It is almost impossible now to imagine the Carry On series of films without the presence of Sid James. However, at one point in time, this unlikely scenario was very nearly a reality.
The role of world-weary Police Sergeant Frank Wilkins in Carry On Constable was originally earmarked for former radio comic Ted Ray, who had proved such a success in the predecessor to Constable, Carry On Teacher, in 1959. As the series of films began to develop and become ever-more popular, producer Peter Rogers wanted an actor who could become the lynch-pin for the Carry Ons, someone who was adept at playing calm authority figures, around which others usually functioned in chaos.
Ted Ray seemed the logical choice to fulfil this role. However, in one of those twists of fate which seem to litter the path of film history, Rogers was unable to secure Ray’s services. Although they never used him, Associated British Pictures had Ted Ray under contract and threatened Anglo Amalgamated, who distributed the Carry On series, with legal action if they persisted in employing him. With his first choice unavailable, Peter Rogers then looked to Scottish comedian Chic Murray, with an eye on broadening audience appeal. This idea never came to fruition and so it came to pass that the pivotal role in Carry On Constable would be offered to, and accepted by, Mr Sidney James.
|Sid makes his first Carry On appearance as Frank Wilkins in Carry On Constable|
Sid slotted with customary ease into the already established team of Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Leslie Phillips and Hattie Jacques; just as importantly he also proved a hit with audiences. Peter Rogers had found his lynch-pin and, with 18 more Carry On film appearances in his future, Sid’s path to comedy immortality was set.