Saturday, 19 August 2017

Whatever Happened To ... Dandy Nichols?

 

I realised the other day that I had never written a blog about that celebrated character comedy actress, the late Dandy Nichols. Famed for her many years playing Else, the "silly moo" in Johnny Speight's legendary BBC comedy, Till Death Us To Part, Dandy enjoyed a long and varied career. Her Carry On contribution may have been brief but it still means she's worthy of a blog all of her own.

Dandy joined the Carry On gang in 1967, the year after rising to fame in Speight's sitcom. Playing the grumbling wife of Sid James' hospital patient, Nichols is glorious in a couple of short scenes which see her moan on about her dreadful life. Sid plugs in his headphones, barely uttering a word which makes Dandy's scenes joyous monologues. Beautiful but sadly all too brief, sadly Dandy didn't make another Carry On. The height of the films' success saw her also at her peak, working on Till Death Us Do Part from 1966 until 1975 alongside Warren Mitchell, Una Stubbs and Tony Booth. Dandy is so recognisable and defined by the character of Else however in the original BBC pilot Else was played by Gretchen Franklin (famous as Ethel in EastEnders). When the series was commissioned, Franklin was in a play and her contract could not be broken so Nichols was cast. 



The idea was revived for one series in 1981, over on ITV with the title Till Death... this series added Patricia Hayes to the cast while Una Stubbs reprised her role as Rita for a few episodes. However the BBC later revived the series again in 1985 with the new title In Sickness and in Health. Again starring Mitchell and Nichols, the cast also included the likes of Pat Coombs, Arthur English and Harry Fowler. Sadly, Dandy only appeared in the first series and was now mainly seen in a wheelchair due to ill health. The series continued until 1992, six years after Dandy had sadly passed away.

Dandy was born Daisy Sander in Fulham in May 1907. She bagan her working life in a factory before taking acting and diction lessons. She was spotted in a charity show and started working in rep. The war years saw Dandy (adopted as her stage name - it was a childhood nickname) doing office work before joining ENSA (Entertainments National Service Assocation). After the war she began acting professionally on stage and in films. Her big screen debut was in Hue and Cry in 1947. Some of her most notable early films included roles in The Winslow Boy, Nicholas Nickleby, The Fallen Idol and Mother Riley Meets the Vampire. Later films included Ladies Who Do, Georgy Girl, Doctor in Clover, The Birthday Party, Help!, O! Lucky Man, Confessions of a Window Cleaner (as Robin Askwith's mother Mrs Lea) and another Askwith film, Lindsay Anderson's Britannia Hospital in 1982. Dandy only appeared in the first Confessions film with her role recast with On The Buses actress Doris Hare for the remaining three films.

 

On television, Dandy starred opposite the wonderful Alastair Sim in The Generals Day. She also made appearances in The Tea Ladies, Bergerac, The Trouble with Lillian and The Bagthorpe Saga. One of Dandy's most successful stage roles was that of Marjorie in David Storey's 1970 play, Home. Set in a mental asylum, Home starred John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Mona Washbourne. Directed by Lindsay Anderson, Home premiered at The Royal Court theatre in London before transferring to Broadway with the same cast. Later in the run, Dandy's part was played by Jessica Tandy. The original British cast also filmed the play for broadcast in the Play For Today slot on television in 1972. 

Dandy Nichols was married to a newspaper editor, Stephen Bagueley Waters from 1942 until their divorce in 1955. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nichols was dogged by ill health but continued working right up until her death at the age of 78 in February 1986. A gifted actress, many of Dandy's performances are still remembered and cherished over thirty years after her death.

 

 

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Hancock and Co: One Man, Many Voices


 

Following James Hurn’s sell-out visit to The Museum of comedy in March 2017, he is back by popular demand with his stunning one-man, many voices, show, celebrating over 60 years of Hancock’s Half Hour.

On this, his second visit, James – a talented actor and impressionist – will be performing a brand-new programme including one classic episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, and two episodes he has written himself in the same style as Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, with James voicing the entire cast. James is a master at recreating the accents and personas of such iconic 20th century British favourites as Tony Hancock, Sidney James, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams.

The new show is performed in the style of a radio performance in front of a live audience, bringing to life the classic days of radio comedy. Don’t miss it!

*****"One has to take your hat off to James Hurn, not only has he written in the style of the great Galton and Simpson, but with the laughs too." Tom Dommett - The Tony Hancock appreciation society.

“Utterly masterful and quite, quite superb” Jon Culshaw – impressionist

“You have Tony Hancock’s pitch and tone so much better than I” Kevin McNally – actor


**** "A pleasant and worthwhile piece of theatre." London Theatre 


 

James Hurn will be at the Museum of Comedy on Sunday 10 September. The show is at 4pm and tickets are £14.  

I'm very much looking forward to this show. I'll be attending on 10 September and I'll be blogging a review of the show soon afterwards. Hope to see you there!  

You can find out more and buy tickets here

 

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Tonight on Talking Pictures TV: The Big Job

 

Talking Pictures TV are showing yet another classic British comedy film this evening, so set your videos! The Big Job is a wonderful black and white crime caper from the typewriter of Talbot Rothwell and it's rarely shown these days so this is well worth watching! 

In 1950 a gang of robbers led by the self-proclaimed George the 'Great' Brain rob a bank, stealing £50,000. However, due to a mix-up, they are pursued and caught by the police. He manages to stash away the money in the trunk of a hollow tree, before he is collared. The gang are then sentenced to serve fifteen years in Wormwood Scrubs prison.

Upon their release in 1965, the gang go back to the spot where they had left the money, only to find it is now a new town, and a housing estate has been built around the tree. To their chagrin they find that the tree is now in the grounds of the local police station, invitingly close to the wall. George and his gang take up rooms in a nearby house rented by a widow and her daughter. In order to provide a respectable front, George is forced to marry his longtime girlfriend Myrtle Robbins who is not so enamoured about the idea of recovering the loot, and wants George to settle down with her.

 

The incompetent criminals fail in their numerous attempts to get over and under the wall, all the while trying to conceal their true activities from their landlady, her daughter and a local police constable who also stays there. Eventually when the men have botched an attempt to tunnel into the grounds, the frustrated women hatch their own plot to gain the money.

The Big Job is a Carry On in all but name. Produced by Peter Rogers and directed by Gerald Thomas, the cast is headed up by series favourites Sid James, Joan Sims and Jim Dale with excellent turns from Sylvia Syms, Dick Emery and Lance Percival. Watch out also for eye-catching support from Edina Ronay (who also appeared in Carry On Cowboy the same year) and Please Sir and Sykes favourite Deryck Guyler. 

The Big Job is on Talking Pictures TV tonight at 6.30pm. 

 

You can watch Talking Pictures TV on: Virgin 445 / Freeview 81 / Sky Channel 343 / Freesat 306 / Youview 81

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Carry On Faces in Different Places: For Better For Worse

 

Here we go with a brand new series of blogs looking at some of the cream of British comedy film making from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Although this blog is all about the Carry Ons, believe it or not, there were some other joyous comedy films made away from Peter Rogers Productions. However, given the quality of the actors Peter employed to make his series, it's no wonder that most of them popped up elsewhere.

We're starting off today with a classic gentle comedy from 1954, For Better For Worse, written and directed by J Lee Thompson.

Who's in it?

The film stars Dirk Bogarde, Susan Stephen, Thora Hird, Dennis Price, Cecil Parker, Athene Seyler and Eileen Herlie.

 

Carry On Faces?

Carry On Nurse actress Susan Stephen heads the cast opposite Bogarde while future Carry On leading man Sidney James pops up for a cameo towards the end of the film as a removal man. Watch out also for Carry On Jack actor George Woodbridge, Peter Jones (England, Doctor) as a car salesman and of course, the great Cecil Parker playing Stephen's father. Cecil also guest starred in Carry On Jack.

What's it about?

For Better For Worse is a gentle, light, frothy comedy of its era - the 1950s. Despite this it retains much of its freshness in the 21st Century. This is mainly due to the deftness of touch from the experienced cast and the fast moving direction. The story revolves around young couple Tony and Anne who plan to marry and set up home together. The film follows their trials and tribulations as they gain the approval of Anne's parents, find work and somewhere to live and make their way in the world. It's all rather twee and old fashioned ("my husband believes a woman's place is in the home") as we follow their money worries, efforts to impress the inlaws and battles with their range of neighbours, which include eye-catching turns from Dennis Price and Athene Seyler. Reliable character actress Thora Hird also pops up in a memorable role as an interfering char lady. It's a glorious showcase for some of Britain's finest light comedy actors and you should definitely check it out.

 

Best bit?

There's a beautifully chaotic scene which sees Susan Stephen's Anne attempt to prepare a dinner party to impress her parents which all hell breaks loose around her. A leak from above, a busy body char lady, James Hayter's annoying plumber and Athene Seyler's constantly interrupting neighbour Miss Mainbrace, who continually wants to use the telephone. It's lovely farce played expertly by a handful of super performers.


Did You Know?

This film version comes from an original play of the same name, by Arthur Watkyn. The play had been a huge hit in the West End, running to over 500 performances and starring future Miss Marple Geraldine McEwan and Carry On favourite Leslie Phillips. Sadly neither actor appeared in the film version.


 


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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Happy Birthday Jim Dale!


It feels incredible even to be writing this, but Carry On legend and all round entertainer Jim Dale celebrates his 82nd birthday today!

The ever youthful, energetic star is still on top form. Watching him on stage in London back in 2015, it was hard to believe he could even be anywhere near this significant milestone! Jim is a wonderful actor with an impressive and diverse career spanning seven decades and both sides of the Atlantic.

It was a joy to see him live on stage and truly special to relive some of those terrific career highlights, including of course eleven Carry On appearances. I've always had a real soft spot for our very own Dr Nookey and here's hoping he'll be entertaining us all for many more years to come.

 

Happy Birthday Jim!





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Monday, 14 August 2017

Carrying On with ... The Bill


There has been a bit of publicity around the ITV police drama series The Bill recently. The Drama Channel are, from today, showing the entire series from the very beginning again. Following a successful pilot with "Woodentop" in 1983, a full series was commissioned and began broadcasting in weekly hour long episodes from October 1984. The Bill would become and remains one of the most successful home grown, long running drama series, lasting until 2010 even if it had gone through many changes in the intervening years. 

Over 2000 episodes were produced and the actors who appeared became household names. The show also featured many familiar faces before they were famous with the likes of David Tenant, Keira Knightley and Sean Bean making early appearances. However for the purpose of this blog, I'm not interested in those that became Hollywood stars or big names in current television. Given that The Bill ran during the 1980s and 90s, it's almost a certainty that it featured many a familiar Carry On face. So let's take a look back at some of the well-known Carry On actors who turned up in Sun Hill over the years. 


I must start with the most prominent of all The Bill actors to have starred in the Carry Ons. Larry Dann was a series regular as Alec Peters from the very first episode in 1984 through until 1992. Larry appeared in four Carry Ons during his career - an early part as a school boy in Carry On Teacher, followed by roles in Behind, England and most (in)famously Emmannuelle, playing Theodore Valentine. 

Carry On favourite Carol Hawkins has made four separate appearances in The Bill during the 1990s as characters Mrs Giles in 1991, Mrs Sterry in 1995, Mrs Rose in the 1997 episode Downfall and finally a character called Lynn Archer in the 1999 episode Foreign Body. Carol is known to Carry On fans for her starring roles in Abroad and Behind as well as two episodes of the ATV Carry On Laughing series. Linda Regan, who appeared in Carry On Again Christmas for Thames Television and then the 1976 film, Carry On England, played no less than five different characters in The Bill over a decade between 1988, when she played Burnside's girlfriend and a barmaid in 1998.

Another actor to appear on five separate occasions is Don McCorkindale. Don was a recruit in the very first film, Carry on Sergeant in 1958 and then played Tubby, one of Peter Gilmore's gang in Carry On Cabby. In The Bill, Don played Potter in a 1990 episode called Angles, Sergeant Masters in the 1992 episode A Friend in Need and also guest starred in 1996, 1998 and 1999. In the series five episode N.F.A (1989), acclaimed character comedienne Betty Marsden played Mrs Foster-Adams. Betty, best known for being part of the Round The Horne team on radio, played Mata Hari in Carry On Regardless and Terry Scott's wife Harriet Potter in Carry On Camping.


Patricia Franklin, who played roles in Carry On Camping, Loving, Girls, Behind and England, also cropped up in The Bill no less than five times. First appearing as a Neighbour in the 1990 episode Lies, Patricia would go on to appear in two episodes in 1993, play a Cafe Owner in the 1997 episode Confidence and Mrs King in Bad Chemistry the following year. Legendary actor and personality Peter Jones appeared in The Bill as Mr Greg Montieth in the 1998 episode S.A.D. It would be one of his last acting roles. Peter, a longtime panel member with Kenneth Williams on Just A Minute played cameo roles as the Chaplain in Carry On Doctor and the Brigadier in 1976's Carry On England.

Another actor to be invited back to The Bill more than once was Liz Fraser. Liz is well-remembered for starring roles in Carry On Regardless, Cruising and Cabby as well as a cameo role in Carry On Behind. In The Bill she played Mrs Lister in 1989 in the episode Suffocation Job and then five years later was back in Sun Hill for the part of Grace Walsh in Good Days. Fellow veteran Kenneth Cope first appeared in The Bill in 1992 for one episode playing P.C Derton. Over a decade later he was back for a special two part story in 2006 in which he played Jimmy Hastings. Cope is best known for roles in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Coronation Street and two Carry Ons - At Your Convenience and Matron.


Kenneth's co-star in Carry On At Your Convenience, Jacki Piper, has made two appearances in The Bill. She first played Mrs Leston in the 1991 episode Turning Back The Clock and then six years later turned up again as Mrs Cox in Accomplice. We all remember Jacki for her four Carry Ons. As well as Convenience in which she played Myrtle Plummer, Jacki also played June in Up The Jungle, Sally Martin in Loving and Sister in Matron. And last but not least is one of my favourites, the late great Patsy Rowlands. Patsy guest starred in just the one episode back in 1995 but it's actually one I remember from original broadcast. I was so used to seeing Patsy playing comedy that it was quite a shock to see her in what was actually a really serious, sad story. The story centres around a family of hermit barricaded into their own home with Patsy playing Rachel Armfield and Annette Badland playing Pearl. 

One final Carry On connection before i go. Peter Butterworth's son Tyler Butterworth has appeared in four episodes of The Bill between 1995 and 2004, including a two part episode in 2002 in which he played a character called Kelly. I'm sure his dad would have been very proud.

I loved The Bill when I was younger, although after writing this piece I can't get the bloody theme tune out of my head! While the series was great, the coppers of Sun Hill will never match those new recruits from Carry On Constable in my eyes...


Do check out my interview with the lovely Ben Peyton who played PC Ben Hayward. You can read that here



And while I'm at it, The Misty Moon Film Society will be hosting a special The Bill Reunion event on Saturday 9 September at the Cinema Museum in London. You can find out more about that here.


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Happy Birthday Liz Fraser!



Many happy returns to the wonderful Liz Fraser who is celebrating her birthday today. I know it is not the done thing to give away a lady's age but Liz rather staggeringly turns 87 today. It's hard to believe!

Liz is a real favourite of mine. I love all her Carry On appearances, not to mention so many of her other classic film and television roles. Liz provided great comic support in the likes of I'm All Right Jack, Two Way Stretch and Double Bunk. She is a legend of British cinema and I cannot praise her highly enough. It's always great to hear from her and it's just a shame we no longer see her tackling acting assignments.

Whatever Liz is up to today, I hope she is celebrating in true style! 

Happy Birthday Liz, and many more!


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