The story of Simon Templar - better known as the Saint - began in 1928, as Leslie Charteris began writing a series of novels that would transform popular literature. A creature of his time, Simon Templar was a debonair swashbuckler - a modern-day 'Robin Hood' who preyed upon the criminals and had a gay old time as he did it! The Saint's popularity has continued for nearly 90 years, inspiring movies, radio dramas, comic books, and three legendary TV series.
Fans of Leslie Charteris will be excited to hear that Paramount has secured the rights to the Saint, likely meaning that we're about to see that telltale halo on the big screen once again. As Deadline report:
"Producing deals are being closed now, but it’s likely that Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Brad Krevoy and Robert Evans will be among the producers in hopes of launching another action franchise at the studio."
Simon Templar is a modern version of a classic trope; the swashbuckler who dispenses justice to the ungodly, the vigilante who brings fear to the criminals, the Robin Hood who gives aid to the defenceless. His calling-card is a piece of paper, on which he lazily sketches a stick-figure with a halo over its head. By the time Charteris had published a few books, he was already envisioning the criminal classes quaking in fear when they opened an envelope and found that inside it!
Vigilantes are all the craze nowadays. On the whole, I think society is currently characterized by a distrust of authority, by a belief that the system's rules are actually in favor of those who break the law, and that the corrupt escape justice. Just like Robin Hood in his time, the vigilante - such as the Saint - is a legendary breath of fresh air, a reassurance that there is still justice in the world, and a chance to mock the corruption that we would otherwise fear. The Saint may be fictional, but in the 1920s and 1930s - all the way through to the present day - vigilantes like Simon Templar bring something truly positive to society.
Not that the Saint won't need a little bit of work in order to strengthen the franchise. With the exception of the Saint's recurrent love-interest Patricia Holm, the books present a very limited view of the female sex. Patterning many of his stories on classic swashbuckler tales, Leslie Charteris tended to portray women as damsels in distress, in need of the Saint's manly heroism. What's more, you always got the feeling that an attractive girl was an essential element of a Saint story - and in spite of his relationship with the fair Patricia, the Saint showed no inhibition about wooing the girls he met. There's one scene that describes him as "making love" to a girl in the street - a scene that becomes far less graphic when we remember that, at the time, that phrase actually meant a passionate kiss.
As will be clear, I'm a huge fan of the Saint. Leslie Charteris's books and short stories are like nothing else, and the cultural impact of the Saint can't be overstated. Charteris himself joked that he received so much fan mail that, at times, he began to wonder if it were the Saint who was the real figure, and Leslie Charteris who was the literary myth! Only a handful of other heroes, notably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, have ever been received with such unalloyed delight. The last film, starring Val Kilmer, completely failed to capture the joy and wit of the books; I hope that this time, Paramount will do the Saint justice.