Carry On Privates

Ah! Quick test. What's the first thing that comes into your head? - Captain Potts
Women, sir. - Miles Heywood
You're a soldier by tradition and instinct. - Captain Potts

Bill Owen, William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse and Kenneth Connor in Carry on Sergeant (1958)

With his retirement not too far in the distance Sergeant Grimshawe (William Hartnell) takes a bet that he can't whip his last bunch of National Service trainees into shape and make them the top squad in the barracks. What Grimshawe didn't bank on was getting such a useless bunch of young men which includes a hypochondriac, a snob and the recently married Charlie Sage (Bob Monkhouse) who was enlisted before he even got to go on his honeymoon with Mary (Shirley Eaton).

"Carry on Sergeant" was the first "Carry On" movie which lead to a two decade run of British comedies, well two decades if you ignore the less than impressive "Carry on Columbus" from the 90s. And interestingly whilst many remember the "Carry On" movies of the late 60s and 70s for the cast of familiar faces and the abundance of seaside comedy and sexual innuendo this first movie in the "Carry on" franchise was very different with a simpler form of comedy surrounding incompetent recruits and an exasperated sergeant. In fact "Carry on Sergeant" feels like a forerunner to movies such as "Private Benjamin" and "Stripes" with its comedy about army training.

Bob Monkhouse and Shirley Eaton in Carry on Sergeant (1958)

What is also makes "Carry on Sergeant" feel different to those later "Carry On" movies is that it actually has a storyline and characters which the comedy is built around. So okay it is all simple and predictable from Sergeant Grimshawe becoming exasperate by his squad of shirkers but from Bob Monkhouse as Charlie Sage constantly trying to get away to have some honeymoon time with his wife Mary to Kenneth Connor as Horace the hypochondriac the comical characters make you laugh whilst their attempts to shirk training is lots of fun.

In many ways what makes "Carry on Sergeant" so entertaining is that it is different to those later "Carry on" movies yet for fans of the movies will see that many familiar faces who appeared in those later movies were there right at the beginning such as Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor and Hattie Jacques. Plus there are other familiar faces from the world of British TV and cinema such as Bill Owen, Dora Bryan, future Doctor Who William Hartnell and even a future Bond girl, Shirley Eaton.

What this all boils down to is that "Carry on Sergeant" is simply good old fashioned innocent fun as we watch a bunch of incompetent troops try to get through their National Service training. It is vastly different to the "Carry On" movies of the early 70s but there is something enjoyable about the obvious humour and innocence on show in what was the first of a long run of "Carry On" movies.

Tags: Carry On Movies

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