The date is Friday January 9th 1959 and at the home of boss of Sapphire Films, Hannah Fisher (nee Weinstein), in Cadogan Square London, a reception is held for the team of The Four Just Men.
Mrs Fisher tells the press "because the scripts are good, we have been able to sign stars of the first quality."
The stars are there too- director Bill Fairchild has a word of praise for Vittorio de Sica: "what a privilege to direct this consummate artist. He has great humility."
Jack Hawkins, the first of the stars to be signed up, is asked why he has risked his reputation on this tv series. "I risk my reputation every time," is his retort, "why not on TV?"
Honor Blackman arrives by taxi, and is 'announced as the only woman star to be signed up for the series.' Well, our reporter has got that wrong, or maybe it's
because "whiskey and other refreshments flowed freely." Dan Dailey, the third Just Men to sign for the series, has only just flown in from America, and reveals it's his first tv series. "Honor will be my secretary," he explains, "with other special duties."
Certainly she seems to be in love with him!
As Richard Conte wasn't announced as the 'fourth' Just Man until March 1959, it's certain he didn't attend this party.
But Hannah Fisher was in good spirits even when reporter Margaret Cowan commented to her, "Until tonight I thought you were a man!" This critic seems to have been something of a fan of the programme, writing, "the new series
is full of thrills, human touches and moving stories, laced with that spice of humour."
At the start of the programme, the date of the declaration signed by the Four Just Men on the document is
26th April 1959. For those only with the fine Network dvd, here's the intro read in English, as opposed to the American. So does anyone know who is the speaker??
To Dinosaur TV Crime Menu
4 Just Men
January 1959 - shooting begins in the first week of the year. The 39 episodes would eventually take 20 weeks to complete.
March 1959 -
"Back to Walton has come Sapphire's Dan Dailey who has spent a week location shooting in Paris with director Don Chaffey.
Executive producer Hannah Fisher went with them. But even she could not persuade a Paris gendarme to pose for street scenes before the cameras.
It's against regulations. Finally actor Frank Thornton flew there, complete with authentic uniform. Result: he kept being approached by pedestrians seeking information
and guidance, and highly indignant when he proved to be a broken reed."
The particular episode referred to is 'The Man in the Road,' though Thornton does also appear, uncredited, as a gendarme in 'The Prime Minister.'
March 59 - "Nine films in the series have already been completed."
"Fourth Just Man has finally been announced - Richard Conte. Columbia have loaned him to Sapphire for the series. Conte arrives here on the 11th
and starts shooting on the 16th."
May 59 -
The opening episode was filmed this month starting on the week commencing May 18th and lasting about a week. It had been quite a job to get all stars together!
It was filmed partly in Wales and partly in Fitzwarren Park.
Reporter Margaret Cowan wrote "When I went down to watch the shooting, it was near-chaos and feverish activity. In the elegant drawing room, crammed with equipment, cameras boom, lighting and all, I counted at one time just over forty people! Director Basil Dearden and his assistant Bob Pollard, struggled valiantly with it all. The four principals took it all good-naturedly."
The report adds that this marked the completion of work for Hawkins and Dailey whilst "De Sica and Conte
have a few more episodes each to finish."
A tantalising comment is added: "If the Just Men is a success, a further series of 39 will probably be made."
July 59 - This optimism was dashed by the headline "Big 'Just Men' Series not for US Networks." It had been sold to America on a syndication basis but not for national networking. ITC President
Walter Kingsley said "With a projected gross of £6,250 per episode in overseas sales, we are sure we can prove that big name stars and top quality production are as feasible and practical in
syndication as on the network." Lew Grade was even more bullish: "It will make two million dollars. It is only just starting its sales. We are going to sell it everywhere. Australia has already bought it." So too had CBC Canada in a deal reported to be
£267,857. But nothing could disguise the ultimate truth - that British shows failing to gain a sponsor in America, were sadly doomed.
Saturday September 12th 1959 9pm-
premiere on ATV London. Critic Guy Taylor wrote under the headline IF ONLY ALL THE NEW SHOWS HAD THE SHINE OF 4 JUST MEN- "if only every film series had this quality! Expertly directed, magnificently photographed and very well acted. On first showing I would say that The Four Just Men justifies all expectations. With Hawkins, Dailey, Conte and de Sica it is obvious that much thought, care and artistry has gone into the making of these films."
March 60 - Elkan Kaufman, Chief Overseas Sales Executive for ITC announced the sale of The 4 Just Men to Czechoslovakia. Something of a coup! 'Television Today', reporting the good news, added "what is so unusual about this sale is that some episodes are anti-Communist in nature." I'd be interested to know if all stories were shown in
what is now the Czech Republic and in Slovakia. And were there any really anti-Iron Curtain stories in this series?
Note- Four Just Men was not a financial success. Jack Hawkins says in his autobiography that he had "decided to take a lower fee for a share of the profits. Alas, there were none. The company went broke!" So Sapphire retreated from the production side and moved to providing a Writing School for aspiring scriptwriters. Curiously however, in 1963 Jack Hawkins is reported to have said (TV Times no 391 p5), "I'm often asked if we could do more of this series. I'd very much like to, but I don't suppose we could ever get the four stars together again."
4 Just Men
1 The Battle of the Bridge
This tedious war story was first screened on UK TV in September 1959.
The working title was "The Victory." It was directed by Basil Dearden.
A sports car drives up to a huge mansion. An American alights to meet his three "cutthroat" friends. However Tim notices one member of their old wartime group is missing, Colonel Cyril Bacon (Anthony Bushell).
Bacon's recorded voice reminds them of their last "wee bit dangerous" mission together. Their job had been to demolish a bridge to prevent the Nazis from reaching the Allied landing beach.
The time 05.00 - less than an hour for Sgt Ryder to fix the charges. A sentry is distracted by a 'drunken' Italian patriot, Poccari, and Tim Collier, even though he's a mere journalist, volunteers to take the sentry's post. But things start to go wrong when a German patrol drives up to the bridge. Collier's lack of German triggers a shoot-out in which he is injured.
As the bridge can't be blown until precisely 6am, there's time for the men to wait and reflect. Collier thanks Ryder for saving him from the worst of the gunfire on the bridge, Ryder thanks Ben Manfred for his covering fire and they all in this mutual backslapping express grateful thanks to Poccari. By now it's three minutes to six. The Germans return but too late to prevent the bridge being blown. "Mission Accomplished."
But as they return to base they see the many orphaned as a result of war.
The Colonel's recorded voice turns them to the theme of injustice. That's why the four are present today. "To you four I make a bequest, a substantial sum of money in the Bank of England. It is deposited there in the name of Justice. Wherever man suffers unjustly, where moral law is ignored, where tyranny rules, pledge this one to the other, that as we fought injustice before together, you will continue to fight it each in your own way, in your own place. I know I have made no mistake in calling you here for you are the Men."
It was a good if difficult idea to begin the series with all the stars, but sadly this is the only episode with them all working together. (Only one other story features all four, but in this, as all the others, it's really a case of One Just Man. The other story which includes them all is Vittorio de Sica in The Night of The Precious Stones.)
4 Just Men
Dan Dailey in Paris as Tim Collier
"an American journalist who has become
one of the world's greatest foreign correspondents."
1 PRIME MINISTER (with Jack Hawkins, Vittorio de Sica)
As well as the first story, Dailey also makes brief contacts with Jack Hawkins (six times), Vittorio de Sica (twice), and Richard Conte (three times).
2 THE BEATNIQUES (with Jack Hawkins)
3 THE DEADLY CAPSULE (with Jack Hawkins)
4 MARIE (with Jack Hawkins)
5 THE MAN IN THE ROAD (with Richard Conte)
6 MIRACLE OF ST. PHILIPPE (with Vittorio de Sica)
7 THE PRINCESS (with Jack Hawkins/ Richard Conte)
8 THE GRANDMOTHER (with Jack Hawkins)
9 THE GODFATHER (with Jack Hawkins)
10 THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
played Nicole in all the Tim Collier stories except #2. She also briefly appears in the first de Sica story.
"During the making of the series, the whole unit voted him the greatest fun to work with- he is always full of jokes and laughter." So Margaret Cowan wrote in the TV Times introduction to the series (Sept 1959).
My favourite Dailey story: Marie, though the Dailey stories are mostly light hearted, this one makes some serious points.
4 Just Men
in New York as Jeff Ryder, "a Professor of Law."
1 THE JUDGE (with Jack Hawkins)
2 DEAD MAN'S SWITCH (with Dan Dailey)
3 PANIC BUTTON (with Dan Dailey)
4 THE DISCOVERY (with Vittorio de Sica/ Dan Dailey)
5 CRACK-UP (with Jack Hawkins)
6 THE PROTECTOR (with Jack Hawkins)
7 THE BYSTANDERS (with Jack Hawkins)
9 THE LAST DAYS OF NICK POMPEY (with Vittorio de Sica)
10 JUSTICE FOR GINO (with Jack Hawkins)
As well as the opening story, Conte also makes brief contacts with Jack Hawkins (twice), Dan Dailey (twice) and Vittorio de Sica (eight times).
June Thorburn plays Vicky, a student of Jeff Ryder, in stories #4, #5, #6, #10. (She plays a different character in one Ben Manfred tale!)
When questioned about the series, Conte made an interesting comment that filming was "slow in comparison with TV production in the States. There's a lot more talking and discussion on the set. On the other hand I think your production values are better."
The real problem with these stories are that they were made in Britain- and with American settings, the atmosphere created is akin to Hollywood's idealised representations of Britain. Though some authentic American actors are used, somehow you always feel you are in an American never-never land, not quite real. At least Conte adds genuine integrity, with his earnest expression, and you feel that he, unlike Dan Dailey, is genuinely concerned to fight for justice
My favourite Conte story: at the time I liked Riot, but now, more sober, the simple appeal in The Bystanders is my choice.
4 Just Men
in London as Ben Manfred
"a well-known independent MP and a leading figure in English political life."
1 VILLAGE OF SHAME (with Dan Dailey)
As well as co-starring in the opening story, Hawkins also makes brief contacts with Dan Dailey (seven times), Vittorio de Sica (once) and Richard Conte (five times).
2 THE DESERTER (with Dan Dailey)
3 THEIR MAN IN LONDON (with Richard Conte)
4 NATIONAL TREASURE
5 THE SURVIVOR (with Dan Dailey)
6 MONEY TO BURN (with Richard Conte)
7 THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE (with Dan Dailey)
8 THE HERITAGE (with Dan Dailey)
9 THE BOY WITHOUT A COUNTRY (with Dan Dailey/ Vittorio de Sica)
Andrew Keir played Jock in all the Ben Manfred stories except #2 and #8. Manfred's car is MXJ575.
Jack Hawkins said of his first tv role that he "found the going fast."
He added in a TV Times interview: "the pace is much faster than in feature films." (Contrast Richard Conte's comment!)
But he declared it "exciting and interesting. Nobody can ignore television today."
My favourite JH story: National Treasure
To 4 Just Men Menu
Vittorio de Sica
in Rome as Ricco Poccari,
"a man who has risen from a poverty-stricken early life to be one of the world's great, and rich, hoteliers."
1 THE CRYING JESTER (with Dan Dailey, plus Honor Blackman)
2 THE NIGHT OF THE PRECIOUS STONES (with Jack Hawkins/ Dan Dailey/ Richard Conte)
3 MAYA (with Richard Conte)
4 THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TOUCH (with Richard Conte)
5 THE RIETTI GROUP (with Richard Conte)
6 THE SLAVER (with Richard Conte)
7 THE MAN IN THE ROYAL SUITE (with Richard Conte)
8 ROGUE'S HARVEST (with Richard Conte)
9 TREVISO DAM (with Richard Conte)
As well as his role in The Battle of the Bridge, de Sica also makes brief contacts with Jack Hawkins (once), Dan Dailey (twice) and Richard Conte (twice).
Lisa Gastoni played Guilia in all the Poccari stories except #1, #4 and #8.
Vittorio De Sica told the press that he found the series "a strain with the language difficulty." Perhaps some viewers did too! He also admitted in a January 1959 interview that he found tv rather different from feature films: "the technique is new for me. I am used to more time and a larger canvas."
After recording the first episode "The Crying Jester" in January 1959, he returned to Italy (for a "film commitment," he said), before coming back to England in March to make the rest of the stories. Director Bill Fairchild praised his star, saying "he is modest and devoid of temperament. First he studies carefully every shade of meaning in his lines... that is true artistry."
My favourite de Sica story: Well if you like the comedy= The Man in the Royal Suite, otherwise, take your pick
4 Just Men menu
An acclaimed composer of film scores, 4JM was a rare foray of his into television.
Later in 1959, he described his work on the series:
"Every single section was written specially and fitted to the occasion. I viewed all the films before writing the music, and by the end I felt quite emotionally involved with the stories." In total he wrote about 400 minutes of original music for this series.
"For Dan Dailey, there is a cool jazz piece.
For Jack Hawkins the theme is more serious and dignified.
Richard Conte has a 'blues'- for his stories are sad and violent.
Vittoria de Sica has a gay and charming theme to fit his personality."
His schedule was as follows:
For the first twelve films, two films taking three weeks each (over 4 months).
With a lull in production, the next four films were composed at a film a week.
Then the next eight scores were completed in one month.
Finally, with the need to get the series on to the screens for the autumn schedules, he had to write eight films per fortnight. He then had to conduct the music at recording sessions, these were done in batches of eight on two days, once a fortnight
4 Just Men menu