Carry On Henry (1971)


King Henry VIII actually had two more wives than history has recorded: after taking against garlic-loving Marie, he fell for a young woman called Bettina…

What’s it spoofing? The multi-marriage life of Henry VIII, including the way it was presented in the 1969 movie Anne of a Thousand Days. Sid James sports a costume Richard Burton wore in that film (he also had a Burton hand-me-down in Carry On Cleo, of course).

Funniest moment: The king’s attempts to see Bettina in the nude.

The Big 10:

* Sid James (14) plays a bawdy and selfish King Henry. At one stage, producer Peter Rogers planned to cast Harry Secombe in the role.

* Kenneth Williams (19) is at the slimy end of his range as Thomas Cromwell.

* Joan Sims (16) plays Queen Marie of Normandy, the first of Henry’s previously unknown wives. She’s French so – SATIRE ALARM – likes eating garlic.

* Charles Hawtrey (20) plays Sir Roger de Lodgerley, the king’s advisor who also acts as his ‘taster’ – so decides to give Queen Marie a go! He’s later tortured for long periods, but doesn’t seem to mind too much.

* Kenneth Connor (10) is Lord Hampton of Wick, who plots to get rid of the king (in an anachronistic take on the Gunpowder Plot).

* Peter Butterworth (10) has a small role as Charles, the Earl of Bristol, whose daughter Bettina catches the eye of the king.

* Barbara Windsor (5) plays Bettina, who becomes a lady-in-waiting then later the king’s new wife. Windsor has to flash the flesh again.

Notable others:

* Terry Scott plays Cardinal Wolsey.

* Patsy Rowlands gets one line as a queen destined for a beheading.

* Margaret Nolan plays a local girl with a big cleavage who the king hunts like she’s a fox then seduces in a barn.

* Julian Holloway is Sir Thomas, an equerry.

* Bill Maynard plays Guy Fawkes. (The real Fawkes was born 23 years after Henry’s death.)

* David Prowse is a featured extra, playing a torturer.

* Peter Gilmore hams it up as Francis, King of France.

* David Essex originally had a small role, but his scene was cut out.

Top totty: Margaret Nolan.

Kenneth Williams says: “I read the script of Carry On Henry and I think it’s abysmal. My part (Cromwell) seems to equate to the thing I did in Don’t Lose Yr. Head. It is liberally sprinkled with filth.” – Sunday 13 September 1970 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p384)

“We saw the TV and it was Carry On Henry… amazing how well this was made! Everyone in it was competent and the sheer look of the thing was so professional.” – Thursday 4 January 1979 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p574)

“ITV showed Carry On Henry. Oh, dear! it was so bad in places… truly chronic dialogue… dreadful acting. Sid James had never been quite as bad as this. A collection of such rubbish you’re amazed it could ever have been stuck together. Only an audience of illiterates could ever have found this tripe amusing.” – Tuesday 19 January 1988 (The Kenneth Williams Diaries, p780)

Review: Sadly, you can sense the charm draining away from the series with this film. There are corny gags galore, but no woofers. And there’s very little comic momentum – it just kind of trundles along. (Around the time I rewatched this, I also saw ITV docudrama Cor Blimey! for the first time since it was screened in 2000. It tells the story of Sid James’s affair with Barbara Windsor and restages scenes from a few Carry On films, including Henry. A decent cast and some good dialogue distract you from the massive amount of fudging that goes on with historical accuracy – it has Bernard Bresslaw playing Cardinal Wolsey, for example.)

Five “In as much as I, Roger de Lodgerley, of Bedside Manor, Wilts, hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part, did unlawfully, with malice aforethought and without taking due precaution, on the night of October 4th last, admire, covet, blandish, cosset, seduce and otherwise get at Marie, spouse to Henry Tudor, hereinafter referred to as the party of the second part, I do now hereby solemnly declare, and in witness thereof I append my signature below, that the resulting issue, herein after referred to as the party of the third part, is the direct consequence of the joining together of the party of the first part’s and the party of the second part’s parts” out of 10

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