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Monday, April 17, 2006

"WATCHING THE DETECTIVES" THROUGH THE TELEVISION YEARS

by Jim McAllister

"Watching the detectives, ‘Ooh, he’s so cute.’" That refrain was recorded by Elvis Costello in 1977 but covered much of the appeal of television detectives to female viewers through the years. Whether it was Edd "Kookie" Byrnes or Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. from "77 Sunset Strip" in the 1950's on through to Chris Noth of "Law and Order" in the 1990's and beyond, the ladies loved these guys for their good looks and heroic deeds. Men liked them also for being so tough, cool, and usually winning the best looking babe on the show. These programs were exciting and easy to understand thus propelling some of them to high ratings.
One of the earliest entries was "Man Against Crime"(1949-1956) starring perennial movie second lead Ralph Bellamy. This show carried over some of the traits of film noir from the movies since it originated in 1949. Bellamy played hard boiled P. I. Mike Barnett, a Dashiell Hammett type character, who usually spoke with his fists. It was a popular show that was a mainstay on CBS for many years.

3 comments:

Allen J. Duffis said...

Hi Again Jim,

Once more I've been swept up in your faithful reverie of early television times fondly remembered. Oh god how I loved those early TV detectives!

One of my favorites of the early 1950's was "Rocky King Inside Detective" which starred B- film actor Roscoe Karnes (1891-1970).

The show ran from 1950-54, and its gimick was that you never saw King's wife, Mabel, but only heard her voice and viewed the back of her head.

Every Christmas season they'd promise to show you Mabels face, but something at home would always happen to prevent it; one year she had just put a mud pack one, the next all the lights went out as they were about to show her.

The ploy kept the viewing audiance going for about four years, which is what the producers and network (Dumont) wanted.

Right after it ran another show called "The Plainclothesman" in which you only saw the Lieutenant's hands and pipe (the voice was of charactor actor Ken Lynch: 1910-1990), and the face of Sergeant Brady his immediate reporting officer.

That ploy was used later on in the detective series "Richard Diamond" which starred the late David Jansen (1931-1980).

In that show you only heard the voice and saw the beautiful legs of his switchboatrd operator (early Mary Tyler Moore), but never her face.

"Boston Blackie" was another of that period that was not only a favorite of mine but my father as well. I even remember the opening: "Boston Blackie, enemy of those who make him an enemy. Friend of those who have no friends."

The show starred B-film actor Kent Taylor (1907-1987) and his female sidekick and squeeze played by actress Lois Collier (1919-1999).

Of course "Man Against Crime" with Ralph Bellamy (1904-1991) as Mike Barnett, known to the underworld as "Two TT's, was one of my favorites.

In fact, I do believe it was one of the first TV shows to actually have some footage shot on the streets instead of in a studio.

The show also debuted the talented actress Nita Talbot in a sort of semi-continuing character, Barnett's Brooklyn accented street snitch, Gloria.

As for Mr.& Mrs. North, what can I say. The episodes were well plotted, written and executed for early television, and Barbara Britton "Pamela North" (1919-1980) was so beautiful.

To wit, Richard Denning (1914-19980, aka Jerry North, was a very good actor too.

Oh how I miss those programs and times, Jim. Thanks again for the trip back.

Allen

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