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Carry On Cowboy (1965)


Main image of Carry On Cowboy (1965)
35mm, colour, 95 minutes
Directed byGerald Thomas
Production CompanyAnglo Amalgamated Film Distributors
Produced byPeter Rogers
Screenplay byTalbot Rothwell
CinematographyAlan Hume

Kenneth Williams (Judge Burke); Sidney James (The Rumpo Kid); Charles Hawtrey (Big Heap); Joan Sims (Belle); Jim Dale (Marshal P. Knutt)

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A British drainage engineer goes to the American West and cleans up Stodge City, ridding it of the evil Rumpo Kid.

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After the historical panto that was Carry On Cleo (d. Gerald Thomas, 1964), the next in the series plays things comparatively straight. Carry On Cowboy (d. Gerald Thomas, 1965) begins traditionally, with a ballad sung over the title credits, in the style of those heard in such classic Westerns as High Noon (US, d. Fred Zinnemann, 1952) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (US, d. John Sturges, 1957), accompanying shots of a cowboy riding the plains (actually Chobham Common in Surrey). When he arrives at Stodge City, the camera follows him up the main street until he has to face three gunmen. It is only then that we see that the rider is actually Sid James, playing The Rumpo Kid. After shooting all three he muses, "I wonder what they wanted?"

This sets the tone perfectly for a traditional Western story which includes an Indian attack on a stagecoach, cattle rustling and a climactic shootout, but which also casts Kenneth Williams as the Mayor, Judge Burke, Charles Hawtrey as an Indian Chief and Joan Sims as Belle, the saloon Madam ("My intimate friends call me Ding Dong").

Although the British Western has antecedents stretching as far back as the early days of silent cinema, the film was plainly inspired by such comedies as the Bob Hope vehicle The Paleface (US, d. Norman Z. McLeod, 1948) and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (US, d. Raoul Walsh, 1958), in which Kenneth More plays an Englishman in the Wild West. In both films, bumbling heroes are mistaken for crack-shots while the real sharpshooters are their female companions. Carry On Cowboy reuses this plot, although giving Stodge City an underground sewer for the High Noon inspired finale is its own wonderfully implausible invention.

Ironically, it was the standing sets from The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw that Sergio Leone used for A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the success of which ushered in the Spaghetti Western and effectively killed off the traditional Hollywood genre that the Carry On team so lovingly parodied.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Population 204 (3:06)
2. Rumpo meets Belle (2:43)
3. Pipe of peace (1:56)
4. Shooting practice (2:13)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Bresslaw, Bernard (1934-1993)
Dale, Jim (1935-)
James, Sidney (1913-1976)
Pertwee, Jon (1919-1996)
Rothwell, Talbot (1916-1981)
Sims, Joan (1930-2001)
Carry On