The risqué art of the Carry On poster

Saucy seaside-postcard humour and innuendo were the order of the day for these eye-popping designs from the heyday of the Carry On film.

Sim Branaghan

<strong>Carry On Regardless (1961)</strong>. Design and illustration by Eric Pulford. An oddball sketch from the early era, with a brightly jolly illustration neatly demonstrating Pulford’s sharp colour sense and skill at economically painted glamour (though the Sid James portrait is a bit iffy to say the least). A very 1950s design, which even at the time of its appearance would have looked slightly retro. The 1960s hadn’t quite happened yet…

Carry On Regardless (1961). Design and illustration by Eric Pulford. An oddball sketch from the early era, with a brightly jolly illustration neatly demonstrating Pulford’s sharp colour sense and skill at economically painted glamour (though the Sid James portrait is a bit iffy to say the least). A very 1950s design, which even at the time of its appearance would have looked slightly retro. The 1960s hadn’t quite happened yet…

<strong>Carry On Cruising (1962)</strong>. Design by Eric Pulford. The last of the films to be scripted by Norman Hudis, with a palpable feel of the initial formula running out of steam. The poster is a fascinating mystery, suggesting last-minute indecision. The complete absence of star portraits is unprecedented (and quite unique), as is the format used. This is in fact a bewilderingly late example of a veteran (pre-war) printing technique known as ‘hand-drawn litho’ in which a copy of the artist’s original design has been sketched directly onto the printing plates.  This is probably the last major British film poster to utilise the technique, and we can only speculate as to why it was suddenly trotted out of retirement

Carry On Cruising (1962). Design by Eric Pulford. The last of the films to be scripted by Norman Hudis, with a palpable feel of the initial formula running out of steam. The poster is a fascinating mystery, suggesting last-minute indecision. The complete absence of star portraits is unprecedented (and quite unique), as is the format used. This is in fact a bewilderingly late example of a veteran (pre-war) printing technique known as ‘hand-drawn litho’ in which a copy of the artist’s original design has been sketched directly onto the printing plates. This is probably the last major British film poster to utilise the technique, and we can only speculate as to why it was suddenly trotted out of retirement

<strong>Carry On Spying (1964)</strong>. Design and illustration by Tom Chantrell. They’re at it again – oooh! This is classic Chantrell, quite distinct in style from the later Fratini/Putzu caricatures – sharply done, atmospheric portraits in a neatly balanced layout, with Barbara Windsor’s warm flesh-tones deliberately catching the eye. Kenneth Williams’ Connery pose is insolently inspired (United Artists fortunately didn’t sue), and the bright yellow title on the black jacket the perfect finishing touch. This is not a poster you’re likely to walk past and ignore

Carry On Spying (1964). Design and illustration by Tom Chantrell. They’re at it again – oooh! This is classic Chantrell, quite distinct in style from the later Fratini/Putzu caricatures – sharply done, atmospheric portraits in a neatly balanced layout, with Barbara Windsor’s warm flesh-tones deliberately catching the eye. Kenneth Williams’ Connery pose is insolently inspired (United Artists fortunately didn’t sue), and the bright yellow title on the black jacket the perfect finishing touch. This is not a poster you’re likely to walk past and ignore

<strong>Carry On Cleo (1964)</strong>. Designed by Ray Youngs. An infamous last-minute replacement for a controversial banned original. Tom Chantrell’s first (painted) design was taken to court by 20th Century Fox for copyright infringement, as it deliberately spoofed their earlier epic Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor version (which had just bombed at the box-office). This hasty replacement was thrown together literally overnight by Chantrell’s assistant Ray Youngs, and casually dubbed ‘Sid the Sphinx’ in the office to differentiate it

Carry On Cleo (1964). Designed by Ray Youngs. An infamous last-minute replacement for a controversial banned original. Tom Chantrell’s first (painted) design was taken to court by 20th Century Fox for copyright infringement, as it deliberately spoofed their earlier epic Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor version (which had just bombed at the box-office). This hasty replacement was thrown together literally overnight by Chantrell’s assistant Ray Youngs, and casually dubbed ‘Sid the Sphinx’ in the office to differentiate it

<strong>Carry On Cowboy (1965)</strong>. Design and illustration by Tom Chantrell. ‘I tried to make peace with the Sioux once – couldn’t trust ‘em. One minute it was peace on, the next, peace off.’ Several of the earlier Carry Ons had two different designs created, one for the London cinemas, and one (generally less sophisticated) for the provincial (ABC) circuit-release. This is Cowboy’s ABC design, and follows a well-worn formula: ‘Ere, look Doris – the legs and bodies DON’T MATCH! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Carry On Cowboy (1965). Design and illustration by Tom Chantrell. ‘I tried to make peace with the Sioux once – couldn’t trust ‘em. One minute it was peace on, the next, peace off.’ Several of the earlier Carry Ons had two different designs created, one for the London cinemas, and one (generally less sophisticated) for the provincial (ABC) circuit-release. This is Cowboy’s ABC design, and follows a well-worn formula: ‘Ere, look Doris – the legs and bodies DON’T MATCH! Ha ha ha ha ha!

<strong>Carry On… Follow That Camel (1967)</strong>. Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. A somewhat awkward design here for one of the series’ minor misfires – the attempt to introduce US star Silvers into the team didn’t really work out, especially as the new recruit refused to learn his lines and insisted on reading everything off cue-cards. On the other hand, who can forget Kenneth Williams morale-building sandcastle competition when his troops become lost in the desert? They do it down in Camber Sands, they do it in Waikiki…

Carry On… Follow That Camel (1967). Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. A somewhat awkward design here for one of the series’ minor misfires – the attempt to introduce US star Silvers into the team didn’t really work out, especially as the new recruit refused to learn his lines and insisted on reading everything off cue-cards. On the other hand, who can forget Kenneth Williams morale-building sandcastle competition when his troops become lost in the desert? They do it down in Camber Sands, they do it in Waikiki…

<strong>Carry On Doctor (1967)</strong>. Design and illustration by Terence ‘Larry’ Parkes. This is a unique one-off. For some reason all the usual illustrators were dropped for this entry, and the poster instead given to newspaper-cartoonist Parkes. There was some precedent for this, as Parkes had actually provided several of the earlier films’ title-sequence cartoons (including Cleo), but the lack of recognisable caricatures here meant the star photo-strip line-up along the bottom became a necessity

Carry On Doctor (1967). Design and illustration by Terence ‘Larry’ Parkes. This is a unique one-off. For some reason all the usual illustrators were dropped for this entry, and the poster instead given to newspaper-cartoonist Parkes. There was some precedent for this, as Parkes had actually provided several of the earlier films’ title-sequence cartoons (including Cleo), but the lack of recognisable caricatures here meant the star photo-strip line-up along the bottom became a necessity

<strong>Carry On Camping (1969)</strong>. Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. A notable box-office smash, as punters queued around the block to see Barbara Windsor’s bra fly off. Italian artist Renato Fratini was famous for working fast, and could typically bash this sort of assignment out in just a day or two. The Carry Ons were top-paying commissions, though Fratini privately disliked doing them, finding the repetitive caricatures a bore – but he never complained as the money was so good

Carry On Camping (1969). Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. A notable box-office smash, as punters queued around the block to see Barbara Windsor’s bra fly off. Italian artist Renato Fratini was famous for working fast, and could typically bash this sort of assignment out in just a day or two. The Carry Ons were top-paying commissions, though Fratini privately disliked doing them, finding the repetitive caricatures a bore – but he never complained as the money was so good

<strong>Carry On Henry (1971)</strong>. Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. One of the series’ all-time great instalments, a major influence on many of our most important contemporary novelists including Hilary Mantel (who stole all its best jokes). The sophisticated tagline – ‘A Great Guy With His Chopper’ – was the work of Pulford’s chief copywriter, Irish-Canadian playwright George Hulme. The jet-black humour here is irresistible, as is Sid James in the role he was surely born to play

Carry On Henry (1971). Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. One of the series’ all-time great instalments, a major influence on many of our most important contemporary novelists including Hilary Mantel (who stole all its best jokes). The sophisticated tagline – ‘A Great Guy With His Chopper’ – was the work of Pulford’s chief copywriter, Irish-Canadian playwright George Hulme. The jet-black humour here is irresistible, as is Sid James in the role he was surely born to play

<strong>Carry On Up the Jungle (1970)</strong>. Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. A poster that is, ahem, very much of its time. But even at the time (March 1970) there were clearly concerns about its wide suitability. In addition to the British ‘quad’ layout seen here, distributor Rank also produced ‘international one-sheets’ for overseas sales – these typically featured the same artwork squeezed into a portrait format. But the Up the Jungle one-sheets uniquely replace the topless black tribeswomen with bikinied white Amazons, clearly indicating Rank were fully aware this image would not play well

Carry On Up the Jungle (1970). Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Eric Pulford. A poster that is, ahem, very much of its time. But even at the time (March 1970) there were clearly concerns about its wide suitability. In addition to the British ‘quad’ layout seen here, distributor Rank also produced ‘international one-sheets’ for overseas sales – these typically featured the same artwork squeezed into a portrait format. But the Up the Jungle one-sheets uniquely replace the topless black tribeswomen with bikinied white Amazons, clearly indicating Rank were fully aware this image would not play well

<strong>Carry On Loving (1970)</strong>. Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Vic Fair. One of the best Carry On posters – the depiction of Sid and Hattie as cherubs is inspired – for one of the series’ weakest scripts, with a marked paucity of decent gags and distinctly unappetising new crudity (though Richard O’Callaghan’s milk-bottle-top aircraft are delightful). Regardless of the dubious source material, everything about this image works, and clearly demonstrates just why Vic Fair was easily the finest poster designer of his generation

Carry On Loving (1970). Illustration by Renato Fratini from a design by Vic Fair. One of the best Carry On posters – the depiction of Sid and Hattie as cherubs is inspired – for one of the series’ weakest scripts, with a marked paucity of decent gags and distinctly unappetising new crudity (though Richard O’Callaghan’s milk-bottle-top aircraft are delightful). Regardless of the dubious source material, everything about this image works, and clearly demonstrates just why Vic Fair was easily the finest poster designer of his generation

<strong>Carry On Abroad (1972)</strong>. Illustration by Arnaldo Putzu from a design by Eric Pulford. The Carry Ons continue in mildly topical 70s vein, spoofing the then-new fad for cheap package holidays on the Costa Plonka. Artist Arnaldo Putzu had recently taken over from colleague (and friend) Renato Fratini after the latter decamped to Mexico City to avoid backdated tax bills. Peeping around the corner at bottom-left is Charles Hawtrey in what proved his final series appearance – he ill-advisedly argued with producer Peter Rogers about money and billing, and was never hired again

Carry On Abroad (1972). Illustration by Arnaldo Putzu from a design by Eric Pulford. The Carry Ons continue in mildly topical 70s vein, spoofing the then-new fad for cheap package holidays on the Costa Plonka. Artist Arnaldo Putzu had recently taken over from colleague (and friend) Renato Fratini after the latter decamped to Mexico City to avoid backdated tax bills. Peeping around the corner at bottom-left is Charles Hawtrey in what proved his final series appearance – he ill-advisedly argued with producer Peter Rogers about money and billing, and was never hired again

<strong>Carry On Behind (1975)</strong>. Illustration by Arnaldo Putzu from a design by Vic Fair. By this point the series was losing its way, following the departure of both Sid James and (even more critically) long-term writer Talbot ‘Tolly’ Rothwell. Vic Fair’s eye-catching but atypical design reflects this increasing uncertainty by focusing on an anonymous arse, with the regulars (or at least those still left) relegated to a virtual afterthought below the title

Carry On Behind (1975). Illustration by Arnaldo Putzu from a design by Vic Fair. By this point the series was losing its way, following the departure of both Sid James and (even more critically) long-term writer Talbot ‘Tolly’ Rothwell. Vic Fair’s eye-catching but atypical design reflects this increasing uncertainty by focusing on an anonymous arse, with the regulars (or at least those still left) relegated to a virtual afterthought below the title

Comedy Genius is a season of side-splitting film and TV, at BFI Southbank, on BFI Player and at venues across the UK, from October 2018-January 2019

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