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The Adventures of William Tell

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Title: The Adventures of William Tell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Donald Pleasence, John Le Mesurier, John Howard Davies, Glyn Owen, Peter Diamond (actor), William Tell Overture, David Whitfield, Deaths in April 2006, Nigel Green, Willoughby Goddard
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Adventures of William Tell

The Adventures of William Tell
Alt=Series titles over William Tells son and and the famous apple scene
Format Historical
Starring Conrad Phillips
Jennifer Jayne
Richard Rogers
Willoughby Goddard
Theme music composer William Tell Overture by Rossini
Opening theme Lyrics by Harold Purcell, sung by David Whitfield
Ending theme Lyrics by Harold Purcell, sung by David Whitfield
Composer(s) Albert Elms
Sydney John Kay
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 39 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Ralph Smart
Producer(s) Leslie Arliss
Running time 25 minutes
Distributor ITC Entertainment
Picture format Film 35 mm 4:3 Black-and-white
Audio format Mono
Original run 15 September 1958 – 15 June 1959

The Adventures of William Tell is a British swashbuckler adventure series, first broadcast on the ITV network in 1958, and produced by ITC Entertainment.

Production notes

The series was produced by Ralph Smart, who wrote a number of stories for the series and who also produced The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. The show was made at the National Studios in Elstree.

The outdoor scenes were filmed around the mountains and lakes of Snowdonia in the UK. The film base and make up were at a small farm in Cwm-Y-Glo in Snowdonia. This is directly beside Llyn Padarn, a lake which can be seen in many of the location shots (as can cars driving on the A4086 road on the opposite side of the lake!). The crew used to walk up the mountain from their base as there was no vehicular access, and brought much needed work for at least three yearly shoots to a tiny corner of North Wales before tourism took off.

An accident very early on in production occurred to the star, Conrad Phillips, during filming in Snowdonia. He was asked to keep stepping back until he unfortunately stepped off a 12-foot drop, severely injuring his knee – something which ultimately lead to his premature retirement from acting. Conrad had to wear support bandages during filming but sometimes forgot, causing him to struggle with some of the action scenes.[1]

Daily rushes were viewed at the only cinema in the area, that at Llanberis which was taken over from 08.00 until noon every morning for the duration of the shoot. The film was transported to Soho in London for developing and the rushes returned to Llanberris by 08.30 the next morning.

Although all three series had location scenes, the third was far more studio based and what location scenes there were mostly taken from unused and reused stock shots from the first and second series. A smaller crew went to Wales for this series and more money was saved by shooting "mute", i.e. without synchronised sound. In the days of strict union rules when demarcation was strictly enforced, this saved several technicians wages.

Though in some ways the same as The Adventures of Robin Hood, a brave bowman fighting against a tyrant, this was a much harder show with crossbow bolts often killing people and Tell fighting hard hand-to-hand battles, which often resulted in the death of the bad guy. Unlike the foppish Sheriff of Nottingham, Gessler was portrayed as a pig of a man, unshaven, often eating or drinking without any hint of manners and throwing his metaphorical as well as literal weight around. Goddard proved to be very active, despite his size. The series was repeated well into 1960s.

Cast and characters

Notable actors appearing


The series featured a long-remembered theme song, with music based on the William Tell Overture by Rossini. For the show, the song lyrics were by Harold Purcell and were sung by David Whitfield.

Because this portion of Rossini's overture was the theme of The Lone Ranger in the United States, a different portion of the overture, with lyrics added, became the theme song there, titled: The Freedom Song – "Marching Behind William Tell" by Geoffrey Parsons. This is on The Network DVD episode Castle of Fear.

Incidental music was by Albert Elms and Sydney John Kay


1. Come away, come away with William Tell,
Come away to the land he loved so well;
What a day, what a day when the apple fell,
For Tell and Switzerland

2. Come away with Tell to the mountainside
Looking down to the pass where the tyrants ride.
Set a bolt to your bow and down they go,
For Tell and Switzerland

3. We are simple peasant folk
We will not bear a foreign yoke
Our freedom song will echo on
To fight for what is right.

4. Hurry on, hurry on, there’s a dungeon cell;
Hurry on, hurry on, there’s a noose as well;
But we'll escape from the jaws of hell
For Tell and Switzerland.

5. We lived our lives, we loved our friends,
We never wanted more.
We had the skill to plough and till,
But not the art of war
But now the tyrant from the plains
Steals up to take our lands.
Instead of spade we wield the blade
Our life is in our hands.

6. Follow on, follow on, at the leaders heel
With a thrust of a pike and a clash of steel
Follow on with the fight till the tyrants reel
For Tell and Switzerland.

7. Give ‘em one for the day they burned the grain,
Give ‘em two for the night that Fritz was slain,
Give ‘em three, give ‘em four and hooray for more,
For Tell and Switzerland.

8. The shepherd’s crook, the reaping hook
Has taken on a warlike look.
With blades we’ve beaten from the plough
We reap a harvest now.

9. Come away, come away with William Tell,
Come away to the land he loved so well
Fit a bolt to your bow, and away we go
For Te-e-e-ell, and Switzerland.

Verses 1, 2, 4 with the opening titles, 6, 7, 8, 9 with the closing credits.[2]

Episode list

Airdate is for ATV Midlands [3] ITV regions varied date and order.

Episode # Prod # Title Directed by Written by Original airdate
1 "The Emperor's Hat" Ralph SmartRene Wilde and Leslie Arliss15 September 1958
The Swiss are subject to heavy taxes and cruel laws by the conquering Austrians and have to show respect to the Emperor's hat placed in each village. William Tell refuses and is arrested and hearing of his prowess with the crossbow Landburgher Gessler forces Tell to shoot at an apple on his son's head. Adapted from the original story by Johann von Schller. Stars Derren Nesbitt and Norman Mitchell
2 "The Hostages" Ralph SmartDoreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart22 September 1958
Gessler orders William Tell's arrest, after he steals a cache of arms, and takes six innocent men hostage who will be executed if Tell does not surrender. Stars James Booth and Roy Purcell
3 "Secret Death" Peter MaxwellDoreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart29 September 1958
When his wife Hedda is captured by Gessler, Tell offers himself in exchange. Stars Sid James, Howard Lang and Peter Welch
4 "The Gauntlet of St. Gerhardt" Peter MaxwellDoreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart6 October 1958
The Gauntlet of St. Gerhardt is a religious relic that the Swiss rally round and carry into battle. Gessler plans to steal the relic by killing the abbot that guards it. Stars Derren Nesbitt, Edward Judd and Ian Wallace
5 "The Prisoner" Peter MaxwellJohn Kruse13 October 1958
The Austrians building a road into the heart of Switzerland with slave labour capture a resistance fighter. Tell has to free the prisoner. Stars Michael Caine, Bruce Seton, Keith Pyott, Gwen Watford and Richard Shaw
6 "Voice in the Night" Terry BishopRalph Smart20 October 1958
Gessler falsely imprisons two men, Jules Gunther and Judge Furst who is William Tell's father-in- law. Tell has to expose his replacement Judge and free the men. Stars Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Michael Ripper and Derren Nesbitt
7 "The Assassin" Terry BishopRalph Smart story by Rene Wilde27 October 1958
Prince Karl, the cousin of the Austrian emperor is assassinated and Gessler arrests two men but gives them the chance to save themselves if they find William Tell and kill him. Stars Alfred Burke, Edwin Richfield and Roy Purcell
8 "The Baroness" Peter MaxwellJohn Kruse story by Ralph Smart3 November 1958
A beautiful woman seeks William Tell's help as she is being blackmailed by her bailiff for helping a resistance fighter. Hedda Tell suspects a plot and follows her husband. Stars Delphi Lawrence and Bruce Seton
9 "The Elixir" Terry BishopLindsay Galloway story by Ralph Smart10 November 1958
A local monastery is making money from the wine they make, with the proceeds going to founding a school, comes to the attention of Gessler and he wants the recipe in lieu of taxes. Stars Jack Watling 
10 "The Suspect" Quentin LawrenceDoreen Montgomery and Larry Forester17 November 1958
A young girl is accused of spying for the Austrians and Tell has to prove her innocence before the townspeople hang her. Stars Edward Judd, Tommy Duggan and Sheila Raynor
11 "The Cuckoo" Peter MaxwellRalph Smart24 November 1958
Gessler is under pressure from the Emperor to collect more taxes but his sleep is disturbed by a persistent Cuckoo outside his bedroom. Stars Jack Watling 
12 "The Bear" Ernest MorrisDoreen Montgomery story by Michael Connor1 December 1958
The son of a robber known, because of his size, as The Bear joins the resistance against his father's wishes. The Bear challengers Tell to a fight and if Tell wins his son can stay with the resistance. Stars Nigel Green 
13 "The Magic Powder" Peter MaxwellMartin Worth story by Ralph Smart8 December 1958
Tell and Gessler meet unexpectedly at the castle of Dr. Kleine, a scientist experimenting with explosives. Gessler wants the magic powder for warfare. Stars Gerald Cross
14 "The Golden Wheel" Peter MaxwellMichael Connor15 December 1958
Gessler discovers the location of resistance funds being channelled to Italy by a Swiss banker, Hanzler, to buy arms. William Tell has to save the banker. Stars Patrick Troughton and Derek Godfrey
15 "The Bride" Quentin LawrenceDoreen Montgomery story by John Kruse22 December 1958
Maddelena, a beautiful countess, is kidnapped by Austrian soldiers on the orders of Gessler so that he can marry her. Tell sees an opportunity; his wife Hedda is not so sure. Stars Glyn Owen and Nadja Regin
16 "The Boy Slaves" Terry BishopJohn Kruse29 December 1958
Outraged when a boy knocks his hat off, Gessler cancels an agreement to release young slave labourers. When the boy gives himself up, Gessler decides to hang him. Stars Frazer Hines and Derren Nesbitt
17 "The Young Widow" Peter MaxwellPaul Christie5 January 1959
Escaping the Austrians, William Tell and his wife Hedda, who has been injured, seek refuge with the Countess von Markhein. The Countess's servant recognises the pair and threatens to inform unless the Countess agrees to marry him. Stars Melissa Stribling
18 "Landslide" Terry BishopJohn Kruse12 January 1959
Gessler uses a double of Tell to discredit him as the double robs the Swiss and Gessler's men collect the taxes again. Stars Charles Lloyd Pack, Wilfrid Brambell and Frank Thornton
19 "The Trap" Quentin LawrenceDoreen Montgomery story by Max Savage19 January 1959
The Bear is rescued by Peter von Brechet who claims to be a fugitive but has Gessler a plan to smash the resistance. Stars Robert Shaw and Walter Gotell
20 "The Shrew" Peter MaxwellMax Savage26 January 1959
Hedda Tell is lured to a village when told her sister is ill and becomes a pawn in Gessler's plan to capture her husband. Stars Keith Pyott
21 "The Manhunt" Peter MaxwellDoreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart2 February 1959
William Tell is trapped on an island and hunted by Prince Erik who enjoys hunting human prey. Stars Christopher Lee and Kevin Stoney
22 "The Killer" Peter MaxwellLindsay Holloway9 February 1959
Accused of murder and theft of a partisan, William Tell has to prove his innocence in the face of his main accuser who he believes is the real killer. Stars Richard Vernon, Derek Godfrey and Kevin Stoney
23 "The Surgeon" Peter MaxwellDoreen Montgomery16 February 1959
Seriously wounded William Tell is taken to a Swiss surgeon pursued by Gessler. The surgeon has to think of a way to hide Tell. Stars Frank Thornton and David Blake Kelly
24 "The Ensign" Quentin LawrenceMax Savage and Leslie Arliss23 February 1959
Fritz, a young Austrian officer, faces a conflict between duty and conscience and turns unexpectedly to William Tell for help. Stars John Carson, Edward Evans and John Maxim
25 "The Unwelcome Stranger" Peter MaxwellPaul Christie9 March 1959
Tell travels to the sword making village of Linzen to find out why they have stopped the supply and finds himself under suspicion and the villagers wanting him gone. Stars David de Keyser, Derren Nesbitt and John Maxim
26 "The Avenger" Anthony SquireLindsay Galloway16 March 1959
Two envoys sent to negotiate a peace treaty have disappeared and William Tell suspects the beautiful Anna might be involved. Stars John Le Mesurier, Derek Waring and Ralph Michael
27 "The Bandit" Anthony SquireDoreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart23 March 1959
Tell searches for one of his men, sent to make contact with a rival resistance leader, and whom may have been murdered, but a bandit is operating in the area under Gessler's orders. Stars Kenneth Cope, Brian Rawlinson, Maurice Kaufmann and Robert Raglan
28 "Gessler's Daughter" Ernest MorrisLindsay Galloway30 March 1959
Gessler seeks William Tell's help when his daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. Stars Patsy Smart
29 "The General's Daughter" Peter MaxwellIan Stuart Black6 April 1959
The Bear is captured when a young Swiss patriot, Stephan, is handing food to the partisans. Tell must rescue him and determine whether Stephan is a traitor. Stars Michael Caine and Bruce Seton
30 "The Raid" Leslie ArlissLeslie Arliss and Rene Wilde13 April 1959
A daring raid on a Swiss-occupied fortress for much needed arms leads to disaster when William Tell is recognised. 
31 "Castle of Fear" Peter MaxwellRoger Marshall story by Max Savage20 April 1959
Visiting Werner castle to track down a murderer of a resistance leader, the gateman gives Tell a dire warning of death with his own life at stake. Stars Ferdy Mayne, Edwin Richfield, Alan Rowe and Erik Chitty
32 "The Black Brothers" Quentin LawrenceArnold Abbot27 April 1959
The three Black brothers, Italian bandits, steal arms intended for the Swiss resistance and then try to sell them to William Tell. Stars Roger Delgado, Warren Mitchell, Paul Stassino and Eileen Way 
33 "The Lost Letter" Terry BishopMichael Connor4 May 1959
Without realising it, Gessler is walking about with a letter for which he is searching in the sole of his boot. William Tell must retrieve it to save the lives of resistance workers. Stars John Dearth and Derren Nesbitt
34 "Secret Weapon" Ernest MorrisDoreen Montgomery story by Arnold Abbot11 May 1959
Gessler is erecting new fortifications that will split the country in two. Tell and The Bear investigate. Stars Jack Watling and Derrick Sherwin
35 "The Master Spy" Ernest MorrisDoreen Montgomery18 May 1959
A beautiful spy, Mara, known as The Shadow, is sent by Gessler to lure Tell into a trap. Stars Jack Watling, Adrienne Corri and Glyn Owen
36 "The Traitor" Peter MaxwellRoger Marshall and Leslie Arliss25 May 1959
William Tell and Hedda receive a visit from a friendly resistance leader needing help to find a traitor in his camp. They soon find they are in a trap. Stars William Lucas, Neil Hallett, Bruce Seton and Derren Nesbitt
37 "The Spider" Ernest MorrisRoger Marshall story Ralph Smart1 June 1959
A ruthless Austrian commander nicknamed The Spider capture two of Tell's men demanding to know of under threat of torture the whereabouts of Tell's camp. Using false documents Tell infiltrates The Spider's ranks. Stars Donald Pleasence, Robert Cawdron and Deborah Watling
38 "The Mountain People" Quentin LawrenceDoreen Montgomery story by John Kruse8 June 1959
A beautiful naive girl is rescued by William Tell from Austrian soldiers and find his life and reputation endangered. Stars Lee Montague, James Booth, Maureen Davis and John Dearth
39 "Undercover" Ernest MorrisLindsay Galloway15 June 1959
Tell goes deep into Austrian territory after the death of a partisan whose sources of information go as far as the emperor's daughter. Stars Derek Bond, Jill Browne and Peter Welch

Conrad Phillips later went on to play William Tell's sidekick, Stefan, in the series Crossbow which ran from August 1987 till February 1989. William Tell was played by Will Lyman. The series ran for 72 thirty-minute colour episodes over three seasons, 24 each, with the third season unaired in America. Other members of the cast were Jeremy Clyde as Hermann Gessler, Valentine Pelka as Roland, Melinda Mullins as Blade and David Barry Gray as Tell's son Matthew. Four episodes were issued on VHS, retitled "The Legend of William Tell". Gessler was called 'Governor' throughout, perhaps on the premise that the children watching at the time were less likely to have read the story in book form, and probably thought that a 'Landburgher' – often misspelled without the 'h' – was something one bought at McDonalds.

There was a third series of William Tell, produced in New Zealand and called The Legend of William Tell, which only lasted one season of 16 episodes of sixty minutes from August till December 1998. Cast were Kieren Hutchison as William Tell, Andrew Binns as Xax, Nathaniel Lees as Leon, Katrina Browne as Aruna, Ray Henwood as Kreel, Sharon Tyrell as Kalem, Beth Allen as Princess Varga and Drew Neemia as Drogo.

American airing

In the United States, the thirty-nine 30-minute long episodes aired on the syndicated NTA Film Network in 1958–1959. The Adventures of William Tell was the first of two syndicated television programs about the Swiss folk hero William Tell; the second was 1991's The Legend of William Tell.


The entire series is available on a 5-disc region 2 set from Network DVD.

The entire series is also available on a 3-disc region 1 set.


  • Internet Movie Database

External links

  • "William Tell" (1958–59) – episode guide at The Classic TV Archive
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Modern review of the series

Template:William Tell

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