Carry On, Constable (1960)

Constable

A flu epidemic means a trio of trainee officers are drafted in to help staff a local police station…

What’s it spoofing? The police. Popular drama Dixon of Dock Green had been running on the BBC since July 1955, so perhaps that influenced the choice of subject matter.

Funniest moment: Going undercover to sniff out some shoplifters in a department store, Constables Benson and Gorse dress up as old ladies – dubbing themselves Agatha and Ethel. Of course, they finger the wrong suspect and then the shop’s staff refuse to believe that they’re police officers.

The Big 10:

* Sid James (1) joins the team, playing Sergeant Frank Williams. It’s more of an honest, decent character than the ones he’ll become famous for. He’s the straight man, around whom all the chaos goes on.

* Hattie Jacques (4) plays Sergeant Laura Moon, who gets a sweet subplot with Frank.

* Kenneth Connor (4) is the superstitious Constable Constable, who falls for fellow officer Passworthy but can’t proceed until he knows her star sign.

* Kenneth Williams (4) pushes the buffoonery up a notch as Constable Stanley Benson, who’s obsessed with criminology and thinks he can identify villains by their bone structure.

* Charles Hawtrey (4) plays Special Constable Timothy Gorse, who gets a Hawtrey “Hello!” as he makes his entrance.

* Joan Sims (3) plays Policewoman Gloria Passworthy. Notably, Sims and Jacques’s characters are the most unruffled, confident and good at their jobs.

Notable others:

* Eric Barker returns from Carry On Sergeant to play the vague station chief, Inspector Mills.

* Leslie Phillips – in his third Carry On in a row but his last for 32 years – has fun as Constable Tom Potter (“Tom Potter, none hotter!” he quips). When we first meet him, he and his colleagues are searching for the police station, so he taps a jewel thief on the shoulder and asks for directions. He fancies a WPC called Harrison, but when she gets the flu he switches his attentions to Passworthy.

* Joan Hickson is hilarious as a well-to-do middle-aged woman who keeps getting arrested for being drunk. “I usually have that nice cell with the southern exposure…”

* Shirley Eaton makes a third and final appearance in the series. Despite her prominent credit on the poster, it’s only a cameo: she plays Sally Barry, a woman having relationship issues who gets mistaken for a burglar. Her opening scene is the first time there’s a topless woman in a Carry On movie. Lucky old Leslie Phillips gets an eyeful, but all we see is her back.

* Terence Longdon has one scene as Herbert Hall, a conman who tries to get £50 out of Constable Benson.

Top totty: Shirley Eaton. A hat-trick of wins in this category.

Kenneth Williams says: “First day filming. The location is a dreary house in Ealing. Water dripping everywhere. Rain pouring down. Charming. And me bum not v. pleasant.” – Monday 9 November 1959 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p157).

“Trade show Carry On Constable, Studio One. 10.30. It was mediocre and tired. I think everyone knew it. On to the Mirabelle for drinks and chatted with Kenneth Connor. He is without doubt the loveliest character of all. Must write him a note, to take it easy. He looked so tired and strained.” – Thursday 18 February 1960 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p161).

Review: Like the first three films, this is essentially sympathetic towards the profession it’s ridiculing. They might be buffoons, but these police officers are decent people. However, the series is evolving in other ways. There’s some nudity for the first time, for example. The male nakedness is played for laughs; the women are there to titillate. We also get an unusually large amount of location filming on the streets of Ealing. And the recognisable character types are also starting to emerge: Hawtrey’s friendly, effeminate mummy’s boy; Williams’s upper-class snob; Sid James’s jovial everyman… The film passes 80 minutes divertingly enough, though sadly it’s rarely actually that funny.

Five cold showers out of 10

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