The Saint

The Saint was a mystery spy thriller TV series that aired in the UK between 1962 and 1969. It was based on the literary character Simon Templar created by author Leslie Charteris in the 1920s and featured in many novels over the years. He was played by Roger Moore. Simon Templar was basically a Robin Hood figure who stole from criminals, but kept the money. Chief Inspector Claude Teal, who considered Templar nothing more than a common criminal no matter who he stole from, was his arch foe.

With almost 120 episodes, The Saint exceeded only by The Avengers as the most prolific show of its genre made in England.

Roger Moore had earlier tried to buy the production rights to the Saint books himself and was delighted to be able to play the part. Moore eventually became co-owner of the show with Robert S. Baker when the show moved to color and the production credit became Bamore Productions. Most of the wardrobe Moore wore in the series was his own.

He was reportedly offered the role of 007 at least twice during the run of the series, but had to turn it down both times owing to his commitments with The Saint. In one early episode of the show, another character mistakes Templar for Bond.

Although Moore had a few recurring costars — most notably Ivor Dean, who took over the role of Templar's nemesis/reluctant ally, Inspector Teal after the departure of Wensley Pithey — he was the only featured actor for most of the show, which was consistent with the late-series Charteris novels, in which the Saint typically worked alone. In early books Templar had compatriots and a regular girlfriend, but they're missing from the program.

The Saint started as a conventional mystery series, but its plots morphed over the years into more secret agent- and fantasy-style tales. The show also transitioned from black-and-white to color production halfway through its run. Early episodes featured Moore breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience in character at the start of every episode. With the switch to color, this technique gave way to narration. Pre-credits sequences always ended with someone referring to the Saint as “the famous Simon Templar”, after which an animated halo appeared above Templar's head.

Many episodes were based on Charteris's stories, although as the series progressed, original-for-TV episodes made their appearance and gradually became more common. The novel “Vendetta for the Saint”, credited officially to Charteris but actually written by Harry Harrison, was one of the last Saint stories to be adapted.

A notable difference between The Saint and The Avengers is that whereas the first three series of the latter were videotaped, with little location shooting, The Saint was shot entirely on film, allowing for higher production values, and more location filming.

In 1978, The Saint was revived as “Return of the Saint”; it starred Ian Ogilvy as Templar. Two further attempts to bring back the Saint on TV followed; in 1987, a US TV pilot was made “The Saint in Manhattan” which starred Australian actor Andrew Clarke. In 1989, London Weekend Television in the UK made six film-length episodes that featured Simon Dutton. Roger Moore never played the role again after 1969, though he can be heard on a car radio during the 1997 film The Saint, starring Val Kilmer as Templar. The Kilmer film had nothing in common either with the books or either TV series.

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