1958 – 1961 | 1962 – 1964 | 1965 – 1967
1968 – 1970 | 1971 – 1973 | 1974 – 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. Later on Can-Can chorus girls appear wearing outfits even scantier. 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 Betty Box's Doctor films4 by including in the hospital foyer a portrait of James Robertson Justice who played surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in all made to date. 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.
The Carry On film series had survived being dropped by Anglo Amalgamated and having returned to using Carry On in the film titles, would soon reach the greatest heights of the series and even make films that critics would be prepared to admit existed.