Carry On star Hattie Jacques 'hated' cruel jokes about weight: 'Felt so vulnerable’

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ITV3 has become the home of Carry On films over the Easter bank holiday weekend, with the channel showing 21 of the iconic British comedies across the four day period. This evening  the channel will air Carry On Follow The Camel, a comedy starring an all-star cast including Jim Dale and US guest star Phil Silvers. The film sees Bertram Oliphant West join the French Foreign Legion, where he immediately falls foul of the obnoxious Sergeant Nocker and an unfriendly Sheikh Abdul Abulbul. 

The Carry On series, which was produced between 1958 and 1992, was characterised by a quintessentially British style of humour, littered with innuendo and double entendre. 

One of its stars was Hattie, who played in 14 Carry On films across her career.

Behind the scenes she was a leading figure among the recurring cast of comedy legends, and is said to have provided a great deal of practical advice and help to the likes of Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims. 

On screen she starred as a “battleaxe medical officer” in ‘Carry On Sergeant’, a role which led her to be typecast as a no-nonsense matron in a further five films in the series.

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Despite being one of the series’ favourite cast members, in private Hattie is said to have had a difficult relationship with her weight.

As per the Sunday Post actress Joan Le Mesurier once said: “Hattie was wonderful and uninhibited on stage but in her private life, it was as if she was holding something back all the time. 

“I think she hated being overweight”.

Meanwhile her sometime Carry On co-star Patsy Rowlands added: “She felt used, she felt so vulnerable, and I think that vulnerability came from the fact that she was a lady who took a lot of personal knocks about her size.

Comedy actor and one of Hattie’s closest friends, Bob Monkhouse once recalled: “I wasn’t surprised by the speed of her success because it was so hard to find women at that time, particularly in radio and almost immediately in TV who could do what Hattie could do.

“So with Hattie being obviously a good comedian, a good comedy actress, everyone wanted to employ her, so she became famous very quickly. 

“Her career was greatly helped in terms of regular employment by her weight because there she was, a great big roly poly, and roly polys were funny.

“But that didn’t allow the movers and shakers of show business to see her, to perceive her as anything but that fat lady.”

He added: “I never liked jokes about Hattie being overweight because that wasn’t the point with Hattie. She was much more than that.

“She became later a target for those jokes in the Carry On because the writer, Talbot Rothwell, was a joke writer.

“I preferred her role as Eric Sykes’ sister because her weight was never referred to. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that Hattie’s career was restricted by that male dominance in the way she was cast, the way she was used, the way she was written for. 

“But she was an actress of far greater range than she was ever allowed to employ.”

Watch the Carry On marathon on ITV3.



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