The Adventures of William Tell
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|The Adventures of William Tell|
|Also known as||William Tell|
|Theme music composer||William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini|
|Opening theme||Lyrics by Harold Purcell, sung by David Whitfield|
|Ending theme||Lyrics by Harold Purcell, sung by David Whitfield|
Sydney John Kay
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||39|
|Executive producer||Ralph Smart|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Picture format||35mm film 4:3 Black-and-white|
|Original release||15 September 1958 –|
15 June 1959
The Adventures of William Tell is a British swashbuckler adventure series, first broadcast on the ITV network in 1958, and produced by ITC Entertainment. In the United States, the episodes aired on the syndicated NTA Film Network in 1958–1959.
William Tell is a folk hero of Switzerland, supposedly active in the early 14th century. He supposedly encouraged the population of the Old Swiss Confederacy to revolt against the regime of Albert I of Germany (reigned 1298–1308). Tell's legend is recorded in the White Book of Sarnen (1474).
- Conrad Phillips as William Tell
- Jennifer Jayne as Hedda Tell (wife)
- Richard Rogers as Walter Tell (son)
- Willoughby Goddard as Landburgher Gessler
- Nigel Green as The Bear
- Jack Lambert as Judge Furst (Hedda's father)
- Peter Hammond as Hofmanstahl
Notable actors appearing
The outdoor scenes were filmed around the mountains and lakes of Snowdonia in Wales. The film base and make-up were at a small farm in Cwm-y-glo in Snowdonia. This is beside Llyn Padarn, a lake which can be seen in many shots (as can cars on the A4086 road on the opposite side of the lake!). The crew used to walk up the mountain from their base as there was no vehicle access, and brought work for at least three yearly shoots to a tiny corner of North Wales before tourism took off.
An accident early occurred to the star, Conrad Phillips, during filming in Snowdonia. He was asked to keep stepping back until he stepped off a 12-foot drop, injuring his knee – which eventually led to his retirement from acting. Phillips had to wear support bandages during filming but sometimes forgot, causing him to struggle with some action scenes.
Daily rushes were viewed at the only cinema in the area, at Llanberis, which was taken over from 8.00 until noon every morning. The film was taken to Soho in London for developing and the rushes returned to Llanberis by 8.30 next morning.
Although all three series had location scenes, the third was more studio based and location scenes were mostly taken from unused and reused stock shots from the first and second series. A smaller crew went to Wales for this series and more money was saved by shooting without synchronised sound. In the days of enforced demarcation, this saved several technicians' wages.
Though in some ways the same as The Adventures of Robin Hood, a brave bowman fighting against a tyrant, this was a harder show with crossbow bolts killing people and Tell fighting hand-to-hand, which often resulted in the death of the bad guy. Unlike the courtly Sheriff of Nottingham, Gessler was a pig of a man, unshaven, often eating or drinking without manners and throwing his metaphorical as well as literal weight around. The series was repeated well into the 1960s. In June 2020 the series began a rerun on the British Talking Pictures TV channel.
The series featured a long-remembered theme song, with music based on the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini. For the show, the song lyrics were by Harold Purcell and were sung by David Whitfield.
Because this portion of Rossini's overture was the theme of The Lone Ranger in the United States, a different portion of the overture, with lyrics added, became the theme song there, titled: The Freedom Song – "Marching Behind William Tell" by Geoffrey Parsons. This is on The Network DVD episode Castle of Fear.
1. Come away, come away with William Tell,
2. Come away with Tell to the mountainside
3. We are simple peasant folk
4. Hurry on, hurry on, there's a dungeon cell;
5. We lived our lives, we loved our friends,
6. Follow on, follow on, at the leader's heel
7. Give 'em one for the day they burned the grain,
8. The shepherd's crook, the reaping hook
9. Come away, come away with William Tell,
Verses 1, 2, 4 with the opening titles, 6, 7, 8, 9 with the closing credits.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"The Emperor's Hat"||Ralph Smart||Rene Wilde and Leslie Arliss||15 September 1958|
|The Swiss are subject to heavy taxes and cruel laws by the conquering Austrians and have to show respect to the Emperor's hat placed in each village. William Tell refuses and is arrested and hearing of his prowess with the crossbow Landburgher Gessler forces Tell to shoot at an apple on his son's head. Adapted from the original play by Friedrich von Schiller. Stars Derren Nesbitt and Norman Mitchell.|
|2||"The Hostages"||Ralph Smart||Doreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart||22 September 1958|
|Gessler orders William Tell's arrest, after he steals a cache of arms, and takes six innocent men hostage who will be executed if Tell does not surrender. Stars James Booth and Roy Purcell.|
|3||"Secret Death"||Peter Maxwell||Doreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart||29 September 1958|
|When his wife Hedda is captured by Gessler, Tell offers himself in exchange. Stars Sid James, Howard Lang and Peter Welch.|
|4||"The Gauntlet of St. Gerhardt"||Peter Maxwell||Doreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart||6 October 1958|
|The Gauntlet of St. Gerhardt is a religious relic that the Swiss rally round and carry into battle. Gessler plans to steal the relic by killing the abbot that guards it. Stars Derren Nesbitt, Edward Judd and Ian Wallace.|
|5||"The Prisoner"||Peter Maxwell||John Kruse||13 October 1958|
|The Austrians building a road into the heart of Switzerland with slave labour capture a resistance fighter. Tell has to free the prisoner. Stars Michael Caine, Bruce Seton, Keith Pyott, Gwen Watford and Richard Shaw.|
|6||"Voice in the Night"||Terry Bishop||Ralph Smart||20 October 1958|
|Gessler falsely imprisons two men, Jules Gunther and Judge Furst who is William Tell's father-in- law. Tell has to expose his replacement Judge and free the men. Stars Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Michael Ripper and Derren Nesbitt.|
|7||"The Assassins"||Terry Bishop||Ralph Smart story by Rene Wilde||27 October 1958|
|Prince Karl, the cousin of the Austrian emperor is assassinated and Gessler arrests two men but gives them the chance to save themselves if they find William Tell and kill him. Stars Alfred Burke, Edwin Richfield and Roy Purcell.|
|8||"The Baroness"||Peter Maxwell||John Kruse story by Ralph Smart||3 November 1958|
|A beautiful woman seeks William Tell's help as she is being blackmailed by her bailiff for helping a resistance fighter. Hedda Tell suspects a plot and follows her husband. Stars Delphi Lawrence and Bruce Seton.|
|9||"The Elixir"||Terry Bishop||Lindsay Galloway story by Ralph Smart||10 November 1958|
|A local monastery is making money from the wine they make, with the proceeds going to founding a school, comes to the attention of Gessler and he wants the recipe in lieu of taxes. Stars Jack Watling and Ian Wallace.|
|10||"The Suspect"||Quentin Lawrence||Doreen Montgomery and Larry Forester||17 November 1958|
|A young girl is accused of spying for the Austrians and Tell has to prove her innocence before the townspeople hang her. Stars Edward Judd, Tommy Duggan and Sheila Raynor.|
|11||"The Cuckoo"||Peter Maxwell||Ralph Smart||24 November 1958|
|Gessler is under pressure from the Emperor to collect more taxes but his sleep is disturbed by a persistent cuckoo outside his bedroom. Stars Jack Watling|
|12||"The Bear"||Ernest Morris||Doreen Montgomery story by Michael Connor||1 December 1958|
|The son of a robber known, because of his size, as The Bear joins the resistance against his father's wishes. The Bear challengers Tell to a fight and if Tell wins his son can stay with the resistance. Stars Nigel Green and John Howard Davies.|
|13||"The Magic Powder"||Peter Maxwell||Martin Worth story by Ralph Smart||8 December 1958|
|Tell and Gessler meet unexpectedly at the castle of Dr. Kleine, a scientist experimenting with explosives. Gessler wants the magic powder for warfare. Stars Gerald Cross.|
|14||"The Golden Wheel"||Peter Maxwell||Michael Connor||15 December 1958|
|Gessler discovers the location of resistance funds being channelled to Italy by a Swiss banker, Hanzler, to buy arms. William Tell has to save the banker. Stars Patrick Troughton and Derek Godfrey.|
|15||"The Bride"||Quentin Lawrence||Doreen Montgomery story by John Kruse||22 December 1958|
|Maddelena, a beautiful countess, is kidnapped by Austrian soldiers on the orders of Gessler so that he can marry her. Tell sees an opportunity; his wife Hedda is not so sure. Stars Glyn Owen and Nadja Regin.|
|16||"The Boy Slaves"||Terry Bishop||John Kruse||29 December 1958|
|Outraged when a boy knocks his hat off, Gessler cancels an agreement to release young slave labourers. When the boy gives himself up, Gessler decides to hang him. Stars Frazer Hines and Derren Nesbitt.|
|17||"The Young Widow"||Peter Maxwell||Paul Christie||5 January 1959|
|Escaping the Austrians, William Tell and his wife Hedda, who has been injured, seek refuge with the Countess von Markhein. The Countess's servant recognises the pair and threatens to inform unless the Countess agrees to marry him. Stars Melissa Stribling.|
|18||"Landslide"||Terry Bishop||John Kruse||12 January 1959|
|Gessler uses a double of Tell to discredit him as the double robs the Swiss and Gessler's men collect the taxes again. Stars Charles Lloyd-Pack, Wilfrid Brambell and Frank Thornton.|
|19||"The Trap"||Quentin Lawrence||Doreen Montgomery story by Max Savage||19 January 1959|
|The Bear is rescued by Peter von Brechet who claims to be a fugitive but has Gessler a plan to smash the resistance. Stars Robert Shaw and Walter Gotell.|
|20||"The Shrew"||Peter Maxwell||Max Savage||26 January 1959|
|Hedda Tell is lured to a village when told her sister is ill and becomes a pawn in Gessler's plan to capture her husband. Stars Keith Pyott.|
|21||"The Manhunt"||Peter Maxwell||Doreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart||2 February 1959|
|William Tell is trapped on an island and hunted by Prince Erik who enjoys hunting human prey. Stars Christopher Lee and Kevin Stoney.|
|22||"The Killer"||Peter Maxwell||Lindsay Galloway||9 February 1959|
|Accused of murder and theft of a partisan, William Tell has to prove his innocence in the face of his main accuser who he believes is the real killer. Stars Richard Vernon, Derek Godfrey and Kevin Stoney.|
|23||"The Surgeon"||Peter Maxwell||Doreen Montgomery||16 February 1959|
|Seriously wounded William Tell is taken to a Swiss surgeon pursued by Gessler. The surgeon has to think of a way to hide Tell. Stars Frank Thornton.|
|24||"The Ensign"||Quentin Lawrence||Max Savage and Leslie Arliss||23 February 1959|
|Fritz, a young Austrian officer, faces a conflict between duty and conscience and turns unexpectedly to William Tell for help. Stars John Carson, Edward Evans and John Maxim.|
|25||"The Unwelcome Stranger"||Peter Maxwell||Paul Christie||9 March 1959|
|Tell travels to the sword making village of Linzen to find out why they have stopped the supply and finds himself under suspicion and the villagers wanting him gone. Stars David de Keyser, Derren Nesbitt and John Maxim.|
|26||"The Avenger"||Anthony Squire||Lindsay Galloway||16 March 1959|
|Two envoys sent to negotiate a peace treaty have disappeared and William Tell suspects the beautiful Anna might be involved. Stars John Le Mesurier, Derek Waring and Ralph Michael.|
|27||"The Bandit"||Anthony Squire||Doreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart||23 March 1959|
|Tell searches for one of his men, sent to make contact with a rival resistance leader, and whom may have been murdered, but a bandit is operating in the area under Gessler's orders. Stars Kenneth Cope, Brian Rawlinson, Maurice Kaufmann and Robert Raglan.|
|28||"Gessler's Daughter"||Ernest Morris||Lindsay Galloway||30 March 1959|
|Gessler seeks William Tell's help when his daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. Stars Patsy Smart.|
|29||"The General's Daughter"||Peter Maxwell||Ian Stuart Black||6 April 1959|
|The Bear is captured when a young Swiss patriot, Stephan, is handing food to the partisans. Tell must rescue him and determine whether Stephan is a traitor. Stars Michael Caine and Bruce Seton.|
|30||"The Raid"||Leslie Arliss||Leslie Arliss and Rene Wilde||13 April 1959|
|A daring raid on a Swiss-occupied fortress for much needed arms leads to disaster when William Tell is recognised.|
|31||"Castle of Fear"||Peter Maxwell||Roger Marshall story by Max Savage||20 April 1959|
|Visiting Werner castle to track down a murderer of a resistance leader, the gateman gives Tell a dire warning of death with his own life at stake. Stars Ferdy Mayne, Edwin Richfield, Alan Rowe and Erik Chitty.|
|32||"The Black Brothers"||Quentin Lawrence||Arnold Abbot||27 April 1959|
|The three Black brothers, Italian bandits, steal arms intended for the Swiss resistance and then try to sell them to William Tell. Stars Roger Delgado, Warren Mitchell, Paul Stassino and Eileen Way|
|33||"The Lost Letter"||Terry Bishop||Michael Connor||4 May 1959|
|Without realising it, Gessler is walking about with a letter for which he is searching in the sole of his boot. William Tell must retrieve it to save the lives of resistance workers. Stars Derren Nesbitt.|
|34||"Secret Weapon"||Ernest Morris||Doreen Montgomery story by Arnold Abbot||11 May 1959|
|Gessler is erecting new fortifications that will split the country in two. Tell and The Bear investigate. Stars Jack Watling and Derrick Sherwin.|
|35||"The Master Spy"||Ernest Morris||Doreen Montgomery||18 May 1959|
|A beautiful spy, Mara, known as The Shadow, is sent by Gessler to lure Tell into a trap. Stars Jack Watling, Adrienne Corri and Glyn Owen.|
|36||"The Traitor"||Peter Maxwell||Roger Marshall and Leslie Arliss||25 May 1959|
|William Tell and Hedda receive a visit from a friendly resistance leader needing help to find a traitor in his camp. They soon find they are in a trap. Stars William Lucas, Bruce Seton and Derren Nesbitt.|
|37||"The Spider"||Ernest Morris||Roger Marshall story Ralph Smart||1 June 1959|
|A ruthless Austrian commander nicknamed The Spider capture two of Tell's men demanding to know of under threat of torture the whereabouts of Tell's camp. Using false documents Tell infiltrates The Spider's ranks. Stars Donald Pleasence and Deborah Watling.|
|38||"The Mountain People"||Quentin Lawrence||Doreen Montgomery story by John Kruse||8 June 1959|
|A beautiful naive girl is rescued by William Tell from Austrian soldiers and finds his life and reputation endangered. Stars Lee Montague and James Booth.|
|39||"Undercover"||Ernest Morris||Lindsay Galloway||15 June 1959|
|Tell goes deep into Austrian territory after the death of a partisan whose sources of information go as far as the emperor's daughter. Stars Derek Bond and Peter Welch.|
The entire series is available on a 5-disc region 2 DVD set from Network Distributing Ltd Home Entertainment/Granada Ventures in 2007. The complete series is also available on a 3-disc region 1 DVD set.
Conrad Phillips later played William Tell's sidekick, Stefan, in the series Crossbow which ran from August 1987 till February 1989. William Tell was played by Will Lyman. The series ran for 72 thirty-minute colour episodes over three seasons, 24 each, with the third season unaired in America. Other members of the cast were Jeremy Clyde as Hermann Gessler, Valentine Pelka as Roland, Melinda Mullins as Blade and David Barry Gray as Tell's son Matthew.
There was a series derived from William Tell in New Zealand entitled The Legend of William Tell, which lasted one season of 16 episodes of sixty minutes from August till December 1998. In the cast were Kieren Hutchison as William Tell, Andrew Binns as Xax, Nathaniel Lees as Leon, Katrina Browne as Aruna, Ray Henwood as Kreel, Sharon Tyrell as Kalem, Beth Allen as Princess Varga and Drew Neemia as Drogo.
- McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television (4th ed.). New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
- "BFI Screenonline: William Tell (1958-59) Credits". www.screenonline.org.uk.
- "BFI Screenonline: Danger Man (1960-67)". www.screenonline.org.uk.
- "This is Elstree, part 1 - Studios - Transdiffusion Broadcasting System". www.transdiffusion.org.
- "Aiming True – The Autobiography of Conrad Phillips". Anysubject.com. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- "The Golden Wheel (1958)". BFI.
- The whole song is on the album "The Very Best of David Whitfield Volume Two"
- Before 1968 ATV transmitted weekdays in the Midlands and weekends in London. See History of ITV