I've always been a big fan of those British action and adventure series of the sixties and early seventies made by ITC, ABC and other well-known production companies. So, on a recent trip to London, I took some time to check out just a small number of the many well-known London locations used for filming, and in particular the fictional apartments of some of my favourite TV characters.
The first place I chose was Queen Anne’s Gate, a small quiet street running parallel with Birdcage Walk next to St. James’s Park.
Fans of the 1971 ITC series The Persuaders! will know that house number 15 was used as the London apartment of Lord Brett Sinclair (played by Roger Moore), although it is numbered 53 for the series.
I still enjoy watching that glossy series featuring wisecracking American business tycoon, Danny Wilde and suave high born Englishman, Brett Sinclair, who are both persuaded to swop their playboy lifestyles for crime fighting.
During the series Brett drove an Aston Martin DBS which was usually parked outside, or occasionally we’d see his fellow Persuader, Danny Wilde (played by Tony Curtis) use the space for his red Ferrari Dino.
While I was taking photo’s a suited fellow emerged from the nearby Chilean Embassy. We chatted about the poor weather and, presumably out of curiosity he asked why I was taking pictures of a house. I explained about The Persuaders! connection. Remarkably, he remembered watching the series in his home country of Chile many years ago, although he seemed to recall it was re-titled The Audacious Men!
Coming out of Queen Anne’s Gate I walked back along Birdcage Walk into Great George Street in sight of the Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament. The last building on my right is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
This building was used as the fictional offices of ace detective Mark Saber (played by Donald Gray between 1955 and 1960) for the long running ‘Saber of London’ TV series produced by The Danziger Brothers. (Most of you will know that Donald Gray provided the voice of Col. White in Gerry Anderson’s, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons)
Many of the Saber of London episodes show stock footage of Mark Saber driving past Parliament Square and pulling up outside his offices (Donald Gray used his own Porsche sports car for these scenes)
Although the buildings haven’t changed that much, the area is a much busier place these days.
While I was in that area I walked across Parliament Square and along Abingdon Street which runs next to the Houses of Parliament. There are several landmarks here which were used as filming locations for the cult series The Prisoner.
One location that is easily recognizable is the Great College Street entrance to the Abington Street underground car park.
This is seen in the iconic Prisoner title sequence showing Number Six driving his Lotus 7 into the car park prior to handing his resignation to what is assumed to be his superior (actually a cameo by series’ script editor George Markstein)
Continuing The Prisoner theme, I made my way to the area around Buckingham Palace and the fictional home of Number Six, which is on the corner of Buckingham Place.
This is on a short street, set between Palace Street and Catherine Place.
On the far side of Palace Street are Stag Place flats, one of the last sights of London Number Six sees before he falls into unconsciousness.
I wonder if it’s simply a coincidence that The Prisoner lived at Number One Buckingham Place!
My next point of call was Princes Gate Mews, which is just off Exhibition Road, very near to the Science Museum.
This was the fictional town house of Gene Bradley aka The Adventurer, played by Gene Barry in the 1972 ITC series.
For many ITC fans including myself, this series is very much a guilty pleasure, as some see it as a low point in ITC’s catalogue. Gene Barry, star of George Pal’s ‘War Of The Worlds’, and a major American television star in the late fifties and sixties, famous for Burke’s Law and Name of the Game was The Adventurer, a successful film star, businessman, and spy.
I suspect this implausible character was meant to be a bit of a spoof on previous ITC adventure series, but I don’t think anyone told Gene Barry, who by the time he played the part was around fifty three, and a little overweight. The character’s dress sense was a bit suspect too, and by all accounts the real Gene didn’t get on too well with his co-actors.
But, in spite of that I still enjoy the series, and was keen to see and get the feel of the location of Gene Bradley’s fictional London home. Princes Gate Mews is a quiet area tucked away from the noise of the city, even though it’s fairly close to Knightsbridge and the well-known department store, Harrods.
Although The Adventurer used several well-known London locations in some of its episodes, I thought I’d include this one of Admiralty Arch situated at the end of the Mall as it’s used in the alternative Adventurer title sequence.
Man from the ministry, Mr Parminter (played by Barry Morse) is seen walking along a rather wet pavement to the fictional’ Office of External Affairs’.
My next location is Courtfield Mews, in Courtfield Road, which is a relatively short walk from the previous Princes Gate Mews location.
This is Harry Rule’s apartment from the Gerry Anderson 1972 -1974 produced crime drama, The Protectors.
Harry Rule (played by Robert Vaughn) uses the apartment to entertain clients, and work colleagues, like the Contessa di Contini (played by Nyree Dawn Porter) and Paul Buchet. (played by Tony Anholt) He also uses it as his base of operations for his Protector Organisation.
Like most of these actual locations, the sets created showing the inside only vaguely conform to what’s seen outside.
Although it’s described as a Mews, it’s more of a private yard, with several terraced apartments all joined together.
Although very little has changed, the most obvious alteration is the painted brickwork.
My final port of call is Duchess Mews, just off Duchess Road and very close to the BBC studios.
Duchess Mews was used as the location for the London flat of gentleman spy, John Steed (played by Patrick Macnee)
Although Steed lived in several different fictional flats during the series, for seasons five and six the flat had an actual real external location of 17, Duchess Mews, City of Westminster, along with the fictional address of 3, Stable Mews, City of London.
During the filming of these later series of The Avengers from 1966 to 1969, the lower section of the house was painted white. That has now gone.
What struck me about most of these locations is how relatively quiet they are considering the hustle and bustle of the busy city surrounding them. I can understand how it would be relatively easy to block off these roads for filming without causing too much disruption to the traffic.
The only problem would be the weather!