REVIEW: The Adventures of Ben Gunn

EPISODES:

  • The Parson’s Son. Broadcast: June 1st, 1958
  • The Taking of the Walrus. Broadcast: June 8th, 1958
  • The Winning of the Treasure. Broadcast: June 15th, 1958
  • How The Treasure Was Buried. Broadcast: June 22nd, 1958
  • The Honest Seaman. Broadcast: June 29th, 1958
  • Marooned. Broadcast: July 6th, 1958

Character: John Silver

 LONGJOHN

 PETER as Long John Silver

Filmed at Ealing Studios, The Adventures of Benn Gunn (John Moffat) was the biggest production since the BBC took over the studios. Complete with a giant wave machine and mock-up of a Spanish galleon Director, R.F. Delderfield, and Producer, Desmond O’Donovan, had made the most of the soundstages for their sequel to Treasure Island.

The series not only explained how Ben Gunn came to be a pirate, but by what means Captain Flint (Rupert Davies) came by the treasure and why he buried on that particular island. Viewers also learned how Billy Bones (Olaf Pooley) found the famous map, how Long John Silver (PETER WYNGARDE) lost his leg and took over as Captain after the death of Flint.

PETER AS LONG JOHN

Long John Silver probably means a stubble beard, one leg and an evil eye to most of us. If so, the whole of Britain’s television-viewing public must’ve had quite a shock when they switched on their sets on the afternoon of June 1st, 1959, to see the grouchy old pirate being played by a very young and sophisticated PETER WYNGARDE.

Long John on this occasion was one of the characters in ‘The Adventures of Ben Gunn’, which the BBC serialised in six weekly episodes.

But wasn’t the role of Long John a rather odd one for such a renowned smoothy: “Long John had usually been played by actors such as Bernard Miles or Robert Newton, who was a Cornishman.

“In previous productions he had therefore always had some sort of country accent. I played Long John absolutely straight. In this series he was a young man – about 30 years before the Long John of Treasure Island”.

According to this particular account, Silver comes from a good family; is well educated, but like most young people, he has a sense of adventure, so he joins up with a gang of marauding pirates.

“It was only subsequently when Long John became greedy for money that he also became gross and uncouth. That was my interpretation of the situation anyway”, said PETER.

At the time that the series was aired, PETER was appearing nightly as the libertine Marcellus in Duel of Angels at London’s Apollo Theatre. Did the two parts ever come into conflict with him? Apparently not!

“An actor playing a meaty, tricky role likes nothing better than to relax in a different part,” he said.

Strangely, he says that he did find some features in common in the two parts. “Some of the basic ideas were very much the same”, said PETER.

PIRACY – A DANGEROUS BUSINESS

During the filming of The Adventures of Ben Gunn, PETER ended up being rushed to the hospital when a fight scene went disastrously wrong.

During rehearsals, the careful choreographed sword fight between PETER and Olaf Pooley had gone swimmingly and according to plan, but once Director, R.F. Delderfield, called “Action!”, Pooley seemingly lost his mark and ended up plunging his rapier straight through PETER’s right knee.

After the studio nurse determined that PETER’s injury was serious enough to require hospital treatment, and ambulance was called, and he was carted off with the rapier still protruding from his knee!


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

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