The Adventures of William Tell

The Adventures of William Tell is a British swashbuckler adventure series, first broadcast on the ITV network in 1958, and produced by ITC Entertainment. In the United States, the episodes aired on the syndicated NTA Film Network in 1958–1959.[1]

The Adventures of William Tell
Also known as'William Tell'
StarringConrad Phillips
Jennifer Jayne
Richard Rogers
Willoughby Goddard
Theme music composerWilliam Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Opening themeLyrics by Harold Purcell, sung by David Whitfield
Ending themeLyrics by Harold Purcell, sung by David Whitfield
Composer(s)Albert Elms
Sydney John Kay
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes39 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Ralph Smart
Producer(s)Leslie Arliss
Running time25 minutes
DistributorITC Entertainment
Picture format35mm film 4:3 Black-and-white
Audio formatMono
Original release15 September 1958 
15 June 1959

William Tell is a folk hero of Switzerland, supposedly active in the early 14th century. He supposedly encouraged the population of the Old Swiss Confederacy to revolt against the regime of Albert I of Germany (reigned 1298–1308). Tell's legend is recorded in the White Book of Sarnen (1474).

Production notes

The series was produced by Ralph Smart, who wrote a number of stories for the series and also produced Danger Man. 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 beside Llyn Padarn, a lake which can be seen in many shots (as can cars 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 vehicle access, and brought work for at least three yearly shoots to a tiny corner of North Wales before tourism took off.

An accident early occurred to the star, Conrad Phillips, during filming in Snowdonia. He was asked to keep stepping back until he stepped off a 12-foot drop, injuring his knee – which eventually led to his retirement from acting. Phillips had to wear support bandages during filming but sometimes forgot, causing him to struggle with some action scenes.[2]

Daily rushes were viewed at the only cinema in the area, at Llanberis, which was taken over from 8.00 until noon every morning. The film was taken to Soho in London for developing and the rushes returned to Llanberris by 8.30 next morning.

Although all three series had location scenes, the third was more studio based and location scenes 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 without synchronised sound. In the days of enforced demarcation, 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 harder show with crossbow bolts killing people and Tell fighting hand-to-hand, which often resulted in the death of the bad guy. Unlike the courtly Sheriff of Nottingham, Gessler was a pig of a man, unshaven, often eating or drinking without manners and throwing his metaphorical as well as literal weight around. The series was re-run well into the 1960s.

Cast and characters

Notable actors appearing


The series featured a long-remembered theme song, with music based on the William Tell Overture by Gioachino 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


Verses 1, 2, 4 with the opening titles, 6, 7, 8, 9 with the closing credits.[3]

Episode list

Airdate is for ATV Midlands [4] ITV regions varied date and order.

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"The Emperor's Hat"Ralph SmartRene Wilde and Leslie Arliss15 September 1958 (1958-09-15)
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 play by Friedrich von Schiller. Stars Derren Nesbitt and Norman Mitchell.
2"The Hostages"Ralph SmartDoreen Montgomery story by Ralph Smart22 September 1958 (1958-09-22)
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 (1958-09-29)
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 (1958-10-06)
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 (1958-10-13)
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 (1958-10-20)
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 (1958-10-27)
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 (1958-11-03)
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 (1958-11-10)
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 and Ian Wallace.
10"The Suspect"Quentin LawrenceDoreen Montgomery and Larry Forester17 November 1958 (1958-11-17)
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 (1958-11-24)
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 (1958-12-01)
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 and John Howard Davies.
13"The Magic Powder"Peter MaxwellMartin Worth story by Ralph Smart8 December 1958 (1958-12-08)
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 (1958-12-15)
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 (1958-12-22)
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 (1958-12-29)
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 (1959-01-05)
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 (1959-01-12)
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 (1959-01-19)
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 (1959-01-26)
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 (1959-02-02)
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 Galloway9 February 1959 (1959-02-09)
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 (1959-02-16)
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.
24"The Ensign"Quentin LawrenceMax Savage and Leslie Arliss23 February 1959 (1959-02-23)
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 (1959-03-09)
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 (1959-03-16)
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 (1959-03-23)
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 (1959-03-30)
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 (1959-04-06)
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 (1959-04-13)
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 (1959-04-20)
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 (1959-04-27)
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 (1959-05-04)
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 Derren Nesbitt.
34"Secret Weapon"Ernest MorrisDoreen Montgomery story by Arnold Abbot11 May 1959 (1959-05-11)
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 (1959-05-18)
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 (1959-05-25)
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, Bruce Seton and Derren Nesbitt.
37"The Spider"Ernest MorrisRoger Marshall story Ralph Smart1 June 1959 (1959-06-01)
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 and Deborah Watling.
38"The Mountain People"Quentin LawrenceDoreen Montgomery story by John Kruse8 June 1959 (1959-06-08)
A beautiful naive girl is rescued by William Tell from Austrian soldiers and finds his life and reputation endangered. Stars Lee Montague and James Booth.
39"Undercover"Ernest MorrisLindsay Galloway15 June 1959 (1959-06-15)
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 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.

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.


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.


  1. McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television (4th ed.). New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
  2. "Aiming True – The Autobiography of Conrad Phillips". 21 March 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  3. The whole song is on the album "The Very Best of David Whitfield Volume Two"
  4. Before 1968 ATV transmitted weekdays in the Midlands and weekends in London. See History of ITV
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