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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

77 SUNSET STRIP

The cast of 77 Sunset Strip
77 SUNSET STRIP (1958 - 1964).

This hour-long black and white private eye series lasted for six seasons and was one of the most successful and influential of its type on television. The main stars were Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Stuart Bailey and Roger Smith as Jeff Spencer. Edd Byrnes ["Final Escape"on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour] as Gerald Kookson III or "Kookie," originally parked cars for the real-life Dino's Lodge next door -- the club was owned by Dean Martin who never appeared on the show -- did odd jobs for the detectives, and later became an employee with Bailey and Spencer. When Bourbon Street Beat was canceled Richard Long and the character he played were both moved over to Sunset. Louis Quinn played Roscoe, a horse player who made money also doing odd jobs for the agency; Jacqueline Beer was their secretary, Suzanne; and Robert Logan [Claudelle Inglish] took Kookie's old parking job, hung around the office, and got involved in a case or two. In the last episodes of the final season Stuart Bailey was the only private eye in sight, the others (as well as "Bailey and Spencer," Kooky, the agency's offices, the logo and theme,  and everything and everyone else) were all gone, possibly in a cost-cutting move.

While not every episode was a winner, the show, produced by former actor William Orr [The Hardys Ride High], managed to maintain a high-standard of entertainment value. Some of the most memorable episodes include "The Duncan Shrine," in which the statue of a dead western star is stolen from a cemetery; "Pattern for a Bomb," in which the gang try to stop a clever bomber-extortionist (with Joan Marshall); "The Gemologist Caper," in which a half million in gems disappears from a gallery; "Tarnished Angel." in which Suzanne goes undercover to investigate a paralyzed tennis player (Van Williams; Edgar Barrier); "Never to Have Loved," in which an actress tries to break with her Svengali-like husband/director; "By His Own Verdict," with Joseph Cotten as a lawyer whose acquitted client admits he's guilty; and one of the very best, "White Lie," in which a land claim dispute centers around a mulatto woman who has been passing for white, and who is understandably reluctant to answer tough questions in court (Gene Evans; Elizabeth Montgomery). The show featured many well-known guest-stars, such as Bert Convy, Paula Raymond, Diane McBain, George Petrie, Pat Crowley, Robert Clarke, Joan Taylor, Robert Vaughn, Jay Novello, Gena Rowlands, and many, many others. Orr also produced Surfside 6, which lasted two seasons.

Verdict: Snappy detective show with a finger-snappin' theme and appealing players. *** out of 4.
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