The last few years have seen a veritable spurt of Carry On documentaries. They've ranged from the sublime (Reputations, What's A Carry On?) to the downright bloody libelous (Carry On Darkly). But, no matter what the content, it's always good to be reminded that those of us who call ourselves fans of the series are in some way vindicated by the fact that there are a hell of a lot of us about. Every holiday season brings at least one new look into the films or the wonderful characters who made them. This year, we got a rare treat - an affectionate insight into the life of the most loved of the Carry On ladies, the wonderful Hattie Jacques.
ITV aren't renowned for their cutting edge documentaries, so I wasn't expecting deep dark revelations. Then again, we're talking about Hattie Jacques who, like Sid James, will never fade in our affections no matter what skeletons are outed. You just can't believe that Hattie would ever really *do* things like that - she always appears so wholesome, so loving, so delicate. In the 1997 Radio 2 Arts Programme "The Carry On Clan", Jack Douglas and other male stars discussed how devastatingly attractive Hattie Jacques was; it had nothing to do with her size - it was all about her deportment. She was feminine.
Feminine isn't really an image you'd associate with the lumbering titan with "Chayste Place" emblazoned over her mountainous bosom. The Hattie Jacques of the later Carry On films became a creation of everything that was big, awkward and annoying; the eternal nagging wife with less sense in her head than a PE teachers' convention. An easy target would have been to focus on that comically grotesque caricature, and I was half expecting something along those lines. Thankfully, the producers took the high road and gave us a very warm look into Hattie's life and career, as told by the people who lived through it with her.
Bob Monkhouse, Joan LeMesurier, Clive Dunn and a gaggle of other close friends chatted away for the duration, each with a reminiscent glint in their eye. Even Bob Monkhouse, who for some reason I can't understand is often accused of appearing insincere, positively glowed as he recalled memories of a dear lost friend. The anecdotes were interspersed with archive footage from various points in Hattie's career, as well as some rare glimpses at her private life.
There isn't really all that much known about the private Hattie Jacques - there has yet to be a biography of her and this is the first documentary to my knowledge. By the end of this one, we still didn't really know all *that* much more about the private Hattie Jacques, but what we did discover that she enriched the lives of everyone she met and, it would appear, everyone who came into contact with her work. The Unforgettable Hattie Jacques revealed more about Hattie by showing how much she was loved rather than exposing any dark revelations. For that alone, I have to say it's one of the best Carry On documentaries made so far.