Today, we shall review a quite special Carry On film! Why? Because Carry On Cruising (1962) was the first colour film of the series! That allowed us to see Kenneth Williams’s beautiful blue eyes. On a sadder note, this also was the first Carry On film not to feature Charles Hawtrey, and Joan Sims was absent as well. But, luckily, the holy Carry On trio (Gerald Thomas, Peter Rogers, and Norman Hudis) had a lot of surprises in reserve to console us.
Carry On Cruising follows the path of Carry On Sergeant and Carry On Constable with an authority figure having to count on the work and obedience of newcomers. This time, we’re on a boat. I mean, a ship! The SS Happy Wanderer! Sid James is Captain Crowther. He is about to go on a new cruise when informed that five of his crew members have been replaced. He’s not too happy about it but, as he was informed on very short notice, he has no choice but to deal with it and hope for the best. The replacements are First Officer Leonard Marjoribanks (Kenneth Williams), Dr Arthur Binn (Kenneth Connor), Ship’s Cook Wilfred Haines (Lance Percival), Ship’s barman Sam Turner (Jimmy Thompson), and Captain Crowther’s new steward, Tom Tree (Cyril Chamberlain). The boat is filled with passengers apt to make this journey very interesting: a drunkard (Ronnie Stevens), who rushes to the boat’s bar instead of visiting the various cities; two young ladies, Glad Trimble (Liz Fraser) and Flo Castle (Dilys Laye), who hope to find a husband; Bridget Madderley (Esma Cannon), an energetic and colourful little lady, etc. The new crew members will deal with many situations. Dr Binn falls for Flo who isn’t interested in him whatsoever. Luckily, Officer Marjoribanks and Glad will be there to help!
With those opening titles on a colour background and the beginning of the film on the deck of a boat, Carry On Cruising has a “summer vacation” vibe. Every time I watch a comedy film that takes place on a cruising boat, it makes me want to go on a cruise, and this one was no exception. I mean, people seem so far away from their worries and yet, they can expect a lot of things! I also think that Bruce Montgomery and Douglas Gamley’s lively music adds a lot to that feeling of freshness and well-being.
And, aesthetically speaking, the 60s style has something very appealing. I always thought it resounded even more in colour films than in black and white films. Of course, Carry On Cruising would have been good if it was in black and white, but I think the choice of filming it in colour added a little must to its visual aspect. The colours are multiple, lively, and inviting. It remains us of films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Romance on the High Seas. Cinematographer Alan Hume also worked on popular films like Return of the Jedi, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, and A Fish Called Wanda.
It’s not a coincidence that Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey weren’t part of Carry On Cruising. As a matter of fact, the role of Flo Castle was initially intended for Joan Sims, but she had to drop out of the project due to being ill. (1) Dilys Laye replaced her and did a lovely job. She and Liz Fraser make a memorable team of ladies fighting over men but, helping and supporting each other at the same time since they are friends. In a way, I can see why the role of Flo was initially made for Sims as I could perfectly imagine her playing it. Dilys Laye later played in Carry On Spying, Carry On Doctor, and Carry On Camping.
On his side, Charles Hawtrey was initially intended to play the role of Wilfred Haines, the ship’s cook. However, he was asking for more money and to be top-billed (something that at started with Carry On Regardless) at the great annoyance of producer Peter Rogers who replaced him with Lance Percival. (2) But then, Kenneth Williams once claimed that the Carry On actors weren’t very well paid. (3) But that’s another story.
Lance Percival who replaced Hawtrey is a credible comedic substitute but maybe not as memorable as Hawtrey himself. The thing is, Hawtrey just had to “be” and say “Oh, hello” to make us burst into laughs while Percival had to put more efforts into his comedy delivery. Of course, we liked him and would have liked to see him in more Carry On films, but this was his only appearance in the franchise.
I want to know if Kenneth Connor used his real singing voice in this scene where he plays guitar and serenades to Dilys Laye. Because, if he did, he was quite good actually! Connor is faithful to a lot of his past Carry On character here as the shy little man who falls in love and keeps putting himself in some embarrassing situations. I mean, what’s not to like?
Regular Carry On figure Kenneth Williams is also faithful to himself with his sure of himself attitude, “Charming” here and there, and inimitable grin. However, this time, I feel his character is working more as a team with the others in opposition to the previous ones who were more in an “every man for himself” mood. I love the scenes where he and Liz Fraser make a plan to match Flo and the doctor. They are just those two way too amusing people. The scenes where he plays ping pong with Bridget Madderley (Esma Cannon) is also worth mentioning!
Talking of Esma Cannon, she was a great addition to this film and sparkled with energy. She’s that little lady who’s here simply to have fun. She went to the cruise alone, but she’s bound to make a few friends due to her sense of fun. Also, her shorts are too large for her, and she always loses them to our great amusement.
Finally, Sid James and his unique laugh are at the head of this curious crew and group of passengers. He deals with a lot of unimaginable situations and gets caught in them, despite himself, which makes the scenes even funnier than they are.
The fact that Carry On Cruising is a film taking place on a boat gave place to some unique anecdotes, one of them being that Kenneth Williams was convinced that the film was going to be shot of the Mediterranean. He was very disappointed when learning that the interiors were going to be filmed on a rebuilt replica of the ship at Pinewood Studios. (4) Also, on its premiere, the film was screened aboard a real cruise ship in Southampton, England. (5) That is an event I would have liked to attend!
On its release, Carry On Cruising was the 12th most popular film at 1962’s British Box Office. (6)
I don’t think Carry On Cruising has as many memorable lines as the previous Carry On films, none of the characters makes especially memorable entrances (a reason why we missed Charles Hawtrey) but, overall, I liked it.
Tomorrow, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, and black and white cinematography are back with Carry On Cabby!
Want to follow that series closely? Make sure to take a look at my other reviews!
(1, 2, 4, 5, 6) “Carry On Cruising: Trivia.” IMDB, nd., https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055831/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv. Accessed Oct 6, 2019.
(3) “Kenneth Williams.” Wikipedia, 29 September, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Williams#cite_note-express-16. Accessed Oct 6, 2019.