Naked City is a police drama series which aired from 1958 to 1963 on the ABC television network. It was inspired by the 1948 motion picture The Naked City and mimics its dramatic “semi-documentary” format. As in the film, each episode concluded with a narrator intoning the iconic line: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."
The Naked City episode "Four Sweet Corners" (1959) served as a backdoor pilot of sorts for the series Route 66, created by Stirling Silliphant. Route 66 ran on CBS from 1960 to 1964, and, like Naked City, followed the "semi-anthology" format of building the stories around the guest stars, rather than the regular cast. In 1997, the episode “Sweet Prince of Delancey Street” (1961) was ranked #93 on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time”.
Filmed on location in New York City, the series centered on the detectives of NYPD’s 65th Precinct, although episode plots usually focused more on the criminals and victims portrayed by guest stars, characteristic of the "semi-anthology" narrative format common in early 1960s TV (so called by the trade paper Variety). Primary writer Stirling Silliphant nurtured a focus on intelligent drama with elements of comedy and pathos, leading to significant critical acclaim for the series and attracting film and television actors of the time to seek out guest-starring roles. In addition to Silliphant, who went on to win an Academy Award for his script for the film In the Heat of the Night, writers of Naked City episodes included veteran TV writer Howard Rodman and blacklisted screenwriter Arnold Manoff, writing under the pseudonym Joel Carpenter.
Many scenes were filmed in the south Bronx near Biograph Studios, where the series was produced, and in Greenwich Village and other neighborhoods in Manhattan. The exterior of the “65th Precinct” was the Midtown North (18th) Precinct, at 306 West 54th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, in the second and the third season, and the current 9th Precinct, at 321 East 5 Street between 1 Avenue and 2 Avenue before it was renovated, in the first and in the fourth season.
Naked City first aired in the 1958–59 season, with the title The Naked City, as a half-hour series starring James Franciscus and John McIntire playing, respectively, Detective Jimmy Halloran and Lt. Dan Muldoon — the same characters as in the 1948 film. While critically acclaimed, the series did not garner high ratings. Midway through the season, McIntire quit the show because of his desire to leave New York and move back to his Montana ranch. He was replaced with Horace McMahon, who was then introduced in the same episode as Muldoon's curmudgeon replacement, Lieutenant Mike Parker.
The narrator for the first season was the producer, Herbert B. Leonard, identifying himself as "Bert Leonard".
Also in its first season, the half-hour version of Naked City preceded the ABC crime/police documentary called Confession, in which Jack Wyatt, later an Episcopal priest, interviewed assorted criminals to determine why they had rejected societal mores and turned to a life of lawlessness.
The cast change did not help the show's ratings; ABC cancelled Naked City at the end of the 1958–59 season. One of the show's sponsors (Brown & Williamson), along with production staff, successfully lobbied the network to revive the show as an hour-long series, which premiered in 1960. The 1960 version featured Paul Burke as Detective Adam Flint, a sensitive and cerebral cop in his early thirties who does much of the legwork in the episodes. In the preceding season, Burke had appeared with David Hedison in the short-lived NBC espionage drama, Five Fingers. Horace McMahon returned as Lieutenant Mike Parker as did Harry Bellaver as the older, mellow Sgt. Frank Arcaro. Nancy Malone appeared as Adam Flint's aspiring actress girlfriend, Libby Kingston. The hour-long version of the show was broadcast on ABC in the 10:00 p.m. slot on Wednesday nights.
The series was notable for featuring younger and/or lesser-known/little-known actors, some of whom became major stars, including Alan Alda, Michael Ansara, Ed Asner, Martin Balsam, Barbara Barrie, Orson Bean, Robert Blake, James Caan, Godfrey Cambridge, Joseph Campanella, Diahann Carroll, James Coburn, Michael Constantine, William Daniels, Sandy Dennis, Bruce Dern, David Doyle, Keir Dullea, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, James Farentino, Peter Fonda, Harry Guardino, Gene Hackman, Barbara Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Diana Hyland, Richard Jaeckel, David Janssen, Salome Jens, Jack Klugman, Shirley Knight, Piper Laurie, Diane Ladd, Audra Lindley, Jack Lord, George Maharis, Nancy Marchand, Sylvia Miles, Vic Morrow, Barry Morse, Robert Morse, Lois Nettleton, Leslie Nielsen, Carroll O'Connor, Susan Oliver, Marisa Pavan, Suzanne Pleshette, Robert Redford, Doris Roberts, Mark Rydell, Telly Savalas, George Segal, William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Jean Stapleton, Maureen Stapleton, Rod Steiger, Mel Stuart, Rip Torn, Cicely Tyson, Jon Voight, Christopher Walken, Deborah Walley, Jack Warden, Tuesday Weld, and Dick York.
The show also featured more established and/or better-known actors, including Luther Adler, Eddie Albert, Robert Alda, Louise Allbritton, Kirk Alyn, Richard Basehart, Theodore Bikel, Nancy Carroll, Lee J. Cobb, Gladys Cooper, Hume Cronyn, Ludwig Donath, Diana Douglas, Betty Field, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Nina Foch, Ruth Ford, Martin Gabel, Peggy Ann Garner, Vincent Gardenia, Eileen Heckart, Barnard Hughes, Kim Hunter, Sam Jaffe, Glynis Johns, Kurt Kasznar, Abbe Lane, Eugenie Leontovich, Al Lewis, Viveca Lindfors, Ross Martin, Walter Matthau, Myron McCormick, Roddy McDowall, Burgess Meredith, Jean Muir, Meg Mundy, Mildred Natwick, Cathleen Nesbitt, Jeanette Nolan, Nehemiah Persoff, Claude Rains, Eugenia Rawls, Aldo Ray, Ruth Roman, Mickey Rooney, Albert Salmi, George C. Scott, Sylvia Sidney, Jan Sterling, Beatrice Straight, Akim Tamiroff, Lawrence Tierney, Jo Van Fleet, Eli Wallach, David Wayne, Jesse White, Cara Williams, Roland Winters, and Keenan Wynn.
Many of the actors listed above played multiple roles on different episodes, i.e. as different characters.
Sanford Meisner, the noted acting coach, made a rare celluloid performance in an episode of the series. Acting coach and actress Peggy Feury also made an appearance, in a different episode. Rocky Graziano made an appearance during his relatively brief post-boxing acting career. Actors such as Conrad Bain, Dabney Coleman, Ken Kercheval, Burt Reynolds and Jessica Walter appeared in bit roles, long before attaining any measure of fame.
Several actors played recurring roles, i.e. Suzanne Storrs (as "Janet Halloran" in nine episodes during the series' first version, featuring Franciscus and McIntire), Jimmy Little as "Desk Sergeant", Robert Dryden as "Police Surgeon", and Richard Kronold as "Detective Dutton".
A tie-in novel was written to capitalize on the success of the TV series; it was titled "The Naked City" and was published as a mass-market paperback by Dell in 1959. While it was credited on the book's cover solely to series creator Stirling Silliphant, it actually consisted of writer and newspaperman Charles Einstein's adaptations of eight Silliphant stories from the series's first season of half-hour episodes. Einstein is the half-brother of comedian Albert Brooks. The novel's cover featured an evocative photo montage by photographer David Attie. While the novel is highly regarded by fans of the series, it has long been out of print.