Carry On Loving (1970)

Loving

The Wedded Bliss marriage agency brings together singletons, but not always successfully…

What’s it spoofing? Romance, dating agencies and the ‘free love’ attitudes of the era. At times the film feels like a precursor of sex comedies such as Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) and its sequels, though it’s not as vulgar or explicit.

Funniest moment: The Wedded Bliss office has a huge bank of computers – spinning discs of tape, panels of buttons and all that – which is used to determine a client’s ideal date. When owner Sidney Bliss punches in the requirements, however, we see the reverse side of the machine… where his wife, Sophie, selects a card and simply shoves it through a slot. (The computer prop was first used in Gerry Anderson’s TV show UFO.)

The Big 10:

* Hattie Jacques (10) plays agency manageress Sophie Plummett, who initially claims to be married to Sidney (all the better for seeming respectable).

* Sid James (13) is Sidney Bliss, who runs the company with his ‘wife’, Sophie. He spends a lot of time chasing client Esme.

* Joan Sims (15) plays Esme Crowfoot, a seamstress who was once on the agency books. She’s bored by Sidney’s advances.

* Kenneth Williams (18) plays Percival Snooper, a counsellor who works in marriage guidance at the Citizens Advice Bureau. He’s a bachelor so doesn’t have anything useful to say, so his boss tells him to get a wife; after he consults Wedded Bless, Sophie takes a shine to him.

* Peter Butterworth (9) has another one-scene cameo, this time as a sinister client.

* Charles Hawtrey (19) plays private detective James Bedsop, who dons a fake beard to follow Sidney into some train-station toilets and gets arrested.

* Bernard Bresslaw (8) shows up late on as Gripper Burke, Esme’s ex-boyfriend: a wrestler who’s jealous of any man she goes near.

Notable others:

* Terry Scott plays a client called Terence Philpot. He has a funny scene where he and his amorous date keep getting interrupted.

* Richard O’Callaghan joins the Carry On team: he’s essentially the latest attempt to replace Jim Dale. Bertram Muffet wants a wife so goes to Wedded Bliss. (O’Callaghan’s mum, Patricia Hayes, was in Carry On Again Doctor.)

* Kenny Lynch has a cameo as a bus conductor.

* Alexandra Dane’s in a one-gag scene about a busty woman and her short husband.

* Patricia Franklin and Bill Maynard play a rowing couple who Snooper fails to help.

* Joan Hickson shows up as the stuffy, fussy mother of Terence’s date. Ann Way from the Gourmet Night episode of Fawlty Towers is in the same sequence but doesn’t have any dialogue.

* Imogen Hassall plays Jenny, the initially dowdy but later sexed-up woman who Terence is paired off with.

* Jacki Piper from Carry On Up The Jungle plays Sally Martin, an actress who mistakes Bertram for a fashion photographer so strips down to her undies soon after meeting him.

* Bill Pertwee has a small role as a barman.

* Fred Griffiths – my mate Johnny’s great uncle – again plays a cab driver in a Carry On film.

* Julian Holloway plays a fashion photographer.

* Patsy Rowlands is very funny as Miss Dempsey, Snooper’s housekeeper who is not-so-secretly in love with him. When it looks like Snooper’s head is being turned by Sophie, Miss Dempsey ‘glams up’ to show him what he’s missing.

* James Beck from Dad’s Army was originally in the film, but his scene was cut out and is now sadly lost.

Top totty: Alexandra Dane, who also won this category for Up The Khyber. A pair of wins, so to speak.

Kenneth Williams says: “The script has arrived of Carry On Loving. I am offered the part of Snooper (which looks interchangeable with Charlie Hawtrey) which is certainly a small part – well no – a support I suppose, but really thankless. The end is a big party shambles where everyone throws custard pies and seems to be the bottom of the barrel, but for [writer] Talbot Rothwell bottoms are capable of infinite variety.” – Saturday 7 March 1970 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, pp370-371)

Review: It’s another sketch-show format – however, the threads are weaved together with more complexity than in, say, Carry On Regardless. (Coincidentally, the same street in Windsor was used as the agency HQ in both films.) The story ends with a lame food fight, but until then it’s generally good fun.

Seven Rogerham Mansions out of 10

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