The Persuaders

1971 | United Kingdom

An early example of the mismatched crime fighting duo series which would later come to dominate the world's TV producers imaginations, The Persuaders was arguably the most lavishly fun series ever produced by the ITC juggernaut up to that time.

The series was elevated far above its predecessors by dint of the major casting triumph of securing both Roger Moore as Lord Brett Sinclair and legendary Hollywood superstar, Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde. Taking the familiar international action - adventure format, The plot was that Sinclair, the silver spoon fed aristocrat, and Wilde, the self made millionaire, were brought together by retired judge Fulton (Laurence Naismith), and blackmailed into becoming international sleuths. In the course of their adventures they bickered with each-other, chased girls, fought villains and chased some more girls, while establishing a sparkling rapport and with enjoyable subtlety, sending up their established screen personas in the process. (In one episode Tony Curtis answers a hotel telephone with the words, "Bernard Schwartz? Never heard of him." Bernard Schwartz is Tony Curtis's real name).

The whole format was given something of a 'dry run' in a Saint episode entitled 'The Ex-King of Diamonds' which teamed Roger Moore in his Simon Templar role alongside Stuart (The Champions) Damon. The story was a deliberate attempt to find out how the relationship between Moore and a US co-star would work. However, there was never any question of Damon filling the role in The Persuaders as the producers felt as though what was needed was a 'big name.' Consequently, Rock Hudson was approached first to play the part of a Texan oil baron and when he proved to be unavailable Glenn Ford was offered the role, but he didn't want to leave the USA for location filming. It was ITC chief Lew Grade who secured the talent of Tony Curtis and according to series creator Robert S. Baker it was "the best thing that could have happened to the series."

Although there have been rumours down the years that the two leads did not get on, both actors have been quick to dispel this as nothing more than tabloid gossip. Roger Moore has gone on record as saying "Tony and I had a good on and off screen relationship, we are two very different people, but we did share a sense of humour".

Lew Grade attempted to repeat Moore's international success in The Saint with this follow up series that, inexplicably, failed in the one market it was aimed at; the USA. ABC cancelled the series after just 24 episodes. The theme song was by John '007' Barry which, by coincidence, was Roger Moore’s next major role. 

Whilst hardly deep or compelling drama The Persuaders was an expertly produced and acted series which stood head and shoulders above its rivals, and is still tremendously amusing fun today.

Published on January 18th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus & SRH (1999) for Television Heaven.