Tales from and around Sparrows Can’t Sing…

  • Sparrows Cant Sing-Barbara Windsor-James Booth-1963-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3Well, just before the shennanigans of The Profumo Affair tumbled into the world (early 1963 to be precise) Babs Windsor was heading towards the premiere of the film she starred in Sparrows Can’t Sing.

    This was before she became the pin-up of the Carry On series and if memory serves correctly Sparrows is a knockabout but fairly feet-on-the-streets slice of East End life.

    It’s the tales that surround it that I love though.

    Like those other East End “stars” The Krays organising the post-film festivities:

    I arrived in a Roller with my first husband, Ronnie Knight,” recalls Windsor. “There were thousands of people lining the Mile End Road, cheering and waving flags. Evidently Ronnie and Reggie had turned them all out of their houses, saying, ‘Let’s welcome our little lady. Let’s show royalty how we are.'”

    And how did The Krays come to be involved? Well, aside from geographical similarities, over to Ms Babs Windsor again:

    Sparrows Cant Sing-Barbara Windsor-James Booth-1963-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4Sparrows Cant Sing-Barbara Windsor-James Booth-1963-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity Sparrows Cant Sing-Barbara Windsor-James Booth-1963-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2I’d been going out with Charlie and Reggie. “Joan said to me that she wanted a proper East End club. I phoned Ronnie and Reggie up and asked if we could use their place. They thought it was fantastic. Ronnie told Joan he didn’t usually allow shooting at their club. They stuck two of their guys on the door during filming – Big Scotch Pat and Scar-faced Willy. Anybody who tried to get in while we were working had to contend with them.

    And then it’s only a hop-and-a-step to that sometimes other Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity inhabitant, Soho In The Fifties author Daniel Farson (see here):

    Do you remember Dan Farson, the art critic?” asks Windsor. “Well, he was responsible, for some unknown reason, for getting the extras. And he’d gone down the docks and he’d got all these extras who were effing and blinding and saying they’d like to screw this one and that one on the set. So Reggie got to hear of it and they took them aside – there was quite a fight – because they didn’t like all that swearing.

    All quotes are from Stuart Jeffries article Carry on up the East End.

    Peruse Sparrows Can’t Sing here (where it also shares space with The Small World Of Sammy Lee – see here).


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