The prospect of watching all of The Saint is daunting – there are 118 episodes. In recent years I have discovered more ITC shows, but I have always had a fondness for The Saint and am looking forward to spending more time with him again.
Simon Templar travels the world, either being called upon or simply stumbling into trouble as he takes on bad guys. He is usually accompanied by beautiful young women, luxurious locations, a fast car and excellent suits. His charm gets him far and throwing a decent punch helps sometimes too. Beginning in 1962, The Saint became a huge success for its production company, ITC, and propelled its star, Roger Moore, to international fame.
The Talented Husband
4th October 1962
Following an accident, Madge Clarron is confined to bed at home, though her husband John is telling a mountain of lies to prevent people from seeing her. An old Irish housekeeper, Mrs Jafferty, arrives to help look after her. Simon travels to the village, where he meets Adrienne, their new neighbour. Having discovered that both of John’s previous wives died suddenly, Simon is concerned for Madge. Adrienne turns out to be an insurance investigator and both she and Simon begin keeping an eye on the Clarron house together. Mrs Jafferty turns out to be John in disguise, who has planned an elaborate alibi so he can get away with murdering Madge for her money.
Derek Farr, Shirley Eaton and Patricia Roc. Shirley Eaton is the only one of these I know from elsewhere, primarily for her role as Bond girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, where she became famous for being painted head to toe in gold paint.
The Famous Simon Templar
“You’re the famous Simon Templar!” is how many of The Saint‘s pre-title sequences end, but not this one. Instead, Madge introduces him to Clarron by simply saying, “This is Simon Templar.”
The Saint in…
This week the Saint spends the pre-titles sequence in a theatre bar, while the rest of the episode takes place in Cookham, a typically picturesque English village.
Lacking the budget to travel to all of the Saint’s favourite spots around the world, the series, like others from ITC, utilised painted backdrops in scenes to convey a sense of global scale. Some stock footage and a caption were the only other things needed to whisk us away. This staple of The Saint isn’t so easy to spot in The Talent Husband and it actually has a fair amount of location footage compared to some episodes. The only time any sort of backdrop is used is for the trees seen through the windows of Adrienne’s house.
This section is for aspects that place us within the show’s period, or would otherwise seem alien to someone from the present coming to the episode. The Talented Husband includes a steam train, an everyday part of life that would become rare by the end of the decade.
The rat poison costs “three and six”, meaning three shillings and sixpence, usually written as 3/6. It’s a small sum and I can’t find much advertised in this month’s TV magazines for so little – it won’t even buy you a packet of 20 cigarettes (3/10). Weetabix has an offer on for EPs at that price, with a choice of Western Songs or Cindarella/Jack and the Beanstalk. Westerns are all the rage on TV at this time, so I’d recommend the former.
Mrs Jafferty is also asked to sign “the poison book” – simply a record for who has bought poison. I have never had to buy poison but I don’t think such things exist anymore.
On the train, John Clarron meets Madge’s doctor, who is reading the Evening Standard. The date isn’t readable but above the headline it says, ‘As Kennedy’s marines head into Siam/Premier explains where we stand’ with the main headline reading ‘MAC: READY TO SEND IN RAF’. This references US President John F. Kennedy, who first issued orders to deploy US Marines to Siam (Thailand) in March 1961, which certainly helps with the dates of the newspaper. At the time, the US was concerned with the growing influence of communism in the region. ‘Mac’ is British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
Madge’s looming murder is referenced in a couple of lines of dialogue. John tells Adrienne that Madge is “dying to meet you” and Madge lovingly tells John, “Sometimes I think if I weren’t married to you, I’d die.”
The opening episode gives us a wonderful summary of the Saint’s outlook, perfectly setting up his character: “I don’t like being a cog in the machine. Being one of the ants who devour the dragon is all very noble, but it’s not half as much fun as being St. George, is it?”
In these earlier episodes, Simon often refers to “the ungodly” as having set characteristics, lumping all criminals in together. It is a phrase from the Leslie Charteris novels and does seem to get phased out later on. It is used in The Talented Husband.
We see a lot of the Clarrons and following the pre-title sequence, it’s a while before Simon even turns up. There are flaws in John Clarron’s murder plan (he prepares a meal with rat poison to be heated up later, then heads to London for the day), mainly – why did he leave the empty tin of rat poison at home? He could have taken it with him and dumped it from the train, or else when he got to London. Also maintaining the Mrs Jafferty lie to cover his exact leaving times, he returns to Cookham with the disguise in his bag. Why? She is supposed to have committed the crime as part of a robbery, then fled, so he wasn’t going to need it anymore. Like the poison, he could have dumped it before he returned. They are the two things that catch him out yet could have been disposed of easily.
Derek Farr was the most enjoyable performance for me. He switches from the caring husband to anger in an instant and these moments made his villainy much more believable. When Simon confronts finally him, the use of close-ups enables our Saint to look much more powerful, with Clarron quickly become a jibbering wreck. Simon is slightly menacing as he angrily glares down the camera and we wonder what he’s going to do with Clarron.
She Was a Lady
The charming Simon Templar is definitely a ladies man and manages to find some company during most episodes. He and Adrienne hit it off in the pub when she invites him to have dinner with her. Later, Simon goes back to her house and the next day we see them about to have coffee and breakfast together, which prompts me to ponder whether he stayed the night. At first, it seems unlikely as plenty of people had already seen him arrive at the pub and living in such a small village community, Adrienne surely wouldn’t want tongues wagging. Yet as she is only in the village while she investigates John Clarron, perhaps she wouldn’t care what people had to say about her.
The Saint drives a white Volvo P1800. It’s a gorgeous car and perfectly suits a playboy. I thought I’d clock just how often it turns up and how much action it gets. Here, Simon drives it into Cookham, almost knocking down Mrs Jafferty as he races through the village.
Little. John Clarron accidentally-on-purpose knocks a large concrete flower pot onto Madge from a balcony.
I’ve always thought Simon Templar smoked considerably, if not constantly, but it’s a good 20 minutes into this episode before he lights up. In total, he smokes three cigarettes.
1960s’ drama is always a good representation of how much the nation’s drinking habits have changed. Simon is partial to a drink or two and in The Talented Husband he is drinking when we first meet him, sipping at something in the theatre bar. At a guess from the colour and the glass type, it could be a gin and tonic. In Cookham, he stays at a pub where he knows the landlord and upon arrival opts for “a pint from the barrel – warm, flat, nourishing – and very British.” I suppose one must tire of champagne. Later, he drinks “custom-built” Manhattan (whiskey, vermouth, bitters) alone, then agrees to another with Adrienne.