Charlie Hawkins (Sid James)is the workaholic owner of Speedee Cabs and Peggy Hawkins (Hattie Jacques) is his loved but neglected wife. The film opens with Charlie out in a cab on their wedding anniversary while his chief mechanic Ted (Kenneth Connor) covers for his absence. Meanwhile accident-prone Terry Tankard of “Pintpot” has come for a job as a cab driver.
Later that day while short of drivers Charlie has agree to squeeze in one last fare before going to town with Peggy, Ted & Sally (Liz Fraser) the canteen girl. Unfortunately on his way home he and Pintpot are stopped by an expectant father (Jim Dale in his first appearance) whose wife is not sure if she is or is not having her baby. By the time she has given birth in the back of his cab he is far too late to take out Peggy.
Next morning Peggy decides to teach him a lesson and as he thinks of nothing but cabs she’ll give him a few more to worry about. To that end she goes about setting up Glam Cabs with the wife of one of her husbands drivers, Flo (Esma Cannon) and Sally as their mole. Her secret formula? Only hire the loveliest females drivers to entice the mainly male clientèle.
A series of escapades follow that lead to the collapse of the Hawkins marriage when the truth comes out. However all things are put aside when Peggy & Sally are hijacked on their way to the bank by crooks (Peter Gilmore & co). A car chase ensues, using cab radios and the entire Speedee cab fleet to herd and then corner the crooks and ladies on the heath.
With gems like Carry On Cabby it is easy to see why the series became popular. As this is only the seventh film of the series (31 in total) the cast appear fresh and to be throwing themselves into this film. It is also free from the smuttiness of the later films.
The “Carry On” moniker while added to help with the appeal of this film on its release I think today it does it a disservice. The series has come to represent that very dated comedy of double entendres and dirty postcards on the pier. Whereas this film is different from most other entries being plot driven with fewer jokes and a more innocent sort of humour.
I can fully appreciate why Jacques felt this was her favourite performance. It makes a enjoyable change to see her in the sympathetic female lead rather than the monstrous matron persona. She has an enormous versatility that I personally think was overshadowed by her roles in these films. James’ performance is likewise very pleasing as the workaholic business owner who is content with his wife rather than lusting over a Barbara Widsor character (Camping, Henry, Girls, Abroad etc).
Liz Fraser is sublime in the role that is popularly referred to as the Joan Sims role. While I like Joan Sims very much I think this supporting role is filled perfectly by Frazer.
The absence of Kenneth Williams, while often noted as “conspicuous” does in no way detract from this film. It in fact makes an amiable change to see the cast interacting without him.
Other ares of this film that are worth noting are the gorgeous Amanda Barrie as the corseted Glam Cab driver, the score which is easily the most pleasing of any Carry On film and the relatively sedate car chase at the end which while not as lively as modern car chases certainly has its own charm. Also the views of Windsor in the early 60s are very interesting.
This is certainly one of my favourite Carry On films and a brilliant start for a newcomer to the series and one of my favourite films generally for the last 20 years.