Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

People We Like: Joan Sims

The latest Person We Like is Joan Sims - The First Lady of Carry-On (maybe even more so than Hattie Jacques or Barbara Windsor) - who is certainly one of those people we have liked for almost as long as I have been going to movies, back to the days of CARRY ON TEACHER or CARRY ON NURSE. A great British stalwart, Joan (1930-2001) enlivened any number of films, before, during and after her CARRY ON heyday. Her father was a railway station master and she used to put on funny voices to amuse waiting passengers, so she went into acting locally and eventually got into RADA. 

Her 162 credits (on IMDb) going back to the early 50s include appearances in DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, BELLES OF ST TRINIANS, west end revues in London, DOCTOR AT SEA. She is very funny as Blodwyn the naive Welsh girl who has never left Wales in the 1959 comedy I liked, UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS, and as Beryl the maid in PLEASE TURN OVER in 1960. She even pops up in the Trash Classic PASSPORT TO SHAME in 1958 as the office telephonist.

Her first CARRY ON was CARRY ON NURSE, followed by TEACHER where she has some good moments as fitness teacher Sarah Allcock, sparring with Leslie Phillips Other CARRY ONs followed, as well as parts in routine comedies like TWICE ROUND THE DAFFODILS, she did television work with the likes of Stanley Baxter, Dick Emery and Benny Hill, and was Calpurnia in CARRY ON CLEO, one of her harridan wives. We liked her saloon queen in CARRY ON COWBOY admiring the size of Sid's gun (he's from Texas, they all have big ones there..) - she was Desiree Dubarry in CARRY ON PIMPERNEL, Emily Bung in CARRY ON SCREAMING, and famously Lady Ruff-Diamond in CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER with her ad-lib "I feel a little plastered" as the ceiling falls on them. Her Joan Fussey in CARRY ON CAMPING was tres amusing too, another shrew. She was in most of the CARRY ONs but their quality was diminishing till the final ones looked very cheap, and of course they - and the regulars like Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtry, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Connor etc, - were never paid much for them and never got any repeat fees when they were endlessly re-cycled for television. Even now, every Bank Holiday has a cluster of CARRY ONs on the cheap cable channels. She was later in some MISS MARPLEs and worked with Victoria Wood and in other popular series like AS TIME GOES BY. She was in Cukor's LOVE AMONG THE RUINS with Olivier and Katharine Hepburn in 1975. Her last role, in 2000, was as part of the all-star cast of THE LAST OF THE BLONDE BOMBSHELLS, led by Judi Dench, Leslie Caron, Billie Whitelaw, Cleo Laine, Olympia Dukakis, and the other great veteran June Whitfield. It was a fitting cap on a great career.

As with most comedians there was a dark side to Joan, and she had battles with depression and alcoholism, Her memoir HIGH SPIRIT details it all and is a very revealing portrait of her life and work and has numerous tales on all her CARRY ON pals. Despite several romances she never married. 
Surprisingly, one of her flings was with Tyrone Power! as during his time in England in the mid-50s, he was appearing in the annual charity event NIGHT OF 100 STARS, doing a song and dance number and Joan was one of the showgirls (below) dancing with him (others included Anna Massey, Jean Kent, and Brenda Bruce). Ty used to pop around to Joan's for bacon and eggs, and they had a sort of romance until he was summoned back to Hollywood.  Joan, a much loved funny lady, died aged 71 in 2001. More on Joan and CARRY ON at label ...

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