The Gay Cavalier

1957 | United Kingdom

1950's swashbuckling adventure (in the days when 'gay' only meant carefree, flambouyant and waggish) that took a true-life historical rogue and turned him into a romantic figure, who fought for the Stuart cause against the supposedly tyrannical dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell, in an England torn apart by civil war. 

In reality the Gay Cavalier (Captain Claude Duval) was a highwayman with a reputation for being something of a ladies-man. However, he was a staunch supporter of Charles ll, who was forced to live in exile in France following defeat at Worcester by Cromwell's army in 1651. Charles would eventually return triumphantly to England after Cromwell's death and his period of reign would be known as the Restoration period. 

The TV series was in similar vein to other popular adventure series of the day such as The Adventures of... 'Robin Hood,' 'William Tell' and 'Sir Lancelot', and it's star, Christian Marquand, was joined by Christopher Lee (episode 4), John Le Mesurier (episode 7), Conrad Phillips (episode 7), Nigel Stock (episode 8) and Sam Kydd (episode 8 and 9 -portraying different characters!). Made by Associated Rediffusion and shot on film this series is unique for one made on such a format in as much as not one single episode (shown from May to August 1957) of the 13 made has survived. 

Each self contained story followed Duval's exploits as he tried to retrieve a piece of treasure, save a maiden in distress or thwart a Roundhead plot, and for each of these quests he was to be seen in the company of a beautiful woman. Had the series survived the legend of the Gay Cavalier may well have fared better than it has done, especially in light of his epitaph, which can be found above his tomb in London's Covent Garden church: 'Here lies Duval: Reader- if male thou art look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.' Stirring stuff!

Published on December 17th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.