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Uncovering more vintage TV entertainment

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: February 08, 2007

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Alan Keeling continues to take Bugle readers back to where they'd almost forgotten they'd once been, with another selection of TV memories from the '50s and '60s. He has once again dug deep to bring us a selection of old favourites, and some programmes that only vaguely register in our minds, but all of which are part of the history of television:

"Espionage was an ambitious spy series of hour-long programmes screened in black and white in the early sixties. Filming was done in several locations including Britain, America and across Europe, and most of the guest stars in this anthology were American. Produced by Filmways and Herbert Brodkin Incorporated, the shows were broadcast on a Saturday night on ABC.

"The dramas were about spies, secret agents, saboteurs, members of the IRA, and undercover men during the two world wars and the Cold War at the time. Guest stars included Millicent Martin, Jim Backus, John Gregson, Patrick Cargill, Dennis Hopper, Bill Travers, Stanley Baxter, Bernard Lee, Donald Pleasance, Peter Vaughan, Sian Phillips and Patricia Neal; quite a line-up. There was a sinister opening title sequence that featured a sketched firing-squad combined with stock footage of war scenes. This rather 'black' spy series had its final 24 episode re-run late on Sunday nights on Midland ATV in 1971.

"Who remembers good old Aggie Anderson in the Adventures of Aggie? In a 7 pm slot in 1956, ATV Midlands showed this black and white comedy series about a fashion buyer working in London for an international fashion house. It was made by M. E. Films and High-Definition Films Ltd., ran for 26 half-hour episodes and starred Aasgard Agnette Anderson (Aggie for short) played by 27 year old actress Joan Shawlee, an American whose career was given a boost by her supporting role in the Abbot and Costello Show.

"Aggie travelled around the world in search of new and exciting fashion, but found most of her excitement tangling with smugglers, murderers and spies. But as a comedy the funny side always won the day. Throughout the series budding young TV stars played supporting roles and once again there is an impressive list. Included are Patrick McGoohan who did two shows, Patrick Allen, Dick Emery, Maggie Smith, Anthony Valentine and John Schlesinger. The more regular guests were Gordon Jackson, Wilfred Brambell, Rupert (Maigret) Davies and the Black Country's own Richard Wattis. The theme tune was entitled High Stepper, which was also the title of a three episode compilation movie.

"In 1967 Universal Television produced a one hundred minute TV movie entitled The Magnificent Thief. The production was known by two other names as well, A thief is a thief is a thief and It Takes a Thief. This movie served as a pilot to a series that was eventually called It Takes a Thief, of which 65 episodes were made from late 1967 to early 1970 and first shown in various ITV regions from 1968 onwards.

"Robert Wagner was the star and played the cool and sophisticated master thief and cunning cat-burglar Al Mundy. Granted a pardon for a sentence he was serving in prison, Mundy agrees to become a spy for the US government through an arrangement with S.I.A. chief Noah Bain, played by Malachi Throne. Posing as an international playboy he attempts to perform highly dangerous feats whilst stealing and spying, using a whole wardrobe of unique skills. Al's superiors were later played by Edward Binns (Wally Powers) and John 'Lawman' Russell (S.I.A. agent Dover), and the most significant guest artist of all was the Pink Panther himself, Peter Sellers.

"In the late fifties, Mike Connors played undercover police agent Nick Stone in a half-hour series called Tightrope. Then several years later he portrayed a defiant loner in a series of hourly episodes called Mannix.

"Based in Los Angeles, California, Joe Mannix was an investigator for Intertect, a newly formed computerised private detective organisation. He was always at loggerheads with his boss Lou Wickersham, played by Joseph Campanella, who believed in the more conventional approach to solving crime, as opposed to Joe's more radical methods. Later on in the series Joe decided to go it alone, operating independently from his home in Los Angles, and with this new storyline came a new face, Mannix's faithful secretary Peggy Flair, played by Gail Fisher.

"In the US Mannix was produced by Paramount Television for CBS and had a successful run of 194 episodes between 1967 and 1975. In the UK various ITV channels screened this fast-paced show, but only its first season, between 1969 and 1972."

Alan Keeling uses several means to glean as much information as possible about TV programmes of the past. It is a passion of his and he will go to any lengths to provide the correct details of shows, classic or otherwise, many of which may not have occupied our television screens for over fifty years. Old television magazines are a valuable tool in the never-ending process of research, and Alan has provided us with one this week called Hulton's Television Annual, full of tasty morsels of vintage programmes, but also one or two intriguing adverts from the mid-fifties, including the magnificent Ferguson 21" TV. Fifty years ago 88 guineas would have bought you the latest in TV home screen technology.

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