Film Review magazine articles, coinciding with the release of their film ‘The Boys in Blue’
Cannon and Ball go with a Bang
in their first film ‘The Boys in Blue’, supported by some big guns in comedy entertainment
No comedian or comedy duo are going to be a tremendous hit on television without being wooed by the cinema. And Cannon and Ball, variety’s most popular funny team since Morecambe and Wise, were duly wooed. The result now reaches cinema screens under the title The Boys in Blue.
Tommy Cannon plays the sergeant and Bobby Ball the constable of a village sub-station threatened with closure because they haven’t suffered a crime or made a single arrest in ten years. So the boys take it on themselves to solve the mystery of a national art theft to keep their station open – not only their station but also their profitable supermarket next door (groceries delivered by police car) and betting business (over the station phone).
Lending the lads a sure helping hand in their film outing are two stalwarts of screen comedy – producer Greg Smith and writer-director Val Guest. Greg Smith gave us the immensley popular Confessions series, and Val Guest has a distinguished reputation as a comedian’s director, having worked with Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd, Ronnie Corbett, Arthur Askey, Will Hay, The Crazy Gang and other favourites down the years.
Of course, there has to be a shapely girl to liven up the proceedings, and in this department long-limbed Suzanne Danielle fills the bill to perfection. Bobby Ball’s hilarious attempts to date her and track down the art robbers provides the frustration (and hilarity) for straight man Tommy Cannon. But there’s not much chance to be serious with Eric Sykes as the Chief Constable and Jack Douglas as the Chief Inspector. Also around as a hindrance, rather than a help, are Edward Judd as the undercover detective Cannon and Ball believe to be the criminal mastermind, Roy Kinnear as a Cockney lord of the manor, and Jon Pertwee as a crafty coastguard.
Cannon and Ball’s rise to fame wasn’t exactly an overnight success. It’s the best part of twenty years since they first got together as entertainers. That was when they were workmates in an Oldham engineering factory. They were welders who became friends through a love for singing, which they did at the factory social club as The Harper Brothers (Bobby’s surname was Harper and Tommy’s was Derbyshire). They became so popular that they were booked at local clubs.
At first there was no tomfoolery. But later Bobby’s flair for comedy crept into their act. It was complemented by Tommy’s ability to remain straight-faced and act as the perfect foil to him.
Within two years Tommy and Bobby were getting more club work that they could cope with. Should they retain the comparative security of their factory employment or take the plunge and turn fully professional?
“It got to the point where we were rehearsing our act on the factory floor,” says Bobby. “Our workmates loved it, but we were being constantly reprimanded by our foreman. If we hadn’t decided to turn professional, I’m sure we’d have been sacked.”
“Although we were doing all right as The Harper Brothers,” says Tommy, “the name had no ring to it. It didn’t convey the fact we were a comedy duo. We needed something catchy, something to attract attention. So on a wet Lancashire morning, Bobby and I and his cousin, who was our manager at the time, visited a dreary cafe and began suggesting names. We got through several pots of tea before we came up with Cannon and Ball.”
The new name seemed to act like a lucky charm. Their fame spread outside the huge northern club circut with appearances in other parts of the country until they were voted Top Comedy Act by readers of a leading showbiz magazine. That led to a booking on the tv show “The Wheeltappers’ and Shunters’ Social Club”.
That, they admit, was not their first appearance on tv. Their very first was disastarous and held out no hope of their ever returning to the medium. “Even today we shudder when we look back to our tv debut in the now defunct ‘Opportunity Knocks’,” says Bobby. “Yet through our disappointment we were able to view our future with far more honesty. So we set about re-structuring the act.”
Although there’s a saying that opportunity doesn’t knock twice, it seems to have done so for Cannon and Ball who are now among tv’s most popular entertainers. And now that they’ve captured as big a tv audience as anyone could wish for, we wait to see the results of their efforts to capture cinema audiences.
Suzanne is not just a pretty face
Singer, dancer, actress, comedienne – these are the combined talents that keep SUZANNE DANIELLE busy. And she’s good to look at, too. She’s the female lead in the Cannon and Ball comedy ‘THE BOYS IN BLUE’.
Rock on, Suzanne! Let’s hear it now for statuesque long-limbed Suzanne Danielle, whose ambition is to make it big in British movies (musicals, actually). She’s doing all right so far because, in addition to appearing with comedy greats like Morecambe and Wise, the Carry On team, Mike Yarwood, Bruce Forsyth and Michael Crawford, Suzanne has just snared the feminine lead opposite popular funsters Cannon and Ball in their first big-screen laughter riot, The Boys In Blue (which is why Bobby Ball’s famous catchphrase may be paraphrased to apply equally well to this talented young actress who can also sing and dance with the best of them). The shapely brunette towers over diminutive Bobby in this contemporary cops-and-robbers lark (reviewed on pages 6 and 7) in which she supplies the romance for Cannon and Ball’s pair of bumbling village bobbies.
“I had appeared before with Cannon and Ball on their television show, so I knew something about their method of working. But The Boys In Blue is their first feature film and when they arrived at Elstree Studio for the first day of shooting it was a little different for them as there wasn’t an audience to react to their gags. They’re used to playing in theatres and to club audiences when they can adapt their patter accordingly. But they adapted very quickly to filming. Fortunately Val Guest, who also wrote the script, is a comedians’ director and everything went very smoothly.”
Suzanne also added there was an unscripted incident during the first day of filming on the Ball’s Super Supermarket set where blown arc lamps set fire to filters resulting in burning gauze landing in her hair. Tommy and Bobby gallantly dashed to the rescue of their leading lady. She was unhurt, but afterwards the boys described her as being a real trouper.
No wonder Suzanne is the darling of Britain’s funnymen. A straight actress who can play comedy, a comedienne who sings, and a singer who’s also a superb dancer – a rare enough combination on the current showbusiness scene. It all adds up to success for the shapely lass from Romford, Essex, who has big-name comedians like Cannon and Ball lining up to sign her for their film, stage and tv shows.
After training at the Bush Davies School in her home town, Suzanne made her mark as a “slinking nymphet gyrating with the Younger Generation dance troupe” before being singled out as a solo dancer on the Bruce Forsyth Show.
“That was right at the beginning of my career as a dancer,” recalled 28-year-old Suzanne. “It was called ‘Bruce and More Girls’ when I also did a little comedy sketch, which was smashing, but although I seemed to start off at the top on television, there weren’t any more shows like that around at the time. I realised after I’d left stage school and appeared with Bruce there was no way I could continue as there was no room for me as a new Cyd Charisse, Eleanor Powell or Rita Hayworth, which was the type of part I’d always wanted to play.
“So I decided to cut out all the light comedy stuff and concentrate on a career as a serious actress. But I found myself in a comedy film, the first I’d ever done – Carry on Emmannuelle. I learned a lot about comedy as I was thrown in at the deep end working with Kenneth Williams and Jack Douglas, who’s also in The Boys in Blue.
“After that, my next two films saw me drift off in an entirely different direction in Arabian Adventure and The Golden Lady. In the latter film I played a hired killer, a girl soldier who had been trained for the Israeli army. She was a markswoman, which was all very positive and straight stuff. What turned me back to comedy was Morecambe and Wise, who wanted a young girl to do a 15-minute sketch on their tv show. I’d met Eric and Ernie a couple of times because I did a lot of charity work, and I think you can tell people who have a sense of humour very quickly. I’m always fooling around and then the producer asked me to read for him as he’d only seen me in straight parts and not in Carry On Emmannuelle. So I said I also love singing and dancing as well as comedy, and I ended up performing the Bob Fosse number ‘All That Jazz’ with Eric and Ernie as my two boy dancers adding their own bit of music-hall humour here and there, which became one of the best sketches they’d done in years.
“My ambition is still with musicals,” continued Suzanne. “I want to do it on film. I was brought up on Al Jonson, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell and Cyd Charisse. I want to bring back the old movies and want to re-make films like Rita Hayworth’s Cover Girl. I doubt if it will ever come to life, but it’s a good ambition, isn’t it? Thats what I like best about my video when you can watch a film with someone really good. Some moments of Klute with Jane Fonda were really brilliant. Sometimes I just sit at home and play it and try to get the hang of what she was doing.”
Comparisons with Cyd Charisse crop up time and again in conversation with Suzanne. Cyd is one of her favourite dancers, and Suzanne has appeared as a Charisse-lookalike in a Bruce Forsyth tv spectacular.
“I was working in the theatre as a professional at the age of twelve,” Suzanne told me. “That was after I’d been to stage school to study drama, singing and dancing. The first job I had in London’s West End was the musical ‘Billy’ starring Michael Crawford. I hadn’t actually left school and I joined the Second Generation dancers in my summer holidays.
“It was while I was in ‘Billy’ that I got offered a few tv parts like the one with Bruce Forsyth, which was a big landmark in my early career because I got star billing. He said he wanted a young Cyd Carisse-type dancer, and it was the first time I had worked with him. He already had a blonde and a redhead and he wanted a brunette.”
Suzanne now had a reputation as a talented singer-dancer and, after a blank period in her career, decided to concentrate on serious acting. “People would say to me ‘Oh, you’re a dancer, aren’t you?’ and I said ‘No, I can move’ and just denied it all because in England if you’re a dancer they think you’re a certain breed of person. It’s the same if you’re a singer, people don’t think you can act. It’s like as if you say ‘Oh, I do comedy’ and people say ‘We need a serious actress for this part’. What do they mean? You’ve got to be a better actress to be able to do comedy because it’s one step further. It’s real one-hundred-percent acting with a sense of comedy, and timing, which is much harder.”
Such versatility has kept Suzanne working almost non-stop on stage, television and films. She has appeared in The Royal Variety Performance for two consecutive years, played opposite Dennis Quilley and Peter Egan in two episodes of ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’, portrayed a London mobster’s daughter in Granada’s ‘Strangers’ series with Patrick Mower, and made a big impact as seductive German spy Lola Pagola in BBC tv’s version of the immortal British newspaper cartoon glamour girl, ‘Jane’.
“This was the first time I had to work up a character myself,” she admits. “I wanted her to be very slinky and feminine, to glide rather than walk in those fantastic dresses, and with that long cigarette holder. When you’re doing a film basically the character has been already created for you but in a comic-strip cartoon I had to make the character of Lola up myself.
“Before that I did a film for the Hammer House of Horrors with Anthony Valentine, in which I played four or five different characters each with different wigs. I was a novelist who gets dressed up in all these different costumes and then goes out and cuts men’s hearts out.”
Suzanne achieved a different kind of notoriety last year when impersonator Mike Yarwood personally chose her to play his Princess Diana opposite his Prince Charles for his popular tv series.
When we met, Suzanne had just finished appearing as Robin Hood in the popular pantomime ‘Babes in the Wood’ at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon. She keeps in good shape by following a healthy keep-fit routine and attends dance classes each week at London’s Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden in addition to singing and gymnastic work-outs at the Buckinghamshire home she shares with Patrick Mower. She’s also recorded an album in the ‘Shape Up and Dance’ keep-fit video-with-music series which makes health-building routines fun. And, just for good measure, Suzanne and Patrick recently toured New Zealand with their own two-handed stage comedy ‘Monkey Walk’.
Her good luck held some months later when she took a Spanish holiday and ran into an American film company on location who had ‘lost’ their leading lady. Suzanne was offered the role at the airport as she was waiting to return to London.
“Then when I got The Boys In Blue, after appearing with Cannon and Ball on their tv show, it was an unexpected bonus,” laughed Suzanne.
She’s a fun girl to be with, and conversation is far from dull as she is forever acting out jokes and bits of comedy business. Now she’s back in fine form on the big screen were she belongs. All of which, along with Suzanne’s good looks and brimming personality, makes for a powerful combination adding sexual firepower to Britain’s funniest comics.
That’s obviously what Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball thought when they signed her to supply the glamour and to supplement their gags for The Boys In Blue.
After spending time being entertained by the dazzling Suzanne Danielle, I couldn’t agree with them more…!