The Man In Armour

1951 | United Kingdom

Amusing fantasy series for a young afternoon audience starring Bruce Gordon as a 500-year-old Arthurian knight who is kept alive by his magic armour. His mission: To wander through the centuries in search of Isolde, the beautiful daughter of a wicked magician who has vowed to kill Archibald. The lonely Knight is only safe as long as he never removes his suit of armour.

In 1951 Theodore Hubble, an antiques dealer, has acquired a suit of armour. From the moment the suit arrives in the shop his children, Rona (June Allen) and Ronnie (Barry McGregor), are given strict instructions to keep their hands off it. But there's nothing more encouraging to children than telling them not to do something - to ensure that they will do something!

One afternoon, after the shop has closed, the children decide to take advantage of their father's absence and take a closer look. They get the fright of their lives when they discover that inside the armour there is a man - shy and retiring Sir Archibald Willow. Overcoming that fear they are then amazed when they learn that Archie has been there for five hundred years, kept alive, or rather preserved, by certain magic qualities of the armour.

The children decide to keep their discovery a secret, but this is more difficult than it sounds. The task is made even more complicated by the repeated appearance of a wizard, Sappho, Archie's sworn enemy and the father of Archie's true love, Isolde. Archie believes her to still be alive, and so begins an eternal triangle - Sappho chasing Archie, Archie chasing Isolde, Isolde searching for Archie - while the two children struggle to keep the whole affair hidden from their parents and any other grown-ups - especially anyone wanting to purchase the armour.

The Man in Armour

The Man in Armour debuted on BBC on Wednesday 7 February 1951 at 5pm in the 'For the Children' slot, which was the first programme of the channel's afternoon/evening schedule.

As well as the principle players, appearing in an early acting role was Shaun Sutton who went on to become one of the most influential figures in British television. As head of BBC Television Drama from 1969 to 1981 he was responsible for such ground-breaking productions as Dennis Potter's Pennies From Heaven and Brimstone and Treacle as well as I, Claudius, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and classic serials including The Six Wives of Henry VIII. As a director, he worked on detective series such as Z Cars and the costume drama The Forsyte Saga, the most acclaimed BBC series of the sixties.

The Man in Armour was written by Godfrey Harrison from an idea by A.A. Dubens and produced by Rex Tucker. Popular enough for a second series the following year but without the two children. In 1954 Bruce Gordon returned for a remake of the original series (although six episodes and not the original seven) and the children were played by different actors: Ronnie (Glyn Dearman) - Rona (Caroline Denzil).

Reference: Radio Times, February 1951 via BBC Genome.

Published on March 21st, 2020. Written by Laurence Marcus (see reference sources above) for Television Heaven.

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