MovieChat Forums > The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Discussion > April Dancer: shackled by the times

April Dancer: shackled by the times


After re-acquainting myself with several episodes of this series, I am struck by how little actual fighting April Dancer, the lead character actually gets to do. In "The Garden Of Evil Affair" she's desperately tries to escape a locked room as a lumbering poison-nailed Arab pursues her until Mark Slate finally blows the door down and saves her. Later, while Slate leads THRUSH men on possibly the longest chase scene in any U.N.C.L.E. episode, April spends nearly the whole time trying to fit into an saloon girl costume. In "The UFO Affair" I think I counted her being overtaken by someone at least 3 times before finally getting her "big action scene", tugging on Fernando Lamas' foot, then ending up ontop of him & receiving an unwelcome kiss. Clearly american networks had a problem with the idea of a female heroine who could look after herself without waiting for some guy to come and rescue her. It's just a shame that they didn't pay more attention to British tv at that time as when it came to kicking butt, Emma Peel was years ahead of her american counterpart, April Dancer.

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Yes, it does seem bizarre to call a show 'The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.' and then depict its heroine as being heavily reliant on a male sidekick. The annoying thing is that Powers was athletic enough to carry off the fights, had there been any. I recently rewatched the 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' story 'The Candidate's Wife Affair' and in that Diana Hyland gets more action than Powers managed in all 29 episodes of 'G.F.U.'!

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I have to part company with you on some of this , Agent A.

Clearly american networks had a problem with the idea of a female heroine who could look after herself without waiting for some guy to come and rescue her. It's just a shame that they didn't pay more attention to British tv at that time as when it came to kicking butt, Emma Peel was years ahead of her american counterpart, April Dancer.


I don't think that's 100 % correct .
For example the idea for the show “Honey West” was born when executives in the US happened to see some early episodes of the Avengers starring the unsurpassable Honor Blackman as Mrs.Cathy Gale . Now after she quit the show Honor herself was asked to be the lead on that show before Anne Francis . Actually I can’t blame her for refusing it , since one of her reasons to leave was the fear of being typecast , so what would have been the point of quitting the team just to go on to play the same type of character in a similar but much worse show ?
Anyway even if I believe Honey West to be a mediocre series ( for many others it’s a cult actually ) it sure introduced the US audiences to this new type of woman Honor had created and the show debuted on television a couple of weeks before the Rigg Avengers had done so even in the UK . Plus the Honey West character had already made a prior appearance in "Burke's Law" that was aired well before the Fourth Season of the Avengers had started and she was already full with all her credentials back then , including her judo skills .
Now , my friend , I think you must remember very well from the MFU boards that I'm far from being the biggest Anne Francis fan in the world and I must add that the lady was sure quite untalented when it came to physical stuff . But when people want to claim that no woman had ever done before the kind of stuff Rigg used to do I'm obviously forced to take Miss Francis' defense . And it wasn't like Anne was actually more physically incompetent than Rigg was , anyway .. seriously , both women basically needed a stunt double just to cross the street ! It's not like they didn't have any real attitude for fighting . No , they were both particularly hopeless at it .

Now other examples that clearly the producers of the show didn't have any problem with kick-ass females can be found in some episodes of MFU that were aired before "GFU" started or at the same time the show was on . In "The Girls of Nazarone Affair" - that we have already reviewed - there were Dr.Egret's formidable assistants that proved able to kick Napoleon's ass and similar characters were featured in "The Cherry Blossom Affair" , "The Candidate's Wife Affair" , "The Thor Affair" , "The Project Deephole Affair" , "The Her Majesty's Voice Affair" etc... Well , also in "The My Friend , The Gorilla Affair", the most catastrophic episode in the history of both U.N.C.L.E shows , the Girl was able to punch out Napoleon and carrying him away lifting him on her shoulders like a bag of potatoes .

Now , I think that something people often forget about April is that her character was supposed to be quite a young and inexperienced agent ( even if she showed many considerable talents during the show's run ) and that she was supposed to have a certain comical quality about her , so sometimes she had to put herself into trouble and have unusual difficulty at getting out of it . But think to "The Mother Muffin Affair" or "The Montori Device Affair" , on both occasions she was able to knock a man unconscious using a simple nerve pinch . I usually wondered : if she could dispose of an opponent so easily why she didn't do it more often , sure she could have done so with Cannelloni ( yeah , the character was named after a type of pasta in MFU style )in "The Low Blue C Affair" , therefore preventing him to help Broderick Crawford winning his fixed wheel game against Hermione Gingold .. but had she done so , we would have not had Broderick and Hemione's priceless succession of hilarious facial expressions at the sight of the ball keeping jumping on the game table ! I think that something that damages Stefanie is that often people forget that this show was basically a comedy .
Anyway in "The Romany Lie Affair" April had a knife fight a la "From Russia With Love" with a gypsy and prevailed upon her using a combination of street fighting and martial arts . In "The Atlantis Affair" she had a sword duel with Le Gallows and defeated him . And I must say Stefanie looked very convincing at fencing . I know she had taken lessons quite seriously in order to do this scene properly and that's very admirable . Going back to the comparison with Peel , I must say that Rigg has to be the worst fencer I've ever seen on the big or small screen, the way she used to yield the sword keeping her arm cramped like she had polio was laughable . This on the very rare occasions she did it herself naturally .. considering that most of the time she had to fence the only thing she had ot do was to put the mask on and a stuntwoman half her height and twice her size would have taken her place .. but at least the double in question could feel a bit rewarded anytime the untalented directors at least were giving a close-up to her face , perfectly noticeable under the mask ! But I'm digressing,I suppose . Sorry Agent A. , everytime Rigg is mentioned , I have to start a rant against her , I really can't stand the woman .

In "The Furnace Flats Affair" we had Ruth Roman's character who at the beginning of the ep was seen taking a bunch of fellow THRUSH agents all by herself and later broke her ties just with pure strenght . Again , don't think that the prodocers had any real problem with a bad-ass female . And anyway April put a hell of a fight with Ruth p and almost won ... so she has to be pretty tough as well , right ? The fight scene was light years ahead of Rigg's subpar action sequences and Stefanie gets a lot of respect from me for having done most of her stunts in the show . Also if Ruth won was also due to the fact that she played dirty ( biting April etc..)
And in "The Moulin Ruse Affair" we had a gallery of female fighters clearly inspired to Pussy Galore's Flying circus and April took many of them in the final fight scene . A bunch of athletic pensioners also joined the fight , don't know if you remember the ep .

Personally I admired April's cunningness everytime she used some gadget to take care of her enemies and escape , like when in "TFFA" she tricked Ruth Roman to smoke the tranquilizing cig or when she had her guard knocking herself out with some gas coming out of a compact in "The Horns-of-The-Dilemma-Affair" . Emma Peel may have supposedly been so capable and indipendent but it remains that everytime that she got tied somewhere (and it happened in about every episode) she always had to wait for Steed to be rescued .. unlike April would have done.
Despite the character's great comical quality I never regarded April as a
joke , something I always did with Rigg's Peel .

In "The UFO Affair" I think I counted her being overtaken by someone at least 3 times before finally getting her "big action scene", tugging on Fernando Lamas' foot, then ending up ontop of him & receiving an unwelcome kiss


3 times ? At one point Lamas' character knocked her unconscious with a nerve pinch but she hadn't been overpowered before that . She had a fight with an harem girl , but she didn't lose , the two actually stopped fighting when April declared that she wanted to get out of the place . And the kiss moment was quite funny for me anyway .. I don't even consider that a fight scene , Lamas knew that they were doomed at that point and wanted to have a small taste of April . And that's not hard to believe !
But how about Fernando's previous appearence in "The Horns-of-The-Dilemma-Affair" ? April stuck him like a pig .

All in all , I have to agree that I would have liked to see April doing more hand-to-hand combat as well , considering how athletically gifted Stefanie was. But she sure deserves respect , as she came out as being highly intelligent and often showed to possess considerable abilities . And in real life Stefanie Powers would have had no trouble in kicking Diana Rigg's nectarine-sized ass .. and gosh , I would have loved to see her doing so !




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I certainly bow to your encyclopedic knowledge of "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.", Agent EB. I must admit I was never a fan of that one, nor could I find anything remotely appealing about Noel Harrison. His casting proved to me that not just anyone could be an U.N.C.L.E. agent. As for Stephanie Powers, she was certainly likeable, but if they'd had a better producer for that series she could have been superb. Just never much liked "GFU".

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I believe that if April had been portrayed in every episode as cunning and capable as she was in "The Double-O-Nothing Affair" and in the "Atlantis Affair" she could have really challenged Barbara Bain for the title of Queen of American spies in those years .

As for Noel Harrison , sure he wasn't very cool for being an U.N.C.L.E agent and didn't have the stature of the leading man . But if the show had not be cancelled and April had been made more infallible and less reliant on him , Mark could have still worked well as a second banana . I just didn't like when the scripts gave him more to do than her , which unfortunately was the case of the series finale . "The Kooky Spook Affair" was basically a Slate-centered story .

Sure there were some bad episodes ( "The Paradise Lost Affair" in particular ) , but not really so many IMO . The best episodes could have really worked in the second season of MFU I think .

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