Cor, Blimey! (2000)
Cor, Blimey! is a 2000 TV film that follows the relationship between Carry On film actors Sid James (played by Geoffrey Hutchings) and Barbara Windsor (played by Samantha Spiro).
The film, first broadcast on ITV in April 2000, was adapted by Terry Johnson from his stage play Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick which debuted at the Royal National Theatre in 1998.
Cor, Blimey! starts with the arrival of Sid James's new wardrobe assistant at the set of Carry On Cleo at Pinewood Studios. The audience is introduced to Sid James, portrayed as a gambling womaniser, and Kenneth Williams (played by Adam Godley). The two men are depicted as bitter rivals with a genuine antipathy for each other.
Barbara Windsor is at Pinewood Studios to dub one of her scenes in Carry On Spying. Sid James meets her and immediately falls for her, although it is seen by everyone else, including Barbara, as just infatuation, not real love.
Sid continues to pursue Barbara, and keep an eye on her during the infamous flying bikini top scene in Carry On Camping. Sid becomes obsessed with her while on location for Carry On Girls. During the shoot Barbara decides to let Sid have one night of passion with her, which Sid accepts. Barbara suggested it believing that once he had slept with her Sid would lose interest in her. However, the two end up having a long term affair.
By 1976 the affair is over and a few months later, Sid dies at the age of 62, following a heart attack on stage on the opening night of The Mating Season at the Sunderland Empire Theatre.
The drama ends with Kenneth Williams reassuring Barbara Windsor that Sid's death was not her fault and Barbara attempting to encourage Kenneth to enjoy life more. For the final scene only Windsor replaces Spiro to play herself.
- Geoffrey Hutchings as Sid James
- Samantha Spiro and Barbara Windsor as Barbara Windsor
- David McAlister as Gerald Thomas
- Adam Godley as Kenneth Williams
- Hugh Walters as Charles Hawtrey
- Steve Spiers as Bernard Bresslaw
- Chrissie Cotterill as Joan Sims
- Derek Howard as Kenneth Connor
- Maria Charles as Alice Hawtrey
- Abigail McKern as Olga Lowe
Geoffrey Hutchings found it difficult to play Sid James because there was little archive material of James as himself. The actor used James' distinctive "guttural laugh" as a "way in" to the character. Samantha Spiro "felt a sense of responsibility" playing Barbara Windsor, who appears as herself in the final scene.
Basis in reality
The drama is a fictionalised account of the affair which happened between Windsor and James. Fellow Carry On actors Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims are seen as minor characters.
The action covers the period from 1964 until Sid James' death on stage in 1976. However, events are not necessarily depicted in chronological order and a few liberties are taken with continuity. For example:
- Bernard Bresslaw is seen playing Harold Crump in Carry On Spying and Cardinal Wolsey in Carry On Henry when in fact these parts were played by Bernard Cribbins and Terry Scott respectively.
- Just before James's death, Barbara Windsor is seen walking off the set of Carry On Emmannuelle in disgust at the poor script when, in fact, she never went near the studios. Also, that film did not go into production until nearly two years after James's death.
- The scene in which Sid James reads of Tony Hancock's death follows a scene set in 1969. Yet Hancock died the previous year, 1968.
- At the time the film reaches its climax and portrays James's death, Carry On England had not even been filmed, yet Kenneth Williams refers to the movie and his disdain for it.
- In the scene immediately before his death in April 1976, James's dresser discusses leaving his employ to work on the Bond movie You Only Live Twice, a film that was released back in 1967. In the same scene, she informs him that the transition of UK government from Edward Heath to Harold Wilson is taking place, an event that actually happened in February 1974.
- Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor finding out about James's death from the TV news together is also wrong - Windsor was informed at home by telephone after returning from rehearsing Twelfth Night at Chichester, and Williams found out by telephone from his agent after spending the evening with his mother.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 86 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 3.5/5.
Mark Lawson, writing for The Guardian, complimented Johnson's adaptation. He writes, "bringing the Carry On movies to television via the stage is his most complicated mixed-media installation yet, but it succeeds triumphantly ... Johnson understands how differently material needs to be shaped for theatre's rectangle of open air and television's oblong of glass." He praises the "depth and intelligence of Johnson's script." Lawson also praises Hutchings, Spiro and Godley's portrayals of James, Windsor and Williams respectively.