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This was one of four detective shows from Warner Brothers, four of a
couple dozen series they did for ABC, (that MADE that network), from
the mid 50's to the early 60's under the stewardship of William Orr and
with the creative genius of Roy Huggins, (who later came up with the
best show of all time, "The Fugitive"). Huggins had fancied himself a
detective writer in the 40's and came up with Stuart Bailey, an Ivy
Leaguer with a background in World War II intelligence who set up his
own detective agency in Los Angeles. When Huggins became a story editor
for Warners, it was decided to create a show around the Bailey
character, 77 Sunset Strip, which debut in 1958. They gave Bailey a
partner, Jeff Spencer and created the character of Kookie, the parking
lot attendant, for comic relief. It set the stage for the other three,
similar shows, each with a pair, (or three) handsome detectives
operating in glamorous or exotic locations. Warner's learned you needed
a pretty girl involved and the comic relief. they also learned from
"Peter Gunn" that a musical interlude would occasionally be welcome.
"Bourbon Street Beat", set in New Orleans, debuted in 1959. So did "Hawaiian Eye", from Honolulu and in 1960 came "Surfside Six" from Miami Beach. Each had a catchy theme tune from Mack David and Jerry Livingstone. The plots were not very inspired but serviceable, (they serviced many episodes, being frequently reused). Sometimes, Warner's would do versions of novels they owned the rights to or TV remakes of some of their classic movies of the past, such as "Strangers on a Train" or "Dial M for Murder", in the guise of episodes of these shows. Characters from one show would show up on another, either in crossover episodes or full scale transfers of characters to be new members of the casts. This was easy because the shows were not shot on location: it was all done in LA.
The real difference in the shows were the cast members themselves. "77 Sunset Strip" had the charming and talented Ephram Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith. It also had the "Fonzie" of the 50's, Edd Byrnes. But it lacked a significant female regular or the musical interludes. "Bourbon Street Beat" had the charming and talented Richard Long, who took his charm and talent to Sunset Strip after BSB folded in 1960. It also had craggy character actor Andrew Duggan, young pretty boy Van Williams and Arlene Howell, a slightly ditzy southern belle. No one here was musically inclined but a jazz combo did a turn from time to time. "Hawaiian Eye" had it all. Anthony Eisley was a competent but slightly boring lead. Young Robert Konrad had the most charisma of any of them. Connie Stevens was a cute songbird who belted out the classic tin pan alley and show tunes. Poncie Ponce was a ukulele strumming cab driver who knew every place and every one or had a cousin who did. "Surfside Six" was maybe the weakest entry. Lee Patterson had some presence and acting ability but Van Williams, (over from BSB) and Troy Donahue were attractive but talent challenged. Marguerite Sierra was a clichéd Latin Spitfire songstress, (who unfortunately died young of a heart ailment). Diane McBain was attractive window dressing.
The other main difference was the setting. "77 Sunset Strip" was about glamorous people up to no good or international intrigue, (and Stu Bailey traveled a lot more than these other guys did). "Hawaiian Eye" was exotic- perhaps a little too much so with an occasional embarrassing story about witch doctors and voodoo type curses and such. Natives were played by guys from Jersey and Chicago in the grand tradition. Surfside Six had a beachboy look to it. Bourbon Street beat was darker and more mysterious. New Orleans at that time was not a tourist trap but a relic of the old south in which Miss Havisham's cake might have seemed at home.
But they were all pretty solid entertainment. If you liked one, I'm sure you'd like them all- if you could find them. They are all in black and white, so cable stations are loathe to show them It seems that the moment a younger audience sees those monotones, they turn the stations. It's too bad. They don't know what they're missing.
77 SUNSET STRIP was so cool that the breeze from the show could air
condition your living room every Friday night from 1958--1964. This
series had it all: two cool private detectives, gumshoe intrigue
against the backdrop of Hollywood environs, a bee-bop-speaking parking
lot attendant who became an overnight teen sensation, and not to be
forgotten---one of the sexiest musical scores ever.
Whether 77 SUNSET STRIP was the best all-around private-eye series on television might be debatable, but what can't be debated is the hipness the series delivered to its loyal fans once a week. The formula wasn't rocket science: a damsel in distress who turned out to be fashioning grand larceny, a ten-cents-a-dance ballroom where a maniac slipped beautiful girls a mickey, a run-a-way beauty with a millionaire grandpa.
Effrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Stuart Baily) and Roger Smith (Jeff Spencer) were the two suave PI's who ran the Sunset Strip detective agency. Zimbalist was the more cerebral of the pair; Smith was the unabashed playboy who never saw a pair of shapely legs he didn't like. Then, to top it off, Ed "Kookie" Byrnes stunned Warner Brothers executives when he became a teen sensation as the hip parking lot attendant who combed his locks and called everybody "Daddy-O." When Byrnes recorded KOOKIE, LEND ME YOUR COMB with Connie Stevens, his place among teen-heart-throbs was cinched. In fact, his fame catapulted the ratings so dramatically, he was finally promoted to private investigator with his own office. There was the sexy French receptionist Suzzanne (Jackqueline Beer) and Roscoe (Louis Quinn), the part-time gopher and race track addict who supplied comic relief. And if all this wasn't enough, just across the parking lot there was swinging Dino's-- Dean Martin's real life watering hole where the Frankie Ortega jazz trio pounded out tunes like "I Get A Kick Out Of You."
Sadly, in the final years of the series, Roger Smith developed brain disease and was replaced by Richard Long. SUNSET STRIP was never the same after that. Moreover, it didn't seem right to see a suddenly mature "Kookie" sitting at a desk in a three-piece suit replaced by Robert Logan who was now parking the cars. The show went off the air in 1964 after seven seasons.
While many of the episodes are available on tape and DVD, it is hard to understand why 77 SUNSET STRIP is not shown more often on nostalgic television. For it's fan base remains solid and it is one of the most watchable of the older detective shows. PETER GUNN, RICHARD DIAMOND, and BOURBON STREET BEAT may have been solid competitors, but if you place them side by side, it's not really a contest. Has any other show ever compared to the cool temperatures of 77 SUNSET STRIP? As Kookie would say: "It's really the ginchiest..."
Trivia: It is rather remarkable to consider the impressive pantheon of Warner Brothers successful television series in the 1950's: MAVERICK, CHEYENNE, SUGARFOOT, HAWAIIAN EYE, SURFSIDE SIX, BOURBON STREET BEAT, COLT 45, LARAMIE--all had strong ratings in the 1950's and early 1960's....Moreover, it has often been said that when it came to the movies, WARNER BROTHERS owned the detective genre (Cagney, Bogart, Robinson); and MGM owned fantasy (Astaire, Kelly, Garland). Apparently, this was also true of television where WARNER BROTHERS invested heavily in westerns and detective shows....After Roger Smith developed a brain disorder and left the show, he later developed MLS! But he appears to be doing well today. He married actress Ann Margaret many years ago and when he retired from acting, managed her career...Effrem Zimbalist, Jr. went on to play Inspector Erskine in THE F.B.I. series in the early 1970's...Jacqueline Beer, who played the sexy 77 SUNSET STRIP office receptionist, was Miss France, 1954, and married explorer Thor Hyerdahl...As for Kookie (Ed Byrnes): his late '50's recording of KOOKIE, LEND ME YOUR COMB with Connie Stevens resulted in some 15,000 fan letters a week to Warner Bros....During the height of the series, Byrnes had a serious studio contract dispute with Warner Bros. who refused to allow the actor to do outside films such as Rio Bravo with John Wayne. But the dispute was settled and Byrnes re-appeared in the series as an investigator, not a parking lot attendant. Ratings, however, nosedived and it wasn't long before the series tanked....Byrnes also had a rather severe bout with drug addiction which he describes in an autobiography...Dino's nightclub, just across the parking lot from 77 SUNSET STRIP, was very real and was owned by Dean Martin for years...But there was never really a marquee reading 77 SUNSET STRIP in the way the series portrayed: the interior shots were all filmed at WARNER BROTHERS. In fact, if you pass by 8524 Sunset Blvd. today and look in front of the doorway of the building there now, you'll see a plaque stating that it was once the site for 77 SUNSET STRIP, filmed from 1958--1964....
"77 SUNSET STRIP"-A Detective Drama produced by Warner Bors. for ABC-TV
First Telecast: October 10,1958. Last Telecast: September 9, 1964
THEME: "77 Sunset Strip" by Mack David and Jerry Livingston
77 Sunset Strip was the prototype for a rash of glamorous private-detective teams in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Half the team was Stu Bailey(Efrem Zimbalist,Jr.),a suave,cultured former OSS officer who was an expert in languages. An Ivy League Ph.D.,he had intended to become a college professor but turned private investigator instead. The other half was Jeff Spencer(Roger Smith),also a former government undercover agent,who had a degree in law. Both of them were judo experts. They worked out of an office at No. 77 Sunset Strip,in Hollywood California.Though their cases took them to glamour spots all over the world.
Next door to No. 77 was Dino's,a posh restaurant whose maitre d,Mario was seen occasionally in the series. Seen often was Dino's parking lot attendant,a gangling,jive-talking youth named Kookie(Edd Byrnes),who longed to be a private detective himself and who often helped Stu and Jeff on their cases. Kookie provided comic relief for the series,and his "Kookie-isms" became a trademark. Other regulars included Roscoe the racetrack tout(Louis Quinn)and Suzanne(Jacqueline Beer),the beautiful French switchboard operator. But it was Edd Byrnes' character of Kookie who caught the public's fancy and propelled the show into the top ten. In the first telecast of the 1959-1960 season he helped Stu Bailey catch a jewel thief by staging a revue,in which he sang a novelty song called,"Kookie,Kookie,Lend Me Your Comb". The song was released on record as a duet between Byrnes and Connie Stevens(who also starred on another Warner Bros. detective series,"Hawaiian Eye",which was on the same network),became a smash hit making Byrnes' character of Kookie,the "Fonzie" of his day,making him a very popular celebrity.
Unsatisfied with his secondary role in the show,the young actor demanded a bigger part and eventually walked out. Warner Bors. first replaced him with Troy Donahue(of "Surfside Six")as a long-haired bookworm,about as far from the Kookie character as you could get. But Byrnes came back a few months later and was promoted to a full-fledged partner in the detective firm at the start of the 1961-1962 season. His permanent replacement at the parking lot was J.R. Hale(Robert Logan). Previously for a single season,Rex Randolph(Richard Long)had been seen as the third partner in the firm. Kookie was not the only one who tried paralaying the show's success into a hit record. The fingersnapping theme music from the series was into a best-selling album.
By 1963 the novelty had worn off,and the show was in decline. In an attempt to save it,Jack Webb was brought in as producer,and William Conrad as director and drastic changes were made. This was at the start of the 1963-1964 season,which was the final season for the series. The entire cast was dropped with the exception of Efrem Zimbalist,Jr.,who became a free-lance investigator traveling around the world on cases. Lavish production values were featured. The final season of the series opened with a five part chase thriller featuring two dozen big-named guest stars and written by eight top writers. The rest of the season was spend on the road as well,with Stu Bailey requiring a permanent secretary named Hannah(Joan Staley)didn't help. On September 9, 1964,the series "77 Sunset Strip" came to an end after six seasons on ABC-TV. This was the longest running of the Warner Brothers produced detective shows that came during the late 1950's and ended toward the early 1960's. This one outlasted them all.
I thoroughly agree with everybody who loves 77 SUNSET STRIP, the detective show that was hip and jazzy long before shows like Miami VICE and 24 came along! I used to live in NYC, so like you, I'd been longing to see this and/or the other Warner Bros. 1950s/'60s detective shows back on TV. But when my family and I moved to Pennsylvania last fall, we were in for a swell surprise: on Saturday nights, the GoodLife TV Network -- usually a religious channel, of all things -- shows all these series under the umbrella title "The Private Eyes"! At 8 PM the evening kicks off with BOURBON STREET BEAT (my fave next to 77 SUNSET STRIP -- the New Orleans-set series was greatly underrated, IMO), then 77 SUNSET STRIP at 9 PM, HAWAIIAN EYE at 10 PM (young Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens -- yum!), then the night winds up with SURFSIDE SIX at 11 PM (formulaic but fun, even if it's got the weakest theme song of this quartet :-). The GoodLife TV Network is on the Service Electric cable system in our area, so if you or a friend have access to this, set the timer on your VCR for Saturday night! (And if you liked the '50s/'60s Warner Bros. Westerns, too, you can see them on Sunday night!) UPDATE FOR 2006: As of this writing, The GoodLife Channel has since been renamed American Life TV, the block of detective shows is now shown twice on Monday nights, and the revolving lineup now includes the late, great David Janssen's detective series HARRY O (some weeks they show BOURBON STREET BEAT, some weeks they show SURFSIDE SIX, but the detective show lineup always includes 77 SUNSET STRIP and HARRY O).
As an English prepubescent girl in the early 1960s I loved all American TV series and my favourite was 77 Sunset Strip. Unlike my friends who swooned over Edd Byrnes I loved the suave Roger Smith with the lovely smile. He has made a lasting impression on my life. If I remember correctly, in the series he used to wear his watch with the face on the inside of his wrist. I adopted this curious habit and have worn my watch this way ever since. I would love to see the series again. Sadly, I read recently that Roger Smith is suffering from a disabling disease and is looked after by his wife Ann Margaret.
With the advent of the DVR, this show - which I loved as a kid - has
once again become a staple of my TV viewing. To my mind, it has aged
well and still stands up after all these years.
The show had good stories and tried to have something for everyone - it's TV after all - and not take itself too seriously. Kookie was there for the kids and, along with Roscoe, brought colorful comic relief. In one episode, Spencer arrives in Hong Kong and passes a rickshaw-hop (Byrnes in mufti) running a comb through his hair. It was a fun show! And the West Coast jazz they played at Dino's was very hip and still sounds great.
But at the heart of the show were Bailey and Spencer and the cases they solved. And these remain on a par with the best of episodic TV. The two characters work, the scripts are fairly thoughtful and bring in good characters. Zimbalist and Smith were spot on. Terrific TV.
This was a wonderful show. Kookie and Roscoe gave it an added comic
element. It also allowed for human effort. As I recall, even the
often gave ideas for solving cases.
I recall the caper where Roscoe, the horse player who always played hunches (and always lost) had to come up with all the winners for the day's races. After much effort he did so, but of course he did not bet on a single one.
I watch little TV any more but I tried out Remington Steele, because the daughter of Efriam Zimbalist, Jr.: Stephanie Zimbalist was cast as one of the leads. The two shows shared much similarity. They were both detective shows which really was only peripherally about solving cases. Mostly they were about relationships.
I'm guessing that all the film of these shows is not around any more or I think they would be shown as reruns. I would sure love to see some of these shows either on TV or bought on VHS tapes.
The transition for large screen to small was still unlearned when "77"
was released. Playhouse 90, Live From Carnegie Hall and network
sponsored orchestras were still in vogue - serious TV with a performing
arts feel. Note the cinema feel to this series. It was filmed, not
I enjoyed this show as a child as it was intelligent mystery/drama. It was done before secret agents. It required the private investigators to be resourceful. They were alway honest. Just the stuff a boy scout like me needed to round out his masculinity. Stuart Bailey was the smart guy. Older and no-nonsense. Jeff Spencer was the cute guy. And Kookie, well, the only thing good about Kookie were the cars he drove.
I was about 8 years old when this went off the air and adult TV series
were just starting to come up on my little radar screen. I have no
recollection of ever watching this private detective show until I
caught it on the American Life channel (before it turned into the
Combat! Channel and this along with many other fine shows disappeared).
I knew nothing about the show but somehow knew about Edd
This show rocks! It is early American television at its best. Now I've only seen about 3 episodes but they are just so damn good. One, starring a very talented Bert Convey, spent almost the entire show on the guest actors, in fact Efrem didn't appear until about two-thirds of the way through and was seen sparingly after that. In another episode Efrem dramatically freed Americans in East Berlin and Smith was barely seen. Wouldn't ever see that sort of flexibility in story-telling on a series today. Some of the plot elements are overdone, cheesy and/or unbelievable, but that just adds to the camp factor.
The two leads are great and play well off each other in super cool fashion, while Byrnes earns his rep as their sometimes assistant. Great stuff, wish it still appeared somewhere on the digital dial.
Several episodes of 77 Sunset Strip and Hawiian Eye were shown late at night/early morning on channel 9 in Australia several years ago, and they was fantastic. It appeared briefly on cable TV but is this is only geared for the post 1970 generation they did not last long and were taken off. Gee cable is rubbish. I use to watch 77 Sunset Strip and its clones regularly in the late 50's & 60's. 77 Sunset Strip still stands up today even though or because it is black and white. I cannot understand why Warners don't release these old shows on double sided DVD's and sell them as boxed sets at a reasonable price like several companies have done with old black & white movies. 77 Sunset Strip & its pilot "Girl on the Run" would fit onto 10 or 11 double sided DVD's. There would be some money it for Warners, and if they wait too long people like me won't be around to buy and appreciate these shows. Also what about CHEYENNE, Surfside Six, Bronco, Adventures in Pardise, Sugarfoot etc. Maybe the independents could bring out the old westerns and cop & private eye shows right back to the beginning of the 50's.
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