The man behind the Carry On franchise died yesterday at the age of 95.
Peter Rogers was the producer for every one of the 31 movies, which kept Brits in stitches and foreigners baffled from the 50s through to the 70s. Or even the 90s if you include Carry On Columbus.
Rogers died after a short illness at his home in Buckinghamshire, not a million miles away from Pinewood Studios, where the cast and crew recreated everything from the French Revolution, Henrician England, Ancient Rome and Egypt, to the WC Boggs factory lavatory factory and the infamous Mediterranean holiday resort of Elsbels.
Born in 1914, Rogers had stints as a journalist, in the theatre and working on religious instructional films. He ended up at Pinewood Studios in the early 50s, where amongst other projects, he kicked off the Carry On series.
The series started quite innocently with 1958's Carry On Sergeant, which featured Kenneth Williams and Ken Connor, who both stuck with the series to the end. The film was a fairly standard ensemble piece, perhaps most unusual for featuring Williams as a bookish national service man who gets a girlfriend by the end.
The following year's Carry On Nurse which featured a more subversive anti-establishment theme and somewhat bawdier humour, as inmates of a hospital rebel and begin carrying out their own surgery.
Sid James joined the cast with 1960's Carry on Constable. With the 60s, the films became ruder, with James, a South African Jew reborn as an archetypal music hall Londoner/lothario, often taking centre stage. Barbara Windsor became part of the company, and was regularly parted from her underwear.
Other British comedy greats, including Jack Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Terry Scott, June Whitfield, Jim Dale, Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims and Frankie Howerd, all did their bit (or squandered their talent depending on your point of view). The series even tempted US comedy legend Phil Silvers to appear in Carry On Follow That Camel, in which Camber Sands did a turn as the Sahara.
While James Bond presented a glamorous if cynical and worldly view of Britain to the world, the Carry On films presented a more recognisably English view of the UK. They were probably never part of the UK Tourist Boards culture list, and were all the better for it.
By the early 70s, the series was running out of steam, with a late peak being 1974's Carry On Dick. Carry On England and Carry On Emmanuelle, later in the decade, were raunchier, but cruder and ultimately forgettable. And then in the 1990s, there was Carry On Columbus, which was greeted with mixed reviews.
Even Rogers was moved to say: "They were all alike, weren't they? We made 31 films out of one gag." But what a gag.
To the end, apparently, Rogers always declared his intent to produce another in the series, though with virtually all the original team no longer with us, and Babs busy running the Queen Vic in Walford, it seems the Carry On Films have finally gone the way of ATV, Music Hall and Eagle Magazine. ®
Due to an age related error and earlier version of this story named Jack Benny as the star of Carry On Follow that Camel. Thanks to all that pointed this out, and especially to the reader who suggested it could actually have been Buddy Holly, as he wore glasses too.