Those who actually read this blog (I assume somebody out there does) should know by now that I am a huge long time fan of Hammer Films. The number of books, magazines, and articles that I've read about the company has to reach into the triple digits.
I know far, far more minutiae about Hammer Films than I do of the people I deal with on a day-to-day basis. Yet I'm still finding out new things about the movies Hammer made and the people that worked for them.
Yesterday on his Facebook page, Tim Lucas (of the late, lamented VIDEO WATCHDOG magazine) mentioned that he recently saw an episode of a mid-1960s American TV series called 12 O'CLOCK HIGH. What made this particular episode notable is that a couple of the guest stars appearing in it were two of the best leading ladies ever to star in a Hammer film--Barbara Shelley and Hazel Court.
As soon as I read this info I went to see if the episode was available to watch on YouTube, and it is. The name of the episode is "In Search of My Enemy", and it was part of the first season of 12 O'CLOCK HIGH. It debuted on American TV in January of 1965.
12 O'CLOCK HIGH was based on the successful movie of the same name from 1950 (more proof that even sixty years ago, entertainment properties were being reworked and rehashed). I had never seen any episodes of 12 O'CLOCK HIGH--it never ran on any of my local TV stations during my younger days. That's probably not surprising--the show only ran 78 episodes (usually at least 100 is the magic number considered for major syndication), and it's a program that doesn't seem to have made much of a mark.
The first season of 12 O'CLOCK HIGH starred Robert Lansing as Brigadier General Frank Savage, who is assigned to a USAAF Bombardment Group based in England during WWII. The executive producer of the series was Quinn Martin, a name quite familiar to retro TV buffs. The show was more about drama than combat action, as Savage has to make hard decisions every single day over the lives of hundreds of men.
"In Search of My Enemy" opens at a party in London. The hostess of the affair is Liz Woodruff (Hazel Court), who is the current romantic interest of Frank Savage. Liz has invited to the party another beautiful Englishwoman named Ann (Barbara Shelley)--who happens to be a former flame of Frank's. Liz invited Ann to see what Frank's reaction would be...and from the way they look at each other, it's obvious there's some longing between them. Ann is now married to USAAF pilot Major Gray (Steve Forrest, brother of Dana Andrews), and, in typical American TV story fashion, Gray has just been assigned to Frank's unit. Gray learns just how close his new wife and Frank were, and he starts to suspect that Savage (who is in charge of assigning bombing missions) might put him in considerable risk in order to get Ann back.
Barbara Shelley and Hazel Court in "In Search of My Enemy"
There's no way the lead in a 1960s American TV series would try to have another man killed to get to his wife (a series made now would have no problem doing that), so the viewer knows that Major Gray is overreacting. Frank Savage, however, does admit that the situation has affected his confidence in whether he is making proper decisions. Savage visits Ann to confide in her, and Gray catches them in an embrace, which certainly doesn't help matters. At the end of the show, Savage (despite a knee injury) fills in at the last minute on a dangerous bombing run, and Gray, who is part of the mission, realizes that Savage is more concerned about duty and getting the job done than any sort of petty jealousy.
Hazel Court and Barbara Shelley actually appeared multiple times on 12 O'CLOCK HIGH. Court played the role of Liz in four episodes, and Shelley showed up later in the series in an episode as a different character. Having the two of them in the same TV episode is a huge deal for Hammer fanboys like me, but they honestly don't have much to do together here. They only appear onscreen together for a few very brief moments at the beginning and the end of the story (I had to do a screen grab just to get the above picture of them in the same shot). Both ladies are as lovely as always, but I have to say their hairstyles and wardrobes are more reflective of the 1960s than the World War II period.
Barbara Shelley does get the aforementioned scene where her character and Savage try to come to terms with one another, but the majority of the story involves the tension between Frank Savage and Major Gray. If you've seen as much retro TV as I have, you can easily guess how the episode will play out. It's still a decent hour's worth of entertainment. Robert Lansing was an excellent actor, and his understated manner projected more than a dozen showier performers put together. Lansing often played brooding, conflicted, thoughtful men, and the part of Frank Savage was perfect for him (whenever you watch Lansing you feel as if he's got a hundred things on his mind all at once). A number of online sources give various reasons why Lansing's character was killed off after the first season, but I'm sure it didn't do the show any good.
Steve Forrest's Major Gray is a bit too quick to fly to conclusions, but, considering he's married to someone like Barbara Shelley, you can't blame him. The episode also features Roy Thinnes (who starred in the cult TV series THE INVADERS), and Barney Phillips, a character actor who popped up in just about every classic American television show ever made.
I'm amazed that I never knew Barbara Shelley and Hazel Court appeared together in the same episode of an American TV series. (I'm even more amazed that "In Search of My Enemy" hasn't shown up yet as an extra on any Blu-rays of Hammer movies). Hazel Court did a lot of American TV after marrying Don Taylor and moving to the U.S., while Barbara Shelley did some other stateside small screen work--including an episode of THE DONNA REED SHOW!! Their meeting on 12 O'CLOCK HIGH wasn't earth-shattering--but for Hammer fans, it's enough.