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From knights to gangsters

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: September 21, 2006

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This week Alan Keeling remembers a very youthful looking Roger Moore playing the lead role in Ivanhoe, and a series that kept British viewers captivated in the late evening:

"Ivanhoe was a rip-roaring, swashbuckling hero from the pen of the late 18th and early 19th century Scottish romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott. The novel was written in 1819, but the man who brought the character to life on the small screen 138 years later was our very own British institution, Sir Roger Moore. Some readers might be able to recall the cheerful title music that accompanied the following words.

"Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe, to adventure, bold adventure, watch him go.

There's no power on earth can stop what he's begun,

With Bart and Gurth, he'll fight till he has won.

Shout a cheer, adventure is here,

Riding with Ivanhoe, with Ivanhoe."

"The 39 black and white half-hour stories were shot in 1957 and came to British screens a year later courtesy of ABC. The programmes could be seen around tea-time on Saturdays, when every young boy must have dreamt of himself as the 12th century knight doing battle with the evil King John. Roger Moore (Ivanhoe) was joined every week by his sidekick Gurth, played by Robert Brown. Both actors would team up several years later in the Bond movies when Brown played Bond's boss, 'M'. Andrew Keir played King John. Rumour has it that when Screen Gems (Colombia Pictures) produced the original series at Beaconsfield Studios, they were shot in colour.

"Can anyone recall the US gangster series that unusually for the late '50s early '60s ran for an hour and starred Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. It was called 'The Untouchables' with Ness as the leader of an elite team of treasury agents battling the forces of underworld corruption and lawlessness in 1930s Chicago. The stories, filmed in monochrome, were narrated by Walter Winchell with his distinctive fast speaking voice and produced by Quinn Martin for Desilu Productions from 1959 - 1963. The show's guests stars appear like a who's who of TV's greatest. They included Barbara Stanwyck, Jack Lord, Cameron Mitchell, Telly Savalas, Peter Falk and Charles Bronson. The Untouchables began as two single episodes associated with the Desilu Playhouse in 1958, and apart from the TV series, often had two stories edited together to create TV and cinema movies such as The Scarface Mob, Gun of Zangara, and Alcatraz Express.

"The series made quite a late British debut on ATV, appearing for the first time in 1967, running until 1971, and were screened late in the evening to a captivated audience. BBC1 re-ran a small number from the original 114 episodes in 1988/89 on a Thursday night at 11 pm."

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