HAIL TO THE QUEENS: Ellery Queen Eps 1 and 2

Ellery Queen Mysteries, the brainchild of ace screenwriting team and lifelong EQ fanboys Richard Levinson and William Link, last only one season consisting of twenty-two episodes. With one exception, every one of these was an original story conceived by the team (although some episodes were written by others) and co-produced with Peter S. Fischer, with whom they would later develop Murder, She Wrote. Previously, we talked about the origin of the series and the movie-length pilot that established the main cast, a glittering roster of guest stars, and the period setting and focus on the puzzle, including a moment where Ellery breaks the fourth wall to issue a Queenian challenge to the viewer. 

We’ll cover two episodes in each post, starting with my comments on the guest cast, followed by a brief synopsis that may only cover the premise of the episode and how Ellery gets involved. Then you will get my personal take on the quality of that particular story, and I will end with spoilers (written in ROT-13) that offer some thoughts on the puzzle or the giveaway clue. I hope you will feel encouraged to discuss what you’ve read here, but I ask that if you are going to talk about the ending, you either announce that your comment contains SPOILERS or give me the dirt in ROT-13. Many thanks! Let’s get started . . . 

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EPISODE ONE: THE ADVENTURE OF AULD LANG SYNE

(written by Levinson and Link; story by L&L and Peter S. Fischer; original airdate 9/11/75)

The Cast: 

Farley Granger is probably the biggest name here, known for his work in film through the 40’s and 50’s. The highlight, of course, is the pair of films he made for Alfred Hitchcock: Rope and Strangers on a Train

Ray Walston was a veteran of the stage, where he won a Tony award for playing the Devil in Damn Yankees, but I remember him as Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian, which, like most early 60’s sitcoms, had an outrageous premise and little redeeming value. You know, back when TV was fun. 

Joan Collins makes an early TV appearance in a role that certainly envisions the part that will make her famous, that of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty. Barbara Rush was a popular film and TV actress (she’s still alive), and David Doyle was about to make it big the following year playing Bosley in Charlie’s Angels, but he had been playing small roles in movies since 1959. One more popular TV player here is Herb Edelman who starred in many series, including The Golden Girls

Finally, the victim is played by Thayer David, one of my favorite stars of the vampire soap Dark Shadows, where he played virtually any man with the last name of Stokes and more besides. He died a few years after this episode at the tragically early age of 51.  

Insp. Queen and the Velies whoop it up!

Synopsis: 

It’s New Year’s Eve on the brink of 1947, and Inspector Queen has brought Sergeant Velie (with is wife!) to a big bash at the Astor Hotel where the entertainment is provided by no less than Guy Lombardo (playing himself!) and the Royal Canadians. Ellery is supposed to be there with a date, but so far he hasn’t shown up. 

Meanwhile, at the next table, millionaire Marcus Halliday has brought his close circle together: his son Lewis (Charles Knox Robinson), Lewis’ fiancée Lady Daisy Frawley (Collins), Marcus’ nephew/bookkeeper Paul Quincy (Granger), his business partner Donald Becker (Doyle), secretary Emma Zelman (Rush) and Emma’s fiancé Howard Pratt (Walston). After disparaging everyone in his party, Marcus announces that he is going to call his attorney to remove all of them from his will before the strike of midnight. He exits the room and is not seen again until Inspector Queen, looking for a phone booth to call Ellery, finds Halliday on the floor of the booth, slashed in the throat with a steak knife. Will Ellery be able to get through the busy city before the strike of midnight to save his dad and the Police Commissioner, who is also a guest, from embarrassment? 

My Take:

It was fun to actually watch this one on New Year’s Eve, and all the period stuff is lovely, but unfortunately this first episode is as slight as it gets, mystery-wise. Ellery doesn’t even arrive at the scene until the very end; instead, we follow his bumbling attempts to get to the hotel, with the assistance of a boorish cab driver (Edelman) and a detour to beg forgiveness of his current squeeze for standing her up. Aside from one nice physical clue, this whole sequence is pure padding. Meanwhile, it’s up to Inspector Queen to interview the suspects and try and figure out why Halliday, in his final moments, dialed the phone number of a total stranger. 

SPOILERS: 

Vg bpphef gb zr gung n pbagrzcbenel ivrjre zvtug or gbb hasnzvyvne jvgu rneyl cubar grpuabybtl gb svther guvf bar bhg; Tbq xabjf znal bs zl npgvat fghqragf qvqa’g xabj ubj gb jbex n ebgnel qvny cubar! V guvax jura V jngpurq guvf bar va 1975 V tbg vg jebat bayl orpnhfr V qvqa’g xabj gur ahzore bs qvtvgf n cubar ahzore unq va 1946. (Vg erzvaqf zr bs bar bs zl snibevgr Eboreg Neguhe fgbevrf va Nyserq Uvgpupbpx’f Fbyir-Gurz-Lbhefrys Zlfgrevrf, naq V qvq svther bhg gur pbeerpg fbyhgvba gb gung bar.) Fgvyy, gur orfg cneg bs guvf rcvfbqr vf jura Ryyrel oernxf guvf snpg qbja, ryvzvangvat gubfr jvgu anzrf gung vapyhqr nalguvat ohg fvk yrggref, naq gura ryvzvangvat Ze. Dhvtyl (ab D ba gur qvny) naq Zvff Mryzna (vs Unyyvqnl unq qvnyrq “B” ur jbhyq unir tbggra gur bcrengbe, naq uvf zvffvba gb qvny gur anzr bs uvf xvyyre jbhyq unir orra zbbg.)

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EPISODE TWO: THE ADVENTURE OF THE LOVER’S LEAP

(written by Robert Pirosh; original airdate 9/18/75)

The Cast: The victim, Stephanie Talbot Kendrick, is played by the legendary Ida Lupino. Maybe Lupino, whose reviews were usually stunning, could have been one of the actresses we talk about incessantly today. Like Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, she fought her studio Warner Brothers over bad roles and bad acting. And while, unlike the others, she managed to avoid making a number of lemons, she spent much of her contract time suspended from the studio. She would go on to make other appearances in film and worked heavily in television. But Lupino’s prize achievement in Hollywood was to become one of the few and most famous women to stand behind the camera as writer, producer and director. Her early efforts included films that tackled hard-hitting subjects, like rape, bigamy, and the effects of polio. Later, she helmed perhaps the only classic film noir to be directed by a woman, The Hitchhiker

Ida Lupino

The other female guest stars are Anne Francis and Susan Strasberg. Francis was one of many good film actresses who, after making some interesting films (Blackboard Jungle, Forbidden Planet) and then floundering for a while, jumped to TV, where she starred as the iconic PI Honey West. Strasberg had far too interesting a life to encapsulate here. Daughter of the legendary director and teacher Lee Strasberg, she gave a Tony-nominated performance at the age of eighteen as Anne Frank, palled around with Richard Burton and Marilyn Monroe (and then wrote books about both), and did tons of film acting, mostly on TV and in slasher movies. 

The three male suspects are played by Don Ameche, Craig Stevens, and Jack Kelly. Stevens was an action hero through the 40’s and into the 50’s before settling in as a steady TV player. Jack Kelly also staked his fame on television, largely through his portrayal of Bret Maverick’s brother Bart on the long-running Western series. Ameche is the biggest male movie star here, appearing in a long string of films starting in the 1930’s. Great story (retold here for Scott K. Ratner): after he played the title role in 1939’s The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, kids started calling the telephone an “ameche,” as in folks actually saying, “You’re wanted on the ameche.” This led to Groucho Marx’ joke in Go West: “Telephone? This is 1870, Don Ameche hasn’t invented the telephone yet.” 

Synopsis: 

Wealthy fountain pen heiress Stephanie Talbot Kendrick, a shrewish, neurotic woman, is sitting in her bedroom, the balcony of which overlooks the front entrance to her fabulous estate, reading the latest Ellery Queen novel The Adventure of the Lover’s Leap. (Not only is this not a real Queen novel, but when Stephanie reads aloud, it sounds a lot more like a HIBK thriller from the pen of Mary Roberts Rinehart.) The passage she reads is about a woman sitting alone in her house, and, oddly, Stephanie begins to experience the exact things that are occurring in the book. She calls the only other person in the house, her hired nurse, Miss Chandler (Francis), but that good woman has been listening to Abbott and Costello on the radio and didn’t hear any of the odd noises Stephanie complains about. Then the heiress calls her stepdaughter, Kathy (Strasberg) and begs her to come over and keep her company. But when Kathy arrives, she sees Miss Chandler rush out the front door and over to Stephanie’s body; it appears Miss Kendrick has leapt from her balcony to her death. 

My Take: 

This is more like it! A complex mystery where Ellery does what he’s supposed to do: detect. It also helps that Simon Brimmer is right there in competitive mode and is doing some pretty nifty detection as well. (In fact, Brimmer’s contrasting theories help illustrate that all-important precept of detective fiction: make sure your solution covers every fact!) Using John Hillerman as a source of comedy raises the level of the humor and contributes to the mystery with that surefire chestnut: good detective vs. bad detective.

Friendly rivals: Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton) and Simon Brimmer (John Hillerman)

All five suspects have strong motives, but the nature of the crime is elusive, a mosaic that is put together by Queen with the help of some nice physical clues. And the episode is shot in a way that hearkens us back to that Golden Age of 40’s cinema, with split screen phone calls and whirling newspaper headlines. There’s one element of the plot that hinges on a science I’m not sure I completely believe in, but it’s highly dramatic and doesn’t really effect the clueing that reveals the killer. All in all, a fine episode!

SPOILERS: 

V’yy or ubarfg: V yngpurq bagb Fgenforet evtug njnl orpnhfr fur frrzrq gb unir na nyvov. Guhf, V svtherq, “Url, ynql, guvf vfa’g lbhe svefg fbwbhea gbavtug hc gung qevirjnl, vf vg? Lbh zbirq gur obql orpnhfr vg jnf va gur jnl bs lbhe pne gung svefg gvzr!” V nyfb abgvprq jura Ryyrel nfxrq gur gvzr gung Fgenforet zbirq gur pybpx nebhaq gb purpx, naq V gubhtug gung jnf bqq. Gur ceboyrz vf, V qvqa’g xabj JUL vg jnf bqq, naq gur nafjre jnf snveyl qbyrq bhg va gur cerivbhf pbairefngvba jura fur gnyxrq nobhg purpxvat ure jngpu. Pyrneyl, fur qvqa’g unir n jngpu nalzber, naq gung fyvire bs tynff ba Fgrcunavr’f onypbal cebivqrq n avpr pyhr nf gb jung unq unccrarq gb gur zvffvat gvzrcvrpr. 

V’z zber vagrerfgrq va gung snyfr fbyhgvba vaibyivat ulcabgvfz. Vg’f pyrire gung gur fcbbxl bcravat cebivqrf hf n punapr gb rkcrevrapr svefg-unaq gur fhttrfgvba Fgrcunavr’f uhfonaq unq cynagrq va gur frpbaq erpbeqvat, ohg pbhyq nal bs guvf ernyyl unccra? Gubfr bs lbh jub ner rkcregf ba ulcabgvfz jbhyq or qbvat n xvaqarff ol cebivqvat gur fpbbc ba vgf rssrpgf.

56 thoughts on “HAIL TO THE QUEENS: Ellery Queen Eps 1 and 2

  1. Am in the middle of things so apologies for brief response, more to follow. Fact check – the TV show is just titled ELLERY QUEEN, no MYSTERIES in the title. And second, Angela Lansbury was married to Peter Shaw (for six decades) and definitely not to to Peter S Fischer 😁

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      • Sadly, one must presume that the word “Mysteries” was added because when the DVD came out the EQ name was no longer synonymous with the genre. How sad is that? Anyway, the TV show is just plain “Ellery Queen” as one sees on the titles of every episode 🙂

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  2. I think I’m pretty much onboard with you about these episodes.

    I love the milieu of the Auld Lang Syne, and enjoy the comedy subplots, but I do wish the central plot were better (I suppose this was a fairly early TV appearance for Joan Collins, though she had been onstage since 1942 and films since 1951). I agree with you about what is most interesting in this episode (Ellery’s deductive elimination of other possibilities) but once again, I have a big problem with the basic trope itself, unless well justified, and (as usual) I don’t think it is here. While Ellery admittedly does a good job of of showing why this was the victim’s best way of accomplishing his primary goal, this still doesn’t overcome the customary psychological inanity of it BEING the victim’s primary goal. Whatever happened to the normal human instinct to expend all remaining energies in a frantic effort to stay alive at all costs (and against all odds), for God’s sake? This was not Ruth Gordon’s vault or in the service of delivering the DaVinci Code to future generations, and it does make a big difference.

    Though it was instantly apparent to you— and I understand why— the moved body in Lover’s Leap is exactly the kind of clue that makes the genre interesting to me— the unforeseen complication which forces the culprit into an action that subsequently serves as a clue. And, of course, the reason you suspected the true culprit is a working demonstration of the ironic power of the deception expectation principle (the same thing that would make a character less suspicious in real life makes them more suspicious in fiction).

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  3. Incidentally, did you tell the Go West anecdote because you know I love the Marx Bros, or because you know I hate Go West? (Go West is to the Marxes what Postern of Fate is to Christie, IMO). At any rate, I much prefer the “Ameche” callback reference in Ball of Fire.

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    • In all honesty, I DID mention the Marx Brothers because I know you love them. I did NOT know you hate Go West (and as someone who does not flock to their brand of zaniness, I honestly did not know where that film stands in the canon). So consider my faux pas at using THIS film a balance to my blatant pandering to you over the mention!!

      And yes, I totally get what you said above about “Lover’s Leap.” A true mystery fan will automatically suspect this killer for precisely that reason and then sit preening until they’re proven correct. This does not make me a brilliant armchair sleuth, only a frequent GAD reader; figuring out the reason for the body being moved and identifying the glass is a better indicator.

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      • Well, I think the Postern of Fate / After the Funeral distinction kind of makes my point about the Marxes (pretty much anything they made at MGM, other than AcNight at the Opera— is inferior… and even Opera isn’t the. At their best). For more of the After the Funeral side— and as a bridge savvy Cards on the Table fan— you really shouldn’t miss this clip, which really takes off at about 1:00:

        If you don’t enjoy it, than I’ll concede you’re not made to enjoy the boys.

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          • Of course the Marx Brothers were a team, but there’s something special about Groucho. His energy, his vocal patterns, that painted mustache and hair . . . he’s a genius among geniuses. I met him through You Bet Your Life where he always seemed a bit bored, but I loved that game show. When I was 24, I was given the gift of playing Faker England (the Harpo role, but with dialogue) in Room Service at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. God, we had fun. At one point, we sat down and watched the movie, which I’m guessing is one of their worst (although part of our response could have been our youthful pride in our own work.)

            One of these days, you and I will find ourselves in the same retirement village, at which point I propose we grab some others and stage a senior version of Minnie’s Boys. I haven’t been able to sing “Mama, a Rainbow” for decades – probably never really could – so we might have to fight over the roles of Julius and Leonard.

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            • Yeah, it’s hard to believe that the Marxes of Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers could be in something as bad as Room Service only a few years later. But it’s really a matter of trying to cram brilliantly delineated personas (which, for all their craziness, were precise and consistent) into characters and a plot for which they were totally unsuited. Room Service is an extremely enjoyable play (I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but it’s lively and funny), but the Marxes no more belong in it than Billy Gilbert would make sense playing Nero Wolfe just because he’s fat. Probably the After the Funeral / Postern of Fate analogy was wrong— I’d say the difference between the greatest and worst Marx films is even greater than that of the best and worst Christie books— and the decline was much more precipitous.

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        • What fascinates me about this clip, Scott (which I enjoyed very much, so there’s still hope for me), is how much more entertaining it must be to someone familiar with bridge. If you don’t know bridge, there is plenty to love, of course: Harpo’s physicality, Chico’s puns, the basic premise of how they cheat from start to finish, and Margaret Dumont – always my favorite part of a Marx Brothers movie. But the dialogue about the bidding and all the other bridge-specific elements is spot-on and definitely raised my level of engagement. I might not have liked this as much five years ago. It leads me to think that 1) more younger, movie-going folks played bridge back then, and 2) a person underestimates the intellectual minds behind these films to their peril.

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          • It’s difficult for me to believe that I’d enjoy this clip even more if I knew more about bridge, but I suppose it’s probably true. But anyone who can’t enjoy Harpo “shuffling” the two halves of the pack a foot apart, or licking the thumb that doesn’t come in contact with the cards, will probably never appreciate his humor.

            As for the intellectual minds behind thr films, of course, Animal Crackers was written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, who won a Pulitzer a year later for Of Thee I Sing (which is similar, but actually not quite as clever!). And besides many other clever things, what Kaufman and Ryskind added to this play was the Gilbert and Sullivan format (which they then carried over to Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, their other greatest works, IMO), in which Groucho (taking the George Grossmith comedy baritone position) is worshipped mindlessly as.a great man despite his open admission of corruption and ineptitude. Making these particular works— like the G & S works from which they borrowed their form— great satires of the power of confirmation bias.

            At any rate, when I have trouble finding sufficient clueing in a work of GAD, my go to-solution is always left-handed moths. It’s at least as good as “I have no legs,” and a helluva lot better than “she married him a second time without recognizing him.”

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            • Ooh! Of Thee I Sing! Is that the one with
              She’s the illegitimate daughter of an illegitimate nephew of Napoleon? (NAPOLEON!)

              I heard that on the radio nearly 20 years ago – fuck it, I’m growing old!

              And another G&S fan!

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              • Yes! “She’s the illegitimate daughter of the illegitimate son of an illegitimate nephew of Napoleon. She offers aristocracy to this bizarre democracy, where naught is sacred but the old simoleon.” That was a central point of the course in History of Musicals that I taught (pointing out its modeling on G&S). I would, with respect, maintain that Of Thee I Sing is the more clever piece; the final twist whereby the dilemma is resolved is fully worth of Gilbert.

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                • Why don’t I like Gilbert and Sullivan??? I’m a musical theatre nut, I taught it for 28 years, I see the influence they had on the next generation of composers. One of my favorite songs is “Please, Hello” from Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, and I do enjoy complex lyrics. But G&S leave me cold. I am so sorry . . .

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                  • Hey, appreciating their influence is enough. You don’t have to like everything.

                    But lines like “I don’t know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are, and I shutter to think that their descendants by purchase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon.” and “It is my duty to tell you that general Stanley is no orphan… more than that, he never was one!” make me laugh, and especially meta jokes like “the Japanese equivalent for hear, hear, hear!” (as if Gilbert were saying, “I don’t have time to research it now… we’ll fix it in post!”).

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                • In that respect maybe, but not the scores or overall structure. As Leonard Bernstein once pointed out on TV, the Act I Finale is (deliberately or not) directly modeled on the Act I Finale of The Mikado, with the spurned woman making a dramatic entrance in the midst of the wedding celebrations of the man she wants, only to be turned away by the chorus even as we know she’ll be the source of the drama in Act II. And the ultimate resolving of the problem by a reference to a legal requirement is certainly Gilbertian.

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                  • True. It was clear that though Groucho may have told Kaufman about his love of G & S, Kaufman ran with it— not only with Animal Crackers and Of Thee I Sing, but also Let ‘Em Eat Cake and later Hollywood Pinafore. And in Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, Kalmar and Ruby carried the structure over. But I wonder if Kaufman and Ryskind would even have written Of Thee I Sing if they had not worked first on Animal Crackers (Of Thee I Sing is arguably as much Marx brothers as Gilbert and Sullivan).

                    Yes, the solution to Of Thee I Sing is VERY Gilbertian (except for a final cheering of Hooray for Captain Spaulding [in the stage not film version], Marx Brothers films seem to lose their Gilbertian structure by their third acts, though the Gilbertian blind reverence of the crowd is maintained). Years later, the musical L’il Amber did a similar thing.

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                    • L’il Abner, not Amber, obviously.

                      Of the three G & S patterned Marx films, I’d say that Animal Crackers and Duck Soup are even more so than Horse Feathers, because they feature the delayed entrance of the comic baritone, and also the distinctly Katisha-like figure of Margaret Dumont.

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  4. I remembered the series with great fondness and couldn’t wait for the DVD set to come out. Then I watched the first episode, the one with the business of the ahzore bs qvtvgf bs cubar ahzoref va gur yngr 40f, said that was ridiculous and I haven’t watched another since. Glad someone else thought so too.

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    • Oh, yes, I do think it was ridiculous, but . . . oh no! you should NOT have stopped. There are some gems here, mystery-wise, and the series is constantly entertaining even when the mechanics falter (and, really, only falter for those of us too steeped in the genre to let them pass.) I urge you to go back and rewatch some of the others . . .

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      • A TV episode (or a movie) is never going to have the plot complexity of a novel but taking that into account this series manages to come up with some pretty decent plots.

        I think it’s a much better series than Murder, She Wrote. But probably a bit too quirky to be successful. Levinson and Link took the lesson to heart and made Murder, She Wrote as bland and cozy as possible.

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        • What Murder, She Wrote has going for it is Angela Lansbury, who I would watch butter bread, but even she can’t completely save it from its blandness, which got more terminal as the series wore on and on. I located a blog post or article somewhere that listed “the best” episodes of M,SW with an eye, I think, to what the best-plotted mysteries are. I watched a couple of these, and the writer is probably correct. But I sadly feel they “learned” from Ellery Queen and made their puzzles as simple as possible for Jessica Fletcher to solve.

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          • I’m sure you’re thinking of this article, which I was going to link to anyway; https://thatsallsiknow.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-10-best-murder-she-wrote-mysteries.html

            Tommy (a longtime friend), while admitting that Murder She Wrote was not usually about well-constructed mystery plots, was pointing out that it did have a few that met the standard, and singled them out in his usual knowledgeable way (he’s especially strong on the comings and goings of writers within a series’ run, which I never know anything about). He also links to his praise for the Ellery Queen series.

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  5. I’m so glad you’re doing these! I’ll have my DVD box at hand so I can watch along with you, each time you post.

    One thing I’ll be watching out for this time: In a book about TV detectives (which I have somewhere in the house, but can’t track down at the moment), one of the production team looked back on the series and regretted that Jim Hutton “didn’t have the energy,” that this lack (if it exists) hurt the series. I’ll be looking to see if I agree.

    One lovely detail, that you may well be aware of: on an episode of Leverage decades later, when the regular characters attended a “dress as your favorite fictional detective” party, Timothy Hutton came as Ellery Queen, wearing his father’s costume.

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    • I actually just read the item about Timothy Hutton on some page somewhere. I think that’s lovely.

      I will look for a lowering of energy, but from all I’ve read, Hutton embraced this role. He lived on the set in his trailer for the entire season, and William Link talks about how wonderful he was to work with and how seriously he took the whole thing. The TV book writer may have just not liked the portrayal. I’m not a big fan of bumbling detectives, and there’s a LOT of tripping over props here, but when I think of the fact that this quirk most likely went towards L & L’s NEXT Great Detective – Inspector Columbo – I’m willing to cut the boys some slack!

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      • I know Link gets mixed up but of course the bumbling Columbo predates their version of Ellery by at least 7 years (if you only count the Falk iteration). I assume the book is the one by the great Ric Meyers – he overstated the point but the persona adopted by Hutton is a bit passive. I think it works great but Link, Levinson and Fischer made the comments in relation to ratings. And if your yardstick is COLUMBO, KOJAK or BARETTA (or MURDER, SHE WROTE), then it’s easier to see what they mean.

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  6. Great post Brad, so looking forward to reading all of these! I love this show but I agree, they led with one of their weeakest episodes in terms of plotting with AULD. I wonder if they just wanted to focus on the characters to launch the show? I can see the logic in that. I love the bit when Ellery finally arrives and the Inspector takes him aside to explain things but we hear none of it! Worth pointing out that Fischer wrote the teleplay on this one, from a story plotted with L&L and credited to all three. Not sue we can really refer to it being an early Collins TV role – she was in STAR TREK 8 years earlier in perhaps the best episode of the show, “City on the Edge of Forever”.

    LEAP is much stronger on story, definitely. I love the 7 episodes featuring Simon Brimmer, a wonderful creation beautifully played by Hillerman. Can’t believe you failed to mention that Craig Stevens had been the star of PETER GUNN! Love that show. He was an OK Nick Charles too as I recall…

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    • I will concede to fans of the execrably written and plotted DYNASTY that Joan Collins made a good 80’s vixen (and I stress the decade because I think she needed those padded shoulders). However, “City on the Edge of Forever” showed what a great tragic heroine she could be. Being European, you must have a far better grasp of the roles JC played in Great Britain, but I think she was more “good girl” than “bad” there, right? Oh, and I agree with you about CotEoF being perhaps Star Trek‘s best episode. Every main character is at their best here, and the employment of the soon-to-become well-worn trope of time travel/butterfly effect was beautifully utilized.

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      • I am a huge Harlan Ellison fan, so that helps (though his script did get rewritten quite a lot). You make a great point about her bad girl persona, which after a few Femme Fatale and shady dames only really kicked in during the late 1970s, when she did the two adaptations of her sister’s “bonkbusters” THE STUD and THE BITCH – her sexy moll is the best thing about Michael Winner’s THE BIG SLEEP, made at around the same time.

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      • We should also not forget Joan Collins’s musical role in her then-husband Anthony Newley’s film Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (She has a featured song in it, and he has his back to the camera, yet he contrives to upstage her by dint of being naked.) It’s never been released on home video, and anyone who’s seen it (like me) will know why.

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          • Well, Anthony Newley wrote “Goldfinger”. And he also created the rather brilliant TV series, The Strange World of Gurney Slade. Which is brilliant. So good I need to say it twice. It’s pomo, psychedelic, and The Prisoner before The Prisoner.

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      • Joan Collins did lots of horror movies in the 70s (including for Hammer) but mostly playing sympathetic characters.

        If you want to see her doing the tragic heroine bit in an earlier role seek out the very underrated 1970 science fiction movie Quest for Love. It’s both genuine (if unconventional) sci-fi and a love story. She’s excellent.

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  7. One thing I don’t think you mentioned about Lover’s Leap (which is also true with one or two other episodes) is that the surnames of all the suspects in the episode (Marsh, Chandler, Talbot, Kendrick, Latimer) are names of famous mystery writers. I hesitate to mention it myself, because it’s the kind of thing that others make a big deal of and, while cute, i don’t consider really all that clever. After all, what does it take to find a few mystery writers’ names, and name your characters after them? But I can’t deny its fun.

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    • I was just listening to an episode of Terror at Collinwood, my favorite podcast about Dark Shadows where writer/producer (of other shows like Party of Five and The Wonder Years), who is a consummate DS fan and wants to launch a reboot, was talking about how, when he wrote the series Revenge, he would name characters after DS characters. So I don’t mind a good homage here and there. I wouldn’t call it clever either, just . . . loving. Levinson and Link met over their shared love of authors like these and wanted to honor them.

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  8. I love that you are doing these reviews, Brad. I love the Ellery Queen tv show–it was my first introduction to the character. My memories of watching these when they aired are so huge that I was astounded when I finally got my hands on the complete series on DVD to find that it ran for so little time. Jim Hutton was amazing. But I have to say…I have no time for the Simon Brimmer character. He annoys me to no end.

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    • I think he annoyed me at first too, Bev, but I like the use of that “annoying, smart-but-not-smart-enough competitor” trope. At least, they did not overuse the character.

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        • I’ve GOT to track that book down. My memory is that Simon was more or less forced on them by the network — the idea was to have an “ongoing adversary” or some such. (The way that notes from the network always want increase the stakes or the jeopardy, etc.)

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          • That’s not in either of the books by Ric Meyers. I have not heard that Brimmer was added due to any network interference – he’s in the pilot, as I see it, of course just as a foil to up the ante of the investigation but also at least in part to acknowledge that the TV show owed more to the 1940s Radio iteration of Ellery than that of the novels or short stories. What Levinson and Link did say in their book STAY TUNED was that they resisted pressure to make the show harder and less comedic; Fischer (in his autobiography) did say was that they started using Flanagan (who appears 5 times) rather than Brimmer (8 times, if you include the TV Movie / pilot) more and more as a foil as it was so much harder to come up with two solutions every week) 🙂

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      • I like the fact that Simon’s solutions, while wrong, really do usually make sense. He’s a good detective with a logical mind but it’s his misfortune to be pitted against a better detective. I usually end up feeling a bit sorry for Simon.

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  9. Also in the cast of Lover’s Leap was the movies Henry Aldrich, Jimmy Lydon (who was also in the pilot Too Many Suspect). He made his first film in 1939, and is also probably among the very few members of that episode still with us.

    Incidentally, today we lost a cast member from one of the later episodes (The Adventure of the Wary Witness) TV’s equivalent of Henry Aldrich… Dobie Gillis. RIP Dwayne Hickman.

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  10. Yes – I agree that the first episode is one of the weaker ones (another poorly done dying clue), but come on … the characters are all on point and wonderfully over the top from a menacing Thayer David to a slimy David Doyle to a pre-Alexis vampy version of Joan Collins (who I agree was brilliant in one of the best original Star Trek episodes ever, City on the Edge of Forever). How is it that the puzzle can be weak and I still enjoy watching 🙂

    Right off to re-watch episode 2 soon.

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