THE MILK TRAY MAN

by The Chocolate Dictionary

Conceived as a very English take on the James Bond character the Milk Tray Man, who embodied elements of courtly love from a long lost age, went from being an ironic figure of fun to an iconic action hero in just one generation. In the series of TV ads that ran on British TV from 1968 to 2000, he battled sharks, raging torrents and avalanches etc. to bring his lady a box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray.

Gary Myers, the original Milk Tray Man and the one most closely identified with the role.

It wasn’t just these iconic exploits that ensured his name was forever carved into the British psyche. He was also identified as the epitome of cool on account of  the black polo-neck sweater he wore on each mission.

Any man today performing acts of derring-do while dressed in black, especially where chocolates are involved, is soon dubbed a Milk Tray Man, and it is these latter-day adventurers who have kept the torch burning long after the ads were discontinued. They include the personnel of a UK security company, advertising themselves  as “not quite the Milk Tray advert or 007 but close”; a Lancashire-based catering company adopting the Milk Tray Man tag to emphasise their impeccable service; the actors Richard Armitage and Matthew Macfadyen because of their adrenaline-filled roles in the BBC spy drama Spooks; plus a miriad of lesser-known male racers, skiers, divers and rock climbers.

Former brigade commander Major General Julian Thompson, who saw action in the Falklands War, recounted a Milk Tray stunt performed for Margaret Thatcher’s benefit. The then Prime Minister was attending an exercise involving the Special Boat Service, who had been tasked with storming a practice ‘enemy’ ship. The exercise, having passed off with great success, culminated in one black-clad operative stepping forward, unzipping his wetsuit (still dripping with water), and presenting the Mrs Thatcher with a box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray. So touched was she with the gesture, she insisted on keeping the chocolates for herself despite attempts by an aide to take them away.

Some have asserted the Milk Tray Man is but a modern version of the Swiss mercenary Captain Bluntschli in George Bernard Shaw’s play Arms and the Man. It is no coincidence that Timothy Dalton, who played 007 in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, was inspired to become an actor after taking part in a school production of Arms and the Man. In an interesting version of role reversal, perhaps he was chosen for James Bond because of these early Milk Tray credentials? Comparing Captain Bluntschli exploits with those of the Milk Tray Man there are some remarkable similarities:

  • The Milk Tray ads featured a daredevil action hero who risked life and limb to deliver a box of chocolates to his lady (mysteriously unknown to viewers). In Arms and the Man Bluntschli risks certain death at the hands of his enemies by seeking seeking refuge in a young lady’s bedchamber.
  • In the ads, the little purple box was delivered surreptitiously, under cover of darkness. In Arms and the Man Bluntschli enters the lady’s chamber at night, by climbing through an upstairs window.
  • In the ads, the Milk Tray Man leaves behind a calling card, intimating the lady would want to contact him later. And in the play, Bluntschli first appears as a stranger, then as an admirer, and finally as a suitor. “To my last hour I shall remember those three chocolate creams”, was his memorable valedictory.

And so it came to pass that a mutual love of chocolates gave him reason to return, woo the lady in question, and subsequently ask for her hand in marriage.

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Template for the Milk Tray Man, the Swiss mercenary Bluntschli with Raina in ‘Arms and the Man’. (Image from: Brockport Theatre, New York)

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There are others who maintain the idea for the Milk Tray Man came from Hitchcock’s 1955 movie To Catch a Thief, in which Cary Grant plays a retired cat burglar prowling the French Riviera in the company of beautiful women. Again, interesting similarities can be found:

  • For much of the movie Cary Grant is dressed in black. just as the Milk Tray Man was. Black tie or night camouflage for Cary Grant; black polo-neck sweater for the Cadbury man.
  • Cary Grant often puts himself in danger for a lady’s sake: speeding down dangerous roads or scampering across rooftops.
  • Although Cary Grant is not specifically promoting chocolates, the sensibility of the movie – the glamorous balls, the fast cars, the sumptuous residences, etc. – is very much in the spirit of chocolate adverts.

Taking these close parallels into account it’s not difficult to see how the romantic, thrill-seeking “viceroy of suave” could have been a template for the Milk Tray Man. All Cary Grant needed was a suggestive tagline…

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Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in ‘To Catch a Thief’. All they lacked was a box of milk chocolates.

The strongest contender for being the original Milk Tray Man, and for which there is compelling evidence is, many fans believe, is Mr Darcy himself, the hero in Jane Austen’s most widely read novel Pride and Prejudice. In the novel, Elizabeth Bennett acknowledges Darcy’s goodness when she says he is “the most generous of his sex”. In the 2005 movie version starring Matthew Mcfadyen and Keira Knightley, Darcy if often dressed in black, and in one scene bursts into Elizabeth’s bedroom, at night, to deliver an important missive. Most prescient of all, the description Mr Darcy – a bit sulky is an anagram of “Cadbury’s Milk Tray”.

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Mr Darcy, Milk Tray Man?

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The Darcy / Milk Tray Man connection is reinforced by the interest shown in him by retailers, publishers and other media. In 2008 freshfiction.com ran a competition, the prize for which was a signed copy of Gwyn Cready’s time-travelling romance Seducing Mr Darcy, plus a box of Pride and Prejudice themed truffles from Dos chocolatier in New York. The box contained specially designed centres including the “Fitzwilliam Darcy” (a Dark Cognac Truffle), the “Lizzy Bennett” (a Rose Truffle), and the “Flip Allison” (a Salty-Sweet Caramel). Flip being the protaganist in Seducing Mr Darcy. In 2012, the High Street retailer M&S brought out a chocolate assortment called Exceptional Characters containing, among others, two Pride & Prejudice themed truffles: the Mr Darcy and the Lizzie Bennett. And, significantly, the voiceovers for M&S’s 2012 Christmas ads were done by none other than Mr Darcy himself, the creamy-voiced Matthew Macfadyen.

Going back even further we should also mention a more distant contender. A character who made his mark three hundred years before Fudge Dreams, Hazelnut Crunches and Orange Crèmes etc. were even invented, and has antecedents going back to the ancient Babylonians. This of course is Shakespeare’s famous “star crossed lover” Romeo who, in a pattern by now familiar to us all: risked his life for a lady’s sake, trespassed dangerously onto the property of his enemy, defied injury to climb trees and high walls to reach his lady’s bedchamber, moved under the cover of darkness, and was certainly no stranger to grand romantic gestures.

The first actor to play the Milk Tray Man, and the one most closely identified with the role, was former Australian soldier Gary Myers, chosen for his chiselled looks and resemblance to Bond supremo Sean Connery. Interestingly, Myers shared the same theatrical agent (Scotty’s, in London’s “Bond” Street) as fellow Australian George Lazenby, who played 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although Lazenby never played the Milk Tray Man himself, many assume he actually did. No doubt this was because he was so close to the essence of the Milk Tray Man. Not only was Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service filmed in Switzerland, the spiritual home of milk chocolate; not only did the Swiss locations allow Lazenby to demonstrate his prowess on skis, just like the Milk Tray Man in the ‘avalanche’ and ‘cable car’ ads; but Lazenby actually did act in a TV ad for chocolate – only it wasn’t for Cadbury’s Milk Tray but Fry’s Chocolate Cream.

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George Lazenby in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and Milk Tray Man in disguise.

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Is it significant that Timothy Dalton, who played 007 in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, was inspired to become an actor after taking part in a school production of Arms and the Man? Maybe, after seeing all the ads, he thought he could bring a Milk Tray element to the Bond role?

The original Milk Tray ads are remembered with considerable fondness, but try discovering more about the Milk Tray Man and the results are at best confusing, and at worst contradictory. Wikipedia states there were nineteen ads in total, with the man-in-black being played by six different actors. In fact there were twenty ads, with the role being played by seven different actors. Yahoo records the actor Ross Champion starred in eleven ads, but in fact he didn’t feature in any at all. There are forums claiming Brummie biker ace Arthur Browning acted as a stuntman in one of the ads, riding a trial bike across rough terrain before jumping over a ravine to deliver the box of chocolates. But none of the Milk Tray ads ever featured a motor bike stunt.

In an effort to set the record straight, each ad, each mini-adventure, is documented here with the year or decade in which it was shown, the name of the actor who played the Milk Tray Man, and any trivia that would be of interest to fans.

THE NIGHT TRAIN

Year or decade when first shown: 1968 Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: The Milk Tray Man leaps from a bridge onto a speeding train and clambers dangerously along the roof. He finds his way to the lady’s sleeping compartment where, taking advantage of her absence, leaves a box of Milk Tray along with his enigmatic calling card. We next see him jumping onto the side of the track before disappearing into the night.

Trivia: The original ads were created by art director Norman Icke of Leo Burnett, the agency known for its use of strong masculine archetypes (they also created the Malboro Man ads). The copywriter was Bob Stanners, Norman Icke’s creative partner, and the one who came up with the famous, “And all because the Lady loves Cadbury’s Milk Tray” tagline. The enigmatic calling card, featuring the silhouette of a man in black posing James Bond-style, is the one feature that remains constant throughout the series, except for in the last ad where the lady was already already waiting for the Milk Tray Man. The theme music was composed by Cliff Adams, and titled The Night Rider. Variations of this, from orchestral to rocky and jazzy, are heard in most of the subsequent ads. The Night Train adventure was filmed on a now closed section of the Meon Valley Railway in Hampshire, between Alton and Farringdon. The moving train onto which the Milk Tray Man jumped was a British Rail diesel locomotive with two carriages. Irish hunk Martin Grace was the stuntman who did the leaping.

THE HELICOPTER DROP

Year or decade when first shown: 1960s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: While driving an open top sports car at speed, the Milk Tray Man stands up to grab the skids of a low flying helicopter, which transports him dangerously to the lady’s island house. Once there, he drops down to deliver the chocolates to her bedroom then takes the speedboat from a nearby jetty to make his dashing getaway.

Trivia: The stunts were performed by Martin Grace again, recognised at the time to be one of the best in the business. Famously, he stood in for Roger Moore’s 007 in The Spy Who Loved MeMoonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to Kill.

THE DOCKSIDE

Year or decade when first shown: 1960s

Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: The action takes place at night, as does the action in most of the ads. The Milk Tray Man leaps onto the top of a passing truck and outwits a security guard to get into the dock. There he grabs a nearby crane, swings onto a ship, then sneaks into the lady’s cabin where he leaves the box of chocolates on her bedside table.

Trivia: Another one in which Martin Grace was the stuntman.

THE MOAT SWIM

Year or decade when first shown: 1960s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: Our irrespressible action man leaps onto a passing truck from the cliff above, jumps from the truck into a moat, then swims to a castle where he secretly delivers the chocolates to the lady’s bedroom.

Trivia: Not until the last few ads was ‘the lady’ actually seen. Up until then all we got was a glimpse of her elegant hand with a hint of lacy cuff as she caressed the box seductively. In one of the ads the hand belonged to Oliver Reed’s wife, Irish beauty and freelance model Kate Byrne.

THE E-TYPE JAG

Year or decade when first shown: 1970s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary:  Once more he’s at the wheel and driving at speed. He’s racing a white E-Type Jag through a heavy thunderstorm, leaps across a badly damaged wooden bridge – we see it’s about to collapse into the churning torrent below – then makes his way stealthily into the house where, in predictable fashion, he leaves the chocolates in the lady’s bedroom.

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The Milk Tray Man racing to deliver the chocolates before they go off. Before she goes off him. (Image from: YouTube)

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THE MUSEUM THIEF

Year or decade when first shown: 1970s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: He enters a museum through a skylight, takes the box of Milk Tray exhibited there as a valuable art object, then delivers it to the lady’s bedroom in a house we do not get to see, before making his escape along a narrow ledge.

Trivia: This ad was less of a mini James Bond adventure and more a tribute to the original Mission Impossible series that was popular at the time.

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The chocolates that made it all worthwhile.

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THE AVALANCHE

Year or decade when first shown: 1974 Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: The Milk Tray Man is skiing fast down a mountainside thickly covered in snow. A sudden bang triggers off an avalanche. He speeds up even more to escape the cascading avalanche of snow, flies over a cliff, then skis off to the lady’s hideaway, where he leaves his precious box of chocolates. As usual, the box has undergone not the slightest damage as a result of its perilous journey.

Trivia: By the mid-1970s the Milk tray ads had become so popular Waddingtons brought out a Man in Black board game. In this, each player became a Milk Tray Man who had to compete against opponents, landslides, avalanches and floods etc. to deliver the chocolates safely. In the year 2000 the Avalanche ad was selected to represent all the early Milk Tray ads for the Sunday Times and Channel 4’s  100 Greatest TV Ads survey, where it came 48th. A similar survey in 2005, ITV’s Best Ever Ads, saw the Milk Tray ads rise to 11th position, demonstrating how much nostalgia they could still attract. The voiceovers to the Milk Tray ads were done mostly by anonymous actors, but in this one and in two others the voice was supplied by none other than Peter Wyngarde, he whose rich, creamy tones and camp mannerisms earned him the nickname Petunia Winegum. Famous for playing a womanizing spy in the series Jason King, Peter Wyngarde’s delicious voice was once aptly described as “chocolate for your ears”.

THE MAFIA YACHT

Year or decade when first shown: 1978 Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: He is seen zooming across the waves in a speedboat. He then crashes into a fuel jetty guarded by dark suited mobsters. The jetty explodes and goes up in flames. His boat is obviously destroyed in the process because he has to swim to his target, a Mafia boss’s luxury yacht, where he climbs aboard unnoticed to secretly deliver the chocolates.

THE CABLE CAR DROP

Year or decade when first shown: 1981 Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: Lighting a flare to guide his way in the dark, our Milk Tray Man skis down a mountainside and grabs onto a passing cable car. When the cable car is then struck by lightning and stalls, he drops down to the ravine below and skis to the lady’s chalet, where once more he delivers the little box, “All because the lady loves Cadbury’s Milk Tray”.

Trivia: It was this ad that caused the confusion over whether it was George Lazenby or Gary Myers, who played the Milk Tray Man.

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The Milk Tray Man hanging on for dear life.

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THE CLIFF DIVE

Year or decade when first shown: 1980s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: In this short adventure, our fearless Milk Tray Man dives off a high cliff into the sea and swims through shark-infested waters to a schooner anchored out in the bay. Having then climbed aboard he prowls below deck looking for the lady’s cabin. Once found, he leaves the chocolates on her bedside table, as usual, before making his way back up top. Here, most memorably, he takes a quick look round before diving back into the sea with a dagger clenched between his teeth.  Menacingly, sharks are seen circling nearby.

Trivia: Probably the best liked and most iconic of the Milk Tray ads, this one was filmed in the Blue Grotto on the island of Gozo, near Malta. The dive was performed by veteran stuntman and best ‘height faller’ in the business, Alf Joint, who unfortunately broke his shoulder in the process. Alf also doubled for Sean Connery’s 007 in Goldfinger and, in a movie redolent with Milk Tray associations, did the stunts for George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Peter Wyngarde did the voiceover to this one too.

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The Milk Tray Man diving into shark-infested waters.

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THE LONE WOLF

Year or decade when first shown: 1980s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: The Milk Tray Man is seen running through steeply sloped woodland, being chased by a wolf, though he displays no sign of fear. He swings across a rope-bridge to escape the wolf’s snarling teeth, then makes his way to the lady’s house where he leaves the chocolates, not in her bedroom this time, but in the sitting room. Catching sight of a roaring log fire he seems to know, in an intuitive animal way, that it won’t be long before she’s back. Quickly he makes his exit, running out of the house, jumping into a deep river, and swimming off into the distance.

Trivia: Another Peter Wyngarde voiceover.

THE DESERT CASTLE

Year or decade when first shown: 1980s Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: In a nod to the Turkish Delight ads being shown at the time, where the action took place in what passed for the Arabian desert, this ad featured the Milk Tray Man as a lone horseman galloping towards a desert castle. The fort is being attacked by a band of brigands but he uses this as cover to enter unnoticed. Once inside, he hurries down stone corridors to find the lady’s bedroom, where he leaves the box of Milk Tray atop her huge bed. Innuendo understood, he promptly uses a length of rope to escape down the walls, removes his Arab disguise, then gallops into the far yonder.

THE WATERFALL

Year or decade when first shown: 1984 Actor: Gary Myers

Summary: Our determined man-in-black drives a speedboat, seemingly one of his favourite modes of transport, over a collossal, foaming waterfall. Miraculously unharmed, he ditches the boat and swims towards an impressive mountainside schloss. After carefully depositing the little purple box, as he has done on so many occasions in so many different locations, he takes to the boat again, opens up the throttle and escapes down the lake.

Trivia: This was the last ad in which Gary Myers was to play the Milk Tray Man. The schloss was the magnificent neo-romantic Neuschwanstein castle, built in the second half of the nineteenth century by King Ludwig 11 of Bavaria.

THE SKYSCRAPER

Year or decade when first shown: 1987 Actor: James Coombes

Summary: The Milk Tray Man is on a building site in downtown Los Angeles, and has got himself to the top of a half-finished skyscraper. In his hand is a remote control device. He presses the button and a nearby crane swings towards him. When it’s close enough, he clambers onto the large hook, presses another button, then is transported over the bsite to where he is able to drop neatly into the lady’s apartment for the unannounced Milk Tray delivery.

Trivia: This ad is remembered for its perceived erotic frisson. Considering it was directed by Adrian Lyne, who went on to make movies such as 9½ WeeksFatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal, all known for their portrayal of sexually charged characters, it’s hardly surprising. The ad is also remembered for the touch of irony coming from James Coombes playing Milk Tray Man. For it was Coombes who once played a bigoted French politician, who dies after eating a poisoned chocolate in an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, The Chocolate Box. James Coombes said he never received any free samples for doing the ad, and (spoiler alert!) the box used during filming didn’t even have any chocolates in it.

THE STOWAWAY

Year or decade when first shown: 1989 Actor: Ged Allen

Summary: The unstoppable Milk Tray Man stows away in the undercarriage of a private jet, on its way to an exclusive Caribbean island. En route he sneaks into the passenger compartment, leaves his box of chocolates for the lady, then exits the plane before it comes into land by jumping into the sea.

Trivia: Like Gary Myers before him, Allen used to be a male model. He got regular work wearing polo-neck sweaters for fashion catalogues, and it might well have been this that made him an obvious choice to play the Milk Tray Man. The stuntman was Wayne Michaels, who once doubled for Pierce Brosnan’s 007, and is famous for jumping off the 220m high dam in the opening sequence of Goldeneye. The jump was later voted the best movie stunt of all time.

THE TROPICAL STORM

Year or decade when first shown: 1992 Actor: Graham Rogers

Summary: The Milk Tray Man is seen flying a helicopter through a tropical storm, when it’s struck by lightning. Being such a skilled pilot he manages to control the machine long enough to be able to deliver his precious cargo, to the lady who lives in a remote hilltop plantation house. Jump-cut camera shots reveal her for the first time, illuminated between the lightning flashes as she dances in a sheer white dress.

Trivia: Graham Rogers, yet another Milk Tray Man who used to be a model. He once graced the pages of British catalogue retailer Freemans before being whisked off to the steamier setting of the Jamaican jungle. Evidently an actor with the classic touch, he also appeared in a Turkish Delight advert as the dashing sheik who falls for the beautiful desert maiden. This Milk Tray ad, filmed in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, was a tribute to Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, whose own plantation house, Goldeneye, was located in the same area.

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Chocolates worth braving a tropical storm for.

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THE WHITE SWEATER

Year or decade when first shown: 1993 Actor: Jonathan Cake

Summary: In this ad we saw less of the heroic adventures we had become accustomed to and more of the psychology of his relationship with the lady. After delivering the little Milk Tray box, our man-in-black returns to his own apartment which, we note, contained a quantity of phallic-shaped sporting equipment. More subtle though, was the gift waiting for him there – a white sweater. A hint from her that times were changing and he needed to soften his action-man image.

Trivia: One of the many roles smouldering Shakepearean actor Jonathan Cake went on to play after this ad was the caddish Jack Favell in a TV adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. In this version, the Milk Tray Man’s relationship with the unknown lady of the ads was echoed in the intimation that Favell was having a secret affair with the unknown, i.e. unseen, first Mrs de Winter.

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Jonathan Cake as the caddish Jack Favell in a 1997 TV adaptation of ‘Rebecca’.

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THE FELINE PREDATOR

Year or decade when first shown: 1997 Actor: Mark Keller

Summary: A feline predator (of the animal kind) is seen padding through a french window before slinking towards a staircase. Upstairs, an intruder (of the human kind) slips into a room where on a double bed lies the bait: a box of Milk Tray. Revealed to be a brunette in black evening dress, the feline intruder reaches for the box. “Hello Tiger,” purrs a voice from the shadows. The voice is his, the updated Milk Tray Man, seemingly her captor, who then closes the bedroom door. The anticipation builds… Unafraid, she dips her manicured fingers into the box of chocolates and slips one into her mouth. He watches her as a predator watches his prey, waiting for the moment to pounce. Or maybe waiting for her to pounce.

THE THEATRE

Year or decade when first shown: 2000s Actors: Ben Porter and Sienna Guillory

Summary: Ditching his trademark black polo-neck in favour of a black jacket and white shirt the Milk Tray Man uses his wits instead of death-defying stunts to get close to the lady, played by Sienna Guillory. In this ad, faced with the tight security detail at a glitzy film premiere, he dupes the doormen by shouting “Scream if you love Tom Jones”, a diversionary tactic that succeeds in getting him inside. He soon finds the young lady’s dressing room, where he puts down the box of chocolates. Then, just as he’s about to leave his famous calling card she spots him, likes what she sees, and purrs, “Where do you think you’re going?”.

Trivia: In a radical reworking of the formula, this was the first Milk Tray ad in which the lady had an active role, and only the second in which any of the actors had a speaking part.

THE NICE PACKET

Year or decade when first shown: 2000 Actors: Ben Porter and Jemma Kidd

Summary: As in the previous ad, and in keeping with his softer image, the Milk Tray Man is back in a suit as he calmly walks through an open French window, into a comfortably furnished house. It would seem the lady was expecting him for, just as he’s about to hand her the chocolates, she calmly turns around and says knowingly, “Nice packet”.

Trivia: This was the last Milk Tray Man ad in the series, though rumours continued to circulate about a new mini-series being made.

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Jemma Kidd. And all because the lady loves a nice packet. (Image: YouTube)

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In the end the Milk Tray Man didn’t go out with a bang but with a whisper. No longer considered relevant in an age when women are quite capable of buying chocolates for themselves thank you very much, or buying them for each other, his defining heroics were first softened up with added romanticism, then finally washed away in a complete role reversal. When it was the lady who started to do the chasing we knew the game was up. The original Bond concept became null and void. “Love with a lighter touch” was the new mantra and the Milk Tray Man vanished from our screens.

In a Guardian article, social commentator Toby Young asked who on earth was spreading the lie that girls are less interested in muscular alpha males than they are in Sensitive New Age Guys? Viewers were soon wondering he’d ever been taken away, with former It girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson writing that any woman would be impressed if a man dived off a cliff, then swam out to a yacht to bring her a box of chocolates. “If a man abseiled into my bedroom,” she confessed, “I’d give him more than a Milk Tray. I’d jump on him!”

Even Julie Birchall, in her own words a “hardcore feminist”, railed against a dearly loved icon being cruelly terminated by puritan regression. There were a lot of things a man might do to make her angry, she fumed, but going out of his way to bring her chocolates, then leaving as quietly as he had come in, was not one of them.

So what became of the “James Bond of confectionery”? Did he take up a second career as a security guard as some have suggested? Isn’t that what spies and special forces do when they find themselves surplus to requirements? Or did he take a leaf out of the Black Magic Man’s career plan, and become a lounge bar crooner schmoozing his way through Caribbean cruises?

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The Milk Tray Man today: schmoozing his way round the Caribbean?

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Unsurprisingly, given the paucity of information on his whereabouts, conspiracy theories have flourished. There’s the one that has him being bumped off by a hit-woman from Weight Watchers who, following decades of futile dieting and constant temptation from Milk Tray, had been left totally dejected. Another theory had him being thrown from a castle wall by a jealous Lord who, returning early one night to find a black polo-neck sweater and his wife’s lacy white blouse strewn on the floor, rushed into the bedroom to find them in flagrante.

The question now was whether Mondelez, the new owners of Cadbury, would apply the Sherlock Holmes treatment to our chocolate icon, and bring the Milk Tray Man back to life. No longer a James Bond manqué, he’d emerge new and invigorated. He’d be transformed into a Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer, able to deliver chocolates to even more improbable and out-of-reach locations: a yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a safe house in Switzerland so secret not even the CIA knew of its existence. Or – and this really would really be an updated version – we’d finally see him eating the Milk Tray with the lady, the two of them blissfully lounging in bed together…

As luck would have it, Mondelez did bring the Milk Tray Man back. It seems they had been listening after all. Blasting back onto TV following a blaze of publicity, the eagerly awaited new man-in-black might not have been wholly reconstructed but was certainly just as adventurous.

THE MONGOLIAN YURT

Year when first shown: 2016  Actor: Patrick McBride

Summary: The ad sees the Milk Tray Man in a wingsuit flying by night into a remote Mongolian mountain settlement. He sneaks in among the herdsmen, seizes a horse and gallops to a yurt where he has to deliver the chocolates. The yurt is sumptuously carpeted but, as in the early ads, the lady is not seen. After leaving the box along with his calling card, he makes his escape on the back of a camel and disappears across the horizon.

Trivia: Fallon, the agency that created the ad, even launched an ad featuring former Milk Tray Man James Coombes to find the new man-in-black. “Just look at what we did to show her we cared,” Coombes asked, still dressed in his trademark black polo-neck sweater, “Now it’s time for a new hero to deliver the famous box”. Patrick McBride, the man finally chosen from 20,000 other contestants, was a Liverpool fireman and part-time model by trade. The resulting ad cost £3million to make, and no wonder. The mini came in at 90 seconds long, three times the length of any previous Milk Tray ad, and was filmed in the Altai Mountains, about as far away from the agency’s London base as it was possible to get. All the elements that made the original ads so popular were there: the black polo-neck, the silhouette calling card, the Night Rider theme tune (touched on at the end), and of course the famous tagline, “All because the Lady loves…”.

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James Coombes, Milk Tray Man from another era, starts the search for a successor.

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The Milk Tray Man returns, 2016-style, with Patrick McBride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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