Boston Blackie knows both sides of the law. A reformed thief with a rag-tag group of friends, Blackie couldn’t help but get involved in cases big and small. He was known as ‘an enemy of those who make him an enemy, the friend of those who have no friend.’ The series ran from 1951-1953 and starred Kent Taylor.
Bourbon Street Beat
The least successful of the Warner Bros. slick detective series from the late 1950’s, Bourbon Street Beat had an exotic atmosphere going for it, if not much else. Andrew Duggan, Richard Long and handsome hunk, Van Williams, starred as a trio of detectives who prowled the historic French Quarter in New Orleans.
Money isn’t everything, is it? Amos Burke, played by a slick Gene Barry, was a millionaire who could have lived the life of luxury. However, in Burke’s Law, this Mr. Moneybags was also the Chief of Detectives in Los Angeles. He may have been a cop, but Burke rode to work in a Rolls Royce.
Dragnet made history as the first popular cop drama on television. Produced, written and starring the solemn actor Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday, this b&w classic made the LAPD famous before they became notorious. Webb’s deadpan acting was the perfect foil to an ever changing roll call of Dragnet guest stars who were as entertainingly quirky as Sgt. Friday was dedicated and dull.
This Warner Bros. series about murder in Paradise starred handsome boy toys Robert Conrad, Anthony Eisley and Grant Williams. This unlikely gang of P.I.’s teamed up with pretty and perky Connie Stevens to solve murder and mysteries in Honolulu. Poncie Ponce was thrown in to add a bit of island-style humor to the mix.
Considered to be the first full-fledged female detective on television, the beautiful and blonde Anne Francis starred as Honey West. Originally a spin-off from an episode of Burke’s Law, the show only lasted one season in 1965. The series was original in that the heroine was a martial arts expert and, like James Bond, used electronic gadgetry including faux olive-shaped transmitters in her martinis to catch crooks.
Long before he played the irascible father in the film, A Christmas Story, character actor Darren McGavin starred from 1958-1960 as hard-boiled detective, Mike Hammer. While the action was fast and furious, McGavin played the tough gumshoe with a wry sense of humor that author Mickey Spillane never fully appreciated.
Mr. and Mrs. North
This sophisticated murder mystery series began as a book, then a Broadway play, a movie (starring Gracie Allen) and a long-running radio show before making it to television in 1953. A fun-loving couple, Jerry and Pamela North (Richard Demming and Barbara Britton), just can’t help but become involved in crimes in New York City.
Running from 1957 to 1960 on NBC, M Squad starred the talented Lee Marvin. In over 100 episodes, Marvin played Lt. Frank Ballinger as a tough-as-they-come cop in a show that’s been described as ‘Dragnet on steroids’. This show still holds up well today thanks to Marvin’s performances, despite being parodied in recent years.
A groundbreaking crime series from the late ‘50’s, Naked City was an anthology shot on location in New York City, making it a forerunner of Law & Order. Taut acting by then-young New York actors including Robert Duval, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Burgess Meredith, and George C. Scott added to the talents of the lead actors, Paul Burke and Horace McMahon.
Perry Mason photo gallery...
Inspired by the pulp novels of Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr, was one of the most popular crime shows in TV history. No matter how difficult the case, legal eagle Mason always solved the crime and was rewarded with a dramatic courtroom confession.
Craig Stevens, as P.I. Peter Gunn, was so hip that when he wasn’t solving murders he hung out at ‘Mother’s’, a beatnik coffee house where his girlfriend, Edie Hart, sang hot jazz composed by Henry Mancini. Created by Blake Edwards, the show set the style for sophisticated TV sleuths.
Richard Diamond, Private Detective
Richard Diamond had been a wildly popular radio show before it hit TV screens in 1957. While the radio dramas had starred an urbane Dick Powell, the TV series was headlined by a relative newcomer, David Janssen. Trivia buffs know that Diamond’s secretary, ‘Sam’, was played by another newcomer, Mary Tyler Moore, who quit the show after one season as only her voice and long legs were used on camera.
Leslie Charteris’ sleuth, Simon Templar a.k.a. The Saint, was unique in that the show was one of the first British television shows to appear in America. The Saint had been popular in books since the ‘20’s but the show debuted on the small screen in 1962 starring the debonair Roger Moore in the role of an amateur sleuth and crime-stopper.
77 Sunset Strip
Breaking ground as the first hour-length P.I. show on television, 77 Sunset Strip’s detectives were as popular with teens as they were with all ages of TV viewers. Suave Stu Bailey and his young partner, Jeff Spencer, solved Hollywood crimes, often assisted by ‘Kookie’, a hipster wannabe P.I., and ‘Roscoe’ the neighborhood bookie.
Another in the stable of detective shows from Warner Bros. in the early ‘60’s, Surfside 6 starred Van Williams, Lee Patterson, Troy Donahue, Diane McBain and spicy Latina actress Margarita Sierra. Scripted to attract a young audience, the three detectives shared digs and worked cases out of a houseboat in Miami. Their neighbor at the marina was an heiress and the sleuths were often helped out by ‘Cha Cha’, a lounge singer at the Fontainebleu Hotel.
The Thin Man
Gamin-faced actress Phyllis Kirk took on the role of sophisticated and sassy Nora Charles (the role Myrna Loy made famous on the silver screen) in the 1950’s TV series, The Thin Man. Starring opposite Kirk was a young and handsome Peter Lawford as Nick Charles. Along with the help of their faithful terrier, Asta, the retired detective and his pretty wife solve crimes in the Big Apple.
Armenian-American actor Michael Connors starred in 1959 in Tightrope. Connors played a tough undercover agent who often had as much trouble with mafia kingpins as he did with cops who didn’t know he was working undercover. While the show was cancelled after one season, it is remarkable for it’s noirish look and gritty realism. Mike Connors would later find fame and fortune as television’s Mannix.