Production Number: 3370 Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1123 (off-air)
Working Title: 'The Man on the Trapeze'

PLOTLINE

Keel strolls across Battersea Bridge on the way from his Chelsea surgery to a reunion dinner and stumbles into the middle of what appears to be a suicide attempt. A young woman has thrown herself from Battersea Bridge and has been hauled out of the water by a man on a boat. The man is decidedly uncomfortable at the arrival on the scene of a policeman and then a doctor, Keel. He gives a fake address and disappears.

The girl later dies in the Barrington Hospital, having whispered a single word "Danilov". Keel finds himself drawn into a mystery as he and the police try to identify the deceased woman and discover why she killed herself. Before long, Keel and the police surgeon have learned enough from the body to convince them of foul play. The woman had not drowned, but had instead died of barbiturate poisoning.

Keel is certain, however, that he had recently seen the girl in a photograph printed in a newspaper or magazine. He enlists Carol Wilson's help and their investigations lead them to The Stadium, where the Radeck State Circus are appearing. This is their last night in London and tomorrow the troupe will be returning to Radeck, behind the Iron Curtain. The question is, however, will the eighty-six men and women who entered Great Britain with the circus on a group visa be the same eighty-six that return home?

 

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 6
Production Completed:
Sat 11 Feb 1961 (Live)
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: 16mm B/W Film Recording
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Not Photographed
Reconstruction: Not necessary

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 11 Feb 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 11 Feb 1961, 10.00pm
Anglia:
Not transmitted
ATV London: Not transmitted
Border:
Not transmitted
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Not transmitted
TWW: Not transmitted
Tyne Tees:
Not transmitted
Ulster: Not transmitted
Westward: Not transmitted
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
FRANCE: Tue 7 Dec 2010
GERMANY:
Tue 7 Dec 2010
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 11 Feb 1961
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
Zibbo
Vera Korsova
Stefan
Supt. Lewis
Anna Danilov
Policeman
Police Sergeant
Box Office Clerk
Dr Sterret
Turek
Katrina Sandor
24 Male Extras
7 Female Extras
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee (*)
Ingrid Hafner
Kenneth J. Warren
Delena Kidd
Edwin Richfield
Howard Goorney
Mia Karam (**)
Ian Gardiner
Ivor Salter
Dorothy Blythe
David Grey
Andy Alston
Patricia Haines
Uncredited
Uncredited

(*) Macnee credited in opening title sequence, but does not appear in the programme;
(**) Nadja Regin was originally cast as Anna Danilov but was replaced by Mia Karam during the rehearsal period.

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

None.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Dennis Spooner
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
Paul Bernard
Story Editor
John Bryce
Producer
Leonard White
Director
Don Leaver

Production Assistant Barbara Forster
Floor Manager Geoff Smith
Stage Manager Barbara Sykes
Lighting Director Peter Kew

Technical Supervisor Peter Wayne
Senior Cameraman Tom Clegg
Sound Supervisor John Tasker
Vision Mixer Esther Frost

Studio Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

GIRL ON THE TRAPEZE DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... The director of Girl on the Trapeze, Don Leaver was, with Peter Hammond, responsible for establishing the style of The Avengers and it is fitting that the surviving material from Series 1 is the work of these two gentlemen. Don Leaver joined The Avengers fray when he directed eight episodes of Police Surgeon, quickly becoming producer Leonard White's favoured director on the series. This of course led to an engagement directing The Avengers, with Leaver being entrusted with directorial control over the opening episode, a major responsibility. The director proved himself more than worthy by inventing a visual language for Hot Snow that was quite out of the ordinary for videotaped television of the day. He would go on to direct ten episodes in Series 1, an unrivalled achievement in a single series of The Avengers, and these productions coincidentally represent exactly half of his contribution to the series as a whole. He was also unusual in that he made the transfer from directing videotaped episodes of The Avengers to doing the same for episodes of the film series. Of all the videotape era directors, only Bill Bain did likewise. Beyond The Avengers, Leaver was equally prolific, directing episodes for a multitude of series including Armchair Theatre, Public Eye, The Gold Robbers, The Protectors and Hammer House of Horror, among countless others. He was reunited in 1967 with Ian Hendry when he directed four episodes of the Associated-Rediffusion television series, The Informer. Don Leaver remained in demand into the 1990s, directing episodes of the David Jason series, Frost, Lovejoy and Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, before chalking up his final credits on the police drama, The Bill in 2000.

  • Don Leaver was sent an internal memo by producer Leonard White, dated 23rd December 1960, which detailed the scripts which were in process. One of these was Girl on the Trapeze, which was at that point intended to be transmitted seventh in the run and was then called The Man on the Trapeze. It was already being described as "predominantly a Keel episode".

  • The document also reveals that Don Leaver was not initially slated to direct Girl on the Trapeze, being given Crescent Moon instead. Crescent Moon (sixth on the schedule) was moved forward a week, as was Girl on the Trapeze (from seventh to sixth), meaning that Leaver directed this episode rather than Crescent Moon's director, John Knight.

  • The part of Anna Danilov was originally to have been played by Nadja Regin, but she was replaced for an undetermined reason close to the recording date with actress Mia Karam. Last minute casting changes also occurred in three other Series 1 episodes, Square Root of Evil (in which John Woodvine replaced Michael Robbins), The Radioactive Man (in which Arthur Lawrence replaced Gerald Sim) and Tunnel of Fear (in which Anthony Bate replaced Murray Hayne).

  • Camera rehearsals for this episode commenced at 2.30pm in Studio 2 at ABC TV Studios, Broom Road, Teddington in Middlesex on Friday 10th February 1961. The session broke at 9.00pm and the actors and crew reconvened at 10.00am the next day, Saturday 11th February 1961, working towards a Dress Rehearsal between 8.00 and 9.30pm with the episode being performed and transmitted live between 10.03 and 11.00pm.

  • Girl on the Trapeze had a target running time of 52 minutes and 30 seconds. With commercial breaks one of 2 minutes and 5 seconds and another of 2 minutes and 35 seconds the full target duration was planned at 57 minutes 10 seconds. Unfortunately, the programme as transmitted did not come together as planned, with Act 1 running 15 minutes and 26 seconds, Act 2 15 minutes and 8 seconds, and Act 3 20 minutes and 16 seconds, making a total programme duration of 50 minutes and 50 seconds. This represented an under-run of 1 minute and 40 seconds, a significant shortfall that would have embarrassed the production team.

  • The production involved the use of four pedestal cameras, three boom microphones, and grams for playing in of music and sound effects.

  • In order to portray the circus in a believable manner, the production team employed an unusually large number of extras to play circus performers and their audience. Twenty-four male and seven female extras performed this function and three animals were also hired a leopard, a donkey and a chimpanzee. 

  • Contrary to popular belief, the fact that this episode was broadcast live does not mean that it was never videotaped. Surviving camera scripts pertaining to the live episodes (those for Square Root of Evil, Girl on the Trapeze, The Radioactive Man and Ashes of Roses) all state VTR (video tape recording) numbers and note that the recordings were to be made from transmission. Additionally, a production memo detailing a proposed 1962 repeat run of Series 1 episodes lists VTR numbers for all of the live episodes, indicating that these recordings were held on tape by ABC as at 30th March 1962. The survival of Girl on the Trapeze as a 16mm film recording also strengthens the case for the live episodes also having been archived to film.


  • On Location... Despite this episode being transmitted live, it featured six 35mm film inserts which were played into the action. These were an establishing night-time shot of Battersea Bridge, London SW3; a shot of the Policeman (Ian Gardiner) running down the bridge towards the camera, which follows him as he descends the steps to the Embankment; a similar shot of Keel, who runs after the policeman, bounds down the steps and scales a wrought iron fence to access the wooden staircase to the landing stage; a stock shot of an ambulance on a London street at night; and two stock footage sequences of circus acts one of acrobats, another of a lion tamer.

  • A further filmed shot was planned, and is listed in the camera script. This was intended to show an impact in the water following Vera's dive off the bridge, but for some reason no such shot appears in the finished programme.

  • Location work for this episode was shot on high resolution 35mm black-and-white film. The specially filmed inserts were mute, featured no dialogue and were accompanied by atmospheric music and effects played in from grams. The stock footage of the ambulance and circus acts appear to have had 'comopt' (composite optical) synchronous soundtracks.


  • Trivia... Girl on the Trapeze is one of only two stories in the 187 episode run of The Avengers and The New Avengers that does not feature or even mention the character of John Steed (the other is The Far Distant Dead, also from Series 1). Patrick Macnee retained his credit in the opening title sequence but did not appear in the episode.

  • The setting for this episode is reputed to have been suggested to producers by Ian Hendry, who had close connections with the circus, through his great friend Coco the Clown (Nicolai Poliakoff). Whether this is true or a fan myth is open to debate, but a memo issued by Leonard White on 27th February 1961, some two weeks after the transmission of Girl on the Trapeze, noted that he was keen for writers to exploit Hendry's skills as a motor cycle stunt driver; he had been in charge of a unit of stunt drivers in the Army during National Service.

  • In The Avengers and Me (1997), Patrick Macnee recalls of Girl on the Trapeze, "Ian didn't want me in that. He just wanted to do it his way the right way." This seems unlikely, though, and the decision to omit Steed would probably have come from the production office rather than from Hendry.

  • When we first meet Howard Goorney's Superintendent Lewis, he displays signs of having the winter sniffles. By the end of the episode, he is complaining that his cold is turning into full-blown influenza. Goorney makes a fine debut in the series and creates a rounded, believable character, with help of course from writer Dennis Spooner.

  • This episode features one of actress Patricia Haines' earliest television roles, albeit uncredited, as the dying trapeze artiste, Katrina Sandor. Although she was not required to deliver any lines and just had to lie prone, this marked her earliest role in The Avengers. She would return to the series on three subsequent occasions, in The Nutshell, The Master Minds and, most memorably, Who's Who???, in which she played Lola and, in a way, Mrs Peel!

  • In the opening scenes of the episode, Keel tells Carol that he will walk home "over the bridge". This is one instance in which television geography is actually accurate, as the Battersea Bridge location seen in Girl on the Trapeze is very close to the Upper Cheyney Row location, also SW3, which was used to represent Keel and Tredding's surgery in Series 1 episodes.

  • Keel's avenging work with John Steed has left him in debt to surgery partner Dr Tredding, who has covered several surgeries in his absence. When we first meet Keel in Girl on the Trapeze he has just finished covering one of the evening surgeries that he owes Tredding. Carol cheekily reminds Keel that after this one, he still owes his partner three evenings!

  • The magazine featuring the article concerning the Radeck State Circus was a back issue of TV Times, the ITV television listings magazine. Keel reads that there was a television programme, Limelight, which included a visit to the Radeck circus. The TV Times feature was a genuine one, but obviously did not focus on The Avengers' fictional circus. It was part of a regular feature in the magazine at the time called Looking Around, usually written by John Gough.

  • When the policeman interviews Zibbo at the riverside and asks for his name and address, Zibbo tells him he lives on Stadium Road, W2. In the script, the address is given as Olympic Road, W2. Likewise, the venue at which the circus is playing is "The Stadium" in the finished episode and "The Olympic" in the camera script.

  • Dialogue in the camera script gives the police constable (played by Ian Gardiner) a surname. The sergeant (Ivor Salter) refers to him as "Constable Swinton". However, in the transmitted episodes, he is simply referred to as "the constable".

  • Also in the script, Superintendent Lewis already had his suspicions about the activities at the circus and does not need Keel's hint about not taking a powder. "Well, he needn't have bothered," Lewis remarks to his sergeant. "Still it gave him pleasure." This line is not in the programme as broadcast, and may have been omitted deliberately, in order to show Keel in a more heroic light.

  • Throughout Dennis Spooner's camera script, there are occasional misspellings of Radeck as "Radek".

  • There is a nice example of clever ad-libbing in this episode when Keel and Carol arrive at the circus and attempt to buy tickets from the kiosk. Keel pays for two 16 shilling ring-side seats with two 1 notes and two shillings. After he has been given 10 shillings change, he asks about programmes and pays for those out of the change. The transaction complete, he jokes to Carol, "We finally got there", as the scene ends. The business about paying for the programmes out of the change and the line to Carol are not in the camera script.

  • This was the last Avengers episode to be transmitted solely in the ABC-owned ITV regions Midlands and North. Anglia Television joined the fray from the next episode, Diamond Cut Diamond.

  • This episode, one of only two which survive complete from Series 1 of The Avengers (the other being The Frighteners), was discovered alongside the first act of the debut episode Hot Snow at the UCLA Library in California, USA. Its existence was spotted by archive television enthusiast Dave Wood in April 2001 after the library put their catalogue online. A remarkable and historic find, but it is even more remarkable that Patrick Macnee does not feature in any of the recovered material, since John Steed did not appear until the second act of Hot Snow!


  • Bloopers... It must be said that for a live transmission with such a complicated setting and large cast, Girl on the Trapeze is incredibly slick. Bloopers are few and far between, but we spotted a handful.

  • At 1 minute and 28 seconds into the episode, Delena Kidd (Vera) experiences a minor wardrobe malfunction and has to adjust the strap of her costume, which has slipped from her shoulder.

  • At 6 minutes, the corpse of Katrina Sandor can be seen breathing shallowly.

  • At 21 minutes, a crew member appears momentarily in the back of shot as Keel telephones Lewis from the circus box office kiosk.

  • At 35 minutes and 25 seconds, an extra is late to his mark and momentarily freezes in the centre of shot before he clumsily and rather self-consciously continues to screen right.

  • At 36 minutes and 19 seconds, Edwin Richfield (Stefan) begins to mistakenly address Superintendent Lewis as "Inspector" before he quickly corrects himself.

  • At 40 minutes and 58 seconds, Keel offers Carol a cigarette to calm her nerves, but all it seems to do is make her cough. Ian Hendry covers this nicely with a quickly ad-libbed line that is not in the script, "Yes, you never could do that very well, could you?"

  • At 44 minutes and 4 seconds, a crew member wearing headphones peers in the doorway as Zibbo and Vera are talking, realises his error and quickly ducks out of camera view.

  • At 47 minutes and 54 seconds, the theme music which normally accompanies the end and start of each act is played in accidentally.

  • At 48 minutes and 8 seconds, Keel breaks a chair over Turek's back and, without the benefit of an appropriate sound effect, it sounds exactly like the balsa-wood prop that it is, rendering the action unintentionally amusing.


  • And Finally... Eighteen months after Girl on the Trapeze was found to exist at the UCLA in Los Angeles, a print was finally made available to the British Film Institute. This was screened at the National Film Theatre (now renamed the BFI Southbank) on 30th November 2002 as part of a special film show, Missing Believed Wiped, an annual event celebrating recovered television previously believed lost. The Avengers Declassified's Alan Hayes was present at this event and posted the first online review, which was published at David K. Smith's The Avengers Forever and can now also be read here.

Plotline by Alan Hayes UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
International Premieres by Denis Kirsanov Declassified by Alan Hayes with Richard McGinlay

With thanks to Piers Johnson, Denis Kirsanov, Mike Noon, Andrew Pixley, David K. Smith,
Jaz Wiseman and StudioCanal for their kind assistance

 

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