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The Beginning  [Back to the homepage]

This pages looks at the birth of Danger Man

It has been over forty years since Danger Man first appeared on our television screens. Although some promotional material has survived little real background detail ever reached the archives, and in consequence the story behind the shows birth is shrouded in mystery.

History recalls that Australian born Ralph Smart created the series, but in truth other names were involved, indeed Danger Man origin ultimately falls under the influence of five men:

-Lew Grade
-Ralph Smart
-Ian Stuart Black
-Ian Fleming
-Patrick McGoohan

Television of the late 1950ís and early 1960ís was very different from the medium we know today. In England the field was dominated by the BBC who were producing a steady stream of quality drama. The new ITV network was in its infancy and still much frowned upon. Split into a variety of smaller companies ITV had Granada, ATV, Midlands and others. All made their own products which were then transmitted over the entire network (though often at different times and days).

Lew Grade's Birmingham based ATV had produced a string of (for the time) high budget television programmes that were often made on film rather than video stock, these were half hour adventure shows carefully geared to an overseas market. Grade knew that in order for his ITC film division to be a success he had to sell to America. It was a hard market to crack however, the American stable diet of westerns being a market especially hard for a UK company to copy.

Costume drama was one area Grade turned towards, ďThe Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Richard Greene was a sure fire hit. The American audience were already familiar with the legend of Sherwood Forestís heroic rogue through films of the l930's and 1940's. But this was a British story and, who better than to tell it than the British.

Other costume dramas followed, but period filming is expensive and Grade knew he had to come up with a formula set in the current times that struck home in the USA.

"The Invisible Man" (1958-1960) pointed the way. Again the production was geared to the America market. The title hero was voiced by an American, the stories, basic crime thrillers had however a British background. Sales were fair, but not the success Grade wanted.

Ralph Smart, who had written many "Invisible Man" scripts, provided the way forward. Commissioned by Grade, Smart came up with two scenarios, one of which was for what was to become "Danger Man".

Smart came up with a concept entitled "Lone Wolf", an espionage thriller concerning one man going it alone in a world of spies. Smart had several meetings with James Bond author Ian Fleming, the two men even considered bringing 007 to the TV screens, but Fleming had already sold the rights to Eon Productions and was unable to buy them back.

In consequence the two men used Bond as a spring board to invent a new character. A cool, handsome man, a user of women, he would get the job done no matter what.

Smart gave the idea to Ian Stuart Black, an author who had contributed scripts to the "Invisible Man" series. He knocked the idea around and came up with the idea of the agent working for NATO. To further remove the agent from Bond, and also to aid US sales Smart and Black made John Drake an American. Two story outlines were delivered to Grade. The pitch was successful and "Lone Wolf" or rather 'Danger Man" was given the go ahead.

Signed on as Producer, Ralph Smart had no idea on whom to cast in the leading role but after seeing a successful young actor in a television production of 'The Big Knife" Smart had found his man - Patrick McGoohan.

McGoohan however was keen to have his views heard. He saw Drake differently to Smart, Black and Fleming, and dramatic changes in both character and situations would be needed before he would sign for the part. As filming progressed McGoohan would push his ideas further with the result that the rough, tough sexy guy who hit below the belt, always used a gun and used women as a bed warmer as originally conceived was replaced by a man of moral standards, who detested violence, used his brains and treated women with respect.

39 half hour episodes of 'Danger Man" were produced. The show achieved notable sales throughout the world and won favourable reviews when Broadcast on CBS in America. It was not enough however. $2 million US dollars revenue from Canada and South America alone couldn't keep John Drake afloat.

By 1961, Danger Man had not reached its full potential in America and the decision was made not to produce a further series. It was over, Patrick McGoohan moved on to film work and ITC continued in its attempt to find a winning formula, one that would win a high audience in the United States.

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