+++ The Halliday family lead a perfectly respectable suburban life. Mr Halliday (Ted Ray) is the chief accountant of a local company, and his 17-year-old daughter Josephine (Julia Lockwood) is working as a hairdresser’s apprentice. And while Mrs Halliday (Jean Kent) does not work, she recently began sneaking out of the house to take driving lessons – with very limited success.
Also living in the household is Mrs Haliday’s sister Gladys (June Jago), who works as the receptionist for Dr. Henry Manners (Leslie Phillips), the local GP. And Mrs Halliday is supported with the housework by a day-time housekeeper played by Joan Sims.
Josephine never goes out with friends, instead spending her evenings alone in her room. Which worries her mother, and pleases her father. What they don’t know is that Josephine has secretly been writing a “tell-all book” about the sordid goings-on beneath the respectable façade of suburbia. It is all complete fantasy, but once it is published the avalanche of consequences cannot be stopped. +++
This film was produced by the producer of the Carry On films, Peter Rogers, and distributed by Anglo Amalgamated, who had distributed all the early Carry Ons. And looking over the list of cast and crew, you will soon see a whole stock of people who Peter Rogers repeatedly relied on and who had been (and would continue to be) firm fixtures in the Carry On franchise.
In terms of the time-line, the male lead, comedian Ted Ray, is the most interesting. He had been cast as the central “headmaster” character in the third Carry On film (Carry On Teacher), which had been released about three months prior to Please Turn Over. And Peter Rogers wanted him back for the next one, Carry On Constable, which was going to be released roughly three months after Please Turn Over. But Ray was under contract with a company called ABC Cinemas who were not willing to let him keep doing pictures for Peter Rogers. So Carry On Teacher and Please Turn Over are the only two films Ray ever did with Rogers.
As I said, the list of “Carry On people” involved in this film is long, starting with the writer and the director: Please Turn Over was directed by Gerald Thomas, and the screenplay was written by Norman Hudis (based on Basil Thomas’s play Book of the Month, which reportedly had already been turned into a television play in 1956). The music was provided by Bruce Montgomery (composer for the first six Carry Ons), and the film was edited by John Shirley, who also edited five out of the six earliest Carry On films.
The DP on the film was Edward Scaife, who also was the DP for Carry On Constable; and Alan Hume worked as a camera operator on this production, as he had done for the first four Carry On films before becoming the DP for the bulk of the series.
And the cast is full of actors who had either appeared in the early Carry On films (Phillips, Ray, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Joan Hickson, Anthony Sagar, Cyril Chamberlain) or would go on to appear in Carry On films in the future (Victor Maddern, Dilys Laye). Furthermore, Colin Gordon, who plays Josephine’s employer, allegedly had an uncredited appearance in Carry On Constable.
Other notable roles in Please Turn Over are played by Lionel Jeffries (Murder Ahoy!) and Tim Seely. Of some interest to trivia-lovers might be the fact that the Jean Kent plays Julia Lockwood’s mother in this film (one of Kent’s last film appearances): 15 years earlier Kent had established herself as the “back-up girl” at Gainsborough Pictures for roles turned down by Margaret Lockwood, Julia’s mother.
The plot is surprisingly thin considering the premise and considering the fact that, in a way, the “set-up” runs for a over 63 minutes, basically gobbling up the entire second act in the process. So the film is oddly structured as well. And then the story is not really resolved in the third act, but merely allowed to peter out with a poor monologue or two and the declaration that it will all blow over eventually.
If re-imagined today, the same premise could easily be spread over one or two seasons of a well-constructed TV-show.
Nearly 30 minutes of the second act are devoted to having the actors play their characters not as they are, but as they are being misrepresented in Josephine’s novel. That is a challenge for the actors as well as the script and the directing, I imagine; and there are risks of getting the tone wrong and confusing the audience. The film’s solution to this challenge is to play everything in these scenes just ridiculous enough that the audience should not be confused. With the exception of the faux-Josephine, whose acting and lines of dialogue are imitations of kitchen-sink realism and are only undermined by the exaggerated tone in Julia Lockwood’s voice-over narration. And that is one of the major lines of attack of this comedy: portraying kitchen-sink realism as phoney and the Angry Young Men as silly sods.
As it stands, the film is interesting, but not great. A 6-out-of-10 rating seems in order. The film’s main selling point may be its somewhat unusual plot.