Sunday, 25 June 2017

My Review of Sykes: The Complete Series

 

As I've previously blogged, Network On Air will be releasing the Complete Sykes on DVD, tomorrow 26 June! Sykes has always been one of my very favourite classic comedy series and I was thrilled when offered the chance of a sneak preview of the new DVD set. The set comprises all 68 episodes of the colour series broadcast on the BBC between 1972 and 1979. The first colour series from 1972 was issued on DVD some years back however this is the first time every episode from the relaunched programme has been available for fans to own.

Sykes is a glorious semi-surreal domestic sitcom which at the heart is all about the joyous chemistry between long time collaborators Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques. As twins Eric and Hat, life at Sebastopol Terrace, East Acton, was always full of surprises. While the series features a host of well-known, colourful guest stars, for me it's all about Sykes and Jacques. Sykes, who also wrote all the episodes, is playing the slightly pompous arrogant little man, finding himself in a host of tricky situations. Jacques meanwhile steps away from the bombastic Matron persona of the Carry Ons to play a softer character who is normally the voice of reason when her brother gets above himself. I always loved Sykes for the fact the writing very very rarely touched upon Hattie's size, something which could sometimes dominate in the Carry Ons. Sykes features by far some of my favourite performances from Hattie, surely one of our all-time greatest comic actresses.

 

For me the first series from 1972 features the best quality scripts and stories. Many of them are simply remade from the original 1960s black and white Sykes and A ... which ran from 1960 to 1965. That doesn't matter - if they feel at all familiar it's only in a comforting sense. My all-time favourite episode has to be the one featuring Peter Sellers as the escaped convict Tommy Grando. This episode, "Stranger" features a rare television performance from Sellers, who obviously goes back a long way with Eric. The chemistry between the three lead actors is superb and it's clear they can hardly keep a straight face throughout. The studio audience reaction is catching and the whole episode a complete joy.

Sykes also features other regular characters. The peerless Richard Wattis plays the snooty, snobbish next door neighbour Mr Brown, very much Eric's nemesis. The pair work brilliantly against each other. Such a shame that Wattis passed away during the run - his absence from the later series is keenly felt. Also along for the entire run is Please Sir! favourite Deryck Guyler as P.C Corky Turnbull. Corky is probably the world's most incompetent police constable but Guyler brings along a breezy sense of comedy and easy going charm and is a vital part of the series' success. Making several appearances throughout the run is Carry On favourite and Hattie's best friend, the wonderful Joan Sims. As bakery owner Madge Kettlewell, Joan is Eric's love interest and very nearly marries him at one stage! Joan is great as Madge and there are some fantastic bloopers included of Joan cracking up on set with Eric and Hattie which show Sims' tremendous sense of fun. It's just a shame she didn't feature more often in the show.

 

A host of other brilliant, well-known talent features in the series. The likes of Bernard Bresslaw, Roy Kinnear, John Le Mesurier, Joan Hickson, Dinah Sheridan, Sheila Steafel, Michael Ripper, Derek Francis, Les Dawson, Chic Murray, Hugh Paddick and Bill Maynard all appear throughout the run. The quality of the writing and the performances from all these wonderful talents really does make Sykes a cut above many other comedy series of the time.

The DVD set isn't cheap however it contains pristine versions of all 68 episodes, totaling nearly 2000 minutes of classic BBC comedy, of the kind they just don't make any more. The set has some interesting extras. They include a special interview with the late, great Eric Sykes; a special Spotlight programme on the comedian; behind the scenes footage from the studio as the series was filmed and an extensive booklet of extra information on the series written by television historian Andrew Pixley. 

 

The chance to own a complete set of this classic comedy is just too good an opportunity to miss. I grew up catching repeats of this series on BBC2 and sadly it appears yet another one of those shows that is just never broadcast on the television any more. This newly presented DVD box set is the perfect opportunity to relive some classic comedy and see some of our favourite comedy stars doing what they do best!

Sykes: The Complete Series is available from tomorrow, Monday 26 June.





You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Happy Birthday Julian Holloway!

 

Many happy returns to that wonderful British actor Julian Holloway who celebrates his birthday today. Julian, who has lived in California for the last twenty years, appeared in eight classic Carry On films during a long career in television, film and on stage.

Julian made his first appearance in the Carry Ons as a cheeky ticket inspector opposite Angela Douglas in Follow That Camel in 1967. He went on to appear in Carry On Doctor later that year, following that up with larger roles as Major Shorthouse in Up The Khyber (taking part in the legendary dinner party sequence) and as Jim Tanner in Camping - witnessing Barbara Windsor's infamous bikini popping moment. Later roles in the series included Adrian in Carry On Loving, Sir Thomas in Carry On Henry and an uncredited cameo as Roger in At Your Convenience. Following a gap of five years, during which he guest starred in the 1973 Carry On Christmas television special, Julian returned to Pinewood to play Major Butcher in 1976's Carry On England. 

 

There was a definite feel that the producers were lining Julian up to take over where Jim Dale left off. He obviously stepped in to cover some of Jim's material while he was absent from the series in 1968 but I don't know what happened after that as big roles in the films didn't really materialise for Julian. I think that's a shame as he had a wonderful cheeky chappie persona which suited the Carry Ons perfectly. 

Away from the Carry Ons, Julian has enjoyed a long and successful career. On film he appeared in the Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night, Ryan's Daughter, Scream and Scream Again, Young Winston and the big screen version of Porridge. On television, Julian has appeared in everything from The World of Wooster and Crown Court to The Sweeney, The Professionals and Minder. One of my favourite of all his performances was as the drunken Jack Favell in the BBC's 1979 adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's classic novel Rebecca, which starred Anna Massey, Joanna David and Jeremy Brett. These days Julian works in America and is a prolific vocal artist both in films and commercials. 

Julian is the son of the late, great Stanley Holloway who starred in many classic British films including The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico and The Titfield Thunderbolt and Julian's daughter is the model turned television cook Sophie Dahl. 

We most recently saw Julian take part in the ITV Carry On Forever documentary where he shared memories of his time working on such treasured classics as Carry On Up The Khyber and Carry On Camping. It's a shame we don't see more of him on our screens these days. 

 

Whatever Julian is up to today, I hope he has a fantastic birthday!





You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Friday, 23 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Carry On Matron

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

To finish this week of special Carry On clips, I've chosen a sequence from the 1971 classic, Carry On Matron. The film is dominated by a trio of wonderful performance from series veterans Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey and this scene sees them at their joyously camp best. Kenneth's Sir Bernard Cutting is desperate to prove himself to Jacques' Matron however Charles gets in the way as Dr F.A Goode! 

The scene sees Talbot Rothwell at his best. It's packed full of funny one liners, beautifully played farce and plenty of slapstick. The scene of Hattie and Charles settling down for an evening of television viewing is set up wonderfully and Kenneth's undignified entrance into proceedings is a joy to behold. Quite simply it's three old pros having a whale of a time in each others' company! Enjoy! 






Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Happy Birthday Sally Geeson!

 

Many happy returns to the lovely Sally Geeson, who celebrates her birthday today. Sally, who returned to the entertainment business a couple of years back, did of course star in two classic Carry On films in the 1970s.

Sally made her biggest and most memorable appearance in the series with her role as Lily in Carry On Abroad in 1972. In what many fans believe to be the last really great Carry On, Sally worked well opposite Carol Hawkins as two young girls off on a long weekend to the Spanish island of Elsbells. Sally proved such a hit with the team that she returned for the very next Carry On, playing the cameo role as Cecil Gaybody's assistant Debra in Carry On Girls.

Sally did make an even earlier appearance in the Carry Ons, with a blink and you'll miss it cameo as a child actor in Carry On Regardless in 1960. If you keep your eyes peeled during the Ideal Home section of the film, you may just spot a young Sally in the audience as Kenneth Williams demonstrates the latest in children's toys!

These days Sally is best remembered for playing Sid James' daughter (also called Sally) in the classic Thames television sitcom Bless This House. Sally spent nearly six years with the series and also appeared in the big screen version, produced and directed by a certain Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas. Sadly Sally is now the last surviving cast member from the Bless This House series. 

I love Sally's obvious love and devotion for her late colleague and screen father, Sid James. She always speaks so fondly of Sid and clearly admired him, enjoyed working with him and learned a lot from the great man. As Sid's memory was frequently sullied following his death, it's wonderful to hear such positive recollections of a man who was a comedy hero to many.

 

Whatever Sally is up to today, I hope she had a wonderful birthday!


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Carry On Loving

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

Today I bring you a delightful clip from the first Carry On from the saucy seventies - Carry On Loving. The dating agency comedy, Rothwell's in-house tribute to Norman Hudis' Carry On Regardless a decade earlier, features the regular Carry On faces alongside a mix of younger, fresh-faced talent such as Richard O'Callaghan, Imogen Hassall and Jacki Piper. The clip I've chosen features the lovely Imogen before her dramatic and very glamorous transformation.

The slightly randy, accident prone Terence Philpott (Terry Scott) is sent off to the Grubb residence to met the daughter, Jenny (Hassall). However Terry ends up taking tea with the entire Grubb family, a real rogues gallery of mainly silent cameos. Joan Hickson guest stars as the formidable head of the family and the scene is a delightful farce which could have graced the London stage or any of the best television sitcoms of the era:






More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Again Doctor

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

Today I've got a clip from the 1969 medical Carry On, Again Doctor. This film is well remembered for featuring Jim Dale on his runaway hospital trolley and Barbara Windsor wearing little more than three strategically placed hearts. Ahem. The clip below is a lovely little inconsequential scene featuring the soon to depart Jim Dale as Dr Jimmy Nookey. It's basically an excuse to shoehorn two of Jim's frequent co-stars from previous films into the action - Peter Gilmore and Peter Butterworth.

The spot diagnosis gag is yet again not very complex or high brow but it's lifted above the humdrum by performances from three lovely actors. Peter Butterworth in particular shines through this very brief cameo as a rather pained hospital visitor...!




More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Carry On Laughing: Carry On Abroad

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

Today I've got a clip from another film in my top ten - the glorious Carry On Abroad. Probably the last film in the series to be officially termed a classic, it features a cast full of wonderful comedy actors and the very last appearance from Charles Hawtrey. The clip below is a mash up of various slapstick calamities to befall the likes of Sid James, Jimmy Logan and Peter Butterworth as they battle through the dubious pleasures of the Palace Hotel on the island of Elsbells. 

This video clip features one of my very favourite sequences from the entire series as Sid and Peter Butterworth engage in a lovely bit of business involving a balcony door. The gag is set up early on in the film and bears fruit during the big finale. it's a fairly basic scene lifted up into something special thanks to Sid's brilliant comic timing and a truly hysterical Joan Sims who's laughter goes way beyond normal performance!





More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Monday, 19 June 2017

Barbara Carries On ... As Bettina

 

Barbara Windsor will be celebrating her 80th birthday this August. In the run up to this milestone, I've decided to blog profiles of each of her nine famous Carry On roles. Much the same as I did with both Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques, these blogs will take each part in turn and provide my own personal take on them. 

Barbara, or Dame Babs as it is now, is a showbiz legend in the UK, with a career dating back to the 1950s. As the recent Babs drama on BBC1 revealed, things haven't always been easy for Windsor, but her hard work and determination have seen her bounce back time and time again. No matter what else she has done in her career, the Carry Ons will always dominate and from our point of view, as Carry On fans, rightly so! So let's continue today with Barbara's fifth role in the series, as Bettina in the 1970 film Carry On Henry. 

 

Barbara's role in Carry On Henry is often quoted as her favourite in the entire series and it's not hard to see why really. Henry, the twenty first Carry On film to go into production, was a rather lavish film, at least by Carry on standards. The setting, the costumes, the dance routines, everything was a cut above. This retelling of the story of Henry VIII went into production at an extremely fortuitous time for Peter Rogers, with a renewed interest in the famous monarch in the early 1970s, both on the small and the big screen. The film provides Sid James with one of his best ever roles and as Henry he chews up the scenery was comedic relish, whether it's throwing over tables in the dining room, showing the likes of Terry Scott and Kenneth Williams who is the boss or chasing buxom wenches in the form of Margaret Nolan and Barbara herself, Sid is definitely in charge.

The film is a comic retelling of Henry's story, although initial scenes depicting Patsy Rowlands going to the block to have her head chopped off did commence proceedings with a dash of realism. It's not long though before Williams and Hawtrey are mincing about the palace and Joan Sims is attempting to convince the King that garlic is an aphrodisiac... Good luck with that one! Joan plays Henry's new French queen, Marie, and although they get off to a promising start, soon the odour of garlic puts the tin lid on any consummation. So, Henry does what he always does and start to look around for a replacement wife. Of course Marie's French heritage throws a spanner in the works, especially when her brother Francis (Francie!) comes to visit. This provides Peter Gilmore with one of his biggest and most outrageous Carry On supporting turns and his double act with Sid is a joy.

 

Anyway, on to Barbara's role in the film. Babs actually doesn't appear until about half way through the action but it's a performance worth waiting for. As Bettina, Barbara is the new object of the King's affections, catching his eye at court when presented by her father (a blink and you'll miss it appearance by Peter Butterworth). King Sid soon installs Bettina as Queen Marie's lady in waiting however his attempts to woo her are clumsy and ill advised, despite the best efforts of his associate Sir Thomas (Julian Holloway). This basically amounts to several scenes in which the pair attempt to disrobe Barbara's character. By now this was par for the course for Windsor in any Carry On however what is probably overlooked is just how much flesh is on display in Carry On Henry! Most of these scenes are completely cut by ITV3 whenever they repeat it by the way...

Barbara plays Bettina as quite a wide-eyed innocent which makes a pleasant change from some of her previous characters. It's actually a performance much more like her debut in Carry On Spying and that makes it a great deal better for me than anything that followed. Barbara plays the part with a delightful simplicity, failing to take the hint from King Sid and misunderstanding his numerous advances. Of course being a Carry On, Sid never does get what he wants and in the end it's Peter Gilmore's French King who departs with Bettina at his side. Henry ends up back where he started with Queen Marie and his new issue, who's parentage is a subject for debate!

 

It's easy to see why Barbara enjoyed making Carry On Henry. She's working alongside great actors like Sid, Joan Sims and Peter Gilmore and she gets the chance to wear wonderful period costumes. Barbara only ever made two period Carry Ons, this and her final film in the series, 1974's Carry On Dick, but it's this role that shines. She looks terrific throughout and her chemistry with Sid is at its peak. Despite fairly limited screen time in comparison to the likes of Williams, Sims and Scott, Barbara is definitely one of the highlights of the film.

To finish, a couple of Carry On Henry clips. First up is a rather obvious yet fun scene featuring King Henry attempting to try it on with Mistress Bettina, the best Bet in town...ahem:



And as an extra treat, here's some behind the scenes footage of the making of Carry On Henry, showing the cast at work and featuring some lovely little interviews:



Enjoy! Next up will be my take on Barbara's role in the final medical film in the series, the 1971 film Carry On Matron.



You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Carry On Laughing: At Your Convenience

 

The news has been pretty bleak of late what with one thing and another. It can be difficult in troubled times to stay positive but I think if anyone is going to keep us smiling in the face of adversity it's the Carry On team. So every day this week I'm going to blog one of my favourite Carry On clips to hopefully raise the odd smile or two.

We're starting today with one of my very favourite Carry On films - At Your Convenience. Although maligned on its release, Convenience has become a classic and pretty much typifies the "perfect" Carry On. It has all the key ingredients: a cast full of favourite actors, a script full of double entendres and even a trip to Brighton thrown in for good measure! One of my favourite scenes in the entire film is the canteen show down between Kenneth Cope's Union rep and the bosses' son played by Richard O'Callaghan. 

Joan Sims is the real star of the scene as factory worker Chloe. Sims delivers one perfectly timed innuendo after another and her laughter and sparkling sense of fun is infectious. So sit back and enjoy some classic Carry On antics:


More coming up tomorrow!

Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day from Carry On Blogging!


As today is Father's Day I thought I would have a dig about and see what photos I could find on a Father's Day theme with Carry On connections. Let's start off with a familiar photo - Kenneth Connor with his son Jeremy in Carry On Nurse.

Next up, one of Kenneth's co-stars from Nurse, Bill Owen with his son Tom:



Now a lovely photo of Carry On legend Sidney James, pictured at home with his son Stephen:


And next up, Carry On actor Julian Holloway with his dad, the late, great British actor, Stanley Holloway and his mother, Violet:


Next we have a lovely photo of actor Sean Pertwee with his dad, the late Jon Pertwee. Jon of course played cameo roles in three Carry Ons - Cleo, Cowboy and Screaming.


I'm not sure which of Bernard Bresslaw's sons this is, but it's definitely the wonderful Bernie and his wife, Betty:


Next up, a lovely picture of JIm Dale with his wife and son from his first marriage, Toby:


Here's a picture of Terry Scott with regular sixties television co-star Hugh Lloyd. I'm figuring these three little girls are Terry's daughters but not 100% sure. Anyway, it's a lovely photo:



Finally, a lovely photo of Leslie Phillips with his daughters at a film premiere:



A Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there! Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Dame June


In amongst all the dreadful news we've had recently, one item cheered me up. Finally, finally, June Whitfield has been made a Dame. I first wrote about this over two years ago, stating that while many others in her line of work - the entertainment and acting profession - had been recognised with either knighthoods or damehoods, June appeared to have been overlooked.

I know June has received many other honours during her long life and her astonishingly prominent career in comedy, however while the likes of Maggie Smith and Judi Dench were made Dames long ago, June, in many ways a peer, was not. I wondered how much this had to do with her career being dominated by comedy, by making us laugh, not by so-called straight theatre and film. I've long believed that those actors who can do comedy well are also the best actors. I think it's easier to make us cry than to make us laugh. 


June has endured for seven decades. It's quite extraordinary. The vast majority of her peers are very sadly no longer with us however June continues to work. She has bucked every trend and taste in comedy and continues to do what she's always done. Styles of comedy have developed, come and gone but June has remained constant and solid in her support. She always says she has endured because she was never the star, always the support to so many of her (often male) comedy actors and comedians. She appears to have coped effortlessly with so many challenging yet gifted performers. June must have an awful lot of stories about some very famous people, yet she has always been dignified in her responses. 

June has worked with just about everyone in post-war British comedy. Bob Monkhouse, Arthur Askey, Wilfred Pickles, Terry Scott, Stanley Baxter, Dick Emery, Sid James, Tony Hancock, Kenneth Williams, Peter Jones, Frankie Howerd, Reg Varney, Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe, Bruce Forsyth, Leslie Phlllips, Kenneth Connor, Roy Hudd, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley and Julian Clary. Quite a line up. 

In recent years June has appeared in a wide range of television programmes, most eye-catchingly as a nun in EastEnders opposite the brilliant Jessie Wallace. Her 25 year connection to Absolutely Fabulous continued with an appearance in the big screen version of that wonderful series. She continues to be a massive presence in British comedy and many today quite rightly bow down to her in respect and admiration. I can sometimes be a bit skeptical about the honours system in this country but if anyone deserved this accolade, it's got to be June.




Dame June Whitfield just sounds right, doesn't it?


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Friday, 16 June 2017

Carry On Blogging Interview: Mark O'Connell

 

I've recently had the very great pleasure to catch up with writer Mark O'Connell. I first came across Mark's work on Twitter and due to his connections with Pinewood Studios and his love of British film, I just had to contact him. Thankfully Mark agreed to an interview, so read on to find out more about Mark's career, his love of Pinewood and of 007 himself, James Bond. And of course, this being a Carry On blog, there's a few questions about our favourite British comedy films too...



- You describe yourself as a "writer, author cultural pundit peddler" - How did you get into this line of work and what do you enjoy most about what you do?

I came from a film studies background and then fell into screenwriting which became comedy writing which then led to my first book. I always try to say yes to most writing opportunities as it always hones what I do – whether it is penning a travel piece, a movie review, a look at Bond for a news channel, doing media interviews, a political op-ed feature or a personal skewed piece. What I enjoy most is being fortunate enough to be doing the work and writing that I want to do. Very few writing gigs work in a vacuum so things can often lead to other things. 

- I loved your recent piece in The Guardian recounting your meeting with the late Sir Roger Moore. What are your thoughts on the great man?

Roger Moore was a gent, a charmer, a British icon, a better actor and screen star than he gave himself credit for and a vital 007. I think if any of us could achieve just one of those we’d be happy. I always found Sir Roger to be utterly welcoming, humble and blessed with a covert concern to make sure people were alright. He cared about the details – be it onscreen, with his colleagues or on the UNICEF campaign trail. 

 

- Bond obviously plays a big part in your life. Why do you find the films so endlessly appealing?

They are a constant. They are part of the seam and fabric of both British and global cinema culture and identity. They are rich productions with everyone working at the top of their game and pushed by that Broccoli working ethic of making it good, of making it right. And they reward your time. Whether it is a new 007 epic or one we have all seen countless times, they don’t disappoint. And they are all like a well-stocked and diverse cellar full of good wines. Some need airing before drinking. Some need to be sipped carefully. Some need to go with a good meal. And some are guilty pleasures we quickly drink before they are chilled to the right temperature. I think now the films are endlessly appealing because they exist in a shared canon. They comment and compliment each other now, whilst always working as standalone movies. 

- Can you tell me more about how your debut book, Catching Bullets - Memoirs of a Bond Fan came about? 

As a Bond fan I had been contributing some long thoughts and nearly essays to various 007 forums online. Some I wrote were getting big traffic and I naively thought how that could be monetized somehow. Or at least get my thinking and writing out of the rabbit holes of fandom and into something that could be appreciated by everyone. A pal suggested writing a book. I briefly dug my heels in for various reasons, but suddenly the looming fiftieth anniversary of 007 in 2012 gave it all a personal sense, gave it a natural structure and a potential publishing window of opportunity. My personal links to Bond and EON Productions were always the aspects I held back on until that same pal sat me down and shone light on what could be a very original take on a lifetime with Bond - when it was not just my lifetime I could discuss. I also wanted to re-evaluate the films – to buoy up the successes of the lesser acclaimed bullets and shed new light and thinking on the classics.

 



- Barbara Broccoli wrote the prelude to your Bond memoirs. What was it like having her involved in your first book?

She did indeed. It was and still is a total blessing and a privilege for all sorts of personal and creative reasons. It made great familial sense for the O’Connell family and eventually Catching Bullets, but it was never planned or even assumed. But Barbara read the book and it went from there really. I think people forget how she is the world’s biggest Bond fan so it was perfect all round.

- As I write about the Carry On films, I must mention that several actors appeared in both of these famous franchises at Pinewood Studios (Shirley Eaton, Madeline Smith, Valerie Leon...) Do you have a favourite cameo amongst these and why?

I am a big Valerie Leon fan. Catching Bullets has a running theme about how all secondary actresses in a Bond film are Leon Lovelies. And she is of course glorious in her Carry Ons. It is curious how she gave the Carry Ons a bit of Bond girl glamour rather than just the familiar bawdy double-takes and displays of flesh. She holds herself brilliantly in Up The Jungle and Girls – and took on given key, narratively important roles and was often the authority figure. If anything, she is more Carry On in The Spy Who Loved Me and more Bond Girl in Matron and Up The Jungle.

 

- I noticed on your website that you'd worked quite a bit with the great Jonathan Harvey. I am a big fan of his work and wondered what he's like to work with?

He’s lovely. And has been really influential to my writing and the chances it has afforded me. He was an early supporter which was surreal and highly flattering as Gimme Gimme Gimme is an airtight masterclass in dialogue and verbal comedy pacing. When I later worked with Jonathan on his Beautiful People series, I learnt so much from being in the eye of that comedy production storm. And it was never a storm. It was always funny, always silly and always professional. I learnt a lot from Jonathan – not just about having a voice, a queer voice and maintaining it in your writing when others are part of the equation or even fighting for something that makes you laugh, but also just how to conduct yourself on set, in meetings, casting sessions, rehearsals and beyond. And he has a gloriously filthy sense of humour. But my god, he can turn a moment into sadness and poignancy with such ease.

- I've read that your family has various associations with the legendary Pinewood Studios. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

My grandfather worked for the Broccoli family and EON Productions for many years. Part of that time was naturally spent at Pinewood where he would have many an hour to kill just wandering the stages and corridors. He was a very private man, so getting the stories out of him in his later years was always hard. He was always quietly proud and protective of his associations and times with Bond, yet moreover the Broccoli family who he held very dear until the day he died. That was the spur to Catching Bullets - but it had also been the starting pistol to a love of cinema and production. 

 

- I read that you got married at Pinewood - what was that experience like?

Surreal! When we were planning to get wed and starting down that tedious path of checking out venues and tables and food and numbers, we briefly pondered the thought of Pinewood. We knew it well enough. It was not new to us and we wanted somewhere that was very us, but very classy and cool too. But we moved on from that thought as it seemed too obvious, too expected. Then we started to see what other venues can offer and the logistics involved and suddenly Pinewood ticked every box and enabled us to be two guys getting wed in the biggest boy’s toybox of them all. We were the first gay couple to hold a full marriage on the lot. We now go back and wander around with the knowledge a little bit of Pinewood’s history is part of ours now. I like that. One of the deciding factors was that – as two grooms – all we saw was bride-steered venues with their promises of dream princess weddings and everything a bride expects from her day. To us, Pinewood was the opposite of that.

- Two questions I must ask - firstly, what's your all-time favourite James Bond film and why?

Well you’ll have to read the book to find that out!! I do have two – a favourite and a best. I think after nearly 25 films and 55 years of movie making us Bond fans can be greedy and pick two. My favourite is always the controversial one. But I stand by it, and begin to see braver, younger Bond fans popping their heads up over the trenches of fandom and outing themselves with that same entry too. I always say that everyone’s entry point into fandom is personal and theirs. Catching Bullets doesn’t demonise any Bond film because I know that my launching pad into the world of 007 was mine and mine alone. It comes back to those wines in the cellar again. There are different ways and times to enjoy different bottles. It is the same with the Carry Ons.

-...and what's your favourite Carry On film and why?

Carry on Camping is one of my most favourite films of all time. It is a masterclass in comedy dialogue and blessed with a tennis match of puns, put downs, smut-stick gags and retorts. The backdrop allows everyone to literally be in the same place or field so it becomes about the personalities and not really the plot. I think it is also a key cultural movie – one that reflected a very different Home Counties Britain, its streets, marital hierarchies and gender politics. I knew that Britain – or rather the slightly overcast country lanes, the muddy paths, the dual carriageways, the camping equipment, icky toilet blocks and I had a thing as a kid for tents (!). At our wedding we had various tables named after the Pinewood productions that shot in and around where we were. We had a Carry On Camping and Up the Khyber table. That was a given. I was most pleased I not only got wed at SPECTRE Island, but also Chayste Place. We played the score from Camping as our guests took their dining seats. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

 

- Finally what projects are you working on at the moment that you can tell me about?

I am in ‘post-production’ on my new book – which could very much be bracketed as a follow on to Catching Bullets. Or is it?! It is all watch this space for now, but hopefully the publishers and I will be announcing it sometime soon. I am very pleased with it.

Many thanks again to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Mark over on his website which you can find here 

And more about Mark's book Catching Bullets here 


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram