1 9 5 6 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
1 x 30 minute episode
This BBC Saturday night anthology of self-contained TV plays featured six stories written by former Royal Artillery officer Berkely Mather with a seventh unrelated play – The Rajah’s Rope which was adapted by Duncan Ross from a radio play by Anthony Armstrong – tacked on as an afterthought as “A Further Tale From Soho”.
The series premiered on 21 January 1956 and replaced The Adventures of Annabel.
While the stories – relating to events in the London underworld – were not linked in any way, many of the episodes starred John Welsh as Chief Detective Inspector Charlesworth, an old-fashioned copper with receding hair and a battered hat and raincoat.
The debut episode ‘The Fiddle’ concerned a confidence trick taking place in the grocery shop of Giuseppe Luccini (Meier Tzelniker) and co-starred Alfie Bass, Lucie Mannheim and Gerard Heinz.
‘The Message’ (28 January) demonstrated what happened when a former underworld king was released from prison, having become a religious fanatic while he was inside. The cast included Wilfrid Lawson, George Rose, Harold Lang, Peter Vaughan, Josef Behrmann, Alfred Maron, Donald Cashfield and Ralph de Rohan.
‘Slippy Fives’ (4 February) starred Victor Maddern as the titular pickpocket who unexpectedly found himself working with the police to retrieve some missing secret documents from a man with diplomatic privileges.
‘The Protectors’ (11 February) starred Paul Hardmuth as old Tony, the Italian proprietor of a Soho delicatessen who refused to pay protection money. Anne Morish played his daughter, Rita, with Sam Kydd as Lefty Boy, Walter Magnee as Chimp, Frederick Schiller as Caser and Jack Melford as Wilby.
‘The Ladder’ (18 February) featured Paul Rogers as a Soho crook called Benham who was talked into a safe-cracking job by his former colleagues Dusty (Patrick Wymark) and The Newt (Ronald Clarke). Maxine Audley played Benham’s one-time girlfriend, Linda, with Anthony Creighton as Gino.
‘Set a Thief’ (25 February) had an escaped Dartmoor prisoner seeking vengeance on a crook-turned-police informer. The cast included Fred Griffiths as Marlow, Donald Bradley, David Lodge, Peter Illing, Larry Taylor, Phil Mansel-Durham, Nigel Davenport, and a return appearance from Billie Whitelaw as barmaid Eileen.
Episodes were repeated on the following Tuesday evening after their Saturday broadcast.
Chief Detective Inspector Charlesworth
The Fiddle | The Message | Slippy Fives | The Protectors | The Ladder | Set a Thief || The Rajah’s Rope