Turner Classic Movies is showing a new CARRY ON movie every Saturday.  As there are over thirty of them, the festival could go on for many, many months.  I know these films are an acquired taste, but I love them dearly.  Full of low-brow, music-hall-style humor, they’re sort of the British equivalent to Abbott and Costello movies.  The stories are loosely structured to allow a variety of English comedians a chance to do their bits.

And what comedians!  Sidney James.  Kenneth Williams. Charles Hawtrey.  Joan Sims.  Kenneth Connor.  If you don’t find delight in Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey playing a scene in drag, I feel quite sorry for you.220px-Carry_on_screaming_(film) th-8 carry_on_doctor_465x347 th-7 Poster - Carry On Cleo_02 968full-carry-on-regardless-photo Hattie_Jacques_in_Carry_On_Nurse

 As an American, these films come to me as if from another planet.  I know British films (the Ealing comedies, the Hammer horrors) pretty well, but I don’t know any of these actors’ other work.  I understand that the great Kenneth Williams was quite a presence on the radio.  I’ve heard of Charles Hawtrey in an off-hand comment by John Lennon in a Beatles’ song.  Of course, I’ve seen Sidney James in other films – he got around quite a bit.  I know Joan Hickson from her marvelous Miss Marple later in life.  But the rest of them?  They seem to exist only in these marvelously, innocently raunchy films.

Raunchy?  Yes.  Where can you see Wilfred Hyde-White with a flower up his bum?  Innocent?  Well, just barely.  Funny?  That’s a matter of taste.  Watch them.  Decide for yourself.

Phoef Sutton

Phoef Sutton

Published novelist - living in South Pasadena, California with his wife Dawn and his daughters Skylar and Celia.
Phoef Sutton
  • hupto

    Barbara Windsor got around a bit, most memorably in Ken Russell’s film of THE BOY FRIEND. And of course a chap named Jim Dale went on to a fair measure of success.

  • Douglas McEwan

    As an eight year old, I saw CARRY ON NURSE with my parents when it first came out, so the CARRY ONs have been part of most of my life. I never saw my mother laugh as hard as she did at the scene of the daffodil up Wilfred Hyde-White’s butt. She was turning red and hyperventilating. I thought she might fall out of her chair.

    Kenneth Williams is a trip. He was Joe Orton’s best friend. I’ve read both Williams’s autobiography and his diaries. The memoir was for the public, and is dull and restrained. The diaries were for himself alone, and he tells the truth and reveals himself as the full, neurotic bitchey wacko he was, and is FAR better reading. (He HATED John Inman on ARE YOU BEING SERVED, whom he felt stole his act.) Lots of fabulously vitriolic wit.

    Williams died a virgin. He found sex far too icky to do with someone else. He was fastidious. So fastidious that he did not let guests use his bathroom. If you were visiting williams and you desperately needed to pee, you had to go use the public restrooms at the corner. Even his mother, who lived in the next apartment (HUGE Momma’s Boy), had to go home to pee.

    Charles Hawtry was a bit of a genteel alcoholic, but he makes me laugh harder than any of them. He just kills me. I think I laughed as hard at Hawtry’s “Have at thee, varlet,” in CARRY ON SERGEANT as Mother did at Wilfred’s daffodil.

    I also read Barbara Windsor’s memoirs. She is a cheeky one. Knew The Crays, let’s say, personally. For most of the Carry On years, she was having a torrid affair with Sydney James. Her book is a lot franker than Williams’s memoirs, plus she did have sex, rather a lot of it, and isn’t shy about telling all.

    I have DVDs of the first 12, so I guess it will be a few months before TCM gets to the ones I haven’t got here in the room.

    There’s a British TV bio-pic on Williams you can watch on YouTube. worth checking out. Fairly accurate.