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Carry On

Britain's longest-running big-screen comedy series

Main image of Carry On

Mixing pratfalls and easily identifiable comedy types with frequently exotic and/or historical settings and a fondness for dressing up, the Carry On comedies position themselves somewhere between the established traditions of British music hall and the seasonal panto.

The 31 films in the series (if you include That's Carry On, a compilation film released in cinemas in 1978) were all made by the team of producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas between 1958 and 1978, with the belated Carry On Columbus appearing in 1992.

Rogers always kept costs low by insisting that the films not have a single star, although a core roster of key players quickly emerged. The most prolific were the neurotic Kenneth Williams (26 appearances), the libidinous Sid James (19) and the campy Charles Hawtrey (23), while there was formidable female support from Joan Sims (24), Hattie Jacques (14) and Barbara Windsor (10).

After using National Service as a backdrop for the first entry, Carry On Sergeant (1958), Rogers, Thomas and writer Norman Hudis moved on to other recognisable institutions in the various follow-ups, including the medical profession in Carry On Nurse (1959), the police force in Carry On Constable (1959) and education in Carry On Teacher (1959). After Talbot Rothwell took over the scripting duties in 1963, the approach was broadened into an even more popular series of parodies of many film genres, such as the Bond films (Carry on Spying, 1964) and Hammer horror movies (Carry On Screaming, 1966). They also become much more reliant on sexual innuendo, silly names and cheerful bawdiness.

Peaking commercially and artistically in the 1960s with such spoofs as Carry On Cleo (1964) and Carry On Cowboy (1965), perhaps the best of them is Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968). In it Sid James and Joan Sims appear as Sir Sidney and Lady Ruff-Diamond, Charles Hawtrey is Private Widdle of the Third Foot and Mouth Regiment, and Kenneth Williams plays Rhandi Lal, the villainous Khasi of the Kalabar.

In Spring 2003 Rogers announced the series' return with Carry On London, set in the world of limo drivers.

Sergio Angelini

Bright, Morris and Robert Ross, Mr Carry On: the life and work of Peter Rogers (London: BBC Worldwide, 2000)
Campbell, Mark, The Pocket Essential Carry On Films (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2002)
Davies, Russell (Ed), The Kenneth Williams Diaries (London: HarperCollins, 1994)
Lewis, Roger, The Man Who Was Private Widdle (London: Faber & Faber, 2001)
Rigelsford, Adrian, Carry On Laughing: a celebration (London: Virgin, 1996)
Ross, Robert, The Carry On Companion - 40th anniversary edition (London: Batsford, 2003)
Sims, Joan, High Spirits (London: Partridge, 2000)

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Carry On At Your Convenience (1971)Carry On At Your Convenience (1971)

Comedy about union unrest at the W.C. Boggs toilet factory

Thumbnail image of Carry On Camping (1969)Carry On Camping (1969)

Comedy in which various deluded people go on a camping holiday

Thumbnail image of Carry On Cleo (1964)Carry On Cleo (1964)

Comedy in which two British slaves end up in Ancient Rome and Egypt

Thumbnail image of Carry On Constable (1960)Carry On Constable (1960)

Fourth in the series, welcoming Sid James to the team

Thumbnail image of Carry On Cowboy (1965)Carry On Cowboy (1965)

Western parody: a hapless Marshall attempts to clean us Stodge City

Thumbnail image of Carry On Doctor (1968)Carry On Doctor (1968)

Frankie Howerd joins the team on its second tour of the wards

Thumbnail image of Carry On Nurse (1958)Carry On Nurse (1958)

The second Carry On, with the team beginning to take shape

Thumbnail image of Carry On Screaming! (1966)Carry On Screaming! (1966)

The Carry On team take on Hammer in this spoof horror comedy

Thumbnail image of Carry On Sergeant (1958)Carry On Sergeant (1958)

The first Carry On comedy pokes fun at the army and National Service

Thumbnail image of Carry On Spying (1964)Carry On Spying (1964)

The Carry On team take on James Bond in this frenetic spy spoof

Thumbnail image of Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)

Highly entertaining Empire spoof from the usual team

Related Collections

Thumbnail image of ComedyComedy

Movies made to make us laugh

Thumbnail image of The Carry On LegacyThe Carry On Legacy

An analysis of what kept Carry On carrying on

Related People and Organisations

Thumbnail image of Hawtrey, Charles (1914-1988)Hawtrey, Charles (1914-1988)


Thumbnail image of Jacques, Hattie (1922-1980)Jacques, Hattie (1922-1980)


Thumbnail image of James, Sidney (1913-1976)James, Sidney (1913-1976)


Thumbnail image of Thomas, Gerald (1920-1993)Thomas, Gerald (1920-1993)

Director, Producer, Editor

Thumbnail image of Williams, Kenneth (1926-1988)Williams, Kenneth (1926-1988)


Thumbnail image of Anglo-Amalgamated ProductionsAnglo-Amalgamated Productions

Film Studio