The Carry On films were a long series of movies made with a diverse troupe of British comic actors and an excellent example of a Universal-Adaptor Cast. All were produced by Peter Rogers and directed by Gerald Thomas. Over the years, different actors would join or leave the Carry On gang, or just take a break for a film or two. Kenneth Williams was the actor who appeared in the most Carry On movies, some of the other actors who regularly appeared included Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, Hattie Jacques, Jim Dale, Peter Gilmore, and Barbara Windsor. And many others.Each Carry On actor tended to specialize in a particular type of role. Thus Kenneth Williams would usually play a snide, haughty character who would easily be outraged, Joan Sims started out playing young and desirable women then moved to older and less-desirable women, Charles Hawtrey would be naive and effete, Sid James played lecherous, leering Cockneys (often named "Sid"), and so on. Each Carry On film would find a different situation to put these types in. Sometimes a normal everyday setting (a hospital setting was used four times), sometimes a well-known historical period or a parody of a specific film genre. Once in a while an actor would play different from their usual type, such as Kenneth Williams playing the Mayor in Carry On Cowboy with a Fake American accent instead of in the voice and style usually associated with Kenneth Williams.Some say these movies have an important place in the history of British film comedy, others say they represent one of the lowest points of British comedy. Most say the series was uneven, with some films better than others, but there is little consensus on which are the best films. The series relied heavily on one-liners, puns, and sexual innuendo. Gradually, as censorship standards for British films changed over the period, the sexual humour came to be more explicit, until it seems to completely dominate the later movies; it was, after all, the age of the Awful British Sex Comedy.These films are frequently shown on British television, only very rarely in the United States. This is probably due both to more stringent rules about sexual humour and nudity on American television, and also due to the very British quality of the humour.In addition to the films, the group made four Christmas specials for British television (in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973), and there were three live stage shows. There were also two television series called Carry On Laughing; the first in 1975 consisted of spoofs of period pieces (King Arthur legends, The Prisoner of Zenda, various historical events, etc.); the second from 1981-1983 consisted of clips from the films. The films Please Turn Over (1959), Watch Your Stern (1960), No Kidding (1960), Raising the Wind (1961), Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), Nurse on Wheels (1963) and The Big Job (1965) were all also directed by Gerald Thomas, produced by Peter Rogers and used the same writers and some of the same cast and crew of the Carry On films, but are not part of the Carry On series.A new Carry On movie, titled Carry On London or Carry On Bananas was announced in 2003, started pre-production in 2008, and doesn't look to be going anywhere as of 2010.Not to be confused with the Funny AnimalWeb ComicCarry On. The 1957 film Carry On Admiral (with Joan Sims) has nothing to do with this film series at all.
The complete list of films in the series is as follows:
Note that two of the films were originally released with titles that did not include the words "Carry On"; this was due to a change of film distributor. They were later known as Carry On Follow that Camel! and Carry On Don't Lose Your Head.
The Carry On film series provides examples from the following tropes:
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(for those with their own page, see the above list)
Ambiguous Gender: Dr. Crow, the head of STENCH in Carry On Spying, is part of a race of new superhumans embodying the strengths of both men and women while not being wholly one or the other. (The character was played by Judith Furse, but affecting a deep, almost tenor voice.)
Animal Assassin: A snake is dropped into the heroes' bed in Carry On Screaming!
Ass Shove: In Carry On Henry, the Queen has been thrown into the Tower of London, and asks a sympathetic priest to smuggle a letter out. The priest says he is searched thoroughly by the guards, but there is one place they don't look: he has second thoughts when the Queen produces an enormous scroll.
A Bloody Mess: Happens in Carry On Behind when an explosion upsets a caravan, causing a bottle of tomato sauce to fall out of a cupboard and splatter its contents over Professor Crump (Kenneth Williams). He thinks he's been wounded and faints. Hilarity Ensues.
Bold Explorer: Carry On Columbus turned the bold exploits of explorer Christopher Columbus into a silly sex farce.
Brotherhood of Funny Hats: In Carry On Matron, Sir Bernard Cutting (Kenneth Williams) is about to thrash Dr. Goode (Charles Hawtrey) over their perceived shared affection for Matron (Hattie Jacques)... until it emerges that they are both members of the Grand Order of Newts (Sir Bernard in the Watford "pond", Dr. Goode in the Wapping "pond"), whereupon they begin reciting the Newts' loyalty oath in unison.
"What's a diddler?" "Well... it's... *accordion plays*" "Ooooh! No wonder they call it a diddler!"
From Carry On Cabby:
Allbright: All right, but I don't know what the union's gonna say about all this! Sarge: (microphone feedback) the union!* Cyril Chamberlain's mouth does not actually move during the microphone feedback. Allbright: Well, really!...
Circling Vultures: Happens in Follow That Camel as the troops march across the desert from the dry oasis.
Embarrassing Slide: In Carry On Behind, Professor Crump (Kenneth Williams) delivers a narration to what he thinks is a film on archaeology being projected behind him. Unknown to him, the wrong film was shipped and the audience is actually watching footage of a stripper.
Exact Words: In Carry On England, the unpopular Captain Melly issues new uniform regulations, telling the female soldiers that they must wear battle dress trousers, then ends his announcement with "That is all." The next morning, the women show up for morning parade wearing battle dress trousers... and nothing else.
Follow That Car: In Carry On Loving, Sidney Bliss flags a cab and tells it to go to a certain address. When it takes off without him, he flags down another cab and tells it to "follow that cab", and this cab also drives off without him, leaving Sidney incredibly annoyed.
Food Fight: The climax of Carry On Loving involves one of these at a wedding reception.
Foreshadowing: Carry On Spying contains a rather clever example for a series which usually placed so little emphasis on narrative. When STENCH leader Dr. Crow calls the Chief (Eric Barker) at the beginning of the film to taunt him about the theft of the formula, the Chief orders the call traced, and the number comes back WHitehall 66066. The Chief realises that is their own number and assumes the trace has failed. It turns out the STENCH base is directly below the headquarters of British Intelligence; at the end of the film, Simpkins and his team emerge from a secret exit in the safe in the Chief's office in which Simpkins had been locked at the beginning of the film.
Franchise Zombie: Carry On Columbus was a badly misconceived effort to carry on the series, stocking the cast with alternative comedians yet sticking to the hopelessly out of date type of jokes that the series had been using in its heyday.
Fun with Acronyms: Carry On Spying features British Intelligence fighting STENCH (the Society for the Total Extinction of Non-Conforming Humans), while Dilys Laye's character is secretly working for SNOG (the Society for the Neutralisation Of Germs).
Simpkins (Kenneth Williams): (upon being invited to join SNOG at the end of the film) Ooh, yes, I always wanted to do a bit o' SNOGgin'!
Genre Savvy: In Carry On Teacher, the headmaster, Mr. Wakefield, is very sharp on the comic book style pranks and tricks (e.g. the magazine down the back of the shorts) that the schoolkids play.
Mr. Wakefield: I see, and what do you think I should about it? Stevens: Cane me? Mr. Wakefield: And split a perfectly good magazine? Stevens: Sir? Mr. Wakefield: Remove the padding, Stevens; you're crackling like a pan full of frying bacon! [...] Mr. Wakefield: Flour again? Couldn't you have used soot just for a change?
Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Happens in Carry On Up the Jungle with the delicious Jacki Piper. She goes swimming with the Ape Man and an ape steals her clothes.
Hollywood Mirage: Follow That Camel, including the inevitable fake-out when a real luxury hotel in the middle of the desert is dismissed as a mirage (to the dismay of the proprietors).
Lost World: The lost world of Aphrodisia in Carry On Up the Jungle.
Male Gaze: In Carry On Henry, Henry VIII tricks Barbara Windsor into providing fanservice. A courtier comments on her beautiful face, her fine neck, her shoulders...
Henry VIII: I'm going the other way.
Man in a Kilt: Carry On Up the Khyber features a Highland regiment, known as the "Devils in Skirts". The question of what's worn beneath the kilt becomes a significant plot point.
Mugged for Disguise: In Carry On Jack, Sally (Juliet Mills) steals the uniform of Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker (Bernard Cribbins) and takes his place on the frigate Venus.
Not Listening to Me, Are You?: In Carry On Camping, Peter Potter tries to tell his wife, Harriet, that he doesn't want to go camping this summer, but instead wants to go to a resort. She is busy going through their camping things and is ignoring him, so, in the same tone of voice, he talks about his afternoon at work where a series of bizarre things happened, to which she continues talking about their upcoming camping trip.
Photographic Memory: In Carry On Spying, Daphne Honeybutt (Barbara Windsor) literally has a photographic memory, her eyelids making a camera shutter noise as she "photographs" important documents to commit them to memory.
Potty Emergency: The bus ride/pub crawl in Carry On at Your Convenience builds to a gushing, Benny Hill-style finale as they search for a convenient bush to pish behind.
Powder Trail: In Carry On Henry, Guy Fawkes lays a trail of gun powder to the kegs of gunpowder to blow up Parliament. The fuse goes out inches from the kegs. Of course Fawkes had to go and try to reignite the fuse... right next to the barrel.
Slippery Skid: Carry On Cleo has a scene spoofing the legend about Cleopatra bathing in asses' milk, which culminates in somebody slipping on a bar of soap and falling on her.
Spy School: Carry On Spying was set, at least initially, in a spy school.
Straw Feminist: Carry On Girls has a group of these protesting the beauty contest.
Sweet Polly Oliver: In Carry On Jack, Sally (Juliet Mills) steals the uniform of Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker (Bernard Cribbins) and takes his place on the frigate Venus so that she can go to sea in search of her childhood sweetheart, while Albert finds himself pressganged onto the same ship as a common seaman.
Thermometer Gag: In Carry On Nurse, the staff decide to get revenge on an insufferable patient by swapping out his rectal thermometer for a daffodil and taking a photograph of him. Leads to one of the funniest scenes in the whole series:
The Colonel: Come come, Matron. Surely you've seen a temperature taken like this before? Matron: Yes Colonel, many times. But never with a daffodil!
Trojan Gauntlet: Referenced in Carry On Camping. One character complains about the difficulty of asking for pamphlets for a nudist colony. He likens it to going into a chemist to buy some "you know whats" and finding a pretty girl behind the counter and instead coming out with a tube of toothpaste. His mate then replies "I wondered why your medicine cabinet was full of toothpaste."
Near the end of Carry On at Your Convenience, following an uncharacteristically wild party, W.C. Boggs (Kenneth Williams) wakes up in bed with his secretary (Patsy Rowlands). When he asks her, rather nervously, whether they... you know, she looks smug and says that if he doesn't remember, she's not going to tell him.
This phrase is spoken word for word by Sgt. Bung in Carry On Screaming! the morning after his nocturnal rampage as Mr. Hyde.
Who's Your Daddy?: At the end of Follow That Camel, Bo West has married Lady Jane, and when Sgt. Nocker is re-united with them, he finds her pushing a pram. She says her baby is the image of his father... at which point we see he looks uncannily like Commandant Burger, right down to the monocle. (Burger and the baby were both played by Kenneth Williams.)
Anachronism Stew: A staple of the "historical" films, always for purely humorous purposes. Just as an example, irrespective of the era in which the films were set, Charles Hawtrey's characters always wore "granny glasses".
Annoying Patient: At least one crops up in all of the medically-themed films. The Colonel from Carry On Nurse is the earliest, and one of the best, examples.
Apron Matron: "Ooh, Matron!" A fixture of the hospital films, always played by Hattie Jacques. She even shows up as a matron in Carry On Regardless when Bert Handy (Sid James) is hired to hold a rich man's place in the waiting room queue at a hospital and is mistaken for a visiting dignitary.
Armed Farces: Carry On Sergeant, Carry On Jack, Follow That Camel, Carry On Up the Khyber, and Carry On England.
Artifact Title: "Carry on, Sergeant" was a common order given by officers which English audiences would have been familiar with. After that there is usually no phrase or pun involved for subsequent films' titles, it's just tacking "Carry On" before the subject.
Attractive Bent-Gender: Often accompanies Disguised in Drag. For example, in Carry On Matron, Kenneth Cope is disguised as a female nurse to case the hospital Sid James' gang are planning to rob. He promptly attracts the attention of a lecherous doctor played by Terry Scott.
Frankie Howerd, also known to have been gay, embodied this trope in his two Carry On appearances (Carry On Doctor and Carry On Up the Jungle).
Catch Phrase: Although they were playing different characters in each film, some of the actors had a few catchphrases which showed up with considerable regularity.
Charles Hawtrey's first line in each film was nearly always a very camp "Oh, hel-lo!"
Kenneth Williams would often deliver at least a few lines in his "Snide" voice from Hancock's Half Hour (in a few films, such as Carry On Spying, he would do the entire role in "Snide" mode), including the character's catchphrases of "No, don't be like that!" and "Stop messin' about!"
Christmas Episode: Carry On Christmas, the collective name for four one-off Christmas television specials starring many of the Carry On regulars (notably excluding Kenneth Williams, who refused to take part) produced in 1969, 1970, 1972, and 1973.
Clip Show: That's Carry On! was conceived by Peter Rogers as a Carry On version of the successful That's Entertainment! compilations, with clips presented by Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor. The second Carry On Laughing series which ran from 1981 to 1983 transferred the idea to television, minus Ken and Babs (except for the 1983 Christmas special).
Disguised in Drag: Often involving the aforementioned Bernard Bresslaw. Peter Butterworth, Charles Hawtrey, and Kenneth Williams also frequently dressed in drag to go undercover, almost invariably without bothering to disguise their voices.
The films made prior to Talbot Rothwell's arrival (up to and including Carry On Cruising) generally tended to have more situational-based humour rather than the puns and sexual innuendo the later films relied on.
Not to mention Kenneth Williams' characters in the first two films were played straight and were more deadpan snarkers than his other characters (in fact, his character in Carry On Nurse had a sort-of romance going on with a girl who occasionally visits him, not that he notices her affections though...).
Fail O'Suckyname: Many examples throughout the series, though the most glaring example (and acknowledged as such in-universe) is Captain S. Melly from Carry On England.
Fanservice: Let's just say Barbara Windsor and have done with it.
"In Carry On, [insert 90% of the list of fanservice tropes here]".
Carry On Cabby presents the argument that in a free market, no amount of quality can compete with blatant fanservice, as a rival cab company arrives out of nowhere providing only drivers with large breasts. One sequence features a succession of customers happily fixing their own cabs as the drivers lean against them idly.
Carry On Emmannuelle was an attempt at building an entire film around the concept of fanservice. It failed dismally, demonstrating a profound truth about how fanservice works. Or possibly not.
How about Carry On Up the Khyber's title. It's Cockney rhyming slang: Khyber → Khyber Pass → Arse (Anus).
And "FAKIR! OFF!" from the same film.
"Peace on?" "Peace off!"
In Carry On Henry, after Guynote presumably; his first name is never mentioned Fawkes' plan to blow up Henry VIII with gunpowder has fizzled out (literally), Lord Hampton of Wick (whose name is another example, "Hampton Wick" being Cockney rhyming slang for... well, just guess) mutters, "Oh, Fawkes!"
Related to Lord Hampton of Wick, there are plenty of names across the series derived in some way from "Hampton"; for example, the hospital in Carry On Again Doctor is called Longhampton Hospital.
In Carry On England, when Sgt.-Maj. Bloomer derides Sgt. Able's ability to recognise different aircraft, Able retorts, "I know a Fokker when I see one..."
The oh-so-carefully-pronounced "Count" in Carry On Screaming!
Henpecked Husband: Many of Sid James' characters, with the nagging wife generally played by Hattie Jacques or Joan Sims. Also sometimes played by Kenneth Connor (Carry On Cleo, Carry On Abroad) or Terry Scott (Carry On Camping).
Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Several of the films involve Sid James or Bernard Bresslaw (or someone similarly unmistakeably masculine) wearing a dress, and the authority figure they're trying to evade falling instantly for him, despite the fact that he's clearly Sid James or Bernard Bresslaw wearing a dress. (The fact that the authority figure was frequently Kenneth Williams may add a bit of subtext to this.)
Informed Attractiveness: Barbara Windsor was not exactly a Hollywood beauty, though she did have a couple of things in her favour.* Although Windsor herself has noted that they looked bigger than they were due to her small waist and the fact that her small feet meant that she walked in a way that emphasised her bust. The Buxom Is Better trope actually applied at a smaller cup size at the time anyway — breasts were smaller on average and implants were almost unknown.
Invisible Holes: Occurs in Follow That Camel (shot by Arabs), Carry On Up the Khyber (the Almost Dead Guy), Carry On Henry (tortured in an iron maiden).
Punny Name: A staple of the series once Talbot Rothwell took over as writer.
For example, the hero of Carry On Doctor was Dr. Kilmore, Carry On Again Doctor featured a Dr. Carver, and the hospital in Carry On Matron was named Finisham Maternity Hospital, with head surgeon Sir Bernard Cutting.
Shamelessly indulged in for Carry On at Your Convenience. The toilet factory is run by W.C. Boggs and his son Lew, with factory foreman Sid Plummer.
Other punny names were more suggestive, such as the slimming clinic in Carry On Again Doctor founded by Dr. Nookey with capital from Ellen Moore: the Moore-Nookey clinic.
Recurring Riff: A jazzier version of the military march played to open and close Carry On Sergeant was used for the opening and closing credits for the following five films (beginning with Carry On Cabby, each film had a unique score composed by Eric Rogers).
Recycled: The Series: The first Carry On Laughing! was an attempt to bring the style of the Carry On films to television; it ran for 13 episodes across two series in 1975. The series was not a success, in part because only around half the film series' regular cast members were involved* Charles Hawtrey had parted company with the series several years earlier, Kenneth Williams refused to take part, and Sid James filmed four episodes and Hattie Jacques just one; the slack was taken up by Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Bernard Bresslaw, and Jack Douglas while longtime writer Talbot Rothwell had retired due to ill health, and while the films are still frequently repeated on British television to this day, Carry On Laughing! has been largely forgotten.
Special Guest: Phil Silvers as a very Sgt. Bilko-esque Foreign Legion sergeant in Follow That Camel (a role originally intended for Sid James; writer Talbot Rothwell felt that Silvers would be ideal for the role when James proved unavailable).
Stiff Upper Lip: A Running Gag associated with being British. Your hotel is collapsing into a river (Abroad)? Keep partying. Your fortress is being destroyed (Up the Khyber)? Ignore it and have dinner while making offhand comments about the noise. Peter Butterworth's character is the Only Sane Man during both scenes.
Title Drop: Often occurs near the end of the films. Carry On Regardless has one right at the end that is notable for how completely it fails to arise naturally out of the dialogue.
Universal-Adaptor Cast: The cast did the same thing, more or less, regardless of setting. In fact, if one of the regulars is absent from a film, it's invariably easy to guess which role was written with him or her in mind (just to name two examples, Sgt. Sidney Bung in Carry On Screaming! was written for Sid James but played by Harry H. Corbett, while Professor Inigo Tinkle in Carry On Up the Jungle was written for Kenneth Williams but played by Frankie Howerd).
Wardrobe Malfunction: Nearly every film featured at least one scene where a male character either lost or split his trousers or a female character lost her skirt or top.
Carry On Camping provided the most famous example: Barbara is doing aerobics. She flings her arms a bit too wide at one point and... *pop* goes her bikini, right into the face of Kenneth Williams. Watch it on YouTube.