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Carry On Sergeant (1958)


Main image of Carry On Sergeant (1958)
Directed byGerald Thomas
Production CompanyInsignia Films
Produced byPeter Rogers
Screenplay byNorman Hudis
From the novel 'The Bull Boys' ByR.F. Delderfield
Director of PhotographyPeter Hennessy

William Hartnell (Sergeant Grimshawe); Bob Monkhouse (Charlie Sage); Shirley Eaton (Mary Sage); Eric Barker (Captain Potts); Dora Bryan (NAAFI girl Nora)

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A retiring sergeant sees his last platoon of National Service conscripts through basic training, betting that they will win the Star Squad award.

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Proving that even great institutions have modest beginnings, Carry On Sergeant (d. Gerald Thomas, 1958), the first film in the Carry On series, started out as little more than an attempt to cash in on the huge success of the ITV sitcom The Army Game (1957-1961). The TV series was so popular that it had already led to its own movie spin-off, I Only Arsked! (d. Montgomery Tully, 1958). Producer Peter Rogers even went so far as to recruit two of the series' leading cast members, Charles Hawtrey and William Hartnell as the titular sergeant. Hartnell, in any event, was only playing a comic variation on a character he had first portrayed in the classic wartime film The Way Ahead (d. Carol Reed, 1944).

Carry On Sergeant, loosely based on story material by the popular novelist and playwright R.F. Delderfield, was shot over a period of six weeks at Pinewood Studios and on location at the Queen's Barracks in Stoughton, Surrey, on a meagre budget of £ 74,000. The actors were paid a few hundred pounds each, but a number of them would return in many of the subsequent Carry On comedies, including Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams.

Although the film was a big box office hit, it is in many respects anomalous when compared with the later titles, particularly its romantic subplots and occasional sentimentality. Even the vaguely risqué story of a pair of newlyweds desperately trying to celebrate their wedding night is dispensed with surprisingly early on, in favour of fairly traditional service comedy high jinks. None the less, it introduces in embryonic form many of the themes and characters that would recur throughout the series, while many of the comic set pieces, such as Kenneth Connor's relentless medical examinations and the various training disasters, are still funny and confidently handled.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Mess inspection (1:39)
2. Kitting out (3:08)
3. Bayonet practice (2:34)
4. Private's progress (2:20)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
You Lucky People! (1955)
Bryan, Dora (1924-)
Connor, Kenneth (1918-1993)
Hartnell, William (1908-1975)
Jacques, Hattie (1922-1980)
Monkhouse, Bob (1928-2003)
Scott, Terry (1927-1994)
Carry On
The Carry On Legacy