Today we’re going to look at four British screen dramas, all made in the space of eight years from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. They are a diverse body of material: from the big screen, a musical and a comedy, and from the small screen, a police series and an adventure series. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the common factor, other than spanking, that links them all.
1: The Duke Wore Jeans (1958)
This movie was a vehicle for pop star Tommy Steele, who plays the Honorable Tony Whitecliffe, a scion of the impoverished English aristocracy whose father has arranged for him to marry the Princess of Ritalla, a South American oil state. Unfortunately he’s already married, and to an ordinary girl – which is why his parents haven’t been told about it.
The solution to the Honorable Tony’s problems lies in the fact that Tommy Steele also plays Tommy Hudson, a Cockney sparrow who happens to look exactly the same. So there’s a substitution: Tommy goes to Ritalla, and the Honorable Tony goes on holiday with his wife.
The arranged marriage is mutually convenient for the Whitecliffes and the King of Ritalla, played by Alan Wheatley (best known as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1950s television version of Robin Hood). Among the country’s peculiar laws is one that requires the King to abdicate if the heir to the throne is still unmarried upon reaching the age of 21 – and Princess Maria has only six months to go, even though June Laverick, who plays her, was 26 when the movie was made.
The trouble is, Princess Maria doesn’t want to marry the Honorable Tony. She doesn’t even want to meet him. When the King her father telephones to summon her to the welcoming ceremony, she avoids answering, and he expresses his chagrin in these terms:
‘She’ll either obey my royal command or she’ll get a royal smacked bottom – she’s not too old for that yet.’
He goes in person to see her, to find her still in bed, certainly not ready to go to the airport. Her doctor insists that she has a deep psychological condition and must be allowed to stay where she is. The King’s response, once the doctor is dismissed, is to tell her forcefully:
‘You will get out of this bed and down to the airport, or I shall give you such a smacking that you won’t be able to sit down at your coronation.’
She does get out of bed, but she still refuses to marry a ‘chinless chump from the land of fog’ – she won’t even look at his photo, which her father tries to show her so that she can check out the chin. So he gives an order to the lady-in-waiting on the left here:
‘Will you kindly hand me a smooth-backed hairbrush.’
Maria is saved from the impending spanking only because the Queen points out that if they don’t leave right away they will be late – so they do go, and the Princess doesn’t.
All turns out well in the end: Maria is secretly working with the Prime Minister to have the marriage law repealed (even though, unknown to her, the PM is secretly planning to force abdication on the King and set up a military dictatorship in his place). And when Maria meets the decent but not really Honorable Tommy, she likes him…
2: Carry On Cruising (1962)
This was an early entry in the long-running ‘Carry On’ film comedy series, set, as the title implies, on a cruise ship. Unaccountably, Flo Castle has a crush on the captain, Wellington Crowther. It’s unaccountable because he’s played by greying, crinkled, bulbous Sidney James, while she herself is Dilys Laye, 21 years younger, blonde, not at all crinkled and only remotely approaching bulbosity in exactly the right places.
During a luxury cruise aboard the SS Happy Wanderer, Flo realizes her womanhood and decides what she needs is ‘a mature, responsible, dominant man’. As her friend puts it, she’s ‘got a Dad fad’. Crowther thinks she is just nervous in his presence, so he invites her to his cabin to make friends. Flo has a different kind of making friends in mind, and moves in for a kiss. Crowther pushes her away. ‘You naughty girl!’ he says.
‘Am I?’ she replies. ‘Well, if you can catch me, you can spank me!’
And there follows a ‘chase’ round the cabin which involves her running away and him not chasing her. Sadly for her, and us, there’s no spanking on the horizon: all he wants to do is get her out of the door.
And the ship sails on, and Sally grows out of it.
3: Gideon’s Way (1965)
The police series Gideon’s Way was based on a long run of novels and stories by John Creasey which are not known to have any connection with spanking (although Creasey did include a couple of spanking scenes in his other main novel series, about the suave and somewhat Saintly adventurer known as the Toff).
In the Gideon’s Way episode entitled ‘Subway to Revenge’, office worker Ellen Winters (Anne Lawson)
sees someone attempt to push Jimmy Lane (Donald Churchill) under a subway train. This is good news for them both in the long term, because it gets them talking and eventually leads to romance. In the short term, it leads to slight friction, because he insists that he only slipped; so she takes it upon herself to report the incident to the police.
He’s displeased by her well-meaning interference, and they have words the following morning at the chemical firm where they both work. Last night, they broke the ice and got onto first-name terms, but now he tries to mend the broken ice and insists, ‘Mr Lane to you.’ She retorts that actually he’s ‘Petticoat Lane to me’ – in effect, calling him effeminate. So he tries to assert his manliness:
‘One more remark like that, Miss Winters, and I’m going to put you across my knee.’
And as he walks away, she responds like this:
And then like this:
Raised eyebrows and the beginnings of a contented smile: it seems her man is a man after all.
4: The Saint (1965)
The Saint began as a long run of novels and stories by Leslie Charteris, dealing with the suave and not very Toff-like adventurer Simon Templar. The 1960s television version is so chock-full of spanking material that it demands separate, extended treatment another time. For now, we’re going to concentrate on the 1965 episode ‘The Checkered Flag’, in which the girl of the week is Mandy Ellington, played by Justine Lord.
She develops a flirty relationship with the Saint, whom she finds appealingly ‘masterful’. At one point the banter turns to board games. Mandy is ‘about to approach square 4’, says Templar. ‘Nothing square about me,’ says Mandy, wiggling her bottom right past the camera. ‘That too is excruciatingly obvious,’ replies the Saint, taking an eyeful.
And for further evidence of that, she’s later seen in the gym, wearing what the script calls ‘shorts which deserve the name’. Here’s how the scene begins:
And the Saint evidently appreciates it too:
Another scene sees her dressed in ‘a tight evening gown’, and still trying to get closer to Templar. For his part, he’s preoccupied with being the hero of the series and so having to carry the burden of the main plot, which this week is a case of sabotage. The brush-off is elegant:
SAINT: This acquaintance can’t ripen until I’ve got to…
He raises his right hand and it falls off screen – SMACK! – provoking a genuine:
Almost simultaneous with his:
SAINT: … the bottom of the matter.
At which the script describes Mandy as ‘smack-shocked but not anti-Saint by any means’.
Later on, he finds her in his flat, ‘sunk deep and sinuously in an armchair’; the script called for her to be wearing suede but the costume department obviously disagreed.
It turns out that she’s trying to distract Templar from his investigations, and so the second brush-off follows, with a pun on her outfit.
SAINT: Sorry. I’m not that easily – suede.
Mandy looks wry and genuinely ashamed of herself.
MANDY: I’m sorry too. Time I was spanked again.
SAINT: Business before pleasure.
Except that on screen her line is delivered as ‘Time I was smacked again’ – quite correctly, of course, since in the earlier scene she was not spanked in the precise sense of the word… more’s the pity!
So… two different media, four different genres, four different human relationships. What’s the connection?
All four screenplays were the work of prolific scriptwriter Norman Hudis (1922-2016). He also wrote three other episodes of The Saint, notching up another, more incidental smacked bottom and also a spanking threat. So his authorial imagination often turned in that direction, even if – so far as we know – he never wrote an actual OTK scene. In particular, he was evidently aware of the erotic frisson that the prospect of spanking can bring to a romantic relationship, and no doubt the spanking of the nightie-clad Princess Maria, had it happened, would have been an erotic spectacle of a slightly different kind.
And as we shall start to discover next week, there were other professional scriptwriters like him…