His first major comedy was The Lavender Hill Mob: with Alfie Bass he made up the bullion robbery gang headed by Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway. In the same year he also appeared in Lady Godiva Rides Again and The Galloping Major.
James was soon getting as many laughs as his partner, who had Sid dropped from the show. Sid returned to films to become a leading member of the 'Carry On' team. He made 19 films with them all together.
He later enjoyed success at the head of casts of TV situation comedies, notably George and the Dragon, Taxi and Bless This House. He died of a heart attack on the opening night of The Mating Season at the Sunderland Empire and died on the way to the hospital, he was 62.