In 1928, author Leslie Charteris introduced the world to Simon Templar. The suave, charming, gentleman thief was a Robin Hood type figure who was popular with readers.
There have been several screen adaptations of The Saint made over the years, for both film and TV. Arguably his most famous screen outing was in the British TV series starring Roger Moore. I totally love the series(thanks dad for introducing me to Simon Templar and a pre Bond Moore) but I much prefer the 1930’s/40’s film series starring George Sanders. Sanders took over the role of Templar from Louis Hayward.
The suave Sanders was the go to actor if you wanted cads and villains. As Templar he got to show that he was just as adept at playing heroes too. When I read any of the books it is Sanders face I see when picturing Simon. I wish he had gotten the opportunity to play the good guy more often.
Sanders perfectly captures Templar’s wit, intellect, charm and (when necessary)extreme toughness; through his portrayal I always get the sense that his Templar is someone you would love to have as a friend, he would make you feel safe, but you certainly wouldn’t want him as your enemy. I also really love the look Sanders gets when he’s playing scenes where Templar sees through another characters lies. I don’t think your ever in doubt that his Templar can take care of himself in a fight; he’s got no hesitation dishing out a bit of violence to villains who deserve a taste of their own medicine.
Sanders played Templar between 1939 and 1941. That ended when RKO studios offered him the role of Gay Laurence, in the 1941 film, The Gay Falcon. The Falcon series so closely resembled The Saint series, that Leslie Charteris actually sued RKO for plagiarism. I consider it a great shame that Sanders stopped making the Saint films, I think he was perfectly suited to the role and is the best Templar on screen. Given how much The Falcon resembled The Saint, it seems odd to me that he would have turned down any future appearances as Templar, but I guess he wanted more high profile flicks than these B pictures. Sanders tired of playing Laurence after three films, his own brother Tom Conway became that series lead. The Saint film series continued with two more films starring Hugh Sinclair.
I love Sanders performance the most in The Saint Takes Over, The Saint Strikes Back and The Saint in Palm Springs. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching these films. In addition to Sanders terrific performance, I also want to give a shout out to Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack, friend and frequent professional thorn in Templar’s side. Fernack essentially replaces Inspector Teale once Templar moves to the US. Paul Guilfoyle adds comedy as Clarence ‘Pearly’ Gates.
Share your thoughts on Sanders portrayal of The Saint. Which of these films are your favourites? I’ll be happy to receive comments about the books too.