Monty Python fans will know her as the token buxom blonde bombshell but actress Carol Cleveland, originally only contracted for four episodes of Flying Circus, was a Python in her own right, writes Laura Burgoine…
Playing roles like Miss Garter-Oil and Vanilla Hoare, Carol was originally hired to play the female roles that called for a beautiful woman, the kind that couldn’t be pulled off by the Python boys dressed in drag!
Now fans have the chance to meet the comedienne when she officially opens the Cinema Museum’s fundraising film and memorabilia bazaar. The event will bring traders from all over the country selling movie posters, books, DVDs, props and plenty more for film buffs and collectors.
Carol describes herself as a bit of a collector and still holds props from her Python days close to her heart. “I kept the clever little nails they used when I was nailed to the cross in Life of Brian; that probably sounds rather gruesome but I wanted those.”
The 71 year-old describes working with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gillam, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and Terry Jones as “very fun; never a dull moment”. Though only hired for the first four episodes of the Flying Circus series the comedians were so impressed with the woman they fondly called “Carol Cleavage” and her comic timing and acting abilities that they kept her on throughout all the series, films, records and most of the stage shows.
“They decided I wasn’t just a pretty face and that I could act, follow directions and be funny in my own right,” Carol recalls. The actress, who was born in England and raised in America, largely attributes the longevity of her decades long career to her work with the famed comedy troop.
“I don’t think any of us knew how big this would be all over the world,” she reflects. “It’s even bigger in America, we were treated like pop stars there and I’m still meeting new fans, third generation fans who have just discovered Monty Python; it’s really incredible”.
Does she have a favourite skit? “I get asked this all the time and I never know what to say,” the comedienne, who lives in Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, replies. “The Scott of the Antarctic sketch; it’s very funny. Film-wise it has to be the Holy Grail”.
Carol Cleveland will officially open the fundraising film and memorabilia bazaar at the Cinema Museum, 2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road), SE11 4TH. Admission: £5 at the door. 020 7840 2200. http://www.cinemamuseum.org.uk Carol also recorded the voiceover for her character in the animated 3D film adaptation of Graham Chapman’s memoir A Liar’s Autobiography, out February 8.