Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Alan Mowbray and  Howard Duff
DANTE (1960). Created by Blake Edwards.

"You might even find that honesty's fun!"

This TV show with an interesting premise lasted just one season. Willie Dante (Howard Duff) is a gambler who has spent some time in jail. He is now determined to go straight, and with two former confederates, Stewart (Alan Mowbray) and Biff (Tom D'Andrea), goes into the nightclub business, opening a place called Dante's Inferno. Of course many customers and cops think Dante is up to his old tricks and wonder where he's hiding the roulette wheel. People from his past -- old cronies, old crooks and old girlfriends -- keep popping up at Dante's, and he's usually suspected of being involved in whatever crime -- be it jewel robbery, blackmail or murder -- that has embroiled the people who come to him for help. [Dante is a little reminiscent of another show entitled Mr. Lucky, which debuted the year before.] While the show was well-acted and had some interesting stories, it never quite takes off, and that's probably due to star Duff. Duff is actually quite good as Willie Dante, suitably gruff and tough as the man probably would be, but even when he's romancing the ladies Duff lacks charm and that all-important likability, which might have kept more people tuning in each week. [I mean, I've never heard anyone say they were a Howard Duff fan or "loved" Howard Duff.] Mowbray and D'Andrea are fine as, respectively, the maitre'd and bartender, as is Bert Frees as Sgt. Rickard.

Among the better episodes: "One for the Birds" involving blackmail is an excellent and suspenseful story; "Dial D for Dante" has the restaurateur with a $50,000 price on his head; everyone thinks Dante knows the location of some stolen loot in "Dante Rides Again" (with a sterling guest-starring performance from Nita Talbot); Charles MacGraw is excellent as a cop who thinks Dante is responsible for his brother's death in "Hunter with a Badge;" someone else goes gunning for Dante in "Friendly Assassin;" and in "The Sesame Key" the cops think a series of cat burglaries are somehow tied to Dante's Inferno. This episode guest-stars both Joan Marshall (AKA Jean Arless of Homicidal fame) and Nora Hayden of The Angry Red Planet; both are quite good. Other notable guest-stars include Allison Hayes, Carol Ohmart, Mary Jane Croft, Patricia Medina, William Hudson, Andrea King, Ed Platt, Ruta Lee, Dick Foran, and an especially good Marion Ross. Most of the teleplays were written or co-written by Harold Jack Bloom.  

Verdict: An entertaining show that just misses being special. **1/2.

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