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It was common in the 50's and 60's to import American actors into Britain to portray the heroes in action adventure series,particularly the ones that followed in the wake of the successful "THE SAINT." Steve Forrest,younger brother of Dana Andrews,was chosen to play John Mannering a.k.a "THE BARON",a two-fisted antique dealer and part-time adventurer who week after week got involved in all kinds of intrigue and danger.This was par for the course with these shows but "THE BARON" was one of the best although unfortunately it is rarely shown nowadays. Forrest made a tough and imposing figure as Mannering who was rarely seen without a cigarette in those pre PC days and who could really pack a punch in the shows many rugged fight sequences. If you ever get the chance to see this great show,look out for a great two-parter called"STORM WARNING/"THE ISLAND" a great sea-bound actioneer by anyone's reckoning.Mannering's sexy and sophisticated sidekick called Cordelia played by the glamorous Sue Lloyd featured strongly in this one too. Action fans in the US probably remember Steve Forrest from the 70's show "S.W.A.T."; if you thought he was tough in that, then you never saw "THE BARON." Why oh why can't the British produce shows like this anymore?
I.T.C. made 'The Baron' as a follow-up to 'The Saint' series starring Roger Moore. Terry Nation, Dennis Spooner and Brian Clemens ignored John Creasey's books and invented wholly original plots. Some such as 'Storm Warning/The Island' had a strong 'U.N.C.L.E./Avengers' flavour. The casting of Steve Forrest as 'John Mannering' worked because there were no previous screen incarnations to judge him by. As per the books, Mannering owned an antiques shop in London, but was now a part-time agent for British Intelligence, headed by John Templeton-Greene ( Colin Gordon ), hence the scope of the plots ran from crime to espionage to mystery. The presence of luscious Sue Lloyd ( as 'Cordelia' ) further distanced the show from the Moore series. While 'The Baron' failed to replicate the success of 'The Saint' in the U.S.A., it remains an enormously entertaining show and the only screen incarnation of the character to date. It also has one of Edwin Astley's best theme tunes!
'The Baron' series of novels was written/published between 1937 ('Meet the
Baron') and 1979 ('Love for the Baron'), with a total of 47 books in the
series. John Creasey also wrote the novels upon which 'Gideon's Way' was
based, as well as several hundred other mainly detective novels, under a
number of pseudonyms. They are all reprinted now under the authorship of
John Creasey (when they ARE reprinted...)
It's curious that he's not credited here for The Baron series, as many of the character names and the basic plot are directly from the novels.
Many of the episodes look like they were filmed in a November, such is the dark moody atmosphere. In the worst episodes, the pace of some of the acting and stories might be considered plodding by today's standards? In fact the worst episodes can be narrowed down to the work of a couple of nonchalant shoddy directors doing the rounds of British TV at the time. However the editing, music and good use of early colour still give even these shows an appealing style. The best episodes were first rate at its premier (usually have good character actors) and still stand up well today. The title sequence with its beautifully cut 'in your face' visuals and punchy memorable theme tune, was a revelation in 1966. The Baron was premiered in the USA ahead of the UK, but did not make any waves and only 13 episodes were bought there.However it proved a very popular series in the UK and elsewhere.
One of the better British formulaic series with the near mandatory American lead actor. Steve Forrest portrayed a charming very Texan antique dealer/undercover agent living in England. Forrest provided a solid presence that allowed the show to appeal to the US audience but somehow The Baron did not gather the anticipated audience. Somehow in SWAT Forrest never seemed as complete a character as he did playing Mannering. I recall envying Mannering his wealth, sophistication but most of all I envied him the real star of this show: the unique, incomparable lead *car*. Mannering drove a Jensen Interceptor. It was years later that I saw in real life this wonderful Chrysler V8 powered Aston-Martin competitor and saw that The Baron and his car were perfectly matched, much more so than The Saint (Roger Moore) and his Volvo or The Saint (Ian Ogilvey) and his Jaguar XJS. Besides, these were commonplace compared to a powerful and elegant Jensen Interceptor.
I watched this series first time round and remembered it fondly, never
got to see it again when it was last repeated in the '70's but am now
trawling through the entire series on DVD. And it holds up well enough
too filmed on the usual ITC shoestring budget, old fashioned though it
must look to most now used to flashy nervous roving cgi camera
techniques. I've only read one Creasey novel - can't even remember the
title now, but I believe the series was based more upon the TV Saint,
there certainly was a similarity. They both had great theme tunes as
"Diplomatic Immunity" broadcast 28.09.66: The first episode shown on UK ITV introduced us to Steve Forrest playing Captain John Mannering (not Mainwaring), and his London-centric world of antiques and cutting-edge British security issues. Over the eps plenty of gadgets cropped up for his use a la Bond, but post-digital they all look ancient enough to be made from Bakelite! Mannering is miffed when an expensive antique is stolen by an Iron Curtain (Pamaranea) state official and he decides (with UK Govt help) to get it back with no-holds barred. Sue Lloyd playing Cordelia is invaluable to him in this aim, but mainly to us as eye-candy. Nicely judged script, but along with most of the rest of the series unfortunately almost impossible to film in such a non-pc way nowadays - a lot of pre-'70's TV is in the same boat of course.
Forrest was very similar in his style to his brother Dana Andrews - chunky, chiselled and dependable, I thought the Baron suited him down to the ground and something he never bettered. Great memories of ye olde TV programme entertainment standards.
This show was made several years before my time, but I enjoy it
immensely. I have always been a Steve Forrest fan. He was a such a
hunky dreamboat, with tall, rugged handsome looks. I thought he suited
the role of the charismatic playboy John Mannering to a tee. I like Sue
Lloyd as an actress, but I have to say her talents were wasted as
Cordelia. Her character was totally incompetent, and after a while it
became tiresome to know Mannering would have to rescue her in just
about every episode. I preferred his other assistant, David, who had at
times also needed rescuing, but had the ability to problem solve and
help Mannering out. I understand the audience wanted to see eye candy,
therefore making the David character expendable and elevating Cordelia
to be featured in the bulk of the 29 episodes.
I wish we could have seen more of Templeton Green, I liked the uneasy relationship he and Mannering had. Mannering would always show a reluctance in taking on Templeton's assignments. You also get to see some top notch actors guest starring in the series, such as the wonderful Peter Wyngarde, who does an excellent job playing dual roles in the episode The Legions of Ammack. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Edward Woodward guest star as a villain in Countdown. Most people remember Woodward as the vigilante in The Equalizer; a popular American series in the 1980s that took place in New York City.
I am sad The Baron had such a short expiration date, this wonderful series ended before its time.
Recently, I have been watching 'The Baron' episodes on DVD. 'The Baron' is actually better than I had expected. Many of the episodes were written by the same writers who wrote for 'The Saint', starring Roger Moore. Think of 'The Baron' as 'The Saint' with Steve Forrest playing 'The Saint' who has somehow acquired an American background and accent. So it is not surprising that this series appeals to Saint fans such as myself. Steve Forrest, the brother of famous American actor Dana Andrews, is quite good in this old British television series. He has a good screen presence and looks rugged and strong, despite being middle-aged when this series was made. The only criticism that I can make is that this show has no attractive female characters. In contrast, other British TV series such as 'The Saint', 'The Avengers' and 'Dangerman' regularly featured attractive actresses from that era.
I know that my mark is nostalgia-influenced, but I really can't mark
down any of the 60's ITC escapist adventure series as they were such a
fun part of my childhood, watching classic shows like The Avengers, The
Saint, Randall & Hopkirk Deceased, The Champions, Man In A Suitcase,
Department S, The Persuaders and this.
Yes, The Baron is a minor-league Simon Templar, a globe-trotting adventurer with an unlikely cover as an antiques dealer who invariably ends up in some foreign intrigue, yes, the production values are fairly low, with studio-bound sets and stock footage of international airports dropped in to futilely attempt to convince the audience the locations are authentic but it's all shot briskly and efficiently, routinely delivering 50 minutes of easily digestible thrills and spills before the stirring theme music comes around again to signal the end (almost every ITC show and certainly the ones I mentioned above all had memorable theme tunes).
Steve Forrest, brother of Dana Andrews, lacks his sibling's personality and charisma but otherwise makes for an acceptable, well-dressed, chisel-jawed leading man while Sue Lloyd provided the glamour, parading the fashions of the day with no little humour, although she invariably is reduced to playing the damsel in distress, no Emma Peel her.
The Baron is a somewhat derivative and fairly light entertainment and probably wouldn't appeal much to anyone who doesn't, like me, remember first watching it on a black and white TV as a child in the mid-60's. But that child was me and decades later, I still can't bring myself to criticise it too much for all its derivation and lack of originality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like the old ITC action series of the 60s and very early 70s.
I am old enough to remember the later shows such as the Persuaders and Jason King from when they were first broadcast and can remember when I was 6 or 7 being allowed to stay up to watch Danger Man, The Prisoner and The Champions. By the mid to late 70s when colour TV became commonplace these old shows were re-broadcast and I became familiar with all of them. They were quick moving, had great punch ups and were suffused with then contemporary anxieties about the Cold War, hard drugs and the length of women's skirts. Most of the shows re-ran again - I think on the BBC- in the mid 90s and then in the middle of the noughties some turned up on ITV 4. There was one which did not ever seem to turn up again and that show was the Baron.
I only caught up with the show in recent times when I caught a few episodes on You Tube. Most of the episodes I saw were enjoyable enough - even the Rome set one with Peter Arne as a Mafia Capo which gets a low rating here was a perfectly decent way to spend 50 minutes.
The problem with The Baron is though that it is just a bit, well, unremarkable. The stories are fine but are less crisp than Danger Man or Man in a Suitcase or even Department S. It is nowhere near as ludicrous as Randall & Hopkirk or the Champions or as downright awful as Jason King but the lack of gimmicks or bad moustaches works against it's reputation. The theme music written by Edwin Astley is clever but not as memorable as the same composer's themes for the Saint or Department S. The title character is played by Dana Andrews' brother Steve Forrest and he's fine but he lacks the panache of Roger Moore's Templar even if he is a better actor.
The premise is not a bad one - a Texan exiled called John Mannering lives in London where he runs a high class antique business and his business takes him round the world (and even to Scotland!) and in the early episodes he does work for British Intelligence with whom he enjoys an ambivalent relationship. These early episodes are pretty good as they usually feature Colin Gordon as the Baron's Intelligence handler. But from episode 9 onward almost until the end the connection with espionage is ignored and many of the episodes are pretty much interchangeable with the then contemporaneous The Saint.
The early episodes feature an actor called Paul Ferris who plays Mannering's PA David Marlowe. The shows backers in the States apparently did not like Ferris/Marlowe and he is pretty much dropped from episode 8 onward to be replaced by Sue Lloyd's character Cordelia who is transformed from being a cog in the British intelligence machine (as presented in a couple of early episodes) to being Mannering's female PA. Lloyd was fairly hot property at that time after her performance in the classic The Ipcress File and she was a decent actress. She also looks great but that is pretty much all she does as there is not one episode where she could not have been replaced by any one of the numerous other talented, beautiful English actresses of the era. There seems no great chemistry between Mannering and his female PA - certainly less than there is between the Baron and David Marlowe- nor does she seem to be a romantic interest as Mannering seems to be still playing the field. In short in most of her appearances Lloyd is wasted.
Forrest is fine though. Although he is, unlike Templar, always on the side of the Angels the character is street smart and convincingly tough with an almost noirish edge to him - unlike all the ITC heroes except Drake and McGill I get the impression Mannering is a man who exists away from his adventures - it's a pity we do not see more of his hinterland. And he drives a great car- the glorious Jensen Interceptor that was one of my own favourites as wee boy.
6 out of 10 is maybe a wee bit low - 6 2/3s seems about right. Not a classic show but better than its obscurity suggests it is
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