Friday, June 08, 2007

Old Time Radio: The Saint

Chances are I may have seen some of the films featuring THE SAINT when I was a kid, but my first memories of the Leslie Charteris character was the television series. That, of course, the one which starred Roger Moore in the role of Simon Templar (aka The Saint). Later, when going through my first ‘mystery phase’ I read a couple of the novels and several short stories featuring the character. At least, early on Simon could be quite blood thirsty, easily taking the lives of murderers or those he felt preyed on innocents.

From the books it was an easy transition to the screen beginning in 1935 with Louis Haywood as Templar, followed by George Sanders (possibly the best known actor in the role until Moore) and then Hugh Sinclair. THE SAINT first came to radio in 1940, with American produced programs starting in 1945.

While not the first actor to bring Templar to life over the air, it was surprisingly (at least to me) Vincent Price who played the role for the longest period, from 1947 until 1951. Knowing Price for his screen persona, it is odd at first to hear him doing this wise-cracking and lighthearted rogue. Some episodes in the Radio Spirit collection are almost slapstick, with Price being hit over the head, slapped and even thrown overboard in a single episode. It’s apparent that Price is having fun with the show, possibly as it allows him to play the handsome leading man rather than the darker heavies he was already beginning to be known for on screen.

One intersting side note is that when Price left the show he was replaced by actor Tom Conway, the real life brother of George Sanders. At the time Conway had recently finished appearing in a series of films as The Falcon, a character almost identical to that being played by his brother also for RKO Studios.
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