Carry On Again Doctor is not a sequel to Carry On Camping as it features different characters, but if we regroup these two films with Carry On Nurse, it forms a trilogy within the Carry On series itself. We could call it the hospital trilogy. However, despite featuring different characters, one might notice that the Matron, played by Hattie Jacques, is called Miss Soaper. If you remember Carry On Camping, the character played by Kenneth Williams is called Dr Kenneth Soaper, and Miss Haggard (Jacques) develops a huge crush on him! We like to think that they eventually got married, and Miss Haggard quitted the school to work in a hospital, but she would have been called Mrs Soaper, not Miss Soaper. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting observation!
This 1969 film directed by Gerald Thomas (as usual) was Jim Dale’s way to say goodbye as he wouldn’t appear in the franchise again for over 20 years. He was eventually back in the very last Carry On, Carry On Columbus, which was, apparently, not very good. So, this was pretty much his film where he gave everything to make us live a memorable moment. If Dale was going away from the franchise, Carry On Again Doctor marked the debuts of actress Patsy Rowlands in the series. She would appear in nine Carry Ons.
Interestingly, in opposition with Carry On Nurse and Carry On Doctor, this time, screenwriter Talbot Rothwell decided to focus on the hospital staff rather than on the patients. As a matter of fact, there are only two noticeable patients, played by Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor. They are patients for a little while, and then, their link with the story and the other characters takes another direction. Jim Dale, Kenneth Williams, and Charles Hawtrey all play doctors. Hattie Jacques is Matron, Patsy Rowlands plays Kenneth Williams’s secretary, and Sid James, well, isn’t exactly a doctor, but almost.
Jim Dale, faithful to his usual Carry On-self, once again embodies the romantic type as the playboy doctor Jimmy Nookey. On a regular working day at Long Hampton Hospital, he meets the sexy pin-up girl Goldie (born Maud Boggins) (Barbara Windsor) and falls in love with her. The two spend time together, but this isn’t about to last. His colleagues, Dr Carver (Kenneth Williams) and Dr Stoppidge, don’t appreciate his presence so much and are looking for a way to “get rid of him”. During a party at the hospital, Dr Stoppidge pranks Dr Nookey by accentuating the punch effect with medical stuff, which results in Nookey becoming completely crazy and crashing out of a hospital window. The now-disgraced doctor has no choice but to leave the country and find a career somewhere else. “Luckily”, Dr Carver and his rich patient Ellen Moore might have the solution for him. Moore’s medical mission in the Beatific Islands needs a doctor. The place is not very attractive as it is in the middle of nowhere. Plus, it rains nine months/ a year, when there aren’t hurricanes. But Dr Nookey has no choice.
At the Beatific islands, Dr Nookey is hosted by Gladstone Screwer (Sid James), the local polygamous medicine man who has lived on the island all his life and seems to be fine with it. For Jimmy, however, it’s a miserable life, since there aren’t any customers (people from the islands prefer to see the “witch doctor”). The poor disgraced doctor ends up spending his time crying, doing puzzles, and drinking whiskey, which has been bought with Mrs Moore’s funds. This miserable life is quickly forgotten when Dr Nookey discovers that Screwer has created an almost magical weight-loss serum. Its results are VERY quick. Nookey, therefore, sees a way to make money with this special medicine. He buys it from Gladstone Screwer with a few cigarette packages (the local money currency).
Back in England, Jimmy has opened his new prolific weight-loss clinic. Matron (Hattie) Jacques has left Long Hampton and now works for the new clinic. Mrs Moore, who had made a financial agreement with Dr Carver, has also “abandoned” him to do business with Nookey. Dr Carver and Dr Stoppidge want to discover Nookey’s secret. Goldie is back from Italy, and Gladstone Screwer, who is not completely crazy, arrives at the clinic, conscious that he could also make money out of his “potion”.
I adored Jim Dale in this film. He gave everything for us not to forget him, and it worked. Talbot Rothwell created memorable gags allowing him to develop his comical potential. The most memorable “trivia” concerning Jim Dale and Carry On Again Doctor is probably the fact that he insisted on doing his own stunts. That wasn’t without danger. Indeed, in the “going crazy” scene, Dale goes down a stair on a hospital trolley. Jim’s desires were obeyed, and no stunt double was used. This might have looked more authentic, but it resulted in Dale getting serious and recurrent back problems. (1).
What we particularly love about Jim Dale is the way he connects with the other actors. As a matter of fact, since the whole story pretty much revolves around Jim Dale’s character, he acts, while the other reacts. It gives place to a bunch of memorable scenes, one of them being his first encounter with Goldie. Seeing Goldie wearing barely anything, Dr Nookey has a lot of difficulties to concentrate! One thing is sure, Carry On doctors are never professional enough. Meanwhile, Hattie Jacques as Matron judges him and her facial expressions are the best.
We also have to mention the opening scene where Dr Nookey accidentally enters the women’s washroom, terrifying the poor Miss Armitage (Ann Lancaster). As she runs out of the washroom, Dr Nookey follows her to apologise, wearing only a towel around his waist. The towel in question gets stuck in the door but, at one point, Nookey forgets about it and advances towards Miss Armitage. Well, you can guess what happens next! Dr Carver and Miss Fosdick (Patsy Rowlands) passes by because that scene gets even more comical potential with a few witnesses! As you can see in the following image, Kenneth Williams chose his best face of contempt:
And how can we forget the lesson in seduction! Dr Carver needs Dr Nookey’s pieces of advice to become an excellent seducer to obtain favours from Mrs Moore. After Jimmy demonstrates in a very “theatrical” way how to make one lady notice his presence, Carver tries his best to learn a few romantic sentences, but this doesn’t seem very promising. He puts his lessons in practice with Mrs Moore during the party, and this might be one of my favourite scenes in the film. Doctor Carver can’t remember any of the romantic words Dr Nookey has taught him, so he constantly has to look at his note under the table with a candle. Things get even more awkward and funny when he has to shout at Mrs Moore to “charm” her because the music is getting louder. Interestingly, music composer Eric Rogers has a cameo in this scene as one of the musicians. (2)
Of course, these are only a few of the many memorable gags involving Jim Dale and/or others.
We haven’t talked so much about his teamwork with Sid James, but this one is part of the memorable aspects of this film, especially due to the contrast created by the two much different characters. In The Carry On Companion, Jim Dale is cited telling us about his team work with the South African born actor:
Sid James was a joy to work with, he was a very polite gentleman – a lovely man. We played poker a lot during breaks from shooting-he loved a game of cards and I loved it as well. When he was on screen he was the most giving performer, he didn’t have to take, he just gave all the time, and it worked. Carry On Again Doctor was our major film together, we did some lovely scenes in that. the thing I remember more than anything was when a true pro like Sid breaks up in a scene you’re doing for the film because what you’re doing he considers funny. I was very proud in some of those films when people like Kenneth and Sid broke up with laughter due to something I was doing. I was thrilled to bits because I was breaking up ten times more in every scene cue to what they were doing. I think all of them were brilliant and to be part of the team looking back now is such a joy for me to remember. (3)
Fond memories from Mr Dale! 🙂
As usual, Talbot Rothwell gives us some hilarious dialogues to accompany all that. Here are some of my favourites:
1- Dr Carver: Ahh this is the new kidney case.
Dr Ernest Stoppidge: Yes Mr Bean.
Dr Carver: Ahh, Kidney Bean.
2- Mrs Moore: I feel wonderful Mr Carver, I had no idea having one’s appendix out could be so exhilarating. I feel ten years younger.
Dr Carver: Splendid! Splendid!
Mrs Moore: Be honest now. Do I really look like a woman of forty?
Dr Carver: You really feel as young as that?
Mrs Moore: No, that’s what I am!
3- Native Porter: All right, Dr Cookie.
Dr Nookey: Nookey, mate, Nookey.
Native Porter: Yes, yes – Cookie.
4- Dr Nookey: Hmm. That’s a good skeleton. Did the last doctor leave it here?
Gladstone Screwer: That is the last doctor.
We also have to mention to great editing work of Alfred Roome, who brilliantly gave a lot of visual dynamism to this crazy film! This one is particularly effective in the scene where Dr Nookey accidentally causes a huge electric problem in the hospital (due to his notorious clumsiness). Of course, this scene where Dr Nookey loses his mind also presents fine editing work. Roome worked on a few Carry On films, but, looking at his filmography, I also noticed that he edited two films starring one of my very favourite actresses, Margaret Lockwood: I’ll Be Your Sweetheart and the excellent Highly Dangerous!
I wouldn’t say that Carry On Again Doctor is as good as Carry On Nurse or Carry On Doctor, but it surely is among the good Carry On films and one that is totally worth seeing, especially for Jim Dale’s performance!
Tomorrow, we’ll be back with Carry On Up the Jungle which marked the very much-awaited return of Kenneth Connor!
Want to follow that series closely? Make sure to take a look at my other reviews!
(1) Ross, Robert. The Carry On Companion. London: Batsford, 1998. p. 83.
(3) Jim Dale cited in The Carry On Companion (p. 84).