Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Carry On Jacki - An interview with Jacki Piper.

I tottered on to the set in my 6 inch stiletto’s, hoping that I wasn't going to fall out of the tiny top they’d given to me to wear.  I passed many familiar faces as I positioned myself where the director had sent me. The director shouted action, this was my cue, I walked forward and comedically stumbled, falling onto the lap of an old gentleman who’s glasses immediately fell off as my ample bust was thrust in his face… The director shouted cut and we all resumed our places and while the make-up lady readjusted the make-up of the not so old, old man… I went into a haze, here I was on the set of a Carry On movie, the ghosts of the past where all around, I closed my eyes, I could picture Jack Douglas’ comedic falls, Hatty Jacques looking disapprovingly, hear the “Yak yak yak” of Sid James, the “OOOh Matron” of Keneth Williams, that distinctive cackle of Barbara Windsor, a perfect Kenneth Connor “Phwaaaaar” and the “That’s your cue love” of Jacki Piper…. Hold on?? That wasn’t a dream? I turned around and there she was, star of the Carry On’s “Matron”, “At Your Convenience”, “Up The Jungle” and “Loving”… Oh my god, it WAS Jacki Piper!

I quickly played my part and as soon as the director was happy searched for Jacki, she was sitting in a corner, quietly reading her script, she was still so attractive and young looking, it was crazy to think that the movies had been made over 40 years ago!

I asked he if I could disturb her, she was ever so nice and charming and was happy to do so, although I’m not sure she expected the grilling that I was about to give her...

My personal favourite of the films was ‘Carry on up the Jungle’, it starred Jacki as June, the saucy temptress that lured Terry Scots character onto a very naughty path, so my first question had to be, you starred in four of the best Carry On films with some of the biggest Carry On stars, who and which was your favourite?
“O gosh I don’t know really. I mean Carry on Up the Jungle was always very special for me because it was my first one but really whenever you’re involved in a job you know you’re just completely into that particular film so I enjoyed each one as I was doing it but I think Jungle had a special place in my hear because it was the first one probably.”
Funnily enough it was on the other day!
“They’re always showing them”
They are but Jungle is my favourite one I have to say. One thing about it, Bernard Bresslaw playing Upsadaisy..
“Yes”
You know today it would never be allowed…
“No I know but I think my entire career has been politically incorrect!”

This made me giggle and led me to my next question.

I was just wondering why do you think that the public, even the most right on, embrace Carry On even though it is the one of the most politically incorrect series of films?
“I think it’s noslagtia, sentimentality and I think because one of the reasons may be because they did use the same actors again and again and so the public formed a fondness for those people and they recognise them, it’s like when you used to do rep theatre and you know the people in the town when you were in the rep, because it was the same people, they get very fond of you because they get used to seeing you from week to week and you know it was the same with the Carry Ons, it was a team and people became fond of the team”

Was there any, were there any conflicts or rivalry on the set? Or was it as fun as it seemed?
“Possibly but there were very very subtle and I wouldn’t have been aware of them, I mean we just used to laugh all the time”


Did you get to ad lib?
Absolutely not  you had to stick absolutely to the script but off camera when we weren’t doing the filming there was a lot of ad lobbing and naughtiness going on. It was just hysterical really.”

I asked her if she had any funny stories she could tell me…
“When I was filming with Terry he fell out of his loincloth [in the love scene by the lake] and everyone was laughing, we didn’t know why and we carried on with the scene.
The director turned to the make up lady Nora and said “Oh you never made it up Nora” So we didn’t know that that had happened, we could just see when we were doing, this was a tender loving scene and everyone was rolling about laughing. We had no idea what was going on…he didn’t know...neither of us knew, so we didn’t stop, we kept going with the scene, we were aware that everyone was shaking, we couldn’t think why, why they were laughing, its supposed to be this beautiful tender love scene, but we didn’t find out til afterwards.”

Oh that’s brilliant, I replied… Perfect story!

Are there any Carry On stars that you wish you worked with? Are there any of the other films that you would have liked to have been in?
“The only one is Jim Dale. I was supposed to have worked with him right at the beginning and he was going to be Jungle Boy. When they were casting me they were thinking of me with Jim Dale but he was in America or something and couldn’t come, so Terry Scott played the part and although I would loved to have met and worked with Jim Dale, I think he may have been more real as Jungle boy but no, but I’d have liked to I never did work with him. He was never, he was never working in the ones I was on, I think he worked on the ones prior to me joining the team really. So I would like to have met him but anyway I didn’t, so there you go.”
Yes, Terry Scott wasn’t exactly your archetypal Tarzan was he?
“I think Terry Scott was so funny as Jungle Boy, I can’t imagine it being funnier, it was a piece of inspired casting as I think Terry Scott was so comical.”

You’ve said that Hattie Jacques never liked to watch her won rushes back. How did you feel about yours?
“No I didn’t like watching mine either, I hated it – I still hate watching myself because you know you cant help being critical and I liked to be unaware and natural, I think having a mature view and thinking as an older person, you should watch your rushes and learn from it, but I was only 22 and I never really thought much of my performances. I was always very very self critical and so she and I used to rush off straight off to lunch and everyone else would go and watch rushes.”

So, who do you think was the most vain – who wanted to watch them?
“Oh I’ve no idea but I think that is the professional thing to do and I think they all did it apart from Hattie and I. We didn’t like seeing ourselves so we used to shoot off.”
Well I don’t blame you
“Most people hate hearing themselves on tape recorders or seeing themselves, it’s a very normal view not to watch, like watching yourself and it’s your job as well, you know? It’s quite hard because one’s so self critical. It’s not so bad now because I look back and it’s like watching another person and I think it’s quite fun, you know it’s not like me. I don’t watch them but I had to watch when I did the commentary on the DVDs. I’d never seen them for 30 years or something. I had to go to the studio and watch them, I found them quite funny and charming and I could stop being self critical and enjoy them really.”
Did you laugh?
“I did, I did it was long enough ago to switch off the critical button and just enjoy it.”

I looked over at our set, it was meant to be a holiday villa in Spain, it was in fact a backlot in Kent… I wondered did she ever go to any exotic locations and were they all filmed at a studio?
“No they never spent any money on the Carry Ons! They only time we ever went on location was when we did Carry On at Your Convenience and we went to Brighton for 4 days. We were put up in this hotel, we were filmed on Brighton Pier and things like that but apart from that we never, no, we were never… I mean the Jungle was built in Pinewood!”

You can kind of guess can’t you? I replied
“I mean that they were not a great budget film, everything was done very very quickly and cheaply and amazing that’s why they made money”

Very True, I thought. So much has been written about your co-stars, what were they really like?
“Well I just worked with them professionally, I didn’t know them privately but I just thought they were just lovely – I was the new young girl in the films and they were so lovely to me, so kind to me and because I loved it, I couldn’t quite believe I was there really. It was all amazing and I just used to sit there, listen to them all talking and just used to laugh all the time with their funny stories, so I was never aware of any turbulent private lives, I knew them there on the set from 9 to 5.”
Like workmates?
“Yes, and I really enjoyed their company. We were all working as well…”
You just hear so many horrible things about them and people always seem to want to spoil the fun, ruin peoples perception of wonderful comedy geniuses, like Kenneth Williams…
“I know, he was a genius.”
And spoil it for everyone…
“I know..I can’t be part of that I’m afraid. People ask me to make comments and go on programmes about them and I say no sorry, you’ve come to the wrong person. No I won’t join in that, so I just thought they were great and if they did have flaws, so who hasn’t got flaws, show me a person with no flaws… we’ve all got them!”

Do you have any memorbillia from your time on the Films?
“No not really, I suppose I should have done. I think when we were doing them, there wasn’t such a great well trend for it. Number one, I didn’t know they were going to become so famous and iconic, we didn’t know that, it was just another job. I mean don’t forget I’d been working from when I was 18, still working now, not nearly as much. I didn’t sort of know it was going to have quite the long life that they have had. There wasn’t – I don’t think there was the market for memorabilia back in 1970, there wasn’t all this market for it, so no not really. Just imagine if it was now, it would be unbelievable  There’s a load of memorabilia now, so yes but I didn’t really have a business head on me, I was just doing another job. It just wasn’t the same then. People weren’t sort of selling all these bits of things from films, we all just sent photographs in the post to people for free. I never used to charge for photographs, it just wasn’t done then.”

Ah but they had the poster art, which one was your favourite poster?

“Well I suppose I do like the one where we’re all sitting in the lavatory cistern Carry On at Your Convenience. I think that’s very clever and there’s a nice one of us all sitting in a bed for Carry On Loving. Yeah, I think I like us all sitting in the toilet cistern. Sounds like fun.”
There isn’t anything funnier than people sitting on a toilet. Ha ha!

Is it true, I heard a gossip that you would help Renee Houston tape back her ears.
“Yes it is true because I just said, I may have said that before to somebody but I did. We became great friends, she was lovely”
Were you ever tempted to do it? I suppose you didn’t need to do it did you?
“No because I was 22, 23 whatever I was but she used to get me to put a bit of sellotape behind her ears. I was her new best friend when she came on to do Convenience so we got on really well, I’d need cover my face now!”

That wasn’t true… She looked amazing! My phone interrupted our conversation, it was the library where I worked part time… Oh god I hated my other jobs… I wondered…What had  she done before acting?
“When I was paying my way through drama school way back in Birmingham when I was 18, 19, I used to work at the university in the Library at the Birmingham University.”

Wow, coincidence! Crazy! After comparing notes on the Dewey system and kick stools, I decided to get back to Carry On.
You were always cast as the pretty young thing, did you ever hanker for another role?
“Well I haven’t always played pretty young things at all, I’ve often played quite plain Janes with glasses and wigs and all sorts of things, I’ve quite often played quite character parts. I did a tour of Hobson’s Choice as Maggie Hobson. I had all my hair pulled back with a severe wig on and not at all pretty, quite plain, a strong character I was playing then and a lot of drug addicts’ mothers and I’m very good at weeping, a lot of weeping mothers in television programmes. “

But was there any jealousy on the carry On set because you were very young and very pretty.
“Well I’ve no idea, not that I was aware of. I had to say I swanned along having the most wonderful time and there were never any tensions that I was ever aware of to be honest with you. Maybe there were but I never knew anything about. I have to say I was very short sighted – maybe I missed a lot, but no it was great, it was just great. Everyone was happy, it was part of the team, it wasn’t a star system there at all, Peter Rogers didn’t believe in a star system, you were part of the team.”
That may have had something to do with it.

One thing I have to ask because obviously we all have heard the stories of Sid James. Was there any flirting?
“Not with me and you know, Barbara Windsor wasn’t really in the ones I was in. But  he was just lovely, he was always putting bets on the horses and laughing and very very lovely to me and just very kind and fun, you know, he was fun.”

And what do you think is your favourite memory of your time on the Carry On films?
“Oh gosh.. I really can’t.. I don’t know. There was so many, I really don’t know. I mean the laughter really, and the fact that we used to go and have lunch in this lovely dining room and all those people in Pinewood restaurant being frightfully smooth and elegant, and we were this table in the corner shrieking and laughing and food being thrown about – absolutely screaming laughter over there and there was no table I would rather have been on. I was very happy in this St Trinians type table rather than being on one of the glamorous ones.”
Did the glamorous one’s ever look at you funny? – you know sort of like we’re the professionals and you’re, you’re just here to have fun?
“No, no not at all. I think they all probably wanted to be on the table as well – know what all the jokes were about, I honestly think that.”

NowI know it’s not about the Carry On films, but I have to ask you about your time in ‘the rise and fall of Reginald Perrin’, what was it like working with Leonard Rossiter?
“Yes, I did a commercial with him as well, in  2 series of Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. He was the most professional hard working person I have met. At lunch we all used to go to lunch and have a sandwich and go to the pub or wherever we were filming or whatever. He never seemed to stop, he was always talking to the director, working on his script, talking to the producer. He never ever switched off. He was amazing, he was completely dedicated to his work. I never saw him switch off really ever and that, he was always fully concentrating on his performance and everything, the best he could get out of the script, whatever, he was amazing.”
I’ve read a lot about him and I’ve that he was this consummate professional.
“Greatest person I’ve ever worked with I think”


The director started shouting for us to all be on set… I stood and straightened my clothes… Did I? Yes, I had tome for one for question…

I asked who, of all our present day actors, who she thought would make the best Carry On star?
"I would cast Hugh Grant to replace Leslie Philips as his comedy timing is brill.
I think Frank Skinner has a real Carry On face and manner and would be a great member of the team."




I wanted to hug her, but I thought best not to, so I just thanked her for the chat and ran back on set, feeling more
 confident and content… And determined to watch my rushes….
 









3 comments:

  1. Always loved the carry Ons! Cheers!

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  2. I have always loved the Carry On films and still do, Jackie Piper is without doubt my favourite Carry On person. She has such lovely expressions and so very beautiful, even now, she is also a very talented actress. A lady I would love to meet and talk to.

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  3. wow her and angela douglas were real hotties of the day, you can watch them in a carry on film today and still go wow she is hot

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