Stevens, Cyril Chamberlain

Carry On Cabby (1963)
with Sidney James, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Esma Cannon, Liz Fraser, Bill Owen, Milo O’Shea, Jim Dale, Amanda Barrie, Cyril Chamberlain

Carry On Jack (aka Carry On Venus) (1964)
with Bernard Cribbins, Juliet Mills, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, Donald Houston, Percy Herbert, Peter Gilmore, Jim Dale, Cecil Parker

Carry On Spying (1964)
with Kenneth Williams, Bernard Cribbins, Charles Hawtrey, Barbara Windsor, Eric Pohlmann, Eric Barker, Dilys Laye, Jim Dale, Richard Wattis

Carry On Cleo (1964)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Jim Dale, Amanda Barrie, Sheila Hancock, Warren Mitchell

Carry On Cowboy (1965)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Jim Dale, Percy Herbert, Angela Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Charles Hawtrey, Peter Butterworth, Jon Pertwee

Carry On Screaming (1966)
with Harry H. Corbett, Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Fenella Fielding, Joan Sims, Angela Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Jon Pertwee

Carry On – Don’t Lose Your Head (1966)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Dany Robin, Peter Gilmore

Carry On – Follow That Camel (1966)
with Phil Silvers, Jim Dale, Peter Butterworth, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, Anita Harris, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw, Angela Douglas, John Bluthal

Carry On Doctor (1968)
with Frankie Howerd, Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Jim Dale, Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Anita Harris, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Dilys Laye

Carry On Up The Khyber (1968)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Roy Castle, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Terry Scott, Angela Douglas, Cardew Robinson, Julian Holloway

Carry On Again Doctor (1969)
with Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Sidney James, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Barbara Windsor, Hattie Jacques, Patsy Rowlands, Peter Butterworth

Carry On Camping (1969)
with Sidney James, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Terry Scott, Barbara Windsor, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw, Julian Holloway, Dilys Laye, Peter Butterworth, Betty Marsden

Carry On Up The Jungle (1970)
with Frankie Howerd, Sidney James, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Terry Scott, Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw, Jacki Piper

Carry On Loving (1970)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Terry Scott, Richard O’Callaghan, Bernard Bresslaw, Jacki Piper, Imogen Hassall, Patsy Rowlands, Julian Holloway

Carry On Henry (1971)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Terry Scott, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Julian Holloway, Peter Butterworth

Carry On At Your Convenience (aka Carry On Round The Bend) (1971)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Cope, Patsy Rowlands, Jacki Piper, Richard O’Callaghan

Carry On Abroad (1972)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw, Barnara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Jenny Logan, June Whitfield, Hattie Jacques, Jack Douglas, Patsy Rowlands

Carry On Matron (1972)
with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Cope, Terry Scott, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Jacki Piper, Patsy Rowlands, Jack Douglas

Carry On Girls (1973)
with Sidney James, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, June Whitfield, Peter Butterworth, Jack Douglas, Patsy Rowlands, Jimmy Logan

Carry On Dick (1974)
with Sidney James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Jack Douglas, Patsy Rowlands

Carry On Behind (1975)
with Elke Sommer, Kenneth Williams, Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas, Joan Sims, Windsor Davies, Peter Butterworth, Liz Fraser, Patsy Rowlands, Ian Lavender

Carry On England (1976)
with Kenneth Connor, Windsor Davies, Patrick Mower, Judy Geeson, Jack Douglas, Diane Langton, Melvyn Hayes, Joan Sims, Peter Jones, Peter Butterworth

Carry On Emmannuelle (1978)
with Suzanne Danniele, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Larry Dann, Beryl Reid, Eric Barker

Carry On Columbus (1992)
with Jim Dale, Bernard Cribbins, Jack Douglas, Leslie Phillips, June Whitfield, Peter Richardson, Rik Mayall, Julian Clary, Nigel Planer, Alexei Sayle, Keith Allen, Mureen Lipman, Jon Pertwee, Larry Miller, Tony Slattery, Chris Langham

That’s Carry On (1977)
with Kenneth Williams, Barbara Windsor

 

Television

CARRY ON CHRISTMAS
Thames December 24 1969 (50 min)
Cast: Sid James, Terry Scott, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Frankie Howerd
Script by Talbot Rothwell

CARRY ON AGAIN CHRISTMAS: CARRY ON LONG JOHN
Thames December 24 1970 (50 min)
Cast: Sid James, Terry Scott, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, Bob Todd
Script by Dave Freeman and Sid Colin

CARRY ON CHRISTMAS: CARRY ON STUFFING
Thames December 20 1972 (50 min)
Cast: Kenneth Connor, Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Jack Douglas
Script by Talbot Rothwell and Sid Colin

WHAT A CARRY ON!
ATV October 4 1973 (50 min)
Cast: Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas
highlights from the opening night performance of Carry On London! at the Victoria Palace

CARRY ON CHRISTMAS
Thames December 24 1973 (50 min)
Cast: Sid James, Joan Sims, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Jack Douglas
Script by Talbot Rothwell

CARRY ON LAUGHING

Series 1: ATV January 4 to February 8 1975 (6 x 25 min)
The Prisoner Of Spenda (by Dave Freeman)
with Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas
The Baron Outlook (by Dave Freeman)
with Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor
The Sobbing Cavalier (by Dave Freeman)
with Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Joan Sims, Jack Douglas
Orgy And Bess (by Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh)
with Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas
One in the Eye for Harold (by Lew Schwarz)
with Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas
The Nine Old Cobblers (by Dave Freeman)
with Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas, Patsy Rowlands

Series 2: ATV October 26 to December 7 1975 (7 x 25 min)
Under the Round Table (by Lew Schwarz)
with Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas
The Case of the Screaming Winkles (by Dave Freeman)
with Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Jack Douglas
And in My Lady’s Chamber (by Lew Schwarz)
with Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas
Short Knight, Long Daze (by Lew Schwarz)
with Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas
The Case of the Coughing Parrot (by Dave Freeman)
with Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Jack Douglas
Who Needs Kitchener? (by Lew Schwarz)
with Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas
Lamp-Posts of the Empire (by Lew Schwarz)
with Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas 

CARRY ON LAUGHING’S CHRISTMAS CLASSICS
Thames December 22 1983 (30 min)
with Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor (introducing clips)
Script by Talbot Rothwell and Dave Freeman

WHAT’S A CARRY ON?
ITV December 29 1998 (60 min)
a 40th anniversary celebration, featuring a reunion of surviving cast members

THE GREATEST CARRY ON FILMS
C5 December 27 2011 (60 min)
a countdown of the top ten favourite films selected by writers, critics, etc.

CARRY ON FOREVER
ITV3 April 3, 4 and 5 2015 (3 x 60 min)
a history of the series (narrated by Martin Clunes)

 

Stage

CARRY ON LONDON!
Opened October 1973 at the Victoria Palace Theatre
starring Sidney James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas
Script by Talbot Rothwell, Dave Freeman, Eric Merriman, Ian Grant

 

Radio

CARRY ON CARRYING ON
BBC Radio 2 August 29 1994 (60 min)
hosted by Fenella Fielding

THE CARRY ON CLAN
BBC Radio 2 April 7 1996 (2 hours)
hosted by Barbara Windsor

CARRY ON FOREVER
BBC Radio 2 July 19 and 20 2010 (2 x 60 min)
hosted by Leslie Phillips

 

Books

THE CARRY-ON BOOK
by Kenneth Eastaugh (David & Charles, London. 1978)

WHAT A CARRY ON – THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE CARRY ON FILM SERIES
by Sally Hibbin and Nina Hibbin (Hamlyn, London. 1988)

CARRY ON LAUGHING – A CELEBRATION
by Adrian Rigelsford (Virgin, London. 199?)

THE CARRY ON COMPANION
by Robert Ross (B.T. Batsford, London. 1996, revised edition: 1998)

CARRY ON UNCENSORED
by Morris Bright and Robert Ross (Macmillan/ Boxtree, London. 1999)

CARRY ON FILMS (Pocket Essentials)
by Mark Campbell (Trafalgar Square Publishing, London. 2005)

THE CARRY ON STORY
by Robert Ross (?, London. 2008)

50 YEARS OF CARRY ON
by Richard Webber (?, London. 2008)

CARRY ON ACTORS – A COMPLETE WHO’S WHO
by Andrew Ross (Apex Publishing, London. 2011)

and related biographies …

MR. CARRY ON – THE LIFE AND WORK OF PETER ROGERS
by Morris Bright and Robert Ross (B.B.C. Books, London, 2000)

ADVENTURES OF A CARRY ON GIRL
by Liz Fraser, with Robert Ross (Signum Books, London. 2011)

CHARLES HAWTREY 1914-1988 – THE MAN WHO WAS PRIVATE WIDDLE
by Roger Lewis (Faber and Faber, London. 2001)
WHATSHISNAME – THE LIFE AND DEATH OF CHARLES HAWTREY
by Wes Butters (Tomahawk Press, 2010)

HATTIE – THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY OF HATTIE JACQUES
by Andy Merriman (?, 2008)

SID JAMES
by Cliff Goodwin (Century, London. 1995)
THE COMPLETE SID JAMES
by Robert Ross (Reynolds & Hearne, London. 2000)
SID JAMES – THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY
by Robert Ross (JR Books, London. 2009)

HELLO – THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
by Leslie Phillips (Orion, London. 2006)

HIGH SPIRITS
by Joan Sims (Partridge, London. 2000)

JUST WILLIAMS
by Kenneth Williams (J.M. Dent, London. 1985)
KENNETH WILLIAMS
by Michael Freedland (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London. 1990)
THE KENNETH WILLIAMS DIARIES
edited by Russell Davies (Harper Collins, London. 1993)
THE KENNETH WILLIAMS LETTERS
edited by Russell Davies (Harper Collins, London. 1994)
KENNETH WILLIAMS UNSEEN
by Wes Butters and Russell Davies (Harper Collins, London. 2008)
BORN BRILLIANT – THE LIFE OF KENNETH WILLIAMS
by Christopher Stevens (Aurum, London. 2010)

THE LAUGHTER AND TEARS OF A COCKNEY SPARROW
by Barbara Windsor, with Joan Flory (Century, London. 1990)

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