Taking part in the ‘Carry On’ films of the 1960s and 1970s may have made Barbara Windsor a star of the big screen, but it was the wrong decision for the young actress, claims the writer of ‘Babs’, the biographical drama telling her life story that premieres on Sunday evening.
Tony Jordan, former headwriter on ‘EastEnders’, who has penned the 90-minute story, tells Radio Times: “She was eaten whole and swallowed by the Carry On machine.”
In the drama ‘Babs’, there is a scene where the respected theatre director and one of Barbara’s first mentors warns her: “If you’re not careful, you’ll end up playing sexy little blondes for the rest of your life. Spread your wings, little bird!”
Dame Barbara made nine ‘Carry On’ films in total, between 1964 and 1977, including the memorable ‘Carry On Camping’, when her bikini top memorably flew off during some aerobic exercises.
Tony Jordan believes the allure of the camera, plus her affair with the charismatic Sid James, took Barbara down the wrong road and that, without her typecasting as a giggling, flirting platinum bombshell, she’d be considered one of Britain’s acting greats with the other Dames.
He says: “She knows herself that it was. Not sure she’s ever said that out loud, but you could argue that, if anything, it spoilt her. Barbara Windsor should not be defined by the Carry On films.”
He is a fan, however, of the decision to cast her in what will arguably remain her defining role – that of Peggy Mitchell in ‘EastEnders’, telling people to “Get outta my pub!”
“Why on earth didn’t we do that before?” cries Jordan now. “It makes no sense! Most famous cockney sparrow we ever had! Of course she had to be in EastEnders!”
‘Babs’ tells the story of Barbara’s rich life, both the struggles as a child when her parents divorced, and later when she struggled to get work, before her great era as a TV soap queen. Two actresses – Jaime Winston and Samantha Spiro – take the role of Barbara, with the lady herself appearing in one scene as the ghost of her future self who appears to young Barbara, played by Jaime.
Dame Barbara says herself: “I wanted was for the story to be true and reflect what my life has been and what moulded me to be the lady I am today.
“It hasn’t always been easy and, like most people, my own journey has been full of highs and lows. I’ve made mistakes and in equal measures had some great successes. But I’m proud to say I’ve always been honest about who I am and what I’ve done.”
‘Babs’ is on BBC One on Sunday evening at 8pm. You can read the full interview with Tony Jordan in next week’s Radio Times, on sale now.