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I came across "Naked City" three years ago when the series was aired on German television for the first time, to my knowledge. Since it was shot in black-and-white, the show got only a dismal slot in the early morning hours, running always between three and five a.m. Thank God for videotape recorders. Not knowing what to expect, I was stunned the very first time I watched a "Naked City" recording. Here was a crime drama show that was intelligently written, expertly produced, with first-class acting and excellent on-location photography. A show with actors that look like real people, a show that keeps you glued to your chair without having to resort to the eternal mindless shootouts and car chases modern TV series seem unable to do without. Even after being dubbed in German, which normally detracts from the qualities of a show, it was still a joy to watch. Whenever the show was on, I went to great lengths to record it, gladly adding another episode to my video archives. "Naked City" is a real treasure that proves that television does not necessarily cater only to the needs of people unable to follow an intricate plot. I will keep these "Naked City" videos forever.
There was no episode of this show that wasn't riveting & first rate. Every NY-based (I'm NY-based & have been off & on since I was a kid) cop show ever made from Kojak through Law & Order & NYPD Blue is totally derivative of Naked City. Interesting that for the first year the characters were based on the movie & they were great, but the replacements were even better. Just a brilliant brilliant show.
Few TV shows in history sustained such a high level of acting, production and writing. Naked City was a showcase for up-and-coming stage actors, such as Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Ed Asner--the list goes on and on. But leads--Burke, McMahon and Bellaver--were superb. Some episodes were nothing short of breathtaking. A good example is "Hold for Gloria Christmas," starring Burgess Meredith as a Greenwich Village poet. It was filmed entirely in the Village, and the cast included Herschel Bernardi, Eileen Heckhart and--a real treat for theater buffs--a rare appearance by the famed acting teacher and Group theater veteran Sanford Meisner. The best episodes were like that--character studies, filmed in the early Sixties, finely wrought time capsules of a New York that no longer exists.
I remember this show quite well. I cannot remember any specific story lines but I do know that it was all filmed entirely in NYC the same way that the 1948 movie was. The black and white photography was as good as any theatrical movie of its time. I would venture to say that if this show would be rerun today in prime time, it would be as good any good cop shop being shown today. I would like to see this show put on video.
I became interested in this show a couple of years ago when I read in TV
Guide that a poll of new York City Policemen voted it he best cop show ever,
beating out #2 Homicide and all the recent cop classics, such as Law and
Order, NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues, etc. That was pretty impressive since
Naked City was on a generation or more before those shows and it was
remarkable that modern day policemen had even heard of it, much less voted
it #1. it must be rerun in new York City, which it rarely is elsewhere.
The original basis for this was not a police story at all but a book of photographs of New York City that came out in the 1940's from a photographer who called himself "Weegee". veteran newspaperman turned movie producer and writer Mark Hellinger wrote a story for a movie that would be filmed on location in the Big Apple with the same sort of photography Weegee used. He decided a police chase story would be the best way to show the city off and the result was the classic police drama "The Naked City", (1948), with Hellinger narrating. He died shortly thereafter but the writer-producer team of Stirling Silliphant and Herbert Leonard, (who later would give us Route 66), decided to make a TV series based on the movie, also shot on location with narration by Leonard. It came to fruition ten years after the movie with a very young James Franciscus and wise old John McIntyre as the stars. Both those actors decided they didn't like working in New York, (especially on the frigid early mornings that the series habitually filmed in so they could have the streets to themselves). This early half hour version of the show went off the air after one year. Silliphant and Leonard didn't give up, however and an hour long version of Naked City premiered in 1960 with Paul Burke and Horace McMahon replacing Franciscus and McIntyre, (who's character had been killed off in the earlier show). This version lasted three years and included some of the best writers and actors in New York You name it, they were on the show: Ed Asner, Robert DuVal, Jack Lord, George C Scott, Dustin Hoffman, Peter Falk, Suzanne Pleshette, Lois Nettleton and many, many others. Each episode ended with Leonard intoning "There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This had been one of them."
I finally got to see some episodes of both versions of the show. They were excellent shows for their time. I can't honestly rate them above the current crop of urban dramas but they are an important part of TV history. the writing and acting are certainly excellent. There is a strong "Sixties" mentality about them in that the emphasis is on the story of the criminal, with the policemen essentially playing supporting roles and the victim often not more than a chalk drawing. There is too much violence in them, with too many "wild west" type shoot outs. This happens occasionally, as we can see in the headlines, but no where near as often as this show seems to suggest. (McMahon's character says in one episode that he has had eight partners die in the line of duty. Eight!!!) Jack Webb had already pioneered taking much of the gunplay from cop shows but Naked City put it back with a vengeance. The modern shows have violence as part of their stories but they usually show the aftermath. Also, this Naked City is lilly white. As the modern shows reveal, much of the crime takes place in the poorer neighborhoods but you virtually never see any blacks or hispanics in the "Eight Million Stories". Italian or Eastern European is about as "ethnic" as it gets.
I had thought that Naked City was a 50's-60's progenitor to the modern shows but upon viewing it, I really can't say that it is. It is a creature of it's time. The modern urban dramas are almost another genre entirely.
I highly recommend the 3 DVD box sets that are now available . Each set
has 12 episodes exactly how they were first seen on ABC-TV 45 years
ago. The location shooting in and around the streets of New York give a
great view of the city in the early 60's. They even have included some
commercials as an extra added feature that you can watch after you see
the 4 episodes on each disk. But the real treat is the stories, many
featuring some of the best all-time character actors of TV and Movies.
No high tech, no sex, no graphic violence , no dirty words. Just good
old-time TV drama, that seems to forgotten in today's lousy free TV
with all of those lame reality shows.
Most of the indoor scenes were filmed at old Biograph/Gold Medal Studio the Bronx. The 50's and 60's were a great time for young , talented actors living in New York. Many good TV shows and movies were filmed at the Biograph and Naked City is among the best.
Naked City is an anthology series. Its stories are realistic and filled
with compassion, pathos and immense human interest. The characters
honestly portray the ambitions and emotions of people, rich and poor,
living in New York.
The city is as much the star of the show as the actors. Filmed in black and white on location, the show visually captures the New York cityscape in the early 1960's, before the major building boom began.
The excellent cinematography, the forthright performances of the cast and guest performers, and the first-rate writing and direction make Naked City a gem to watch.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything said about the show.It was absolutely one of the best ever, cop or no cop TV show. Even the title of each show was original and brilliant IMO. The show stands out even more after being subjected to all the drivel shown nowadays.Even though color hadn't come full circle at that time, I think the b/w format just added to the whole personality of the show and characters. I've got to add to my collection.Stirling Shilliphant was one of the geniuses behind the show's success no doubt.Someone mentioned that Leonard was the narrator but I think Paul Brees narrated most of the shows.His voice-over was a perfect fit too. In fact I can't think of anything that wasn't "perfect". The casting was terrific, the story lines, the on- location shots of Gotham,the title of each show...I could go on and on. The regular detectives actually looked and acted like real detectives compared to what they show today. It may be partly nostalgia but watching the video reminded me of why I liked it so much even back then.
This is the best of the realistic cop shows of the late 50's and 60's. Heart-wrenching episodes. Many of these episodes featured the debutes of bit actors who were later to become stars on TV and in the movies...you name 'em, they first appeared in Naked City. The two DVD's that are out (hopefully every one of the three years of the award-winning series will be released in the future) feature Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Sylvia Sidney, Walter Matthau, Eli Wallach, George Marahis and Lois Nettleton. Each of the one-hour episodes (four per DVD) are unforgettable. You'll also love the main characters, Paul Burke and Nancy Malone. If you think NYPD Blue and other dramas are good, you are in for a treat, as this series beats them all. Of course the main star is New York City in the late 1950's-early 60's. Gritty, smoggy, black and white, and absolutely gorgeous. Don't miss these DVD's if you believe in realistic drama and incredible performances by all the actors. (OK, and I don't even do PR for them...so trust me..this series is super!)
The IMDb lists Paul Frees as the narrator of "Naked City" - the series.
But it was my understanding that actor Lawrence Dobkin was the voice
behind "There are eight million stories in the Naked City...This has
been one of them".
The discs of the show are excellent. You get the rare chance, not only to see some of the talent of yesterday like Roddy MacDowall, Carroll O'Connor, and Maureen Stapleton, but actors doing early roles, some only walk-ons, like Dustin Hoffman as a thief in BAREFOOT ON A BED OF COALS or Peter Falk in a tiny role as a gun man in DEATH OF PRINCES or Gene Hackman as a nervous reporter in PRIME OF LIFE.
The series seemed to be approached by it's writers as New York theater, people talking a bit more emotionally than you would see on LAW AND ORDER. Their characters were delved in, rather than simply being shelved as "good" or "evil" as they do on today's series.
There have been several discs on the show from Image Entertainment and I hope they continue to release them.
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