Saturday, July 4, 2015

87th Precinct (1961)

Procedural crime dramas were nothing new in the fall of 1961, but 87th Precinct had built-in name recognition because it was based on a popular series of novels by Ed McBain, a prolific author in many genres whose legal name was Evan Hunter and whose birth name was Salvatore Albert Lombino. Hunter started writing fiction while stationed aboard a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II. Though he managed to publish a few science fiction stories after returning and studying English and Psychology at college, he broke into the big time with his 1954 novel Blackboard Jungle, based on his experiences during a brief tenure as a teacher at a vocational school in the Bronx. When the novel was adapted into a popular movie the following year, Hunter suddenly was a hot property for film and television screenplays. He adapted a novel by David Dodge into the teleplay "Angel's Ransom" for a 1956 episode of The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, the same year he began his series of 87th Precinct novels under the McBain pseudonym, which would produce 55 titles over the next 50 years. In 1958 the first two of these novels--Cop Hater and The Mugger--were made into feature films. That same year 87th Precinct stories made their first appearance on television in a pair of episodes on Kraft Theatre. Two years later in 1960, another 87th Precinct novel, The Pusher, would be made into a feature film, this time with Robert Lansing playing Det. Steve Carella, and the die for the ensuing TV series was cast.

Debuting on Monday, September 25, 1961 on NBC, the show was described in the September 16 Fall Preview edition of TV Guide thusly:

87th Precinct (NBC) may just repair some of the damage Car 54, Where Are You? does to big-city cops. Based on the realistic 87th Precinct detective mysteries of Ed McBain (a pseudonym for best-selling novelist Evan Hunter), it will feature the same cast of squad-room heroes...

And Hunter was directly involved in the series, writing the screenplay for the episode "Line of Duty" (October 23, 1961), which actor Ron Harper recalled was authored explicitly to develop his character, the rookie detective Bert Kling. Several other episodes were based on already published novels: the pilot "The Floater" (September 25, 1961) was based on 1957's The Con Man; "Lady in Waiting" (October 2, 1961) was based on 1959's Killer's Wedge; "Lady Killer" (October 9, 1961) and "Killer's Payoff" (November 6, 1961) were based on the 1958 novels of the same name; "Til Death (December  11, 1961) was based on the 1959 novel of the same name; and "The Heckler" (December 18, 1961) was based on the 1960 novel of the same name. One episode, "Empty Hours" (November 20, 1961), was based on a not-then-published novella that would be released in book form along with two other novellas in 1962. The other six 1961 episodes were penned by screenwriters based on Hunter's characters, with one episode--"The Very Hard Sell" (December 4, 1961)--based on a short story by Helen Nielsen. So considerable effort was made to keep the series faithful to the novels, but deliberate changes were made nonetheless.

The characters of detectives Steve Carella, Bert Kling, and Meyer Meyer, as well as Carella's wife Teddy and Meyer's wife Sarah, are all retained pretty much as written in the novels. But Det. Roger Havilland, played on TV by Gregory Walcott, is transformed from a dirty cop in the books to a team player on TV, though he has little in the way of distinguishing characteristics in early episodes. The single 1961 episode in which he is featured--"Killer's Payoff"--shows him becoming romantically interested in dancer Nancy Johnson, whose blackmailer sugar daddy is murdered, but by the story's conclusion she has decided to leave town, telling Havilland that had he come along 10 years earlier they might have had something. In other episodes, Havilland is merely along for the ride.

Supporting characters from the novels who show up in the TV series include crime lab supervisor Sam Grossman, medical examiner Dr. Blaney (in the novels there are actually a pair of twins named Blaney who are both medical examiners), homicide investigators Monoghan and Monroe (who appear only in the episode "Line of Duty"), and informant Danny Gimp (who also appears only in "Line of Duty"). In the novels Monoghan and Monroe have been described as "arrogant and buffoonish," but in their one 1961 TV appearance they seem innocuous. Several other unsavory characters appear in the novels but not in the TV version: the unkempt, rude, and racist Det. Ollie Weeks, the self-absorbed police Capt. Frick, lazy Det. Andy Parker, dim-witted Det. Richard Genero, and sleazy informant Fats Donner. The only bad cop we see on 87th Precinct is an ex-cop: in "The Modus Man" (October 16, 1961), former detective Bill Brewster has left the force to sell used cars, but he also uses what he learned in his years on the beat to mimic the modus operandi of long-time crooks, making off with the spoils and leaving the copied criminals as the suspects for his crimes. It's clear that the dirty underbelly of law enforcement and the criminal world it inhabits, the very elements that gave McBain's work its characteristic realism, has been whitewashed for the American TV viewing audience. 

In fact, the TV series itself plays out like a flag-waving salute to the men in suits and fedoras who investigate and help solve suspicious crimes. Harper, in a 2005 interview, said that what distinguished the series from other crime dramas was that it showed the detectives' lives outside the office, rather than just sticking to the facts, like Jack Webb's Dragnet, an acknowledged influence on Hunter. In the very first episode, "The Floater," we see several scenes at the Carellas' apartment and in a bar, establishing the relationship between the detective and his deaf/mute wife as one that is playful, sometimes argumentative, but based nonetheless on real love and affection. In his featured episode, "Line of Duty," Harper's Bert Kling is shaken up when he makes his first kill, a teenage kid involved in a box office holdup who fires first at Kling but whose youth the rookie detective doesn't realize until he removes a stocking from his dead face. In "Til Death" we get to see Kling and his fiance Claire Townsend spar over his elusiveness in setting a wedding date, a dynamic already given full treatment on Peter Gunn in the constant back-and-forth between Gunn and girlfriend Edie Hart. And in "The Guilt" (November 13, 1961) it's Meyer's turn to show his sensitive side when he is torn up after making the mistake of giving an old school-friend-gone-bad too much leeway, which leads to the criminal's escape and commission of additional crimes. We later get a glimpse of Meyer's family life in "The Heckler" when he, his wife Sarah, and their two children are returning from a vacation and Meyer grouses constantly about not being able to afford cab fare or spoiling the children's dinner by buying them an afternoon ice cream cone. These scenes attempt to humanize those who deal with horrible tragedy on a daily basis and come off as cynical when they try to use sarcastic banter to blunt the effects of what they have witnessed.

This theme would not be problematic in and of itself, but on 87th Precinct we are also shown a steady stream of ordinary folk who come to the police station to report trivial problems. In "Lady Killer" Kling is visited by Harriet Horn, who complains about men walking around shirtless in public in the midst of a heat wave. Kling has to explain to her that while she may find this behavior morally offensive, it's not illegal. In "The Guilt" an unnamed woman pleads for police protection against her husband, but after she leaves the detectives joke that she had come to the station before and it is her husband who needs the protection. In "Til Death" we see a sailor and his girlfriend reporting that they were robbed, then sheepishly admitting that at the time they were necking on Lover's Lane. And in "Run, Rabbit, Run" (December 25, 1961) Meyer is dealing with street-corner necktie saleswoman Mrs. Turner, who continually evades getting the proper vendor license while all the while promising she will do so right away. Ordinary citizens are depicted as comic eccentrics, and the detectives who have to deal with them as requiring the patience of Job. Even more well-adjusted citizens, like immigrant locksmith Joe Czepreghi in "Occupation, Citizen" (October 30, 1961), who is the lone witness who could incriminate a pair of blood-thirsty mobsters, have to be cajoled by Carella into doing the right thing--putting the preservation of his new country's justice system above his own personal safety. In short, the detectives of 87th Precinct are in a class above everyone else--they have more integrity, sensitivity, sense of balance, and courage than the average citizen. While it's perfectly fine to celebrate heroism, 87th Precinct paints its heroes in stark hues of black and white. 

The theme music and individual episode scores for 87th Precinct were written by Morton Stevens. Born Morton Aaron Suckno in Newark, New Jersey, Stevens graduated from the Julliard School of Music in 1950 and soon thereafter became musical director and arranger for Sammy Davis, Jr. It was Davis who got Stevens introduced to TV scoring when he insisted that his musical director handle the arranging chores for his 1960 appearance on General Electric Theater. There Stevens met Stanley Wilson, musical director for Revue Studios,  who hired him and put him to work scoring 87th Precinct. While working for Revue, Stevens met and worked with Jerry Goldsmith, producing scores for Thriller, Checkmate, and Wagon Train, amongst others. By 1965 he was hired as director of music for CBS West Coast Productions, which had him overseeing and writing for series such as Gunsmoke, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Gilligan's Island. In 1968 his card-playing friend, producer Leonard Freeman, who had recently moved to CBS, asked him to come up with a theme for his new crime drama, Hawaii Five-O. After a failed first attempt that his wife characterized as "nice," meaning so-so, Stevens came up with one of the most iconic opening themes in television history, a theme that won him two Emmys and a nomination for a third. In the 1970s he scored for series such as Men at Law, Apple's Way, and Police Woman (for which he received another Emmy nomination). He left CBS in 1977 but would come back and write guest scores for Hawaii Five-O until the series ended. He received additional Emmy nominations for the mini-series Wheels in 1978 and Masada in 1981. In the 1980s John Williams would invite him to write pieces for his Boston Pops concerts, and he wrote ambitious scores for his own concerts. However, he was struck down by pancreatic cancer at age 62, passing away on November 11, 1991.

The series' one and only season has been released on DVD by Timeless Media Group.

The Actors

Robert Lansing

Robert Howell Brown was born in San Diego and began his acting career in high school, where he won the award for best actor from the Southern California Shakespearean Festival when he was 15 years old. After high school he served in the U.S. Army, stationed in Japan for two years, where he worked for the Armed Forces Radio Service. When he returned stateside, he worked as a radio announcer in Ft. Wayne, Indiana while also acting in local theatre before moving on to New York. He worked odd jobs such as in a plastics factory but eventually found success when he was cast as a replacement for the part of Dunbar in Stalag 17 in 1951. It was during this time that he took the last name Lansing when he was hired by a Michigan theater stock company, and the Actors Equity Association forced the name change because another actor was already registered as Robert Brown. After 5 years in New York, he decided to try his luck in Hollywood in 1956, landing only a few parts over the next few years, most on drama anthology TV shows. But in 1959 he starred in the lead role of a scientist experimenting with being able to penetrate solid matter in the feature film 4D Man. In 1960 he made several guest appearances on TV shows like One Step Beyond, Thriller, and Moment of Fear, but his most important role was as Det. Steve Carella in the feature film adaptation of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novel The Pusher. When McBain's series of novels was spun into a TV series, Lansing was a natural fit for the lead detective of the 87th Precinct.

After 87th Precinct was canceled in 1962, he found sporadic guest work on television and an occasional supporting role in features such as A Gathering of Eagles and Under the Yum Yum Tree. In 1964 he was cast as Gen. Frank Savage in the TV war drama 12 O'Clock High, but his character was killed off after a season and a half, reportedly because network executives wanted somebody younger and audiences didn't identify with such a high-ranking officer. After playing Gen. Custer in a 3-part episode on Branded and playing the lead in the feature Namu: The Killer Whale, Lansing was again cast in a lead TV role as Peter Murphy/Mark Wainwright on The Man Who Never Was in the fall of 1966, but the series lasted only 18 episodes. His role as Gary Seven in the 1968 "Assignment: Earth" episode of Star Trek was intended to be a pilot for a spin-off series in which he would co-star with Terri Garr, but the series was never picked up. He continued guest spots on TV at the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s as well as staying active in theater on Broadway and off. He appeared in the 1977 science fiction feature Empire of the Ants with Joan Collins and Island Claws in 1980. He had a recurring role as Lt. Jack Curtis on the Desi Arnaz, Jr. series Automan in 1983-84. He played Edward Woodward's former boss at the CIA in The Equalizer from 1985-89, and was playing Paul Blaisdell on the David Carradine reboot King Fu: The Legend Continues when he died from cancer at the age of 66 on October 23, 1994.

Ron Harper

Ronald Robert Harper was born in tiny Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, where his father worked in a coal mine after World War II. Harper first became interested in acting while in high school and won an academic scholarship to Princeton University, where he initially decided to study law but also was active in theatrical productions. After playing the role of Caliban in a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Harper met and talked to Albert Einstein, who was then a professor at Princeton, and was struck by Einstein's observation that if you can make a living doing something you enjoy, it can make for a wonderful life. Harper credits this conversation with helping him make the choice to pursue acting rather than a legal career. He moved to New York and studied acting under Lee Strasburg before being drafted into the Navy. He was stationed at the Panama Canal as a kind of tour guide for visiting officers but also worked at an armed forces TV station there, hosting a children's show and staging dramas with John Anniston, father of actress Jennifer Anniston. After his service he returned to New York to resume his pursuit of acting, finally landing as Paul Newman's understudy in Elia Kazan's production of Sweet Bird of Youth. He credits Newman's advice in turning down his initial movie contract offer with 20th Century Fox, but he later accepted an offer from Universal Studios because it was limited to 3 years rather than the usual 7 years. After being featured in guest spots on a number of westerns during the 1960-61 season, Harper, according to his contract, could have a choice of three different TV series, though he had to pick one of the three. The first one he was offered was the role of young detective Bert Kling on 87th Precinct. After reading the script for the pilot, Harper was impressed by the writing of Ed McBain and immediately accepted the role.

After 87th Precinct, Harper had a dry spell for two years with only a single guest appearance on Laramie but then was cast along with George Burns and Connie Stevens on Wendy and Me in 1964. This series also lasted only a single season, as did his next assignment, playing Jean Arthur's son on The Jean Arthur Show in 1966. His run of one-season series continued in 1967 when he was cast in the lead role of Lt. Craig Garrison in the World War II drama Garrison's Gorillas. It would be another 6 years before he would find regular TV work when he was cast as astronaut Alan Virdon on the 14-part mini-series Planet of the Apes in 1974. This was followed two years later by a recurring role as Uncle Jack Marshall on Land of the Lost in 1976. He would finally find a lasting role, for 3 years at least, playing Dr. Andrew Marriott on the daytime soap opera Love of Life from 1977-80, which would lead to more work on soap operas such as Another World, Loving, Capitol, and Generations in the 1980s and early 1990s. He has continued to make occasional TV appearances on shows such as Beverly Hills 90210, Walker, Texas Ranger, and Cold Case as well as feature films like The Odd Couple II, Pearl Harbor, Touched, and the 2015 true crime drama Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story

Norman Fell

Norman Noah Feld was born in Philadelphia and graduated from hometown Temple University with a degree in drama. After serving as a tail-gunner in the Pacific Theater during World War II, Fell moved to New York and studied under Stella Adler at the Actors Studio. He made his New York stage debut in Jose Quintero's Bond of Interest and by 1955-56 was supporting Edward G. Robinson in Middle of the Night. The year prior he scored his first big television success in a 1954 production of Twelve Angry Men on the drama anthology series Studio One in Hollywood. His first recurring TV role was on the short-lived comedy series Joe & Mabel in 1956, but he also began picking up movie roles in features such as The Violators, Pork Chop Hill, and Ocean's 11, about which he said he enjoyed working with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. but that Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford were "creeps." Regular guest appearances continued in the winter and spring of 1961 on shows like Peter Gunn, Checkmate, and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis before he found his next regular role as Det. Meyer Meyer on 87th Precinct.

After the show's 1-year run, he continued to find regular guest work on a number of shows, including four turns as Arnold Vitnack on Dr. Kildare in 1965, but his work on feature films throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s eclipsed his TV work, appearing in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Graduate, Bullitt, and Catch-22. In 1970 he supported Burt Reynolds playing Sgt. Charles Wilentz on Dan August , a role he reprised in 3 TV movies in 1980. He starred as Nathan Davidson on the short-lived Needles and Pins in 1973-74, won praise for his role as Smitty on the 1976 TV mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man, and appeared in exploitation features like Airport 1975 and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. But he struck gold when he was cast as salacious landlord Stanley Roper on Three's Company in 1976, a role for which he would be remembered and, according to him, typecast for the rest of his life. After winning a Golden Globe for the role in 1979, his character was so popular that CBS spun off Fell's character and his on-screen wife Audra Lindley into their own series The Ropers, but the show lasted only a single season. His character would make a cameo appearance on a 1997 episode of Ellen DeGeneres' show Ellen, one of his last acting credits, and he played a landlord in a 1994 episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But he remained active with regular guest spots and feature film roles during the intervening years, including starring in another one-season series, playing Ben Cooper on Teachers Only in 1982-83. Eventually Fell succumbed to cancer and died in the Motion Picture and Television Fund's retirement home on December 14, 1998 at the age of 74.

Gregory Walcott

Strapping 6'4" Bernard Wasdon Mattox was born in Wendell, North Carolina and grew up in nearby Wilson, where he was nicknamed "Barnyard" on his high school football team. After high school he served two years in the U.S. Army, experience that would serve him well in some of his early film roles when he played a drill instructor in both Battle Cry and The Outsider. But before that he hitch-hiked his way from North Carolina to Hollywood with $100 in his pocket and a tennis racket in his hand to give prospective drivers the idea that he was the college type and not a risk as a traveling companion. His feature film debut came in the 1952 western Red Skies of Montana, but it was his performance in Battle Cry three years later that netted him a contract with Warner Brothers. He continued appearing in military and western roles throughout the 1950s in films such as Mister Roberts, The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, Jet Attack, and as Bat Masterson in Badman's Country. However, his appearance in Ed Wood's remarkably awful science fiction disaster, Plan 9 From Outer Space, considered by many to be the worst movie ever made, that would forever mark Walcott's career. As Walcott would later reveal, he agreed to appear in the film as a favor to a friend from his church who had invested in the movie. He figured his appearance as an established film actor would lend the production some credibility, but instead it only marked Walcott as a participant in a legendary debacle, though he remained philosophical about it: "It's better to be remembered for something than for nothing." Still, the association did not hamper his ability to get roles, as he appeared in numerous westerns such as Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Deputy, Riverboat, Laramie, Bonanza, and Rawhide before being cast as Det. Roger Havilland on 87th Precinct.

After 87th Precinct his 5 appearances on Rawhide would pay off in being cast as Clint Eastwood's foil in 4 feature films starring Eastwood in the 1970s--Joe Kidd, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Eiger Sanction, and Every Which Way But Loose. He would also appear in one of Steven Spielberg's first films, The Sugarland Express, in 1974, play Gene Hackman's disturbed brother in Prime Cut, and play the policeman who hauled Sally Field to jail in Norma Rae. In the 1980s his number of credits slowed but still managed to include appearances on The Dukes of Hazzard, Simon & Simon, Dallas, and Murder, She Wrote. His last screen credit was a cameo as a possible investor for Ed Wood in Tim Burton's 1994 biopic about the eccentric director. Walcott died of natural causes at the age of 87 on March 20, 2015.

Gena Rowlands

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Virginia Cathryn Rowlands was the daughter of a banker and state legislator who for a time worked for the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. Her mother, Mary Allen Neal, was a housewife and painter who later took up acting late in life under the name Lady Rowlands, appearing with her daughter in two films in the 1970s. Gena attended the University of Wisconsin, then headed to New York to take up acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1950. She had been a fan of actress Bette Davis since she was a child and says that she always wanted to be an actress because it allows you to live so many other lives. She met her first husband, actor and director John Cassavetes, while auditioning for the American Academy at Carnegie Hall. Though he told a friend at the time that he was going to marry her, she told him she did not want to date anyone until she graduated, though they did occasionally meet for coffee. She made her Broadway debut playing opposite Edward G. Robinson in Middle of the Night and began appearing on TV in the series Top Secret in 1954, the same year she finally married Cassavetes. Her feature film debut came in 1958 in The High Cost of Loving. The next year she appeared in the first of 10 Cassavetes films, Shadows, as well as an episode of his TV series Johnny Staccato. She found work doing guest appearances on other shows over the next two years before being cast as Robert Lansing's deaf/mute wife Teddy Carella on 87th Precinct.

But it was after the series ended that her career really kicked into high gear. She starred opposite Kirk Douglas in Lonely Are the Brave and Rock Hudson in The Spiral Road, both released in 1962, then had a supporting role behind Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland in Cassavetes' A Child Is Waiting in 1963. The next four years would bring only occasional TV work on shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Burke's Law, and Run For Your Life, but in 1967 she was cast as Adrienne Van Leyden on Peyton Place as well as a supporting role in Frank Sinatra's Tony Rome. Other than a pair of appearances on Medical Center, the next 7 years would find her mostly appearing in her huband's films--Faces, Minnie and Moskowitz, and the role that garnered her first Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win, A Woman Under the Influence in 1974. Six years later she would receive her second Oscar nomination for her work on Gloria, also directed by Cassavetes. In 1987 she won a Daytime Emmy and another Golden Globe for the titular role in the TV movie The Betty Ford Story. She also won Emmys for Face of a Stranger (1991), Hysterical Blindness (2003), and the children's program The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie (2004). After Cassavetes' death in 1989, she remarried to retired businessman Robert Forrest and more recently has appeared in films directed by her children, most notably Nick Cassavetes' The Notebook in 2004. Daughters Alexandra and Zoe are also directors. Her most recent work was starring opposite Cheyenne Jackson in 2014's Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, and she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in January 2015. At age 85, she does not appear to be slowing down.

Ruth Storey

Ruth Stromberg was born in New York City, daughter of Jewish folk singer Anna Stromberg, who once appeared on stage in George Jessel's production of The Jazz Singer. Storey pursued a career as a stage actress on Broadway until she married actor Richard Conte in 1943 and moved with him to California that year. In California she continued her theatrical work, including a record-setting run in a 1958 production of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. She made her first film appearance in 1953 in the noir thriller The Blue Gardenia, which starred her husband, as did her next two films Slaves of Babylon and I'll Cry Tomorrow. After a few TV guest spots in the late 1950s, she appeared in a pair of 1960 feature films, Bells Are Ringing, starring Dean Martin and Judy Holliday, and the drama The Subterraneans, in which she played an analyst, foreshadowing her post-acting career. After a few more TV guest roles, she was cast as Norman Fell's wife, Sarah Meyer, on 87th Precinct. She divorced Conte in 1962 and soon thereafter she largely left acting and attended UCLA to study social welfare, receiving a Master's degree, though she had a substantial supporting role as the mother of the murdered Kansas family in 1967's In Cold Blood. In 1965 she worked in community rebuilding efforts in Los Angeles after the Watts riots and eventually opened her own practice, founding the Center for Human Problems in Sherman Oaks, later relocated to Tarzana. Many of her clients were in the entertainment business, and she stressed that her practice treated families rather than individuals in isolation. She died of cancer on August 23, 1997 at the age of 84, survived by her son, film editor Mark Conte

Dal McKennon

Dallas Raymond McKennon was born in La Grande, Oregon. After his mother died, he was sent to live with an aunt and uncle who lived on a farm, where he would amuse himself by learning to do impressions of the various animals. In high school he studied drama and used his talent for impressions  and sound effects in recording commercials at a local radio station. After serving in the army during World War II, he returned to Oregon and found work playing Mr. Buttons on a live radio children's show in Portland. Landing a bit part in the Jimmy Stewart feature film Bend in the River, which filmed in Oregon, convinced him to move to Hollywood where he soon found work voicing Woody Woodpecker's nemesis Buzz Buzzard and providing the original voice of Tony the Tiger in Frosted Flakes commercials. He also hosted the children's program Space Funnies as the character Mr. Jet, showing The Little Rascals and Laurel & Hardy shorts. Though he would occasionally find on-screen work as an actor, such as a 1953 episode of Dragnet, the bulk of his work was for animation. In 1955 he began also working for Disney, doing several voices in the animated feature Lady and the Tramp. In 1957 he took over the role of voicing Gumby in Art Cloakey's stop-animation series The Gumby Show, a role he reprised in the 1995 feature film revival. He continued appearing in many Disney features such as Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred One Dalmations, Mary Poppins, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. He also provided voices for attractions at Disney theme parks. In the early 1960s he voiced the title character in the cartoon Q.T. Hush but also began getting more on-screen roles, particularly in westerns like Sugarfoot, Riverboat, and The Tall Man before being cast as medical examiner Dr. Blaney on 87th Precinct.

After 87th Precinct, McKennon's workload didn't lessen--he appeared on Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, and The Virginian--before earning another regular role as inn-keeper Cincinnatus on Daniel  Boone in 1964, a role that continued until 1970. During that time he also voiced the title character of the cartoon Sinbad, Jr. and in 1968 voiced Archie Andrews, Hot Dog, and Mr. Weatherbee on The Archie Show and Archie's Funhouse, roles he also voiced on 1974's U.S. of Archie. In 1968 McKennon and his wife moved their 8 children back to Cannon Beach, Oregon, and he commuted to Los Angeles for his acting work. But while back in Oregon he wrote and produced musicals for community theaters, such as one about the Oregon Trail and another about Johnny Appleseed. He died of natural causes on July 14, 2009 at the age of 89.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 1, "The Floater": Robert Culp  (shown on the left, starred in Sunday in New York, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and Breaking Point and played Hoby Gilman on Trackdown, Kelly Robinson on I Spy, Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero, and Warren on Everybody Loves Raymond) plays lady killer Curt Donaldson. Victor Sen Yung (played Jimmy Chan in 13 Charlie Chan movies, Cousin Charlie Fong on Bachelor Father, and Hop Sing on Bonanza) plays tattoo artist Charlie. Paul Bryar (Sheriff Harve Anders on The Long, Hot Summer) plays missing persons Det. Bertholdi . Wally Brown (appeared in Notorious, The Left Handed Gun, and The Absent-Minded Professor and played Jed Fame on Cimarron City and Chauncey Kowalski on The Roaring '20's) plays missing persons Det. Ambrose. Kim Hamilton (Dr. Tracy Adams on General Hospital and Penelope Wade on Days of Our Lives) plays a nude sunbather. Ralph Manza (Al Bonacorsi on The D.A.'s Man, Jay Drury on Banacek, Ambulance Aide Stanke on A.E.S. Hudson, Padre Guardiano on Mama Malone, and Bud on Newhart) plays a taxi driver.

Season 1, Episode 2, "Lady in Waiting": Constance Ford (starred in A Summer Place, Home From the Hill, All Fall Down, and The Caretakers and played Ada Lucas Davis Downs McGowan Hobson on Another World) plays death row widow Virginia Colt. Margarita Cordova (Rosa Andrade on Santa Barbara and Carmen Torres on Sunset Beach) plays knifing suspect Angelica Galindo. Emile Meyer (starred in Shane, Drums Across the River, Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Smell of Success, and Paths of Glory and played Gen. Zachary Moran on Bat Masterson) plays police Capt. Howard.

Season 1, Episode 3, "Lady Killer": Peter Leeds (shown on the right, played Tenner Smith on Trackdown and George Colton on Pete and Gladys) plays diner co-owner George LaDonna. Marian Collier (Marilyn Scott on Mr. Novak) plays his girlfriend Felicia Plannet. Patricia Donahue (Hazel on The Thin Man and Lucy Hamilton on Michael Shayne) plays dancer Lady Belle. Vito Scotti (Jose on The Deputy, Capt. Gaspar Fomento on The Flying Nun, Gino on To Rome With Love, and Mr. Velasquez on Barefoot in the Park) plays informant Donner. Michael Fox (Coroner George McLeod on Burke's Law, Amos Fedders on Falcon Crest, Saul Feinberg on The Bold and the Beautiful, and appeared 25 times as autopsy surgeons and various other medical witnesses on Perry Mason) plays fingerprint expert Grossman. Harlan Warde (John Hamilton on The Rifleman and Sheriff John Brannan on The Virginian) plays psychiatrist Dr. Ben Daniels. Barbara Parkins (starred in Valley of the Dolls, The Mephisto Waltz, and Puppet on a Chain and played Betty Anderson Harrington on Peyton Place) plays landlord daughter Mary. Penny Santon (Madame Fatime in Don't Call Me Charlie, Madam Delacort on Roll Out, Mama Rosa Novelli on Matt Houston, Muriel Lacey on Cagney and Lacey, and Teresa Giordano on Life Goes On) plays witness' mother Mrs. Annuci. Billy Halop (appeared in Angels With Dirty Faces, They Made Me a Criminal, Tom Brown's School Days, and Sea Raiders and played Bert Munson on All in the Family) plays binoculars owner Richard Samuelson. Doris Kemper (Zelda Harper on Westinghouse Playhouse) plays complaining lady Harriet Horn. Roger Mobley (Homer "Packy" Lambert on Fury) plays a boy with a dog. Sidney Clute (Det. Simms on McCloud, the National Editor on Lou Grant, and Det. Paul La Guardia on Cagney & Lacey) plays a bartender.

Season 1, Episode 4, "The Modus Man": John Anderson (see the biography section of the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays former detective Bill Brewster. Eddie Quillan (starred in The Grapes of Wrath, Mandarin Mystery, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Hi, Good Lookin'! and played Eddie Edson on Julia and Poco Loco on Hell Town) plays burglar Blinky Smith. Joe Higgins (see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Rifleman) plays car salesman Jovial George. Herbert Lytton (Admiral Reynolds on McHale's Navy) plays a druggist. 

Season 1, Episode 5, "Line of Duty": Walter Burke (shown on the left, starred in All the King's Men, Jack the Giant Killer, and Support Your Local Sheriff! and played Tim Potter on Black Saddle) plays informant Danny Gimp. Vivi Janiss (Myrtle Davis on Father Knows Best) plays victim's mother Mrs. Mattfield. Margie Regan (Lucy Carr on Michael Shayne) plays Kling's fiance Claire Townsend. King Calder (Lt. Gray on Martin Kane) plays police investigator Monoghan. Ben Hammer (Judge Herman Mooney on Law & Order) plays theater manager Brecht.

Season 1, Episode 6, "Occupation, Citizen": Ross Martin (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Mr. Lucky) plays immigrant locksmith Joe Czepreghi. John Dennis (Dutch Schultz on The Lawless Years) plays mobster Johnny-Boy. 

Season 1, Episode 7, "Killer's Payoff": Beverly Garland (shown on the left, played Casey Jones on Decoy, Ellis Collins on The Bing Crosby Show, Barbara Harper Douglas on My Three Sons, Dorothy "Dotty" West on Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Ellen Lane on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Ginger on 7th Heaven) plays dancer Nancy Johnson. Jeanne Cooper (Grace Douglas on Bracken's World and Katherine Chancellor Murphy on The Young and the Restless) plays blackmail victim Lucy Mencken. Jack Albertson (starred in Days of Wine and Roses, Kissin' Cousins, The Flim-Flam Man, and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and played Lt. Harry Evans on The Thin Man, Walter Burton on Room for One More, Lt. Cmdr. Virgil Stoner on Ensign O'Toole, Paul Fenton on Mister Ed, and Ed Brown on Chico and the Man) plays soda pop mogul Edward Schlesser. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays horse trainer Ackie Glotter. Paul Richards (appeared in Playgirl and Beneath the Planet of the Apes and played Louis Kassoff on The Lawless Years) plays ex-con auto mechanic Marty Torr. 

Season 1, Episode 8, "The Guilt": Mike Kellin (appeared in At War With the Army, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Boston Strangler, and Midnight Express and played C.P.O. Willie Miller on The Wackiest Ship in the Army) plays Meyer's former high school friend Artie Sanford. Norma Crane (appeared in Tea and Sympathy, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!, and Fiddler on the Roof and played Rayola Dean on Mister Peepers) plays Artie's girlfriend Estelle Vernolla. Eve McVeagh (starred in High Noon, The Glass Web, and Tight Spot and played Miss Hammond on Petticoat Junction) plays Artie's landlady Mrs. Como. Sandra Gould (Mildred Webster on I Married Joan and Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched) plays crime witness Mrs. Stradling.  Billy Curtis (starred in The Terror of Tiny Town, The Wizard of Oz, April Showers, Jungle Moon Men, and High Plains Drifter) plays newspaper salesman Willy. Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara on Batman) plays waiter Harry. Kathryn Card (Mrs. McGillicuddy on I Love Lucy, Mrs. Papernow on The Charles Farrell Show, and Maw Kadiddlehopper on The Red Skelton Hour) plays a woman asking for police protection from her husband.

Season 1, Episode 9, "Empty Hours": Pat Crowley (Joan Nash on Please Don't Eat the Daisies, Georgia Cameron on Joe Forrester, Emily Fallmont on Dynasty, and Natalie DeWitt on The Bold and the Beautiful) plays rich girl's friend Josie Thompson. Hank Brandt (Leonard Waggedorn on Julia, Morgan Hess on Dynasty, and Dr. Aaron Kranzler on Santa Barbara) plays her boyfriend George. Tom Fadden (Duffield on Broken Arrow, Silas Perry on Cimarron City, and Ben Miller on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction) plays fisherman Sidney Courtney. William Schallert (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) plays hit-man Eric Blau. John Zaremba (Special Agent Jerry Dressler on I Led 3 Lives, Dr. Harold Jensen on Ben Casey, Admiral Hardesy on McHale's Navy, Dr. Raymond Swain on The Time Tunnel, and Dr, Harlem Danvers on Dallas) plays banker Mr. Anderson. Malcolm Atterbury (starred in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, The Birds, and The Learning Tree and played John Bixby on Wagon Train and Grandfather Aldon on Apple's Way) plays the Triangle Lake chief of police. Hank Patterson (Fred Ziffel on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction and Hank on Gunsmoke) plays canoe repairman Si. Grandon Rhodes (Mr. Vanderlip on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Dr. Stevens on Lassie, Dr. J.P. Martin on Bonanza, and the judge 16 times on Perry Mason) plays estate executor Mr. McClintock. Stanley Adams (Lt. Morse on Not for Hire) plays driver-for-hire Oblinsky.

Season 1, Episode 10, "My Friend, My Enemy": Dennis Hopper (shown on the right, starred in Giant, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Sons of Katie Elder, Cool Hand Luke, Hang 'Em High, Easy Rider, The Osterman Weekend, Blue Velvet, and Hoosiers and played Smith on Flatland, Col. Eli McNulty on ­E-Ring, and Ben Cendars on Crash) plays college outcast Andrew Mason. Jocelyn Brando (sister of Marlon Brando) plays his mother. Garry Clarke (Dick Hamilton on Michael Shayne, Steve Hill on The Virginian, and Capt. Richards on Hondo) plays strangling victim's boyfriend Jerry Fisher. Carol Eve Rossen (Anna Kassoff on The Lawless Years) plays undercover policewoman Nancy. Harlan Warde (see "Lady Killer" above) returns as Dr. Ben Daniels. Delores Wells (Playboy Playmate who appeared in Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, and Bikini Beach) plays a record store clerk. Joe Corey (Humphrey Humpsteader on Dear Phoebe) plays a sailor. Mitzi McCall (appeared in War of the Satellites, White Palace, and World's Greatest Dad, was a regular performer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, played Miriam Lerner on Alright Already and Fran Lipschitz on Silk Stalkings, and did voicework on The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, and Free for All) plays his girlfriend.

Season 1, Episode 11, "The Very Hard Sell": Leonard Nimoy (shown on the left, played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Paris on Mission: Impossible, and Dr. William Bell on Fringe) plays drug dealer Barrow. Alice Frost (Mama Holstrum on The Farmer's Daughter) plays widow Mrs. Cornell. Jack Collins (Max Brahms on Occasional Wife and Russell Slater on Dallas) plays car dealer Mr. Garcy. Bill Zuckert (Arthur Bradwell on Mr. Novak and Chief Segal on Captain Nice) plays garage mechanic Donnegan. Michael Fox (see "Lady Killer" above) returns as forensics expert Grossman. Arte Johnson (regular performer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In who played Bascomb Bleacher, Jr. on Sally, Cpl. Lefkowitz on Don't Call Me Charlie, and Clive Richlin on Glitter) plays a hotel clerk. Jackie Searl (began as a child actor, appearing in Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn (1931), Alice in Wonderland (1933), Great Expectations(1934), and Little Lord Fauntleroy) plays health food store owner Anton.

Season 1, Episode 12, "'Til Death": Darryl Hickman (Dwayne Hickman's older brother, who appeared in The Grapes of Wrath, The Way of All Flesh, The Human Comedy, Captain Eddie, Rhapsody in Blue, and The Tingler and played Cpl. Ben Canfield on The Americans) plays groom-to-be Tommy Palmer. Judi Meredith (Bonnie Sue McAfee on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and The George Burns Show, Monique Devereaux on Hotel de Paree, and Betty Cramer on Ben Casey) plays his bride-to-be Angela Pavilic. Naomi Stevens (Juanita on The Doris Day Show, Mama Rossini on My Three Sons, Rose Montefusco on The Montefuscos, and Sgt. Bella Archer on Vega$) plays her mother Louisa. Steven Geray (appeared in Phantom of the Opera (1943), Spellbound, Gilda, All About Eve, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and played Dr. Herman ver Hagen on The Danny Thomas Show) plays her father Anton. Corey Allen (went on to direct multiple episodes of Dr. Kildare, Police Woman, Dallas, Hunter, and Star Trek: The Next Generation) plays best man Ben Darcy. Johnny Seven (Lt. Carl Reese on Ironside) plays Tommy's former army colleague Marty Kellogg. Margie Regan (see "Line of Duty" above) returns as King's fiance Claire Townsend. Richard Collier (Harry Price on Many Happy Returns) plays florist Hubert.

Season 1, Episode 13, "The Heckler": Robert Vaughn (shown on the right, starred in Teenage Cave Man, The Magnificent Seven, The Towering Inferno, and Bullitt and played Capt. Ray Rambridge on The Lieutenant, Napoleon Solo on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Harry Rule on The Protectors, Harlan Adams on Emerald Point N.A.S., Gen. Hunt Stockwell on The A-Team, and Albert Stroller on Hustle) plays heist mastermind Sordo. Joseph V. Perry (Nemo  on Everybody Loves Raymond) plays accomplice Chuck. Frank Albertson (starred in Alice Adams, Man Made Monster, and It's a Wonderful Life and played Mr. Cooper on Bringing Up Buddy) plays bomb expert Pop Smith. Mary LaRoche (appeared in Run Silent, Run Deep, Gidget, Bye Bye Birdie, and The Swinger and played Barbara Scott on Karen) plays his girlfriend Lotte Constantine. Robert H. Harris (Jake Goldberg on Molly and Raymond Schindler on The Court of Last Resort) plays businessman Dave Praskin. Jimmy Lydon (starred in Tom Brown's School Days, Little Men, Joan of Arc, and 9 Henry Aldrich features and played Biff Cardoza on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, Andy Boone on So This Is Hollywood, and Richard on Love That Jill) plays hotel clerk Roger Pitt. Michael Fox (see "Lady Killer" above) returns as forensics expert Grossman. Sam Edwards (starred in Captain Midnight, Twelve O'Clock High, and The Beatniks and played Hank the hotel clerk on The Virginian and Mr. Bill Anderson on Little House on the Prairie) plays a front desk clerk.

Season 1, Episode 14, "Run, Rabbit, Run": Alfred Ryder (appeared in T-Men, Hamlet (1964), Hotel, and True Grit) plays former mobster Toots Brenden. Paul Keast (Nathaniel Carter on Casey Jones) plays new mob boss Trent Morgan. Barbara Stuart (Bessie on The Great Gildersleeve, Alice on Pete and Gladys, Bunny on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Peggy Ferguson on The McLean Stevenson Show, Marianne Danzig on Our Family Honor, and Alice on Huff) plays his secretary Yvonne English. Dave Barry (voice actor who did celebrity impressions as well as the voices of Bluto and Elmer Fudd in various cartoon shorts) plays outgoing mob boss Doug Quinn. Alvy Moore (appeared in Susan Slept Here, Designing Woman, and The Wackiest Ship in the Army and played Howie on Pete and Gladys and Hank Kimball on Green Acres) plays hit-man Mr. Giddon. Ken Lynch (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Checkmate) plays former gunman Red Chambers. Charles Wagenheim (Halligan on Gunsmoke) plays former mob driver Harry. Charles MacCaulay (appeared in Head, Blacula, Airport '77, Raise the Titanic, Splash, and 6 Perry Mason TV movies and played Elliot Kincaid #2 on Days of Our Lives) plays mission director Brother Jeffry. Marjorie Bennett (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) plays unlicensed necktie seller Mrs. Turner.

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