Carry On, Nurse (1959)

“Listen: hospital life from the patient’s point of view… A series, it’s surefire.”

Carry On Nurse Poster

Synopsis:
A motley group of patients at a British hospital — including a journalist, a boxer, and a colonel — interact with nurses, visitors, and each other.

Genres:

Review:
Between 1958 and 1978, 29 films in the enormously successful “Carry On” comedy series — directed by Gerald Thomas, and produced by Peter Rogers — were made at Pinewood Studios in England. Carry On, Nurse (the second in the series) was the highest grossing film in Britain in 1959, and is considered by many to be one of the best early entries in the series. Wikipedia describes the films as “an energetic mix of parody, farce, slapstick and double entendres” — but I must admit that they leave me completely cold. I didn’t laugh a single time throughout …Nurse, and am genuinely hard-pressed to understand what others might find humorous about the series.

There’s no real plot to speak of in Carry On, Nurse; instead, we’re meant simply to laugh at the exploits of the patients and their foibles, as well as those of the nurses trying to avoid the wrath of their glowering matron (Hattie Jacques). Every now and then, we’re treated to some amusingly risque statements — such as when a bumbling student nurse (Joan Sims) expresses frustration with a male patient who’s embarrassed to strip and take a bath in front of her, then looks down at his nether regions and coyly states, “Hmm… To think I called you a baby!” Other attempts at humor — such as the mere presence of a gay patient (Charles Hawtrey) who enjoys flamboyantly “conducting” while listening to music on his headphones — are much weaker. All told, Carry On, Nurse is guaranteed to be a delightfully nostalgic treat for those who enjoy the series, but a tedious snooze for those (like me) who don’t quite “get” the humor.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A few mildly amusing scenarios (such as an overly diligent nurse who literally watches her patient 24/7)
    Carry On Nurse Nurse
  • The final “bunion surgery” scene
    Carry On Nurse Surgery

Must See?
Yes, but only as a representative sample of the series; another would likely do just as well, and don’t expect to be amused.

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One Response to “Carry On, Nurse (1959)”

  1. Not must-see.

    Rewatching this was an exercise in tedium. Like the films of Shirley Temple, Elvis Presley, Laurel and Hardy, etc., the Carry On series was constantly aired on tv when I was a kid (my guess is that television stations were offered package deals at an economy price) and I saw many of them. Time has not been kind to the series, apparently.

    My understanding – from what I know of series star Kenneth Williams (later, friend and colleague of ‘naughty sex’ pioneer Joe Orton) – the series went progressively downhill. What may have been risque at first gave way to changing times (and changing humor). Not that long ago, I rewatched ‘Carry On, Cleo’ – which could be an example of the series at his peak (as well as inspiration for Monty Python, esp. for ‘Life of Brian’) – and even though that shows series regulars in better form, it still hasn’t held up all that well. Certain kinds of humor age very badly.

    During this rewatch, I didn’t laugh once either.

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