1958 - 1961 | 1962 - 1964 | 1965 - 1969 | 1970 - 1992
Carry On Christmas | Carry On Laughing
The Carry On films were a long-running series of 31 comedy films made between 1958-1992 that also inspired some television spin-offs. Each film was directed by Gerald Thomas and produced by Peter Rogers, starring a regular repertoire of actors.
Peter Rogers was an independent producer who released his films through Anglo Amalgamated Films, the UK's second biggest film company of the time behind only J Arthur Rank. Peter Rogers was married to Betty Box, a highly successful producer in her own right. She worked for Gainsborough, part of the J Arthur Rank organisation and produced the Doctor series1. These were directed by Ralph Thomas and edited by his brother Gerald Thomas, who had edited films such as Hamlet (1948), The October Man and Disney's The Sword and the Rose (1955). Recognising that Gerald Thomas had the visual flair required for a director, Rogers approached Thomas to see if he would be interested in directing.
Peter Rogers had a phobia of travel and suffered severely from homesickness. This, as well as budget reasons, meant that the films were made at Pinewood Studios or, when location filming, as close to Pinewood Studios as possible. He also had a reputation for being the lowest-paying producer in Britain; famously not giving the Carry On cast a pay rise between 1958 and 1978 nor allowing them royalties. When the series was established, Sid James and Kenneth Williams were paid £5,000 per film while other starring members of the cast including Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas and others as well were paid around £2,500 per film. Meanwhile Rogers himself bought two Rolls Royce a year; a convertible for summer and hardtop for winter. He famously once said I would do anything for my actors, except pay them. His view was that all the actors were expendable as the title Carry On was the star of his films.
The main Carry On cast and actors credited on four or more films are listed in Bold. As the Carry On films are considered to be quite sexist, whether or not the episodes pass the Bechdel Test is also mentioned. 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. Carry On Sergeant (1958)
|Plot||A group of incompetent raw National Service recruits are conscripted into the army, much to the annoyance of Sergeant Grimshaw, who has bet £50 that he will have his best platoon. Due to their incompetence and their lack of enthusiasm and ability, they have a series of misadventures and cause all sorts of problems, yet at the end of the film they show they have what it takes to really make it, and Sergeant Grimshaw is proud to have known them as he retires.|
|Colour?||Black and White|
|Setting||Heathercrest National Service Depot, mid-20th Century Britain.|
|Writer||Norman Hudis with John Antrobus|
|Music||By Bruce Montgomery, played by the Band of the Coldstream Guards|
Carry On Sergeant had begun as a promising but unsuitable script titled The Bull Boys by RF Delderfield, in which a couple of ballet dancers are conscripted into the army. After Peter Rogers acquired the script he asked John Antrobus, one of the writers of popular sitcom The Army Game (1957-1961), to develop it. Although Antrobus created several comic scenes that survive in the film, his plot as a whole did not fit together. So the script was given to Norman Hudis, a publicist who Rogers knew wanted a break as a writer. He had the idea for it to be about a bunch of incompetent National Service recruits, including a man who is called up on his wedding day before being able to enjoy his honeymoon.
The film had a small budget of £74,000, about a quarter of the typical cost of a British comedy film at the time. The cast members were paid the bare minimum to keep the entire wages bill to a mere £10,985. He bribed the Pinewood Studio's Works Committee to agree when he promised to throw them an end-of-picture party. Filming took place at the Stoughton Barracks near Guildford in Surrey, with the army happily supplying genuine rifles and machine guns.
Many of the film's star cast would never appear in a Carry On again, including William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse, Dora Bryan and Gerald Campion. This means the film never quite feels like a Carry On until Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey appear, with minor roles compared to the more dominant parts they would play in later films. However the film establishes Hattie Jacques in a firm, authoritative role from the start.
The film industry predicted that the film would flop as Carry On Sergeant shared three of the cast4 with The Army Game, which could be watched at home for free. In fact, The Army Game's popularity helped the film and the actors. As Norman Rossington had recently been informed his contract would not be renewed for more The Army Game, he eagerly filmed Carry On Sergeant and has said,
I don't know if Gerald Thomas, Peter Rogers and Norman Hudis created 'Carry On Sergeant' with 'The Army Game' in mind, but when they heard I was sacked, they asked me to play Herbert Brown.
After the film's success he was reinstated in The Army Game with a pay rise.
2. Carry On Nurse (1959)
|Plot||A week on a men's ward in a hospital ruled by the iron determination of the matron.|
|Colour?||Black and White|
|Setting||King George V Ward in Haven Hospital, mid-20th Century England|
|Nurses & Staff:|
|Patients & Visitors|
|Drag||Charles Hawtrey as a surprisingly believable nurse.|
Following Carry On Sergeant's success Peter Rogers hoped to make a drama, however Anglo Amalgamated wanted another comedy. Rogers owned the film rights to a play called Ring For Catty by Patrick Cargill and Jacke Beale, based in a tuberculosis sanatorium. Although not a comedy, the play contained comic moments, and was used as the start for what became Carry On Nurse. However as so many changes were made that nothing remained of the original play, Rogers would later adapt it more faithfully as Twice Round the Daffodils in 1962.
This is writer Norman Hudis' only Carry On which didn't involve incompetent staff. His wife, Rita Hudis5, was a nurse who helped provide some ideas, however Hudis hit writer's block until he was rushed into hospital with appendicitis. Inspired, after being discharged he wrote the script in a week, saying,
I had no interest or intention of getting dubious laughs out of incompetent nurses: first of all, they wouldn't last long on active duty and second, comedy or not, the underlying reality was that they frequently held life and death in their young hands and screwing up was no laughing matter.
Rogers tried to cast the same actors from Carry On Sergeant, but Dora Bryan was unavailable due to stage commitments. Rogers replaced her with Joan Sims. who had appeared in many of his wife's films. The medical equipment seen in the film was loaned from the Bermondsey Work Group Hospital Management Committee, the Central Middlesex Group Hospital and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The building itself was Pinewood Studio's Heatherdean Hall.
While female characters have all the power and authority in the film, they do divide into two categories; nurse or visiting loved one, with the exception of Dr Winn. She only has a minor appearance in the film, however the male surgeon, Mr Stephens, has no more impact. In one scene Charles Hawtrey disguises himself as a nurse played by Marita Stanton, however he looks surprisingly similar to Student Nurse Nightingale (Rosalind Knight), who was seen in a scene set the day before. Kenneth Connor's own son Jeremy plays his character's son Jeremy. Shirley Eaton discovered she was pregnant during filming and left the series.
Carry On Nurse became the most successful British film of the year, and was also an unprecedented success in America. In fact it would by far be the most successful of the Carry On series and the only one to make any impact in the United States.
3. Carry On Teacher (1959)
|Plot||The week before the end of term, the headmaster of Maudlin Street Secondary School tells his teachers he is considering applying to be headmaster of a brand new school in the country. This conversation is overheard by one of his pupils who encourages the others to conduct a series of practical jokes while the school is being inspected in order to prevent his getting the job. Following a series of misadventures, at the end of the film Headmaster Wakefield is proud to have known the children and chooses not to accept promotion.|
|Colour?||Black and White|
|Setting||Maudlin Street Secondary Modern School, late 1950s England.|
In many ways, Carry On Teacher is the most dated film of the series, showing an era in which it was considered odd to be a teacher who does not regularly cane their children. Even Mr Milton who strongly disapproves of it admits he has caned pupils in the past. The school has dangerous chemicals and books on bomb-making and terrorism freely accessible but there no sex education and the English department only has the Bowdlerised version of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet where all the naughty bits have been edited out. Filming took place at Drayton Secondary School in West Ealing during the school holidays, with many local children turning up to appear in the final scene.
Richard O'Sullivan would later find fame with sitcoms including Doctor at Large (1971) and Man About the House (1973-6). Larry Dann would later return to the Carry On series in the 1970s with roles in Carry On Behind, Carry On England and Carry On Emmannuelle. Diane Langton, who would later appear in Carry On England and the Carry On Laughing television series is one of the children in the crowd.
The women in the film continue to have strong roles, with Hattie Jacques as the strict, authoritarian maths teacher and Joan Sims as the PE teacher. Similarly, the government school inspector who terrifies the main cast is female. Charles Hawtrey, being a classical pianist, is a natural as the music teacher.
In many ways, this is the closest the Carry On series came to their rivals the St Trinian's films6 and had similar opening credits featuring cartoon drawings of pupils running amok. Carry On Teacher's itching powder gag would later be re-used in Carry On Girls.
Ted Ray was always the first choice for the role of Headmaster 'Wakey' Wakefield, although Rogers was unsure whether he would be available and had Sergeant star Eric Barker as his second choice. Ted Ray had worked regularly with Rosalind Knight and Kenneth Connor on his radio series Ray's A Laugh. It had been hoped Ted Ray would become a regular Carry On character, however he was under contract with ABC7, who threatened to no longer release any Anglo Amalgamated films if Ted Ray appeared in any more Carry On films. They agreed to let Ray finish the next Rogers film he was starring in that was already in production, Please Turn Over.
Carried Off: Please Turn Over (1959)
Rogers was determined to make more than just Carry On films, but none matched the popular success of the Carry On series. His other films of the period share the same producer, director, writer and cast members as the Carry On films and can be seen as Carry Ons in all-but name. Their next film was Please Turn Over, a comedy based on that year's popular West End play of the same name. This was adapted by Norman Hudis and starred Carry On actors Leslie Phillips, Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims as well as Ted Ray.
4. Carry On Constable (1960)
|Plot||Flu has all-but incapacitated a police station! A group of incompetent raw recruits join the force, much to the annoyance of incompetent Inspector Mills, who blames Sergeant Wilkins for their incompetence and threatens to have him transferred. Due to the recruits' incompetence and over-enthusiasm, they have a series of misadventures and cause all sorts of problems, generally showing that they couldn't even catch a cold let alone a crook. Yet at the end of the film by they show they have what it takes by capturing the gang of thieves. Sergeant Wilkins is proud to have known them and it is Mills and not Wilkins who is transferred.|
|Colour?||Black and White|
|Drag||Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor as Agnes and Ethel, disguises to capture shoplifter|
|Writer||Norman Hudis, based on an idea by Brock Williams8|
|Nudity||Constable, Benson, Gorse and Potter's bottoms when they take a freezing-cold shower.|
Carry On Constable is in many ways a series of slapstick sketches with the bare minimum of a plot to hold the film together, and sadly the actresses are underused. The key role had been written for Ted Ray, however a new lead actor was needed to replace him. Rogers therefore cast Sid James, who worked well with Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams on Hancock's Half Hour and had appeared in some of Betty Box's films including Upstairs and Downstairs (1959) in which he had played a policeman.
Instead inspiration came from the 1958 flu epidemic. Filming involved a generous 14 days' location filming around Ealing, with Hanwell Library9 on Cherrington Road used as the police station. Filming took place in November, scheduled so it would not interfere with the cast's panto work.
Following the film's release no Carry On would be made for over a year. One idea titled What a Carry On included a number of sketches but nothing linked the scenes together. There were also proposals titled Carry On Flying about raw recruits joining the RAF, which would have been based on Norman Hudis' wartime experience, with a script written in 1962, and Carry on Smoking about raw recruits joining the fire brigade. Rogers cancelled both, afraid there would be a plane crash or fire tragedy that would lead to the films being withdrawn.
Carried Off: Watch Your Stern and No Kidding (1960)
Instead of Carry On films, Rogers' made two other comedies utilising the Carry On cast and crew. The first was naval comedy Watch Your Stern which included Hattie Jacques, Leslie Phillips, Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims and Sid James. This was followed by No Kidding, a story about rich children that starred Leslie Phillips. Although the film failed, Rogers and Betty bought and moved to the house where filming took place as it was close to Pinewood.
5. Carry On Regardless (1961)
|Plot||A group of incompetent raw recruits join the Helping Hands employment agency, run by Bert Handy and assisted by Miss Cooling. Due to their incompetence and their enthusiasm not matching their experience or ability, they have a series of misadventures and cause all sorts of problems. Yet at the end of the film they show they have what it takes to really make it and the landlord is so impressed with their work he chooses not to evict the agency from the premises.|
|Colour?||Black and White|
The cast play agency staff hired to do 20 different jobs, making the film a sketch show. Some scenes work better than others, but the one in which Kenneth Williams plays a translator is particularly fine acting. Hudis' scripts often had Williams as unsympathetic characters however Williams' performance is at his best when he is given more to do than either appear smugly superior or uncomfortable around women. Delia King was intended to be played by Hattie Jacques who fell ill shortly before filming began. Her character's lines were given to Joan Sims and Liz Frazer while she had a small cameo as Sister while Joan Hickson played the Matron, reversing the characters they played in Carry On Nurse. For this, Jacques was paid £100. Patrick Cargill, who had written the play that Carry On Nurse was based on, also briefly cameos.
A chimpanzee appears in the film, living in the house that would later be used as Terry Scott's character's house in Carry On Up the Jungle while the Helping Hands agency building would be re-used as Dr Nookey's consulting rooms in Carry On Again Doctor. One of the girls at the Ideal Home Exhibition watching Kenneth Williams' toy demonstrations was Sally Geeson, who would later star opposite Sid James as his daughter in Bless This House and would be in Carry On Abroad and Carry On Girls.
Carried Off: Raising the Wind and Twice Round the Daffodils (1962)
Raising the Wind was written by Carry On composer Bruce Montgomery, who had also written a series of detective novels. Montgomery's working relationship with Rogers ended soon after when Rogers paid Montgomery to write a cello concerto which was never written. In fact Montgomery had not written any music for some time, and had been hiring Eric Rogers to write for him anonymously. Montgomery was then replaced by Eric Rogers as the Carry On composer. This film features Jim Dale's debut, credited 39th as 'Bass Trombone'. Despite this minor role he impressed Rogers enough for Rogers to give him increasingly larger parts in following films.
The Ring For Catty script that had inspired Carry On Nurse was developed again by Hudis, this time based in a tuberculosis sanatorium. Now titled Twice Round the Daffodils, it included Carry On stars Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Juliet Mills and Lance Percival. Rogers mistakenly believed that tuberculosis had been eliminated, however over 5,000 people had died of the disease in the UK in 1961. As jokes about it did not go down well, the film performed poorly.
Soon the Carry On films would continue in colour!