Taking a look at some of the lesser-known film appearances of Sid James, which can now be seen on the wonderful Talking Pictures TV channel.
|Talking Pictures TV|
To many people, Sid James is the ever-cheerful face of the Carry On films, with a permanent mischievous twinkle in the eye and a gloriously throaty laugh on standby. Whether he was the exasperated figure of authority desperately trying to keep control of unruly underlings, a black-clad villain terrorising the Old West or lovable rogue forever 'on the pull', audiences could not get enough of their man Sid. There can be little doubt that Sid's performances in the Carry On series made him a true star.
However, Sid's status as King of the Carry Ons often overshadows his previous reputation as King of the Character Actors. During the late forties and throughout the fifties, Sid James was one of the busiest actors in the British film industry, his reliability and ultra-professionalism earning him the nickname One-Take James. From pub landlords and boxing promoters to jovial policemen and worldly-wise crooks, Sid James was the number-one choice for casting directors looking to fill small to medium size roles in British films of the time.
Many of these wonderful Sid James performances have remained relatively unseen in recent years, due to non-availability on DVD and a lack of visibility on television. However, that has now all changed, thanks to the wonderful people at Talking Pictures TV.
Available on Freesat 306, Freeview Channel 81, Youview 81 and Sky channel 343, Talking Pictures TV is a kaleidoscope of rare and warmly nostalgic silver-screen gems.
Sid James fans are well-catered for on Talking Pictures TV..Here are just a few of the treats available.
Black Memory (1947)
|Black Memory (1947)|
Although the film itself is fairly unremarkable, Black Memory is an absolute must-see for Sid James aficionados, containing as it does his debut screen performance. Considering Sid had only arrived in England a few weeks before landing the role of Eddie Clinton, his performance here is remarkably relaxed, a trait that would serve him well for the rest of his career. Interestingly, Sid is billed as Sydney James on the credits.
Time Gentlemen, Please (1952)
|Time Gentlemen, Please (1952)|
There are certain films which are perfect viewing fare on a cold winter's afternoon, with a welcome fire blazing inside and a hot mug of tea at the ready. Cosy and unashamedly sentimental, Time Gentlemen, Please is one of those films.
Played with gentle warmth by Eddie Byrne, lovable rogue Dan Dance is the only resident of the village of Little Hayhoe without a job. With the Prime Minster due to visit to reward the village for its excellent employment record, the local council try to ensure that Dan is kept out of the way.
Sid plays grasping pub landlord Eric Hace, who tries to get Dan arrested for non-payment of his bar bill. Although Sid's character here is far from loveable, we still get an opportunity to hear that treasured laugh, a pleasant reminder that this is still the Sid we know and love.
Orders are Orders (1955)
|Orders are Orders (1955)|
A rather ramshackle but nonetheless enjoyable comedy which is a star-spotter's delight. In addition to our man Sid, the gem of a cast also features Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers, Eric Sykes, Bill Fraser and Donald Pleasence. What a line-up!
Sid is terrific value for money here as the energetic and enthusiastic American film director Ed Waggermeyer. Looking to utilise an army barracks as a location for his latest low-budget science-fiction 'epic' and use the soldiers as extras, Sid breezes through the action on full-throttle.
Hell Drivers (1957)
|Hell Drivers (1957)|
One of the classics of fifties British cinema, Hell Drivers is uncompromisingly gritty and as tough as they come. Totally gripping from start to finish, the film stars Stanley Baker as Tom Hately, who gets a job driving ballast for Hawlett Trucking. Unscrupulous boss Cartley (William Hartnell) pushes his drivers to the limits of their endurance and prizes speed above everything else .Tom soon finds himself pitted against ruthless foreman Red, played with seething menace by Patrick McGoohan, as they both vie to complete the most runs in a day.
Sid James plays Dusty, one of the cheerier members of the driving crew, who nonetheless can switch loyalties in an instant and has a penchant for instigating fights. Amongst the gritty thrills, Hell Drivers contains some classic light-hearted 'Sid'moments to treasure, notably the cheeky trick with matches he plays on blonde stunner Vera Day and his subsequent mini-drag performance, donning a pair of curtains and utilising a couple of well-placed balloons to great effect at the local dance.
Along with Sid, Baker, McGoohan and Hartnell, Hell Drivers also features a young Sean Connery, an even younger Jill Ireland, Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson, David McCallum and a mesmerising performance from Herbert Lom as the kindly Italian trucker Gino.
Tommy the Toreador (1959)
|Tommy the Toreador (1959)|
Delightfully cheery and upbeat, this simple but charming musical can't help to bring a smile to even the grumpiest of faces. After all, only the hardest of hearts could fail to delight in watching Sid, pencil-moustache and all, strut his stuff whilst warbling a verse or too of the amazing catchy Where's the Birdie?
Tommy Steele is simply Tommy and Sid is simply Sid, while Bernard Cribbins provides able support.. Who could want more?
Desert Mice (1959)
|Desert Mice (1959)|
Although a fair proportion of Desert Mice is centred around the stuffy Major Poskett, played in a rather dull fashion by Alfred Marks, there is much delight to be had from the plethora of comedy talent on show elsewhere. Sid is in his element as the jovial Bert Bennett, hapless comedian and leader of a group of ENSA entertainers in North Africa during WWII. He is joined by such familiar names as Dora Bryan, Liz Fraser, Irene Handl, Dick Bently and Reginald Beckwith.
Sid is the embodiment of Max Miller here, all check trousers, cheeky patter and mischievous smile. Forever looking on the bright side of life and happily entertaining the troops with songs about jellied eels and pigs trotters, he is the eternal optimist and perhaps a metaphor for the never-say-die attitude of the British nation during the dark days of the war. It really is a fine performance from our man Sid.
These are just a few of the Sid James delights on the Talking Pictures TV schedules. Other Sid gems which can be seen on the channel include The Wedding of Lilli Marlene (1953), A Yank in Ermine (1955), And the Same to You (1960) and the rather marvellous The Big Job (1965)
|The Big Job (1965)|