Gerald Thomas is definitely best known for directing the Carry On… movies, with a dedication to the series that took him from 1958’s Carry On Sergeant right through to 1992’s Carry On Columbus. However while most of his career was taken up with those films, he did sometimes find time for movies outside the series, such as Twice Round The Daffodils.
The comedy, which comes to DVD for the first time, is sometimes considered an unofficial Carry On film. On the surface you can understand why. After all, it features several of the Carry On actors (Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims etc.), has Thomas directing, Peter Rogers producing and Norman Hudis writing. However it has a rather different tone. For a start Hudis adapted it from a play by Jack Beale and Patrick Cargill. The comedy is gentler and less obvious, and there’s more of a bittersweet feel to the whole thing.
The slight problem though for a modern audience is quite how ignorant we are about tuberculosis. The film is set in the men’s ward of a sanatorium where people are being treated for TB. In 1962, everyone would have known why you’d need to go to a sanatorium and the issues the patients are dealing with, but in the modern day the need for rest and months in a countryside retreat seem a tad mysterious, so you just have to take it on trust that it’s necessary.
The film follows various men as they try to get better and also have love life troubles. Those with girlfriends worry that the lengthy separation will end up with their best gal finding someone else, while the married ones know their women may be lonely or face financial hardship – and shockingly, may have to get a job! Luckily though, in the early 60s nursing appears to have been a profession you got into in the hope you’d find a dishy guy who you could help to get healthy and then marry. I’m sure it wasn’t like that really, but Twice Around The Daffodils isn’t exactly a paragon of feminist thinking, so nurses tend to be sexy and mainly thinking about dating the patients (except the matron, of course, who I assume got her frump on the moment she got promoted into the role).
It’s sweet, gentle and oddly interesting from a sociological point of view, as it touches on many of the issues that bubbled under the surface of early 60s society, such as men’s fears over their changing position in society and also the fact that when the film was made, the NHS was still relatively new. Indeed within a few years, the development of district general hospitals, as well as better immunisation and TB treatment pretty much killed off the type of sanatorium seen in the film.
And in case you’re wondering what the title refers to, it’s a patch of daffodils in the hospital grounds, which if you can go round it twice without collapsing or getting ill, suggests you’re on the road to recovery.
The film undoubtedly retains a bit of a stagey feel and its gentle comedy might be a little dull to some, but Twice Round The Daffodils is a bit of a charmer. It’s also interesting to see Kenneth Williams in a relatively restrained role, where he proves his acting skill beyond the gurning comedy we tend to associate him with now, as well as offering very early roles for the likes of Shelia Hancock and Nanette Newman.
Overall Verdict: It’s not really a missing Carry On, as it’s very different in tone to those films, but it’s a sweet, gently funny and even sometimes moving slice of early 60s British cinema.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac