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Sims, Joan (1930-2001)


Main image of Sims, Joan (1930-2001)

Fondly remembered above all as one of the most durable members of the 'Carry On' team, Joan Sims was also a RADA-trained theatre actress. Her performing debut was on the Laindon railway platform, where her father was stationmaster and she would entertain waiting travellers; her London stage debut was in 1952 and she had a success as Athene Seyler's no-nonsense maid in Breath of Spring (1958).

In films from 1953, she caught cinemagoers' amused attention as the austere nurse 'Rigor Mortis' in Doctor in the House (d. Ralph Thomas, 1954), was in a couple more 'Doctor' films (typically plump, sexually predatory and alarming to Dirk Bogarde), and was an invariably welcome Rank supporting regular in the likes of Upstairs and Downstairs (d. Ralph Thomas, 1959).

Her 'Carry On' roles included suspicious wives of many kinds, most famously perhaps as a nagging Calpurnia in Carry On Cleo (d. Gerald Thomas, 1964) and as Lady Joan Ruff-Diamond, constantly on the qui vive for the pecadillos of husband Sidney James in Carry On Up the Khyber (d. Gerald Thomas, 1968), and, for contrast, a glamorous (well, more or less) Belle Armitage in Carry On Cowboy (d. Gerald Thomas, 1965).

In her last years, from 1994, she had a continuing role in TV's As Time Goes By, as Geoffrey Palmer's lively stepmother; and there were rich character studies too: in Waters of the Moon (BBC, 1983), as a cheerful vulgarian in a genteel private hotel; surprisingly affecting, as one of a lesbian pair with Paola Dionosotti in A Murder Is Announced (BBC. 1985); and finally in The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (d. Gillies Mackinnon, 2000). When she died, it was sad to read of a lonely life, lived largely alone in a rented flat.

Autobiography, High Spirits, 2000.

Brian McFarlane, Encylopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Belles of St Trinian's, The (1954)Belles of St Trinian's, The (1954)

Anarchic comedy based on Ronald Searle's popular cartoons

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... Up the Khyber (1968)Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)

Highly entertaining Empire spoof from the usual team

Thumbnail image of Doctor in the House (1954)Doctor in the House (1954)

Hugely popular medical comedy, the first in a long-running series

Thumbnail image of Just My Luck (1957)Just My Luck (1957)

Comedy with Norman Wisdom as a shop assistant who takes up gambling

Thumbnail image of Passport to Shame (1958)Passport to Shame (1958)

Melodrama about a cabbie befriending a girl caught up in the white slave trade

Thumbnail image of Trouble In Store (1953)Trouble In Store (1953)

Comedy in which Norman Wisdom foils a robbery in a department store.

Thumbnail image of Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The (2000)Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The (2000)

Uplifting 3rd age jazz musical starring Judi Dench

Thumbnail image of Till Death Us Do Part (1966-75)Till Death Us Do Part (1966-75)

Controversial comedy with Warren Mitchell as the bigoted Alf Garnett

Thumbnail image of Worzel Gummidge (1979-81)Worzel Gummidge (1979-81)

Children's series with Jon Pertwee as the living scarecrow

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Thumbnail image of The Carry On LegacyThe Carry On Legacy

An analysis of what kept Carry On carrying on

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