The Charmer

Nigel Havers is the suave and deadly Ralph Ernest Gorse, a.k.a. "The Charmer" - minor public schoolboy, social climber, seducer of women and eternal seeker after the main chance; his stalking grounds are the roadhouses, boarding rooms and grand seaside hotels of the 1930's, the haunts of vulnerable widows and ambitious swindlers. Gorse is no English hero in the traditional sense of the word. He is a psychopath with the plausible charm of every mother's son, a Lothario whose conquests are merely a means to obtaining what he really craves - money and power.

This double BAFTA-winning drama from writer Allan Prior (based on the book Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse) and director Alan Gibson showcases arguably a career-best performance from Nigel Havers as psychopathic gigolo Ralph Gorse. This highly-rated drama also stars Bernard Hepton, Rosemary Leach and Fiona Fullerton.

I vaguely remember this series being on (but I was 15 at the time an not really interested in TV) and it making a splash in the press, and I am extremely glad that Network DVD have released it as it is an extremely good series, with Havers and Hepton putting in brilliant performances as hunted and hunter. As is the norm for Network, there is an extra - a Nigel Havers interview on Aspel & Co. originally broadcast on the 14th February 1987. The DVD is priced 19.99 and has a total running time of 300 minutes.

titleTx. DateNotes
Gorse, the Tempter18.10.87It's September 1938 and Gorse, down to his last few quid and one good suit, meets Joan Plumleigh-Bruce, a colonel's widow and crashing snob, in a local roadhouse in Reading. Joan is sexy in her own way and is attracted to Gorse despite the difference in their ages.
Gorse, the Investor25.10.87Gorse desperately needs money to bankroll his infatuation with the beautiful Clarice Manners. He discovers Joan Plumleigh-Bruce has a large sum - but unfortunately very safely invested. He steps up his seduction of Joan and persuades her to transfer the money into a more accessible account, but in the process he arouses the jealous suspicions of Mr Stimpson.
Gorse, the Deceiver1.11.87It's April 1939 and Gorse has blown the 1000 he swindled from Joan Plumleigh-Bruce in six months of high living and needs to earn some more money quickly. He throws a poker party at the plush Hotel Royal in Brighton and invites Bennett - a prosperous garage owner for whom Gorse once worked selling cars and whose daughter Pamela was once sweet on Gorse. Keeping with the style of the time she is looking for a husband and Gorse's arrival sets her heart fluttering again.
Gorse in the Middle8.11.87Mr Bennett swallows the fact that Gorse is to be his son-in-law and gives him a big wedding. Blue skies for Gorse, as he stands on the steps of the most fashionable church in the district, with the ever-so-slightly pregnant Pamela on his arm. But Gorse soon learns he will be given no partnership in the family business. He feels increasingly trapped and over the hill is London with its bright lights, society and Clarice, who represents all he will ever want riches, style, the real thing. All Gorse needs is money - and stuck in his semi in Brighton he will never get any... unless he resorts to something drastic and dangerous.
Gorse, the Imposter15.11.87It's May 1940 and Gorse is a Private in the West Sussex Regiment billeted near Brighton. Refused a commission and learning that his regiment is shortly being sent to France, he decides to desert. But fake documents will cost him two hundred quid which he doesn't have. Then he has a stroke of luck. He encounters a very drunk young pilot officer down from London for the day and steals his uniform. Gorse checks into the plush Carlton Hotel - back in business. He quickly spots his next victim, a classy-looking woman, 40ish, Alison Warrer - recently widowed. Gorse moves in.
Gorse at the End22.11.87Joan and Mr Stimpson travel to Brighton and discover the body in the mortuary is not Gorse - in fact Gorse is staying in the Carlton Hotel with a lady friend. Gorse meanwhile plans a desperate escape with Clarice's help, but Alison Warren stands in his way...