Thursday, June 18, 2015
BOURBON STREET BEAT
Producer William Orr [77 Sunset Strip] hoped lightning would strike twice with this private detective series set in New Orleans, but it only lasted one season. Rex Randolph (Richard Long) is a PI who meets police lieutenant Cal Calhoun (Andrew Duggan) during the premiere episode. The two decide to form a partnership and Cal takes a leave of absence from the police. Rex is a gourmet cook who delights in making spectacular meals, and Cal is a lover of old movies who can do dead-on impressions of Charles Boyer and the like. The two men are assisted by Kenny Madison (Van Williams), a law student, and secretary Melody Lee Mercer (Arlene Howell). Just as the offices at 77 Sunset Strip were located next to a real dining/drinking establishment in LA (Dino's Lodge, owned by Dean Martin), the offices for Randolph and Calhoun were in a courtyard right next to the historic Old Absinthe House (which unlike Dino's still exists today). Each episode had at least one scene that took place inside the Absinthe House, although these were undoubtedly filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood. The outside of the building was used in exterior shots and apparently a facsimile was built for scenes that take place in the courtyard. Melody went off to Europe halfway through the series, and Howell never returned. Another disappearance was of the Baron (Eddie Cole), a black musician who worked in the Absinthe House and often commented on the cases or imparted info. Character of strip tease artiste Lusti Weather (Nita Talbot) appeared in four episodes, but thankfully never became a regular as she was kind of irritating. When Bourbon Street Beat was canceled, Rex Randolph, still played by Long [House on Haunted Hill], joined the firm of Bailey and Spencer on 77 Sunset Strip, while Kenny Madison, still played by Williams, signed up with a trio of private eyes on Surfside 6 in Miami Beach. Duggan [Seven Days in May] wound up on the sitcom Room for One More and did a lot of television and movie work.
Among the more memorable episodes of the series: the suspenseful "Woman in the River," in which a young man claims his wife is missing, and which features fine performances from Ray Stricklyn, Henry Brandon, Mary Tyler Moore, and especially Jeanette Nolan. "Portrait of Lenore" features a famous painting that is ransomed by a mysterious masked woman and boasts excellent work from Andrea King and Madlyn Rhue. Marie Windsor, Tristram Coffin and Harry Jackson star in "The 10% Blues," an absorbing tale of a corrupt talent agency that uses strong-arm tactics to gain clients. "Six Hours to Midnight," perhaps the best episode, features that old plot of a man on death row with only hours to live, but is well-written and well-acted by George Wallace, Victor Buono, and Duggan in top form. In "Suitable for Framing" with Barbara Lord, Rita Moreno, and Craig Hill, Rex is accused of murdering a wealthy woman's husband. Most of the episodes of this entertaining series were solid "b"s or better.
Verdict: Good old private detective show with an interesting setting should have lasted longer. ***