Monday, September 1, 2014

The Three Dr. Thorndykes

Media portrayals of R. Austin Freeman's brilliant Dr. Thorndyke have been few and far between. Only three actors have played Thorndyke on screen (IMDb): Peter Copley, John Neville, and Barrie Ingham.
Peter Copley (1915-2008), at right
John Neville (1925-2011)
Barrie Ingham (b. 1932)
Thorndyke, a short-lived black-and-white TV series produced by the BBC, followed Thorndyke's first screen appearance in a one-off production of "The Case of Oscar Brodski" for the anthological Detective series. Matthew Lee at ACTION TV ONLINE explains what happened:
[Excerpts only] Richard Austin Freeman's fictional Edwardian detective Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke first appeared in the popular Detective anthology series in July 1964 in an adventure entitled "The Case of Oscar Brodski." The story, which concerned an investigation into the suspicious activities of Silas Hickler at a London railway station, featured character actor Peter Copley in the leading role. The popularity of this edition of Detective safely saw that a series followed a mere three months later.
. . . The programme was short-lived (six fifty-minute editions were the sole output), and the series has disappeared in the memory of viewers over the forty years since its transmission. The series was not exported or commercially exploited and is not available in any format. — Matthew Lee, ACTION TV ONLINE (2004)
. . . which is really a shame. You can find full descriptions of all the episodes at ACTION TV; the seven installments were:

"The Case of Oscar Brodski" - 7/6/1964. Story online HERE.
"The Old Lag" - 10/03/1964. Story online HERE.
"A Case of Premeditation" - 10/10/1964. Story online HERE.
"The Mysterious Visitor" - 10/17/1964. Story online HERE.
"The Case of Phyllis Annesley" - 10/24/1964. Story ["Phyllis Annesley's Peril"] online HERE.
"Percival Bland's Brother" - 10/31/1964. Story ["Percival Bland's Proxy"] online HERE.
"The Puzzle Lock" - 11/07/1964. Story online HERE.

When The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes series came along, Dr. Thorndyke, as befitting his rival status, appeared twice, being played by two different actors: John Neville, who brought that combination of gravitas and arch demeanor which best characterizes Freeman's character, and Barrie Ingham, whose portrayal pales beside Neville's:

~ "A Message from the Deep Sea" - 9/20/1971. IMDb. Story online HERE.
 ~ "The Moabite Cipher" - 3/26/1973. IMDb. Story online HERE.
Resources:
- Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive article about Dr. Thorndyke HERE.
- Another ONTOS article about our favorite "medical jurispractitioner" and Holmes rival is HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

3 comments:

  1. I agree about Neville's performance being spot on the money and far better than Ingham's.

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  2. Actually, 'The Case Of Oscar Brodski' is viewable at the BFI for research purposes if you make an appointment. I've seen it and it's an excellent adaptation. AFAIK the other BBC Thorndyke episodes were wiped.

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    1. Thanks for that heads up, RE. It's truly a shame that episodes from quite a few BBC series are lost forever, but especially Copley's THORNDYKE; his performances were always worth catching. He would have also made a fine Prof. Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, rather than Douglas Wilmer.

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