Carry On Cabby (1963)


Frustrated with her workaholic cabby husband, Peggy Hawkins forms her own rival company, Glamcabs, which is staffed by women drivers…

What’s it spoofing? The battle of the sexes. There are also hints of trade-union satire. The movie is an adaptation of stage play Call Me a Cab.

Funniest moment: Knowing they’re being listened in on by the men, the Glamcabs girls send out a fake call. When the Speedee Cabs driver knocks on the front door of 20 Chester Road, it falls away to reveal a field rather than a house behind it.

The Big 10: Kenneth Williams misses a Carry On for the first time.

* Sid James (4) is Charlie Hawkins, the cheeky and on-the-make owner of Speedee Cabs. He does genuinely love his wife, though, and there’s no sign of lechery.

* Hattie Jacques (6) is very good as Charlie’s wife, Peggy, who despite her naivety at times builds up a successful company in just a few weeks.

* Kenneth Connor (7) does some flirting and a scene or two of cross-dressing as Ted Watson, Speedee Cabs’ site manager.

* Charles Hawtrey (6) isn’t in the film a huge amount as accident-prone driver Terry Tankard (aka Pint-Pot). He’d missed the last movie after his request for top billing was laughed out of the production office, but peace had now been made.

* Jim Dale (1) has a fun cameo as the husband of a woman in labour.

Notable others:

* Bill Owen crops up again, as driver Smiley.

* Liz Fraser appears in a third Carry On running. She plays Sally, who works in the drivers’ café and acts as a mole for the rival firm.

* Amanda Barrie plays one of the Glamcabs drivers. Fenella Fielding turned the role down, arguing that the character was defined by her bust.

* Peter Gilmore – in the first of 11 usually minor Carry On appearances – plays the crook at the end who holds up Peggy’s taxi.

Top totty: Amanda Barrie’s very pretty.

Kenneth Williams says: “Read script of the Peter Rodgers film Call Me a Cab [this film’s original title] and hated it. Wrote and said I didn’t want to do it.” – Friday 1 February 1963 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p207)

“I haven’t seen [Carry On Cabby], but I have heard it was lousy. They made it originally with a script called ‘Call Me a Cab’. That’s why I wasn’t in it. I read it and thought that it wouldn’t work UNLESS it were done as a Carry On and that it needed script alterations. They offered me the part which they eventually gave to Charlie Hawtrey. Anyway they made it, and it went out on release and did very bad business indeed. So they withdrew it, and re-issued it, under the new title ‘Carry On Cabbie’ and it cleaned up! They made a lot of money out of it.” – Kenneth Williams to Andrew Hathaway, 12 February 1972 (The Kenneth Williams Letters, p156)

Note: IMDB says the part intended for Williams was actually given to Norman Chappell, while it appears that the change of title was made during production.

Review: Back to black-and-white. Maybe it was for budgetary reasons, but it’s apt. This has traces of kitchen-sink drama, and actually feels more like an Ealing Comedy than a Carry On. There was a new writer, Talbot Rothwell, and he brings a new sophistication. There’s actually a feature-length plot, rather than a collection of comic incidents, as well as some nice character moments. It may have dated – especially when it comes to gender politics – but it’s entertaining stuff.

Eight headlamps out of 10

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