Ellery Queen (TV series)
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Main title design: Jack Cole & N. Lee Lacy
|Created by||Richard Levinson
|Theme music composer||Elmer Bernstein|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||22 (23 with pilot)|
|Executive producer(s)||Richard Levinson
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Fairmount/Foxcroft Productions
Tom Ward Enterprises
|Original release||September 11, 1975– April 4, 1976|
Ellery Queen is an American television detective mystery series based on the fictional character Ellery Queen. It aired on NBC during the 1975–76 television season and stars Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen, David Wayne as his father, Inspector Richard Queen, and Tom Reese as Sgt. Velie. Created by the writing/producing team of Richard Levinson and William Link (Mannix, Columbo, and Murder, She Wrote), the title character "breaks" the fourth wall to ask the audience to consider their solution.
A pilot for the series premiered on March 23, 1975, with the made-for-TV movie Ellery Queen (also titled "Too Many Suspects"), adapted from the 1965 Ellery Queen novel The Fourth Side of the Triangle. A total of 22 episodes followed in the show's single season. The theme music was by Elmer Bernstein. The last episode aired on April 4, 1976.
Set in post-World War II New York City, the show closely followed the format of early Ellery Queen mystery novels where, before presenting the solution, a "Challenge To The Reader" was issued: the reader was challenged to guess the solution to the crime. In the series this tradition was followed by having Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton) "break the fourth wall," reviewing key clues and asking the audience if they knew the solution.
The final act always used the time-honored detective cliché of calling together all the suspects, with Ellery Queen presenting the solution (except in one episode where the elder Queen took over) to the group - often disproving the solution proposed by whichever rival sleuth happened to be in that episode.
The series departed from the original in two respects. An element of comedy was added by making the Ellery Queen character slightly physically clumsy, and the character of rival radio detective Simon Brimmer (John Hillerman) was created for the series.
In addition to lead actors Jim Hutton and David Wayne, the series featured several regulars:
- Tom Reese, Inspector Queen's right-hand-man, Sergeant Velie
- John Hillerman, radio detective Simon Brimmer (pilot and 8 episodes)
- Ken Swofford, reporter Frank Flanagan (5 episodes)
- Nina Roman, Grace, Queen's secretary (7 episodes)
- Arch Johnson, Deputy Commissioner Hayes (3 episodes)
- Maggie Nelson, Vera, Flanagan's secretary (3 episodes).
Guest stars, partial list
Richard Schickel, reviewing the series in September 1975, called it "a garage-sale period piece"; he said "the presence of Guy Lombardo, some ancient autos and the oldest of detective story conventions (all suspects are assembled in one room to await the results of the detective's ratiocinations) are supposed to evoke nostalgia. They do not—and the format's stasis is numbing."
In 1979 Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators of the series, won a Special Edgar Award for creating the Columbo and Ellery Queen TV series. Thirty-five years later, David Wiegand, reviewing the series when it was released on DVD, called the show's formula a "completely satisfying guilty pleasure" and asserts the "appeal of the series is that the clues are actually there in the development of each show, and just before the denouement, Ellery breaks the 'fourth wall' and asks if you've figured it out."
List of episodes
|Nº||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|0||"Ellery Queen: Too Many Suspects"||David Greene||Richard Levinson,
|March 23, 1975|
|98-minute pilot: When a famous fashion designer is found murdered, Inspector Richard Queen of the NYPD is baffled by her dying clue (she'd pulled the plugs for her clock and TV set out of the wall at exactly 10:25 PM), prompting him to bring in his son, mystery writer Ellery Queen, to help in the investigation.
Special guest: Ray Milland
|1||"The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne"||David Greene||Peter S. Fischer,
|September 11, 1975|
|Soon after a wealthy industrialist threatens to disinherit family and staff at a New Year's Eve party, he is found murdered in a nearby phone booth by fellow guest Inspector Queen, who calls on son Ellery to help unmask the killer.
Special guest: Joan Collins
|2||"The Adventure of the Lover's Leap"||Charles S. Dubin||Robert Pirosh||September 18, 1975|
|When an heiress is found dead from an apparent suicide, Ellery Queen suspects she was murdered, but the investigation is hindered by interference from radio detective Simon Brimmer.
Special guest: Ida Lupino
|3||"The Adventure of the Chinese Dog"||Ernest Pintoff||Gene Thompson,
Robert van Scoyk
|September 25, 1975|
|A fishing trip for Richard and Ellery Queen soon becomes a working vacation when they are asked to help investigate the murder of a small-town magnate who was whacked over the head with an ornamental dog figurine.
Special guest: Orson Bean
|4||"The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader"||Peter H. Hunt||Robert van Scoyk||October 2, 1975|
|A tyrannical comic book creator is shot to death in his office, and Ellery Queen becomes the prime suspect because of arguments over how he was portrayed in the victim's comics.
Special guest: Donald O'Connor
|5||"The Adventure of the 12th Floor Express"||Jack Arnold||David H. Balkan,
Alan Lynn Folsom
|October 9, 1975|
|Inspector Queen calls in his son Ellery to help investigate the murder of a newspaper publisher, who first disappears from his private express elevator and then is later found there dead by gunshot.
Special guest: Tyler McVey
|6||"The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance"||James Sheldon||Peter S. Fischer,
|October 19, 1975|
|Beloved Vera Bethune stars as Miss Aggie in a radio soap opera, but is about to be written out. One day she drinks water from a jug and is poisoned in a murder attempt. She is taken to the hospital and survives, but the killer returns.
Special guest: Eve Arden
|7||"The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs"||Seymour Robbie||Robert E. Swanson||October 23, 1975|
|Ellery's publicist becomes embroiled in a murder investigation when she finds the body of one of her clients, a World War II spy who recently wrote a tell-all memoir.
Special guest: Robert Loggia
|8||"The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party"||James Sheldon||Frederic Dannay,
Peter S. Fischer,
|October 30, 1975|
|Fun-loving theatrical producer Spencer Lockridge invites Ellery to his mansion for a weekend of working out how to adapt one of Ellery's works for the stage. But the producer disappears shortly thereafter and is presumed murdered. A series of clues are delivered by pranksters' means. The idea is to try to get the killer to implicate himself or herself.
Special guest: Larry Hagman
|9||"The Adventure of Veronica's Veils"||Seymour Robbie||Robert Pirosh||November 13, 1975|
|Burlesque producer Sam Packer is found dead of an apparent heart attack but he leaves behind a video to be shown at his funeral in which he states that, no matter what it looks like, he will have been murdered.
Special guest: George Burns
|10||"The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse"||Seymour Robbie||Rudolph Borchert,
Peter S. Fischer
|December 11, 1975|
|Much-hated museum benefactor Norris Wentworth is found dead in the museum. The autopsy indicates he died of a heart attack, but did he have help in dying? He was let into the museum by somebody and couldn't reach his nitroglycerin medicine, indicating that whoever let him in also intimidated him. An Egyptologist shows up and claims that the piece, a pharaoh's tomb, was stolen from Egypt and vows that a curse has been laid upon the tomb to haunt anyone who robs it.
Special guest: Ross Martin
|11||"The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument"||Ernest Pintoff||Michael Robert David,
Robert van Scoyk
|December 18, 1975|
|Edgar Manning, a mystery writer, wins the annual Blunt Instrument Award for his year's work and goes to pick it up at a party. Ellery, who was Edgar's rival for the award, is sidelined because of a nasty cold. So Edgar gleefully phones Ellery and gives a blow-by-blow description of the award ceremony (including describing the trophy) as he leans back in his easy chair. But the phone call is interrupted by a sickening thud. Ellery calls out to Edgar but gets no response. Cut back to Edgar, who's now face down on his desk. His skull was shattered by... The Blunt Instrument, the trophy itself.
Special guest: Eva Gabor
|12||"The Adventure of the Black Falcon"||Walter Doniger||Marc B. Ray||January 4, 1976|
|Letting a fine wine "breathe" proves deadly for the wine's owner Nick Kingston, who leaves it unattended for a killer to poison it. The vintner, who's hosting a party upstairs, comes back only to collapse. He tries to implicate the killer but breaks the wine cellar's only pencil, so he crawls to a wine rack and grabs a bottle, smashing it on the floor. The shattered bottle bears the label Black Falcon, indicating it was tied to World War One. But how?
Special guest: Tab Hunter
|13||"The Adventure of the Sunday Punch"||Seymour Robbie||Larry Alexander||January 11, 1976|
|During a practice bout, a lucky shot knocks champion boxer Kid Hogan unconscious. He revives enough to sip some water from his manager's "swill bottle," then falls comatose and is soon pronounced dead. An autopsy reveals he was poisoned, and the "swill bottle" was loaded with poison. The manager is strongly implicated, but so is the opponent Joe Simpson.
Special guest: Lloyd Nolan
|14||"The Adventure of the Eccentric Engineer"||Peter H. Hunt||Booker Bradshaw,
David P. Lewis
|January 18, 1976|
|Lamont Franklin, a once brilliant but now seemingly senile inventor, is murdered in his electric train workshop. It appears as though no one could have entered or left the workshop during the time in which the murder must have taken place.
Special guest: Dorothy Malone
|15||"The Adventure of the Wary Witness"||Walter Doniger||Peter S. Fischer||January 25, 1976|
|Linville Hagen, on trial for murder, claims that the victim Nick Danello was shot through a window from a fire escape, and that Hagen fired at the killer. The defendant's lawyer Leo Campbell claims that he can bring in a witness, a woman who was beaten up by the victim. But the woman can't be found. When she's finally tracked down, Inspector Queen, Ellery and Frank Flannigan hear a gunshot from outside her window, break down the door and find the woman lying unconscious — shot from the fire escape.
Special guest: Michael Parks
|16||"The Adventure of the Judas Tree"||Walter Doniger||Martin Roth||February 1, 1976|
|Someone makes the murder of wealthy George Sherman look like a ritualistic killing, hanging his corpse from a Cercis tree (a.k.a. a Judas tree) and adorning it with branches. When George is found to be far less wealthy than thought (he had given everything away except a huge life insurance policy), suspicion turns to his wife Paulette, who already has a boyfriend on the side.
Special guest: Dana Andrews
|17||"The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario"||Peter H. Hunt||Robert Pirosh||February 8, 1976|
|Gil Mallory, an actor playing Ellery Queen in a motion picture, is supposed to be shot on camera, then jump up and nab the woman who shot him, exclaiming "Bulletproof vest!" The rehearsal with blanks goes fine. But the ensuing take with the same gun finds it loaded with real bullets, and Mallory drops dead. The film crew tries to carry on, and soon stunt man Mike Hewitt is killed when the car he was driving is rigged to wipe out before he was ready. Are the two murders linked — and how?
Special guest: Vincent Price
|18||"The Adventure of the Two-Faced Woman"||Jack Arnold||Robert E. Swanson||February 29, 1976|
|Simon Brimmer once again fingers the wrong culprit in this tale about the murder of a socialite who was apparently leading a double life. The case has its underpinnings in events that happened in 1922 France.
Special guest: Vera Miles
|19||"The Adventure of the Tyrant of Tin Pan Alley"||Seymour Robbie||Robert van Scoyk||March 7, 1976|
|The radio payola scandals of the 1940s and '50s are recalled when popular songwriter Alvin Winer is murdered during the musical interlude on a radio show when he goes to the station's record library to find a record. Ellery must clear a friend who had just accused Winer of stealing his song.
Special guest: Ken Berry
|20||"The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep"||Richard Michaels||Rudolph Borchert,
|March 14, 1976|
|Inspector Queen is in charge of protecting mob witness Ralph Caesar, but the witness is murdered before he can testify. The evidence points to none other than Sgt. Velie. The Inspector must also deal with rivals in the department who feel he's gotten long in the tooth and relies too much on Ellery.
Special guest: Stuart Whitman
|21||"The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster"||Edward M. Abroms||Lewis Davidson,
Robert E. Swanson
|March 21, 1976|
|Madison Avenue advertising executive James Bevin Long wants to make newspaper columnist Frank Flanagan a TV star by setting him up with a variety show. But then Long is murdered in his private bathroom, stabbed in the back. The killer had to be someone who knew Long's meticulous habits. The plans for the TV show go forward and Ellery takes an inside look at the advertising industry to determine how the killer could have slipped in and out undetected.
Special guest: Bob Crane
|22||"The Adventure of the Disappearing Dagger"||Jack Arnold||Stephen Lord,
Robert van Scoyk
|April 4, 1976|
|An elderly amateur criminologist finally figures out how a five-year-old "locked-room" murder was committed, and is murdered by the killer before he can alert Inspector Queen. Ellery takes up the challenge himself. The criminologist had first implicated an airline pilot, because he was flying the plane where the murder was committed and had the opportunity to toss the murder weapon out the window. Nobody else seems to have been able to get rid of the weapon, but Ellery finds that the murder victim had stolen someone else's invention, and that the murderer may have invented the weapon as well.
Special guest: Walter Pidgeon
The series, including the pilot, was released on DVD - in Australia (region 4, PAL) on 15 September 2010 and in the US by Entertainment One (region 1, NTSC) on September 28, 2010. The Australian release also includes the earlier 1971 TV movie Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You which Levinson and Link co-wrote under their pseudonym 'Ted Leighton' (the producer made script changes which the team “detested”).
- Erickson, Hal. "Ellery Queen (1975)". Rovi Corporation. The New York Times.
- Andrews, Dale; Sercu, Kurt (July 14, 2009). "When Ellery Queen met NBC". Criminal Brief. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- "Interview with screen writer William Link” from disk 6, Ellery Queen Mysteries, DVD release September 2010.
- Schickel, Richard (September 15, 1975). "Television: Viewpoints: The New Season, Part I". Time. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
- Wiegand, David (November 14, 2010). "DVD review: Ellery Queen: The complete Series". sfgate.com. Retrieved 2011-03-04.