The Callan File - 2
There is one major cast change for the first series of Callan from the original Armchair Theatre production: The role of Toby Meres. In the AT play, Meres, a public school bully who fancies himself as Hunter's Number Two, is played by Peter Bowles, later to become famous on British television in a number of lead roles but perhaps most famously as Richard DeVere in the BBC sitcom To The Manor Born. Bowles certainly had the right pedigree to play an upper class English schoolboy. Born in London, England, on 16th October 1936 his father, Herbert Reginald Bowles, was a chauffeur and butler at a stately home in Warwickshire, until he was seconded to work as an engineer at Rolls Royce upon the outbreak of World War II and moved the family to Nottingham. Peter Bowles attended Nottingham High Pavement Grammar School and then trained as an actor at RADA. He made his screen debut in 1959 and throughout the 1960s amassed a long line of smoothie villains and swarthy rogues in various ITV action dramas. However, there was a gentlemanly politeness about Bowles that didn't seem quite suited to the role of Toby Meres who was intended to be arrogant and vain as well as a vicious interrogator and callous killer with a sadistic streak, perhaps with ambitions to be section leader himself one day. When Hunter recalls Callan to active duty Meres' is clearly disgruntled, believing that Callan is "past it" and should have been disposed of a long time ago. The only thing that Meres has to hang on to is that he might get the chance to dispose of Callan himself. In the AT production, it is Hunter's intention that Callan should be found by the police at the scene of Schneider's murder and Meres is dispatched to ensure that is so. But Callan turns the tables on Meres and leaves him unconscious in Schneider's home just minutes before the police arrive. It is this act that gets Callan a red file.
When the first six-part series was cast, Peter Bowles was replaced by Anthony Valentine. Born on 17th August 1939 in Blackburn, Lancashire, Valentine worked as a child actor for the BBC, and appeared at the age of 10 in the film No Way Back and aged 12 in The Girl on the Pier. He appeared in the 1955 version of The Children of the New Forest and landed the role of Harry Wharton from 1957 to 1958 in the BBC Children's adaptation of Billy Bunter. He attended the Valerie Glynne School and Acton County Grammar School. In 1958 he appeared opposite Sir Laurence Olivier and Irene Worth in John Gabriel Borkman as part of the ITV Play of the Week series. What Valentine bought to the role of Toby Meres was an air of cold detachment and superiority. He was the type of person who smiled as he killed and enjoyed every aspect of that act.
In both the play and the series, the role of Hunter was taken by Ronald Radd. Born on 22nd January 1929, Radd began his acting career on stage in the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in the early-1950s, along with the likes of Leslie Sands and Edward Mulhare. By 1954, Radd had graduated to the West End, where he was a most unlikely co-star with Kenneth Williams in two different productions in the Apollo Theatre in The Buccaneer and The Boyfriend. Radd broke into television in Ordeal by Fire in 1957 as a dastardly Frenchman, a single play involving Joan of Arc (played by Elizabeth Sellars) with Peter Wyngarde and Patrick Troughton with whom he later starred in the 1958 BBC production of A Tale Of Two Cities. Radd's next few TV credits took place across the Atlantic and he made a number of appearances in the CBC production The Shari Lewis Show between 1960 and 1963, and in 1960 appeared in the production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh directed by Sidney Lumet.
The role of Lonely went to Scottish born actor Russell Hunter. Born Russell Ellis in Glasgow on 18th February 1925, he spent his early years with his maternal grandparents in Lanarkshire because his father, who was unemployed, and his mother, who was a cleaner, were too poor to support him. He was reunited with his parents when he was 12, and did some acting as an amateur while serving an apprenticeship in a Clydebank shipyard. Turning professional in 1946, under the stage name Russell Hunter, he acted at Perth Rep and the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, and was due to appear in Sean O'Casey's play The Plough and the Stars at the first Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in 1947, when the Arts Council withdrew funding. In spite of this last-minute setback, the play went ahead, becoming part of the inaugural Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The posters advertising it were altered from "Sponsored by..." to read "Eliminated by the Scottish committee of the Arts Council."
Hunter worked in repertory theatre and Scottish variety before making his film debut in Lilli Marlene (1950) and later joined Peter Hall's Royal Shakespeare Company. Pantomime was a firm favourite of Hunter's, and he joined the company that performed Howard and Wyndham's Wish For Jamie, the first original Scottish panto, to public acclaim in 1960. Five years later, he took the lead in Victor Carin's Servant O' Twa Maisters, which opened the Royal Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh. His portrayal of Lonely was described by one critic as "a model of character acting." About playing the character, Hunter said; "I take more baths than I might have playing other parts. When Lonely was in the public eye I used only the very best toilet water and a hell of a lot of aftershave."
For the series, a new opening sequence was filmed showing a darkened brick wall illuminated by a single swinging light bulb. As the bulb swings back and forth like a pendulum, it illuminates Callan's face. A single gunshot rings out and the light explodes in a shower of glass. A still of Callan's face appears before another single gunshot shatters the picture (glass-like) at Callan's forehead (This was silent with the sound of a second bullet only being added from Series 2). For the first series the opening theme came in after an (approximate) two-minute opening scene. Series One's episodes were 1: The Good Ones Are All Dead (8th July 1967). 2: Goodbye, Nobby Clarke (15th July 1967). 3: The Death of Robert E Lee (22nd July 1967). 4: Goodness Burns Too Bright (29th July 1967). 5: But He's a Lord, Mr Callan (5th August 1967). 6: You Should Have Got Here Sooner (12th August 1967). As was the norm for that period, Callan was recorded on monochrome videotape, with filmed inserts used for location work. Of all Season One episodes, only numbers 1 and 6 exist in the archives and were released on 9th December 2009 by Network DVD in a compilation box-set, which includes the original AT production, called Callan - The Monochrome Years.
Following the transmission of Series One, ABC Television, who had the franchise to broadcast at weekends (Associated-Rediffusion having the rest of the week), were forced, like all the other Commercial Television companies, to reapply for new contracts for the right to broadcast on ITV. ABC had high hopes of retaining their franchise, but instead, the weekend was allocated to the London Television Consortium who became publicly known as London Weekend Television. The ITA proposed a "shotgun marriage" between ABC and Rediffusion much to the latter's annoyance. Rediffusion tried to derail the process, but the ITA threatened to give the licence solely to ABC. In the end, Rediffusion had no choice. The companies merged, with ABC being given 51% of the voting shares, putting them in control of the new franchise, which was named Thames Television. The new channel began broadcasting on Tuesday 30th July 1968. Callan did not return to screen until almost six months later, on 8th January 1969, 17 months after Series One ended. It may have been the merger that delayed the second series, but Edward Woodward remembered that there was another reason: "They asked me how I was fixed to do another series and I said "I can't because Laurence Olivier has asked me to go to the National Theatre and do some lovely parts" and they said okay, let us know when you're free. So I finished eighteen months later and they called me up again and said how are you fixed now? And I said; "fine" so we went ahead and did the next series. And that's the way it was."
Series 2 saw Callan move from its previous Saturday night slot (due to Thames weekday franchise) to Wednesday night at 9pm. The first face seen at the start of Series Two is Hunter's secretary, Liz. In the original play, Hunter's secretary is only heard on the phone. Her voice for the AT production was supplied by Judy Champ. Lisa Langdon supplied the voice in Series One, but was not seen on screen and was only known as "Secretary." But from Series Two onwards Langdon was seen on camera. Born in Sweden, Lisa Langdon emigrated to the UK in 1958. Apart from Callan, she appeared in one episode of Mr. Aitch, the sitcom starring Harry H. Corbett and a 1967 episode of Dixon of Dock Green. In 1968 she was the storyteller on several editions of Jackanory, telling stories from Sweden which she translated.
In the opening episode of Series Two, The Section gets a new 'Hunter' (the Colonel title being dropped). Hunter number two was played by Michael Goodliffe. Lawrence Michael Andrew Goodliffe was born on 1st October 1914, in Bebington, Cheshire (now Merseyside). His father was a vicar and Michael was educated at St Edmund's School, Canterbury, and Keble College, Oxford. He started his career in repertory theatre in Liverpool before moving on to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon. He joined the British Army at the beginning of World War II, and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in February 1940. He was wounded in the leg and captured at the Battle of Dunkirk and incorrectly listed as killed in action. He even had his obituary published in a newspaper while he was held captive as a prisoner of war in Germany. Whilst in captivity he produced, acted and wrote a number of plays and sketches to entertain fellow prisoners. After the war he resumed his professional acting career. As well as appearing in the theatre he worked in film and television. He appeared in The Wooden Horse in 1950 and in other POW films. His best-known film was A Night to Remember (1958) in which he played Thomas Andrews, builder of the RMS Titanic. He also appeared with John Thaw and James Bolam in the 1967 television series Inheritance. As Series Two begins, Callan is still not employed by The Section, except on an ad hoc freelance basis. Hunter is considering whether or not Callan is a liability, but his quick thinking and reflexes saves Hunter's life in the first episode, and Callan's services are retained. However, Callan's life-saving act turns out to be only a temporary reprieve for Hunter, who is killed in episode 5.
Episode 6 sees Callan and Meres dispatched to the border of East Germany, where they have to cross beyond the Iron Curtain to rescue an agent. The agent, a former colleague of Callan's is to be the new Hunter. Derek Bond played Hunter number three. Born Derek William Douglas Bond on 26th January 1920, he attended Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hampstead, London. He saw active service with the Grenadier Guards in North Africa during the Second World War, for which he was awarded the Military Cross. He spent the last few months of the war in a Bavarian POW camp. His acting career began in 1938 with the Finchley Amateur Dramatic Society. This secured him a number of dramatic and light comedy roles and made a lasting impression in the title role of the Ealing Studios production of Nicholas Nickleby (1947). In the last dramatic episode of Series Two, Callan is captured by foreign agents and brainwashed into believing that Hunter is a traitor. When they allow him to escape, he returns to Section Headquarters and kills Hunter with a single gunshot to the heart, before being shot himself by Toby Meres. As the episode ends, it is not certain whether Callan will survive.
Series Two's episodes were: 1. Red Knight, White Knight (8th January 1969): 2. The Most Promising Girl of Her Year (15th January 1969): 3. You're Under Starter's Orders (22nd January 1969): 4. The Little Bits and Pieces of Love (29th January 1969): 5. Let's Kill Everybody (5th February 1969): 6. Heir Apparent (12th February 1969): 7. Land of Light and Peace (19th February 1969): 8. Blackmailers Should Be Discouraged (26th February 1969): 9. Death of a Friend (5th March 1969): 10. Jack-On-Top (12th March 1969): 11. Once a Big Man, Always a Big Man (19th March 1969): 12. The Running Dog (26th March 1969): 14. The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw (2nd April 1969): 15. Nice People Die at Home (9th April 1969): 16. Death of a Hunter (16th April 1969). Of these, only 9 survive: Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 16. These surviving episodes complete the compilation box set called Callan - The Monochrome Years.
Laurence Marcus April 2010.
Sources of Research: Various original TV Times articles. Callan DVD Episodes. Wikipedia.
Interview with Edward Woodward (2000) for Callan - the movie DVD release.