Saturday, 18 April 2015

Whatever Happened To ... Carol Hawkins?

So many of the actors who appeared in the Carry On films are well known to us. Their lives have been well documented both on screen and off. While we always love hearing about them, sometimes it can feel a bit repetitive or that we are collectively raking over old coals.

I want to start an occasional series of blog posts looking at some of the lesser known actors who appeared in Carry On films. Sometimes we will know a fair amount about them but for whatever reason they have not garnered much publicity. Others will be a complete mystery. 

So far I've written about Carry On supporting actors Gail Grainger, Marianne Stone and Esma Cannon. Very different supporting actresses, each providing something special in the films they popped up in. Today I want to talk about another glamorous actress who became a firm fan favourite, gracing two of the later and better Carry Ons of the 1970s: Carol Hawkins.

Carol Hawkins made her first appearance in the series with Carry On Abroad in 1972. Playing Marge, opposite Sally Geeson's Lily, she was a young 1970s woman off on holiday in search of a bit of fun. What she didn't bank on was finding it with Brother Bernard! Carol continued the long line of attractive young supporting actresses of the period, pretty much taking up where Jacki Piper had left off. It is a very assured performance opposite Carry On favourite Bernard Bresslaw.

It would be three more years before Carol returned to Carry On, but it was another belter, Carry On Behind in 1975. In Behind, Carol plays another young holidaymaker, Sandra opposite Sherrie Hewson as Carol. They are two good time girls who chance their arm and flirt round randy Major Leep (Kenneth Connor) to stay at his caravan site. Once settled, they spend the majority of the film leading fellow campers Windsor Davies and Jack Douglas a merry dance. It was good to see Carol back in the series as she was a natural for this kind of film. 1975 also saw Carol appear in two episodes of the patchy Carry On attempt at television, Carry On Laughing. She also made a blink and you'll miss it appearance in Carry On Again Christmas five years previously.

Sadly that was it for Carol and the Carry Ons. Apparently she was offered a role in the next film, Carry On England, but turned it down due to the nudity involved in the part. Fair play to her for that as England turned out to be a complete disaster! So what else did Carol Hawkins get up to in her acting career?

Carol Hawkins had her earliest success in 1971 when she joined the cast of the hit ITV sitcom, Please Sir! She took over the role of unruly school girl Sharon Eversleigh from Penny Spencer who had decided to leave the show. Carol played Sharon in the big screen spin off and then returned for the spin off TV series, The Fenn Street Gang, which was broadcast between 1971 and 1973. Other film appearances included another film for Rogers and Thomas, the big screen version of Bless This House, released in 1972. Carol played the daughter of Terry Scott and June Whitfield who marries Robin Askwith at the end of the film. Carol was also seen in Percy's Progress (1974), Confessions of A Pop Performer (1975) and Not, Now Comrade (1976). This last film was part of a long working relationship with the famous farceur Ray Cooney.

On television, Carol was a regular face throughout the 70s, 80s and 1990s. She appeared in the likes of Porridge (1975), And Mother Makes Five (1976), Robin's Nest (1978), Blake's Seven (1980), Rides (1993), Trial and Retribution (1998) and The Bill (1999). She also notched up several appearances in The Two Ronnies during the 1970s.

Carol's stage career was also very varied. She appeared regularly in Ray Cooney farces throughout her acting career. Carol also starred opposite Leslie Phillips and Julian Fellowes in Sextet (1977-78) and reunited with Carry On colleague Kenneth Williams in The Undertaking in 1980. Much of Carol's time working with Kenneth is documented in his famous diaries. She later appeared in See How They Run in 1984. 

So what happened to Carol Hawkins? Her last television credit was an episode of Doctors in 2004. She made her last stage appearance in the Ray Cooney play Caught in the Net, opposite Eric Sykes, in 2001. Carol also took part in a thoroughly entertaining DVD commentary for Carry On Abroad with Sally Geeson, David Kernan and John Clive, in 2002. Soon after this Carol seemed to vanish from the spotlight.

The internet has been my friend again. I have discovered that Carol actually has a website, although it looks like it is rarely updated. It would appear that Carol decided to retire from acting in 2005 and moved to Spain with her husband. She then devoted her life to animal welfare and spiritual matters. Sadly, Carol's husband Martyn passed away in 2013. As far as we know, Carol still resides in Spain to this day. Apparently she made a cameo appearance in Ray Cooney's film Run For Your Wife in 2012. I haven't seen it, but she is credited in the cast list along with many other veteran actors.

It would be great to hear from Carol Hawkins again, both about her time in the Carry Ons and other classic film, stage and television from that period. It's a shame she did not take part in the recent Carry On Forever documentary as it would have been terrific to see her reunited with her co-star and friend Sally Geeson. Carol has always spoken with great affection about her Carry On co-stars and I know she particularly admired Kenneth Williams. 

Carol's website can be viewed here and her list of acting credits here

You can read more on my verdict of Carry On Abroad here and Carry On Behind here, both films made it into my Top Ten favourite Carry On films.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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