Doctor in Trouble

Last updated

Doctor in Trouble
Doctor in Trouble FilmPoster.jpeg
Original British 1970 quad film poster
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Produced by Betty Box
Written by Jack Davies
Based on Doctor on Toast by Richard Gordon
Starring Harry Secombe
Leslie Phillips
Robert Morley
Angela Scoular
Music by Eric Rogers
Cinematography Ernest Steward
Edited byPeter Boita
Distributed by Rank Film Distributors
Release date
  • 16 June 1970 (1970-06-16)(UK)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Doctor in Trouble is a 1970 British comedy film, the seventh and last film in the Doctor series. It was directed by Ralph Thomas and stars Leslie Phillips as a doctor who gets accidentally trapped on an outgoing cruise ship while it begins a round the world trip. The cast was rounded out by a number of British comedy actors including James Robertson Justice, Harry Secombe and Angela Scoular. It was based on the 1961 novel Doctor on Toast by Richard Gordon.



Renowned surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt (James Robertson Justice) arranges a cruise for his patient, the famous television star Basil Beauchamp (Simon Dee). The captain of the ship is Lancelot Spratt's brother George Spratt (Robert Morley).

Doctor Burke (Leslie Phillips) becomes a stowaway by mistake when chasing his girlfriend (Angela Scoular) onto the ship to propose to her. She is one of a group of models doing a fashion shoot with camp photographer (Graham Chapman). Other passengers aboard ship include pools winner Llewellyn Wendover (Harry Secombe) and Mrs. Dailey (Irene Handl), a socially ambitious lady hoping to find a wealthy match for her daughter Dawn (Janet Mahoney).

Burke is pursued by the Master-at-Arms (Freddie Jones) who correctly suspects that he does not have a ticket. Burke tries various ruses to try to escape him, including dressing up as a doctor. Eventually he is caught and exposed as a stowaway. Captain Spratt orders him to serve as an orderly, scrubbing the ship.

When the ship's doctor falls ill from a tropical disease, Burke takes over his duties. He is called into action when a Soviet cargo ship sends a request for help due to a patient with acute appendicitis. Burke is transferred to that ship to perform an operation. By the time he has finished his own ship has departed, and he is forced to stay on board the Soviet vessel until it reaches Grimsby. When the cruise ship finally returns to port, Burke learns his girlfriend has married the ship's doctor, now recovered from his illness.

Meanwhile, Dawn Dailey, having failed to snare Captain Spratt, decides to marry Wendover. She learns after the wedding that he is not as wealthy as she had imagined.

Main cast


The film was based on the book Doctor on Toast , published in 1961. [1] The plot of the book focused on Dr Grymsdyke and was different from the final film. [2]

The original intention was for James Robertson Justice to play two roles, Sir Lancelot Spratt and his twin Captain George Spratt (a variation of the part of Captain Hogg that he had played in Doctor at Sea ) – "the best part of any we'd done together" according to producer Betty Box. [3]

Shortly before filming however Justice had a cerebral stroke and was rushed from his home near Inverness to Aberdeen for brain surgery. Justice recovered and wanted to play both roles as planned but the filmmakers knew he would be unable to do so, in part because he now had an uncontrollable tremor in his right arm. The part of Captain Spratt was offered to Robert Morley (who had been considered for the role of Lancelot Spratt in Doctor in the House but had wanted too much money). James Robertson Justice still played the smaller role of Lancelot. "It must have taken every ounce of energy he possessed to do it", said Box. "We knew he needed the money and paid him for both parts – he certainly deserved it for long and loyal service." [4]

Producer Betty Box said the film "wasn't a happy time for" her and director Ralph Thomas as they knew it "was the last movie we'd be able to make" with Justice. [5] She felt Robert Morley's casting undermined the picture. "Situations which would have been hilarious with James were just mildly amusing with Morley, and the whole point of the piece was lost", she said. Despite good performances from other members of the cast she thought "the entire project was doomed... from the day a real life surgeon said the world 'Scalpel' over dear James's unconscious bulk." [6]

It was Leslie Phillip's third appearance in a "doctor" film. He played Dr Tony Burke, the same character he played in Doctor in Love . In Doctor in Clover he played Dr Gaston Grimsdkye.

It was the first time Angela Scoular acted opposite Leslie Phillips; the two would later fall in love and marry. [7]


Ralph Thomas did not like the film saying "the unit was getting desperate, of course, and the title says it all; but it still, fortunately, continued making money, but I couldn't bear to make any more films in the series. And so Rank said "Well, right. Would you allow us to dispose of your interest in a television series. And I said "yes I've love to" and so they did." [8]

Box thought the Doctor series "died" when James Robertson Justice did. [9]

Penelope Mortimer of The Observer wrote "why all this talent, of various kinds, gets absolutely nowhere must be the fault of the screenplay... For it is a dreadful story, a terrible script, inadequately seasoned with worn out laughs. In all fairness I must say that a large section of the audience was hooting with laughter. It is on occasionals like this that one feels one has dropped from Mars." [10]

The film receives two stars out of five in the Radio Times Guide to Films, which describes it as "innocently smutty" and feeling like it has been made up of "leftovers from Doctor at Sea ". [11]

Related Research Articles

Leslie Phillips English actor

Leslie Samuel Phillips is an English actor known for his work in the Carry On, Doctor in the House and Harry Potter film series, as well as the long-running BBC radio comedy series The Navy Lark. With the death of Heather Chasen on 22 May 2020, Phillips is now the only surviving regular cast member from the latter series, and following the death of Barbara Windsor and Rosalind Knight in December 2020, Phillips, Jim Dale, Valerie Leon, Julian Holloway, Hugh Futcher, Anita Harris, Kenneth Cope, Amanda Barrie, Patricia Franklin and Bernard Cribbins are the last surviving recurring cast members of the Carry On series.

<i>Doctor in the House</i>

Doctor in the House is a 1954 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and produced by Betty Box. The screenplay, by Nicholas Phipps, Richard Gordon and Ronald Wilkinson, is based on the novel by Gordon, and follows a group of students through medical school.

James Robertson Justice

James Robertson Justice was an English film actor, best known in comedies, where he would play the pompous authority-figure. He also co-starred with Gregory Peck in several adventure movies, notably The Guns of Navarone. Born in south London, he exaggerated his Scottish roots, but was in fact prominent in Scottish public life, helping to launch Scottish Television and serving as Rector of the University of Edinburgh.

<i>Very Important Person</i> (film)

Very Important Person is a 1961 British comedy film directed by Ken Annakin and written by Jack Davies and Henry Blyth. The cast includes several well-known British comedy and character actors, including James Robertson Justice, Stanley Baxter in a dual role as a dour Scottish prisoner and a German prisoner-of-war camp officer, Eric Sykes, John Le Mesurier, Leslie Phillips and Richard Wattis.

<i>Supernova</i> (2000 film)

Supernova is a 2000 science fiction horror film written by David C. Wilson, William Malone and Daniel Chuba and directed by Walter Hill, credited as "Thomas Lee." "Thomas Lee" was chosen as a directorial pseudonym for release, as the name Alan Smithee had become too well known as a badge of a film being disowned by its makers. It was originally developed in 1988 by director William Malone as "Dead Star," with paintings by H. R. Giger and a plot that had been called "Hellraiser in outer space." Jack Sholder was hired for substantial uncredited reshoots, and Francis Ford Coppola was brought in for editing purposes. Various sources suggest that little of Hill's work remains in the theatrical cut of the film. The film shares several plot similarities with the film Event Horizon, released in 1997, and Alien Cargo, released in 1999. The cast features James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, and Wilson Cruz. The film was shot by cinematographer Lloyd Ahern and scored by composers David C. Williams and Burkhard Dallwitz.

Angela Scoular

Angela Margaret Scoular was an English actress.

<i>Doctor in Clover</i>

Doctor in Clover is a British comedy film released in 1966, starring Leslie Phillips. The film is based on the novel by Richard Gordon. It is the sixth of the seven films in the Doctor series.

<i>Crooks Anonymous</i> 1962 film

Crooks Anonymous is a British comedy film from 1962. Directed by Ken Annakin, it starred Leslie Phillips and Stanley Baxter and was notable for the feature film debut of Julie Christie.

<i>The Magnet</i> (film) 1950 film by Charles Frend

The Magnet is a 1950 British comedy film featuring Stephen Murray, Kay Walsh and in his first starring role James Fox. The story involves a young Wallasey boy, Johnny Brent (Fox), who obtains the eponymous magnet by deception, leading to much confusion. When he is acclaimed as a hero, he is shamed by his own sense of guilt.

<i>Upstairs and Downstairs</i>

Upstairs and Downstairs is a 1959 British comedy drama film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Michael Craig, Anne Heywood, Mylène Demongeot, Claudia Cardinale, James Robertson Justice, Joan Sims, Joan Hickson and Sid James. It features the first English-language performance of Claudia Cardinale.

<i>Raising the Wind</i> (1961 film)

Raising the Wind is a 1961 British comedy film written by Bruce Montgomery and directed by Gerald Thomas. It starred James Robertson Justice, Leslie Phillips, Kenneth Williams, Liz Fraser, Eric Barker and Sid James. It is set in an elite music school.

<i>A Weekend with Lulu</i>

A Weekend with Lulu is a 1961 British black and white comedy film directed by John Paddy Carstairs and starring Bob Monkhouse, Leslie Phillips, Alfred Marks, Shirley Eaton and Irene Handl.

<i>Doctor in Distress</i> (film)

Doctor in Distress is a 1963 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Dirk Bogarde, James Robertson Justice, and Samantha Eggar. It is the fifth of the seven films in the Doctor series. After a one-film absence, it was the final return to the role of Simon Sparrow by Dirk Bogarde, and also the return of Donald Houston. The film uses some of the characters in Richard Gordon's Doctor novels, but is not based on any of them.

The Doctor novels are a series of 18 comic novels by British physician Richard Gordon, covering the antics of a group of young doctors. They were published between 1952 and 1986.

<i>You Must Be Joking!</i> (1965 film) 1965 film by Michael Winner

You Must Be Joking! is a 1965 British comedy film directed by Michael Winner and starring Michael Callan, Lionel Jeffries, and Denholm Elliott.

<i>Doctor at Large</i> (film) 1957 film by Ralph Thomas

Doctor at Large is a 1957 British comedy film, the third of the seven films in the Doctor series. It stars Dirk Bogarde, Muriel Pavlow, Donald Sinden, and James Robertson Justice.

<i>Doctor at Sea</i> (film)

Doctor at Sea is a 1955 British comedy film, directed by Ralph Thomas, produced by Betty E. Box, and based on Richard Gordon's novel by the same name. This was the second of seven films in the Doctor series, following the hugely popular Doctor in the House from the previous year. Once again, Richard Gordon participated in the screenwriting, together with Nicholas Phipps and Jack Davies, and once again Dirk Bogarde played the lead character Dr Simon Sparrow. The cast also includes James Robertson Justice and Joan Sims from the first film, but this time playing different characters. This was Brigitte Bardot's first English-speaking film.

<i>Doctor in Love</i>

Doctor in Love is a 1960 British comedy film, the fourth of the seven films in the Doctor series, starring James Robertson Justice as Sir Lancelot Spratt and Michael Craig as Dr Richard Hare. This was the first film in the series not to feature Dirk Bogarde, although he did return for the next film in the series Doctor in Distress.

<i>Call Me Mister</i> (film)

Call Me Mister is a 1951 American Technicolor musical film released by Twentieth Century-Fox. The feature was directed by Lloyd Bacon and re-written from the 1946 Broadway play version by Albert E. Lewin and Burt Styler with music by Harold Rome that featured cast members from the US armed forces.

<i>Doctor on Toast</i> 1961 novel by Richard Gordon

Doctor on Toast is a 1961 comedy novel by the British writer Richard Gordon. Part of his long-running Doctor series, it features Doctor Grimsdyke and his superior Sir Lancelot Spratt in a series of amusing situations.


  1. "DOCTOR ON TOAST". The Australian Women's Weekly . 29 (11). 16 August 1961. p. 4. Retrieved 16 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  2. FRANK G. SLAUGHTER (30 July 1961). "Dr. Grimsdyke as Ghost-Writer: DOCTOR ON TOAST. By Richard Gordon. 237 pp. New York: Doubleday & Co. $3.95". New York Times. p. BR19.
  3. Box p 272
  4. Box p 273
  5. Box p 272
  6. Box p 273
  7. Angela Scoular obituary at The Independent
  8. Collected Interviews: Voices from Twentieth-century Cinema by Wheeler W. Dixon, SIU Press, 2001 p113
  9. Box p 273
  10. Mortimer, Penelope (21 June 1970). "Celestial morali ty". The Observer. London (UK). p. 28.
  11. Radio Times Guide to Films p.382