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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 Sa
int 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.


David Cranmer said...

A great, great character. I enjoy the Leslie Charteris novels and short stories but never really cared for any of the film versions.

August West said...

The novels were wonderful. This is a reminder for me to pick one up-it's been a while since I read one. I despised the TV series, but I thought the film were OK-they come off very nostalgic to me.

Good post! A.W.


I grew up on the Roger Moore TV series and was even a member of the Saint club as a kid. It was only later I discovered the books and I was shocked at how hardboiled they were. With the movies THe Saint in New York was pretty faithful to its source material and Louis Hayward had the character nailed.

Mind you - I've a soft spot for the Moore series.

Hoppy Uniatz said...

Can I correct some errors in your post?

"His father was a successful surgeon and his work would take him to all corners of the world."
Erm, no. He returned to Singapore in 1905 when he married Leslie's mother and pretty much stayed there for the rest of his life, becoming a prominent surgeon and to some degree public servant.

"it was not until 1919 that Dr. Yin decided to send his son to England to finish his education."
Dr Yin had no say in the matter. Leslie's parents split up and his mother bought Leslie and his brother back to her home country.

"Charteris was never much of an artist..."
Oh? He did a pretty good job of decorating his young daughter's bedroom with pictures from what were then the latest Disney films...

"He changed his name by deed poll to Leslie Charteris Ian..."
No he didn't. It was simply Leslie Charteris.

"Meet the Tiger was published in 1928 and was an immediate hit with readers..."
No it wasn't. He wrote two further novels after Meet-the Tiger! which didn't feature the Saint and indeed he didn't solely adopt the Saint until quite a while later.

"Price finally left and his replacement Barry Sullivan only lasted a few episodes before the show was cancelled..."
No, Sullivan filled in for Price for a couple of weeks when Price was unavoidably detained in France. Price picked up the halo when he got back, after Sullivan had done just the two episodes...

Ray said...

I didn't much care for Roger Moore's Simon Templar - nor did I like his Bond. George Lazenby, to me, was great in OHMSS.
It may just be that by reading the novels and short stories by Leslie Charteris the reader builds their own picture of the Saint.
Patrick McGoohan would have done a much better job in the TV series.
This is not a downer on Roger Moore because I thought he was good in 'Goldmine' and 'The Wild Geese'.