The Man of the World was an entirely unknown series before I began working detailing the series. My first awareness of this show came from watching The Sentimental Agent tv series starring Carlos Thompson and while reading about that series I realised that The Sentimental Agent was in fact a spin-off from a specific episode in the Man of the World show. Although my continuity was all skewed I knew I needed to go one step backwards and document this series next.
Lew Grade at ITC Entertainment noticed that his action adventure series such as Danger Man and the Saint were doing so well that he decided to copy that formula with Man of the World. He hired Craig Stevens, an American and reasonably famous tv star, to play the role of Michael Strait. Stories say that Lew Grade believed that a recognisable American actor being casted would help open the US television market for ITC shows, in fact to the contrary, his most popular shows had British lead actors running the show.
The premise of the show was of an internationally known, jet-setting photojournalist named Michael Strait. Finding himself amongst the rich and famous throughout the world in circumstances where often then not his camera made him into a hero. His smooth debonair style easily achieved by Craig Stevens who essentially played the same kind of role as Peter Gunn, a popular tv series from 1959. You might know the Peter Gunn series from its famous theme by Henry Mancini, it was even covered by the Blues Brothers.
Henry Mancini, by the way, is in every episode of this series as the composer of the theme music which gives us pure Mancini-esque orchestral arrangement with swirling strings and his piano following the tune. To my ears, it sounds like a final scene or the credits scrolling musical score, which can be odd when you hear it at the beginning of the episode but this doesn’t take away from its quality.
The series began with two regular characters, naturally the lead Michael Strait and his assistant Maggie Warren played by Tracy Reed. I was disappointed that Tracy’s character appeared in only 8 episodes however this role was not a focus for the series writers and it shows in the episodes she does appear in. I believe this was a missed opportunity by the producers of the show to insert a strong female character in a series that glorifies the suave and self-assured male jet setter. Beyond that, the series does include so big name stars like Anthony Quayle, Donald Stewart and Donald Sutherland but also a huge list of ITC regulars that you definitely see in many of the other shows.
There are a couple of episodes that made an impression on me, some for obvious reasons and others perhaps due to my patronage to ITC shows in general. In the Shadow of the Wall, which was released in 1963, there is a picture of John F. Kennedy on the wall in the the US embassy, knowing what would befall him in late November of the same year. In the show In the Picture, Strait is hosting a photo exhibit which funny enough are still shots from previous Man of the World episodes, displayed as an homage to the series and its rich list of characters. The Sentimental Agent episode introduces us to Carlos Thompson who will shortly after be the star of a spin off of the same name.
While watching this series, I did crave a more relaxed but adventurous lead character, Craig Stevens is no doubt a good actor but lacks a charisma that one would expect from a roving pseudo hero who is familiar with all parts of the world and fits in enough anywhere to be persuasive. Nonetheless, I recall this journey through the lens of Michael Strait, being one with a smart run of mystery and adventure during the early 1960s. The episodes were topical for the time period and would certainly pass as entertainment.