Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Always a Thief 

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Jessica's friend, former jewel thief Dennis Stanton, solves a high-society collector's coin theft and murder.


Walter Grauman


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 2 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Lisa Blount ... Andrea Bascomb Douglas
Roscoe Born Roscoe Born ... Langston 'Lanny' Douglas
Aharon Ipalé ... Mahmoud Amini
Shirley Knight ... Grace Lambert
Dina Merrill ... Monica Douglas
Keith Michell ... Dennis Stanton
Chris Mulkey ... Joey Freeman
Ed Nelson ... Raymond 'Ray' Bascomb
James Sloyan ... Robert Butler
Ken Swofford ... Lt. Catalano
Hallie Todd ... Rhoda Markowitz
Marco Lopez Marco Lopez ... Pedro
Jill Jaress ... Deirdre
Virginia Hawkins Virginia Hawkins ... Housekeeper


Jessica narrates a case her dashing British friend, Dennis Stanton, former jewel thief turned insurance agent, solved. Langston 'Lanny' Douglas got his inherited business empire in financial trouble. When millionaire Oriental carpet's merchant Mahmoud Amini offers Lanny $200,000 commission, to convince his mother to sell him the rare 'Stuart Dollar', he accepts. She refuses, so Lanny stages a break-in to steal it, is surprised by the gardener Pedro and kills him. Dennis, well-known to less ingenious police Lieutenant Catalano, soon realizes the safe was opened with the combination and works his way to a trap for both crimes after Lanny Douglas is murdered. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

theft | explosion | See All (2) »


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 April 1990 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


[first lines]
Dennis Stanton: [on tape] Well, as you might guess, Jessica, that was a singularly satisfying evening. The beautiful widow, having reverted back to married status, immediately heaped any and all available blame on her husband, poor fellow.
Dennis Stanton: Last time I saw him, he was actually looking forward to prison. Well, that's all I have to report this time. I do hope you're planning a West Coast visit soon. It's been far too long. In fact, the ladies of San Francisco do not measure up to you in any ...
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User Reviews

"Roll Out the Bodies; Hide from the Joggers Who Run"
4 April 2010 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

Keith Michell performs the role of San Francisco jewel-thief-turned-insurance-investigator Dennis Stanton in nine "MSW" episodes: three along with Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), and six as guest sleuth, starring in his own "Book-end" episodes with his recurring cast of supporting players, and now we're up to the first of these....

Jessica receives audio-tape cassette correspondence from Dennis, who tells her that he prefers speaking to writing; as she concludes listening to his latest adventures, she informs the audience of a narrative submitted by Dennis of a case with which he was involved in San Francisco three months prior, this involving the wealthy Douglas family and a very rare 1804 Gilbert Stewart silver dollar, valued at $two million.

(Note: in a later "MSW" episode, "Nailed (#12.1)," a rare 1804 silver dollar is valued at approximately $400,000., as only three are believed to remain in existence, so the value must depreciate after this point in time. So, if we have one in "Always a Thief," which has been in the Douglas family for generations, and one in "Nailed," which has been in the Stafford family for five generations, then anyone else possessing a 1804 silver dollar must be led to believe that s/he has the only remaining one.)

At any rate, this begins in a San Francisco restaurant, where Joey Freeman (Chris Mulkey) experiences difficulty with a demanding supplier, who insists that the restaurant pay for its delivery C.O.D. Joey steps into the rear office, where owner Langston 'Lanny' Douglas (Roscoe Born) orders Joey to deal with the situation, so as not to disturb Lanny.

Lanny is busy meeting with Mahmoud Amini (Aharon Ipalé), who offers to purchase his family's keepsake 1804 Gilbert Stewart silver dollar for $two million in cash. Lanny has already spent most of his inheritance, most of his mother's money, and most of his wife's money, so he sees this offer as a measure to fuel his lavish lifestyle.

Monica Douglas (Dina Merrill) works in the garden at her opulent estate, on the outskirts of San Francisco, with gardener Pedro (Marco López) at her side, when Lanny (her only child) returns to attempt to persuade her to sell the rare coin, a request to which she objects, as this coin has been in the family for generations.

Andrea Bascomb Douglas (Lisa Blount) drowns her sorrows in an afternoon cocktail, as she and husband, Lanny, enter into a heated argument over his spending her family's money, along with his chasing women and neglecting her, while Monica's sister, Grace Lambert (Shirley Knight), cannot help but to overhear the young bickering couple's argument, and his plan to spend the night in San Francisco.

But that night at around 3:00 AM, someone enters the Douglas estate to retrieve the rare coin and a large sum of cash from its safe, before creating the effects of a burglary, and stabbing a witness with a pitchfork.

Lieutenant Catalano (Ken Swofford) arrives the next morning to investigate the murder, as does Dennis Stanton, whose company, Consuladated Casualty Insurance, has protected the theft of the coin with a policy.

Dennis then enlists the assistance of his Receptionist, Rhoda Markowitz (Hallie Todd), to find out what she may about the Lambert-Douglas family social circle, as he pays a visit to Lanny's restaurant, where he observes Raymond 'Ray' Bascomb (Ed Nelson), a San Francisco-based Advertising Agency Executive, fleeing the parking lot by automobile.

Numismatist Deirdre (Jill Jaress), arrives at the Insurance Agency to authenticate the coin which Dennis somehow immediately recovers, in the presence of Dennis and Robert Butler (James Sloyan), whom she informs that this is an imitation, and not the genuine 1804 silver dollar.

But, by now, there's been another murder, as a victim has been bludgeoned by a trophy and transported into the woods, rolled down a hillside and onto a hiking trail, where the body is quite naturally discovered by early morning joggers the next day.

And so, it is up to Dennis Stanton to figure who's killing whom, who's moving the second body, who's harboring the $two million, and who's concealing the genuine silver dollar because, as Dennis may say, "Once a Thief," "Always a Thief."

The cast is rounded out by Virginia Hawkins as Housekeeper, Mitch Hara as Photographer, and E.E. Bell as Delivery Man.

This episode represents first of two "MSW" appearances each for Dina Merrill, Chris Mulkey and Aharon Ipalé, the the second of two for Shirley Knight, the the third of five for Ed Nelson, the the second of seven for Hallie Todd (and her first of six as Rhoda Markowitz), the the third of seven for James Sloyan (and his first of five as Robert Butler), the the fifth of nine for Keith Michell (each in his role as Dennis Stanton), and the and the fifth of eleven "MSW's" for Ken Swofford (and his first of six as Lieutenant Catalano).

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