Carry On Sergeant is a 1958 British comedy film about National Service starring William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse and Eric Barker; it is the first in the series of Carry On films, with 31 entries released from 1958 to 1992.
Newly married Mary Sage (Shirley Eaton) is distraught when her husband Charlie (Bob Monkhouse) receives his call-up papers during their wedding breakfast. He travels to Heathercrest National Service Depot, meeting fellow recruit Horace Strong (Kenneth Connor), a chronic hypochondriac who is devastated at having been passed as fit.
The new recruits are assigned to Sergeant Grimshaw (William Hartnell). Grimshaw will soon be retiring from the army and takes on a £50 bet with Sergeant O’Brien (Terry Scott) that his last bunch of squaddies will be his first champion platoon.
With beady-eyed inspection from Captain Potts (Eric Barker) and disgruntled support from Corporal Copping (Bill Owen), Grimshaw decides to use some psychology and treat his charges kindly rather than simply shouting at them. But basic training does not start well and he struggles to take his platoon through it. They include failure Herbert Brown (Norman Rossington), upper-class cad Miles Heywood (Terence Longdon), rock ‘n’ roller Andy Galloway (Gerald Campion), delicate flower Peter Golightly (Charles Hawtrey) and supercilious university graduate James Bailey (Kenneth Williams). His attempts seem doomed.
Mary is determined to spend her wedding night with her husband and smuggles herself into the depot to get a job in the NAAFI, a situation Charlie is eventually able to legitimise. Strong spends most of his time complaining to the Medical Officer, Captain Clark (Hattie Jacques). It is only the adoration of doe-eyed NAAFI girl Norah (Dora Bryan), which he initially rejects, that makes him realise his potential and inspires him to become a real soldier.
On the eve of the final tests, Grimshaw is in despair, but he is overheard bemoaning his lot to Copping. The squad decide to win the best platoon prize at all costs. On the day, they indeed beat the other platoons at all tasks and Grimshaw is awarded the cup for best platoon.
- William Hartnell as Sergeant Grimshaw.
- Bob Monkhouse as Charlie Sage.
- Shirley Eaton as Mary Sage.
- Bill Owen as Corporal Copping.
- Charles Hawtrey as Peter Golightly.
- Kenneth Connor as Horace Strong.
- Kenneth Williams as James Bailey.
- Terence Longdon as Miles Heywood.
- Norman Rossington as Herbert Brown.
- Gerald Campion as Andy Galloway.
- Hattie Jacques as Captain Clark, R.A.M.C.
- Eric Barker as Captain Potts.
- Dora Bryan as Norah.
- Terry Scott as Sergeant Paddy O’Brien.
- John Mathews as Sergeant Matthews.
- Ed Devereaux as Sergeant Russell.
- Cyril Chamberlain as Bren Gun instructor.
- Leigh Madison as Sheila.
- Martin Wyldeck as Mr Sage (uncredited).
- Helen Goss as Mary’s mother (uncredited).
Filming was between 24 March 1958 and 02 May 1958. Interior shoots were at Stage B, Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, and exterior shoots were at: Army camp: Cardwell’s Keep, Stoughton Barracks, Stoughton Road, Stoughton near Guildford, Surrey; Wedding scene: St Mary’s Church of England, Church Hill, Harefield, Middlesex; and Church scenes: Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
- Budget: £73,000 (estimated).
- Gross: £500,000 (UK).
- Modern Budget Equivalent: £1,573,126.06.
- Modern Gross Equivalent: £10,774,836.00.
The film was the third most successful movie at the British box office in 1958.
- The film was based on a play The Bull Boys by R.F. Delderfield and was adapted into a script by Norman Hudis with John Antrobus contributing additional material and replacing the conscripted ballet dancers of the novel into a married couple.
- It was directed by Gerald Thomas and produced by Peter Rogers, a partnership which would last until 1978. Actors in this film, who went on to be part of the regular team in the series, were Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Connor and Terry Scott.
- This successful first film was screened to the trade and cinema-bookers on 01 August 1958 after which some regional screenings were held from 31 August including Aberdeen and Birmingham.
- It was not until 19 September 1958 that it received its London cinema release at the Plaza, and then the film rolled out nationwide on general release from 20 September onwards.
- The soundtrack music was played by the Band of the Coldstream Guards, conducted by the composer.
- Carry On Series:
- Carry On Sergeant had not been conceived as the start of a film series; only after the film’s surprising success did the producer Peter Rogers and the director Gerald Thomas set about planning a further project.
- After reusing the Carry On prefix and some cast members in their next project Carry On Nurse (1959) and having success with that film, the Carry On series of films evolved.
- The term “Carry on” is typically issued by an officer to an NCO when handing over control of a parade or inspection.
- “Carry on, Sergeant” is a normal expression for an Army officer to use; the American equivalent is, “As you were.” (in British English ‘As you were’ is a military command to withdraw an order i.e. to return to the previous position).
- The title that replaced The Bull Boys was suggested by Stuart Levy to cash in on the popularity of the 1957 film Carry on Admiral, which was written by Val Guest.
- At the time, the success of Carry On Sergeant prompted applause and audience laughter in serious settings where the phrase was used, including amongst audiences of the film The Devil’s Disciple (1959).
Carry On Series
- Carry On Admiral (1957).
- Carry On Sergeant (1958).
- Carry On Jack (1964).
- Carry On Cleo (1964).
- Don’t Lose Your Head (1966).
- Carry On Up the Khyber (1968).
- Carry On England (1976).
You can find a full index and overview of the Carry On Franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Gerald Thomas.
- Peter Rogers.
- Kenneth Myers.
- Norman Hudis.
- Bruce Montgomery.
- Peter Hennessy.
- Peter Boita.
- Peter Rogers Productions.
- Release Date: 31 August 1958.
- Rating: PG.
- Running Time: 84 minutes.
- Country: UK.
- Language: English.