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

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Milland as Markham with Macdonald Carey on Suspicion
Markham 1959 television series.

"As a man of obvious breeding, Mr. Markham, I'm surprised you would ask such a crude question."

The character of private detective Roy Markham (Ray Milland of So Evil My Love) first appeared (in what was the pilot for the resulting series) on the anthology program Suspicion, in an hour-long story entitled "Eye for Eye."  In this a divorce lawyer (Macdonald Carey) takes a pro bono case to help get a battered wife (Kathleen Crowley) away from her husband (Andrew Duggan.) When the husband kidnaps the lawyer's wife, he wants to make an exchange, but his own wife is terrified to go near him. With the help of private eye Markham, the frightened lady is importuned to go along with the plan, and Markham eventually saves the day. Well-acted by all, with an especially noteworthy performance from Kathleen Crowley, this was an auspicious debut and the show was picked up by CBS (even though Suspicion was telecast on rival NBC). In the meantime Macdonald Carey got his own show, Lock Up, although he played a different character.

Markham only lasted one season in 1959, but it amassed 59 episodes (nowadays we're lucky if a series has twenty or even fewer episodes per season). For the first eight episodes Simon Scott played Markham's friend and colleague John Riggs. What distinguishes this private eye series, aside from the international flavor,  is the fact that Roy Markham is played by no less than Oscar-winner Ray Milland [Bulldog Drummond Escapes], who adds a certain class and distinction to the series. (Milland won for The Lost Weekend.) As well, Markham is what you might call an intellectual private eye, a much smarter and much more cultured specimen than, say, Mike Hammer.  I've seen about half of the episodes of the show, most of which were good, many excellent, and I wish all of the rest were available.

A designer's wife is involved in the murder of a blackmailer in "Vendetta in Venice," which features such players as Paula Raymond, Robert Lowery, and Allison Hayes. "Escorts a la Carte" has Markham in Rome where a friend has supposedly committed suicide, and which leads him to a sinister escort service that employs an escort played by Suzanne Lloyd. Gale Robbins plays a famous singer in The Bad Spell," who comes to Markham for help when someone keeps trying to blow her up and succeeds in killing her husband.  "The Searing Flame" is a weird story in which Markham searches for a young lady painter who has disappeared in Paris and nearly winds up burned to death in a provincial cabin. In "Three Steps to Murder" a series of inexplicable bombings of abandoned buildings leads to a genuine murder of a hoodlum. Of the episodes I've seen, arguably the best is "Strange Visitor," in which kidnappers bring an heiress (played by Louise Fletcher) to Markham's apartment where tragedy ensues. This is a taut and suspenseful episode with a touch of pathos. Another outstanding episode is "A Cry from the Penthouse," in which a slimy blackmailer (Jack Weston) locks Markham out on his balcony with its shatter-proof doors in freezing cold weather and nearly kills him in the process. Also notable are "The Last Bullet" wherein Nita Talbot is one of the suspects when a wealthy man's suicide turns out to be murder and a million dollars goes missing; "We Are All Suspect" with June Vincent excellent as a wife whose husband disappears when he simply goes out to walk the dog; and "The Long Search," a shipboard story of intrigue over a stolen ancient scroll, with Katherine Squire as one of the suspects.

Other episodes include "The Cruelest Thief," where dogs are used in a smuggling racket; "Round Trip to Mozambique," about a pretty moll with a young son; "The Human Factor," in which a client Markham can't stand is accused of assaulting a woman; "Sing a Song of Murder," in which a little boy witnesses a hit; and "The Young Conspirator," in which a paperboy tells Markham someone is trying to kill him. Locales for the stories included everyplace from Guatemala ("The Other Side of the Wall"); Hollywood ("Deadline Date" with Peggie Castle); Mexico ("The Bay of the Dead"); Istanbul ("No Flies on Friday" with Henry Daniell); and Paris ({Paris Encounter" with Colleen Gray). Guest stars on the show, along with those already mentioned, included Walter Woolf King ("Coercion"); Phillip Terry ("Incident in Bel Air"); Betty Lynn ("The Marble Face")' Sebastian Cabot ("Forty-Two on a Rope");' and Robert H Harris, who was wonderful as a former mob lawyer in "The Seamark" and as a jealous and murderous sculptor in "Image of Love."

Markham episodes were directed by such notable people as Mitchell Leisen [No Man of Her Own] and Robert Florey [The Beast with Five Fingers]. The show was sponsored by Schlitz, "the beer that made Milwaukee famous."

Verdict: Quite good private eye show with a degree of sophistication and some wonderful guest stars. ***. 


angelman66 said...

Milland is one of those classic actors who really kept reinventing himself. What a career! Was not aware of this old TV series...

William said...

I don't think anyone is! -- except your truly and the people who uploaded the episodes to youtube.