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The Ultimate Carry On Film Guide: Carry On Laughing

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The Ultimate Carry On Film Guide:
1958 - 1964 | 1965 - 1969 | 1970 - 1992
Carry On Christmas | Carry On Laughing

Between 1969 and 1973, Thames Television had produced four hour-long Christmas television specials titled Carry On Christmas to great success. In 1974 Thames' rivals, Associated Television (ATV), approached Carry On producer Peter Rogers in order to make a series of 25-minute television episodes starring the Carry On team in a variety of amusing historical settings.

In the 1970s, British cinema attendance was flagging and many of the most successful films were adaptations of popular television comedy series. Rogers hoped that the television series would rejuvenate renewed interest in the films.

Kenneth Williams was uninterested in taking part, just as he had not wished to appear in the Carry On Christmas specials. Sid James at the time was reported as saying he was worried that the film series would end and be replaced by the television series. Nevertheless he agreed to appear in a few before heading to Australia where he was starring in the play The Mating Season.

13×25-minute comedy sketches (30 minutes with adverts) were made in two series, with the first six shown in early 1975. Alan Tarrant directed all the episodes but different writers wrote them. The final seven were shown in late 1975 and were broadcast out of production order.

Unfortunately the Carry On series main writer, Talbot Rothwell, had been forced to retire due to health reasons and the producer had not found a writer of his calibre to replace him. The writing more than anything meant that the series never really recaptured the magic of the Carry On film series on television as successfully as the earlier Christmas specials, leaving the tone uneven and very hit-and-miss. However, six were written by Dave Freeman, who went on to write Carry On Behind (1975) and Carry On Columbus (1992).

Of the 13 episodes, six were standalone adventures. Seven featured a recurring cast and setting. Three of these were murder mysteries solved by amateur detective Lord Peter Flimsy, two were set in the time of Queen Guinevere and King Arthur, and two had an Upstairs Downstairs focus in the Bludgeon-Plunger household. Recurring characters are shown in Bold. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not include or mention any male characters.

1. The Prisoner of Spenda

Writer:Dave Freeman
PlotNewlywed Albert Baskett travels to Pluritania, where he is an exact double for the mysteriously disappeared Crown Prince. Will he agree to impersonate the prince or fall into evil Duke Boris' hands? Who is on which side?
Broadcast4 January, 1975
Characters
  • Arnold Baskett / Crown Prince (Sid James)
  • Vera Baskett / Grand Duchess Ingrid (Barbara Windsor)
  • Madame Olga (Joan Sims)
  • Colonel Yackoff, loyal colonel (Jack Douglas)
  • Nickoff (Kenneth Connor)
  • Count Yerackers, loyal Prime Minister (Peter Butterworth)
  • Duke Boris, the prince's disloyal cousin (David Lodge)
  • Tzaba, waitress (Diane Langton)
BechdelPass
Parody ofAnthony Hope's novel The Prisoner of Zenda (1894)

This was by far the shortest episode, being only 21 minutes in length rather than the usual 25.

2. The Baron Outlook

Writer:Dave Freeman
PlotBaron Hubert's rundown castle in the 14th Century during the Hundred Years War is commandeered to house a valuable French prisoner.
Broadcast11 January, 1975
Characters
  • Baron Hubert Fitzbovine de Outlook (Sid James)
  • Marie, Frenchwoman impersonating a French knight (Barbara Windsor)
  • Lady Isobel, Hubert's wife (Joan Sims)
  • Sir William (Kenneth Connor)
  • Friar Roger (Peter Butterworth)
  • Sir Simon de Montfort, Inspector General of Royal Castles (David Lodge)
  • English Soldier (John Levene)
  • Gaston de Lyon, valuable French prisoner (Brian Osborne)
  • Griselda (Diane Langton)
  • Ethelbert (John Carlin)
  • Rosy (Linda Hooks)
DragBarbara Windsor and Brian Osbourne swap clothes to allow the Gaston de Lyon to escape
BechdelPass

Peter Butterworth plays a friar; he had previously played Time Lord the Meddling Monk in two Doctor Who adventures and had also previously been Friar Tuck in the final Carry On Christmas.

3. The Sobbing Cavalier

Writer:Dave Freeman
PlotDuring the English Civil War, Sir Jethro is trying to stay neutral. When Oliver Cromwell visits, he has to hide his Cavalier brother-in-law or he and his family will all be hung, drawn and quartered.
Broadcast18 January, 1975
Characters
  • Sir Jethro, trying to stay neutral in war (Jack Douglas)
  • Lady Kate, Jethro's wife and Lovelace's sister (Joan Sims)
  • Captain Lovelace, Cavalier fugitive (Sid James)
  • Oliver Cromwell (Peter Butterworth)
  • Sarah, serving wench (Barbara Windsor)
  • Roundhead Colonel (David Lodge)
  • Roundhead Captain (Bernard Holley)
  • Cavalier (Brian Osborne)
DragSid James disguised as cook.
BechdelFail

The title was inspired by Frans Hals's famous painting 'The Laughing Cavalier' (1624).

4. Orgy and Bess

Writers:Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh
PlotKing Philip of Spain proposes to Queen Bess, while Drake, Raleigh and Essex are rivals for her attention. Raleigh and Essex scheme to have the Queen discover Drake embracing another woman, arousing her jealousy.
Broadcast25 January, 1975
Characters
  • Sir Francis Drake (Sid James)
  • Queen Elizabeth I (Hattie Jacques)
  • Lady Miranda (Barbara Windsor)
  • Master of the Rolls / Lord Essex (Jack Douglas)
  • King Philip II of Spain (Kenneth Connor)
  • Sir Walter Raleigh (John Carlin)
  • Lord Burleigh (Norman Chappell)
  • Todd (Victor Maddern)
  • Quaker (McDonald Hobley)
  • Crew (Simon Callow, Brian Osborne)
BechdelFail
Parody ofThe Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), title inspired by opera Porgy and Bess (1935)

Though neither realised it, this was the last ever Carry On performance for both Sid James and Hattie Jacques. Well-respected actor, musician, writer and director Simon Callow CBE made his television debut for this episode and he is credited in the end credits. Unfortunately his role was edited out of the broadcast episode. Despite this, two of the films in which he has appeared have gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar and he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1999 for his services to acting.

5. One in the Eye for Harold

Writer:Lew Schwarz
Plot1066William Duke of Normandy plans to invade England and fight King Harold. Harold has a you-know-what secret weapon, so William deploys you-know-who, the top secret spy.
Broadcast1 February, 1975
Characters
  • Æthelred, Saxon soldier (Jack Douglas)
  • Else, Norman Spy (Joan Sims)
  • Athelstan, Saxon monk (Kenneth Connor)
  • William the Conqueror (David Lodge)
  • King Harold (Norman Chappel)
  • Isolde, Barmaid (Diane Langton)
  • Æthelbert (John Carlin)
  • Old Hag (Patsy Smart)
  • Herald (Brian Osborne)
  • Messenger (Paul Jesson)
  • Nellie (Linda Hooks)
BechdelPass

6. The Nine Old Cobblers

Writer:Dave Freeman
PlotIn the peaceful, 1920s village of Sin Creek there has been a murder! Lord Peter Flimsy investigates, assisted by his butler, Punter.
Broadcast8 February, 1975
Characters
  • Lord Peter Flimsy (Jack Douglas)
  • Amelia Forbush (Joan Sims)
  • Punter (Kenneth Connor)
  • Inspector Bungler (David Lodge)
  • Maisie, barmaid (Barbara Windsor)
  • Miss Dawkins (Patsy Rowlands)
  • Vicar (John Carlin)
  • Charlie (Victor Maddern)
BechdelPass
Parody ofLord Peter Whimsey

This was the last episode of the first batch, with the characters of Lord Peter Flimsy, Punter and Inspector Bungler proving so popular that they would return.

7. Under the Round Table

Writer:Lew Schwarz
PlotKing Arthur agrees that if Sir Pureheart defeats the evil Black Knight, he and his knights of the Round Table will take vows of chastity, temperance and virtue.
Broadcast26 October, 1975
Characters
  • Queen Guinevere (Joan Sims)
  • Sir Pureheart (Bernard Bresslaw)
  • Sir Gay, High Steward (Jack Douglas)
  • King Arthur (Kenneth Connor)
  • Merlin (Peter Butterworth)
  • Black Knight (Oscar James)
  • Sir Osis of the Liver, drunken knight (Victor Maddern)
  • Sir William (Norman Chappell)
  • Minstrel (Desmond McNamara)
  • Lady Ermintrude (Valerie Walsh)
  • Shortest Knight (Ronnie Brody)
BechdelFail

This was the first episode of the second series, and the first to feature King Arthur. Most of the characters would return in a sequel episode.

8. The Case of the Screaming Winkles

Writer:Dave Freeman
PlotThere has been a murder in Flashwick Bay's seaside hotel. Winkles were poisoned, but who was the intended victim? Can Lord Flimsy solve the riddles?
Broadcast2 November, 1975
Characters
  • Lord Peter Flimsy (Jack Douglas)
  • Punter (Kenneth Connor)
  • Mrs MacFlute, hotel proprietor (Joan Sims)
  • Admiral Clanger (Peter Butterworth)
  • Inspector Bungler (David Lodge)
  • Nurse Millie Teazel aka Bangalore Lulu (Sherrie Hewson)
  • Potter, part-time porter (Norman Chappell)
  • Madame Petra aka Calcutta Kate (Marianne Stone)
  • Charwallah Charlie (Melvyn Hayes)
  • Major Merridick (John Carlin)
  • Colonel Postwick (Michael Nightingale)
BechdelFail
Parody ofLord Peter Whimsey

The second Lord Flimsy adventure sees the return of three recurring characters, Lord Flimsy, his butler Punter and Inspector Bungler.

9. And In My Lady's Chamber

Writer:Lew Schwarz
PlotIn England in 1911, the elderly Sir Harry's son returns home from the Amazon on the same day that jumped-up actress Baroness Lottie von Titzenhausen moves next door and decides that Sir Harry will be her next widower to wed. Can the servants save their master from a disastrous match? Or will the plot be completely forgotten within ten minutes?
Broadcast9 November, 1975
Characters
  • Sir Henry Bludgeon-Plunger, wealthy widower (Kenneth Connor)
  • Baroness Lottie von Titzenhausen, actress and widow (Barbara Windsor)
  • Clodson, faithful butler (Jack Douglas)
  • Mrs Breaches, cook (Joan Sims)
  • Silas, returned explorer (Peter Butterworth)
  • Starkers, Clodson's son (Bernard Bresslaw)
  • Willie, Henry's son (Andrew Ray)
  • Virginia, Henry's daughter (Sherrie Hewson)
  • Lilly and Teeny, maids (Carol Hawkins & Vivienne Johnson)
BechdelFail
Parody ofUpstairs, Downstairs

Despite a promising start, nothing happens in the last half other than various characters opening doors and walking to the toilet and back.

10. Short Knight, Long Daze

Writer:Lew Schwarz
PlotKing Arthur is penniless and his knights have all deserted him. Can Lancelot the boil doctor save the day?
Broadcast16 November, 1975
Characters
  • Queen Guinevere (Joan Sims)
  • Sir Lancelot (Bernard Bresslaw)
  • Sir Gay, High Steward (Jack Douglas)
  • King Arthur (Kenneth Connor)
  • Merlin (Peter Butterworth)
  • Sir William (Norman Chappell)
  • Herald / Knight (Brian Osborne)
  • Minstrel (Desmond McNamara)
  • Mabel (Susan Skipper)
BechdelFail

11. The Case of the Coughing Parrot

Writer:Dave Freeman
PlotThe mummy of Pharaoh Ramitupem joins the Wopping Collection under the proprietorship of Dr Crunbitt. However, when the sarcophagus arrives, it does not contain an ancient mummy but the dead body of Herr Bloomers. What do the murders have to do with a coughing parrot and the ruby at the end of Ramitupem's rod?
Broadcast23 November, 1975
Characters
  • Lord Peter Flimsy (Jack Douglas)
  • Punter (Kenneth Connor)
  • Dr Janis Crunbitt, museum proprietor (Joan Sims)
  • Inspector Bungler (David Lodge)
  • Lost Property Attendant (Peter Butterworth)
  • Irma Klein, woman who has lost Herr Bloomers (Sherrie Hewson)
  • Freda Filey (Vivienne Johnson)
  • Ambulance Driver (Norman Chappell)
  • Harry (Brian Osborne)
  • Norman (Johnny Briggs)
BechdelPass
Parody ofLord Peter Whimsey

This was the third and final Lord Flimsy adventure.

12. Who Needs Kitchener?

Writer:Lew Schwarz
PlotThree years after the events of 'And In My Lady's Chamber', Lottie returns to London having not married Sir Henry Bludgeon-Plunger after all, but having had three other husbands in the meantime. Virginia has become a suffragette, chanting 'Down with trousers, up with skirts!' and chaining the maids to railings when war is declared. Henry Bludgeon-Plunger becomes the general in charge of the British Army's supply of bootlaces, but is there a German spy in the household?
Broadcast30 November, 1975
Characters
  • Lottie (Barbara Windsor)
  • General Henry Bludgeon-Plunger, in charge of army bootlaces (Kenneth Connor)
  • Mrs Breaches, cook (Joan Sims)
  • Clodson, faithful butler (Jack Douglas)
  • Otto Klanger (Bernard Bresslaw)
  • Willie, Henry's son who is avoiding the front (Andrew Ray)
  • Virginia, Henry's suffragette daughter (Sherrie Hewson)
  • Lilly and Teeny, maids (Carol Hawkins & Vivienne Johnson)
  • Newsboy (Brian Osborne)
BechdelPass
Parody ofUpstairs, Downstairs

The second story set in the Bludgeon-Plunger household, and a vast improvement on the first.

13. Lamp-Posts of the Empire

Writer:Lew Schwarz
PlotIn the Victorian era, Members of the Bermondsey Universal Geographical Society fund an expedition into Africa, sending Stanley to find the missing Doctor Pavingstone. But will the expedition find more than they bargained for?
Broadcast7 December, 1975
Characters
  • Lady Mary (Barbara Windsor)
  • Stanley (Kenneth Connor)
  • 'Elephant' Dick Darcy (Jack Douglas)
  • Dr Pavingstone (Bernard Bresslaw)
  • Lord Gropefinger (Peter Butterworth)
  • Witchdoctor (Oscar James)
  • Businessman (Norman Chappell)
  • Old Man (John Carlin)
  • Neighbour (Michael Nightingale)
  • Mabel the Gorilla (Reuben Martin)
  • Native (Wayne Browne)
BechdelFail
Parody ofDr Livingstone and Morton Stanley's encounter in Tanzania

Carry On Laughing Appearances By Actor

The main Carry On cast are shown below in Bold along with other actors who appeared in at least three episodes.

ActorTotal
Bernard Bresslaw5
Peter Butterworth9
John Carlin6
Norman Chappell7
Kenneth Connor12
Jack Douglas12
Sherrie Hewson4
Hattie Jacques1
Sid James4
Vivienne Johnson3
Diane Langton3
David Lodge7
Victor Maddern3
Brian Osborne7
Patsy Rowlands1
Joan Sims11
Barbara Windsor8

In 1977 Peter Rogers admitted that the television series 'hadn't achieved what we set out to do'.


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