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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
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.
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
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 cliched 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.
Before Hawaii Five-0... before Magnum P.I., there was... Hawaiian Eye!
The stars really did surf during the forward credits (I think)! I thought that was so cool! I was only around 5 when this show appeared.
What I remember about the show is, Tracy Steele had a really cool name and a pencil thin mustache. I loved pencil-thin mustaches back then. Paladin (Richard Boone) in "Have Gun Will Travel" had one too. I always thought, "When I grow up, I'm going to grow a pencil-thin mustache like those guys. But, I never did.
Tom Lopaka. By his name, were we being asked to believe pretty boy, Robert Conrad, was Hawaiian? Puh-LEEZE! There's a link on a website called Whirlygig that offers a portion of the episode called "The Comics." It guest stars Mary Tyler Moore. In it, Tracy Steele has arranged for Lopaka to be asked to the stage in a nightclub they are enjoying for the evening, to sing a song. With a little coaxing, Lopaka goes to the stage and sings the cheesiest lounge lizard style song called, "I Want You, Pretty Baby." Holy cow, is it hokey! Was that really Robert Conrad's voice or was it a dub-in?
All that aside, this was a fun detective show. I remember thinking Cricket Blake was pretty cute! Connie Stevens became an early sixties blonde female icon in this series.
The series made us think of Hawaii and its tropical enticements. The theme song still haunts my memory.
I always enjoyed "Hawaiian Eye" as a kid--I think I wanted to be a white-suited private eye based in Honolulu. My favorite character was Anthony Eisely and I was always a little ticked off that he was replaced by girl throb Troy Donahue in the last year of the series. There seemed to be a good camaraderie between the "Eye" gang with Connie Stevens as the cutesy little nightclub singer/ gift shop operator and taxi cab driver Poncie Ponce and the private eyes. Also interesting were the "crossover" shows when "77 Sunset Strip" characters hooked up with the "Eye."
Was a big fan of this show when it first came on. "Cricket Blake" was my first "true Love" and Tom Lopaka could do no wrong!! The story lines were good and this show featured some great guest stars. Loved the music and could always count on a good fight or two. I have 15 episodes of this show and still thoroughly enjoy watching it. Anthony Eisley, Grant Williams and Troy Donahue were way too cool. I always thought that this series was better than 77 Sunset Strip. I know that Grant Williams died in 1985, however the rest of these guys are still around. Would be nice to update this and have the sons and daughters of my heroes now run the detective agency. By the way, Bob Conrad should still be working.
I was sad to see no one commented on this long ago staple of my television introduction. I saw this show mostly in re-runs, but was always a fan of the genre. This type of detective show was copied alot, only the location changed. There was SURFSIDE 6, 77 SUNSET STRIP, to name 2. The Hawaiian location made this one special. I remember fondly the sexy, young Connie Stevens playing the nightclub singer, Cricket. She was the one to see at the Boom Boom Room. The wise-cracking, local cab driver played by Poncie Ponce helped fill out the show. There was something for everyone. And I still remember the theme song clearly. It would be nice to see again....
Basically an attempt to spin off 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye started off as an ensemble cast, but slowly became a vehicle for Warners to show off Robert Conrad's remarkable face and body, as he manages to take his shirt off in almost every episode (as he did in the Wild Wild West as well). And, Warners tried to launch Connie Stevens as well, both as an actress and a singer, but Stevens, who actually did a pretty good job in the show, didn't have the charisma to compete with the Sandra Dees and other cute-but-not-beautiful stars of the time. All in all, Hawaiian Eye is great if you like the visuals of Hawaii, Conrad, and Stevens -- but it's not much if you like plot or story.
TV actors, at least in the old days when they were placed in a separate
class from movie actors, often seemed to be clones of their movie brethren.
Some were singular in their associations. Nehemiah Persoff seemed to be the
Edward G. Robinson of television, getting similar roles and acting them in a
very similar manner. Carolyn Jones was the Bette Davis of TV, even to the
point of playing a set of sisters one of whom is a murderer on Burke's Law.
Other's had company in their pursuits. The western stars were all either
John Wayne or Gary Cooper, with an occasional Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda
thrown in, (including the real thing on "The Deputy"). There were a whole
selection of Clark Gables, including John Russell, Rory Calhoun, Richard
Egan , Robert Lowery and others. There were plenty of Brandos, including
Burt Reynolds, George Maharis and John Saxon. There were enough Rock Hudsons
to fill a theater, with John Gavin, Tom Tryon and Gardner McKay coming
immediately to mind. The blonde versions I call the "Redfords", a group of
thoughtful , well educated types of which Robert Redford was one along with
James Franciscus, Richard Chamberlain and William Shatner. They had varying
degrees of success with Redford emerging as the head of the class.
Perhaps the most successful strain, however were the Cary Grants. Grant made an ideal model for the suave detective hero, able to be charming or tough as the occasion demanded. Craig Stevens was hired to play Peter Gunn specifically because of a strong resemblance to Grant. His tightlipped performance was not really very charming but it's surely how Cary would have played that character. Latern-jawed John Vivyan played a role that Grant had actually essayed in the movies, Mr. Lucky. He was competent at best. The heroes of the Warner Brother's detective shows were largely based on Cary Grant. Ephram Zimbelist Jr.'s Stu Bailey was a grant-style role with a lot more charm than Peter Gunn. Richard Long's Rex Randolph on Bourbon Street Beat was much the same. Anthony Eisley's Tracy Steele was a less convincing version of the same character on Hawaiian Eye.
But the best of the Grant clones was Gene Barry. He was male-model handsome, had good breeding and seductive whiskey voice. He was also TV's greatest reactors. He had a series of comic takes that was perfect for Amos Burke, who had to confront an unending series of eccentric subjects. Yet he could turn around and romance the ladies or get tough with the tough guys. And he was a good enough actor to hold up his end when the heavy dramatics intervened.
One wonders what the originals of these clones must have thought as they watched the boob tube in it's infancy.
Ah, TV was a much simpler place back then. They didn't have gimmicks like car chases or explosions, and the plots were fairly transparent by today's standards, but it still holds up well as solid entertainment. Only one thing - the idea of an exotic Hawaiian location was nice, but we all know that not one foot of film was shot there, right? All done on the Warner Bros. sets in Burbank.....still, it paved the way for H-50 a few years down the road! Aloha
After the hip, breezy opening credits sequence (with most of the cast riding surfboards on the foamy waves), "Hawaiian Eye" becomes a set-bound detective show that drags its feet in the sand. I recently paid thru the nose for several episodes (and the show was recently seen, briefly, on the American Life network), but I was disappointed with the writing, the pacing, the direction, the slim budget, and the way gorgeous, mercurial Connie Stevens is shunted off to the Shell Bar without much dialogue (once Troy Donahue joined the cast in the final season, Connie's role was apparently expanded). Grant Williams is handsome but bland, Robert Conrad is inert, but Poncie Ponce gives the proceedings a little bounce. Sometimes the stories about these "great old TV shows" are actually much better than the show itself.
This was the debut of the brash confidence that made Robert Conrad such a great choice for the James West role in the "Wild Wild West" TV series. The first time you saw the "unique gadgets" and level of action fighting in a TV series that transferred back and forth between both rugged and refined western settings. Conrad's "James West" character bolstered by fellow agent "Artemus Gordon" displays that same type of confident attitude portrayal that made Clint Eastwood famous in his cult Westerns. The Hawaiian Eye cast was young & vibrant with Connie Stevens displaying her trademark girlish sexuality that became evident in her films and in real life. Conrad, handsome and muscular would probably have also been a good choice for the Eastwood type westerns.
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