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This was the last television series Dick Powell was involved in, and
the best. As a longtime movie star, first as a singer, then in tough
guy roles, he saw the writing on the wall when he went into television
in 1952 as one of the several stars on the anthology Four Star
Playhouse. The production company, also called Four Star, was Powell's
baby, and though he was only co-owner, he ran the company. As the years
went by Four Star grew, ultimately surpassing even the mighty Desilu as
the most successful independent production company in the business.
Among the best remembered Four Star series: Zane Grey Theatre (hosted
by Powell), Richard Diamond, The Rifelman, Wanted: Dead Or Alice, The
Detectives. Powell was in large measure responsible for giving the
first big breaks to such budding writers and film-makers as Roy
Huggins, Blake Edwards, Sam Peckinpah and Aaron Spelling.
As to The Dick Powell Show, it was a major effort, and like Zane Grey, hosted by Powell himself, featuring top-notch talent in front of and behind the camera. Indepedendent producers were somewhat under siege in the early sixties, as the movie studios, with their back-lots and huge amounts of money, were moving heavily into television production. Powell perhaps saw this show as his best shot against the big studios. It was. Many of the best episodes were outstandingly written, and the show won an Emmy or two in its first season. It looked like the series was headed for a solid three to five year run. Tragically, Powell was struck down by cancer, and died in the middle of the second season. Four Star never wholly recovered from Powell's death, and neither in a way did television. This was and is a prime example of filmed anthology television at or near its best, and we shall not see anything of like quality on the networks anytime soon.
The Dick Powell Theatre was released on video cassette in 1985 by RKO Home
best feature in the series is a murder mystery entitled, "Who Killed Julie
Greer"? The cast includes
Dick Powell, Nick Adams, Ralph Bellamy, Lloyd Bridges, Jack Carson,
Rooney, Ronald Reagan and Kay Thompson. Powell stars as Inspector Burke,
later portrayed in a
separate series by Gene Barry. The Rogues featured stories with David
Niven, Charles Boyer
and Gig Young alternating as the male lead. Robert Coote and Gladys Cooper
The series also featured the comedian Milton Berle in a rare dramatic appearance... a hard luck professional card dealer in: DOYLE AGAINST THE HOUSE.
The tapes were recorded in black and white and ran 52 minutes.
I could not agree more with these other reviewers. The Dick Powell Show, later called the Dick Powell Theatre after his death, was a great show. Typical of Mr. Powell's shows in so many areas. Well cast, well directed, well acted, interesting shows, parts for actors of all ages (Gladys Cooper, Charlie Ruggles and Charles Bickford, all in lead roles), and wonderfully produced. There are some neat all star shows in particular, A time to Die, Special Assignment, Who Killed Julie Greer, Last of the Private Eyes. The shows had a wide range: shows about the cold war (Project X), family dramas (In search of a son), to light romantic comedies (View from the Eiffel Tower, featuring a lovely performance in a drama by Jane Powell, no relation to Mr. Powell!). Mr. Powell obviously liked to help his friends get work, which had ranged back to Four Star Playhouse, Stage 7, Star and the Story, Turn of Fate, June Allyson Show and Zane Grey Theatre. All of these were produced by Dick Powell's Four Star Productions and he cast basically every veteran actor and actress in Hollywood, all in great shows. He would have given us many more shows if he had lived longer and this show, Dick Powell Show, was really great and would have easily gone on, as the other reviewer said, for several more years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The "Dick Powell Show" (1961-63) was a very entertaining anthology
Many of the episodes served as pilots.
James Coburn and and Glynis Johns were perfectly cast as the leads in an "African Queen" pilot.
Robert Vaughn played a private detective called "The Boston Terrier". Vaughn's character was a Harvard graduate with a phi beta kappa key. The creator was Blake Edwards ("Peter Gunn", "Richard Diamond", "Mr. Lucky").
David McLean, so fine as gunfighter "Tate", played an investigator for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Lovely Julie Adams also would have appeared in the series. The pilot was written by Allan Sloane ("Teacher, Teacher", "East Side, West Side") and directed by the great Samuel Fuller. When the pilot didn't sell, there was talk of redoing it with Robert Taylor and George Segal. The unknown young Segal raised eye brows by insisting on top billing over Taylor.
In "Charlie's Duet" Anthony Franciosa played a version of Willie Dante, the gambler turned restaurant owner who had previously been played by Dick Powell and Howard Duff.
Rory Calhoun played the captain of a "Luxury Liner". Aaron Spelling ("The Love Boat") produced this episode.
In an attempt to bring back Sam Peckinpah's "The Westerner" as an hour show, Lee Marvin and Keenan Wynn now played the roles Brian Keith and John Dehner played in the series.
Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming starred in "John J. Diggs". Powell was an adventurer/trouble shooter who also worked as a bartender in Fleming's restaurant-hotel. There was a lot of sexual tension between those two. This episode was essentially remade twice but with different leads. In the first remake the leads were Dennis O'Keefe and Dorothy Malone and in the second John Payne and Hazel Court starred. That's a series I would have watched - with any of those terrific casts. They don't make dames like Rhonda, Dorothy or Hazel any more.
Robert Cummings was an inept private detective surrounded by gorgeous women including Linda Christian, Jeanne Crain, and Janis Paige. Cummings' office was in the same building as Richard Diamond and Michael Shayne, two other Four Star private eyes.
Dick Powell played the tough commander of an air corps "Squadron" during World War ll. Pat Conway and Joanna Moore also starred.
Dick Powell played the lead in the "Burke's Law" pilot where his young assistant (Dean Jones) turned out to be the killer. Ronald Reagan was one of the suspects. The pilot was excellent but the resulting series concentrated so much on comedy that nothing seemed to be at stake. Who cared who the killer was since the murder itself was treated as a joke? Dick Powell made a much better Amos Burke than Gene Barry. Jackie Cooper was originally going to be the star of "Burke's Law", and I think he might have given the role (and the series) more gravitas.
Not all the episodes were pilots. Many of the shows were ambitious dramas.
Dana Andrews played a macho novelist who is dying. Robert Redford played his son who has just gotten his Ph.D. in mathematics. Redford hates his father for how he treated his mother. Andrews is in love with the much younger Inger Stevens. Redford makes a play for Stevens just to hurt his father. Hershel Bernardi and Norman Fell were also in the drama. Richard Alan Simmons was the writer. Inger Stevens once said Robert Redford was one of her few co-stars she didn't sleep with, even though they were good friends from back in their New York days. Inger said they had more a brother-sister relationship.
Richard Alan Simmons was also the writer of "The Price of Tomatoes", the series most celebrated episode. Peter Falk is an independent trucker who needs to get his tomatoes to market quickly to keep his business alive. Inger Stevens is a pregnant illegal alien who is determined to have her child born in the United States. The married Falk has to choose between saving his business or helping Stevens. Falk won a well deserved Emmy and Stevens was nominated. There were several other nominations including one for Simmons. Simmons later reteamed with Falk for the brilliant "Trials of O'Brien" (1965-66). Simmons also produced a season of "Columbo".
Jackie Cooper played a Korean War P.O.W. who was held by the communists for nine years after the war ended. Cooper returns to his home town with a big chip on his shoulder. Everyone thought Cooper was dead. No one wants Cooper back since he had always been a trouble maker. The only person happy to see him is his old pal David Janssen, who is now the mayor. But then Janssen apparently kills himself. Cooper suspects foul play and starts to investigate. Dewey Martin is the sheriff, Susan Oliver is Janssen's secretary, and Ellen Corby is Janssen's house keeper. Gary Crosby is a young tough who gets into a climactic fight with the martial arts trained Cooper. Jackie Coogan had a bit part in the drama.
Dick Powell's last performance before his death at 58 was in "The Court-Martial of Captain Wycliff". Harry Julian Fink was the writer and Buzz Kulik directed. Robert Webber plays Wycliff, a college professor who had been a war hero. Wycliff is accused of murdering a brilliant atomic scientist with key secrets who was defecting to the communists. Since Wycliff is a Captain in the reserves, he is court-martialed for the murder. Dick Powell is excellent as the determined but compassionate army prosecutor. Dina Merrill is Powell's sister, who is in love with Wycliff. James MacArthur is a young student of Wycliff. Ed Begley is the defense counsel. When Wycliff takes the stand, Powell asks him if he murdered the scientist. Wycliff says no. But Powell sees something in Wycliff's eyes. Finally, Powell gets Wycliff to admit he "executed" the scientist for treason and for the net betterment of the world.
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