Joan Sims, 'Carry On' stalwart, loses her long battle with ill health

Friday 29 June 2001 00:00 BST

Joan Sims, the Rada-trained actress who found fame as a star of the Carry On comedy films, has died aged 71.

The actress, whose last appearance was alongside Dame Judi Dench in the BBC TV film Last Of The Blonde Bombshells, died after a short illness.

Although a versatile performer on the stage and on television it was as a regular member of the Carry On team, alongside Kenneth Williams and Sid James, that she will be best remembered.

Until she published her autobiography, High Spirits, last year, Sims had retained a very private life off screen. The book gave her account of a career that, largely through the extraordinary success of the Carry On films, had earned her a place as a favourite of the British public.

The daughter of a station master who grew up in Laindon, near Basildon, Essex, she never married. She first teamed up with the Carry On regulars in the 1958 film Carry On Nurse and went on to star in a further 24 of the films.

Although she had already been in the Doctor movies, she soon became closely associated with the Carry Ons and they were the backbone of her career for two decades.

Acting commitments for the larger-than-life star were minimal in recent years although she landed parts in The Canterville Ghost and an adaptation of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Sims was fond of drinking and admitted she spent time in a "drying out ward". She had tried to give up alcohol in recent years.

Asked in an interview last year if she saw herself as an alcoholic, she replied: "Well, that's what they say I am, dear. Actually, I don't think I am."

She sold her substantial home in Fulham, south-west London, several years ago after financial problems and recently lived in a small, rented flat off Kensington Square. Some of her prized possessions were a photograph of her meeting the Queen and a miniature pair of bosoms – a gift from Ronnie Barker.

High Spirits exposed a woman who had battled with an addiction to alcohol and with her weight and underwent regular counselling for clinical depression. In recent years she also suffered from diabetes, arthritis, back pain and high blood pressure.

Sims died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, but the exact cause of death has not been disclosed.

Barbara Windsor – who acted alongside her in eight Carry Ons – said yesterday: "To me she was the last of the great Carry Ons.

"She was there at the beginning. Her talent was wonderful; she could do any accent, dialect, she could dance, sing, play dowdy and glam.

"We laughed all the time and giggled a lot. I will sorely miss her."

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