Scots star Gerard Butler on his dream role as famous Wild West detective

Category: Misc./General Career News | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: January 2, 2011 | Publication: Sunday Mail | Author: Samantha Booth
Publication/Article Link:DailyRecord.co.uk

HOLLYWOOD star Gerard Butler has joined a posse ready to bring the Wild West's most famous detective to the small screen.

The actor wants to play Allan Pinkerton, the Scot who founded a detective agency, foiled an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln and hunted Jesse James.

Butler is executive producer of a new series from the makers of 24 due to be seen on TV in 2012 - and he is also being tipped to play the Wild West's most famous investigator.

Like Gorbals-born Pinkerton, Paisley's Butler left these shores to find success in America.

On the actor's website, Bob Cochrane, who co-created 24, says of Pinkerton: "He was an amazing guy - he took part in all the great sweeping events of the 19th century."

Judith Josephson, author of Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye, called him a "maverick".

She said: "Many of the techniques he created - shadowing a suspect, having his operatives wear disguises, going undercover, developing code names, hiring women as detectives - were later used as models for the agencies that came after him."

At their height, the Pinkerton Agency employed more detectives than any other in the world and had more agents than there were United States army soldiers.

His agency still exists today as Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations.

It was a far cry from Glasgow's Gorbals, where he was born on July 21, 1819, to William and Isobel Pinkerton.

The family home stood on land now occupied by the city's Central Mosque.

Pinkerton trained as a cooper and was active in the Chartist social reform movement.

He left Scotland for America in 1842 at the age of 23 after becoming disenchanted with the failure to extend the right to vote.

A wanted man himself thanks to his involvement with the Chartists, he left with his new wife Joan Carfrae, a singer.

Judith Josephson believes his early years in the Gorbals, then a notorious slum, and having a price on his head thanks to the Chartists, spurred him on throughout his life.

She said: "His fleeing to America had a lot to do with the principled, driven, innovative man he grew up to be."

Pinkerton lost everything in a shipwreck on his way across the Atlantic. He survived and settled in Chicago, where he became deputy sheriff.

In 1852, he formed the North-Western Police Agency, later to be known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, with Chicago attorney Edward Rucker.

Railroad companies were struggling to control their employees and paying a private investigation agency made sense.

Pinkerton's insignia was a large open eye with the motto, "We Never Sleep".

The agency earned a reputation during the 1850s by catching train robbers and it wasn't long before they came to the attention of the country's leaders, including Abraham Lincoln.

In the movie classic Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, it is Pinkerton marshalls who relentlessly pursue the outaws, played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman,

Later, after the outbreak of the American Civil War, Pinkerton was made head of the Union Intelligence Service from 1861 to 1862, the forerunner of the US Secret Service.

He foiled an assassination plot in Baltimore, Maryland, while guarding president-elect Lincoln on his way to his inauguration.

Judith Josephson said: "Disguising Lincoln as a farmer, he and his operatives successfully protected Lincoln from the perpetrators of the famed Baltimore Plot to assassinate him.

"During that covert train ride, Pinkerton said to Lincoln, 'Sir, I beg of you, no matter what the circumstances, never attend the theatre.' "Pinkerton later wept when he heard that John Wilkes Booth had killed Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC.

"Pinkerton felt that, had he been protecting his friend Lincoln, the assassination would never have taken place."

During the civil war, Pinkerton's agents often worked undercover as Confederate soldiers and sympathisers.

A hater of slavery, Pinkerton and wife Joan also hid and fed runaway slaves. After leaving the Union Army, Pinkerton continued his detective work, focusing once again on catching train robbers, such as the Reno gang. In 1874, a cargo transportation business commissioned the Pinkerton Agency to catch the James-Younger gang.

The gang, led by Jesse James, killed three of his agents and a sheriff. Pinkerton took it personally and pursued the outlaws long after the railway had withdrawn funding. But he eventually gave up the quest when he was accused of arson during a botched attack on James' family home.

After a career pursuing some of America's most dangerous men, Pinkerton's death in 1884, aged 64, was more mundane.

He slipped on a pavement and bit his tongue. It became infected and he died within days. He had been working to centralise all criminal identification records, a database now maintained by the FBI.

His sons William and Robert continued running the agency, and were soon on the trail of train robbers such as the Wild Bunch gang of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

A member of the USA's Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, Pinkerton is buried in a Chicago cemetery.

His tombstone reads: "A friend to honesty, a foe to crime. He sympathised with slaves and laboured earne stly for the i r freedom.

"Hating wrong and loving good, he was strong, brave, tender and true."