The Sentimental Agent
It was in ATV’s Saturday evening series “Man of the World” that he first caught the eye of a shrewd television executive who saw in his portrayal of a suave, devil-may-care rogue the possibility of something more than what is known in the business as a “oncer”. For the performance of Carlos Thompson, as he charmed his way through situations fraught with danger, was such as to spark off thoughts of a number of programmes reflecting similar escapades, set against backgrounds which could be international in their appeal.
The idea took root—and the “go-ahead” was given for a series of programmes. And the planners of the programmes were told that they had to stick closely to the character that had been created for that one “Man of the World” story. The hero had to be impeccably dressed; sophisticated without being foppish; attractive to women, yet of that stuff of which heroes are made; he must be witty, athletic and very much a man-of-the-world.
A tall order for a character. Equally so for whoever was to take on the role.
Carlos Thompson can truly be said to measure up to the requirements of such casting.
The Argentinian-born Thompson is tall (6ft. 2ins.), dark and handsome. He has been described as a Latin heart-throb. Although born in the heat of South America, he has made his home for a number of years in the cool “and ice” of Switzerland, where he lives with his film star wife Lilli Palmer—3,000 feet up a mountain. The very effort of getting up and down that self-same mountain answers the demand for athletic prowess. He is also robust and quick on his feet—and he has “been around”, having spent much of his adult life in the majority of the capitals of South American countries, in New York, London, and the bigger cities of Europe.
In “Sentimental Agent” he is shown as owning and running an import-export business called Mercury International which has ramifications all over the world. From his own personal experiences Thompson could well be suited for such a job in real life, for he is essentially cosmopolitan—in origin and in outlook. Despite the country of his birth— or perhaps because of it—he claims to be one quarter German, one quarter Spanish, one quarter French, and he speaks eight languages.
In his linen suit —or that cut by a fashionable Savile Row tailor when the occasion demands — his panama hat set at an angle which is neither rakish nor too lacking in character, and his inevitable, specially prepared cigar alight in its ebony holder (and this is his smoking preference as practised in real life), he is the embodiment of the male whom most women secretly hanker after, whom many women openly spend their life looking for.
It was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the world’s cinema screens from Hollywood who first saw the potential in Carlos Thompson. He owes his career in the competitive world of filmland to the tempestuous Yvonne de Carlo. She it was who spotted him for his first English-speaking films. She lured him to the film capital in California to co-star with her in “Port Algiers”. Based on this picture — to which he had brought a tough apprenticeship in Argentinian films — he was given a Hollywood contract and hailed as a new heart-throb. Roles opposite Lana ‘Turner and Esther Williams followed. Starring parts in “The Flame and the Flesh”, “The Valley of the Kings”, “Magic Fire”, “Thunderstorm” and “Raw Wind of Eden” followed. Then he disappeared from the English-speaking screen.
Where had he gone? By his own admission he recalls: “The Hollywood-stvle life was not for me. I had to decide whether I wanted to return to Hollywood or be myself and live the sort of life I wanted”. He made his decision—and chose Switzerland as his home.
But this did not mean he was lost to films. Austria and Germany are within easy reach — after a tough journey on skis — from his 1800-built converted peasant’s chalet on the Swiss mountainside.
In these countries he has made eighteen films in the last ten years and established himself as one of the Continent’s most sought-after and popular leading men. Witness to this claim was shown while Carlos was on a quiet, private, sightseeing tour around London this spring as a break from househunting for his wife and himself for their stay in Britain to make the “Sentimental Agent” series.
As he strolled through Trafalgar Square, overcoat draped characteristically over his shoulder, cigar-holder at its jaunty angle, the eyes of some members of a visiting party of girls from one of Kent’s most proper finishing schools for young ladies noticed him. Immediately the long hours of training and insistence on decorum were forgotten. “Eet ees Carlos”, shouted the German, Swiss, Austrian girls in the group. In a moment deportment was forgotten and the smiling actor found himself surrounded by excited girls while he tried to keep up a conversation with them in the many different languages with which he was being assailed as his fans recognised him, demanded that he speak to them—of his films and of “home”.
Such is his standing on the Continent. Before long the distinctive accent of the English used in the North Country, in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Birmingham and around Hampstead could well be added to this acclaim.
The son of a writer — his father was an Argentinian newspaper editor — Carlos Thompson is following in Thompson senior’s footsteps. His main hobby is writing. He has written many short stories and at one time seriously considered taking up writing as a career.
His home in Switzerland provides the ideal requirements for a man of letters: he has peace, air like champagne — inducive to good composition — and a wife who likes to read herself and who understands the needs of a creative mind… a far cry this from the role of the modern-day swashbuckler of “Sentimental Agent”.
But Thompson is an adaptable person. He has to be, for to every role he plays he brings his own instinctive interpretation. This is always realism. In ATV’s “Sentimental Agent” he is called on to draw on the vast experience that has been his career to date. One moment he is in danger, another he is in love, in yet another he is in a situation that taxes all his wit, ingenuity and charm — but without doubt he is always in the centre of things. In such situations he gives his all — and who can blame him? Always at the back of his mind, to relish and look forward to, is that snow-covered mountain retreat where visitors, if they have negotiated the difficulties of the journey, are always welcome; but he knows that the unexpected knocks on his thick oak front door will be few and far between.
Truly, a man with a mind of his own — and a place of his own — is Carlos Thompson, “Sentimental Agent”