Carry On films

From Academic Kids

The Carry On films were a long-running series of British popular low-budget comedy films, directed by Gerald Thomas and produced by Peter Rogers. An energetic mix of parody, farce and double entendres, they are seen as classic examples of British humour.

30 films were made between 1958 and 1978 at Pinewood Studios, and another in 1993. The films relied on a repertoire of comedy actors which gradually changed over the years. The mainstays of the series were Kenneth Williams (26 films), Joan Sims (24), Charles Hawtrey (23) and Sid James (19). One of the most iconic Carry On stars was Barbara Windsor, although she only appeared in 9 of the films.

Their humour was influenced by the British traditions of the music hall and seaside postcards, and many parodied more serious films. They often rely on deliberately bad puns, occasionally rising to inspired heights, as in Carry On Cleo, where Julius Caesar (Kenneth Williams) staggers back from an assassination attempt crying "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" The mainstay of the Carry Ons' humour was innuendo and the sending-up of British institutions and customs, such as the National Health Service (Nurse, Doctor, Again Doctor, Matron), the Hammer horror film (Screaming), the camping holiday (Camping), the foreign holiday (Abroad), the seaside holiday (Girls), the caravanning holiday (Behind), the monarchy (Henry), the Empire (Up the Khyber) and the trade unions (At Your Convenience), among others.

The series began with Carry On Sergeant (1958), about a group of recruits on National Service, and was sufficiently successful that others followed. Its title was based on an earlier Val Guest film, Carry On Admiral (1957), and became a standard form for the series, with a few exceptions. There was also an unrelated 1937 film Carry On London, starring future Carry On performer Eric Barker.

There was also a television series Carry On Laughing, and several Christmas specials and stage shows.


Early films

From 1958 to 1962 the films were written by Norman Hudis and mostly shot in black and white. Set in institutions of various types, the bungling protaganists usually initially fail, then eventually triumph in the face of some adversity.

  • Carry On Sergeant (1958)
  • Carry On Nurse (1958), that year's top-grossing film in the UK.
  • Carry On Teacher (1959)
  • Carry On Constable (1959)
  • Carry On Regardless (1961)
  • Carry On Cruising (1962), the first colour film of the series.

Classic Carry On

In 1963 Talbot Rothwell took over the role of screenwriter. The films became more ambitious, often paradoying well-known films or genres. Coinciding with the sexual revolution, they featured more explicit sexual jokes and situations.

  • Carry On Cabby (1963), back to black-and-white
  • Carry On Jack (1963), in colour again
  • Carry On Spying (1964), in black-and-white as a deliberate spoof of Film Noir in some sequences
  • Carry On Cleo (1964), in full colour again (as were all the rest), using costumes and sets left standing from filming portions of Cleopatra
  • Carry On Cowboy (1965)
  • Carry On Screaming (1966)
  • Don't Lose Your Head (1966)
The loss of the Carry On prefix from the titles of this and the next film was due to the change of distributor from Anglo Amalgamated to Rank. Both films were later re-issued with a Carry On... prefix.
  • Follow That Camel (1967)
A Foreign Legion parody, and an unsuccessful attempt to break into the lucrative American market by casting Phil Silvers as the lead.

Into the 1970s

Although the series continued to be popular in the early 1970s, there was a growing feeling among the cast and critics that the quality of the films was declining. British society was becoming more accustomed to seeing sexual content on screen, and the innuendos of the series began to pale in comparison, although they became noticably stronger. Rothwell continued as writer.


After Rothwell ended his run as writer in 1974, the already variable quality of the series took a sharp downturn. British society had changed significantly and Carry On humour now seemed dated and innocent. Moreover fewer and fewer of the established cast were now appearing in the films; Abroad had been the last Carry On film appearance for Charles Hawtrey and Dick the last for Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor.

  • Carry On Behind (1975)
  • Carry On England (1976), featuring an almost entirely new cast.
  • That's Carry On (1977), a compilation of clips with specially filmed linking footage.
  • Carry On Emmannuelle (1978), an attempt to revive the series by increasing the sexual content.


During the 1980s the Carry On films were viewed by many as representing the worst side of British attitudes to women and to sex. However, they were still very popular and were regularly broadcast on television.

In 1992 an attempt was made to revive the series with Carry On Columbus, co-inciding with the production of two serious movies on the subject and the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. The producers managed to persuade a number of alternative comedians such as Rik Mayall, Alexei Sayle, Peter Richardson and Julian Clary to appear in the film, but it did not achieve any great commercial success. Of all the original Carry On stars, only Jim Dale (playing the title role) appeared in the film – many of the others were deceased. Barbara Windsor, however, refused to appear after reading the script. A handful of other actors who had played a few roles in the original films, such as Bernard Cribbins, Jon Pertwee, June Whitfield and Leslie Phillips also appeared.

The script, by Dave Freeman, was more polished than those he wrote for the Carry On films during the 1970s, including comment on colonialism as well as the obligatory innuendo and slapstick.

In 2004 the magazine Total Film described the greenlighting of the movie, and the decision to use alternative comedians, as the number 2 "dumbest decision in movie history".

A new film Carry On London was announced in 2003, but production has not started.

Regular actors

There was a core group of regulars throughout the series (listed here with the number of films they were in):

Many of the actors portrayed characters with similar traits – for example Sid James was often portrayed as a womaniser, something that caused problems in his private life.

Memorable quotes

See also

External links


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