Carry On Girls (1973)


In an attempt to liven up a depressed town, a beauty pageant is held – but a local contingent of feminists are intent on sabotaging it…

What’s it spoofing? The film was cashing in on the publicity surrounding disruption at the 1970 Miss World event, when feminist protesters threw flour bombs around. (The original planned title for the film was Carry On Beauty Queens.)

Funniest moment: The town’s mayor visits a hospital to unveil a commemorative plaque. However, as it’s on the wall of the nursery, he has to whisper his speech.

The Big 10:

* Sid James (18) plays Sidney Fiddler, the councillor who proposes and runs the beauty contest. And revels in it. (The character has the same surname as Peter Butterworth’s character in Carry On Camping.)

* Kenneth Connor (13) is the mayor, Frederick Bumble.

* Joan Sims (20) plays Connie Philpotts. She runs the hotel where – to her chagrin – all the contestants stay gratis, and has an on/off relationship with Sid.

* Peter Butterworth (12) has another role that oddly preempts a Fawlty Towers character – after his Manuel-like Pepe in Carry On Abroad, here he plays the Admiral, a befuddled hotel resident. He’s a lot more saucy than FT’s Major, admittedly.

* Bernard Bresslaw (12) plays Peter Potter, a PR expert called in by Sid to help promote the pageant. Later on, in order to raise the event’s profile, he’s talked into masquerading as a female contestant so he can then be exposed before the press. (Had writer Talbot Rothwell recently seen Carry On Camping again? Bresslaw’s character has the exact same name as Terry Scott’s from that earlier movie.)

* Barbara Windsor (8) plays Hope Springs (real name: Muriel Boggs, which is noticeably close to her character’s real name in Carry On Again Doctor: Maude Boggins!). She rides in on a motorbike with ‘Miss Easy Rider’ emblazoned on her leather jacket, then has a feud with rival contestant Dawn, which (ahem) climaxes with the two brawling in bikinis. There’s no need to watch the exploitative fight, so whatever you do don’t click on this link:

Notable others:

* June Whitfield plays council member Augusta Prodworthy, who’s the leader of the town’s feminist contingent. The character’s surname probably gives you some idea of the script’s equality credentials. Whitfield uses a light northern accent and is very good.

* Arnold Ridley from Dad’s Army cameos as a sleepy alderman.

* Jack Douglas has his biggest Carry On role yet: hotel doorman William, who does a bit of twitching now and again.

* Joan Hickson is a hotel guest who has a silly, cut-out-able subplot about her knickers going missing.

* Valerie Leon plays Peter’s fiancée, Paula Perkins. She has tight hair, glasses and a humourless demeanour, and objects to her husband’s role in the beauty pageant – that is, until she glams up and takes part herself. All of Leon’s dialogue was dubbed by June Whitfield, but no one now seems to remember why.

* Robin Askwith – very close to starting his four-film run as nympho Timothy Lea in the Confessions of a… movies – plays Prodworthy’s son, Larry, who’s a photographer.

* Patsy Rowlands is hilarious as Mildred, the mayor’s couldn’t-give-a-fuck wife. Bored with him, she soon joins the protestor’s cause. Her initiation into the gang involves burning her bra. Biting satire, there.

* Margaret Nolan plays Dawn Brakes, the stunningly womanly contestant who has that filthy, censors-baiting fight with Hope Springs. She later wants some nudie pictures done, so employs a very nervous Larry.

* Wendy Richard is Isa Downes, one of the other contestants who Sid enjoys measuring up.

* Patricia Franklin plays Rosemary, a forthright member of the feminist group. She wears a tie and there’s a not-so-sly joke about her being a lesbian.

* Brenda Cowling – later Mrs Lipton in You Rang, M’Lord? – has a small role as a hospital matron. It was too small to offer to Hattie Jacques, presumably.

* Jimmy Logan returns from Carry On Abroad for a role surely meant originally for now-out-of-favour Charles Hawtrey. Camp TV producer Cecil Gaybody has a Louie Spence lisp.

* Sally Geeson’s in a scene or two as Gaybody’s assistant.

* Bill Pertwee plays a fire chief.

Top totty: I may as well have called this category The Margaret Nolan Award.

Kenneth Williams says: “I have written a letter to [Gerald] Thomas withdrawing from [Carry On Girls] in March because I know the energy for this play [My Fat Friend] MUST be conserved.” – Kenneth Williams to Michael Codron, 7 January 1973 (The Kenneth Williams Letters, p173)

Review: The series returns to Brighton only a couple of years after Carry On At Your Convenience filmed there. Now it’s standing in for Fircombe, the seaside town they forgot to close down. This movie is the epitome (or nadir, if you prefer) of Carry On’s dirty-old-man-ism. There’s a lot of PG flesh on show, while the sexual politics is frankly an embarrassment. And yet… The film is a lot of fun in an undemanding, Sunday-afternoon-on-ITV way.

Seven donkeys out of 10

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