Peter Rogers: Interview 1 | Interview 2 | Interview 3 | Interview 4

Carry On Peter

Screen Magazine, 1969

"The first one was so successful, we made another. Then we carried on."

No prize for guessing the speaker. Peter Rogers, producer of the world's most famous comedy series. Just over ten years ago, the camera was turning on the first of them, Carry On Sergeant - made for £73,000, the sort of money that would hardly keep James Bond in bullets. Today we can see the 14th, Carry On up the Khyber, while the 15th, Carry On Camping is almost completed after filming at Pinewood.

Some people don't think they are very funny. But each one nets around £500,000 for its 52 year old producer. Many people think the Doctor series has been much funnier.

That suits Peter Rogers. Producer of the Doctor series is Betty Box - his wife. Between them they have brought more laughter into the world than any other producers in film history.

You might think that gave them a lot to talk to each other about at home. You would be wrong. "Shop" talk is banned at the Rogers' abode.

"A common interest between husband and wife may be a great advantage in marriage, " said Peter, "but it shouldn't be an excuse for one interfering in the other's business."

Suppose Betty asked for Peter's opinion? - "She never does."

Or he for hers? "Never". No advice, no criticism? "None". No chat about the respective productions, which may be on adjacent stages at Pinewood Studios?

Betty adds little to this saga of non-communication, but believes she has, very occasionally, asked Peter's opinion.

"But when I get it" she said, "I ignore it."

In his early days as a producer, Peter made ten films with his wife. Then she started producing the sensationally successful Doctor films - In the House; At Sea; At Large; In Love; In Distress, and In Clover.

When Betty was on her second lap of this lot, Peter took a deep breath and carried on Sergeant, Nurse, Teacher, Constable, Regardless, Cruising, Cleo, Jack, Cabby, Cowboy, Spying and Screaming. Then he could hold back no longer and did Carry On Doctor.

The use of that magic word in the title suggested that his wife had finished with it. In Spain, where she was shooting the second of her Drummond films, Some Girls Do, Betty told me:

"Peter knew that I was committed on other films for a couple of years and so took the opportunity to get in with his Doctor. I'm not sure that you have seen the last of them from me. Anything is possible. We might get around to another."

There can be little doubt that the elegant Mr Rogers, who has notched a half=century of films in fewer than 20 years as a producer is a very rich man indeed. But he is renowned for not wanting to talk about himself.

"I have no intention," he said "of being well-known. What earthly interest it is to audiences what kind of person I am? It won't attract anybody to see my films."

He doesn't even like to talk about his films too much. Mention vulgarity and Peter will smile even more smoothly and pour another Brandy, hoping you won't see him twinkle behind his tinted specs.

"I don't know what you mean by vulgar. Perhaps your using the word in its sense of characteristic of the common - that is, ordinary - people. Then I would agree."

"But I would rather say that my films have a broad humour. A humour that is understood and enjoyed by most people everywhere."

Everywhere is no great exaggeration. Sergeant was in the top three money makers of 1958. Nurse ran two and a half years in Los Angeles. Doctor drew full houses in Japan. Only the French turn their backs.

"They don't understand them at all," said Peter. "They think our attitude to sex is prehistoric."

What is it that makes a Carry On a pre-sold, cast-iron box office cert?

"I can't tell you that," he said. "Or anyway I'm not going to. If I started telling audiences why they go and see my films they would stop seeing them. And I wouldn't blame them."

"But I assume audiences like their favourite jokes told over and over again. We put stupid people into respectable surroundings and let them make fools of themselves - bottle and jug humour. Not really my kind."

"Perhaps because of what the producers themselves enjoy, the public are sometimes not given the kind of entertainment they want. Being very sensible, they won't accept what they don't want. They stop going to the cinema. I'm happy to say they turn out to my films in fairly large numbers."

And Peter's no chat. In between whiles he punctuates his Carry On output with more or less the same comic stars playing in more or less the same films. Titles like Watch your Stern, Please Turn Over, Don't lose your Head and Follow that Camel.

He admitted that although the injection of Frankie Howerd into Carry On Doctor was a great success, the public have shown that they like to see the endless series revolve around the same stars - Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey and Hattie Jacques were going through the same motions ten years ago.

"A good chef," said Peter " can use the same ingredients over and over again and still come up with different dishes."

The Happy Families set up extends to the executives. Peter shares his office at Pinewood with Gerald Thomas, who has directed 29 of Peter's productions. Betty Box sits next door. Her director for the past 27 films is Gerry's brother, Ralph.

Peter uses the same writer and often the same technicians every time - all of them nursing their stake in a cinematic gold mine and hoping to carry on digging for another ten years.

Peter makes no promises: "I always imagine the next one is the last." But, like tomorrow, the last one never comes.