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Persuaders!, The (1971-72)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Persuaders!, The (1971-72)
ITC for ITV, tx. 17/9/1971-25/2/1972
1 series of 24 x 50 min episodes
Creator/ProducerRobert S. Baker
Production CompanyITC
Writers includeTerry Nation, Brian Clemens, Tony Barwick, Donald James, Michael Pertwee
Theme MusicJohn Barry

Cast: Tony Curtis (Danny Wilde); Roger Moore (Lord Brett Sinclair); Laurence Naismith (Judge Fulton)

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Two playboys, an American millionaire and a British Lord, are recruited by a retired judge into helping those in need.

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Notorious as the series that allowed Roger Moore to design his character's clothes, The Persuaders! was the most ambitious of Lew Grade's ITC dramas. The formula saw self-made millionaire Danny Wilde and Lord Brett Sinclair (Harrow, Oxford and the Guards) blackmailed into crime-fighting by Laurence Naismith's retired Judge Fulton. Sinclair was a role tailored for Roger Moore, whose star had waned since the demise of The Saint (ITV, 1962-69). Indeed, the Persuaders! formula had been piloted in a late Saint episode, 'The Ex-King of Diamonds', which teamed Simon Templar with a Texan oilman.

The producers considered Rock Hudson and Glenn Ford as Wilde, before settling on Tony Curtis, a genuine casting coup - in 1971, Curtis was regarded as a major film star. This air of quality was maintained with one of John Barry's most memorable scores, and a title sequence featuring Moore's Aston Martin DBS and Curtis's Ferrari Dino cruising along the French Rivera. Unlike previous ITC epics, which approximated 'foreign locales' with some palm trees in the Elstree Studios car park, The Persuaders! did have some location footage. According to Moore, much of this was accomplished in a two-week period in France and distributed across various episodes.

Moore generally acted as straight man to Curtis, with the American star reportedly ad-libbing much of his dialogue and devising character quirks (such as Wilde's ever-present gloves), while Roger looked handsome in a succession of deeply tasteless blazers. Many of the series' directors had worked on previous ITC offerings and, in the best tradition of ITC, the duo would battle fiendish criminal masterminds of variable accents, in between squiring young ladies whose character development rarely surpassed pale lipstick and mini-skirts. Best of all, ITC's familiar stock footage of a white Jaguar Mk1 careering over a cliff was present and correct.

But although The Persuaders! could have considerable charm, it was also Britain's most expensive television series to date. With each episode costing £100,000, US sales were essential, but the ABC network scheduled it against CBS's Mission: Impossible (US, 1966-73), then pulled it before the end of its run. The Persuaders! fared far better in its homeland and, especially, in Europe; the German re-dubbing turned a comedy-thriller into an out-and-out comedy, thanks to such lines as "Stop those jokes, or they'll cancel the series." In the event, a second series was mooted by ITC but by then Moore had migrated to Bond-land.

Andrew Roberts

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Video Clips
1. Country craftsmanship (3:30)
2. A bad place (2:07)
3. Shadows and shapes (2:22)
4. They've got him! (3:15)
Complete episode (49:40)
Baker, Roy Ward (1916-2010)
Clemens, Brian (1931-)
Dearden, Basil (1911-1971)
Moore, Roger (1927-)
Nation, Terry (1930-97)
Norman, Leslie (1911-1993)