We’ve already reached the 20th review for the Carry On blog series! Incredible! I must admit tho, that I didn’t hurry too much on watching Carry On Loving (Gerald Thomas, 1970). Aside from the fact that I had to work on school stuff, looking at some ratings on the films on the Internet, which weren’t too good, somehow demotivated me, and I was afraid my feeling towards it would be similar to the one I had for Follow that Camel. And I love the Carry On, they make me happy and are an excellent form of escapism. So, it’s always a bit disappointing when one of them doesn’t have that much effect on you. But I was wrong! I enjoyed Carry On Loving very much! The film might not be rated very high, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide great entertainment and that feeling of escapism that usually goes with Carry On films viewings.
The film also introduced Richard O’Callaghan to the series. He was then seen in Carry On at Your Convenience but, unfortunately, these were the only Carry On films in which he starred. O’Callaghan obviously replaced the Jim Dale type, the young romantic and clumsy guy. It seems that Dale was pretty much done by then with the series (although he was back in 1992 for Carry On Columbus). So, the Carry On team had to find someone that could fulfil his kind of on-screen personality. Of course, O’Callaghan does that, but he’s not a simple pale copy of Dale. Not at all. As a matter of fact, the texture they gave to their characters is very different, and Richard O’Callaghan’s performance doesn’t make us forget Jim Dale and vice versa.
Despite the maybe mitigated critics, Carry On Loving remained a success financially being placed at the 4th place of the 1970 British box office. (1) So, this gives a good clue that the film, despite not being of top-notch quality, can be enjoyable enough.
Carry On Loving, which was initially supposed to be called Carry On Courting (a title that would have made sense), revolves around the matrimonial agency business. Sid Bliss (Sidney James) and Sophie Plummett (Hattie Jacques) run a matrimonial agency, Wedded Bliss. To give a good impression to their customers, they pretend to be married, and that has been going on for ten years. The two don’t seem to be on their way to do so as Sid turns around one of their clients, Esme Crowfoot (Joan Sims), who constantly rejects his advances and who has a very jealous boyfriend, wrestler Gripper Burke (Bernard Bresslaw).
But, despite their conflicts, Sid and Sophie have to run the business and satisfy their customers with the help of their very technological match-maker computer, which is, in fact, a complete scam. One of them is the young Bertrum Muffet (Richard O’Callaghan), whom Mr Bliss calls “Muffin”. He’s young and inexperienced and has a weird hobby of doing model planes with milk bottle tops. An appointment is organized with Esme Crowfoot, but, when the time comes for the actual rendez-vous, Bertrum mistakes a model, Sally Martin (Jacki Piper), for her. On her side, she thinks he’s the photographer who’s suppose to work with her. They eventually understand their mistake, but Bertrum would like to see her again.
Another one of the clients is Terry Philpott (Terry Scott), whose first encounter with his maybe-future-wife is kind of catastrophic. She comes from this very conservative and traditional family composed of serious and snobbish people. Terry doesn’t feel at his place and doesn’t see much future with Jenny Grubb (Imogen Hassall). He goes to the agency to complain, but, when Jenny enters the place while he is arguing with Mr Bliss, she’s now transformed as a sexy woman, completely different from what Terry had previously seen. This one then completely forgets about his complain to the agency.
Finally, Kenneth Williams plays Percival Snooper, who works as a marriage counsellor. He consults the agency as his superior believes his professional experience might be better in he was married.
Meanwhile, Miss Plummett has hired a private detective, James Bedsop (Charles Hawtrey), to follow Sid, whom she doesn’t trust.
Carry On Loving is a colourful film and one that might introduce one of the most endearing characters of the series: Bertrum Muffet, played by Richard O’Callaghan. The then-young actor provides a performance that sticks with us for being sympathetic, spontaneous, and simply adorable. The way he incarnates the cute but socially awkward young men in seek of love immediately gains our sympathy as viewers. I love the way he is introduced to us, seated in the bus an unable to keep his large eyes off a couple kissing passionately. This couple is seen a few times in the film. They truly embody its spirit! About the character himself, the fact that one of his hobbies is to build model planes with milk bottle tops amused me, not only for the initial absurdity of the thing but because it reminded me of François Pignon, the character played by Jacques Villeret in the French comedy Le Dîner de Cons (Francis Vebber, 1998), a man who builds famous landmarks with matches. If you have seen this film, you know that poor Bertrum Muffet could have been a candidate for such a dinner.
Bertrum Muffet vs. François Pignon!
O’Callaghan’s introduction to the series was seen as a breath of fresh air for certain critics. For example, The Times wrote that the film “benefits from the work of one newcomer, Richard O’Callaghan, who plays the obligatory innocent with absolutely the right single-minded seriousness and apparent unconsciousness of the humour of his own situation”. (2) That is a pretty good way to sums up what emanates from his performance and his character!
The actor himself had a lot of good things to say about his experience making the film and about his acting colleagues. O’Callaghan said of his character:
Bertie Muffett is a wonderful innocent. The fact that he goes off to meet a girl carrying a bag full of model aeroplanes made out of milk bottle tops was inspired comedy. When I opened the bag on set the first day I found that the props man had actually made about ten of these models – I nearly died laughing. He wasn’t supposed to go to those lenghts of realism! (3)
It would be interesting to mention that Richard O’Callaghan is the son of Patricia Hayes, who had previously appeared in Carry On Again Doctor as Mrs Beasley, the woman who tells all about her problem to Dr Nookey (Jim Dale). (4)
The film also marked the second appearance of Patsy Rowlands in the series. She plays Miss Dempsey, Mr Snooper’s devoted secretary, who turns out to have more than a trick in her bag when Miss Plummett shows a bit too much interest for Snooper… It’s a small part, but one that is hard to forget.
Jacki Piper, whom we had previously seen in Carry On Up the Jungle, once again delivers a sparkling performance, just like Imogen Hassall who, unfortunately, appeared in the franchise only on that occasion.
Of course, the regular actors, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacque, Joan Sims, Terry Scott, and Bernard Bresslaw were welcomed with open arms and haven’t lost their touch in all those years. Joan Hickson was back in the series, as Mrs Grubb, ten years after her appearance in Carry On Regardless. Talking of Regardless, the room where Wedded Bliss office is based was the same one used for Helping Hands agency! (5)
And if there’s one scene that is worth mentioning in the film, it’s the one featuring Carry On regular Peter Butterworth. This one is here only for a few minutes, making it almost a cameo moment, but that is perhaps one of the funniest moments of Carry On Loving. He plays an odd and sinister client looking for a wife at Wedded Bliss.
Sidney Bliss: Did you say you’ve been married before?
Sinister Client: That’s right, twice.
Sidney Bliss: Your wives are…dead?
Sinister Client: That’s right
Sidney Bliss: I see.
Sinister Client: First wife died from eating mushrooms.
Sidney Bliss: Oh! Sorry to hear that.
Sinister Client: So is she.
[Mr Bliss looks at him, unsure]
Sinister Client: Second wife died from… a fractured skull.
Sidney Bliss: Fractured skull? How did that happen?
Sinister Client [Shaking his head]: Wouldn’t eat the mushrooms.
Sidney Bliss [writing]: Wouldn’t eat the mush… [look at his client and tears his paper]. Thank you, Dr Crippin. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Dr Crippin (which seems to be his name) might not be a suitable candidate! Yes, Carry Ons were also about dark humour!
We have, on a few occasions in this series, talked a bit about the opening credits and Carry On Loving‘s ones also deserved to be discussed. Of course, there are still these crazy and funny alternative titles, such as It’s Not What You Feel, It’s the Way that You Feel It, Two’s Company But Three’s Quite Good Fun Too, Love Is A Four Letters Word, and It’s Just One Thing On Top of Another. And what about those little feet drawings, which represent perfectly the naughtiness of the Carry Ons?
My positive appreciation of Carry On Loving pretty much sums up the reason why Carry On films have such a positive effect on me. Because these films were, yes, popular, but not necessarily appreciated by the critics, we never really know what to expect. In the end, we often turn out loving them and enjoying a great moment of entertainment! Of course, one has to like this type of humour. Anyway, it’s a film I recommend!
I’m very impatient to watch the next Carry On, Carry On Henry, which parodies the life of the famous six-times wedded king!
Want to follow that series closely? Make sure to take a look at my other reviews!
(1): “Carry On Loving.” Wikipedia, March 22, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carry_On_Loving#cite_note-2. Accessed Oct. 30, 2019.
(2) Ross, Robert. The Carry On Companion. London: Batsford, 1998. p. 89.
(3) Richard O’Callaghan cited in The Carry On Companion (p. 91).
(4) Ibid. note 2.
(5) “Carry On Loving: Trivia.” IMDb, n.d. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065524/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv. Accessed Oct. 30, 2019.