1958 – 1961 | 1962 – 1964 | 1965 – 1967
1968 – 1970 | 1971 – 1973 | 1974 – 1992
Carry On Christmas | Carry On Laughing
By 1971, the Carry On films were all directed by Gerald Thomas, produced by Peter Rogers and since the seventh, Carry On Cabby, they had all been scored by Eric Rogers1 and written by highly talented comedy writer Talbot Rothwell OBE. The biggest changes since 1958 were the move to colour and the change of distributor from Anglo Amalgamated to J Arthur Rank. Yet more changes were afoot. Firstly, Charles Hawtrey's alcoholism was also becoming increasingly apparent and difficult to control. Despite his comedy genius, he was no longer dependable and so his role in each film was reduced to almost cameo appearances. Also Jim Dale, who had established himself solidly in the role of romantic lead, had left the series, leaving a difficult hole to fill. Especially as he was one of the youngest members of the cast and the aging cast were being moved in a direction that they were increasingly unsuited to play; sex symbols.
Cinema in the 1970s
In the 1970s, British cinema polarised and entered a decline. With three channels, television's popularity was seriously denting cinema audiences, especially as home video players were available from 1975. The large number of mid-budget films all-but disappeared. Films tended to either be expensive, glossy productions for the international market, such as Superman or the James Bond films or period dramas made with the American market in mind. Films aimed at the domestic market were in contrast cheap and cheerful. These were usually either film adaptations of popular television sitcoms, horror films or British sexploitation sex comedies.
Before the 1970s, the Carry On's main comedy rivals were the Doctor films2, however by the 1970s the comedy scene had changed. Their rivals were now the Confessions3 and Adventures films, which had a soft-pornographic focus. This trend towards more sex comedy was also reflected on television comedies of the 1970s, including The Benny Hill Show and The Two Ronnies. That said, of the top 20 most successful British films made in the 1970s, four were comedies4.
As the 1970s progressed the Carry On films found it increasingly hard to find their niche, struggling desperately to be hip and trendy when perhaps it would have been better to adopt a more dignified role. One thing that didn't change was the cast's wage, which hadn't changed since 1958. Except for Sid James, Kenneth Connor and Charles Hawtrey who were paid £5,000 per film, the rest of the cast received a flat wage of £2,500 or less per film and no further royalties.
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 films 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.
21. Carry On Henry (1971)
|Or:||Mind My Chopper|
|Plot||The story of King Henry VIII's long-forgotten seventh and eighth wives. After beheading his last wife, Henry is forced to marry Queen Marie of Normandy, cousin of King Francis. Henry would much rather marry the attractive Bettina and suspects his wife Marie of having an affair with Sir Roger de Lodgerley.|
|Setting||Tudor England in the reign of Henry VIII|
Sid James seems born to play sex-mad king Henry VIII, so it seems odd that originally the part was written for Goon Harry Secombe. This included some madrigals for Secombe to sing that were cut out from the film when James was cast. Instead they appear in the 1972 Carry On Christmas. Sid James looks magnificent throughout the film, wearing Richard Burton's Oscar-winning costume from Anne of the Thousand Days5 (1969). He had previously worn the same costume as Richard Burton in Carry On Cleo, reusing costumes from Cleopatra, with both Burton and James playing Marc Antony. Despite James excelling in the role, the film attracted severe criticism that Sid James was playing Henry as a dirty old misogynist, which is odd considering how Henry treated his wives in real life.
The film's alternative title was to have been Anne of the Thousand Lays in homage to the earlier film. It is also the first film to have been given permission to film in the grounds of Windsor Great Park, the grounds of Windsor Castle.
22. Carry On At Your Convenience (1971)
|Plot||Struggling firm WC Boggs & Son manufactures toilets, but may be forced to close due to the frequent strikes, often when the union rep wants to watch a football match. The only way the company can survive is if it makes bidets for the foreign market and both management and workers can work together.|
|Setting||Toilet ceramics factory and also Brighton|
|Drag||Sid disguises himself as a fortune teller.|
Written under the title Carry On Working, which is the last line of the film, Carry On At Your Convenience is about the battles of the classes rather than the more normal battle of the sexes. Producer Peter Rogers, a man who didn't give his cast a pay rise between 1958-1978 while he bought himself two Rolls Royce's a year7, knew which side he was on. Although the Carry On audience is working class, the film was clearly on the side of the management and strongly anti-union. Having alienated its core audience, it becoming the first Carry On film to flop at the box-office. It only recovered its costs through international and television sales.
Bernard Bresslaw couldn't ride a motorbike when making this film, and had to be taught how to ride in a straight line. The scenes set in Brighton where they enjoy a worker's day out are a real delight as you can see the cast enjoying themselves.
Following the criticism of Sid James' character in Carry On Henry, his role is greatly toned down for this film. Instead of a lecherous dirty old man he plays a faithful husband despite both the characters of Sid and Chloe being obviously ideal for each other and unhappy in their own marriages but poignantly not acting on their attraction.
This was Ricard O'Callaghan's second and final Carry On but Kenneth Cope's first. Terry Scott was paid £500 for a day's filming, though all of his scenes were cut from the final film as it was originally 50 minutes over length; scenes featuring Bill Pertwee as the Barman of the Whippit Inn also cut. In America and Australia, the film was released as Carry On Round the Bend. The factory location was in reality Pinewood Studios' timber yard, although the cast did actually go to Brighton, where the Clarges Hotel was used for location shooting and was owned by actress Dora Bryan. She had appeared in Carry On Sergeant (1958).
23. Carry On Matron (1972)
|Plot||Sid Carter plans to steal contraceptive pills from the Finisham Maternity Hospital's birth control centre to sell on the black market abroad. As part of the plan his son enrols in the hospital disguised as a female nurse.|
|Setting||Bunn and Oven Wards, Finisham Maternity Hospital, England|
|Nudity||Bare bottom of Gilly Grant, credited as Nurse in Bath|
Following Carry On at Your Convenience's failure, the series returned to safer territory with a medical comedy, once again filmed with Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot was the hospital's exterior while Pinewood Studios' corridors doubled for the hospital interior.
This was the last Carry On to feature both Terry Scott and Jacki Piper. As Jacki was pregnant when her contract was due for renewal, producer Peter Rogers chose not to renew it. Peter Butterworth does not appear due to other commitments, so Bill Maynard was given the role of Freddy. However the film did introduce Isle of Wight resident Jack Douglas to the series. He had a single day of filming for which he has always maintained he was not paid, although Peter Rogers claims he paid him £25. In either case, when the film made a profit he was sent 12 bottles of champagne as a thank you.
Once again Sid James' character is less lecherous than previously, this time a crook and a father. He had previously played a gang of robbers in The Big Job (1965) which was made by the same production team and also starred Joan Sims. Dr Goode and Matron try to watch a television soap called Surgeons, the plot of which was based on Green for Danger (1947), the first film Hattie Jacques made. Remarkably, the film was finished six and a half days ahead of schedule8
Getting Carried Away
Meanwhile producer Peter Rogers was attempting to expand his horizons beyond the Carry On series by executive producing other projects. These included science fiction film Quest For Love (1971) inspired by John Wyndham's short story Random Quest starring Joan Collins, who also appeared in his Revenge (1971), a psychological thriller about how a community punishes a paedophile, Assault (1972) about the pursuit of a serial rapist and All Coppers Are (1972), a film about a policeman and a criminal who are both in love with the same woman.
Carried Off: Bless This House (1972)
More relevant to the Carry On series, Rogers also bought the film rights to television sitcom Bless This House (1971-6), which starred Sid James as Sid and Patsy Rowland as his neighbour Betty Lewis. Rogers wanted to work with the Carry On cast and crew with whom he was familiar and so this was directed by Gerald Thomas with music by Eric Rogers. Peter Butterworth replaced Anthony Jackson as Trevor with Terry Scott and June Whitfield playing Sid new neighbours. The screenplay was written by Dave Freeman, who wrote the 1970 episode of Carry On Christmas and would write the 1972 Christmas special too, and would go on to write several episodes of Carry On Laughing as well as films Carry On Behind (1975) and Carry On Columbus (1992).
As original actor Robin Stewart was busy, Robin Askwith replaced as Mike. Sid James enjoyed working with Sally Geeson and Robin Askwith so much that he successfully asked Rogers if they could have roles in the Carry On films. Sally Geeson had previously had an uncredited role in Carry On Regardless when she was 11. Bless This House was successful enough for Rogers to begin planning a sequel although a combination of Sid James' limited availability followed by his sudden death meant that this was never made. The plot of the film had no impact on the Bless This House television series, which continued running with the original cast and ignored the film's plot, in which the character of Mike got married, as if it had never existed.
24. Carry On Abroad (1972)
|Plot||WundaTours takes a coach full of tourists to the Mediterranean island of Elsbels, where the hotel run by Pepe and Floella is still being built.|
|Setting||Fictional Mediterranean island and resort of Elsbels, early 1970s.|
|Nudity||Barbara Windsor's bottom in shower, Carol Hawkins' and Sally Geeson's backs|
Despite Carry On at Your Convenience flopping, the scene in Brighton had proved popular and when Rothwell proposed setting a film within the package holiday industry, Peter Rogers excitedly agreed. However instead of filming at a Mediterranean destination, the seaside resort was in fact the Pinewood Studios carpark with a pile of sand dumped on top. June Whitfield returned to the series for the first time since Carry On Nurse in 1959. Hattie Jacques played a small role; billed 11th, she now weighed over 20 stone9. This caused the insurers, worried about her health, to write to producer Peter Rogers to say they were unlikely to insure her on any film set unless things changed. Even worse was Charles Hawtrey, whose drink problem was becoming uncontrollable. Producer Peter Rogers said,
Charles was drinking in the mornings and half asleep for work after more drinking during lunch. He was holding up the production… I had always maintained that a film could wait for no man. To keep these films on budget it had to be a complete team effort with no slackness on anyone's part, whoever they may be.
This was the last Carry On film to star Charles Hawtrey, whose role as an alcoholic mother's boy was very true to life. The final straw came when he gave an ultimatum demanding top billing to appear in 1972's Carry On Christmas or he would refuse to appear. His last day of filming was the scenes set on the coach although the film ends with his arrival in the pub, meeting all the friends he had made on his trip.
Valerie Leon had been intended to be cast as Moira Plunkett with Madeline Smith considered for Lily, however they were unavailable. Olga Lowe who plays Madame Fifi was one of the first actresses to befriend Sid James when he arrived in the UK from South Africa and was with him when he died on stage in 1975.
Carry On Abroad was warmly welcomed by the British public, many of whom could relate to the package holiday and hotel from hell theme.
25. Carry On Girls (1973)
|Plot||Fircombe is a dying seaside town because of its annual rainfall. In order to get more visitors, Sidney Fiddler organises a beauty contest, aided by publicist Peter Potter, much to the disgust of local feminist Augusta Prodworthy, who will stop at nothing to stop it.|
|Setting||Fictional seaside town of Fircombe|
|Drag||Peter Potter disguises himself as woman Patricia Potter to get publicity for the contest.|
|Beauty Queen Cartoons:|
The working title had been Carry On Beauty Queens. The story was inspired by the real 1970 Miss World contest in which Bob Hope was attacked by feminists throwing flour bombs and tomatoes. Councillor Augusta Prodworthy is a perfect impersonation of Mary Whitehouse10, down to her hairstyle and mannerisms. The fictional Fircombe was really filmed at Brighton and the hotel in Brighton used for the film was then owned by Carry On Sergeant actress Dora Bryan, with whom the cast and crew had stayed when filming the Brighton scenes for Carry on at Your Convenience.
Kenneth Williams was unable to appear due to stage commitments and Bill Maynard had originally been cast as the police inspector but had a conflicting television engagement. The character of Cecil Gaybody had originally been written for Charles Hawtrey however his unreliability due to his alcoholism followed by his refusal to appear in the 1972 Carry On Christmas unless he had top billing resulted in his being dropped from the series. This role was recast and heavily cut. This was the fifth and final appearance in the series by Joan Hickson, but the first main film role for Jack Douglas, having impressed with 1972's Carry On Christmas. He was even nominated for a 'Best Film Newcomer' award.
The film attracted undue criticism for its subject of a beauty contest, which was considered sexist. Again there is a degree of stereotyping; the feminists are seen burning bras, for example. However the film's underlying message is that though there are always going to be critics you don't have to be stunning like Valerie Leon or curvaceous like Margaret Nolan to be a successful beauty queen; anyone can be universally considered beautiful, regardless of their appearance, whether they look like Wendy Richard, Bernard Bresslaw or even Barbara Windsor.
The film flopped.
The failure of Carry On Girls led to the cancellation of the annual Carry On Christmas television show. From now on only one Carry On film was made a year, rather than the two a year that had been standard previously. The series was coming to an end, finishing not with a bang but a whimper.