Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Amos Burke

From the bloggers signing themselves The Clones on IMDB:

"TV actors, at least in the old days when they were placed in a separate class from movie actors, often seemed to be clones of their movie brethren.... There were a whole selection of Clark Gables, including John Russell, Rory Calhoun, Richard Egan , Robert Lowery and others. There were plenty of Brandos, including Burt Reynolds, George Maharis and John Saxon. There were enough Rock Hudsons to fill a theater, with John Gavin, Tom Tryon and Gardner McKay coming immediately to mind.


"Perhaps the most successful strain, however were the Cary Grants. Grant made an ideal model for the suave detective hero, able to be charming or tough as the occasion demanded. Craig Stevens was hired to play Peter Gunn specifically because of a strong resemblance to Grant. His tightlipped performance was not really very charming but it's surely how Cary would have played that character. Latern-jawed John Vivyan played a role that Grant had actually essayed in the movies, Mr. Lucky. He was competent at best. The heroes of the Warner Brother's detective shows were largely based on Cary Grant. Ephram Zimbelist Jr.'s Stu Bailey was a grant-style role with a lot more charm than Peter Gunn. Richard Long's Rex Randolph on Bourbon Street Beat was much the same. Anthony Eisley's Tracy Steele was a less convincing version of the same character on Hawaiian Eye.

"But the best of the Grant clones was Gene Barry. He was male-model handsome, had good breeding and seductive whiskey voice. He was also TV's greatest reactors. He had a series of comic takes that was perfect for Amos Burke, who had to confront an unending series of eccentric subjects. Yet he could turn around and romance the ladies or get tough with the tough guys. And he was a good enough actor to hold up his end when the heavy dramatics intervened."

Ed here: I watched two episodes of Burke's Law on American Family Network over the weekend and it brought back memories of all those wonderfully silly days when Warner Brothers Television ruled the black and white world. (Though Burke wasn't Warners.)

And you couldn't get any sillier than Burke's Law. A slick dude who shows up to the crime scene in a Rolls-Royce? With an assistant hunk who's a brainiac? And a rumpled old-style cop who makes Fred Thompson look lively?

The gimmick was that all the suspects were played by actors on the way up or on the way down. And the parts offered the players enough comic scenery to chew on for months after the wrap. My favorite this weekend was Wally Cox who was or wasn't a vampire and who was driven everywhere in a hearse. But Frankie Avallone was surrpisingly good as a method sports reporter--he didn;t just report on horses; he BECAME the horses. There was a beatnik-type in both episodes and you could write the dialogue at home. Hey, Daddy, lemme play them bongos. Jack Kerouac by way of Maynard G. Krebs.

Every episode ends with babe of the moment either pouring Amos champagne or beckoning him hither. For the sake of the censors hither usually seemed to mean getting another crime call and schlepping to the scene in his chauffeur driven Rolls.

If I'm not mistaken that's how the Chief of Police in Cedar Rapids gets around.

1 comment:

Cap'n Bob said...

Ken Levine's excellent blog recently did a take on Burke's Law and Gene Barry. It would make a great companion piece to this.