Thursday, 25 September 2008
The Saint through the years...
Much was made of the Ian Fleming centenary earlier this year but the previous year had also marked an anniversary of the birth of another mystery/thriller writer who had also created an iconic character. No surprise that this was more low key since for some reason the character has been out of fashion for years but, have no doubt, one day, the Saint will return.
Leslie Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin in Singapore on 12 May 1907.
He spent his formative years travelling the world. His father was a successful surgeon and his work would take him to all corners of the world.
The young boy was educated at home by a string of tutors and it was not until 1919 that Dr. Yin decided to send his son to England to finish his education.
From an early age Charteris had a great urge to write and after getting hold of a typewriter and began to produce his own magazine which he then peddled to friends and relatives. Charteris was never much of an artist and he would illustrate his stories with crudely drawn stick men. Years later he would refine this for the famous saint trademark.
In 1923, while still at Rossall prep school Charteris made his first professional sale. The details of the story are lost to history but Charteris later said it was something about a pirate.
After completing his education Chateris threw himself into his ambition to be a professional writer. He changed his name by deed poll to Leslie Charteris Ian and started sending out stories to the pulp magazines that thrived during the era.
The first Saint story Meet the Tiger was published in 1928 and was an immediate hit with readers. The character of Simon Templer was far more popular than any of the writer's other characters and thus a legend was born.
The Saint's life outside of the printed page is equally interesting.
The Saint was first brought to life on the radio in 1940 by Terence De Marney (aka Terrance De Marney) on Radio Athlone. It was then a five-year wait before NBC picked up the option, and featured Edgar Barrier as Simon Templar, alias The Saint. Later in 1945, Brian Aherne took over the role when the show switched over to CBS. Then in 1947, probably the most famous Radio Saint of all-time, Vincent Price, added his golden voice to the role. Vincent Price was once quoted as saying the most difficult thing about the show was coming up with new and unique ways to get conked on the head. After a large number of episodes, Price finally left and his replacement Barry Sullivan only lasted a few episodes before the show was cancelled. It was resurrected due to public demand, with Vincent Price returning to save the day. In 1951, Tom Conway (George Sanders' brother), of The Falcon fame, played The Saint for the last few episodes, with Lawrence Dobkin stepping in for a single episode when Conway was unavailable. Between 1953 and 1957, Tom Meehan starred as The Saint on Springbok Radio in South Africa (in English) with fresh adaptations of the original Charteris stories. It wasn't until 1995 that the Saint returned to radio with new episodes, with Paul Rhys portraying The Saint in three scripts taken directly from the orginal Charteris stories.
Louis Hayward was the screen's first Saint in 1938's The Saint in New York and the hard hitting movie still remains the best celluloid outing for the hero. George Sanders then took over for several instalments starting with The Saint strikes back in 1938. In 1942 Hugh Sinclair took over for The Saint's Vacation and the original screen saint, Louis Hayward was back for 1954's The Saint's Good Friday but this was not a patch on his first outing.
In 1997 Val Kilmer starred in a big budget movie called, The Saint but it was a mess and not even the biggest Saint fan will defend it.
TV's first Saint was Roger Moore and for many people the actor is still the definitive small screen Saint. The show was a massive success and stayed in production for seven years and made a superstar out of Roger Moore.
Ian Oglivy was cast in The Return of the Saint in 1978. The actor was cast because he held a resemblance to a young Roger Moore but the show was not a success and only ran for the one season.
Simon Dutton was an unusual Saint for a series of Saint TV movies during the 90's and although these were well produced they were not a great success.
James Purfoy has been cast as the character for a number of TV movies that will be produced by Roger Moore but information is scarce at the time of writing.
But whatever happens one thing is certain - WATCH OUT FOR THE SIGN OF THE SAINT.
Posted by Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin at 09:40