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What a Carry On: Carry On Summer Season

April 15, 2015

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Cor, blimey!Ooh, Matron!Stop messin’ about! … Ohhh, hello! … And, of course, Yak-Yak-Yak!

We all know the Carry Ons, don’t we? Or, at least, if you’re from the UK and of a certain age, you’re highly likely to know the Carry Ons. As British as fish and chips, wet holidays in Skegness, old blokes in flat caps walking whippet dogs and Bond films on the telly on Bank Holidays, the Carry On comedy movie series hailing (mostly) from the ’60s and ’70s has been pretty much ever since it began an indelible, undeniable part of the texture of UK culture.

To know your Carry On is as much to be from these islands as it is to complain about the weather, bet on the Grand National and wonder why we bother not only to enter but also watch Eurovision every year. And, don’t doubt it, it’s much more British than it ever would be to vote for bloody UKIP (up yours, Farage! – cue Sid James laugh).

In which case, as we approach (what could well be, let’s be honest, another wiped-out-by-rain ‘comedy’) summer, what better time of the year and reason to celebrate the Carry On series? Yes, following on the heels of its previous celebrations of the cinematic James Bond and the golden anniversary year of Doctor Who, here’s notice then that George’s Journal from here on until its end (no, not that sort of end) will be – like an underwhelming village fête featuring drooping sandwiches and sozzled uncles – celebrating Sid, Kenny and co.’s contribution to the comedy and cinema firmament.

But, you may ask, do the Carry Ons really deserve celebration? Aren’t they the poor relation in cinematic terms to the classic Ealing comedies of the ’40s and ’50s? You could say that perhaps, if you were being über-critical. And, in comedic terms, aren’t they – filled, as they are, with leching old men, gay stereotypes, mother-in-law jokes and dolly birds with big bazoomas – really only a notch higher on the bed post (if you will) than the naughty seaside postcards of Donald McGill? Well, the fact is, and has always been, that with the Carry Ons it’s all about taste. They’re not for everyone; they never have been. And those without an appreciation of post- (and even pre-) WWII British culture will find it difficult to catch what they tap into – let alone find them funny. But, I guess, the point is, millions do. And millions have and will always find them funny.

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The Carry Ons

The regulars: Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Bernard Bresslaw, Jim Dale and Peter Butterworth (variously)

Directed by: Gerald Thomas

Produced by: Peter Rogers

Written by: Talbot Rothwell, Norman Hudis and Dave Freeman (variously)

Scored by: Eric Rogers and Bruce Montgomery (variously)

The original series: Sergeant (1958); NurseTeacher (1959); Constable (1960); Regardless (1961); Cruising (1962); CabbyJack (1963); SpyingCleo (1964); Cowboy (1965); Screaming!Don’t Lose Your Head (1966); Follow That CamelDoctor (1967); Up The Khyber (1968); CampingAgain Doctor (1969); Up The JungleLoving (1970); Henry; At Your Convenience (1971); MatronAbroad (1972);
Girls (1973); Dick (1974); Behind (1975); England (1976); Emmannuelle (1978)

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Indeed, a handful of the Carry Ons may actually be wittier, smarter and more intriguing than you recall – with their historical settings, pastiching tones and sharp, nay near satirical commentary on contemporary times. Plus, let’s not forget, conceived, as they were, by burgeoning film producer Peter Rogers (whose wife Betty Box, incidentally, produced the somewhat similar Dork Bogarde-starring Doctor film comedies) and directed – yes, every one of them – by helmer Gerald Thomas (whose elder brother Ralph Thomas directed those Doctor comedies), they boasted the cream of British comic talent in the shape of Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor. As well as many a legendary guest star – the likes of Frankie Howerd, Terry Scott, Leslie Phillips, Bernard Cribbins, June Whitfield, Patsy Rowlands, Harry H Corbett, Shirley Eaton, Liz Fraser, Elke Sommer and even Phil Silvers. And, although made on an extreme shoestring (Williams once claimed he made more from filming a British Gas advert than a Carry On film), their financing and filming – yes, all 29 of them – was 100 percent British.

But anyway, enough of all this Williams-like nostril-flaring nattering… on to the matter, er, in hand. For this post is merely an introduction. Yes, an introduction to a whole season of bawdiness, er, cheapness and general silliness. What’ll be coming your way? Well, like Babs’ bra springing off and into Kenny’s face, you’ll very soon be enduring… er, sorry, I mean enjoying the start of a marathon viewing, reviewing and ranking of the movies themselves – yes, in chronological order; that is, an (ahem) Carry On-a-thon – as well as articles on the ‘Legends’ that are the five main cast members (and what fascinating life stories will you find therein), plus, well, maybe one or two, er, titillating pictorial celebrations of the series’ ‘Talent’.

And with that then, folks, let’s fire the gun… er, I mean, let’s blow up the balloon… er, I mean let’s erect that tent-pole… er, I mean… well, you know what I mean – let’s bloomin’ well Carry On, shall we…?

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