In the heyday of the Carry On film era, Sid James was renowned for his comedic brilliance. Alternatively, he also had a reputation as a womaniser. However, actress Jacki Piper has come forward to defend the legendary actor, revealing a more protective and caring side.
“A lot of the big executives visited the set one day, and one was coming onto this young girl who had just joined the film. Sid had a reputation for being lascivious, but he was the opposite. He went over and said, ‘Just leave her.’ He was very protective of all of us,” Jacki passionately expressed. As the Carry On cast prepares for a reunion, memories of their time on set resurface, dispelling misconceptions about James’ conduct.
Jacki Piper Talks ‘Behind the Scenes’
Jacki reminisces about the camaraderie that extended beyond the film sets. The Carry On fun, she notes, continued even during outings to restaurants, where the cast would break into fits of laughter, flinging bread buns across the table. Lunches with co-star Joan Sims turned into hilarious affairs, with laughter so contagious that their makeup would melt off.
The fun didn’t stop there. Jacki shares an amusing incident involving Charles Hawtrey’s mother during a set visit. “She was a non-stop smoker, and a cigarette set her handbag on fire. They called the fire brigade,” she chuckles. These anecdotes offer a glimpse into the off-screen escapades that made the Carry-On films not just cinematic treasures but cherished memories for the cast.
The actresses, including Valerie Leon, also recall feeling safe and cared for on set. However, the ’60s brought its share of unwanted attention. Valerie recounts an incident when executives visited the set, with one making advances towards a young actress. In a moment that reflects Sid James’ protective nature, he intervened, telling the unwelcome visitor, ‘Just leave her.’
Beyond the camera, Sid James led a tumultuous personal life. Married three times, his relationships were marked by divorces, affairs, and a gambling addiction that saw him lose substantial sums. During his marriage to Valerie Elizabeth Patsy Assan, James had a three-year affair with co-star Barbara Windsor. This affair was later dramatised in the stage play Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle, and Dick.
Tragic End For British Comedy Legend
His punishing schedule, coupled with emotional turmoil following the end of his affair with Windsor, took a toll on James. A severe back injury, sustained when a piece of scenery fell on him, added to his woes. These factors, combined with the heartbreak of losing Barbara Windsor, culminated in James suffering a heart attack on stage during a performance of The Mating Game at the Sunderland Empire Theatre in 1976.
The audience initially roared with laughter, believing it to be part of the act. Only when the theatre manager explained the severity of the situation did the mood shift. The comedy legend, who had brought joy to countless through his performances, was pronounced dead on arrival at Sunderland Royal Hospital at 62.
The legend of Sid James endures not just in British comedy but in the haunting claims surrounding the Sunderland Empire. There are whispers of of his ghost lingering which has left many people scared to visit the building.