"Because Hattie (Jacques) wanted to make the series more dramatic than humorous with cliff-hanger endings to each episode, she was uneasy with the final product"
Despite the name Hattie Jacques bringing to mind the frustrated, sometimes insensitive spinster or hapless housewife of many a Carry On movie, or the exasperated sister of Eric Sykes in the popular TV series Sykes and a..., the truth was that beneath that public image was a very sensitive, very feminine and dulcet-toned actress who, despite her popularity, worried about her own limitations as an actress.
Being one of the country's best loved actresses, Hattie had no problem in getting ABC to agree to a series in which she would play a junior private investigator, Stacey Smith, who works in London for the Stanton Detective Agency, run by Harry Stanton (Jameson Clark) who gives her the most trivial of investigations which, more often than not, get her into some very odd situations and offer more excitement than was expected.
Ernest Maxim, who had worked with Hattie on the series Our House, had wanted to direct her in a straighter role but along the lines of a Hollywood style comedy thriller. Hattie envisaged her character as a Pearl White type from The Perils of Pauline, always bumbling in, making a mess of things but ultimately solving the case.
Maxin approached the writer Peter Yeldham who up until then had scripted a number of popular shows such as Shadow Squad, Emergency-Ward 10, and Probation Officer, but he initially turned it down telling his agent “I’m not a comedy writer.” But after his wife, Marjorie, offered to co-write the series he relented and a meeting was set up between the couple, Maxin, and Hattie Jacques.
Because Hattie wanted to make the series more dramatic than humorous with cliff-hanger endings to each episode, she was uneasy with the final product. Even Yeldham later admitted that the balance just wasn’t right although he also ascribed that the reason for the series’ lack of success was the fact that the British public still associated her with Eric Sykes, a not unreasonable assumption as the Sykes series was playing on the BBC in the same months as Miss Adventure was playing on ITV.
A thirteen-part Sunday teatime series, Miss Adventure was split into three different tales – 6 attributed to Peter Yeldham and 7 to Marjorie Yeldham. The first story, Strangers in Paradise (6 parts) involves a man who gets on a number 22 bus in London and finds himself stranded on a Greek island! Stacey then then loses her briefcase and stumbles across a blackmail attempt - before solving a jewel robbery and a complicated murder case. Megavissey in Cornwall doubled for the Greek Island. The second adventure, A Velvet Touch (4 parts) concerns a confidence trickster who is romancing wealthy women for their money. Stacey uncovers a double murder plot - ending up in the lap of Scotland Yard. The third and final adventure, Journey to Copenhagen (3 parts) sees Stacey following a young man suspected of dubious activities, which leads her on a merry chase on land and at sea off the Danish coast. Along the way she encounters more than her fair share of trouble.
Despite her overall disappointment at the series, Hattie put on a brave face and told the press that for this role she was going straight. “Well, sort of straight. It’s a comedy thriller really.” Straight acting, she revealed had been one of her secret ambitions for a long time. "For many of my twenty years in show business I have been typecast as the fat - and therefore funny - woman. Now I really want to try something more subtle. I don't like to think I'm employed simply because people look on me as a comedienne doing freakish things. Don't misunderstand me...I love doing comedy. I enjoy the rewards it brings, the popularity I have, but now I want to prove I can be a success purely on my acting."
One thing she did enjoy about Miss Adventure was the filming. The series featured among its guest stars Tony Britton, George Coulouris, Maurice Kaufmann, and Bill Kerr. “We had great fun filming” she said. “If the viewers laugh at our antics as much as we laughed making the series then we ought to be okay.”
Miss Adventure still survives in the archives but has not yet been released on DVD or any streaming service at the time of writing, apart from a short (8 minute) extract of the first episode on YouTube
Published on January 17th, 2022. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.