In 1969, the English actress Barbara (Babs) Windsor costarred in her fourth motion picture in the Carry On franchise, a succession of low-budget, campy comedies that dominated national cinemas for two decades. For Carry On Again Doctor, she assumed the role of a walking trope named Goldie Locks: a comely but rattlebrained blonde who’d fallen while modeling for a baby-food commercial, and thus required a checkup. In a now cult scene, a stern hospital matron peels back a blanket to reveal Windsor’s milky, bruised flesh, privates obscured only by heart-shaped nipple pasties and a matching glitter G-string. A male doctor gawps and splutters and spins around at the sight of her. The matron shoots him a censorious glance. Windsor, or Goldie Locks—all alabaster skin and towering, curly beehive—asks, “What’s wrong?” with Gorblimey cockney intonation. A clichéd comedy of errors ensues.
Since its inception in the late fifties, Carry On was an easy, if surprising, cash cow for its founders: deliberately slapstick, smutty and formulaic in plot, expert in recycling themes and motifs to engineer maximum audience delight. It internalized a then-lowbrow English attitude to sex; scripts were carnivalesque, replete with all the bawdy innuendo, double entendre, and wheezy wisecracks of a seaside postcard. (A writer for the Telegraph would later opine that Carry On adopted “innocent smut that plays Grandma’s footsteps with its subject, furtively creeping up on it, then freezing and corpsing when it comes face to face.”)
As the second-longest running British film series, bested only by James Bond, it leveraged a universal-adaptor cast of comics to send up various Blighty institutions: the monarchy and the Empire, the police force and trade unions, the National Health Service. Perhaps that irreverence and lack of prudishness is why viewers hung on. Thirty-one films in total were churned out, conveyer-belt style, from Pinewood Studios, about twenty miles west of central London. Sometimes they took as little as six weeks to make. There were other spin-offs, including four Christmas specials, a thirteen-episode TV series, and three plays. Carry On was always cheap and high-energy, increasingly interspersed with nudity, always a lot of the same (ditsy plot, cheeky dialogue, rudimentary, drama-school costuming). It was whipped-cream and zany slapstick chase scenes and jovial leering at Windsor’s ample cleavage. Read More