Thursday, 2 February 2017

Sid's Place Welcomes...Sally Geeson

From 1971 to 1976, Sid James was a very familiar presence in the life of actress Sally Geeson. During this time, Sally appeared with Sid in every episode of the beloved smash-hit sitcom Bless This House, as well as the big-screen spin-off film, Along the way they also starred in two Carry On films together..

Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with Sally over the telephone, An absolute delight to talk to, Sally shared many wonderfully warm memories of working with Sid on Bless This House. Our conversation also took in her Bless This House co-star and friend Robin Stewart and the Carry On team.

An Interview with Sally Geeson



Chatting with the lovely Sally Geeson, it is quite obvious that she still adores Sid James. Naturally, most of our conversation is centred on the time she spent working with Sid on the hugely successful Thames Television comedy series Bless This House, a show which, were it not for the untimely death of its star, Sally is sure would have run and run.


Sally Geeson: Bless This House would have gone on and on I think, because it was so popular. It was number one. It was popular because of Sid obviously. He just had one of those faces didn't he and he had such a lovely way about him. You could go anywhere and say the name Sid James and people would know exactly who you were talking about. He sadly died shortly after we had finished filming the sixth series. 

Sid's Place: Did you have to audition for the part of Sally in Bless This House?

SG: Originally I auditioned for Father Dear Father with Patrick Cargill but didn't get the part.. Producer and director William G Stewart.didn't think I was right for it but said he would remember me. Then he rang my agent and said he would like me to play Sid James' daughter in a new comedy series. I went to Bill's office at Thames Television and Sid was there too. I felt really confident as Sid and myself got on well straight away.

SP: One of the reasons I've always loved Sid is because he seemed like such a laid-back, genuine, down-to-earth man.

SG: Sid had that lovely way about him. He wasn't like the character he played in the Carry Ons at all. He was very laid-back and a very relaxed man. He set an atmosphere when we were working that made it very, very happy. It was all down to Sid, it really was.

SP: Sid was a relaxed, reassuring presence on the Bless This House set then?

SG: Oh yes, very much so. He rehearsed very hard though, we all did. It's surprising how much rehearsal you need. We rehearsed for a week for each episode. Rehearsals took place in a scout hall down the road from the studios. If people knew then that we were all in that scout hall, can you imagine what it would have been like? With the media like it is today, it would be impossible now! We worked until about two o'clock  and then we went up to the studio to have some lunch. Saturday we would do a technical run where all the cameras came in and then Sunday we would be in the studio. We'd be there all day and then the audience would come in, about 500 people.

SP: Was it quite a nerve-wracking experience filming live in front of a studio audience?

SG: It's something that I got used to over the years. Having a live audience made the atmosphere absolutely fantastic for the show. I honestly think that no matter what Sid did, they would have laughed. They loved him and just laughed and cheered - it was marvellous! The audience were so excited to see him there on the set, this wonderful man from all those Carry On films. William G Stewart, the director, would introduce us at the start. First it would be me and Robin and, you know, they liked us. Then Diana would come on and they loved her. I can't describe to you what it was like when Sid came on. There would be a big build up and then Sid would appear. Often Bill would have to ask the audience to please stop clapping so that we could get on with the show. The applause was thunderous!


"I can't describe what is was like when Sid came on. Often they would have to ask the audience to please stop clapping so that we could get on with the show. The applause was thunderous!"


Sid's Place: When you watch Bless This House, you do all come across as a real family. It was great casting. You and Robin Stewart, in particular, quite resembled each other. 

Sally Geeson: Yes, I don't know if we resembled Sid but we certainly resembled Diana! It was great casting as we did look like a real family. The writer Vince Powell, who created Bless This House with Harry Driver, said in an interview once that we were just like a real family. Sometimes we would eat together at the Thames restaurant, just the four of us. It was like a family meal but really we were just on our break!


SG: Sid was a great actor and a great reactor. His amazing reactions were so funny. We were his feeds with our lines, so we had to get it right. Our timing had to be right for him to be able to react. We had to learn how to do that, it's not something that just happens. The timing in comedy is so important. That's something that Sid helped me, Robin and Diana with. He taught us all about timing really.

SP: Do you think that the character of Sid Abbott was the closest we got to seeing the real Sid James?

SG: There was quite a lot of the real Sid in that part. He was like a lot of married men with two teenage children. He absolutely adored his wife Val and his children Steven and Susan. He had a beautiful home too. We went there a few times and it was lovely. 

SP: I think one of the reasons that Bless This House remains so beloved by many today is that it is such a nice, happy show to watch. One of my personal favourite episodes is If the Dog Collar Fits Wear It, where Sally comes home with a dog called Fred. Sid pretends he hates the dog but he loves him really. 

SG: Oh yes, that was a lovely dog. I know one of Sid's favourite episodes was The Frozen Limit. That's when we get a freezer in. I was on the phone to my boyfriend and was giving Sid instructions on how to open the lid. It was a very comical situation and Sid loved it. Another episode we liked very much was A Man of Consequence, when we had an intruder in the house played by Tony Selby. We all loved that episode. Diana was just brilliant in it. The rapport between her and Sid was just magical. 


SP: I remember Tony Selby appearing in another episode too, where he played a dodgy character called Fingers who buys Sid's car.

SG: Bill Stewart almost had a repertory company in a way, a great group of actors whom he would call upon. In Bless This House we had a number of actors who would keep coming back and they loved it because they would be working with Sid. We had some great guest stars too. I remember Terry Wogan did an episode once. His voice was on the radio which Diana was listening too as she did some keep fit exercises.

SP: I remember Windsor Davies being in one episode too.

SG: Oh yes, of course. We had June Whitfield too in a very funny episode where they all went to France. We used to have a wonderful floor manager called John Linton. He was a sweet man who came to the rehearsal room at the scout hall on his bike. There was a kitchen at the scout hall where John would cook. We would have bacon and sausages! People who came in to film one episode absolutely loved it!

Sid was very fond of Tony Jackson who played his neighbour Trevor. He really thought a lot of him. He was a wonderful mate for Sid in the series, he played the part so well. They had many scenes together and Tony was fabulous in all of them. Patsy Rowlands who played Betty was brilliant too.



SP: Was the film version of Bless This House as fun to make as the television series?

SG: Oh yes. It was very quick to make. It was the Carry On team who made it - Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas.They changed some of the cast. We had different neighbours and Robin Askwith came in to play my brother, as Robin Stewart was doing a summer season somewhere and was unavailable. To be honest, I always felt totally comfortable when Sid was there. We had a very good father-daughter type relationship right from the word go. He was quite protective, fatherly and sweet to me. He would always ask how I was. His real daughter Susan was only a little bit younger than me, so he was used to having a daughter of that age. 

SP: Did you get to know Sid's daughter Susan well?

SG: Yes, Sue and I are good friends. She is delightful and has got her father's twinkly eyes! Sue came to Robin's funeral, which was really nice of her. Robin sadly died in November 2015. Many years ago he went to live and work in Australia. he was there a long time, about 35 years. When he got back to the UK, he got straight back in touch. He was very ill at the time and he had been remembering those great days. Sid always used to call me Salary and Robin started to call me Salary too. When he got back in touch he said "You know Salary sis, weren't they just great days?"It was such a shame as he was very ill when he got back but he kept his sense of humour to the end. 

SP: While you were doing Bless This House, you also appeared in the Carry On films. 

SG: I'd done one as a little girl, Carry On Regardless, but only had a little part;. I was just part of a crowd really. In Carry On Abroad, I had a proper part alongside Carol Hawkins who played my friend. I was a bit nervous the first day but then, once again, Sid was there. I always had him there and it was nice. He introduced me to everybody. Carol and I had an absolute ball making Carry On Abroad, loved every minute. I'd come home having laughed my head off all day long because everyone was so funny!

Kenneth Williams was charming. I found him terribly nice. He was very complimentary about Carol and I in his diaries. Charles Hawtrey was always my favourite to watch in those films, he was hysterical in them. Bernard Bresslaw was absolutely wonderful and he was a very good friend of Sid's, They were proper mates and would always be on the set together having a cup of tea. Bernard was a gentle man and Sid was a gentle man - a gentle man and a gentleman. Sid was never aggressive or offensive. That's how I saw him and I don't know anyone else who ever saw him differently. I've never heard anyone say anything nasty about Sid ever.



SP: When I spoke to Sid's son Steve last year, he said how everybody loved his dad when they met him because he was such a lovely, genuine man. 

SG: He was a man's man really, a proper bloke. Men liked him because he was just good old Sid. I think people felt they knew him but nobody was ever over-familiar. They all showed him great respect when we were out on location. In Bless This House, all of the scenes outside of the house were filmed in New Malden. Bill Stewart knew the owners of the house and we would go in for tea and coffee. People would come and stand in the street and wave at us and wave at Sid. We just loved it!

SP: Sid was quite particular about good manners, wasn't he?

SG: Yes he was and it's very good of you to mention that. He didn't like crudeness. If anyone was ever telling a joke and it was crude, he wouldn't like that. He didn't like swearing in front of women either. Sid was very polite like that, very well-mannered. Sid's jokes were very sweet, sort of Carry On type jokes in a way!

Bless This House was such a big part of my life and I had such a happy time. Without a shadow of a doubt, it's the thing I've enjoyed most in my career. Bless This House was a joy, everything about it was just a joy. Sid loved it too. He really did love that part.

  
"Sid was a gentle man and a gentleman."


I would like to extend a huge debt of thanks to the wonderful Sally Geeson for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with me. It was a lot of fun!

Be sure to visit Sally's official website here http://www.sallygeeson.com/


My wife and I with Sally in November 2016

  



With special thanks to Graeme Naylor for helping me get in touch with Sally.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Rarely Seen Sid - Laughter and Life

Thanks to British Pathe and their vast archive of  fascinating newsreels and captivating documentaries, we are able to gain a unique insight into a British way of life that has, sadly, long ceased to exist.

In addition to the many newsreels for which they are most famous, the British Pathe collection contains a number of often fascinating documentaries designed to be screened before the main features in cinemas across the country. As the fifties were drawing to a close, Sid James was one of the most recognisable and indeed beloved figures in the British entertainment industry. His engaging, warm personality and relaxed, natural style made him the perfect choice to host some of these unique looks at British life.



Sid's earthy, worldly-wise vocals were used to wonderful effect on the narration for the Look at Life episode The Marketplace in 1959. You can view that little treasure on Sid's Place here Rarely Seen Sid - Look at Life: The Marketplace Sid's role on Look at Life was as narrator only. In 1961, he would be our on-screen host for a documentary on the power of laughter, appropriately entitled Laughter and Life.

Laughter and Life

Contrary to popular belief, clip shows are not a product of modern-day programme makers looking desperately to fill a gap in the schedules  Made while Sid was filming the knockabout gem What a Whopper alongside Adam Faith, Laughter and Life is an utterly fascinating documentary which sees Sid exploring the power of laughter, exemplified by clips featuring the likes of Geroge Formby, Charlie Drake and Will Hay. Sid also interviews the great Robertson 'Bunny' Hare, a comedy star who is sadly forgotten today.

With our host Sid looking as relaxed as ever, his trademark laugh at the ready, this really is a joy to watch. As soon as he utters the opening line "Hang on, I'm just rewriting a diabolical gag!" you know you are in for a treat.The fact that Laughter and Life was never actually screened anywhere makes it all the more fascinating to view today.


Part two includes some vintage Mack Sennett-produced slapstick and the police chase scene from The Lavender Hill Mob.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas with Sid

With the Christmas season upon us once more, what better time to enjoy some cracking photos of our man Sid James in the festive spirit?



The December 1973 edition of the TV Times, featuring Sid and Barbara Windsor promoting the brand new Carry On Christmas television special.



Publicity shot for the aforementioned Carry On Christmas from 1973.



Those of you familiar with Carry On Christmas will notice that Sid is sporting a very different wig to the one that he donned in the broadcast episode.



Sid was the perfect Scrooge in the very first Carry On Christmas in 1969. I would have loved to have seen a Carry On Scrooge film.



Wonderful still from the 1969 Carry On Christmas special, with Sid flanked by those two legendary pantomime dames Terry Scott and Peter Butterworth.



The Thames TV comedy line-up for Christmas 1973 really was rather special wasn't it?



Sid, Charles Hawtrey and glamorous companions get in the festive spirit while promoting Carry On Up the Khyber in 1968.




I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for your continued support of Sid's Place, both here on the blog and over on Twitter. It brings me so much pleasure to see that the wonderful Sid James is still so beloved by so many.

I would also like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of my book A Question of Carry On Your generosity is greatly appreciated.




Coming soon to Sid's Place - a brand new interview with one of Sid's television co-stars. Don't miss it!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Sid James Treasures on Talking Pictures TV

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)

   

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sid the Salesman



As one of the most beloved stars of his generation, Sid James was the perfect choice when advertising executives were looking for a famous face to feature in their latest ad campaigns. Let's take a look at some of the publicity campaigns that Sid was a part of.


Unigate Dairies




On of the most fondly remembered advertising campaigns of the seventies, Unigate Dairies struck gold with the unseen characters The Humphreys. Anchored by the memorable slogan "Watch out, watch out, there's a Humphrey about!", this classic series of adverts saw a number of familiar stars of the time desperately trying to stop the Humphreys, armed with the familiar red and white-striped straws. from stealing their milk.

Along with our man Sid, seen in the video above, the Humphrey adverts also featured the likes of Benny Hill, Henry McGee, Barbara Windsor and, astonishingly, Muhammad Ali



Sparklets Beer



In real life, although he would often frequent whichever pub was nearest the film studio, Sid was more partial to spirits than beer. However, his enduring screen image of the lovable rogue - softened slightly by his role as Sid Abbott in Bless This House when he became everyone's ideal next door neighbour -  made Sid the ideal man to front a press campaign for Sparklets Home Brew Kits in the early seventies.


Murphy Televisions




 When you are looking to launch a brand spanking new television model, with a nineteen inch screen no less (!), it makes perfect sense to find the most popular small-screen stars of the day to act as the faces of your publicity campaign. By the time the Murphy Nineteen was ready to launch, Sid James was one of the most familiar faces on British television, with both Hancock's Half Hour and Citizen James attracting huge viewer numbers.


Shooter Snooker





There is little doubt that Bless This House marked a new chapter in Sid's career. Not only was the Thames show the most successful sitcom Sid had ever starred in, it changed his long-standing screen image from bird-chasing rogue to domesticated family man. This more family-friendly image, further heightened by Bless This House appearing in comic strip form in the hugely popular kid's magazine Look-In, led to toy manufacturer Aurora asking Sid to be the face of their new game Shooter Snooker.

Aurora also released a variation of the game called Pot-Shot Snooker, with Sid featured on the box once more, this time dressed in traditional snooker player garb, complete with bow-tie and waistcoat.

Tesco




The British public found it easy to identify with Sidney James. His easy-going charm and in-built likeability, intertwined with a twinkling zest for life, made him one of the most loved stars of the time. Who better than Sid to open this brand new Tesco supermarket in Leicester?

The opening of this so-called 'wonder store' was a huge deal in 1961. Not only was this the first Tesco to open outside of the south of England, it was also the very first to offer homeware in addition to groceries. As reported in the Leicester Mercury, the revolutionary aspects of the store, coupled with the huge drawing power of Sid James, ensured that over 2000 people turned up for the grand opening, with police being called to keep things under control.


Whether he was playing a black-hatted villain in the Wild West or opening a supermarket in Leicester as himself, Sid was always, reassuringly, 'Sid'. And that's why we still love him so much.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Sid on Sid

What better way of getting to know a little bit more about the real Sid James than by hearing from the man himself? Here is a selection of fascinating quotes given by Sid in various interviews conducted over the course of his long career.





Sid on his early life in South Africa...

"I've done gold-digging and polishing. I've been a stevedore, a coal-heaver, a boxer, a wrestler, a junior clerk for two days and an electrician's apprentice for about an hour, at the end of which I blew the lights in a whole building. I've also taught skating and dancing."

"Years ago when I was a child, not a child but a youngster, I used to do a lot of diamond digging."


Sid on money...

"I like to spend it but my wife likes to save it. The big thing that matters is that the kids should have the best possible education and that I should be able to leave them something."

"I want to make as much money as I possibly can in the shortest amount of time, so that I can clear right out of show-business and spend the rest of my days fishing." 

"My accountant looks after my money. I try to see that he has a little left at the end of the flat season to keep the tax people happy."

Sid on his face...


"A face like mine grows on people...like a carbuncle."

"I didn't think I stood much of a chance with a mug like mine. A few thousand cases of gin, some boxing, late nights in my youth, hundreds of gee-gees and worry lines left by the taxman."


Sid on the Carry On films...



"It's just one hysterical laugh from start to finish. Not at the jokes but at each other."

"I think in every single Carry On I've ever done, I've been soaked to the skin. I think Tolly Rothwell now does it on purpose!"


Sid on his career and stardom...

"I was very lucky."

"There is nothing la-di-da about me. Perfect strangers in the street I meet yell out 'Wotcha Sid! How's it going?' I like that. I think that's real nice."

" I'm what you would call a reluctant star. I don't want to be a star."

Sid on Tony Hancock...



" Hancock's Half Hour was the best thing that ever happened to me."

"A great comic. More than a comic...an acting comic.The two of us are dead opposites. I suppose that's why we hit it off so well."


Sid on horses and gambling...

"I've got the losing gambler's walk. Head down looking for a winning tote ticket."

" I was taught to read with a racing sheet."

Sid on relaxing...

"I love taking it easy. I like, more than anything, fishing and lying in the sun."

Sid on what he'd like to be remembered for...

"The losers I've backed."




  "I've been such a lucky sod! I've made people laugh and I've got a wonderful woman."



Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Question of Carry On Quiz Book

As many of you will have noticed I have not been able to update Sid's Place as often as I would have liked recently. I can now happily reveal that my time has been taken up with writing my latest book which is now available from Amazon.

A Question of Carry On features hundreds of questions on all aspects of the wonderful Carry On franchise, from the films & TV shows, to the many marvellous and talented individuals who have kept us all entertained for years, such as Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques.




In addition, A Question of Carry On also contains lots of interesting trivia pieces, some fun behind the scenes stories and a Carry On filmography list for the main team. 

Currently priced at just £6.99, A Question of Carry On can be purchased from Amazon here...A Question of Carry On Quiz Book at Amazon