Although Roger Moore is associated with the role of Simon Templar in The Saint that was not his only television role. Over the course of two decades, Moore appeared in a number of television series including Maverick and The Persuaders! In this article, we will explore the television career of this screen legend.
Early TV Appearances
Moore’s first foray into television occurred in a live broadcast of The Governess in the UK on March 27, 1949. He worked primarily in movies during this part of his career while living in England.
In 1953, after moving to Hollywood, Moore began to appear on more television shows. He balanced his career with television and film fairly evenly. Some of the television productions he appeared in during this period included Robert Montgomery Presents(1953), Goodyear Playhouse (1956), and NBC Matinee Theatre (1957).
Moore’s first success in the entertainment industry came in 1958. This was when he was cast as Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the joint production Sydney Box Productions/Columbia Studios’ Screen Gems of Ivanhoe. The medieval show was filmed at Elstree Studios and Buckinghamshire in England, as well as in Hollywood. Although the pilot was shot in color, the rest of the show’s thirty-nine episodes were filmed in black and white.
Moore insisted on performing his own stunts on the series. This resulted in Moore sustaining several injuries. Examples of some of these injuries included three cracked ribs from a fight scene and being knocked unconscious when a battle axe hit his helmeted skull.
“I felt a complete Charlie riding around in all that armor and damned stupid plumed helmet. I felt like a medieval fireman.”
– Roger Moore
Ivanhoe had a couple of notable connections to Moore’s time as 007. First and foremost, his co-star on the series, Robert Brown, would appear opposite Moore’s version of the character in three Bond films: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Octopussy (1983), and A View to A Kill (1985). Ian Fleming’s step-cousin, Christopher Lee, who played the villainous Scaramanga in the Bond adventure The Man with the Gold Gun (1974) would also appear with Moore in Ivanhoe.
Ivanhoe was canceled after only one season. This was due to Moore being offered a part in the Warner Brothers film, The Miracle (1959).
The Alaskans (1959-60)
After completing filming on The Miracle, Moore began work on The Alaskans. The actor dubbed the series “my most appalling television series ever.” The Alaskans followed a pair of swindling adventures, Silky Harris (Moore) and Reno McKee (Jeff York) who get mixed up with Rocky Shaw (Dorothy Provine), who wants in on the action.
William T. Orr at Warner Brothers Television produced Maverickand Broncos. As a result, he would often recycle scripts from these shows as scripts for The Alaskans with a few name changes and little else. This was primarily due to the need for material during the 1960 Writers Guild of America strike. However, the fact that Warner Brothers didn’t want to spend much money on paying writers also contributed.
“An old Bronco script would interchange with an Alaskans or Maverick. In some cases, even the dialogue stayed unchanged. Quite often I realized that we were filming Maverick scripts, with the names changed.”
– Roger Moore
Because The Alaskans was shot on the studio backlot, the actors found filming outdoor scenes to be uncomfortable. This was due to the winter wardrobe they had to wear in the warm weather of Southern California.
While The Alaskans was in production, Moore began an affair with his co-star, Dorothy Provine. This effectively ended his marriage to Welsh actress Dorothy Squires. Although the couple would not divorce until eight years later.
When James Garner quit the hit series Maverick in 1960 over a pay dispute, Warner Brothers Television reached out to Sean Connery to take over as the series lead. He refused.
Since Moore’s series The Alaskans had just been canceled, and it had the same production team, they decided to cast him in the series. Moore had appeared on the series nearly two years earlier as John Vendergelt in the episode “The Rivals.” Now, he would play a new character, Beau Maverick, the cousin of Garner’s character Brett Maverick.
There was a good amount of turmoil on the set of Maverick during Moore’s time on the series. First, because of the long, grueling schedule for filming, the show’s producers decided they wanted the actors to punch into a time clock. Moore refused.
Another thing that rubbed Moore the wrong way was what happened when he accepted the role. He was told he was not playing a James Garner stand-in, but his own character. However, when he got to his dressing room, he discovered all of his costumes had the name “Jim Garner” scratched out on the tags.
The final straw that caused Moore to leave Maverick was the quality of the scripts. They were a pale imitation of the writing during Garner’s years on the series. Moore would state that if the scripts had been of the quality of the first three seasons, he would never have quit the series. Because of all of this strife, Moore quit the series mid-way through his only season.
The Saint (1962-69)
After making a few films with Warner Brothers, including The Sins of Rachel Crade (1961) with Angie Dickinson, Moore headed back to England to star as Simon Templar in ITV’s The Saint.
Moore had attempted to buy the rights to The Saintbooks by Leslie Charteris prior to being cast in the part. He would eventually become co-owner of the show with Robert S. Baker. Every episode of the series shot in black and white was based on a story by Charteris. However, by the time they moved to color, they needed original stories because they had nearly run out of source material.
The Saint ran for six seasons as did its closest rival, another ITV series, The Avengers. These series had a great number of similarities. They both began their runs in black and white but switched to color midway through. Also, they both covered similar sub-matters and were extremely popular. Besides the obvious (Templar worked alone and John Steed had a partner), the main difference between them was that The Avengers was shot on video, only switching to film when it went to color. The Saint was shot on film for its entire run.
The Saint was shot almost entirely in England, primarily at Associated British Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. The black-and-white episodes typically began with Templar breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience via the camera lens. This would proceed with an animated halo appearing above his head, launching into the opening credits.
The Persuaders! (1971-72)
After The Saint ended, Moore had one final foray into the world of television with The Persuaders! starring opposite Tony Curtis. Produced by ITC Entertainment to air in both America and Britain, the show was actually more successful outside of those countries with Australia and France really embracing the series.
The series was inspired by a later episode of The Saint, “The King of Ex-Diamonds.” In the episode, Templar teams up with a Texas oilman in an adventure set in Monte Carlo. Moore joined the show as a producer when approached by Robert S. Baker and Lew Grade to star.
“Roger was always like the host with the show, because it was his company that was producing it. I would say he was the largest independent owner of it; Roger and his company owned it with Bob Baker, and Sir Lew owned the rest of it.”
– Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis was cast in The Persuaders! because ABC wanted a “name” Hollywood star to play opposite Moore. After Glen Ford and Rock Hudson, both refused to co-star, ITC approached Tony Curtis who accepted the part.
The premise of The Persuaders! was a pair of “odd couple” playboys, American, Danny Wilde (Curtis), and Englishman, Lord Sinclair (Moore) jet set around the world, solving cases the police cannot. Filming for the series occurred at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, as well on-location across Europe. This led to a very high production budget of nearly $200,000 per episode.
While working on The Saint, Moore would often wear his own clothes for the series. This is a trend that continued on The Persuaders! Moore was the director of the textile firm Pearson and Foster, so the credits of every episode of this series would state Lord Sinclair’s clothes designed by Roger Moore’, with ‘Roger Moore’ written as a large signature.
Although Moore and Curtis never spoke a negative word about each other publicly either during production or decades later, there was a great amount of friction between the two frequently on set. The primary reasons stemmed from what was deemed as Curtis’ unprofessional behavior on set. This included constant marijuana use and a violent temper toward the crew.
“Tony was on pot at the time, and I used to have to say ‘Oh, go and have a smoke’m’, because he always had some gripe of some kind, and, one day, we were shooting on the Croisette, in Cannes, and we’d been roped off our little thing, and there were crowds all around watching us film and everything, and Tony Curtis came down to do his scene and he was just carrying on at the wardrobe saying, ‘You didn’t do this, and you should have done that…and in Hollywood you would have been fired….’ And dear Roger Moore walked over, took him by the lapels, looked him straight in the eyes and said, ‘And to think those lips once kissed Piper Laurie’…We were asked to do another (season)…and I remember Roger saying, ‘With Tony Curtis, not on your life’, and he went on to become James Bond, so he did all right.”
— Val Guest, Persauders! Director
After The Persuaders! ended its only season, Moore was offered and accepted the role of James Bond. He was forty-five years old when his first movie in the series, Live and Let Die (1973), premiered. It was a role he would own for the next twelve years. He would never return to the world of television again.
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