Old Gems: The Baron (1965-66)

Based on a book. Except not

In the transfer between book and TV series, a lot can change. A case in point: the ITC adventure series, The Baron, a sort of prototype Lovejoy and the first ITC show filmed entirely in colour that featured people rather than puppets.

Based on John Creasey’s series of novels, The Baron starred American actor Steve Forrest as John Mannering, a former Texas ranch owner and antique dealer who takes on missions for ITC’s catch-all British spy service, Diplomatic Intelligence*, aided by his glamorous spy colleague Cordelia Winfield (Sue Lloyd) .

What’s interesting about this is that in the books

  1. Mannering is British
  2. He’s a former jewel thief
  3. He’s married
  4. He doesn’t own a cattle ranch
  5. He doesn’t work for British intelligence

Basically, ITC bought the name and made another version of The Saint but starring an American. Nevertheless, it was a fun little action show, with lots of fights, car chases and running round, even if the scripts themselves were largely unremarkable. The theme tune was great, plus anything with Sue Lloyd in it has to be good. And for ITC lovers, this was the very few show to feature the notorious "white jaguar driving off a cliff scene" that later appeared in virtually dozens of subsequent ITC shows.

Largely written by Terry "I created the Daleks" Nation and Dennis Spooner, another former Doctor Who script writer, the show was very much in hoc to American financing. As well as the US lead, the show was redubbed for the American market, with words like ‘petrol’ changed to ‘gas’. The original assistant planned for Mannering, David Marlowe (played by Paul Ferris), was replaced by Winfield at US instigation as well.

However, those who live for the American market, die by the American market because when ratings suffered, a second series for the show was out of the question, despite doing well in the UK. Happily, you can buy it on DVD still.

* At the time, SS/MI5 and SIS/MI6 didn’t officially exist

  • Not my favorite ITC series of the era, but definitely fun in its own right! Had there been a second series, I think the show could have been really elevated if they’d made Edward Woodward’s character a recurring nemesis for Mannering. Introduced so near the end of the series, he really ups the ante in the episode he’s in! It’s great to see Mannering’s dark side, a Belloq to his Indiana Jones. Wish we’d seen more of that.

  • I used to love it when it was repeating back in the 80s on Sundays on ITV, along with all the other ITC shows. And Edward Woodward makes everything better.

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