1958 - 1964 | 1965 – 1969 | 1970 – 1992
Carry On Christmas | Carry On Laughing
By 1965 the Carry On films had established themselves as a successful British comedy series, popular with the public but generally looked down or ignored by the critics. The films were all produced by Peter Rogers at Pinewood Studios and directed by Gerald Thomas. Peter Rogers was an independent producer notorious for making his films quickly, cheaply and for going out of his way to avoid paying his actors. In the early 1960s his comedies were released through Anglo Amalgamated films who distributed their films through ABC (Associated British Cinemas). Anglo Amalgamated was run by Stuart Levy, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the Carry On series, and Nat Cohen, who wasn't.
This stage in the series marked a transition as the key cast was still being formed. Although the roles of rebel (Sid James), authority figure (Kenneth Williams), villain (Peter Gilmore) and matronly woman (Hattie Jacques) had been filled, two key roles were still required; the young, romantic lead actor and actress. The lead actor role had originally been played by Leslie Phillips, Kenneth Connor or Bernard Cribbins, however they had all now left the series (although Kenneth Connor would return). Similarly, Shirley Eaton and Liz Fraser had excelled at the love interest characters, however it was felt that neither Juliet Mills nor Julie Stevens had been successful replacements. Joan Sims had also been cast in the glamorous lead female role, however following her return after a period away from the Carry On series, she returned in 1964's Carry On Cleo cast as a nagging wife and would alternate between having glamourous and unflattering roles.
1965 and Carry on Cowboy marked several actors' first Carry On appearances, including new female lead Angela Douglas, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw and a blink-and-you'll-miss-her appearance by Margaret Nolan. Jim Dale, having had minor roles in the previous films, for the first time became the romantic lead and hero and was given a pay rise to £1,600.
All Carry On films made in the mid-1960s were written by Talbot Rothwell OBE. 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 named female characters who have a conversation together that does not include or mention any male characters.
11. Carry On Cowboy (1965)
|Plot||Outlaw the Rumpo Kid rides into Stodge City, kills the sheriff and takes over the town with the aid of saloon-owner Belle, much to the horror of Judge Burke who writes to Washington DC requesting that a marshal comes to clean up the town. In Washington a sanitation engineer named Marshall hopes to make towns cleaner by revolutionising America's sewer system and is mistakenly sent to Stodge City. He is accompanied on his journey by Annie Oakley, who is the sheriff's daughter and seeks revenge for his death.|
|Setting||Stodge City, The Wild West|
|Bechdel||Pass (just). Annie and Belle call each other 'an old bag'|
Called the first British Western and still the definitive western comedy, Carry On Cowboy is another highlight of the series made when the series was at its height. Although Pinewood and surrounding area looks nothing like the Wild West, the set appears as genuine as any seen on the big screen before or since, with added sewers. The set was specially designed to have buildings at both ends of the main street to hide the fact that it was filmed at Pinewood. Producer Peter Rogers described the making of the film with the words,
We saved a fortune by not going to America. Why bother? We had acres of field and Sid James in a black cowboy hat; the field was the prairie, he was our villain. We even had a totally convincing Western settlement built on the backlot at Pinewood. Our film was the only time a Western town had a right hand turnoff when the buildings were finished. Usually you would see a great expanse of uncivilised landscape. If we had revealed what was behind that last house, you would probably have seen the Pinewood canteen!
Another way that Peter Rogers saved a fortune was by refusing to give his scriptwriter, Talbot Rothwell, a percentage of profits when he asked for one while writing this film. Instead, Rothwell was paid a flat fee of £5,000 without royalties.
As no Western would be complete without a show scene, Angela Douglas sings 'This is the Night for Love' while wearing a skimpy outfit, which is nothing compared to the Can-Can chorus girls. Kenneth Williams based his American accent on Hal Roach, producer of the Laurel and Hardy films. Carry On Cowboy was the only Carry On to go behind schedule, finishing a day late due to rain.
12. Carry On Screaming! (1966)
|Plot||Women keep disappearing in the area surrounding Hocombe Wood, near the Bide-A-Wee Rest Home. Can the long arm of the law solve the mystery of the monster's finger? Will Detective Bung's wife ever get out of bed? What are the Watts doing with electricity? Did something take the missing girls, or are they all lost dummies?|
|Drag||Slobotham (Peter Butterworth) as bait.|
Carry On Screaming, the longest film in the series, continued the run of Carry On films at the top of their game, with Fenella Fielding's performance particularly memorable2. Having mocked the James Bond series with Carry On Spying, this film turned to that other great British cinema staple, Hammer Horror. There were also nods to popular comedies such as The Munsters and The Addams Family.
There were some cast issues. Firstly, Sid James was forced to pull out due to his commitments on television sitcom George and the Dragon. His character of Sidney Bung was recast with Harry H Corbett of Steptoe and Son appearing in his only Carry On role, paid a then record £12,000. Charles Hawtrey did not originally have a role in this film but was given the role of Dan Dann, which had originally been intended for Sydney Bromley. When the original cast had been announced without Hawtrey listed, newspapers had speculated that Charles Hawtrey would no longer appear in any Carry On film. He was paid £400 for his brief appearance.
In order to ensure the film looked authentic, Edwardian cars from Beaulieu Abbey's National Motor Museum were hired. Unfortunately during a long night shoot, Jim Dale and Norman Mitchell, who had had minor appearances in three previous films in the series and was playing the cabby, were heard to joke that they should go on strike. Taking this innocent comment out of proportion, Peter Rogers did not cast Mitchell in a Carry On again for ten years.
13. Carry On Don't Lose Your Head (1966)
|Plot||During the French Revolution two bored English noblemen decide to save members of the French nobility from the guillotine. Can they escape the clutches of Citizens Camembert and Bidet?|
In early 1966 Stuart Levy suddenly died. Nat Cohen, his surviving partner at Anglo Amalgamated, had always felt that the Carry On films were beneath him. He announced that Anglo Amalgamated would no longer make any more Carry Ons. Determined to keep calm and carry on the Carry Ons, Peter Rogers contacted Anglo Amalgamated's rival distributor, J Arthur Rank. Rank was the biggest film company in Britain at the time and had been founded in 1937 by J Arthur Rank when he had wanted to make a film promoting his Methodist beliefs. To ensure it was seen he bought the Odeon Cinema chain in 1938 and acquired various film studios and other cinema chains over the next three decades. Rank were delighted to welcome Peter Rogers and give him the support he needed.
Carry On Don't Lose Your Head was initially released as Don't Lose Your Head as Rank were unsure whether they could legally use the Carry On title. They also did not want audiences to associate the film with Anglo Amalgamated rather than themselves, but still hoped to keep the links to the previous films. They decided to compromise, advertising the film with the slogan, 'Carry On Laughing Until You Have Hysterics But Don't Lose Your Head', with one of Kenneth Williams' lines being 'Carry on chopping!' as a reference. In America the film was simply released as Carry On Pimpernel. As Baroness Orczy had died in the 1940s, influential novel The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) was still in copyright. Producer Peter Rogers responded by writing to her estate to say that Carry On Don't Lose Your Head's heroic Black Fingernail rescuing French aristocrats from the guillotine was not in any way based on The Scarlet Pimpernel, who heroically rescued French aristocrats from the guillotine.
Though the 13th Carry On, it was the 25th film Peter Rogers produced that was directed by Gerald Thomas. The National Trust was contacted to arrange location filming to provide period setting. Clandon Park was used for the interior scenes set at Ffing House, along with Clivedon, which was used as the exterior. The only French-chateau in the country, Rothschild family home Waddeson Manor, was Camembert's home. The film also includes a baroque cover of The Beatles' 'She Loves You'. Unusually a French actress, Dany Robin, was cast to play Frenchwoman Jacqueline; Robin was married to Sid James' agent.
Without the highly successful Carry On films to support them, Anglo Amalgamated was taken over by Associated British Picture Corporation in 1967, which itself was sold by its parent Seven Arts to EMI in 1968.
14. Carry On Follow That Camel (1967)
|Plot||After being accused of deliberately tripping a friend during a game of cricket, Bertram Oliphant 'BO' West and his servant Simpson join the foreign legion, unaware that his name has been cleared and the love of his life is following. Yet the legion is in trouble as the Bedouins led by Sheikh Abdul Abulbul are plotting their massacre.|
|Setting||1906 England and Algeria|
Another Carry On initially released without the Carry On name, this film was inspired by PC Wren's Beau Geste3 (1926) with Jim Dale as BO West, although Jim Dale was not the film's star. Sid James had had a heart attack caused by the stress of his George and the Dragon commitments. A replacement actor was needed to be Carry On Follow That Camel's main character, but who? Accounts differ as to whether it was studio Rank or producer Peter Rogers who decided on a new tactic to try and break into the US market, where only Carry On Nurse had been successful. To do this it was decided to cast a famous American comic in the main role. Rank initially announced that they were in talks with Woody Allen, however in the end Phil Silvers was cast.
In the UK Phil Silvers was at the peak of his popularity, as his 1950s series The Phil Silvers Show aka Bilko (1955-9) was being broadcast to great reception. Rank did not realise that in America his star was fading and his latest series, The New Phil Silvers Show (1963-4) had flopped and been cancelled. The Carry On cast found him difficult to work with, particularly as he refused to learn his lines. His appearance did not increase interest in America, where the film was released as Carry On In The Legion.
Location filming took place at Rye on the Sussex coast, with a full-sized fort built at Camber Sands. It took so many lights to light the set that they were given a warning by the Electricity Company that they were using too much electricity. The country house scenes were filmed at Swakeleys in Middlesex. With three weeks' location filming, this was also the most location filming in the series. A camel was hired from Chessington Zoo for this film, however Sheena, having lived all her life in a zoo, was reluctant to walk on the sand and would only do so if metal plates were buried just beneath the surface.
The character Corktip was named in reference to the foreign legion film Under Two Flags (1936) which featured Claudette Colbert as a character called Cigarette. The film's biggest weakness has to be the female characters. Angela Douglas had played a strong character in Carry On Cowboy but in this film her role is reduced to be taken advantage of by everyone she meets in a series of uncomfortable scenes implying rape along with dialogue such as 'that's a funny way to check my porthole!' Sadly neither she nor co-stars Joan Sims and Anita Harris are given a great deal to do other than be seductive or taken advantage of.
The film does strongly resemble a historical Carry On Sergeant, complete with bayonet practice mishap. Shortly after being initially released as Follow That Camel to an indifferent reaction, both this and Don't Lose Your Head were re-released. When renamed Carry On Follow That Camel and Carry On Don't Lose Your Head they attracted more attention, but neither were as successful as had been hoped, leading to rumours that the next would be the last in the series.
15. Carry On Doctor (1967)
|Plot||When Francis Bigger, a man who makes his living telling people that they don't need doctors to be healthy as it is all a case of mind over matter, has an accident he is admitted to hospital. There the patients are embroiled in the internal politics, with the unsympathetic Dr Tinkle and Matron on one side plotting to get ride of Dr Kilmore.|
|Setting||Hospital in England|
|Drag||Ken Biddle (Bernard Bresslaw) as a nurse.|
Carry On Doctor was a conscious attempt to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the most successful film in the series, Carry On Nurse, and even included a nod to the earlier film's daffodil joke. It also included a reference to producer Peter Rogers' wife's Betty Box's Doctor films by including in the hospital foyer a portrait of James Robertson Justice who played surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in all six. This was also because Peter Rogers believed it likely that this would be the last film in the Carry On series and wanted it to be a tribute to both his films and his wife's. As the film title contained the word 'Doctor', he gave his wife a percentage of the profit.
This also was the first Carry On for Frankie Howerd, who had originally been offered the role of Doctor Tinkle, much to his disappointment while Kenneth Williams was offered the bigger role of Mr Bigger. However both actors were unhappy with these roles and asked to swap, leaving both satisfied. Joan Sims was originally offered the role of Matron but said Hattie Jacques was the natural choice, leading to her return to the series for the first time since 1963. Sid James, keen to return to work following his heart attack, was given the role of a patient as this allowed him to spend most of the film lying in bed. Jim Dale would take a two-year break from the Carry On series following this film, while Barbara Windsor makes her second appearance in the series, following Carry On Spying three years earlier. Maidenhead Town Hall doubled as the hospital while the Lancaster Hotel was used as the Nurses' Home.
After Carry On Doctor was highly successful at the box office, more Carry On films were guaranteed.
16. Carry On Up the Khyber (1968)
|Or:||The British Position in India|
|Plot||In the border of India, the 3rd Foot & Mouth Highland Regiment guard the key Khyber Pass. Known as the Devils in Skirts, the belief they wear nothing beneath their kilts strikes fear in those who would rebel against them. Yet the discovery that actually they are wearing pants beneath their kilts could result in a full Burpa rebellion and massacre that may interrupt tiffin.|
|Setting||1895, the Khyber Pass between India and Afghanistan|
|Drag||Keene (Castle), Widdle (Hawtrey), MacNutt (Scott) and Belcher (Butterworth) disguise themselves as belly dancers.|
|Bechdel||Pass – Princess Jelhi warns Lady Ruff-Diamond she is to die the death of a thousand cuts.|
One of the series highlights in a film that spoofs such classics as Zulu (1964) and mocks Colonialism while remaining affectionately amused by the British way of life. In fact, so successful was Carry On Up the Khyber at the time that respectable film critics were even prepared to acknowledge its existence, with Carry On Up the Khyber was the most reviewed Carry On4. Though still frequently dismissed as low brow entertainment, it is the pinnacle of low brow entertainment; in 1999 the BFI called it the 99th Best British Film of all time.
Sid James returns to full strength to play the hero following his heart attack and Roy Castle is the romantic lead in a role written for Jim Dale. Bernard Bresslaw is essentially the same character as he had in Carry On Follow That Camel, playing to his strengths, with Bunghit Din a pun on Rudyard Kipling's poem 'Gunga Din'. Sadly this was the last Carry On to feature Angela Douglas, who left in order to concentrate on her family. Valerie Leon makes her Carry On debut, albeit in a minor role as one of the harem girls. Terry Scott also returns to the series, having briefly appeared in Carry On Sergeant ten years earlier.
There were some casting disappointments. Rogers had hoped that Frankie Howerd would appear, however he was committed to stage play The Wind in the Sassafras Trees. Tommy Cooper was even offered the role of the Fakir, but when he was unavailable the role was heavily trimmed and given to Cardew Robinson.
Surprisingly, although Pinewood Studios' mansion house doubled as the Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond's residence, location filming took place outside the Home Counties. A whole week's shooting actually took place in Snowdonia in Wales, the furthest filming from Pinewood the Carry On crew ever travelled.
J Arthur Rank executives apparently disliked the name Carry On Up The Khyber as 'Khyber Pass' is rhyming slang for arse, and wanted the film renamed Carry On the Regiment instead. To quote a line from the film, 'rank stupidity'.
17. Carry On Camping (1969)
|Or:||Let Sleeping Bags Lie|
|Plot||After watching a film set in a nudists' colony5 called Paradise, Sid and Bernie plot to take their girlfriends there in the hope for sex, but instead end up at a campsite with the same name. There they are joined by a variety of different characters including a party of girls from finishing school Chayste Place.|
|Setting||Paradise Campsite, late 1960s Southwest England|
The most successful British film of the year, Carry On Camping is many people's favourite film in the series. It features many wonderful character moments from Peter Butterworth and is quite possibly Terry Scott's strongest role as a henpecked husband and in quite a nice nod to earlier films, it is implied that Hattie Jacques is playing the same character as appeared in Carry On Doctor.
The film is famed for the Barbara Windsor exercising scene in which her character's bra is flung off during early morning exercises, the first, brief, female nudity to appear in a Carry On. This was achieved with a fishing line attached to the bikini to pull it away at the right moment.
However despite these highlights, overall the tone is less consistent than previous films. While Carry On Up the Khyber is a timeless classic, Carry On Camping has dated in parts, particularly the subplot involving old men ogling young schoolgirls.
The location filming took place in the fields and orchards around Pinewood Studio, as well as nearby houses. Set in the height of summer, Carry On Camping was filmed in the cold November of 1968, with mud spray-painted green to look like grass. Julian Holloway's character was expected to have a bigger, Jim Dale-like role. A romantic subplot had been written involving Sally, played by Trisha Noble, who had been expected to step into the lead young female role vacated by Angela Douglas. As Trisha Noble was frequently late to set and considered unreliable, the subplot containing them both was cut and she did not feature in more Carry On films. Instead Barbara Windsor was promoted as the film's female star and quickly rose in prominence.
18. Carry On Again Doctor (1969)
|Plot||Dr Nookey is in love with model Goldie Locks but is unpopular with fellow doctors, particularly Dr Stoppidge, who spikes his drink with alcohol. After behaving badly he is sent to the Beatific Islands where he meets Gladstone Screwer, a man who knows the secret behind a genuine slimming serum. Aided by wealthy widow Mrs Moore, they open the Moore-Nookey Clinic, but will things go to plan?|
|Setting||Long Hampton Hospital, England and Mission in the Beatific Islands|
|Drag||Dr Stoppidge (Hawtrey) disguises himself as Lady Puddleton|
This film seems a bit out of place in the Carry On series, with Charles Hawtrey cast in a serious role and Sid James only appearing halfway through. In fact, Carry On Again Doctor began life as a prospective adaptation of Doctor in Clover (1968) Talbot Rothwell had written for the Doctor series7. Although a script written by Jack Davies was used instead for Doctor In Clover, the script was tweaked to become a Carry On film instead. As Rank owned the film rights to Richard Gordon's Doctor books this wasn't a legal problem. So the role originally written for Sir Lancelott Spratt became Kenneth Williams' character Frederick Carver.
Steptoe and Son star William Brambell briefly appears in the film, for his silent appearance he was paid £100. After a year's absence from the Carry On films, Jim Dale returns for his penultimate appearance; he would not appear again until 1992. Jim Dale performed all his own stunts in the film, as Peter Rogers described
He insisted on doing all his own stunts. I remember Gerald [Thomas, director] telling him to look round in the direction of the camera before falling through that hammock at the shack that was Sid James [character's] house just to prove to the audience that it really was Jim Dale doing it. That was, after all, the point.
Performing the stunts always took place at the end of the filming in case something went wrong, which in this case it did as he broke his arm when riding the hospital trolley down the stairs.
As the film involved Barbara Windsor wearing nothing but strategically-placed love hearts, she had gone on a strict diet to lose weight, much to the director's disappointment, as he felt she had been far more attractive with a fuller figure. This was also the Carry On debut of Patsy Rowlands.
Once again Maidenhead Town Hall doubles as the hospital, while the Moore-Nookey clinic was the Pinewood Mansion House and Doctor Nookey's consulting rooms was in Windsor, the same building that was the Helping Hands in Carry On Regardless.
Role of Women
The roles of women begin to polarise in this period, with Joan Sims' characters in particularly alternating between nagging harridan and seductive temptress. A pattern begins to emerge in which in the historical comedies, women have much more restrictive roles such as wife or love interest than in the films with contemporary settings. While every contemporary set Carry On passes the Bechdel test with flying colours, only two of five Historical set films pass, and then only just.