Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
4 user 1 critic

Birds of a Feather 

Jessica's niece Victoria Brandon is horrified when her fiancé Howard Griffin is arrested following the gunshot murder of nasty San Francisco drag club owner Al Drake.


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 3 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Bart Braverman ... Bill Patterson
Jeff Conaway ... Howard Griffin
Genie Francis ... Victoria Brandon
Dick Gautier ... Mike Dupont
Harry Guardino ... Lt. Floyd Novack
Gabe Kaplan ... Freddy York
Martin Landau ... Al Drake
Carol Lawrence ... Candice Drake
Barbara Rhoades ... Barbara Stevenson
Robin Bach ... Maitre d'
John O'Leary John O'Leary ... Minister
William Phipps ... Charlie (as William Edward Phipps)
Brian Avery ... M.C.
Gary Pagett Gary Pagett ... Security Guard


Jessica visits her niece, Victoria ''Vicky'' Brandon, in San Francisco, who tells her that her fiancé, New York would be-actor Howard Griffin, isn't working in life insurance as he pretended. The ladies go to Mr. Drake's night-club, which Vicky found out he's somehow connected to, see he's performing there as a drag-queen and, worse, during star Michael Dupont's act, Howard runs out in panic after finding Drake's shot corpse. Vicky believes in Howard's innocence unconditionally, even accepts his weird job, so Jessica is determined to help, initially unappreciative, SFPD Detective Lt. Floyd Novack find the real killer. The club proves a viper's nest full of motives, including promising performer Freddy York, who would miss out on a dream contract because he held him to a lousy contract, reneging on a promise to sell the night-club, and the Drake family's (adulterous) love life. It all hangs on the tiny details only Jessica notices and makes sense of.. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The first appearance of Genie Francis as Jessica's niece, Victoria. See more »


[first lines]
Howard Griffin: Mr. Drake.
Al Drake: What do you say, kid? Out for some early morning air?
Howard Griffin: I've gotta talk to ya.
Al Drake: So, talk.
See more »


There a Somebody I'm Longin' to See
Performed by Dick Gautier
See more »

User Reviews

"Ladies and Gentlemen, May We Present Ladies or Gentlemen?"
20 December 2009 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

Victoria Brandon (Genie Francis) makes her first "MSW" series appearance as an empathetic niece of her devoted Aunt Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), this time around as a striving citizen of her newly-adopted San Francisco, planning her wedding with fiancé Howard Griffin (Jeff Conaway), a struggling stage actor from New York City, who attempts to forge a career in California.

Victoria and Howard share a workable sensitivity to each other's prospective career aspirations although she somehow doesn't buy his story that he has been working in the Insurance industry, while awaiting his break in the theatre, a suspicion fueled by her discovering in his pocket a match book advertising an exotic nightclub.

When Jessica arrives in San Francisco to embrace her loving niece and to assist in wedding arrangements, Jessica attempts to erase Victoria's misgivings by accompanying her to this nightclub, operated by one Al Drake (Martin Landau).

Al Drake has problems of his own with his staff, as well as domestic discord. While he carries on with his secretary, Barbara Stevenson (Barbara Rhoades), a well-known secret around the nightclub, Al's wife and business partner, Candice Drake (Carol Lawrence), carries on with one of Al's discontent employees, performer Mike Dupont (Richard Gautier) on the sly, while they feign animosity in public.

Problems continue around Drake's nightclub, as entertainer Freddy York (Gabe Kaplan) pleads to be released from his contract in the hopes of playing Las Vegas as a two-bit stand-up comic who accompanies his solo routine with a set of drums.

In-fighting behind the scenes escalates with altercations involving various combinations of Al, Candice, Barbara, Mike, Freddy, his Agent Bill Patterson (Bart Braverman), and Charlie (William Phipps).

On the evening which Jessica arrives with Victoria, efficient Maitre d' (Robin Bach) handles their seating accommodations, then welcoming Candice Drake to the dinner theatre, but once she exits hearing distance, he signals via house telephone to alert Al that his wife has entered the premises.

As they scrutinize the restaurant and stage area from their table in the hopes of spotting Howard, Jessica comments to Victoria that something about the nightclub strikes her as unusual about its atmosphere.

Nightclub M.C. (Brian Avery) introduces Freddy York to the stage, to perform a somewhat ludicrous type of comic routine on drums, before the M.C. introduces the singing segment by Mike Dupont as a female impersonator, in wig, makeup and dress.

While the audience receives the presentation well, Victoria and Jessica appear stymied, and even more so once Barbara discovers Howard in a rear office, he wearing female impersonating garments including a clumsy sheer cape, while holding a pistol, while standing over a body, causing Barbara to scream, leading Security Guard (Gary Pagett) to chase Howard across stage, interrupting Mike's song, tripping over his cape, and landing upon the table shared by an astonished Victoria and Jessica, as he meekly greets them.

SFPD Lieutenant Floyd Novack (Harry Guardino) arrives to investigate the murder and promptly arrests Howard Griffin, to the dismay of Howard, Victoria, and Jessica, who vows to get to the bottom of things, irritating Lieutenant Novack no end, and aggravating an already hostile situation around the nightclub and points beyond with Jessica's snooping and questioning.

Jessica, as other suspects determine, seeks to prove Howard's innocence by implicating one of them. But during her investigation, she discovers a feather at the scene of the crime, which Lieutenant Novack and others surmise originates from the nearby pet Cockatiel, perched across from the desk, behind which the body was discovered, as Jessica is determined to uncover which of these "Birds of a Feather" has done it.

Finally achieving the cooperation of Lieutenant Novack, Jessica implements re-enactments of events surrounding the time of the shooting. She plays music from a tape recorder set at the precise volume level as the performance, while an officer fires a blank inside the rear office, which can be heard from across the nightclub seating area.

When she asks Freddy York to play his drums, she figures that the sound could have overtaken that of a pistol shot and decides that the murder probably has occurred during Freddy's performance. But when Freddy steps away from his instruments, a sandbag is released from above to land upon the stage beside them, causing Freddy to fall and receive a broken leg.

Jessica, now more convinced that ever of Howard's innocence because he couldn't have caused Freddy's accident, makes the rounds, including visits with Freddy and Bill in the hospital, Candice on the golf course, and Barbara at stage door, after Candice fires her, and Jessica offers to share her taxi with Barbara, while cleverly pumping information from her.

By now exhausted, Jessica tells Victoria that she must rest in her hotel room, but the overpowering sounds created by nearby construction workers cause Jessica to cover her ears with her pillow, thus giving her a sudden burst of logic to solve the case in time for Minister (John O'Leary) to marry Victoria and Howard amid a gathering of invited guests, which include the suspects who didn't do it although still "Birds of a Feather."

The cast is rounded out by Nick Savage as Leather Guy, Tony Ballen as Waiter, and Herndon Jackson as Waiter #2.

This episode marks the only television acting role by Herndon Jackson. Robin Bach, who began his film acting career in 1970, and has been acting in supporting roles on television since 1981, and Tony Ballen, acting since 1964, have unfortunately since passed.

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Release Date:

14 October 1984 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

San Francisco, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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