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Classic TV Revisited: Ivanhoe



Clunky black-and-white ITV adaption of Sir Walter Scott’s novel of knights in shining armour battling the forces of evil and corruption. Roger Moore starred along with Andrew Keir and with guest appearances from others destined for greatness such as Christopher Lee. It ran on ITV from 1958-1959.

Why is it so timeless?
Most notable for providing beauty-spotted ex-cardigan model Roger Moore with his first TV role. It’s a short hop from cable knit to chain mail, you know.

Why was it so good?
Perfect ’50s TV fare, pitting noble, dashing, pre-Bond hero Roger Moore against the boo-hiss nasty Prince John of Andrew Keir. There was plenty of swordfighting, horse riding and stunts to keep viewers entertained.

A whole armoury of attractions, then.
Oh yes, and a classic theme song to boot: “Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe to adventure, bold adventure watch him go, There’s no power on earth can stop what he’s begun”. Poetry.

Distinguishing features:
Young Roger Moore’s super-smooth screen presence was here unleashed upon the world. Despite sporting a very un-heraldic quiff, the man with the golden eyebrow went on to star in The Saint and The Persuaders, before winning immortality in seven Bond movies.

And spectacular action, too?
Well, in terms of ’50s TV, yes. The show was filmed at Beaconsfield Studios, hence “exterior” sequences had dodgy scenery and hollow-sounding undergrowth.

The show that made Roger Moore a star, he must have loved it?
Not really. “Nobody seemed to know what we were doing and we all stumbled about feeling like boy scouts dressed up in armour,” he once said.


Why would he say that?
Could be something to do with performing his own stunts. He was knocked unconscious by a battle-axe, had his hands slashed and cracked three ribs. He accidentally injured fight instructor Peter Diamond with a broadsword, too.

Was Roger Moore the only star on show?
Far from it. Notables who guested included Christopher Lee as an evil German knight and Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger. Executive producer Peter Rogers was the man behind the Carry On films.

Sounds a real winner
It only ran for a year, actually. Thirty-nine half-hour episodes were made. It first aired on January 5, 1958 and ran almost continuously until the last broadcast on January 4, 1959.

Could it be revived?
It has been. The BBC made a series in 1970, an American TV movie starring Anthony Andrews appeared in 1982 and the BBC had another crack in 1997.

Do say:
This Moore lad should go far.

Don’t say:
Nice cardigan, Rog.

Not to be confused with:
Ivor The Engine, Ivan Lendl, the girlfriend of a 12th-century rapper (Ivan-ho), Sean Connery.