The lovely ladies of the Carry-On film franchise had a celebratory get-together earlier this month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carry On Girls—the 25th instalment of the series.
Madeline Smith, Anita Harris, Valerie Leon, Jacki Piper, and Louise Burton joined forces to commemorate the timeless classic. Adding to the celebrations, Valerie Leon, a seven-time Carry-On star turned Bond girl, celebrated her 80th birthday amidst laughter and nostalgia.
Reflecting on the enduring legacy, Valerie expressed her disbelief. She told the Mirror: “Who would have thought back then we’d still be talking about this today?”. Anita, the 1960s pop sensation who graced Carry on Doctor and Follow that Camel, chimed in. Nostalgically, she stated, “We will treasure this day. It’s wonderful how each generation has taken on the films. It’s kept our reunion together over the years.”
The reunion is not just a celebration; it’s also a chapter in a new book that delves into the behind-the-scenes antics of the 31 movies. They fondly recall working alongside other legendary British actors and actresses. These include the likes of Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, and the unforgettable Barbara Windsor, whose flying bra in Carry-On Camping etched its place in British film history.
Valerie Leon, who played the leader of a female tribe in Carry-On Up The Jungle, recalls donning a furry animal bikini. Humorously, she confessed, “That was my favourite as I like to be in control. I didn’t get to keep the bikini but I should have done. Memorabilia does very well now.”
Carry-On Pushed The Boundaries On And Off-Screen
The Carry-On films, known for their witty scripts and bawdy humour, often pushed the boundaries. Valerie shares a snippet from Carry On Camping, revealing, “I was in a tent with Charlie [Hawtrey], and we had to scramble out. His line was, ‘She was showing me how to stick up my pole.’ But that was far too suggestive then and was changed to ‘the pole’.”
Anita Harris recounts the odd filming locations. One of these included the Sahara Desert (actually Camber Sands beach) during the making of Follow That Camel. She quips, “It was a little chilly around the knicker tops! I had to do weeks of belly dance training, and they zoomed in on my ruby, which kept popping out of my belly button. I think eyelash glue eventually stuck it in.”
Jacki Piper, who endured rope burns swinging through trees in Carry-On Up The Jungle, shares a hilarious on-set mishap involving co-star Terry Scott, both left with burns in delicate areas. Jacki recalls, “Terry had to go to the nurse and have Savlon slapped on various parts. He told me, ‘Thank goodness I’ve had children!’”
The laughter doesn’t stop there. Madeline Smith reveals a censored punchline in Carry On Matron, where her character frets over her newborn son. The joke sees the character moan about her newborn’s “little thing being bent to one side, unlike his father’s”. This would later be cut out. She laughs, “Instead, in the bed next to me was Joan Sims, who had a sausage on the end of her fork.”
Iconic Films Made On A Shoestring
The Carry-On films were known for their tight budgets. Louise Burton, reminiscing about her early days in Carry-On England at 17, shares, “You didn’t get expenses, so for seven weeks, I was somewhere different every night.”
Valerie Leon highlights the frugality of the late producer Peter Rogers, stating, “Joan and Charlie died in poverty. Those films were made on a shoestring“. Despite the challenges, the films became a launchpad for the women, propelling them to stardom in Bond films and other TV shows.
As they reunited to mark 50 years of Carry-On Girls, these leading ladies embody the spirit of an era. Together, they remind us why Carry-On remains a proud and timeless British institution.