Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, April 1, 2024


 One of Edgar Wallace's most famous creations -- The Four Just Men -- made it to British television in 1959-1960:  "Four men:  a British politician, an American journalist in Paris, a lawyer in the U.S., and a Roman hotelier, band together to fight injustice wherever they find it."

Famed British actor Jack Hawkins got top credit when the show aired in England; American Dan Dailey got the top billing when the show appeared in America.  Richard Conte and Vittorio De Sica round out the quartet.  They were aided by Vickey (June Thornberg), Jeff Ryder's (Richard Conte) assistant and a law student; Nicole (Honor Blackman, perhaps best known as Pussy Galore and for being John Steed's partner, Catherine Gale), Tim Collier's (Dan Dailey) secretary (and girlfriend); Jock (Andrew Keir), Ben Manfred's (Jack Hawkins) manservant and best friend; and by Guillia (Lisa Gaatoni) and Francesco (Robert Reitti), Rico Piccari's (Vittorio De Sica) secretary and butler, respectively.

At the time of filming, The Four Just Men was the most ambitious television series made for British television, filming on locations in England, France, and Italy.  For the most part, the series had the actors appearing alternatingly, with an occasional appearance (or telephone call) from one or more of the other leads during an episode -- a format to be used by later television series such as The Name of the Game.  Guest stars included Judi Dench, Alan Bates, Patrick Troughton, Donald Pleasance, Richard Johnson, Ronald Howard, Basil Dignam, Fenella Fielding, Bill Nagy, Mai Zetterling, Oliver Reed, Ian Hunter, Robert Shaw, Lionel Jeffries, and many others familiar either by sight or name from British television and films.

 The Four Just Men was the first (I believe) novel published by the prolific Edgar Wallace.  (He had previously published reportage, poetry and at least one non-fiction book.)  It was published with a high profile publicity campaign and with a contest for "guessing the murder method," with prizes totaling 1000 pounds " (well over 100,000 pounds today, if they still used pounds).  The book was a runaway success and launched Wallace's career, which eventually included over 170 novels, 957 short stories, 18 stage plays, as well as screen plays, poetry, and historical non-fiction.  More than 150 films have been made of Wallace's work, including a large number made in Germany.  Wallace wrote five sequels to The Four Just Men.  In addition to the television series, the book was made into two films: a silent film in film in 1921, and a film in 1939.  Giant ape fans will remember Wallace for writing the first draft of King Kong, which was "novelized" by Delos W. Lovelace in 1932.

It should be noted that the television series veered from Wallace's original violent and vigilante-oriented concept.  Times change and television does have standards.

"The Battle of the Bridge" is the first episode in the series, and is only one of two episodes in which all four "Just Men" appear together.  The four, who last met during the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, are reunited by the death of their former commanding officer.  Commander Cyril Bacon's (Anthony Bushell)last wish was for the four to join together and fight injustice.  Bushell's vast estate will fund their operations.  Flashbacks happen.

The episode was directed by Basil Deardon (Sapphire, Khartoum, The Man Who Haunted Himself).  Gene L. Coon (perhaps best known for his work on Star Trek [thirteen episodes of the original series], Wagon Train [23 episodes], and Mr. Lucky [ten episodes]) wrote the script.

Enjoy this well-presented episodes.

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