On Follow That Camel Trivia
- Despite Talbot Rothwell writing in January 1967 that
the part “simply yells for Phil Silvers all the way along. I just can’t get
this Bilko image out of my mind”, the central role of the fast-talking
Foreign Legion Sergeant had originally been earmarked for Sid James.
However, with a commitment to the ITV series George and the Dragon Sid’s
part was re-cast. The first Kenneth Williams knew about this development was
on 17th April 1967 when, at a costume fitting at Berman’s he: “met Peter
Butterworth, he told me that Sid James is out! And they’re having Phil
Silvers in the lead!!”. Sid suffered a heart attack on 13th May 1967, less
than two weeks into the filming schedule.
- The inclusion of an American star, albeit one whose
international stardom had declined since his biggest success a decade
earlier, pleased the fledgling distributor Rank. Desperate to secure an
American distribution deal with Paramount Pictures they thought, incorrectly
as it turned out, that the Bilko connection would help. Initial press
reports leaked that the lead role was also offered to fresh stand-up
comedian Woody Allen although there is no written confirmation of that
within the production files.
- Although the Rank Organisation and Peter Rogers were
still not prepared to embrace the Carry On title, Follow That Camel, like
Don’t Lose Your Head before it, was marketed with a heavy emphasis on the
fact that the familiar Carry On cast and crew were back together. Indeed,
Talbot Rothwell’s first draft script is titled Carry On, Bo! Along with
unused alternative titles, ‘Across the Sahara with Spade & Bucket’ or
‘You’ve Gotta Be Tough When There’s Nothing But Sandpaper’. The film was
released as Carry On in the Legion in America.
- Singer Anita Harris made her Carry On debut as the
exotic belly dancer Corktip. Talbot Rothwell’s love of film references
within his innuendo-drenched scripts was reflected in the character name.
The 1936 foreign legion adventure Under Two Flags had cast Claudette Colbert
- The hot burning sands of the Sahara setting were
recreated – complete with specially erected fort – at Camber Sands and Rye
on the Sussex coast. The location filming proved the longest period the
Carry On team ever spent away from their spiritual home, Pinewood Studios.
Three weeks on location was followed, after just one day’s break, with
studio and location filming in Buckinghamshire.
- When Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas found out that Sid
James was unavailable, they decided to look for American talent to see if
they could crack that lucrative market. One choice they considered was
- Phil Silvers' sight was failing fast, and to compensate
for this fact he was wearing contact lenses as well as glasses. It was
a familiar sight to see Jim Dale, Peter Butterworth and Silvers scratting around the
sand for a lost lens.
- The regulars were very wary of the imported talent, Phil
Silvers, and none more vocal about this than Kenneth Williams. He would
be irritated that Silvers had to work with idiot boards. When Silvers
found this out he came in the next day with learned lines, they became
tolerant to each other for the rest of the film.
- The camel was on loan from Chessington Zoo, but had
never walked on sand before, so she had to be trained to do so.
- The location filming took three weeks, the longest in
Carry On history.
- Rank was reluctant to use the Carry On title for Camel
and Don't Lose Your Head, as they had concerns over legal action as they had
just moved distributors. The Carry On title was added on years later.
- The film gives the impression of scolding hot sun
beating down of the desert, but that was not the reality. When Peter
Butterworth was buried up to his neck in sand, he had to be warned up with
blankets and brandy.
- The two new recruits knock at the gate of the fort. The captain orders his
men to load the cannons with "grapes or any other fruit". The
cannons are fired as the door opens, blowing the two new arrivals out of
their shoes. Logically, there should be a large spot of squashed fruit on
the wall opposite the gate. However, the wall shows no mark of the fruit
- The Arabs took the fort in the desert and killed every man in it. Does it
not stand to reason that they would also have cleaned out the store,
particularly the gun powder, and poisoned the water, knowing full well that
relief was on the way?