Alan Blake (Don Borisenko) is a handsome, smooth-talking conman who’s well known to Gideon. So when the Commander learns that Blake has begun a relationship with Nina Henderson (Lans Traverse), the daughter of millionaire businessman Elliot Henderson (David Bauer), he’s very interested. And following Nina’s kidnapping, Gideon’s interest only grows …..
The Millionaire’s Daughter opens with Blake and the Hendersons disembarking from the cruise liner which has carried them from New York to London. During that time Nina has become totally besotted with Blake and it appears that her parents are equally impressed. Elliot, supposedly a hard-headed businessman, later tells his wife Felissa (Lois Maxwell) that he prides himself on being a good judge of character and that Blake is a fine young man. Uh, oh, he got that a bit wrong!
Gideon’s Way was a slightly atypical ITC film series as most of the others (The Saint, Danger Man, Man in a Suitcase, The Champions, The Baron, etc) appeared to have been crafted very much with foreign sales in mind. Lew Grade, the boss of ITC, had clear views about what sort of shows would sell in the foreign (especially American) market. Globe-trotting action (even if it was all filmed on the back-lot at Borehamwood with the help of a palm tree or two!) and an American star, or co-star, usually didn’t go amiss.
But Gideon’s Way, with its very British (and London feel) didn’t fit this pattern at all. Having said that though, it’s possible that it did find a receptive overseas audience, as there were many who rejected Grade’s formula and believed that series which made a point of their Britishness tended to do well.
The Millionaire’s Daughter certainly seems to be designed to push some of those buttons as early on we see Blake and Nina enjoy a whistle-stop tour of many of London’s top tourist attractions (they feed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square, walk past Buckingham Palace and view the Houses of Parliament). Alas, Nina’s happiness is short-lived after she’s chloroformed by Blake.
Erica Townsend (Georgina Ward) and Philip Guest (Donald Sutherland) are the other members of Blake’s gang. Erica swaps clothes with the unconscious Nina, so that she and Blake can create the illusion that Nina returned to her hotel later in the day. Erica seems to have a few qualms about this, leading Philip to drawl that “you’ve got to baby. I look awful in high-heel shoes.”
Given Donald Sutherland’s later career, it’s hard not to be drawn to his performance – but even if he’d faded from view a few years later, I think his turn as Philip would still be regarded as one of the best things about the episode. Sutherland gives Philip an edgy intensity that is totally mesmerising – he’s so obviously a loose cannon, teetering on the edge of sanity. Philip spends most of the episode advocating that they kill Nina (Blake and Erica take the opposite view) and it’s possible to believe that he’s capable of carrying out his threats. But when Nina later attacks him in an abortive escape attempt, it’s telling that Philip just crumbles and has to be led away by Erica. So given how unstable Philip appears, it’s a little surprising that he’s the one left to guard Nina – but his non verbal actions (such as the way he gives her an extra dose of chloroform) certainly help to ramp the tension up.
Georgina Ward has a less showy role but still catches the eye. Although at times she seems vulnerable, she’s also often shown to be in command (she – not Philip – makes the ransom demands, for example). But in many ways she’s just as much a victim of Blake as Nina is. Gideon explains that the only reason he sought her out was for her resemablance to Nina. And the fact that Blake’s run out on them (taking Fellisa’s diamonds) proves his point.
Lans Traverse has a slightly thankless role, since Nina isn’t really allowed to be much more than a easily duped mark, but David Bauer and Lois Maxwell fair a little better. Bauer was an American actor who moved to Britain and became a familiar television face. Authentic sounding American actors were quite rare in Britain during the 1960’s so it’s no surprise that Bauer prospered. Canadian born Lois Maxwell will forever be known as the original (and best) big-screen Miss Moneypenny, but like many other actors – including Bauer – she was no stranger to the numerous ITC series that were flourishing at this time.
The relationship between Elliott and Felissa is put under great strain following the kidnapping. Elliott is happy to leave matters to Gideon but Felissa is haunted by the kidnapper’s threats that they’d kill her if the police were involved. All ends well, but not before both characters have been put through the wringer a little.
Gideon’s his usual efficient self. There’s not really too much memorable material for John Gregson in this one – so possibly his best scene comes early on, as he’s seen relaxing at home. His older son, Matthew (Richard James), is reluctant to speak to his (girlfriend?) on the phone, because his parents are in the room. “I can’t talk now, older generation you know?” John Gregson’s expression is pricless, as is Daphne Henderson’s (she makes it plain that Kate knows just how much this statement will irriate her husband). Lovely stuff!
David Keen gets to tangle with Erica later on and his method of restraint – putting an arm around her waist – is an unusal one. And after everything’s sorted he seems to have an eye for young Nina too.
Had it not been for Donald Sutherland this episde may have fallen a little flat, but his twitchy, edgy performance certainly helps to keep the interest up.