Sid and Joan

It is quite fitting that two actors who worked so closely together for many years enjoyed birthdays just one day apart. Sid James would have been a sprightly 102 years old today (May 8th), while his frequent co-star Joan Sims was introduced to the world on May 9th 1930.

Of the many female co-stars with whom Sid worked on multiple occasions, it is his on-screen partnership with the wonderful Joan Sims that is perhaps the most celebrated, particularly as far as the Carry On films are concerned. Although the name of Barbara Windsor would likely be the first to spring to mind for many people in relation to Sid, for this writer it is the combination of Sid and Joan that provided the greatest on-screen magic.

Despite there being a seventeen year age gap between the two in real life, Sid James and Joan Sims made the perfect on-screen couple. Sid's screen image was that of the archetypal loveable rogue, a man of the people who enjoyed the finer things in life; namely birds, booze and betting! As such, when cast opposite him. Joan Sims would usually play the put-upon wife or girlfriend, tolerating these earthy foibles for want of a quiet life. Happily though, it was usually Joan who came out on top in the end, her strong-willed Queen Marie from Carry On Henry being the perfect example.

The career paths of Sid and Joan intertwined as early as the fifties, with both cropping up in such standard British comedy fare as Will Any Gentlemen...? (1953) and Dry Rot (1956). However, their screen time together in the latter was minimal, while in the first they were never on set at the same time. It was not until both had become firmly entrenched in the Carry On ensemble that their undoubted on-screen chemistry began to bubble.

Of the nineteen Carry On films to feature Sid, Joan Sims appeared in seventeen, with Cruising and Cabby being the odd ones out. Here are some of their greatest moments together...

The Rumpo Kid and Belle in Carry On Cowboy (1965)

Although this was their fourth Carry On together, Carry On Cowboy was actually the first time they had actually been cast opposite one another. Pure magic is created the instant Sid's black-hatted villain The Rumpo Kid claps eyes on sultry saloon owner Belle Armitage. Joan looks simply stunning, while Sid perfectly epitomizes the grizzled, trail-weary cowboy. It is a match made in comedy heaven and leads to one of the most celebrated and oft-quoted lines in Carry On history, as Sid mentions in a beautifully understated manner, "I'm from Texas ma'am. We all got big ones down there."

Sir Sidney and Lady Ruff-Diamond in Carry On Up the Khyber (1968)

British comedy at its very finest, Carry On Up the Khyber saw the series reach its absolute peak and many would argue that this romp through the British Empire is the greatest Carry On ever made. With the King and Queen of Carry On both on irresistible form, it is hard to refute that claim.

Nobody could pull off faux upper-class quite like Joan Sims, her Lady Ruff-Diamond betraying working class roots each time she lapses into a cockney vernacular. Meanwhile, Sid manages to inject his Governor with a calm, almost regal assurance, whilst never straying too far from the Sid we know and love.

Sid and Joan are at their battling best here, constantly bickering and throwing carefully aimed barbs in each other's direction. It's like a boxing match between two comedy heavyweights destined to go the distance.

King Henry VIII and Queen Marie in Carry On Henry (1971)

The majestic performance of Sid James as the larger than life Henry VIII was arguably the finest of his career. Chewing the royal scenery with absolute relish, Sid's monarch romps through the proceedings with admirable gusto, hunting buxom lasses on horseback and happily gorging on roast peacock (all cock and no pea!), before reacting with a royal rage at the presence of the dreaded garlic.

Indeed, it is a testament to the talent of Joan Sims that she more than holds her own opposite Sid in this kind of form. Strong of will and possessing an indomitable spirit, Queen Marie is determined to make her marriage to the philandering Henry work, even if that does mean trying to persuade him of the virtues of the aforementioned garlic.


Vic and Cora Flange in Carry On Abroad (1972)

In many ways, Carry On Abroad was the last hurrah for the Carry Ons, It was certainly the last of the series to feature such a large cast of regulars, including a final goodbye to Charles Hawtrey. Abroad is also the last of the truly great Carry Ons. Things were never quite the same afterwards.

It is quite obvious that Sid James and Joan Sims had a great affection for one another as friends. Their real-life friendship adds an extra spark to their performances in Carry On Abroad and it is an absolute joy to witness two comedy greats having such a wonderful time.

There are so many Sid/Joan moments to savour here - Sid's droll introduction of "This is the wife. Don't laugh!", his suggestive offering of a sausage roll and, of course, the now legendary scene where Sid crashes through the glass of the balcony door. "They put the bloody glass in!" Cue infectious Joan Sims hysterics.

Although Barbara Windsor may have grabbed the headlines, it is Sid's on-screen partnerships with the leading ladies of Carry On, Hattie Jacques and Joan Sims, which deserve recognition. In particular, his rapport with Joanie was magical..       


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