Critics like to give Roger Moore a hard time, accusing him of acting mainly with his eyebrows and of making a clown out of a secret agent. The fact remains he was popular (and/or handsome) enough to star in three successful TV series, and just when everybody expected he would be stuck on the tube forever, became one of the biggest movie stars of the seventies and eighties. His Bond revitalized the 007 franchise and managed to go with every fad that time period had (Smokey and the Bandid style car chases, Kung Fu, Disco). So what if he always plays the same part (and has basically been parodying himself in every other movie role he has taken on since). The legacy of the "eyebrow-artist" started right here in 1958: as Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe (though the first name was hardly ever mentioned).
Everybody recalls the opening credits that started with young Bart blowing his mighty Gondorian horn and shouting: I-van-HOE!, after which Sir Roger the brave would ride out in full armor and wearing his feathered helmet, accompanied by long haired servant Gurth and the usual rabble of peasants and foresters. Based very loosely on Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel, the series centered on these three characters (though Gurth's boy Bart disappeared after awhile, only to be seen at the opening). Noble Ivanhoe was always ready to help the poor and oppressed fight the followers of rotten Prince John (until Richard the Lionheart would return).
Stripped of his title and lands, Roger did not have to wear that clunky armor during most of the 39 episodes, but wore a simple leather tunic instead (much handier in fight scenes). All that love business from the book involving Rebecca and Rowena was basically neglected, though Ivanhoe's contemporary Robin Hood (a mayor character in the novel) appeared at least once. Instead the series concentrated on action, and thanks to American funding, this ITV series had better production standards than usual. I was surprised to find out all the episode were filmed in one stretch and amounted to just one season.
During Roger's Bond years, when his popularity was at an all time peak, "Ivanhoe" was repeated numerous times, especially in Europe, despite the series being in black and white (though apparently, the pilot episode was shot in color). In fact, this reviewer last saw it around the time Duran Duran's A View to a Kill was in the charts (coincidence?). Equally ironically, Robert Brown (Gurth) took over the role of Bond's superior in "Octopussy" (did Roger pull some strings?) and kept on playing 'M' during the Timothy Dalton years. During the nineties most major TV stations simply stopped broadcasting B/W shows, meaning that while Moore's other TV series "The Saint" and "The Pursuaders" are still occasionally shown, the dashing Sir Ivanhoe has been left behind.
8 out of 10
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