In 1963, if you were lucky enough to come across Sid James in real life, you could be forgiven for thinking that he had given up the acting profession altogether. You see, it is highly likely you would have spotted him driving a cab around the streets of the city. This was not to earn a little bit of extra money on the side; his acting career was still going as strong as ever! 1963 just happened to be the year that Sid landed roles in the classic Carry On Cabby and the now almost forgotten BBC television drama series Taxi!
Created by Ted Willis, the man behind the legendary Dixon of Dock Green, Taxi! saw Sid cast as Sid Stone, a cab driver who always seems to get tangled up in the problems of others, usually through no fault of his own. Sid shares ownership of his cab, at least in the first series, with the wonderfully named Fred Cuddell (pronounced Cuddle), played by Bill Owen, and acts as a mentor to the young Terry Mills (Ray Brooks).
Rather than being a straight comedy, Taxi! was a drama series with comedic elements. It gave Sid James the chance to show off his considerable acting ability, although he still managed to be the familiar Sid that we all know and love.
Running for two series and 26 episodes, only one instalment of Taxi! is currently known to survive and you can now watch it here. Entitled The Villain, the episode is from series one. Look out for Sid's future Carry On co-star Alan Curtis (Carry On Henry and Carry On Abroad) as the titular 'villain'. This a rare treat for us Sid fans and I dearly wish that one day more 'lost' episodes will surface.
With many thanks to Dave Hall.