Production Number: 3376 • Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1241

PLOTLINE

While attempting to enjoy an evening out at the cinema, Dr Keel is called to the local dance academy, where Elaine Bateman, one of the school's owners, has been overcome by gas. When Keel revives her, she insists that someone is trying to kill her, though she does not know who or why. This is not the first such claim she has made, and the police and other doctors seem to think that she has been faking suicide attempts just to draw attention to herself. Keel, however, is more sympathetic.

He investigates the academy, where he meets Elaine's incompetent business partner Major Caswell, the Major's associate Mrs Marne, who is keen to become a partner herself, Mrs Marne's daughter Valerie, and the school's pianist, Philip Anthony – all of whom mistakenly believe that Elaine is dead, until Keel sets them straight. Elaine returns to work, but Keel is forced to intervene when there is an altercation involving the woman's jealous boyfriend, Trevor Price. During the struggle, Keel accidentally leaves his scarf behind. That evening, Elaine is strangled – using Keel's scarf.

Keel is a suspect in the murder, but Steed agrees to do what he can to clear the doctor's name. Enrolling at the academy as 'Mr Rogers', Steed spots a familiar face – a man who, seven years earlier, was accused but acquitted of murdering his wife in the bath. His real name is Clifford Gardiner, and Steed fears that he may be about to kill again...

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 12
Production Completed:
Thu 13 Apr 1961
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: DOES NOT EXIST
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Not Photographed
Reconstruction: Not currently possible
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 15 Apr 1961
Never transmitted outside the UK

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Anglia:
Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
ATV London: Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Border:
Not transmitted
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
TWW: Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Ulster: Sat 15 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Westward: Not transmitted
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
Mrs Veronica Marne
Philip Anthony
Major Caswell
Trevor Price
Elaine Bateman
Beth Wilkinson
Valerie Marne
Porter
Police Sergeant
Plainclothes Man
Hotel Receptionist
Ginger (Barman)
Teenage Boy
Pianist at Bar
Girl in Bath
5 Female Dancers
 
5 Male Extras
(including Constable and Reporters)
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee
Ingrid Hafner
Diana King
Geoffrey Palmer
Ewan Roberts
David Sutton
Caroline Blakiston
Angela Douglas
Pauline Shepherd
Norman Chappell
Neil Wilson
Raymond Hodge
Graeme Spurway
Alan Barry
Ian Hobbs
Alan Clare
Uncredited

The Ken Bateman
Formation Dance Team 
Uncredited
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

Stills Gallery (images not actually from this episode)

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writers – Peter Ling and Sheilah Ward
Series Theme & Music –
Johnny Dankworth
Designer –
James Goddard
Story Editor –
John Bryce
Producer –
Leonard White
Director –
Don Leaver

Production Assistant – Barbara Forster
Floor Manager – Peter Bailey
Stage Manager – Barbara Sykes
Lighting Director – Luigi Bottone

Technical Supervisor – Peter Wayne
Senior Cameraman – Michael Baldock
Sound Supervisor – Peter Cazaly
Vision Mixer – Esther Frost

Studio – Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

DANCE WITH DEATH • DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... Camera rehearsals for this episode commenced at 10.30am on Wednesday 12th April 1961 in Studio 2 at ABC TV Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, Middlesex. They continued – with two one-hour breaks, for lunch at 12.30pm and supper at 6.00pm – until 9.00pm that evening. The cast and crew reconvened at 10.00am the following day, Thursday 13th April 1961, for more camera rehearsals, pausing for a one-hour lunch break at 12.30pm. Camera line-up and make-up took place at 3.30pm, followed by the dress rehearsal at 4.15pm, and further camera line-up at 5.30pm. The episode was finally recorded between 6.00pm and 7.00pm, two days ahead of its transmission on Saturday 15th April 1961 at 10.00pm.

  • The production of this episode involved the use of four pedestal cameras and three boom microphones.

  • The first day of camera rehearsals for this episode were disrupted as a result of an incident involving Dennis Vance, who had directed the previous episode, Please Don't Feed the Animals, and his ABC colleague Janice Willett. Willett had commenced her career as secretary to Michael Barrie, the BBC Head of Drama, before becoming personal assistant to Vance, also at the BBC, in 1956. Later, the pair worked together on programmes such as Theatre Royal (Towers of London/ITC) and TV Playhouse (ABC/ ATV), and, before long, their association was romantic as well as professional. By 1959, Vance was a successful producer, having launched ABC's prestigious Armchair Theatre. Meanwhile, Willett had also become a producer in her own right, and was responsible for the ABC religious youth programme The Sunday Break (which was hosted, coincidentally, by Avengers actress-to-be Julie Stevens). This role would, in early March 1961, land her in the eye of a storm when the programme ran a modern presentation of the crucifixion for teenagers showing "Jesus Christ in jeans". A month earlier, she had ended her relationship with Vance after they had argued and the police had been called to her flat. Vance was unable to come to terms with losing the woman he loved. He subsequently attacked Miss Willett on Tuesday 11th April 1961, and tried to throw her down a flight of stairs. A day later, Vance stopped her car and threatened her with a kitchen knife. That same afternoon, while camera rehearsals for Dance with Death were proceeding in Studio 2 at Teddington Studios, Vance attacked Willett in her fifth floor office overlooking the Thames. Her scream was heard in the studio by actors and technicians, and the alarm was raised by a tea girl. Rehearsals were temporarily halted and Miss Willett was found lying injured in her office. She had been stabbed in the back with the knife, causing a wound four inches deep, and was transferred to West Middlesex Hospital at Isleworth. Mr Vance voluntarily surrendered himself to the police on the afternoon of the assault and was charged at Teddington Police Station with causing grievous bodily harm. When he appeared at Feltham Magistrates' Court to apply for bail, Vance's defence contested that he had been working under increasing emotional pressures and nervous tensions, and that a doctor had been attending him since February. Vance spoke of his regret at the incident: "I am desperately sorry to cause injury to any human being, and can only hope that the wound is not serious, and that this girl, whom I love very dearly, will soon recover." He further admitted that he had the knife with him because of "interference in my life" by Iris Productions' music producer Norman Kay. Vance's application was dismissed and, as a result, he was remanded in custody until his trial, which was held at the Old Bailey on Thursday 27th April 1961. Vance was found guilty, but a plea of diminished responsibility was accepted, and he was sentenced to three years' probation and a year's psychiatric counselling. Vance continued to work for ABC and other television companies as a freelancer, but never again worked on The Avengers. Fortunately, Miss Willett recovered and was discharged from hospital within a few days of her admission. A year later, Dennis Vance married Claire Ishbisher, the third of his six wives. He died aged 59 in Wimbledon, South London on Wednesday 12th October 1983.

  • Patrick Macnee offered a slightly different perspective on the Vance-Willett incident in his book, The Avengers and Me (1997, written by Macnee with Dave Rogers). Patrick recalled being with Ian Hendry in The Anglers, a public house near Teddington Studios, when Dennis Vance burst in wielding a carving knife demanding to know where Janice Willett was. When Macnee and Hendry professed they had no idea of her whereabouts and asked him why he wanted to see her, Vance shouted that he was going to kill her. "We laughed at this and he thundered out of the door. He didn't kill her of course, but we learned later that he had stormed into her office and raced around with the carving knife, scaring her associates half to death. At the same moment, the coffee lady came by, pushing her trolley, which was piled up with cups and saucers and a huge coffee urn. As she turned to enter the office, Vance spotted his girlfriend standing behind her. Knocking the startled coffee lady aside, he lunged through the door, reached out with the knife, and nicked the girl in the cheek. Her didn't do her any great harm, but they took him into custody and he spent some time in jail for assault. I don't know how long he served, but he was back at work in a couple of weeks." Macnee's version ties up with the press account in most respects, but had clearly misremembered the degree to which Miss Willett had been injured, and in what way. 

  • When Keel visits the cinema during Act 1, he watches The Rebel (US title: Call Me Genius), a 1961 comedy written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and starring Tony Hancock. The film is a parody of modern art (a similar subject to the Hancock's Half Hour radio episode The Poetry Society), with Hancock playing a downtrodden office clerk who quits his job to become an artist, though his enthusiasm far exceeds his talent. A clip from the movie, with sound, was played into the episode during recording. Lighting effects on a medium close-up of Ian Hendry's face and the sound effect of audience laughter aided the illusion of Keel watching the film in a cinema.

  • The first act also includes an inventive way of signifying the passage of time. During Beth's dance class, Philip sets a metronome ticking on his piano. A series of slow cross-fades then mix from a close-up of the metronome, to the piano keyboard, to the dancing Beth, and then finally to Elaine's office a few days later.

  • At the start of Act 2, Steed and Keel discuss the surgery's new dιcor. The new surgery set had actually been introduced two episodes earlier, in Hunt the Man Down, but producer Leonard White gave instructions that the change should be referred to again in Dance with Death, since this would be the first time that "London and the rest" (meaning viewers in the ATV London, Southern, TWW, Tyne Tees and Ulster ITV regions) would see it. The dialogue is spoken in Keel's living room, which might not have featured in Hunt the Man Down – this could explain why Steed appears not to have noticed the change before.


The surgery set as seen in
Square Root of Evil
(Episode 3)


The redesigned surgery set as later seen in
Double Danger
(Episode 18)

  • Handwritten notes on the front of the camera script indicate that the running time of this episode exactly matched its target duration of 52 minutes and 30 seconds. This is believed to be an actual timing, not merely a desired figure or estimate, because equivalent notes in the same handwriting on the camera scripts for The Springers and The Yellow Needle record overruns. The full breakdown of timings for Dance with Death is as follows: Act 1 – 19 minutes and 59 seconds; first commercial break – 2 minutes and 5 seconds; Act 2 – 14 minutes and 9 seconds; second commercial break – 2 minutes and 35 seconds; Act 3 – 18 minutes and 22 seconds. The full programme duration including commercials was 57 minutes and 10 seconds.

  • An internal ABC Television memo from producer Leonard White, dated 10th February 1961, suggested that this episode was to be the first Avengers programme to be transmitted in a sixty-five rather than sixty minute slot. He explained that "this will mean that our shows must be five minutes longer than at present. You will appreciate as well as I do that in the fast-moving series that we desire we shall therefore have to be very sure that our scripts are long enough, so that in fact the extra minutes are not taken up by unnecessary padding to slow down the action. I am 'all for', of course, anything which may be added which can give more 'movement' to the shows." In the fullness of time, the plan to extend the programme's duration was dropped, a decision that White reported in a further memo dated 27th February 1961.

  • The 27th February memo, from Leonard White to story editors Patrick Brawn and John Bryce, set out how the series was to proceed from Dance with Death onwards, considering that the series would be networked nationally and move to a fortnightly (rather than weekly) schedule. White remarked that "episodes now must get better: not slip away because we are 'established'. On 'London and the rest' we shall be 'new' and up against fierce competition." He went on to note that an approach which had been adopted for practical reasons from the start of the series could now be dropped: "As our episodes are fortnightly we have no need to split our 'leads' into alternative episodes. Now (although perhaps still giving the 'edge' to one or other of them and continuing to think of stories as either predominantly 'Keel' or 'Steed') we must integrate the two characters into each episode. This should provide more opportunity for the 'relationship' between 'Keel' and 'Steed' [to be developed]." The memo also suggested that Keel episodes seemed on the whole to be tougher to write, but that writers should persevere while trying to "find opportunities for 'Keel' to get closer to the characters than perhaps is necessary for 'Steed'. Generally, a 'Keel' story should not be one that can be transposed to be a 'Steed' story and vice versa."


  • On Location... Dance with Death incorporated two short 35mm mute inserts, which had been pre-filmed on location. The first of these was a 50-second sequence showing Keel leaving the cinema and then arriving at the dance academy early in Act 1. The second sequence, of unknown duration, showed Steed arriving at the academy near the beginning of Act 2. It is not clear whether Keel or Steed arrived on foot or by car.

  • Intriguingly, the 50-second duration of the Keel sequence is a revised figure. A pencil mark of "1.30" is scribbled out on the camera script and replaced by "50". This could indicate that the sequence was edited down for timing reasons. Alternatively, "1.30" might represent the total running time of both pre-filmed 35mm sequences.


  • Trivia... Numerous synopses for this episode indicate that the murderer's modus operandi is to electrocute his victims by dropping a radio in the bath. This confusion probably arose because synopses published in guide books by Dave Rogers do not specify what manner of electrical appliance is used. In fact, the killer favours a portable electric fire, among other instruments of death. In other respects, Dave Rogers' synopses for Dance with Death are fairly accurate.

  • This episode reveals something of the domestic arrangements at Dr Keel's surgery. Towards the end of Act 1, Keel asks Carol whether lunch is ready. Carol replies by saying that a Mrs Biggs has been issuing ultimatums. It would seem that Mrs Biggs is Keel's housekeeper or landlady.

  • The character of Steed does not appear during the entire first act of this episode.

  • At the start of Act 2, Steed claims that he has no influence with the police. This is in stark contrast to earlier episodes, such as Brought to Book, in which Steed and his department work closely with police officers, even mobilising an extensive force in Square Root of Evil. Steed may simply mean that he personally has no influence over police operations. Alternatively, this could indicate a change in the department's relationship with official authorities, with less overt co-operation from this point on.

  • It is unclear what kind of tool Steed uses to bore a hole in the bathroom door near the end of the episode. A likely possibility is the corkscrew of a Swiss Army Knife. He is unlikely to be carrying a drill!

  • Angela Douglas' performance as Beth greatly impressed Leonard White, who was keen for her to return to the series. In production correspondence from May 1961, White wrote: "We should follow up on the idea of using Angela Douglas again as a foil for Steed. You will remember that she was the fair young dance instructress in Dance with Death. She had a very good sense of comedy." It is not entirely clear whether he envisaged Douglas reprising her role as Beth or taking on a different character, though the latter option seems more likely. A year later, she was the production team's favourite for the role of night-club singer Venus Smith, though the actress proved to be unavailable. Douglas would appear in The Avengers only once more, towards the end of the show's original run and long after White's time, in the 1969 episode Requiem. White's observation regarding her value as a performer with "a good sense of comedy" would prove to be a prescient one. Douglas – up to that point seen in straight roles – would go on to find great success in the Carry On film series, eventually appearing in four films beginning with 1966's Carry On Cowboy, in which she played Annie Oakley with great gusto.

  • For the first time, the same episode of The Avengers was broadcast simultaneously in no fewer than eight ITV regions. ABC Midlands, ABC North, Anglia, ATV London, Southern, TWW, Tyne Tees and Ulster all transmitted Dance with Death at 10.00pm on Saturday 15th April 1961. ATV London, Southern and Tyne Tees had previously caught up with The Avengers' introductory episodes, Hot Snow and Brought to Book, on Saturday 18th March and Saturday 1st April 1961 respectively. TWW and Ulster had also transmitted Hot Snow on 18th March, but rather confusingly omitted Brought to Book, electing instead to show an episode of the imported American film series 77 Sunset Strip, meaning that Dance with Death was the first Avengers episode screened in those two regions in almost a month.

  • As with many other early episodes of The Avengers, Dance with Death has been poorly served in terms of photographic records. No images are known to have survived from the production. A set of five images commonly attributed to this episode do not in fact represent scenes from Dance with Death. These stills, which show Keel and Steed scaling a high wall, are most likely to have been taken during the same photo shoot as other 'sleuthing' shots of Ian Hendry, Patrick Macnee and Ingrid Hafner, which also included photographs taken at a street market, outside a foreign newsagent and in a car park. The images appear to have been taken for the purposes of general publicity and for use in the show's title sequence. The shoot is believed to have taken place in late 1960, as evidenced by the inclusion of one of the newsagent shots on the front cover of TV Times, No 270 (Northern Edition), cover dated 1st-7th January 1961. Due to the paucity of images from Dance with Death, we have elected to include a photograph from another production as the representative image for this episode. The photo at the top of the page is included for illustrative purposes only. It depicts actress Angela Douglas (Beth Wilkinson) in Suspended, an early entry in the BBC's Z Cars series, which was transmitted on 13th February 1962.


  • Bloopers... Near the end of Act 1, Carol talks on the phone to a patient called Mrs Mann. This is an unfortunate choice of name, as it sounds very similar to Mrs Marne, another character in the episode. This could possibly have caused some confusion to viewers.

  • Neither the action nor the dialogue in the camera script explains why Keel shows up at Room 14 so fortuitously at the climax of the episode. In our detailed synopsis, we have surmised that Beth summons Keel, having realised that Philip is in the room and that Steed is in need of assistance.


  • Stop Press... The assault on Janice Willett by ABC director Dennis Vance brought The Avengers front page news of an unwanted kind on Thursday 13th April 1961. The incident was hit the front page of The Daily Mail, and was also covered by The Guardian, The Daily Express and The Glasgow Herald. The verdict of the Old Bailey trial also garnered column inches in the press, with a report even appearing in the Singapore Free Press on Tuesday 2nd May 1961.

  • Perhaps owing to its widespread dissemination across the ITV Network, Dance with Death garnered quite a bit of press coverage. The Daily Mirror's TV listings for 15th April 1961 (page unknown) carried a photograph of Pauline Shepherd (Valerie Marne) with the following caption: "Pauline Shepherd, 22, who made her TV debut at sixteen as a singer in the BBC's Quite Contrary, has a straight role tonight in ITV's The Avengers (10.0). 'I play an instructress at a dancing school – and I nearly become a corpse in the bath', she says. Pretty Pauline has now given up singing. Tonight will be her first TV appearance as an actress. 'Wish me luck', she says."

  • Max North's Telereview page in the Manchester Evening News (page 7) on the same day also showed an interest in the young actress – and in her co-star Angela Douglas (Beth Wilkinson): "Two bookmakers' daughters appear in to-night's episode of The Avengers, which is set in the tough and often backbiting world of ballroom dancing. One is Pauline Shepherd, 22-year-old former model and fashion writer, who plays one of the instructresses and is the object of an attempted murder while taking a bath. The other, 20-year-old Angela Douglas, has been in show business since she was 12 and has appeared in many TV series. She turned up in Coronation Street as a striptease dancer."

  • The paper was less impressed with the episode itself. On 17th April 1961, two days after transmission, as part of Our Two Televiews on page 2, 'J.L.' expressed the opinion that: "Unfortunately, the serial The Avengers is not maintaining its promise." It probably didn't help that the write-ups in both the Daily Mirror and Manchester Evening News gave away a key detail about the episode's ending!

  • The two bookies' daughters were continuing to generate a buzz over a fortnight later. The TV Times edition dated 5th May 1961 included a short article as part of its Looking Around with John Gough column on page 5. Subtitled Two winners – from bookies!, it read: "Two young actresses I talked to are both daughters of bookmakers and both have been given parts in The Avengers series. They are 22-year-old Pauline Shepherd and 20-year-old Angela Douglas. Pauline told me: 'I have never helped my father in his business, but I have brought him a few clients. They're great punters in show business, you know.' She has been a dancer and fashion model. Her latest enterprise is to start work on a film script. 'It's a comedy,' she said. 'But it won't be ready for years.' Angela Douglas tells me: 'My father gives me tips – but the horses never win'."


  • And Finally... Avengers historian Dave Rogers would no doubt be delighted to know that Steed assumes the pseudonym of 'Mr Rogers' when he poses as a prospective client of the dance academy!

Plotline by Richard McGinlay • UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
Declassified by Richard McGinlay with Alan Hayes

With thanks to Mike Hill, Piers Johnson, Dave Matthews, Dave Rogers, Jaz Wiseman
and StudioCanal for their kind assistance

 

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