A warm tribute to the life and career of Sid James, star of the Carry On films, Bless this House, George and the Dragon and a wealth of other classic film/TV comedy. Sid's Place features news, reviews, interviews, classic quotes, credits, clips and many wonderful photographs.
Carry On Sid - Sgt Frank Wilkins in Carry On Constable (1960)
The first in a new series of blog posts looking at each of Sid James' Carry On roles. Let's start with the story behind his series debut in Carry On Constable.
It is almost impossible now to imagine the Carry On series of films without the presence of
Sid James. However, at one point in time, this unlikely scenario was very
nearly a reality.
The role of
world-weary Police Sergeant Frank Wilkins in Carry On Constable was originally
earmarked for former radio comic Ted Ray, who had proved such a success in the
predecessor to Constable, Carry On Teacher, in 1959. As the series of films began to develop and become ever-more popular, producer Peter Rogers wanted an actor
who could become the lynch-pin for the Carry Ons, someone who was adept at
playing calm authority figures, around which others usually functioned in
seemed the logical choice to fulfil this role. However, in one of those twists
of fate which seem to litter the path of film history, Rogers was unable to
secure Ray’s services. Although they never used him, Associated British
Pictures had Ted Ray under contract and threatened Anglo Amalgamated, who
distributed the Carry On series, with legal action if they persisted in employing him. With his first choice unavailable, Peter Rogers then looked to Scottish
comedian Chic Murray, with an eye on broadening audience appeal. This idea never
came to fruition and so it came to pass that the pivotal role in Carry On
Constable would be offered to, and accepted by, Mr Sidney James.
with customary ease into the already established team of Kenneth Williams,
Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Leslie Phillips and Hattie Jacques..Just as
importantly he also proved a hit with audiences. Peter Rogers had found his
lynch-pin and, with 18 more Carry On film appearances in his future, Sid’s path
to comedy immortality was set.
As with his other early Carry On appearances, Sid is pretty much the straight man in Constable. While Kenneth Connor frets, Charles Hawtrey prances, Leslie Phillips lusts and Kenneth Williams is supercilious, Sid slow burns as the increasingly exasperated Sergeant. He is, in turn, frustrated by the ineptitude of his new recruits and bemused by the off-handed, distracted nature of his commanding officer, who seems more interested in showing off his shubunkin than running a police station. It seems that the only person he can rely on is his fellow sergeant, Laura Moon, played wonderfully by Hattie Jacques. Sid and Hattie immediately click on-screen (no surprise really as they had worked together many times before) and it is obvious from this first Carry On meeting that they would team up together successfully again in later entries.
Although this is far from the character we would come to associate with Sid as far as Carry Ons go, this is still a highly assured performance and, in hindsight, one of the most significant of his entire career.