A few weeks back when writing about the movie musical The Happiest Millionaire, I embedded a song was that performed by several people, including Gladys Cooper, one of the grande dames of the London and Broadway stage. I mentioned that three years before that movie was made she had played the matriarch in perhaps my favorite unsuccessful TV series (though it did last a full season of 30 episodes) that has arguably the greatest, high-quality cast in television history -- The Rogues. The series starred two of Hollywood's great romantic leading men, Charles Boyer and David Niven, as well as Oscar-winner Gig Young, as well as Gladys Cooper and Robert Coote (who played Col. Pickering in the original Broadway and London productions of My Fair Lady).
Well...I was able to track down four episodes of The Rogues! And I'm going to post the first of them below, and then the others over the next few weeks. To be clear, these aren't necessarily the best of the lot, they're what's available. (My favorite, I recall, was a Christmas Carol homage that had the wonderful character actor John McGiver as the Scrooge-like character they were trying to con. Hopefully it will pop up eventually.) The series is dated and really of its time -- the mid-1960s. It isn't one of the most riveting dramas, nor had the most intricate cons. What it had, though, was overwhelming charm and an elegant breeziness that was infectious. The acting is a joy, it treats the audience with intelligence and respect, and has a winking sense of fun.
Just a few words about the show and cast.
The Rogues premiered on NBC in 1964. It told the story of a family of elegant con men whose standards were very high, and they would only trick the most wealthy and reprehensibly unscrupulous marks. Only on a very rare occasion would the full cast appear each week. Usually, only one of the three main leads would star, though every once in a while another of the Big Stars would make a short appearance. Keeping things tied together, Gladys Cooper and Robert Coote were in every episode.
David Niven and Charles Boyer, as said, were among the two most popular suave, romantic leads in Hollywood history. Niven was probably most-famous for starring as Phileas Fogg in the Oscar-winning Best Picture, Around the World in 80 Days. Boyer (who was also in the film in a cameo as a travel agent in Paris, who sells Fogg the most iconic prop in the film -- his hot-air balloon) delivered one of the famous lines in Hollywood history, when he starred as a notorious thief in the 1938 classic Algiers where he wooed Hedy Lamarr, saying, "Come with me, Gaby, come with me to the Casbah."
The third of the series's stars, Gig Young, wasn't as legendary as the others, but was a major romantic leading man, as well. Later in his career, he had two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor (including for Teacher's Pet) and then won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? He also made a lot of light comedies, like That Touch of Mink. And was actually set to play the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles, but health issues -- mainly a drinking problem -- forced him to drop out, where he was replaced by Gene Wilder.
As for the two regulars on the show, Gladys Cooper is best known today for playing Henry Higgins' mother in the film of My Fair Lady. However she began her acting career back in 1905, and in 1911 appeared on the West End stage in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman. She made her first film in 1913 -- 14 years before there were even sound movies! She also received three Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress -- Now, Voyager, and The Song of Bernadette, as well as My Fair Lady. And was named a Dame in 1967.
Robert Coote was the least-known of the five, but he came to fame a few years earlier with his own connection to My Fair Lady, playing, as I noted above, 'Col. Pickering' in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady, a role he repeated when the show went to London.
That is quite a cast for a TV series.
And here is the first of episodes I was about to track down. It's not the best of them, but I like it because it stars David Niven, and the guest star -- before he became a star in feature films -- is Walter Matthau! Gig Young also makes a small appearance. Don't be put off by the time shown on the video. For some reason they all begin running again after finishing. The show is about 51 minutes long. (Can you imagine? Just nine minutes of commercials.)
And now -- The Rogues. Huzzah!!!