CARRY ON CORTINA

C&SC’S res­i­dent film ex­pert marks six decades of the com­edy fran­chise with a tour of some of its most fa­mous lo­ca­tions

Classic Sports Car - - Contents - WORDS AN­DREW ROBERTS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY TONY BAKER/REX FEA­TURES

Tour­ing lo­ca­tions from the fa­mous film fran­chise in our very own ‘Glam­cab’

To the unini­ti­ated, the ap­peal of the Carry On films is as ob­scure as the at­trac­tions of foot­ball or banger rac­ing are to me. Yet 60 years af­ter the first was screened, they have be­come an in­te­gral part of Bri­tish pop­u­lar cul­ture, and one of their most in­trigu­ing as­pects is of­ten the street scenes. They were never de­vised as B-pic­tures, but their bud­gets were not far above a se­cond fea­ture, which meant the use of un­adorned street footage. The re­sult was fre­quently a 1960s/’70s ver­sion of John Bet­je­man’s Metroland: FX4 taxis lined up out­side Home Coun­ties rail sta­tions; Hill­man Su­per Minxes and Vaux­hall Vic­tor FBS on the less-than-mean streets of Wind­sor, Maiden­head and Slough; newsagents with signs ad­ver­tis­ing Wood­bines and The Daily Sketch;

and pubs of­fer­ing Wat­neys Red Bar­rel.

Re­vis­it­ing some of those sites pro­vided the ideal way to mark the genre’s sixth decade. As for the choice of trans­port for our grand tour of Carry On lo­ca­tions, it had to be a Ford Con­sul Cortina. The se­ries fre­quently had guest ap­pear­ances from var­i­ous mod­els, and it was tempt­ing to bring a Ford Con­sul MKII High­line in trib­ute to Camp­ing, but the films took a se­ri­ous turn for the worse in the 1970s and the 17th Carry On

marked the point of no re­turn. The Austin LD Wandsworth am­bu­lance of Again Doc­tor would have been im­prac­ti­cal, and there was lit­tle

‘The Con­sul con­jures that iconic scene of the lined ranks of Glam­cabs, in an in­deli­ble mo­ment in Bri­tish cin­ema’

chance of track­ing down a 1904 Brush­mo­bile, as used in pseudo-hor­ror Carry On Scream­ing.

But as the only movie in the fran­chise with a mo­tor­ing theme – and one of the few to fea­ture a proper car chase – Cabby was the nat­u­ral choice. Like­wise the Ford, which con­jures that iconic scene of the lined ranks of Glam­cabs, in an in­deli­ble mo­ment in Bri­tish cin­ema.

The com­edy fo­cused on Speedee Taxis, a tra­di­tional black-cab com­pany run by Char­lie Hawkins (Sid­ney James), and the chal­lenge it faced from an up-to-the-minute mini­cab firm with a fleet of new Fords. Would the film have been so suc­cess­ful with an al­ter­na­tive mar­que, such as a line of Mor­ris 1100s? Cer­tainly, the ADO16 and the Cortina rep­re­sented the zenith of af­ford­able au­to­mo­tive fash­ion when film­ing com­menced in spring of 1963, but BMC re­put­edly wanted pay­ment for its prod­ucts. This was cer­tainly not the phi­los­o­phy of se­ries pro­ducer Peter Rogers, so the Glam­cabs were to be Corti­nas – much to the sat­is­fac­tion of Da­gen­ham, which had re­cently launched the Su­per ver­sion. Lon­don dealer FH Pea­cock & Co of 219 Bal­ham High Road ar­ranged the cars, and a mock-up of its show­room ap­peared on screen in re­turn.

Pea­cocks was a large or­gan­i­sa­tion with sev­eral ma­jor con­tracts, in­clud­ing one deal to sup­ply lor­ries to the NAAFI, and an­other with the Rank Or­gan­i­sa­tion, both for its Xerox di­vi­sion and for Pinewood. “To have the Corti­nas on screen was very good for our public­ity, but when you look at Cabby, it is ob­vi­ous that there were not enough four-door Su­pers to go around,” re­calls Phil Lu­d­er­man, who was then work­ing as a de­liv­ery driver for the deal­er­ship. “Demo cars were in short sup­ply – Pea­cocks only had a cou­ple of two-doors – and our man­ager was con­stantly ring­ing round other deal­ers. In the end, we used a mix­ture of cars from other show­rooms and Da­gen­ham PR Corti­nas, which is why there are De Luxes and Fleet­lines on screen. We were kept busy de­liv­er­ing the ve­hi­cles for the film – there was a spe­cial car park at Pinewood for the Glam­cabs and Pea­cocks pro­vided a ser­vice ve­hi­cle to take the driv­ers back to base.”

None of the Glam­cabs is known to sur­vive, and ‘our’ Cortina is a 1964 De Luxe with the un­usual com­bi­na­tion of a two-door body with a split bench front seat, a four-on-the-col­umn gearchange and a 1200cc en­gine. “It gets there… even­tu­ally,” says owner Stan Wilkin­son. Not that Da­gen­ham’s finest was re­quired to travel vast dis­tances at high speed, be­cause the se­ries rarely ven­tured beyond a five-mile ra­dius of the stu­dios. Oc­ca­sion­ally a nar­ra­tive would re­quire a jour­ney to north Wales, Cam­ber Sands or Brighton, but in the main a Carry On lo­ca­tion shoot meant a trip into the wilds of Buck­ing­hamshire. Loyal au­di­ences soon learned to recog­nise the same lo­ca­tions from film to film as much as they ap­pre­ci­ated the many and var­ied con­ti­nu­ity er­rors, plus scripts that of­ten de­rived from the Dead Sea Scrolls of War­dour Street.

The key site was, of course, Pinewood it­self – with a such a tight sched­ule, there was lit­tle point in stray­ing beyond the con­fines of the stu­dio. The Man­sion En­trance served as the gates of the army bar­racks of Carry On Sergeant, the orig­i­nal film of 1958, while the Heather­den Hall block dou­bled as a hos­pi­tal in Nurse, the gover­nor’s res­i­dence in Up the Khy­ber and the school in

Camp­ing, not to men­tion the ‘Moore-nookey’ clinic (oh, the sub­tlety!) of Again Doc­tor.

Pinewood would dou­ble as a lava­tory fac­tory in the typ­i­cally un­der­stated and nu­anced At Your Con­ve­nience and, with the ad­di­tion of a left-hand­drive AEC Re­gal coach and some very strange ac­cents, Abroad cre­ated the wholly un­con­vinc­ing il­lu­sion of tak­ing place in Spain. There is now a new en­trance, but the orig­i­nal gates will for­ever be as­so­ci­ated with the stu­dio and, with the Cortina’s Duo­tone paint­work, they cre­ate an agree­able at­mos­phere of low-key glam­our. To ar­rive at Pinewood in a Rolls-royce Phan­tom is a cliché, but to draw up via Glam­cab clone is the epit­ome of true style.

Our next des­ti­na­tion is one that forms a ma­jor part of the her­itage of Bri­tish cin­ema. There are times when you can sud­denly be as­sailed by mem­o­ries when trav­el­ling through a film lo­ca­tion; for some it may be The Ital­ian Job’s Great St Bernard Pass, for oth­ers it’s Pinewood Green hous­ing es­tate, a seem­ingly in­nocu­ous road net­work that will be in­stantly fa­mil­iar for any­one raised on these films… and it’s also where Joan Sims lived in Carry On Camp­ing.

No true afi­cionado of cin­ema and clas­sic cars alike could be ex­pected to curb their en­thu­si­asm when at the very site of not only Camp­ing, but also the In­spec­tor’s house in Con­sta­ble and the res­i­dence of Sid James and Hat­tie Jac­ques in

At Your Con­ve­nience. Pinewood Green had the ad­van­tage of be­ing just a few hun­dred yards from the stu­dio, thereby sav­ing Rogers even more £sd. The leafy roads of the es­tate were the lo­ca­tion for much of the car chase in Cabby, and the crown­ing touch on our visit is a very plau­si­ble look­ing K6 tele­phone box. The A/B but­ton mech­a­nism therein is wholly il­lu­sory, of course, but there is still the ever-present temp­ta­tion to dial Bal­ham 1271 and re­quest that Pea­cocks sup­ply an­other batch of Corti­nas.

Be­fore de­part­ing, there’s just time to pay a visit to the ad­ja­cent Pinewood Close, which the Carry Ons used as their stock ‘ up­mar­ket’ set. These were not films with a so­phis­ti­cated ap­proach to char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, so Terry Scott ar­riv­ing home in a bowler hat and pin­striped suit in Camp­ing meant ‘city busi­ness­man’. The same street was used for Bernard Bress­law’s res­i­dence in Be­hind seven years later, a pic­ture that boasts an early Jaguar XJ6. Other more glam­orous cameos in­clude an As­ton Mar­tin DB5 (Doc­tor) and a Fer­rari 365GT 2+2 (Ma­tron), both the prop­erty of di­rec­tor Ger­ald Thomas.

Our fi­nal lo­ca­tion is Maiden­head Town Hall, a fine build­ing that was still within easy reach of Pinewood and pos­sessed the in­nate abil­ity to dou­ble as a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion. Sim­ply by park­ing a Bed­ford J1 am­bu­lance near the front door, it could be in­stantly trans­formed into a hos­pi­tal. In Be­hind, its noble por­tals served as a uni­ver­sity cam­pus – and looked more con­vinc­ing than most of the un­der­grad­u­ates. As with many works of cin­ema, a sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief is es­sen­tial: in Dr. No, cin­ema­go­ers were not sup­posed to no­tice the ridicu­lous back-pro­jec­tion of the Sun­beam Alpine chase, and in a Carry On film you are not meant to point out that ‘young peo­ple’ all seemed to be at least 37 years old.

The 31 pic­tures made ex­ten­sive use of such venues as Datchet Road in Wind­sor and Maiden­head High Street, but to see them to­day is to be re­minded that the Carry Ons be­long to an­other time. They were in­tended to be the main at­trac­tion of an evening at the cin­ema – to­gether with the news­reel, Look at Life, Edgar Wal­lace and a Kia-ora in the in­ter­val, all for just 1/9d. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a Cortina 1200 on the A4 you re­alise that, as with Cabby, it dates from a slower-paced world. “It is spa­cious and en­joy­able to drive,” says Wilkin­son, “even if the po­si­tion of the gear­lever means that you keep hit­ting the front pas­sen­ger’s knees!”

He also notes that “it never fails to at­tract at­ten­tion”, and this is quickly proved by the many cars that come per­ilously close to the Ford to ad­mire it. By the stan­dards of the early ’60s, a Con­sul Cortina was gen­er­ally re­garded as a medium-sized car, yet it ap­pears Lil­liputian com­pared with the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of Fi­es­tas. This sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity is ex­ac­er­bated by yet an­other As­tra or Gal­axy hov­er­ing just inches from the rear bumper, as its owner at­tempts to read the word­ing on the bootlid.

Cin­ema can help to cre­ate the mythol­ogy of a car, of­ten re­gard­less of the money in­volved. The best Carry Ons had a pol­ish that be­lied their par­si­mo­nious bud­gets. “It was great fun to make,” says Amanda Bar­rie, who played Athena in Cabby and fondly re­calls the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and high stan­dards of the en­ter­prise. The casts com­prised some of Britain’s finest char­ac­ter ac­tors, while the Fords dart­ing around Wex­ham, Iver Heath and Pinewood Green cre­ated im­agery as mem­o­rable as any Bond ad­ven­ture.

This year, As­ton Mar­tin launched a limited edi­tion of 25 Goldfin­ger replica DB5S at a hefty £2.75m each (plus tax). I would never seek to dis­par­age the dream in­her­ent in such a car, but merely sug­gest that if Ford de­cided to recre­ate an ex­act­ing Con­sul Cortina Glam­cab it would not only be some­what cheaper, but also equally valid for thou­sands of en­thu­si­asts.

From top: Con­sul pays a visit to Maiden­head Town Hall; Peggy Hawkins (Hat­tie Jac­ques) and Flo Sims (Esma Can­non) with the Glam­cabs in Cabby

From top: front bench seat has room for three; poster re­veals sen­si­bil­i­ties from a time be­fore po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness; out­side the famed Pinewood Stu­dios

Cortina looks en­tirely at home in the quiet sur­round­ings of Pinewood Green hous­ing es­tate. Be­low: 1.2-litre ‘four’ musters gen­tle pace

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