The Saint – The Talented Husband

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Simon Templar (Roger Moore) arrives in the small English village of Cookham, ostensibly for a relaxing holiday.  But in reality the Saint is on a mission and it doesn’t take him long before he teams up with the gorgeous Adrienne Halberd (Shirley Eaton) in order to run John Clarron (Derek Farr) to ground.  Clarron’s third wife, Madge (Patricia Roc), is a friend of Simon’s and he’s convinced that her life is in great danger.   Has Clarron hatched an ingenious plot to murder his latest wife and pocket her substantial fortune?

The Talented Husband, with its domestic English setting, seems a slightly unusual debut story for The Saint (original tx 4th October 1962).  Partly this is because Simon has to be placed in the background for a large part of the story, as the domestic tensions between Clarron and Madge slowly play out.  This is really Derek Farr’s episode – he deftly manages to portray Clarron as a man who’s constantly bubbling with resentment at having to be kept by his wealthy wife (he’s a former actor turned unsuccessful theatre producer) but he’s also able to turn on the charm when necessary.

Adrienne, like Simon, has an ulterior motive for staying in Cookham.  She’s the most impossibly glamourous insurance agent you could ever wish to meet (although the dialogue does acknowledge this) and has been sent to keep tabs on Clarron.  Since he’s taken out a large insurance policy on Madge, foul play seems set to follow shortly ….

What’s interesting is that the “accident” which turns Madge into a bed-ridden invalid does seem to be genuine.  Clarron, reaching down from his bedroom balcony to throw a jumper down to Madge, knocks over a rather large plant pot – right onto her head.  He makes an attempt to stop it falling and looks genuinely contrite afterwards – or is this simply his acting abilities being brought into play?

There’s a large plot twist coming up now, so I’d advise anybody who doesn’t want the story spoiled to look away.  Although to be honest, I’d be amazed if anybody didn’t instantly twig what the twist actually is ….

Clarron hires a gem of a housekeeper, Mrs Jafferty, to look after Madge, but ….. she turns out to be Clarron in drag!

I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t the most successful part of the story.  It’s painfully obvious right from Mrs J’s first scene that it’s actually Derek Farr dragged up and this is made even clearer when we hear Mrs Jafferty speak.  Clearly Farr couldn’t provide a suitably feminine voice, so instead all of Mrs Jafferty’s lines are dubbed by an actress.  This is the sort of concept that works much better in print than on screen.

Although Simon is rather distanced from the action (he’s forced to keep a watching brief with Adrienne for most of the episode) Roger Moore still effortlessly manages to draw the viewers in.  From his opening monologue to camera, where he confides that he’s not a fan of the worthier type of theatre (i.e. the sort of production championed by Clarron), Moore and the Saint seem a perfect fit.  And his ability to turn from relaxed to remorseless is demonstrated at the end of the episode, when we see Simon confront Clarron with the evidence of his crime. Although Moore is best known for his light touch, he’s easily able – as here – to show a flash of steel when required.

With strong support from the lovely Shirley Eaton, the ever-glowering Derek Farr and the nobly suffering Patricia Roc, it’s plain that this one doesn’t lack for acting talent.  A good character piece, The Talented Husband rates a healthy three halos out of five.

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