1958 - 1964 | 1965 - 1969 | 1970 - 1992
Carry On Christmas | Carry On Laughing
By 1970, 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 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.
19. Carry On Up the Jungle (1970)
|Plot||In the late Victorian era an expedition in the heart of the African jungle sets out to find the rare Oozalum Bird. They survive seeing stock-footage clips of all sorts of animals and intimate encounters with the deadly vindscreen viper before they find themselves under attack from the Noshas, a race of cannibals. Do the Lubi Dubis, a tribe of Amazonian women, have a fate worse than death in mind, and is their only hope a Jungle Boy who can't swing from a vine without colliding with a concealed tree?|
|Nudity||Joan Sims' body double in the shower (filmed from a distance).|
Alongside making the first Carry On Christmas television special was the filming of Carry On Up The Jungle, which featured the same cast. Kenneth Williams was unavailable due to his commitments for his BBC series The Kenneth Williams Show, and so Frankie Howerd was cast instead. This was his second and last Carry On film role. It had been hoped to have Williams cameo as the king, but in the end this role was played by Charles Hawtrey.
The film was to be a spoof of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan and had the working title of Carry On Jungle Boy, however a potential lawsuit saw this change. It had been hoped to cast Jim Dale as the Jungle Boy, but Dale did not want to take on what he felt was a role beneath him, ended his relationship with the Carry On series until 1992. Producer Peter Rogers explains:
If you were part of the team, you were expected to play whatever part you were offered. Sid James and Charles Hawtrey were always happy just to be included in the films. Jim complained to me that the role was nothing more than a lot of nonsensical grunts, ughs and face-pulling. Well, so is Frankenstein's Monster – it's up to the actor to bring the best out of a role. In my opinion the jungle boy character had a lot of potential for a performer who was as adept at physical comedy as Jim Dale clearly was, but he was adamant the role wasn't good enough for him. So we recast.
Terry Scott appeared instead, although his loincloth costume did have the habit of falling off during filming. The character of June, renamed from Jane to avoid legal trouble, was played by new Carry On actress Jacki Piper, who was the only Carry On actor ever to be placed under contract. She had signed a three-year contract to solve the recurring problem of needing to find a lead young female actress, although Valerie Leon has finally achieved a large enough role to be billed on the first card. Kenneth Connor also makes a welcome return to the series for the first time since Carry On Cleo in 1964.
Overall there can be no denying that this is one of the weakest of the series. There is a constant plethora of stock footage and it isn't long before seeing the gorilla go into and out of everyone's tents gets a bit repetitive. It is a spoof of Tarzan films and Boys' Own adventures in the mould of H Rider Haggard, but Terry Scott's convincing performance aside, the jokes don't seem to swing naturally and much of the humour comes from stereotyping.
The characters of the bearers and African cannibals conform to every known native stereotype. Portrayed as cowardly and expendable, we do not see any individual personality or learn the motives behind their behaviour. This leads to the character of Upsidasi, the servant played by a blacked-up Bernard Bresslaw. This naturally has been criticised as racist, showing how what culture finds acceptable has changed since 1970. Although blacking up is no longer acceptable, Upsidasi is at least portrayed positively, being brave, loyal, resourceful and better at hunting and everything else than his friend Boosey; the only criticism you can make about his character is that he is asleep when the gorilla is in camp. When he was given the part, Bernard Bresslaw was delighted not to be playing the baddie and approached the role with enthusiasm. His desire to be authentic meant that instead of just speaking the gibberish in the script, he took the trouble to learn a series of useful Ndebele phrases.
20. Carry On Loving (1970)
|Plot||Sidney and Sophie run the Wedded Bliss Computer Dating agency in Much Snogging-on-the-Green, posing as a married couple. Yet their computer is as fake as their marriage, so can any of their customers enjoy a match made in heaven?|
Peter Rogers decided to capitalise on the success of television comedy The Mating Machine (1970) and films Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) and Loving (1970). It was obvious that a younger cast was needed and so Richard O'Callaghan and Imogen Hassall were hired, however neither would last long. Imogen would not make any more Carry On films and O'Callaghan only one other, as Peter Rogers explained,
Richard was a delightful chap, he had the right sort of naivety I was looking for in the character he played in 'Carry On Loving'. But when it came to dashing, hero types he was less believable. We did need a Jim Dale type for the 70s, but Richard wasn't quite it.
There is a degree of old vs new attitudes to morality, with Jenny Grubb coming from an extremely sheltered, oppressive Victorian household only to instantly transform into a model willing to get her 'watermelons' out. Seeing more conflict between the two contradictory ways of living before reaching a compromise would probably have been more satisfactory.
Patsy Rowlands is given a brief moment to shine, while Peter Butterworth's appearance is another short one-scene cameo, for which he was paid £125. Tragically scenes featuring James Beck and Yutte Stensgaard were cut. The same address in Windsor as had been the Helping Hands Agency and Dr Nookey's Consultancy played the Wedded Bliss Agency, while Windsor Station was used for the station scenes.
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 and instead 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, all of which was cut from the final film when it was discovered to be 50 minutes over length, with 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 who 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. However to succeed his son must enrol in the hospital disguised as a 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 she was pregnant during the making of the film while 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 schedule, more than making up for the day over schedule on Carry On Cowboy.
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.
More relevant to the Carry On series, he also bought the film rights to television sitcom Bless This House (1971-6), which starred Sid James as Sid. His adaptation included Peter Butterworth replacing Anthony Jackson as Trevor, with Terry Scott and June Whitfield playing Sid's character's neighbours. Robin Askwith replaced Robin Stewart as Mike, with the cast including Patsy Rowland and Sally Geeson. The screenplay was written by Dave Freeman. Sid James enjoyed working with Sally Geeson and Robin Askwith so much that he requested that they have roles in the Carry On films, although Sally Geeson had previously had an uncredited role in Carry On Regardless when she was 11. Bless This House was successful enough to warrant plans for a sequel.
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 stone8. 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.
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 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 Whitehouse9, 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 engagements. 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 sexist10. 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, which led to the cancellation of the annual Carry On Christmas television show and also meant that from now on only one Carry On was made a year, rather than the two a year that had been standard until then. The working title had been Carry On Beauty Queens.
Also at this time stage show Carry On London! was performed at the Birmingham Hippodrome and London's Victoria Palace. Starring Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Jack Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Connor and Peter Butterworth, this stage show ran until 1975. It was during this time that a relationship developed between Babs and Sid.
26. Carry On Dick (1974)
|Plot||Desmond Fancey and Jock Strapp are after Big Dick, the notorious highwayman known as Dick Turpin. Unaware that the local vicar is the notorious highwayman, will they be able to catch him before he strikes again?|
|Setting||Mid-18th Century England|
Another fun historical adventure that combines elements of the notorious legendary Dick Turpin, naturally rebranded 'Big Dick' for Carry On purposes, and Russell Thorndike's Dr Syn novels (1915-1944) which had inspired Disney film, Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow (1963)11. In this adaptation, Big Dick (so named after the size of the weapon he carries) disguises himself as a vicar. The film also contains many similarities to earlier film Carry On Don't Lose Your Head.
This was again a film of lasts; though it was not known at the time, it was the last film to feature Hattie Jacques and Sid James. Similarly, Barbara Windsor informed Peter Rogers that this would be the last time she would play a flirty busty girl; having done so for a decade, at 37 she now wanted to play a different role. Despite this, she did still play the busty blonde in episodes of 1975's Carry On Laughing television series.
This was also the last film written by Talbot Rothwell; he had all-but completed the script at draft stage but was unable to finish the final version. He either had a stroke or nervous exhaustion following overwork, having written three or more film scripts a year for over a decade as well as sitcom Up Pompeii. His inability to continue may have been caused by the trauma he had suffered as a Prisoner of War that had left him weak and battling ill health ever since. Either way, he was left suddenly unable to use a typewriter or write anymore, and was only able to finish the draft by dictating to his daughter, Jane. Without Talbot's ability to set the tone, the series entered a decline.
Original Carry On screenwriter Norman Hudis had been contacted in 1970 to see if he would be interested in writing for the series again, yet despite his enthusiasm he was unable to because of an impasse with the Writers' Guild of America. Peter Rogers refused to pay the additional 11% Guild's Pension and Health Insurance fee.
When the film was being made, stage show Carry On London! was being performed twice daily in London. This starred Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas and Peter Butterworth and the film was made around their stage commitments. There were 29 days studio shooting and 10 days' location filming, including the Jolly Woodman pub in Littleworth Common standing in for the Old Cock.
27. Carry On Behind (1975)
|Plot||Major Leep runs a caravan park next to a Roman archaeological site.|
|Setting||A caravan park next to an archaeological dig in 1970s Britain.|
Although the film's plot is a virtual retread of Carry On Camping and was also filmed at Pinewood Studios' orchard, the script began as a screenplay entitled Love On Wheels written by Dave Freeman in 1973 that was not originally intended to be a Carry On film. However after Talbot Rothwell was forced to retire from writing in December 1974 Dave Freeman was hired to rewrite the script to make it part of the Carry On series, initially titled Carry On Caravanning.
The script was written for Sid James to play Fred, however as he was doing a play in Australia he was replaced by Windsor Davies, famous for television sitcom It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. The film's star was international film star Elke Sommer, who was paid £30,000 to appear in this film, more than the total paid to Barbara Windsor for all her 10 Carry On appearances. Barbara Windsor also did not appear as she was touring her variety show in New Zealand.
Producer Peter Rogers had met Elke when she appeared in his wife Betty Box's Percy sex comedies12.
This was to prove Bernard Bresslaw's final Carry On film. The title Carry On Behind was chosen because the film is about caravans, which are carried behind cars. No-one who has ever towed a caravan has ever described it as 'having a caravan carrying on behind'.
In 1975 ATV, impressed with the popularity of the Carry On films on television, asked if they could have a Carry On television series. 13 half-hour episodes were made, written by various different writers. Only the first four starred Sid James as he was contracted to appear in the stage show The Mating Season in Australia. At the same time, a new film went into production. Dave Freeman replaced Talbot Rothwell as writer for this film. Talbot Rothwell had previously proposed a script inspired by the Great War sequence he had written for the final Carry On Christmas television special, however he had not advanced far before being forced to abandon writing.
28. Carry On England (1976)
|Plot||In 1940, Captain Melly is assigned command of the 1313 Experimental Anti-Aircraft Battery. This is a mixed command with both men and women who are more interested in fondling each other than fighting the enemy. Can Captain Melly turn them into an efficient fighting force, or will his command find a way to get rid of him? Can they survive a deadly attack of stock footage nicked from 1969 film Battle of Britain?|
|Drag||Kenneth Connor's uniform is stolen and replaced with a women's ATS uniform.|
|Writers||David Pursall & Jack Seddon|
|Nudity||The ATS women all (except Joan Sims) lie in bed topless. Later, when given the order 'skirts will not be worn – battledress trousers will be worn at all times, that is all', a group of women go on parade topless.|
By the end of 1975 it was apparent that the television series Carry On Laughing had not been as successful as had been hoped, and had not matched the success of the earlier Christmas specials. One particularly ambitious script titled 'The Busting of Balsy' showed promise but would be too expensive to film for television. Colin Rogers, Head of Scripts for ATV, contacted producer Peter Rogers (no relation) and it was decided that the script should instead be adapted into a feature-length film. This, set during the Second World War, became Carry On England. Peter Rogers also hoped to film another standalone comedy set during the war titled We Haf Ways of Making You Larf, based on Talbot Rothwell's unused Carry On Escaping script that was set in a prisoner of war camp.
It was hoped that Ian Lavender would return to star as Able, along with Kenneth Williams, who was offered the role of the Brigadier, Alice Easy had been written with Barbara Windsor in mind and Penelope Keith was offered the role of Ffouke-Sharpe, although she was busy enjoying The Good Life. Jeremy Connor plays Gunner Hiscocks. Kenneth Connor's son, he had played the young boy in Carry On Nurse. Actors who appeared in the Carry On Laughing television series also have minor roles, with Linda Hooks as a nurse, Vivienne Johnson as Freda and John Carlin and as Michael Nightingale as officers. It is the only Carry On appearance by Isle of Wight resident Melvyn Hayes.
Rank suddenly announced in early 1976 that they would not fund the Prisoner of War camp comedy and only fund half of Carry On England. Although Pink Floyd of all people initially agreed to fund the film, in the end Peter Rogers provided the other half of the required funds in order to retain control.
Composer Eric Rogers also left the series when he was told that due to cost-cutting he would not be allowed 40 musicians to score with, but only 20. As Sid James still had stage commitments Windsor Davies was again set to star, and able to use the Sergeant persona he had honed in It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. The film harked back to Carry On Sergeant. The film's main weakness was that it didn't have many other established Carry On stars, only Joan Sims, Jack Douglas, Peter Butterworth and Kenneth Connor. The search for a new Jim Dale continued with Patrick Mower in the handsome hero role, Melvyn Hayes had been in It Ain't Half Hot, Mum too, Diane Langton was on trial as a replacement for Barbara Windsor and unable to get Sally Geeson of Carry On Abroad and Carry On Girls, they cast her older sister Judy Geeson.
A genuine 3.7-inch Second World War anti-aircraft gun was loaned from the Imperial War Museum's collection, with producer Peter Rogers boasting it was a bigger gun than anything the Bond films had ever had. This was Britain's standard anti-aircraft weapon throughout the war. Despite this historical accuracy, it is painfully apparent throughout the film that 20-30 personnel having only one gun between them seems unrealistic. There were mixed anti-aircraft battery regiments in Britain during the Second World War, however these were formed in 1942 not 1940. However, we do get to see some incompetent bayonet practice, bringing back memories of Carry On Sergeant and Carry On Follow That Camel, with the interest in soldiers' skirts reminiscent of Carry On Up the Khyber.
Tragically, when the film was in production, Sid James collapsed and died onstage during a performance of The Mating Season at the Sunderland Empire Theatre. The film was finished with an underlying sombre mood and, when released, was heavily criticised as having already replaced Sid James.
As the amount of frontal nudity had increased, it also was the first Carry On released with an AA certificate, meaning only the over 14s could see it. This dramatically reduced the audience size and it originally flopped at the cinema. So in early 1977 an edited version was also released without the two scenes containing bare breasts and the mention of the aircraft company Fokker also excised. This was more successful than the uncensored version. Today the unedited version is rated PG, for though it contains nudity, there is no sexualised nudity. Overall, it was clear that the public disapproved of the release of a Carry On film without Sid James immediately after his death.
29. That's Carry On (1977)
|Plot||None: a clip show|
|Writers||New material by Tony Church|
Following the criticism of Carry On England, the series continued with a clip show containing scenes from every Carry On film except Carry On England. Linking material with Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor inside Pinewood Studio barely keeps the film together. Some considered it a last-minute tribute to Sid James following the previous film's criticism, however the film was inspired by the phenomenal success of the MGM compilation film That's Entertainment! (1974).
The film was a co-production between J Arthur Rank and EMI, who had bought Anglo Amalgamated, however Rank were uninterested in the film and did not give it a general release. Despite this, when it was broadcast on ITV in 1981 it attracted a remarkable 11 million viewers. The new framing footage took two days to film, for which Kenneth Williams was paid £2,000.
30. Carry On Emmannuelle (1978)
|Setting||London, late 1970s.|
|Drag||Richmond (Peter Butterworth) in a flashback describes how he dressed as a woman during the war to avoid capture by German soldiers.|
|Nudity||Several glimpses of Kenneth Williams' bottom, Suzanne Danielle's bottom and breasts briefly, Tricia Newby as nurse at marriage guidance clinic.|
By 1977, Rank's films were losing money. Although Bugsy Malone (1976) had been successful, when faced with competition from big blockbusters like Star Wars, most of their recent films had flopped and they had lost over £1.6 million. When Peter Rogers approached them with two proposals for the next Carry On film, they weren't interested in committing more money to filmmaking, wishing to concentrate on their more lucrative photocopying and bingo business instead. The proposals were for a script by Jonathan Lynn and George Layton called Carry On Again Nurse, which like Carry On England would have involved nudity, and Carry On Emmannuelle, a parody of Emmanuelle (1974). Emmanuelle had reportedly been seen by over 500 million people worldwide.
By the late 1970s there were numerous copycats including Black Emmanuelle (1976) and Yellow Emmanuelle (1977) as well as the inevitable authorised sequels, which inspired writer Lance Peters to write a treatment called Green Emmanuelle about an alien woman on Earth. This was seen by Peter Rogers who was impressed but decided to change it so that it was about a French woman rather than an alien. This became Carry On Emmannuelle, spelt with an extra N to avoid lawsuits and with the sex scenes heavily toned down from the original.
Deciding to wait until 1979 to make Carry On Again Nurse so it would tie in with the 20th anniversary of Carry On Nurse, Peter Rogers heavily re-wrote Lance Peters original script for Carry On Emmannuelle to make it more suitable for the Carry On spirit. Distributor Hemdale were interested in distributing the film, but not in funding it. Hemdale had just released The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978) featuring Kenneth Williams, and their involvement was dependent on Kenneth Williams agreeing. Though Williams really felt the script was the worst he had ever seen, he felt he had to agree out of loyalty. He was also, astonishingly, given a pay rise, being paid £6,000 instead of his previous fee of £5,000. With Williams on board, Cleves Investments Ltd agreed to provide the £320,000 required. Barbara Windsor was asked if she wanted to participate in a recurring role as the women described by Leyland, Lyons and Richmond but after seeing the script, which would have involved her spending most of her time in her underwear, naturally refused. Her role was split between three different actresses. Eric Rogers composed the score one last time.
The British sex comedy genre existed from 1967-1979 and was a result of Britain's censorship laws being the toughest in Europe. With actual pornography illegal, severe restraints covered what were classed 'sex documentaries'. These were only allowed to be shown on licensed premises if they were officially regarded as informative and not considered to be entertaining. However extremely saucy humour combining the music hall and saucy seaside postcard traditions that exploited the intended audience's embarrassment about sex was allowed. Yet 1978 was the year that the market for sex comedies, such as Confessions from a Holiday Camp, had ended. It also coincided with the peak of the anti-pornography feminist movement where women were encouraged to boycott films containing female nudity, but before the rise of the sex-positive feminist movement, which argued that it was fine for a woman to enjoy consensual sex if she so chose. This effectively meant it was the worst possible year in which to make a sex comedy, even one that is neither sexy nor funny.
Gerald Thomas when questioned by the press insisted that the film contained vulgar and titillating sex scenes, not crude pornographic sex scenes, but this was hardly reassuring. Released in November 1978, the film was still out in January 1979 when Peter Butterworth had a sudden heart attack and died immediately after playing Widow Twanky at a performance of Aladdin.
Following Carry On Emmannuelle Peter Rogers began preparations to make the nudity-featuring Carry On Again Nurse in 1979. Hattie Jacques once again would have played Matron, co- starring Kenneth Williams and there were proposals to reconcile and work again with Charles Hawtrey. However as Carry On Emmannuelle had flopped, Cleves Investments Ltd were uninterested in providing the finance. Hemdale would only distribute and were not prepared to provide the money to make the film, and so the film was put in hiatus. In 1980 it looked as if the required funds would be available when Hattie Jacques had a sudden heart attack and died, leading to the film based on her reprising her role as Matron being abandoned.
Peter Rogers continued trying to make more Carry On films and in 1981 commissioned Vince Powell to write a parody of US soap Dallas (1978-1991), only featuring Kenneth Williams as RU Screwing, the head of the Screwing family, inspired by JR Ewing. This, which went by the working titles Carry On Texas and Carry On Dallas, was abandoned when threatened by Dallas' lawyers, even when he proposed changing the family name from Screwing to Ramming.
Following the huge television reception to That's Carry On! in 1981, Philip Jones, head of Thames Television, requested they make a series of Carry On compilation episodes. Complicated by the fact that ITV only had the broadcast rights to half the series, the first episode of the series was broadcast on New Year's Eve and was watched by 16 million. The series, entitled Carry On Laughing, ran 1981-1982, and was a huge success, with the BBC asking Peter Rogers to make a compilation series based on the Carry On films they had broadcast rights to, which this time was called What a Carry On. Having seen that there was an audience of millions still interested in the Carry On brand, even short clips, Rogers still tried to get finance for another film. Rank, again, were still uninterested and in the mid 1980s decided to clear out their film storage and destroyed reels of material from many of the films they had made. This included the outtakes and deleted scenes from the Carry On films.
In the mid-1980s another attempt was made to get the Carry On series off the ground. An Australian businessman promised to finance a film set in Australia, which led to Powell writing a script named Carry On Down Under. Again it failed to get anywhere with the finances falling through before the script was finished. The incomplete script has been published in 50 Years of Carry On (2008). The Carry On team planned to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the series with a special anniversary film that would star Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor. An entirely new script for Carry On Again Nurse was written by Norman Hudis, the writer of the early Carry On films, in 1988. Rogers had even managed to get the Writers Guild of America to agree to waive their fee on the grounds that it would be a British film based on a script written in Britain. The story was about a local hospital threatened with closure, and patients and staff trying to save it. Tragically in early 1988 both Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey died suddenly and so the film was abandoned. The script was published in 2000 in book The Lost Carry Ons./
31. Carry On Columbus (1992)
|Plot||When Christopher Columbus acquires a map from Mordecai, he persuades the queen of Spain to let him try sailing to China and India across the Atlantic Ocean rather than around Africa. Yet the Sultan of Turkey, afraid that a sea route, if discovered, will result in no more tax income from merchants travelling through Turkey, sends Fatima, his best spy, aided by Achmed the shoemaker, to prevent the voyage at all costs.|
|Setting||1492, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, the Atlantic and New World|
|Drag||Fatima disguises herself as cabin boy Tima 'short for Tima-thee' to get on board the Santa Maria|
|Nudity||Artist's model's bottom (Sara Stockbridge)|
Carry On Columbus was made to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America and was more successful in the UK than the official Columbus films Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and 1492: Conquest of Paradise, although all three flopped. Dave Freeman was given ten days in which to write the script and incorporates some material from Carry On Again Christmas. The story has a plethora of characters played by a stellar cast, most of whom sadly have little to do while the film jerks from scene to scene instead of each scene following smoothly from the one before.
Frankie Howerd had originally been cast as the king of Spain but died before filming commenced, with Bernard Bresslaw turning down the role. Both Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor had been asked but declined to play Queen Isabella. This was the last film directed by Gerald Thomas, who had directed all 31 Carry On films. The American shore was filmed at Frensham Ponds, which had previously doubled for Spain in Carry On Jack (1963). During the making of the film, Sarah Crowe met and married Jim Dale's son Tony Dale.
Overall a huge step up after That's Carry On! and Emmannuelle and with plenty of enjoyable moments, however it appears to have been made as a transition to say farewell to the old generation of Carry On actors and introduce a new generation, who were not given a chance to return.
No More Carrying On?
In 1993 Bernard Bresslaw died of a heart attack in his dressing room just before he was due on stage, Kenneth Connor died of cancer and Carry On director Gerald Thomas died of a heart attack at his home.
This wasn't the end of the story, as in 2003 Peter Rogers announced he would be making a film titled Carry On London about a limousine company that takes celebrities to an awards show. This would be the first in a new series of films. Lots of different comedy and soap actors were supposedly involved, with the project constantly being on hold until the death of Peter Rogers in April 2009. Since then there has still been media interest in the Carry On name, with two more Carry On films announced to great fanfare in 2016, with Carry On Doctors and Carry On Campus supposedly being made back-to-back, although again this announcement has led nowhere.
One thing that is certain is that the Carry On films retain great affection in the UK. In an era in which films are frequently remakes and reboots, including loved British comedies such as Dad's Army and St Trinian's, it seems almost inevitable that a new Carry On will be made one day. The question is, how successfully can the magic of the original be recaptured without the original cast?