Before I go on with this article, I have to tell you this amusing life story. I was on the bus earlier this evening to come back home and, I swear, I saw Charles Hawtrey’s doppelganger. Seriously, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he would have said: “Oh, helllllo!” That was the fun mini-anecdote of my day.
Carry On Camping (Gerald Thomas, 1969) was one I was looking forward to watching. The reason is simple: I’m one of those people who do camping and who enjoy it. As I haven’t gone camping for a long time, Carry On film no 17 surely made me feel nostalgic! It brought back many memories, and I could certainly relate to some situations. Well, not the extreme ones that form most of the gags, but we’ll discuss that further in the text.
Carry On Camping smoothly follows the success of Up the Khyber and is today still known as one of the most popular Carry Ons. However, although I enjoyed Khyber and it was an amusing film, I liked Camping much better. On its release, Carry On Camping was the most popular film at the 1969’s British box office. Also, when The Daily Mirror conducted a survey in 2008, it was voted the most popular Carry On in England. (1) So, almost 40 years after, the film had left good marks in people’s memory.
Carry On Camping follows the model of Carry On Nurse and Carry On Doctor in the idea that it doesn’t have one narrative line, but rather different stories according to the characters. Of course, they all eventually meet at Paradise camping! This is a very cheesy name for a camping site (and it’s far from being a paradise), but it just works perfectly with the Carry On atmosphere that is conveyed in this picture. The film begins when Sid Boggle (Sid James) and Bernie Lugg (Bernard Bresslaw) have taken their girlfriends, Joan Fussy (Joan Sims) and Anthea Meeks (Dilys Laye) to the movie theatre to see a documentary on… camping! The guys are fascinated by what they see on the screen, and the poor girls are more uncomfortable at the sight of it. Why? It’s a nudist camping documentary! Fun fact, this was a film that actually existed. If you ever want to watch it, it’s called Nudist Paradise (Charles Saunders, 1959). Hehehe. (IMDB) The guys, especially Sid, have only one ambition in mind, to bring the girls to this camping. They will have to find a plan.
Other people that are on their way to go camping are Peter Potter (Terry Scott) and his wife Harriet (Betty Marsden). As a matter of fact, Peter hates camping, particularly because he is always the victim of misfortunes. But because his wife is way too persuasive, he goes against his will. The two fellows start their adventure on a tandem! One of Mr. Potter’s misfortunes, this time (apart from having his butt being shot by a mad farmer), is to eventually have to share the tent with first-time camper Charlie Muggins (Charles Hawtrey) whose tent has been stolen. As generous as Mrs. Potter tries to be, it’s a bit tight for three people inside such a small tent! Dream vacations!
Finally, young ladies from Chayste Place finishing school are also going camping with their superiors Dr. Soaper (Kenneth Williams) and Miss Haggard (Hattie Jacques). During pranks done by Babs (Barbara Windsor) and her friend Fanny (Sandra Caron) at the youth hostel, Dr. Soaper accidentally surprises Miss Haggard in the shower and, later, he enters her bedroom by mistake. If Miss Haggard is scandalized at first, this eventually teases her passions, and she develops a serious interest for Soaper.
Soon enough, everybody finds themselves at Paradise camping. Mr. and Mrs. Potter still share their tent with Charlie Muggins (until Mr. Potter decides to rebel), and Sid and Bernie soon realize that it isn’t a nudist place. However, when they see the gang from Chayste Place, they don’t regret their choice so much, at the great despair of their girlfriends. The camping owner, Josh Fiddler, is played by Peter Butterworth, and he’s quite a money-grabber!
As I told you in my introduction, Carry On Camping is a film that brought a lot of nostalgia as I am one of those persons who does a lot of camping and enjoys it. At least, I used too. I haven’t been camping for a few years, and I sort of miss it. The nostalgia effect started as soon as I saw Charles Hawtrey buying camping equipment. Oh yes, I remember those days when I was young(er), and we went to the store to buy last minute stuff for the camping. It was always a bit long, but, somehow, I and my sister managed to find something interesting to look at in that outdoor department store. Then, we have Mr. and Mrs. Potter, who produce a nostalgia effect when they go camping with their tandem. I did a few bike-camping trips when I was younger, and they were great fun. You see more things than when you are in a car (it’s easier to stop) and enjoy the fresh air. I believe that everybody that has done camping in their life will relate to the next moment. There’s that scene in the film that takes place in the camping showers. My life isn’t as comical as a Carry On film, but is it we or everybody just looks way too relax in camping showers and toilets? You’re either wearing your pyjama your hair is disheveled if it’s the morning, or you are wearing crocs, but you just don’t care because everybody looks like that. Oh, now that I think of it, I have two life stories that could very fit well in a Carry On film: when I lost my flashlight in a toilet while it was flushing, and when I accidentally cause a flood in the camping’s bathroom. Nobody knew it was me. Sorry! Two silly misfortunes that happened at my favourite camping in Cape-Cod.
But I’ve never been to a nudist camping tho!
Carry On films always have a ton of memorable characters and actors, but I thought Carry On Camping particularly stood out for that aspect. It’s interesting to see how many of these actors/characters work in pairs. First, you have Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw, who play two friends that are, in a way, very different. Although Carry On regulars like James, Williams, and Hawtrey often played the same types of characters (and we love them for that!), Bernard Bresslaw was perhaps one of the most versatile actors of the series. I think his performance in Carry On Camping is one of his best. He’s both endearing and extremely funny (especially because his character is super clumsy). Think of that moment where he gets up in the tent and, being so tall (Bresslaw was 2 meters tall), he accidentally pokes a hole in the tent with his head. We see the tent from the outside, with Bresslaw’s head at the top of it. When a camper passes by, he’s there, not sure what to do. Also, his facial expressions whenever he sees a beautiful girl are priceless. Bresslaw and James create an interesting contrast as the leader friend (James) and the follower (Bresslaw). But we particularly have to enlight the chemistry between Bernard Bresslaw and Dilys Lay,e which had started in Carry On Doctor and continued perfectly in Camping. Dilys Laye wasn’t as regular in the series as other actors, but her presence is always very much appreciated. She’s on the quieter side, which creates an equilibrium with the other more eccentric actors. And can I just mention that scene where Bresslaw kisses her? IT’S JUST THE CUTEST CARRY ON MOMENT EVER. Yes, I’m shouting. Joan Sims completes the quartet, and her experience as a Carry On Regular makes us appreciate her immensely, especially due to her ability to mold herself into all types of women.
Hattie Jacques was back, and we couldn’t be happier. She and Kenneth Williams are just a crazy blast of fun in Carry On Camping! Interestingly, there seems to be a reference to Carry On Doctor in this film! At one point, Miss Haggard (Jacques), who is now very much attracted by her colleague (Williams), tells him that she once used to be a matron in a hospital, and she was mad about one of the doctors. This is exactly what happens in Carry On Doctor (the doctor in question being played by Kenneth Williams as well). And, of course, Jacques stays faithful to her character by continuing the passionate seducing game, and Williams reacts to it with perfect comic tempo. Anyway, he doesn’t seem much interested!
Of all the students that are under the supervision of Miss Haggard and Dr. Soaper, the one we’ll remember the most surely is the fizzy Babs played by Barbara Windsor. To me, Windsor was the firework of the series. Her presence is always dynamic, memorable, and she’s an extremely lovable actress. Of course, there’s the iconic scene of the film where Babs loses her bikini top while doing morning exercises (this one flies and lands right on Dr. Soaper’s face!), perhaps one of the most well-remembered Carry On moments. But Barbara Windsor is memorable for more than that. She always has that attitude that makes us want to live a bit of fun, you know! Her energy is contagious. I found, not a long time ago, this video of her being interviewed by her friend Kenneth Williams. Not only they discuss the famous Carry On Camping scene, but, just for their beautiful and precious complicity, you need to watch it. They are just a wonderful duo of human beings!
Charles Hawtrey, Betty Marsden, and Terry Scott are, perhaps, the ones who make us live the “camping” adventure concept at its best. Indeed, they always seem to find themselves in some hilariously impossible situations. Ok, can we just talk about this moment where Charles Hawtrey coincidently arrives at Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s tent? Mrs. is removing gun bullets from Mr.’s butt. This creates an embarrassing shadow for the outsider. Poor Charlies! He just stands there in the rain, not sure what to do with a facial expression worthy of a Carry On! Terry Scott as the grumpy husband is another actor who was able to prove a brilliant versatility by embodying various kinds of personalities. Betty Mardsen, who pretty much is at the center of this trio with her unforgettably eccentric performance, only appeared in two Carry On films; this one, and Carry On Regardless in which she played the mysterious Matar Hari-like woman on the train! By the way, not only The Beatles were great people born in Liverpool!
Finally, Peter Butterworth and Julian Holloway have more minor roles, but we can’t forget that camping owner and that naughty bus driver. Butterworth has his moment of glory when his character is introduced to Sid James’s character. The way he talks is just perfectly chosen! Oh, and how can we forget this moment where Julian Holloway, Sid James, and Bernard Bresslaw find themselves disguised as hippies? Yes, the cultural background has changed a lot since 1958!
We’ve named a few memorable situations through this exploration of the various Carry On Camping actors and characters, but we didn’t talk enough about the dialogues themselves, which I think deserve their own mention.
Of course, we couldn’t do this without citing a few innuendos, faithful to the Carry On genre (because it’s almost a genre in its own right), such as this moment where Charles Hawtrey, at the camping store, gets out of a tent with one of the camping store assistant, Miss Dobbin (Valerie Leon), and says: “Splendid girl! And so helpful. Do you know she’s been showing me how to stick the pole up?” The store manager, Mr. Short (Brian Oulton), quickly takes the lead of the conversation!
Dr. Kenneth Soaper: Barbara dear, do you think you’re quite suitably dressed for traveling?
Babs: Oh but sir, we were told to bring the minimum of clothing.
Some unforgettable lines between Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Willimas:
Miss Haggard: I don’t think a shower stall is the place for making advances!
Dr. Kenneth Soaper: I thought I got hold on the shower tap!
Dr. Kenneth Soaper: [after Barbara asks about fertility rights] A fine talk you must have given them on the birds and the bees.
Miss Haggard: Well, when I started talking, I realized I had no idea what they do. What do bees do?
Dr. Kenneth Soaper: They sting!
Carry On Camping is a film with no break, where the peripeties don’t stop. It’s truffled with tons of gags, and that’s what makes it so entertaining!
Although the final result was an unforgettable entertainment, filming Carry On Camping wasn’t an easy game. Blame the weather for that. As a matter of fact, although the film takes place during the summer, it was filmed during October and November. Just think of Barbara Windsor and the poor other girls who had to do the morning exercises wearing a bikini! To make the setting appear more “summerish”, the Carry On crew went to the extreme by actually colouring the leaves on the trees with green paint and the mud as well to make it look as if it was grass. Well, the illusion is pretty much there, but, honestly, it’s not so much what we notice about the film. The action keeps us busy enough not to think about it. According to Robert Ross, the film was “one of the most quoted nightmarish memories of Pinewood production.” (2) Well, we certainly admire their devotion and endurance!
Carry On Camping is one of those Carry On films I feel I could watch over and over again. There’s almost everything to make it a perfect fit for the series and so many memorable scenes! If you haven’t seen it and are in for great fun, please watch it. You’ll enjoy it even if you’re not a regular camper!
Want to follow that series closely? Make sure to take a look at my other reviews!
(1) “Carry On Camping.” Wikipedia, October 13, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carry_On_Camping. Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.
(2) Ross, Robert. The Carry On Companion. London: Batsford, 1998. p. 80.