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This was one of NBC's Sunday night mysteries movie series from the
1970's. It probably doesn't carry the same weight in cult status as
COLUMBO and McCLOUD but never the less it was very popular at the time.
Apparently in the US all three of these series rotated every Sunday
night but in the UK McMILLIAN AND WIFE was broadcast on a Thursday
night where it remained throughout it's run.
The series main attraction was Rock Hudson a former leading man in movies during the 1950's and 60's who probably started to find big screen film roles hard to come by, so movies made for TV that were packaged into a series format were ideal at this stage of his career. Although back then it probably seemed a step down actually by today's standards doing cable or TV work even is no longer seen as a step down, many big names from the movies are happy doing work on the small screen, it's lucrative and keeps you in the public eye.
Hudson played San Francisco commissioner Stewart McMillian who wasn't content to sit behind a desk doing paper work but was more inclined to work on the streets doing all the nitty gritty investigative work with with his youthful and feisty wife Sally (Susan st James) at his side and his ever loyal assistant Sergeant Charles Enright (John Schuck) in support too. This was due to the fact that the story lines or mystery mostly revolved around them i.e. somebody holding a long standing grudge against them.
It wasn't a heavy drama or a thriller but a mystery series with humor in it. McMillian himself who was assertive and didn't suffer fools gladly often got impatient with some of the characters he encountered and dealt with it with humor. Sergeant Enright his side kick certainly did not upstage McMillian, although a lovable character he seemed to end up doing some of the less glamorous or thankless tasks. You got the impression that he was not the brightest bulb in the pack and a bit naive but never the less he was enthusiastic, energetic, loyal, hard working and reliable for most part.
Sally, McMillians wife almost resembled a typical flower power girl back in those days, petite with a care free spirit who never took herself too seriously. Although she was inquisitive by nature she was often helpless and clumsy when left to her own devises, you could often her her cry out "oh Mac" when nervous. I'm not sure that her shrill and some what flaky character would have impressed the feminist movement back in the 70's which was in full swing at that time. She was probably 20 years his junior, totally devoted to her husband and not very independent. Even when she took matters into her own hands or started to meddle in one of his investigations on her own she wasn't very convincing and more often than not got her self into trouble and had to rely on Mac to get her out of it.
She was better in the supporting role or at least hanging off his arm, although it has to be said she played a central role to the over all chemistry and success of the series. By today's standard of tough talking, high kicking, gun brandishing, tank-topped tattooed clad women of today Sally is defiantly a relic of the past, sweet, funny, feminine and pretty. Lastly, there was the brash and sarcastic housekeeper Mildred (Nancy Walker) whose wise cracking New York humor added a funny dimension to the whole format and kept the easy watching and laid back nature of the show honest.
There was talk at the time of tension between the cast members, Hudson upset at being upstaged by Susan st James who was very popular but I have to say I never sensed that in the re-runs I have seen. In fact the chemistry between Schuck and Hudson was very good and I felt that they genuinely got on well. Rock Hudson seemed to enjoy his part an I never sensed any resentment between himself and the rest of the cast bearing in mind his previous success on the big screen prior to this, he seemed comfortable in his own skin.
The first three seasons were probably the golden years and from season 4 onwards Sally was less visible, perhaps Hudson wanted to have a more prominent role, did not like being upstaged by his co hosts, I don't know? Maybe Sally's damsel in distress role was not believable as the 70's progressed. Eventually, the original cast members were written out or else given small roles and Hudson continued the role on his own for a final season before it was eventually axed.
The stories were OK but perhaps McMillian was too old to pull of the bachelor part and not very convincing as the grieving widow, but I think that TV was changing and it was time to end the whole format. It lasted from 1971-1977 a respectable six seasons and was a welcome addition to the early evening, easy watching TV shows of the 1970's. It no doubt provided the inspiration for the later HART TO HART TV show a few years later.
After this Hudson worked on the mini-series WHEELS followed by the highly popular MARTIAN CHRONICLES and a couple of years later WORLD WAR III. He then almost disappeared from the screen until his shocking entrance in the glam soap DYNASTY. McMILLIAN AND WIFE was probably his last prominent role in his acting career and it was not a bad swan song at all. Hudson died in 1985 and Nancy Walker a few years later. John Schuck is still active and Susan st James has just recently returned to TV after a long absence. Check it out!
Though its co-rotators, Columbo and McCloud (while others came and
went), seem like better shows, I have a soft spot in my heart for
McMillan and Wife. Susan St. James and Rock Hudson made a wonderful
couple, and the show did sport one of my all-time favorite episodes,
"The Easy Sunday Murder Case," in which June Havoc's dog is kidnapped.
Havoc describes her precious purebred Pekinese - Mac doesn't think
there's anything distinguishing about the dog, so Havoc offers a photo
of her husband. "Why would I want that?" he asks her. "Oh," Havoc says,
"they took him too." A great episode with a stellar cameo by Wally Cox.
Hudson himself was surprised when the show was expanded to two hours, commenting at the time, "It doesn't hold up for 90 minutes." But for its many fans, it really did, in part because of the great cast. Nancy Walker as Mildred nearly stole the show every time she was on, and John Shuck was the lovable Charlie. Mildred Natwick made several appearances as Mac's mother, and Martha Scott played Susan St. James' mom.
I agree that the disappearing baby was very confusing - Mac and Sally were very involved with one another and the producers didn't want to spoil that, but on the other hand, when were they going to have kids, and if not, why not? They should have been left childless, since the baby was only mentioned in passing.
When Susan St. James and Nancy Walker left, the show was never the same and it was a downer to have Sally and that mysterious baby killed in a plane crash.
I was surprised that posters mentioned Hudson's homosexuality as somehow influencing perception of this show in hindsight. Hudson was gay; Mac wasn't. If straight men can play gay characters, why can't the reverse be true? Why must someone's private life interfere with a role?
Re the comment: "I was surprised that posters mentioned Hudson's homosexuality as somehow influencing perception of this show in hindsight. Hudson was gay; Mac wasn't. If straight men can play gay characters, why can't the reverse be true? Why must someone's private life interfere with a role?" I was merely responding to the one reviewer citing Hudson being gay and then characterizing Mac & Sally's relationship as "sexless." After seeing the pilot again on the recently released DVD, I can say it was anything but! The two characters seem to be hugging, kissing, making out, etc., almost all the time (there's even a rather risqué - for 1971 TV - scene that has a clearly naked Susan St. James taking a shower behind a fogged stall window).
Used to watch this series a long long time ago.Loved it so much that I promised myself I will visit beautiful San Francisco(I did and loved it). Although the series bore no resemblance to "real" people: how many of us know of a police Cornish and his wife solving murders personally? Still it was an hour spent each week being entertained by Mrs McMillan,her funny and slightly "boozed"housemaid and the most overworked,underpaid and undernourished Sergeant.Watching the show let me escape in a world of thrills and spills,and all the beautiful people that only a TV show can present.Mrs McMillan never had to make the bed or run the vacuum or do the ironing,no no all she involved herself was crooks and more crooks some nastier than others.Pure simple escapism for my family and myself. So now comes the sixty four dollars questions: when are we going to see more releases on DVD of this TV show and others like McCloud. Millie
The NBC Mystery Movie was a perfect fit for a film star like Rock
Hudson who wanted to get into the grind of a regular television series
and its 30 or so episodes that were expected back in 1971. Alternating
with McCloud, Columbo, and others Hudson did about 8 McMillan&Wife
shows a year and still did a film or two.
Reportedly the co-stars Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James did not get along all that well, but you'd never know it from this 70s version of Nick and Nora Charles. In real life even in San Francisco the police commissioner is an administrator of a large agency. But in San Francisco Stuart McMillan took a hand in an occasional murder that came in some roundabout way to his attention.
Like Myrna Loy, Sally McMillan tried to help as did their maid Mildred played by Nancy Walker. Many times they helped the way Lucy and Ethel helped Ricky. But Mac was always around to save Sally from whatever harm she got in the way of.
The stories were always witty and literate. The one weakness of the show was that whoever the big name guest star was you could pretty much guess that that individual would be the murderer. Maybe one or two times it didn't work out that way, but that was a tease.
It was an enjoyable show and Sundays were always something to look forward to on NBC with McMillan&Wife, McCloud, and Columbo. You could never go wrong.
The plots are a little slow, but they are funny in about five different ways and so cleverly written that it really is a shocker what happened. I like that sally wears a football jersey to bed. Everybody in the show plays off each other really well and adds their best to make you not want to change the channel even though it is on really late at night.It's at it's best when Mildred dances the tango or mac and sally have double entendre' conversations while laying in bed. But don't watch the last season,everyone pretty much left and it's just a run down looking Rock Hudson and Mildred's VERY ANNOYING sister solving mysteries together.
Ahh, memories of watching this series aged about 11 and having a crush
on Susan St James, her pushing Judy Carne to one side in the process.
Of course the early 70's was a great time for classic US 'tec series,
Kojak, Columbo (to quote Harry Nilsson) and many others, but this show
doesn't appear to have gone into the permanent re-run rotation like so
many of its contemporaries. There could be any number of reasons for
this, some clear (it has dated quite a lot) and some perhaps not so
clear, although its template has been reused since, most notably in
"Hart To Hart".
Naturally it's not as good as the child in me remembers, the story, at least of this early episode being somewhat formulaic and the direction very flat and reactionary.
That said, I liked Hudson in the part and he doesn't appear to be coasting as much as his history might have entitled him to, while St James still has that quirky charm going for her, even if she does scream a lot. There's a nice frisson between them, loved-up as we say here in the UK, whch added some spice to proceedings. Nancy Walker, later Rhoda's mum, is watchable as ever as their feisty house-maid and moon-faced John Schuck is Hudson's runabout foot-soldier.
The Frisco locations are fine, the humour is gentle and while I guess there's not a lot of dramatic tension on show, it still reminds me fondly of Sunday afternoons as a kid in from the rain, with nothing better to do.
This show definitely was inspired by the Thin Man. This was a very light hearted detective show and Rock Hudson and Susan St. James were a perfect match. Forget about all the revelations that came up after Hudson's death. Just look at the show for how well it was written. Also, Nancy Walker and John Schuck gave the show its perfect comic relief as Mildred and Enright respectively.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
McMillan & Wife mostly works because Rock Hudson & Susan St. James have
great chemistry. Knowing what we now know about Rock, he's convincingly
"on" Susan St. James/Sally as any hetro guy would be :-) WHAT an actor!
:-) She' smart, sassy, sexy and totally natural. For people who live in
the SF Bay Area, it's a fun look back (NO TRANSAMERICA building!) as
they spend a lot of time driving around the city (I think these were
"TV movies" so they had a bigger budget and didn't fake driving around
LA as SF though there are some scenes at night that are LA). And the
street scenes usually takes place on that fake Universal back lot "New
The plots are mostly idiotic. I think Sally/Wife is kidnapped/taken prisoner at least 4 times in the first 2 seasons ... and LITERALLY he's shot at in every episode ... makes SF seem like Tombstone, AZ ... nice police commissioner/chief. It should be noted he's also pushed down the stairs at least 3 times in the first 2 seasons as well as about 7 break-ins into the house. John Schuck is a weird looking dude but good as the comic relief.
What's also funny is many of the same character actors re-appear even a few eps later - clearly in the 1970's, they figured people didn't care or would notice? AND you do get the greatest hits parade of 70's character actors in every ep.
So, an amusing time piece - watch it for the acting and chemistry and the SF scenes. If you appreciate weird 70's decorating, it's also a good time capsule. The pacing of the show is slow and you can wander away for a while without missing anything from mostly dumb plots and writing but Rock & Susan St. James are a believable couple and have nice chemistry.
This show was one of the rotation of the NBC Mystery Movie which also
featured Columbo, McCloud, Night Gallery, etc. It's two main stars made
the show go.
Rock Hudson played Comissioner McMillan very well. Susan Saint James as his slightly goofy, sexpot wife Sally, added a spark that flew between her, Hudson, & the audience. Susan was the type of woman that teenage boys fell in love with. Good thing she didn't realize when this show was on or she'd have been in jail. All us teenage boys when this show ran wanted her (at least most of us).
Even when the scripts mystery was a little lacking, Susan & Rock would make it seem fresh. John Schuck & Nancy Walker both provided excellent cast support as well. Really enjoyed these years ago & now the DVD's are coming out. We never realized when we were young the privilege we had of watching this good a series.
I never took my eyes off Susan. This show always pleased its fans.
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