Series 3 — Episode 7
The Gilded Cage
by Roger Marshall
Designed by Robert Macgowan
Directed by Bill Bain
Production No 3614, VTR unknown
Production completed: October 25 1963. First transmission: November 9 1963.
TV Times summary
In which Steed masterminds a robbery; and Cathy is framed for murder
Steed baits a trap and Mrs Gale entices Spagge to steal £3,000,000 of gold ingots. Despite passing the initiative test, Spagge tries to kill Cathy after the raid, but Steed forestalls such drastic action and arrests the bullion raiders.
Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) conducts John Steed (Patrick Macnee) through a top security gold depository, leading to the strong room guarded by Groves (Neil Wilson) where £3,000,0001 of gold ingots are stacked. Steed whistles at the sight of them and tries to pick one up.
STEED: Yeah … How many men would it take to remove the lot?
STEED: Are you sure?
CATHY: Positive. I’ve got it all planned.
Steed pays a visit to the rich, invalided master criminal J.P. Spagge (Patrick Magee). He proposes a bullion robbery — he has the contact, naming Mrs Gale, and the plans, but needs the manpower. Spagge orders his butler, Fleming (Norman Chappell), to show Steed out.
STEED: You’re not interested? What’s wrong? It’s a sitting duck.
SPAGGE: Just one thing wrong, Mr Steed.
STEED: What’s that?
SPAGGE: You’re fifteen years too late.
Back at Steed’s apartment, Cathy is boning up on gold markets with the help of books and tapes,2 Steed tells her about Spagge, an entrepreneur of crime who used to set up heists but now claims to be retired — but Steed doesn’t believe it and suggests well planned robberies like the Great Train Robbery have his mark. They must trap Spagge with this plan, he’s the one they want.
Meanwhile, Spagge quizzes his butler about Steed who sums him up by itemising his exquisite clothing and knowledge of art, which makes Spagge accuse Fleming of being a snob.3
A few days later, Cathy complains she mislaid her purse as she and Steed wonder when Spagge will bite. They have a visit from Manley (Fredric Abbott) and Westwood (Alan Haywood), showing credentials of a Superintendent and Sergeant from Scotland Yard. Manley is introduced to Cathy, and then Manley and Westwood arrest Cathy for the murder of Spagge, citing a description of her from the butler and her purse found on the premises.4
Cathy wakes from being drugged and discovers she’s in a prison cell, the wardress (Margo Cunningham) tells her she’s in Holloway Prison, and the Medical Officer had given her something to calm her down. Cathy can’t remember how she got there or why, or even what day it is. She asks when her trial will be, the wardress tells her she’s already been found guilty of Spagge’s murder.
WARDRESS: Yes. This is the condemned cell. It’s a one way ticket from here.
Later, Cathy plays Draughts with the wardress and asks why she can’t remember the trial. The wardress says it can happen, as soon as you hear the word ‘guilty’ the mind breaks down. Cathy recounts the arrest, getting into a police car with Manley, then nothing. The wardress asks who Steed is, which makes Cathy look at her in surprise.
They’re interrupted by the chaplain, Abe Benham (Edric Connor). Cathy urgently tells him she didn’t kill Spagge and she can’t remember any trial. Benham assures her there was a trial, but declines to show her proof, saying it’s against regulations.
BENHAM: Proof does not have to be tangible, believe me. “According to your faith be done to you”, Matthew 9 —
BENHAM: You’re right, Mark.
Having tripped him up on Bible verses,5 she suspects a trick. When Benham asks who her accomplice, Steed, is, she feeds him the planned story about herself and Steed, and the robbery of the bullion company as she was the only one with access to the vaults.
Steed meanwhile visits Spagge’s apartment, where Fleming is occupying Spagge’s wheelchair. He doesn’t believe Spagge is dead and threatens Fleming to reveal where Spagge is, saying he’ll need the chair permanently.6
Back at the prison, the Governor calls for Cathy, and Hammond (Martin Friend) starts cleaning her cell. She’s led up a spiral staircase to the Governor’s office and is confronted with Benham, Manley and Westwood, as well as the rest of the gang. They all burst out laughing and Cathy asks why they faked her arrest.
BENHAM: We wanted to know who we were dealing with. We gave you enough rope to hang yourself six times over, now we figure we’ll have a closer look, see if you’re on the square.
Cathy is led away to change clothes and the gang vote on if they want in or out on Cathy’s bullion robbery.7 It’s a hung vote, so they let Benham size up her scheme and then decide.
Steed visits the very much alive Spagge, delivering some of Cathy’s clothes to be sent to her. He’s annoyed when Spagge won’t tell him where Cathy is, or let him meet her, and accuses Spagge of trying to cut him out of the deal. Spagge tells him his friends will plan the robbery and carry it out.
SPAGGE: Let yourself out — Fleming’s indisposed.
STEED: Well, you’d better get him to talk more readily. Be more amenable.
SPAGGE: He isn’t paid to be amenable.
STEED: In that case, he’ll go on being indisposed.6
Benham sculpts the head of Cathy while they talk, and is satisfied that Cathy knows about gold bullion. He asks her what her deal is and she replies fifty-fifty, with Benham paying Spagge’s fee. He agrees but she cuts him off, immediately changing the terms because of the “little charade in the death cell”.
CATHY: You’ve had your little joke, now it’s my turn. Five percent. A hundred and fifty thousand. Jokes on me come expensive.
BENHAM: You’re crazy!
CATHY: Take it or leave it.
BENHAM: We didn’t even say we’d do the job.
CATHY: Keep me posted.
Manley and Westwood search the suitcase that has arrived from Steed while Benham tries to haggle but finally agrees to her terms. Afterwards, she asks to send postcards to colleagues so they don’t get suspicious, and Abe agrees so long as he can read them first. She tells him she’s supposed to be holidaying in Bournemouth.
BENHAM: Look more the Costa del Sol type to me.
CATHY: That comes after the robbery.
Steed and Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard receive them, and discuss the upcoming raid on the phone. Hanging up, Steed realises there’s a tap on the line — Fleming informs Spagge that Steed’s working with the police. That night, Manley goes to Steed’s apartment with a sniper rifle and shoots him when he answers the telephone…
Cathy leads the gang through the plan of the heist with a floor plan of the vault. The vault is beneath a remote house on the Kent-Sussex border, unknown to the outside world. Its only weakness is the air condition system, which is only protected by a clasp lock on a wooden door — they will feed in a gas that will knock out the guards for an hour. Hammond queries why they won’t be knocked out as well, and is given a gas mask as explanation. Manley is keen to do the heist when Cathy announces it will be at 12 o’clock Tuesday. She’s horrified when Benham corrects her — he’s decided to change it to Monday!
Prior to the raid, the gang are getting nervous. Benham tells them “Youths and maids enjoy today for not ye know tomorrow”,8 then orders them to empty their pockets in case they’re caught. Cathy arrives at the vault and slips on her gloves, and the gas starts to pour in just after Groves lets her through. The raid goes smoothly,9 despite Westwood struggling to steer the trolley and an unexpected call from security that Cathy fields adroitly.Afterwards, Benham has become suspicious of Cathy’s postcards10 and disquiet at him changing the day and he questions her harshly. She tries to allay his suspicions.
CATHY: I’d put on my thinking cap and I’d come to the conclusion there was no harm in keeping everybody sweet till after the robbery. And then I’d look at the gold, all three million pounds worth, and I’d stop being suspicious.
BENHAM: You’re a cool one, Mrs Gale.
Cathy tells Benham she’s escaping by a flight from Southern Ireland, as a fisherman in Anglesey owes her a favour but then Spagge arrives and aims a revolver at Cathy. He then orders Benham to kill her.
Benham refuses until he hears that Steed had been in contact with their old nemesis, Inspector Grant. Benham leads Cathy out with the gun against the back of her neck and on the way she tells him that if he ever wants to do the padre act again, it was Matthew.They go out into the mason’s yard and just as Benham points the gun at Cathy, Steed shoots him from the shadows. A gun fight erupts and the Avengers round up the surviving gang members.
Steed and Cathy take in Spagge, Steed boasting about his bulletproof window, and Spagge congratulates him on his very smart work.
SPAGGE: Should have known, all that gold … too good to be true.
STEED: I thought it might tempt you.
SPAGGE: Wouldn’t have done. Not in my prime, never.
Steed has let Fleming escape, having a soft spot for a man who can tell South Sea silk from drip-dry… he reconsiders when Cathy tells him there’s a reward of 10%!10
- £3M in 1963 is about £63M in 2023. ⭮
- Cathy’s voice on the tape says the US Gold Reserve at the time was around £5710M, more than half at Fort Knox. A moment later she tells Steed gold bars are worth £5000 and Fort Knox has 800,000 of them, or £4000M. This all no doubt came in handy for “Goldfinger”… ⭮
- Starting with a custom made bowler hat that cost 10 gn. it’s a lengthy list you can read in full on the detail page. Fleming’s description is like a fashion magazine advertisement and amounts to 85gn 75p (£89/11/3) which in 2023 terms would be £1879.67 and is a bargain — you’d be looking at £5,000 to £6,500 for such a suit today — so I suppose inflation has been higher for bespoke clothing. The average weekly male wage in 1963 was £16/4/- so the hat and shirt were two thirds of the weekly wage each and the suit cost about a month’s wages. ⭮
- Manley says Spagge was shot with a .25 Beretta pistol, a “ladies’ gun”. ⭮
- It is in fact Matthew 9:29, as she tells Benham near the end of the episode, but it gave Cathy an opportunity to test the chaplain’s bona fides. ⭮
- An increasingly rare glimpse of Steed’s rough side. The later comments about Fleming being indisposed shows that Steed did in fact beat him up. ⭮
- The barely literate Fatso Barker holds his pencil in a fist and writes “OUTT”. ⭮
- Quite the learned man, despite not being able to pronounce “objet d’art” — this is a quote from The Triumph of Bacchus, a ballad to debauchery written in 1490 by Lorenzo de’ Medici. ⭮
- Except that when Benham presses the intercom button in the vault, the entire prop falls to the floor and the camera angle quickly changes to hide the fact. ⭮
- This is a flaw in Roger Marshall’s script, as Cathy had previously said she was only sending the postcards so her colleagues wouldn’t become suspicious of the absence of her usual holiday postcards. ⭮
- i.e. £300,000 — or £6.3M in 2023 terms. ⭮