Los Angeles Times
23 June 1967

Silvers Nabs ‘Carry On’ Lead


Miss Marks is a freelance writer stationed in London who occasionally contributes to The Times.

LONDON—Americans have long infiltrated the British movie scene, but now a guy from Brooklyn has invaded the most sacrosanct of all British comedies—the Rank Organization’s “Carry On” series.

Phil Silvers is not only the first American ever to make an appearance with the “Carry On” team, he’s nabbed the lead in the 14th film in the series, “Follow That Camel.”

Talbot Rothwell’s screenplay is a comic version of “Beau Geste,” starring an American sergeant in the Foreign Legion who spends his weeks with his mistress while throwing the line to his commandant that he’s been waylaid by skirmishes with the Arabs. He claims to have taken on 100 of them single-handed and gets covered in phony scars, fake glory and genuine medals.

Bilko Remembered

When producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas read the script Sgt. Bilko immediately sprang to mind, with the result that four weeks ago Silvers arrived to join the all-British team of Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Angela Douglas, Peter Butterworth and Bernard Bresslaw.

REPORT—Phil Silvers reports casualties to Kenneth Williams in scene from film “Follow That Camel.”

They started locating on Camber Sands, a remote stretch of English beach which doubled as the Sahara. A camel, born and bred in captivity, was imported from Ireland for Silvers to ride.

The camel took one look at the beach and refused to budge. It had never seen sand before and didn’t intend to hoof along it now. Silvers had to overcome the camel’s phobia as well as contend with the typically English summer. He faced a week of snow, blizzards and hail.

“I’ve never been so cold in my life,” he grumbled unhappily. “I’m in a state of shock, but I don’t know who to complain to.”

A mock fortress had heen erected on the Pinewood lot, and between the patches of cloud he broke to talk about his first role in a British movie.

“What do I think of this film? Have you seen any of these films? If we don’t get arrested I think it’ll be alright!

“I’m the only American ever to take part in one of these movies. This is their family and I’m an alien, but I’ve never been surrounded by such congeniality as on this picture. I get on famously with Kenneth Williams. He poses as a sardonic, crisp young man. He isn’t. He’s soft as mush.

He Sounds British

“I have to watch it very carefully. I’m starting to pick up the natural British sound. This is automatic if you’re a mimic. A couple of times they’ve caught me saying ‘jolly good’ or ‘good show mate.’ No one here’s picked up my sound, but then I’m somewhat outnumbered.”

Silvers claims he’s a diseased Anglophile—“I love everything British.” He was last here in 1959 at the expense of the British Broadcasting Corp. for one performance on the Bilko Show. While here he will also make a starring appearance on “Spotlight,” the new Anglo-American television revue which is being filmed in the country.

“In the States, I think due to TV, we have developed a comedian who doesn’t move more than 5 feet. My idea of a comic is one who moves, who doesn’t say a funny joke. But we have a new kind of comedian who does monology, ‘My wife, take my wife—please,’ these kind of jokes.

“Your comedians may not he as high-lighted as ours (one showing on the Ed Sullivan Show and you’ve been seen by a million people) but they move. Norman Wisdom, Harry Secombe, Dickie Henderson Jr., these men are comedians in my terminology.”

Silvers Suffers

Silvers is making his second visit to this country under less than enviable conditions. He recently divorced his wife, underwent a serious eye operation, and while here finds his separation from his five small daughters agonizing. He is also suffering from a suspected slipped disc after a fall from the camel.

The 55-year-old comedian who had the highest rating of any comic on British TV with his series, The Phil Silvers Show shook his head morosely.

“Comedy’s no laughing matter. You work at it.”

Perhaps the saddest thing in show business is to see a man who is crying inside make the world laugh.