Last weekend, Ian Dickerson was interviewed on The Tainted Archive's TV Cop Weekend about his forthcoming book, The Saint on TV.
We're very excited about this forthcoming book coming from Hirst Books in October 2010 (preorder today!), as Ian has had unprecedented access to Leslie Charteris, family, and friends over his many years at the Honorable Secretary of the Saint Club. The interview gives a brief glimpse into the behind-the-scenes stories that Ian has managed to unearth during his years of in-depth research and own Saintly detective work. These stories include the Hollywood years of the 1940s and 50s when The Saint first became a topic of discussion with TV producers, the fantastic Roger Moore series of the 1960s, the Return of The Saint with Ian Ogilvy in the 1970s, the 1980s efforts, and the latest attempts to revive The Saint to television audiences around the world, The Saint on TV is coming soon, and hopefully not just in book form!
The Saint on TV by Ian DickersonThe path to TV Heaven for the Saint and Leslie Charteris started in 1952, but the signposts to it had been planted in the 1940s: Vincent Price, during his spell as the Saint on the radio, had observed that the Saint’s creator Leslie Charteris “wanted to play it in every media” and in late 1948 Charteris had been approached by an Argentine company wishing to produce a series of Spanish-language Saint shorts—that is to say a series of films lasting twenty-five minutes, not an item of Saintly apparel. He refused them point blank. Even in the media intensive 21st Century Argentinean film and television productions are not know for the international sales and recognition that Charteris felt his creation deserved.Continue reading at The Tainted Archive...
It wasn’t until 1952, with the American TV industry still very much wearing its nappies, that Charteris began to seriously study ways to put the Saint on television; the blossoming small screen industry seemed the perfect next step for the adventures of Leslie Charteris, as creator of the Robin Hood of Modern Crime.
Earlier that year he’d renegotiated the contract for the Saint radio shows retrieving control of the TV rights, which had previously been bundled alongside the radio rights as TV hadn’t really kicked into gear. He was now determined to develop a TV show for the Saint and penned a number of scripts, designed to show how a half-hour Saint TV show would run.
He set to work with an LA based producer packaging the scripts and offering them as “a series or program of motion pictures for use exclusively on television and radio” targeting David Niven for the lead. It never made it in to production and with the benefit of hindsight it can be suggested that no one was willing to risk engaging Charteris, who had absolutely no experience in producing or directing a TV show.
Some verification of this theory was offered over a year later when Ted Ashley, of the Ashley-Famous Agency had tried to sell the Saint on TV. He summarized the problems they were encountering;
I regret having to advise you that the general opinion has been that the scripts are not sufficiently interesting and particularly, not of the proper type, in terms of general content for a motion picture television film.
...we have indicated that you would write scripts or have them written under your supervision...
...there are many indications that a pilot film and possibly a commitment assuring the production of a minimum of 13 pictures can be obtained, if you would be willing to limit your relationship to that of general advisor on scripts, casting, direction and production...
By 1960 the Saint was still to conquer television.