Peter Gunn (TV Series 1958–1961)

TVSeries


Peter Gunn (TV Series 1958–1961)

Filmed in a film noir atmosphere and featuring Henry Mancini music that could tell you the action with your eyes closed, Peter Gunn worked in style. Known as Pete to his friends and simply as Gunn to his enemies, he did his job in a calm cool way. He got his tips and cautions from Lieutenant Jacoby, a coffee drinking pal from the police. Also providing tips was "Mother" of her self-titled nightclub. Working at the nightclub as a singer was Edie Hart, his girlfriend.
USA
IMDb   8.0 /10
TheMovieDb    8.0 /10
RottenTomatoes
FilmAffinity   5.9 /10
Creators
Creator Blake Edwards
Information
Release Date1958-09-22
Runtime30mins
GenreAction, Crime, Drama, Mystery
Content RatingTV-14 (TV-14)
AwardsNominated for 8 Primetime Emmys. Another 3 nominations.
CompanySpartan Productions
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish
Peter Gunn 114 episodes, 1958-1961
Lieutenant Jacoby / ... 102 episodes, 1958-1961
Edie Hart 84 episodes, 1958-1961

Peter Gunn

Peter Gunn is an American private eye television series, starring Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn with Lola Albright as his girlfriend Edie Hart. The series aired on NBC from September 22, 1958, to 1960 and on ABC in 1960–1961. The series was created by Blake Edwards, who, on occasion, was also writer (for 39 episodes) and director (for nine episodes).

Peter Gunn is notable for being the first televised detective program whose character was created for television, instead of adapted from other media.

The series is probably best remembered today for its music, including the "Peter Gunn Theme", which was nominated for an Emmy Award and two Grammys for Henry Mancini. Subsequently it was performed and recorded by many jazz, rock and blues musicians. Notably, the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded the song adding synthesizers. The series was number 17 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1958–1959 TV season and number 29 for the 1960-61 TV season.


Plot

Peter Gunn is a well-dressed private investigator whose hair is always in place and who loves cool jazz. Where other gumshoes might be coarse, Peter Gunn is a sophisticate with expensive tastes. A contemporary article in Life noted that Edwards "deliberately tailored the part after the famous movie smoothie Cary Grant".

Gunn operates in a gloomy waterfront city, the name and location of which is never revealed in the series. He can usually be found at Mother's, a smokey wharfside jazz club that Gunn uses as his "office", usually meeting new clients there. Gunn has a reputation for integrity and being among the best investigators; he has many reliable informants and is extremely well-connected. His reputation is so good, the police occasionally ask him for help or advice. He sometimes works cases out of state and occasionally out of the country. Gunn was observed by a female character named Rowena in "Murder on the Midway" as "wearing $30 shoes, a $200 suit and carrying a solid gold cigarette lighter". Gunn drives a 1958 two-tone DeSoto two-door hardtop in the first few episodes of the first season, then a 1959 Plymouth Fury convertible with a white top and a car phone. In the third season Gunn drives a 1960 white Plymouth Fury convertible with a car phone, later changing to a 1961 Plymouth Fury convertible.

Gunn's girlfriend, Edie Hart, is a sultry singer employed at Mother's; she opens her own restaurant and nightclub in season 3, named Edie's. Gunn's pet name for Edie is "Silly". Herschel Bernardi costarred as Lieutenant Jacoby, a somber police detective and friend of Gunn who works at the 13th Precinct. Occasionally he refers people to Gunn as clients. In 1959, Bernardi received his only Emmy nomination for the role. Hope Emerson appeared as "Mother", who had been a singer and piano player in speakeasies during Prohibition. She received an Emmy nomination for the role. For the second season, "Mother" was played by Minerva Urecal, following the death of Emerson during the series' run. Associate producer Byron Kane portrayed Barney, the bartender at Mother's; Kane was never credited for playing this role. Bill Chadney appeared as Emmett, Mother's piano player. (Chadney and Albright were married in 1961.)

Both Billy Barty as pool hustler Babby and Herbert Ellis as Beat bistro owner, painter, and sculptor Wilbur, appeared in several episodes as occasional "information resources", as "Mother" also often is. Capri Candela played Wilbur's girlfriend, Capri. Morris Erby had the recurring role of Sgt. Lee Davis during all three seasons of the show. Frequent director Robert Gist appeared as an actor in different roles in three episodes. James Lanphier portrayed Leslie the maitre d'hôtel at Edie's restaurant and nightclub during season 3.


Cast

  • Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn
  • Lola Albright as Edie Hart, a lounge singer and Pete's girlfriend
  • Herschel Bernardi as Lieutenant Jacoby, a police detective and friend of Gunn
  • Hope Emerson as "Mother", a singer and piano player in speakeasies during Prohibition (Season 1)
  • Minerva Urecal as "Mother" (Season 2)
  • Byron Kane (uncredited) as Barney, the bartender
  • Bill Chadney as Emmett, the piano player at Mother's
  • Billy Barty as Babby, a pool hustler
  • Herbert Ellis as Wilbur, beat bistro owner, painter, and sculptor
  • Capri Candela as Capri, Wilbur's girlfriend
  • Morris Erby as police Sgt. Lee Davis (seasons 1-3)
  • James Lanphier as Leslie, maître d' (season 3)

Frequent director Robert Gist appeared as an actor in different roles in three episodes.


Episodes

SeasonNetworkEpisodesPremiered:Ended:
1NBC38September 22, 1958June 15, 1959
2NBC38September 21, 1959June 27, 1960
3ABC38October 3, 1960September 18, 1961

Peter Gunn ran for three seasons starting in late 1958. A total of 114 episodes were produced during the three season run. Peter Gunn premiered on September 22, 1958 with the episode The Kill. The first season ran from September 1958 through June 1959 and contained 38 episodes.


Origin of series

Edwards developed Peter Gunn from an earlier fictional detective that he had created. Richard Diamond, Private Detective starred Dick Powell, and aired as a radio series from 1949 to 1953. David Janssen later starred in the television adaptation from 1957 to 1960. It was this character's success which prompted his creator to revisit the concept as Peter Gunn. Edwards had earlier written and directed a Mike Hammer television pilot for Brian Keith.

According to Blake Edwards, Gunn was “a present-day soldier of fortune who has found himself a gimmick that pays him a very comfortable living. The gimmick was trouble. People who had major trouble will pay handsomely to get rid of it, and Peter Gunn was a man who will not only accept the pay but do something about it. He knows every element of the city, from cops to crooks. He also, of course, has his soft side and will occasionally take on a charity job for free.”

“But,” said Edwards emphatically, “we’ll never make the mistake of letting her catch him. Never.”

For the part of Edie, Edwards said, “We toyed at first with the idea of getting a name singer. But we soon realized it would be impractical to have a name singer cast in what is primarily a straight dramatic role. It wouldn’t be fair, either to the singer or the audience. Once that idea was discarded, my first thought was Lola Albright. Lola had been going along well but not terribly well, if you know what I mean. But I’d always felt she had a potential that had never really been tapped. She’s sort of two beats off center in the way she talks and sings, and that’s what we were looking for.”

Henry Mancini said in 1992, “She was perfect casting for that role because she had an off-the-cuff kind of jazz delivery that was very hard to find.”

Lola Albright said, "My whole career had been sort of ordinary. Peter Gunn changed all that." Lola said that Blake Edwards had her in mind from the outset, "But he had no idea I could sing. I had just recorded my first album."

In a 1993 interview which can be found at Youtube.com, Craig Stevens talks about how he and co-star Lola Albright were hired for the show. (See below in External Links.)

Initial plans called for the title of the program to be Gunn for Hire. The change to Peter Gunn occurred after officials at Paramount Pictures complained that the title was similar to that of the 1942 Paramount film This Gun for Hire.


Production

Besides those directed by Blake Edwards, other episodes were directed by Boris Sagal, Robert Gist, Jack Arnold, Lamont Johnson, Robert Altman (for one episode) and several others. A total of 114 thirty-minute episodes were produced by Spartan Productions. Season one was filmed at Universal Studios, while seasons two and three were filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Philip H. Lathrop and William W. Spencer were cinematographers on many episodes. Craig Stevens' wardrobe was tailored by Don Richards and Lola Albright's fashions by Emeson's for 2 episodes (The Vicious Dog, The Blind Pianist) and by Jax for the remainder of the episodes. Wardrobe was not credited in episode 1, The Kill.


Music

The show's use of modern jazz music was a distinctive touch that helped set the standard for many years to come, with cool jazz themes accompanying every move Gunn made. The music, composed by Henry Mancini, was performed by a small jazz ensemble which included a number of prominent Los Angeles-based jazz and studio musicians. Trumpeter Pete Candoli, alto saxophonist Ted Nash, flutist Ronny Lang, trombonist Dick Nash, and pianist and future composer John Williams provided most of the improvised jazz solos. Williams plays the piano part on the title music ostinato.

Prominent jazz musicians occasionally made on-screen appearances. Trumpeter Shorty Rogers appeared in the episode titled "The Frog" playing flugelhorn as Lola sings "How High the Moon". Drummer Shelly Manne, in addition to performing on the soundtrack album, was credited with a Special Guest role in the 1959 episode "Keep Smiling" playing drums in the "Bamboo Club" combo. Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida plays guitar as himself in the 1959 episode "Skin Deep".

In his autobiography Did They Mention the Music? Mancini stated:

The Peter Gunn title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz. I used guitar and piano in unison, playing what is known in music as an ostinato, which means obstinate. It was sustained throughout the piece, giving it a sinister effect, with some frightened saxophone sounds and some shouting brass. The piece has one chord throughout and a super-simple top line.

The "Peter Gunn Theme" became an instant hit, earning Mancini an Emmy Award nomination and two Grammys. The RCA Victor soundtrack album by Henry Mancini, The Music from Peter Gunn, was voted Album of the Year at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards in 1959 and reached No. 1 in Billboard's Pop LP Charts. The popularity of this album prompted RCA Victor to issue a second Mancini album of Peter Gunn music titled More Music from Peter Gunn. Bandleader Ray Anthony's recording of the theme music reached No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100. Shelly Manne recorded two jazz albums of themes from the show in 1959, Shelly Manne & His Men Play Peter Gunn and Son of Gunn!!.

"The Peter Gunn Theme" has been recorded and performed by numerous musicians. Sheet music of the theme can still be purchased. Today, many people who have never seen the TV show can easily identify the theme.

In 2019 Jasmine Records released a CD combining both Henry Mancini soundtracks of "The Music of Peter Gunn" and "More Music from Peter Gunn".

The theme was also used in the Spy Hunter arcade video game, and has been used by the Kilgore College Rangerettes as the tryout music for their specialty jazz group since the 1960s.

Selected songs from the series

Song TitleSeason of First AppearanceEpisode Number of First AppearanceEpisode Title of First AppearanceAdditional Episodes and Notes
Peter Gunn Theme11The KillAccompanies the beginning and ending credits of each episode.
Brief and Breezy11The KillAlso appears in "Murder on the Midway" (Season 1, Episode 19), "The Coffin" (Season 1, Episode 37, sung with lyrics), "The Portrait" (Season 1, Episode 38), "The Rifle" (Season 2, Episode 9), "Death Watch" (Season 2, Episode 30), "Send a Thief" (Season 2, Episode 33), and "Come Dance With Me And Die" (Season 3, Episode 24).
Slow and Easy11The KillAlso appears in "Image of Sally" (Season 1, Episode 9), "Murder on the Midway" (Season 1, Episode 19), "The Ugly Frame" (Season 1, Episode 24), "The Lederer Story" (Season 1, Episode 25, solo piano version), "Keep Smiling" (Season 1, Episode 26), "The Coffin" (Season 1, Episode 37), "Protection" (Season 2, Episode 1), "Edge of the Knife" (Season 2, Episode 3, solo piano version), "Death is a Red Rose" (Season 2, Episode 5), and "The Price is Murder" (Season 2, Episode 11, sung with lyrics), "The Hunt" (Season 2, Episode 21), "The Long, Long Ride" (Season 2, Episode 24), "The Deadly Proposition" (Season 2, Episode 25), "The Dummy" (Season 2, Episode 27), "Witness in the Window" (Season 2, Episode 31), "Send a Thief" (Season 2, Episode 33), "The Heiress" (Season 2, Episode 37), "Cry Love, Cry Murder" (Season 3, Episode 25), "The Most Deadly Angel" (Season 3, Episode 29), and "Deadly Intrusion" (Season 3, Episode 35).
The Floater13The Vicious DogAlso appears in "Murder on the Midway" (Season 1, Episode 19), "Scuba" (Season 1, Episode 21), "The Ugly Frame" (Season 1, Episode 24), "Keep Smiling" (Season 1, Episode 26), "Hot Money" (Season 2, Episode 15), "Hollywood Calling" (Season 2, Episode 22), "Wings of an Angel" (Season 2, Episode 29), "Send a Thief" (Season 2, Episode 33), "The Maître D'" (Season 3, Episode 3), "The Judgement" (Season 3, Episode 5), "The Death Frame" (Season 3, Episode 6), "Sepi" (Season 3, Episode 12), and "Portrait in Leather" (Season 3, Episode 23).
Soft Sounds13The Vicious DogAlso appears in "Image of Sally" (Season 1, Episode 9), "The Leaper" (Season 1, Episode 15), "Pecos Pete" (Season 1, Episode 20, solo piano version), "The Dirty Word" (Season 1, Episode 23), and "The Feathered Doll" (Season 2, Episode 7).
Fallout!13The Vicious DogAlthough the bass line of this song is heard at the opening of most Peter Gunn episodes beginning with "The Kill" (Season 1, Episode 1), the melody is not featured until "The Vicious Dog" (Season 1, Episode 3).
A Profound Gass14The Blind PianistAlso appears in "Image of Sally" (Season 1, Episode 9), "The Ugly Frame" (Season 1, Episode 24), "The Game" (Season 2, Episode 10, solo piano version), "Letter to the Law" (Season 2, Episode 35), and "Murder on the Line" (Season 3, Episode 38).
Joanna16The Chinese HangmanAlso appears in "February Girl" (Season 1, Episode 30, solo piano version), "Lady Wind Bell's Fan" (Season 1, Episode 33, solo piano version), "The Comic" (Season 2, Episode 4), "Letter to the Law" (Season 2, Episode 35, solo piano version), "Take Five for Murder" (Season 3, Episode 10), "Dream Big, Dream Deadly" (Season 3, Episode 11), "The Deep End" (Season 3, Episode 22), "Portrait in Leather" (Season 3, Episode 23), "Short Motive" (Season 3, Episode 27), and "Down the Drain" (Season 3, Episode 37).
Not from Dixie18Rough BuckAlso appears in "The Ugly Frame" (Season 1, Episode 24), "Death is a Red Rose" (Season 2, Episode 5), "Hot Money" (Season 2, Episode 15), "The Semi-Private Eye" (Season 2, Episode 34), "A Penny Saved" (Season 3, Episode 26), "The Most Deadly Angel" (Season 3, Episode 29), and "Death is a Four Letter Word" (Season 3, Episode 34).
The Little Man Theme110The Man with a ScarAlso appears in "The Ugly Frame" (Season 1, Episode 24), "The Portrait" (Season 1, Episode 38), "Send a Thief" (Season 2, Episode 33), "Baby Shoes" (Season 2, Episode 38), "Blind Item" (Season 3, Episode 17), and "A Kill and a Half" (Season 3, Episode 20).
A Quiet Gass110The Man with a ScarAlso appears in "February Girl" (Season 1, Episode 30), "Bullet for a Badge" (Season 1, Episode 35), "Vendetta" (Season 1, Episode 36), "The Portrait" (Season 1, Episode 38), "The Rifle" (Season 2, Episode 9), "Sentenced" (Season 2, Episode 20), "The Maître D'" (Season 3, Episode 3), "Sepi" (Season 3, Episode 12), "Portrait in Leather" (Season 3, Episode 23), "Till Death Do Us Part" (Season 3, Episode 30), and "Voodoo" (Season 3, Episode 36).
The Brothers Go to Mother's111Death House TestamentAlso appears in "Scuba" (Season 1, Episode 21), "The Lederer Story" (Season 1, Episode 25), "The Family Affair" (Season 1, Episode 32), "Kidnap" (Season 2, Episode 8, solo piano version), "Down the Drain" (Season 3, Episode 37), and "Murder on the Line" (Season 3, Episode 38).
Spook!111Death House TestamentAlso appears in "The Dummy" (Season 2, Episode 27).
Blues for Mother's112The TorchAlso appears in "Edie Finds a Corpse" (Season 1, Episode 22), "Breakout" (Season 1, Episode 27), "February Girl" (Season 1, Episode 30, solo piano version), "February Girl" (Season 1, Episode 30), "Crisscross" (Season 2, Episode 2, solo piano version), "The Grudge" (Season 2, Episode 17, solo piano version), "Sentenced" (Season 2, Episode 20), "The Murder Clause" (Season 2, Episode 26, solo piano version), "The Candidate" (Season 3, Episode 4), "Death Across the Board" (Season 3, Episode 07, solo piano version), "The Long Green Kill" (Season 3, Episode 9, solo piano version), and "The Royal Roust" (Season 3, Episode 14, solo piano version).
Blue Steel113The JockeyAlso appears in "The Lederer Story" (Season 1, Episode 25) and "The Portrait" (Season 1, Episode 38).
Timothy117Let's Kill Timothy
Sorta Blue121ScubaAlso appears in "The Ugly Frame" (Season 1, Episode 24), "The Feathered Doll" (Season 2, Episode 7, sung with lyrics), "The Game" (Season 2, Episode 10), "Letter to the Law" (Season 2, Episode 35), and "A Penny Saved" (Season 3, Episode 26).
Odd Ball122Edie Finds a Corpse
My Manne Shelly126Keep SmilingThe title of the song is a pun on the name of the drummer Shelly Manne.
Session at Pete's Pad131Love Me to DeathIn its first appearances in "Love Me to Death" (Season 1, Episode 31), "Bullet for a Badge" (Season 1, Episode 34), and "The Rifle" (Season 2, Episode 9), this composition is performed in the form of a song (with lyrics) called "Straight to Baby" (as it is titled in Lola Albright's 1959 album "Dreamsville").
Goofin' at the Coffee House131Love Me to DeathAlso appears in "The Family Affair", "The Portrait" (Season 1, Episode 38), and (Season 1, Episode 32), "Crisscross" (Season 2, Episode 2), "Kidnap" (Season 2, Episode 8), "The Wolfe Case" (Season 2, Episode 14), "Hollywood Calling" (Season 2, Episode 22), "Witness in the Window" (Season 2, Episode 31), "The Semi-Private Eye" (Season 2, Episode 34), "Dream Big, Dream Deadly" (Season 3, Episode 11), "Bullet in Escrow" (Season 3, Episode 15), "A Penny Saved" (Season 3, Episode 26), and "The Murder Bond" (Season 3, Episode 28, sung with words).
Lightly131Love Me to DeathAlso appears in "Bullet for a Badge" (Season 1, Episode 34), "The Feathered Doll" (Season 2, Episode 7), "Slight Touch of Homicide" (Season 2, Episode 28), "The Heiress" (Season 2, Episode 37), "The Judgement" (Season 3, Episode 5), "Bullet in Escrow" (Season 3, Episode 15), A Penny Saved (Season 3, Episode 26), and "Voodoo" (Season 3, Episode 36).
Dreamsville134Bullet for a BadgeAlthough the opening piano introduction is heard in "Bullet for a Badge" (Season 1, Episode 34), the primary melody is not heard until "Kidnap" (Season 2, Episode 8). Also appears in "Spell of Murder" (Season 2, Episode 16), "The Deadly Proposition" (Season 2, Episode 25), "The Murder Clause" (Season 2, Episode 26), "The Semi-Private Eye" (Season 2, Episode 34), "Baby Shoes" (Season 2, Episode 38), "The Passenger" (Season 3, Episode 1), "A Kill and a Half" (Season 3, Episode 20), "The Deep End" (Season 3, Episode 22), and "Voodoo" (Season 3, Episode 36).
Walkin' Bass231Witness in the Window

Emmy nominations

The series was nominated for 8 prime time Emmys without wins, all in 1959. They were for Best Dramatic Series - Less than One Hour, Craig Stevens as best lead actor in a drama, Herschel Bernardi as best supporting actor in a drama, Lola Albright and Hope Emerson as best supporting actress in a drama, Henry Mancini for best musical contribution to a television production, and Blake Edwards for best writing and direction of a single episode of a drama series.


Adaptations

The series made the transition to other media. An original novel and a comic book adaptation were published by Dell Publishing in 1960. The novel, entitled "Peter Gunn: Murder to a Jazz Beat", was written by Henry Kane. The 4-color comic book was Dell #1087, entitled "Peter Gunn", and had a photo cover with an introduction which said, "Pete tries to stop a postage stamp counterfeiter and gets a parcel of trouble - special delivery!" Lowell Toy Mfg. produced the "Peter Gunn Detective Game", a board game in 1960.

A feature film, Gunn, was released by Paramount Pictures in 1967, scripted by Edwards and William Peter Blatty and directed by Edwards with Stevens reprising the title role. A long-gestating ABC 90-minute pilot, Peter Gunn aired in April 1989 with Peter Strauss in the lead role that was written, produced, and directed by Edwards, but the network failed to order a series despite strong ratings and reviews.

In 2001, Edwards and his son, Geoffrey, joined with producers Jeffrey Tinnell and John Michaels and writer Norman Snider in developing an updated television series, The New Peter Gunn for Muse Entertainment in Canada. The project fell through when producers John Woo and David Permut began developing a big screen remake for Paramount with screenwriter W. Peter Iliff. Once Upon a Time in L.A. was pitched as a possible vehicle for John Travolta or Harrison Ford. Neither revival made it beyond the script stage.

TNT announced a new series was in development in May 2013 from producers Steven Spielberg, Julie Andrews, Lou Pitt, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank with writers Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, and André Nemec. The proposed series was not picked up for the 2014–2015 season.

In 2017, Paramount renewed its agreement with The Blake Edwards Estate with the intent of developing the property.


Home media

From 1992 to 1996, Rhino Entertainment released various episodes of Peter Gunn on VHS cassettes. In 1999, Diamond Entertainment Corporation released a five-cassette set comprising ten episodes. Marathon Music & Video released a seven-cassette box set set entitled "TV Cops and Private Eyes", in which an episode of Peter Gunn was included.

In 2002, A&E Home Video released two volume sets of Peter Gunn on DVD in Region 1, which comprise 32 episodes from Season One.

Timeless Media Group released Peter Gunn – The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 in 2012. The 12-disc set features all 114 episodes of the series, as well as a bonus CD of Henry Mancini's score, The Music from Peter Gunn