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No one has ever played a detective (the kind that bends the rules) as well as the great and often overlooked Richard Widmark. The six 90-minute episodes that comprise this series remain fresh in my memory despite the fact that I have not seen the show since its rebroadcasts on the CBS Late Movie in the U.S. during the mid-70s. Without Widmark, there may not have been a whole lot to distinguish the show from a lot of other cop dramas of the decade, but his performance always made it more than a cut above routine. I find these shows (especially "The Manhattan Beat" and "The London Beat" episodes) far superior to director Don Siegel's 1968 theatrical feature that inspired this short-lived NBC-TV series. Now if only these shows were available on video or even in syndication.
Richard Widmark first played Detective Dan Madigan in a 1968 movie
directed by Don Siegel, who would go on to do "Dirty Harry" (1971).
Harry Guardino played Madigan's partner and lovely Inger Stevens was
his dissatisfied wife. Madigan was a tough, sardonic guy who wasn't
above taking minor bribes, but he was essentially an honorable man.
Madigan is killed at the end of the movie. Some astute critics think
highly of the movie.
Don Siegel had also directed "Coogan's Bluff" (1968), which was turned into "McCloud".
Thirty-four year old Dean Hargrove produced the series version of "Madigan". Hargrove had produced the Gene Barry segments of "Name of the Game", which were the most stylish and entertaining episodes of that series. Hargrove produced the first 90-minute season of "McCloud", and he injected a lot of humor and class. This season (1972-73) Hargrove was producing "Columbo" (in its second year) and "Madigan".
Hargrove made a few poor choices in putting "Madigan" together. Madigan was made into a loner cop like Columbo and McCloud. Madigan should have had a strong partner to play off of, like he did in the movie. Bruce Dern could have worked beautifully with Widmark. Hargrove turned Madigan into a "fish out of water" like McCloud by having the New York City cop investigate cases in London, Lisbon and Naples. It was almost the reverse of "McCloud" who was a New Mexico deputy marshal working on cases in New York City. By this point, the concept seemed a bit tedious.
"Madigan" should have focused on a tough cop and his partner investigating cases in New York City. The show should have tried for less humor and more suspense and mystery. And Hargrove needed more compelling detective stories than he was able to find. Maybe producer David Levinson ("The Senator") might have found a more appropriate tone for the show.
On the plus side, there was a lot of fine, expensive location shooting. And Hargrove hired first-rate directors like Jack Smight ("Harper", "No Way to Treat a Lady") and Boris Sagal ("Rich Man, Poor Man".) And Richard Widmark, who was then 57-years old, is a dramatic actor of stature and substance.
Widmark had been very appealing as the president in "Vanished" (1971), an ambitious two-part World Premiere movie that also starred James Farentino ("Cool Million"). Widmark received an Emmy nomination for that role, but lost to George C. Scott for "The Price".
Maybe Widmark and Hargrove should have used that fine performance as the president as the template for a series hero. Widmark could have played a brilliant trial lawyer. That kind of role would have allowed Widmark to project more of his natural intelligence and warmth than Dan Madigan did.
Sergeant Dan Madigan might have been a little too tough and gritty for viewers to feel very close to. Even Dirty Harry might not have been a success as a TV hero.
Dean Hargrove went on to a long successful career ("Matlock", "In the Heat of the Night", "Jake and the Fatman", "Diagnosis Murder", "Father Dowling", the "Perry Mason" movies.) He is still at it with "Jane Doe", starring delightful Lea Thompson and Joe Penny.
Dean Hargrove is the son of talented Hollywood writer Marion Hargrove. Robert Walker played Marion Hargrove in the movie "See Here Private Hargrove", based on Hargrove's book about his adventures in the army during World War II. Marion Hargrove later wrote probably the best episode of "Maverick". It was called "Gunshy" and it was a devilish send up of "Gunsmoke". Marion Hargrove later wrote some scripts for his son's shows.
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