Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake

1961 - United Kingdom

Another offering from ITC's series of historical swashbucklers. Terence Morgan starred as Queen Elizabeth's pirate captain of the flagship The Golden Hind, as he plundered his way across the Atlantic reigning havoc on the Spanish. 

One of two ships used in the filming of the television series was a former motor fishing vessel, which had already seen active service during World War II as a harbour launch. She was taken to Falmouth, her hull stripped, and after suitable reconstruction emerged as The Golden Hind. Lewisham born Terence Morgan had a tenuous link with seafaring even before turning to acting as a living as he first started out as a clerk for Lloyds of London, a firm of insurance brokers that specialised in marine insurance. However, after showing an interest in acting he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, appeared in rep for a while and then joined the Army. After two years service he was invalided out and finally made his West End debut where he was talent spotted by Laurence Olivier. Morgan was then chosen by Olivier to star in one of his own productions (The Skin Of Our Teeth). The climax of that film called for a great deal of swordsmanship but Morgan had never handled a sword. Morgan was tutored in this by Denis Loraine, an authority on sword handling who was also appearing in the film.

Morgan immediately turned down a number of lucrative big-screen offers to go on a tour of Australia and New Zealand with the Oliviers and the Old Vic Company. Finally, he signed a contract with the Rank Organisation and made twenty-one films for them. Drake had already been the subject of a big screen movie entitled Drake of England which starred Matheson Lang in the lead role and in fact the actor had caused a great deal of consternation when filming it as he accidentally dropped Drake's own sword, lent by the Admiralty, into the studio tank during a close-up sequence. 

Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford as John Drake

Although accurate in period detail, a great deal of poetic licence was taken with Drake's adventures for dramatic effect, and Drake was quite often called on to demonstrate his mastery of the sword. Jean Kent played the Virgin Queen and a host of future stars made their TV debuts. Amongst them were Michael Crawford as the good admiral's nephew, John Drake (Crawford was recommended by another Drake - Patrick McGoohan who played secret agent John Drake in Dangerman), and the villain of the piece, the swarthy Spaniard Mendoza, was played by Roger Delgado, who would later star as the first incarnation of Doctor Who's nemesis, The Master. Guest stars included David McCallum, Nanette Newman and Warren Mitchell. Shown in the US in 1962 as The Adventures of Sir Francis Drake.

Published on January 30th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (24 January 2005) for Television Heaven.

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