Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Send in the Clones: Warner Brothers’ Early TV Detectives

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Previously, by schappe1:

“The Warner Brothers Detective Shows (Early TV History).”

The Clones
By schappe1
19 January 2003

TV actors, at least in the old days when they were placed in a separate class from movie actors, often seemed to be clones of their movie brethren. Some were singular in their associations. Nehemiah Persoff seemed to be the Edward G. Robinson of television, getting similar roles and acting them in a very similar manner. Carolyn Jones was the Bette Davis of TV, even to the point of playing a set of sisters, one of whom is a murderer, on Burke's Law.

Others had company in their pursuits. The western stars were all either John Wayne or Gary Cooper, with an occasional Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda thrown in (including the real thing on The Deputy). There was a whole selection of Clark Gables, including John Russell, Rory Calhoun, Richard Egan, Robert Lowery and others. There were plenty of Brandos, including Burt Reynolds, George Maharis, and John Saxon. There were enough Rock Hudsons to fill a theater, with John Gavin, Tom Tryon, and Gardner McKay coming immediately to mind. The blonde versions I call the “Redfords,” a group of thoughtful, well-educated types, of whom Robert Redford was one, along with James Franciscus, Richard Chamberlain, and William Shatner. They had varying degrees of success, with Redford emerging at the head of the class.

Perhaps the most successful strain, however, were the Cary Grants. Grant made an ideal model for the suave detective-hero, able to be charming or tough, as the occasion demanded. Craig Stevens was hired to play Peter Gunn specifically because of a strong resemblance to Grant. His tightlipped performance was not really very charming, but it's surely how Cary would have played that character. Lantern-jawed John Vivyan played a role that Grant had actually essayed in the movies, Mr. Lucky. He was competent, at best. The heroes of the Warner Brothers detective shows were largely based on Cary Grant. Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s Stu Bailey was a Grant-style role with a lot more charm than Peter Gunn. Richard Long's Rex Randolph, on Bourbon Street Beat, was much the same. Anthony Eisley's Tracy Steele was a less convincing version of the same character on Hawaiian Eye.

But the best of the Grant clones was Gene Barry. He was male-model handsome, had good breeding, and a seductive whiskey voice. He was also one of TV's greatest reactors. He had a series of comic takes that was perfect for Amos Burke, who had to confront an unending series of eccentric subjects. Yet he could turn around and romance the ladies, or get tough with the tough guys. And he was a good enough actor to hold up his end, when the heavy dramatics intervened.

One wonders what the originals of these clones must have thought, as they watched the boob tube in its infancy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And all the criminals were whitey.