77 SUNSET STRIP ran from 1958 to 1964. It starred Efrem Zimbalist jr., Roger Smith as partners in a detective agency, and Edd Byrnes as the valet parking attendant,’Cookie’ – Byrnes became so popular with audiences, he joined the duo in their P.I. business by the third series.
During the six year run of the series, it became like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Hollywood actors.
Some appeared in more than one episode – Julie Adams, Richard Conte and Burgess Meredith turned up in five episodes;
Robert Lowery and Tristram Coffin, in four;
Jerome Cowan , Ray Teal, Lloyd Nolan, Jay Adler, Ted de Corsia each made three appearances over the series.
So many other famous faces made the journey to the Strip just once – Percy Helton, Roy Barcroft, Linda Darnell, Kent Smith, Elisha Cook, Lee Patrick, Joseph Cotten, Steve Brodie , Fay Wray, Marie Windsor, Preston Foster.
I guess the TV work supplemented the diminishing roles in movies.
Makes me want to catch the whole series again.
Directors for the series also came from the big screen – Ida Lupino, Andre de Toth, Vincent Sherman ,Robert Douglas and Marc Lawrence.
Edd and Connie Stevens had a hit record with “Cookie, Cookie, Lend me Your Comb”.
By 1963 the show’s ratings were down and Jack Webb came on board as executive producer to revamp it, with William Conrad as director/producer. (William Conrad (1920-1994) had started directing on TV in 1958).
There was no continuity to the previous seasons – Efrem Zimbalist’s ‘Stu Bailey’ became a one man detective agency and the tone of the show became darker. Roger Smith and Edd Byrnes were gone with no explanation. The catchy theme tune by Mack David and Jerry Livingston was also missing.
It was a different show altogether and retaining the title of 77 Sunset Strip didn’t make sense.
But I would like to see the beginning of the final 6th season because it was a five-episode story arc, simply called “Five”, all directed by William Conrad, and with an amazing cast list.
The plot of the five episodes involves an investigation into the life of the late ‘Andy Marion’ at the request of his brother (played by Burgess Meredith).
’Stu Bailey’ supposedly travels all over Europe, meeting all the interesting cast members . Of course he never leaves the Warner Brothers lot aside from some locations in New York.
Luther Adler, Gene Nelson.
Cesar Romero, Lloyd Nolan
Keenan and Ed Wynn, George E. Stone
Burgess Meredith, Joseph Schildkraut, Walter Slezak
Herbert Marshall, Peter Lorre, Richard Conte.
Amazingly, Warner Archive never released it on DVD. The pilot episode in 1958 was entitled “GIRL ON THE RUN”, which starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr; Erin O’Brien and Edward Byrnes, who played a psychopathic killer in this first episode. Warners released it to cinemas in the UK as the support to “THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA”, starring Spencer Tracy…a programme I went to see as a 12 year old early in 1959 and I was really gone on Erin O’Brien. In the parlance of the time, she sent me.
. I checked Amazon and there is in fact dvds of a dubbed German version of some episodes .
Interesting that Byrnes should play a killer in the pilot.
Vienna, enjoyed your good write-up of one of my favorite tv shows, as a youngster. I first remember viewing 77 SUNSET STRIP in syndicated reruns on WMCT Channel 5 Memphis, Tennessee in 1964-65. Too me, it was the coolest detective series on tv and there were some good ones at the time. I recall one episode “The Silent Caper,” which originally aired on 6/3/60. There was no dialogue spoken during the entire episode. There was sound and a Jazzy music score. Roger Smith, who portrayed detective Jeff Spencer on the series, wrote the teleplay and George Waggner(THE WOLF MAN, 1941) directed it.
Stuart Bailey(Efrem Zimbalist), Jeff Spencer(Roger Smith), Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson III(Edd Byrnes), Suzanne Fabry(Jacqueline Beer), and Pete Roscoe(Louis Quinn) were the regular cast members the first tv season.
Glad you’re a fan, Walter. I watched it way back too. It really deserves a dvd release or a showing online.
Vienna, I agree about 77 SUNSET STRIP(1958-64) deserving a quality Blu-ray and DVD release, or being streamed. There are dvd’s out there, but the quality is questionable and they are high priced on eBay. It was the hip tv series that ushered in the cool detective phase of late 1950’s and early 1960’s tv. Because of its success, Warner Bros. trotted out the clones: HAWAIIAN EYE(1959-63), BOURBON STREET BEAT(1959-60), and SURFSIDE 6(1960-62). These are good shows, which HAWAIIAN EYE was the better, and I liked it. Although, they couldn’t match 77 SUNSET STRIP.
Of the three you mentioned, Walter, I remember enjoying Hawaiian Eye.
I remember enjoying Hawaiian Eye.
Another series of which I have only dim memories but I do remember that I liked it.
Hawaiian Eye needs a DVD or Blu-Ray release as well.
I have very very dim memories of seeing this series as a kid. I love the TV of that era, especially the private eye shows, and 77 Sunset Strip is on my list of shows I desperately desperately want to be able to watch on DVD.
Yes, a great era for private eye shows. I also liked ‘The Untouchables’.
If we’re talking totally forgotten private eye series of that era, what about CORONADO 9? Set in San Diego which just seems to be a city created specifically to serve as a setting for a PI series. It’s not that bad a series and it is on DVD.
I see there are some episodes of this show on You Tube. Didn’t know Rod Cameron was the star.