Friday, 17 January 2014

Looking Back at Dick Barton - Special Agent

Four faces of Dick Barton
from the 1979 annual
You can't keep a good secret agent down even if the BBC manage to destroy the majority of your series recorded in the post-war years and several generations have elapsed since your heyday.

The name Dick Barton-Special Agent might not mean a lot to youngsters now but to a generation of radio listeners the excitement of the theme tune (known as The Devils Galop) that rumbled across the airwaves every evening between 1946 and 1951 was unmissable entertainment as ex-commando Captain Richard Barton MC with his trusty friends Jock Anderson and Snowy White solved numerous crimes and escaped dangerous situations on a daily basis.

Actor Noel Johnson originally played Dick Barton but was succeeded by Duncan Carse after he dared to ask the BBC for a pay increase.

Don Stannard took on the role of Dick Barton in three Hammer feature films. Barton's film career was unfortunately cut short by a fatal car crash for Stannard in 1949.

Similarly Barton's radio career was at an end too, Gordon Davies having taken over the role, the radio series drew to a close in 1951 to make way for The Archers.

Only two original Dick Barton episodes were retained in the BBC archive, but the memory lived on. Noel Johnson returned to the role on radio in 1972 to re-record the first adventure for the BBC's 50th anniversary.

Dick Barton Annual from 1979
with cool logo
Southern Television brought the series to the small screen in 1978 with Tony Vogel in the lead role and sterling support from Anthony Heaton as Snowey White and James Cosmo as Jock Anderson.

More recently re-recorded episodes from 1949 were recovered and released by AudioGO and there is even talk of a new radio series.

A musical comedy version by Phil Wilmott is also a popular theatre attraction. I witnessed Newport Playgoers version of the show earlier this week:
"Barton aficionados will notice quite a change in the Phil Wilmot scripted show, as the legendary post-war radio detective breaks his own personal code-of-conduct several times been subject to double entendres, drugs and even acquiring a femme fatale girlfriend."
Witnessing the Playgoers stage production inspired me to dig out my Dick Barton Annual from 1979 featuring Tony Vogel's interpretation.

Produced by Brown Watson this is actually a very informative annual featuring along with several original stories articles and features on the history of Dick Barton.

Read On...

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