Among the opulent tapestry of mirth, 'Carry On At Your Convenience,' crafted in 1971, holds a special place in my affections. Sid James, assuming the role of Sid Plummer, toiled in the lavatorial labyrinth of WC Boggs' factory during a tumultuous era of industrial strife. Imprinted in my memory is the film's thematic gambol, as Plummer's pet budgie, Joey (seen in photo), uncannily tipped winning horses until the unceremonious closure of his account by Benny The Bookie, a turf accountant of repute.
Plummer, with a wry quip, queried Benny: 'What kind of sportsman are you?'.
Benny, nonchalant, retorted: 'If I were a sportsman, I'd be riding the horse!'
It appears that Sid James, the masterful thespian, was also a man who courted the capricious fates of gambling with fearless ardor.
Fond of wagering on the equine denizens of the racetrack, James, alas, grappled with the affliction of gambling addiction, his fortune seldom tethered to the chariot of success. A lavish sum, reaching into the tens of thousands, clandestinely found its way into the coffers of bookmakers over his lifetime. So entrenched was he in this perilous pursuit that he beseeched his agent, Michael Sullivan, to veil the true extent of his earnings from his spouse, shielding her from the gnawing truth of his wagers.
Notorious for his parsimony, James often found himself in the throes of indebtedness or embroiled in wagers on purported 'sure things.' His penchant for Cutty Sark whisky, a libation that flowed freely due to its 'complimentary' nature, added another layer to his charismatic mystique.
In the annals of colloquial lore, Sid James emerges as a connoisseur of life's three 'Bs': Booze, Birds, and Betting. A gentleman whose predilections were as conspicuous as they were legendary.
The shrewd James, ever vigilant for the next windfall, navigated the labyrinthine corridors of cash transactions, evading both the taxman's discerning eye and the watchful gaze of a suspicious spouse. With an artful finesse, he orchestrated the placement of whisky brands on set and wove unscripted mentions into broadcasts to procure coveted cases of the amber elixir.
In the pantheon of Carry On luminaries, Sid James adorned 20 films with his inimitable presence. Regrettably, the curtain fell on this consummate entertainer's life on the 26th of April 1976, leaving behind a legacy of laughter and a trail of anecdotes that continue to regale aficionados of the comedic arts. Aged 62, Sid James departed the stage, but his indomitable spirit and roguish charm endure, eternally captured in the celluloid reels of mirth and mayhem."
Photo: Pixabay (free)