An Australian TV Week article from 4 June 1977.
The actor who’s been called “the sexist man on British Television” is unknown to most Australians – so far. But that situation will change, now that the O-10 Network has begun showing the series that made him a household name in England.
The actor is Robin Ellis, 35 years old and a husky 185 cm (6ft I in.) tall. The series is POLDARK, a romantic adventure set in Cornwall in the year 1783 – an era of dueling, smugglers, famine and revolution. It’s already been shown on TEN10, and starts on ATV0 on Tuesday, May 31, at 8.30. other states will follow.
Ellis’s performance as brooding, aggressive hero, Ross Poldark, is one of the main reasons why the series became the third most popular show in Britain. Ross Poldark is believed killed fighting for the British army against George Washington’s forces in the American colony’s way of independence of 1776.
When he returns unexpectedly to his family estate, Nampara, in Cornwall, he finds that the house is in disrepair and the two mines which supply the family income, have allowed to fall idle. His father died while he was in New World, and left debts which could mean the estate falling into the hands of the wealthy banking family, the Warleggans, who Ross dislikes.
Not only that, but Elizabeth, the girl he was going to marry, has become engaged to his cousin.
The series, based on novels by Winston Graham (author of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller movie, Marnie), follows Ross Poldark’s attempts to refloat the family fortunes and find happiness in spite of the rebuff by Elizabeth.
Robin Ellis got the “sexist man” tag from women interviewers in Britain, and he is still one of TV’s most eligible bachelors. No woman has been able to tie him down … yet.
The former male model lived the trendy bachelor life in the ‘60s, and Poldark proved that women see him as the idealized embodiment of consumed, horse – riding romance.
And the fan mail, which includes numerous marriage proposals, proves it.
But the bachelor image is still reasonable bright. His London mews flat near High Street, Kensington, is the sort of mess of books, records and empty win bottles that cries out for a woman’s touch and as he sits,, booted feet outstretched, rolling a cigarette, he is still prepared to discuss women in that abstract way the unmarried often use.
In 1971 he described his “ideal girl” as “tall, blonde, lissome with fine forehead, super eyes and legs.” And six years later nothing very much has changed.
“I still like women with long legs,” he says, “so my ideal girl is still pretty much the same, except now it doesn’t matter what colour hair she has.”
Which might suggest that the actress he was not prepared to name but with whom he is currently spending much of his time might well turn out to be a brunette or redhead.
The fact that there is a reasonable steady relationship going on is something that both delights and surprises him.
“People muddle me up with Ross Poldark, compared with whom I am fairly cack – handed and lacking in definition. In reality I have a girl friend at the moment who cuts me right down to size. If I try coming on with the romantic image bit … no way. Absolutely no way. And that suites me fine. That is what I think I want from a lady. Someone who is going to take no nonsense and who will give me an argument even a mood to cope with.
“If I did adopt the attitude of successful, well – dressed, handsome, lean, 30 – year – old man I would be setting myself up to be knocked right down by this lady.”
So here is this 35 – year – old man, good on a horse and not half bad with a squash racket, pouring another glass of wine and explaining what he feels about marriage and settling down.
“Well, I just live from day to day. I don’t think; ‘Oh yes, this is the one I am going to be with when I am 78’. But I don’t think about that at all because that is fatal. But if it so happens that three years’ time I am still with this lady and we think well, this is silly, let’s get married, then we will.
“But I really am very happy to live from day to day. And having a lady is wonderful. Seeing things together is much better than seeing things on your own. Just doing ordinary things like shopping or having a meal or seeing an art exhibition or going to the cinema or the theatre is so much more fun with somebody else and I have finally realized this since I met this lady. For the first time I have appreciated being with somebody else.”
Yet at the moment, Robin Ellis doesn’t see himself getting married. There are moments, however, when he meets someone with a teenage son and thinks; “By the time I have a 29 year – old son I’m going to be an old man.” He says he finds that quite frightening. But, obviously, not quite frightening enough.
From Our London Bureau.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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