by Ron Goulart

   I was fourteen when I wrote to Leslie Charteris asking him to allow me to adapt The Saint for the theater. The theater in question being the auditorium of Burbank Junior High School in Berkeley, California.


   Although the Saint I’d seen on the screen in the RKO B-Movies of a few years earlier was portrayed by the suave George Sanders, who was well over six feet tall, I had no doubt that I, who’d recently shot up to the impressive height of five foot four, could do a nifty job of portraying Simon Templar. I was equally certain that I could summon up sufficient suaveness.

   I’d discovered the Saint, that Robin Hood of Modern Crime, by way of the movies, but the advent of Pocket Books allowed me, for just two bits each, to get hold of most of novels and short story collections that had appeared since Charteris had created the character back in 1928.

   I liked not only the thriller aspects, and the mystery and crime elements but the humor in the books (which seems to have partially leaked out the last time I attempted to reread one). Charteris has said in the introduction to one of his books that one of his major influences was P. G. Wodehouse, another of my literary idols back in the days when I was starting to shave.


   In that bygone era my contact with the entertainment world — books, radio, movies, comic books, etc. — was strictly as a consumer. I therefore assumed that it would be relatively simple when I was a few years older to become a novelist, a short story writer, a movie star, a radio actor, a playwright and a matinee idol, a cartoonist who drew gag cartoons, a syndicated comic strip and a comic book of his own.

   In junior high I was a sort of economy-size Orson Welles. I wrote play adaptations of Robin Hood, A Connecticut Yankee and A Christmas Carol and starred in each one. Seeing me, in green tights, cross swords with the Sheriff of Nottingham is probably one of the memories most of my fellow students have had a difficult time forgetting.

   I exchanged a few more letters with Charteris. I believe the first one was written when he was affiliated with his own paperback publishing company in Los Angeles. They were reissuing quite a few Saint books, plus new anthologies with stories about Hollywood, etc.


   There was also one collecting radio scripts from various shows, including one from a Saint broadcast. I suggested to him that a whole book of Saint scripts would be a good idea. He responded that since the scripts were mostly adaptations of printed stories that probably wouldn’t attract a large enough audience.

   Quite a few years later, when I was editing The British Detective anthology for Signet, I thought it would be a good idea to include a Saint novelet, “The Million Pound Day.”

   Charteris replied that since his story was twice as long as most of the others, he should receive twice the offered fee of $500. So I missed a chance to be Leslie Charteris’s editor.

   When I was working on a Nostalgia Book Club book about radio detectives, I queried him as to who he thought the best actor to play his character on radio. He was residing on the Riviera at the time, possibly in a yacht. His fourth wife was the movie actress Audrey Long, frequently seen in the RKO B- Movies of the 1940s.

   He sent a helpful reply and mentioned that if I wrote him again I include return postage. The nostalgia line went out of business before I ever wrote the book.


   Several men assayed the role of Simon Templar on the air. The show ran, off and on, from about 1945 to 1950. They included Edgar Barrier, Brian Aherne, Vincent Price (when I listened to him back then I didn’t notice what a smarmy Saint he made) and Tom Conway. The Saint’s creator told me the best man was the first one, Edgar Barrier.

   I noticed on Google that Charteris said the movie actors he thought should have been Templar were Ronald Colman, Cary Grant or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. As for the actual chaps who played the part, he said “Louis Hayward and George Sanders were hopelessly miscast.”

   Raymond Chandler, by the way, said he thought the ideal actor to play Philip Marlowe was Cary Grant. You can’t beat suaveness.

Ron Goulart


August 26, 1947

Mr. Ronald Goulart
1343 Kains Ave
Berkeley 2, Calif

Dear Mr Goulart:

I’m sorry I can’t give you permission to any dramatic
adaptations on the Saint. It isn’t a matter of the royalty
in the case of a non-profit production, but the fact that I
can’t allow my character to be handled by anyone without
my supervision, and if I were to give my supervision, I’m
afraid I couldn’t be persuaded to do so for no profit.

So I’m afraid you’ll just have to find some other subject
to exercise your talents on.

Thanks just the same for your interest in this and other
Saint matters.



Leslie Charteris


       Previously on this blog:

LESLIE CHARTERIS – The Brighter Buccaneer (reviewed by Art Scott)

LESLIE CHARTERIS – The Saint in New York (reviewed by Art Scott)

LESLIE CHARTERIS – The Saint and the Templar Treasure (reviewed by Steve Lewis)