Doccumentary highlighting the darker side of four of the stars of the 'Carry On' films.

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A distasteful look into the 'seedy' lives of 4 "Carry On" actors who are no longer alive to defend themselves. Apparently Sid James had an eye for the ladies, whilst Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Frankie Howerd... didn't. Written by Anonymous

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actor | retrospective | See All (2) »

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31 August 1998 (UK)  »

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Familiar Revelations about the Carry On Stars' Private Lives
18 February 2016 | by (London) – See all my reviews

This is one of those "kiss and tell" documentaries that reveal the truth about the private lives of some of our favorite comic actors, but actually end up saying not much.

Sid James was actually born Solomon Cohen in South Africa; contrary to his claims, he was not a boxer but one of the country's top hair stylists. A compulsive womanizer, he had already gone through two marriages by the time he came to Britain at the age of thirty-three to pursue an acting career. During his period of greatest success in the Sixties and Seventies, he was a compulsive gambler as well as being a wife-beater; when he died at the age of only sixty-three, he was heavily in debt.

Charles Hawtrey, real name George Hartree, began life as a child star in Thirties British movies and graduated to television and radio as well as the Carry Ons. An outrageous homosexual as well as an alcoholic, he was eventually dropped from the series for excessive drinking, and spent the rest of his life in penury in Kent, hitting the headlines once for being arrested in a male prostitution raid.

Frankie Howerd spent most of his life concealing his homosexuality, but eventually found love with his partner Lee Heymer. Nonetheless his career was distinguished by a series of ups and downs; he was something of a comeback specialist, the last of these occurring in the late Eighties when he was rediscovered by the Comic Strip generation.

Kenneth Williams's private life is well documented through his published diaries. He lived with his mother in a squalid apartment in King's Cross, London; and although he fell in love with a lot of men, he seldom enjoyed lasting relationships. As he grew older he found work harder and harder to come by, and as a result became more and more cantankerous. He eventually took his own life at the early age of sixty-two.

While all four stars were somewhat sad figures offscreen, they nonetheless gave considerable pleasure over decades to generations of audiences. And perhaps it is this quality, shared by all of them, that they should be remembered for. Muck-raking documentaries such as this might be entertaining, but they do not have much effect on public perceptions of the stars involved.


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