Richard Diamond, Private Detective

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Richard Diamond, Private Detective
Running time30 minutes
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
Home station
StarringDick Powell
Written by
Directed by
  • William P. Rousseau
  • Blake Edwards
  • Jaime del Valle
Original releaseApril 24, 1949 – September 20, 1953
Opening theme"Leave It to love"
Richard Diamond, Private Detective
David Janssen Richard Diamond 1959.JPG
David Janssen as Richard Diamond (1959)
Also known as'Call Mr. D'
GenreCrime drama
Written byBlake Edwards
Directed by
Starring
Composer(s)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes77 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s)
  • Mark Sandrich Jr.
  • David Heilweil
  • Vincent M. Fennelly
  • Richard Carr
Production location(s)
CinematographyGeorge E. Diskant
Editor(s)
  • Arthur Hilton
  • Chandler House et al
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time24–25 minutes per episode
Production company(s)Four Star Television
Distributor
Release
Original network
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMono RCA Sound System
Original releaseJuly 1, 1957 (1957-07-01) –
September 6, 1960 (1960-09-06)

Richard Diamond, Private Detective is an American detective drama, created by Blake Edwards, which aired on radio from 1949 to 1953, and on television from 1957 to 1960.

Radio[edit]

Dick Powell starred in the Richard Diamond, Private Detective radio series as a wisecracking, former police officer turned private detective. Episodes typically open with a client visiting or calling cash-strapped Diamond's office and agreeing to his fee of $100 a day plus expenses, or Diamond taking on a case at the behest of his friend and former partner, Lt. Walter Levinson. Diamond often suffers a blow to the head in his sleuthing pursuits. Most episodes end with Diamond at the piano, singing a standard, popular song, or showtune from Powell's repertoire to his girlfriend, Helen Asher, in her penthouse at 975 Park Avenue.

Levinson was played variously by Ed Begley, Arthur Q. Bryan, Ted DeCorsia and Alan Reed. Helen was played by Virginia Gregg and others. Another regular cast member included Wilms Herbert as Walt's bumbling sergeant, Otis, who also "doubled" on the show as Helen's butler, Francis.

Many of the shows were either written or directed by Edwards. Its theme, "Leave It to Love", was whistled by Powell at the beginning of each episode.

It began airing on NBC Radio on April 24, 1949, picked up Rexall as a sponsor on April 5, 1950, and continued until December 6, 1950. With Camel cigarettes as a sponsor, it moved to ABC from January 5, 1951, to June 29, 1951, with Rexall returning for a run from October 5, 1951, until June 27, 1952. Substituting for Amos 'n' Andy, it aired Sunday evenings on CBS (again, for Rexall) from May 31, 1953 until September 20, 1953.[1]

Television series[edit]

Dick Powell's company, Four Star Television, produced the television version of Richard Diamond, Private Detective, which premiered in the summer of 1957 on CBS. It returned to CBS in January 1958 for the second season and in February 1959 for the third season, again on CBS. In the fall of 1959, the fourth and final season aired on NBC.

David Janssen, before The Fugitive, starred as Diamond, a former officer of the New York Police Department and a hard-boiled private detective in the film noir tradition. Don Taylor played the title role in a 1956 television pilot, broadcast as an episode of the anthology series Chevron Hall of Stars. The first two television seasons followed radio’s characterization the most closely (several episodes were adapted from the radio series). Diamond, known for his charm and wisecracks as much as his virility, was still based in New York, though Janssen never sat at a piano and sang, as Powell had typically ended most of the radio episodes. In the noirish opening sequence, clad in hat, suit, and tie, he walks down a dimly lit street toward the camera and lights up a cigarette, the light revealing his face. After the first season when the sponsor was Maxwell House, the show was sponsored by Kent cigarettes, and Frank DeVol’s playfully mysterious theme was heard underneath an announcer hawking either "Maxwell House – Good to the Last Drop" or “Kent with the Micronite filter.” In syndicated rebroadcasts of the series, the revised title, Call Mr. D., flashes on the screen, and DeVol’s music is replaced by Pete Rugolo’s far more recognizable theme—although that did not appear until Season 3.

Following the second season, the setting was switched from New York City to Los Angeles, and the production was entirely redesigned. The 18 episodes comprising Season 3 aired from February to mid-June of 1959, and Diamond’s character now bore only slight resemblance to his California-based noirish predecessors Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. By the late 1950s, the glamour of Hollywood was becoming an irresistible fantasy for millions of viewers, and the popularity of Warner Brothers’ 77 Sunset Strip—which involved a good deal of location shooting and began airing four months before Diamond’s third season—undoubtedly influenced a newer P. I. image that often seemed more inspired by Hugh Hefner than by Dashiell Hammett. Diamond no longer occupied a low-rent, cloistered office, but now operated from a modern, beautifully appointed ranch house—complete with pool—in the Hollywood Hills. With panoramic sliding glass doors providing views of the mountains and the city, his sunken living room featured a bar and a loveseat, where he could be found many evenings entertaining young women before a fire. Following the lead of the Sunset Strip private eyes, he also drove a convertible—in this case a 1959 DeSoto Fireflite. The Hefner-like fantasy was enhanced by gadgets, especially Diamond’s car phone, which connected him directly to an answering service overseen by the shapely, enigmatic “Sam.” Season 3’s modern, more youthful ambience was complemented by a jazz score by composer/arranger Pete Rugolo, who created a set of big-band, Stan Kenton-esque cues for each of the episodes. In the highly stylized opening sequence, Rugolo’s robust theme is preceded by tense melodic fragments underscoring a series of frenetic, silhouette images of Diamond running, before walking forward—again in hat, suit, and tie—to light a cigarette, suggesting a re-boot of the original noirish conception. (Rugolo’s score soon became so popular that in 1959 a full album of his Diamond cues, The Music from Richard Diamond, was released on the Mercury label.)

In the fourth season, which aired on NBC, the writers retained Los Angeles as the setting, but the Hefner-esque fantasy elements were considerably toned down. Now Diamond again operated from an office reminiscent of what he had known in New York, and his beautiful ranch house was replaced by an attractive—though more conventional—apartment. His car phone still connected him to Sam, but he now drove a 1959 Ford Galaxie convertible—absent the impressive tail fins of his DeSoto. Though the opening titles remained, Rugolo’s score was replaced by a more sedate theme, "Nervous" by Richard Shores, later to be used during the highlight sequence that began every episode of The Dick Powell Show. The CBS Season 3 re-boot had aired on Sunday nights at 10 pm, but NBC moved the time slot to 7:30 pm Monday, and Season 4 began airing on October 5, 1959, with a 17-episode run that concluded late in January. Because its numbers were no longer strong, the season’s nine additional episodes were delayed, resuming only as a summer replacement on Tuesday, July 5, 1960, and concluding in early September. Though the old noirish elements were more prominent, the look of the final season seems inspired more by cost-cutting than aesthetics, and the production values appear far less glamorous than Season 3.

In addition to Janssen, the series had other recurring characters. Mirroring Diamond’s history with the New York Police Department, the radio version featured his friend, police Lt. Walt Levinson (often played by Ed Begley, Sr.), and on TV, veteran actor Regis Toomey, portraying Diamond’s former superior, Lt. Dennis "Mac" McGough, came aboard in the first episode, which aired in July 1957. Toomey then appeared intermittently in seven more, including “Snow Queen,” the final episode of Season 2, which aired on June 26, 1958. Radio’s version also gave Diamond a steady girl friend, wealthy socialite Helen Asher (played by Virginia Gregg), a story arc that was neglected by television until the first episode of Season 3, when Diamond meets fashion designer Karen Wells, played by Barbara Bain. But this may have created a conundrum for the producers, since radio’s Diamond was also an unrestrained flirt, and Powell's character often shamelessly ogled his beautiful clients before returning to Helen each week. In one TV episode, “Soft Touch,” Karen catches Diamond about to two-time her, and after five episodes, the “steady-girl-friend” arc had disappeared, with Diamond once again playing the field. When he first reached Los Angeles, Diamond had no history with the local police, and his encounters with them are often contentious. In Season 4, Russ Conway was cast as Lieutenant Pete Kile for five episodes, and their relationship soon turns to one of mutual respect, if not always warmth. The omnipresent Sam entered the picture (at least partially—viewers never saw much of her face) in Season 3 and remained for the duration of the series. She was played for most of Season 3 by Mary Tyler Moore in her first regular series role, and later replaced by Roxane Brooks.

Cast[edit]

Television guest stars[edit]

Television episode list[edit]

Season 1: 1957[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
11"The Mickey Farmer Case"July 1, 1957 (1957-07-01)
22"Custody"July 8, 1957 (1957-07-08)
33"Escape from Oak Lane"July 15, 1957 (1957-07-15)
44"The Homicide Habit"July 22, 1957 (1957-07-22)
55"Picture of Fear"July 29, 1957 (1957-07-29)
66"Hit and Run"August 5, 1957 (1957-08-05)
77"The Big Score"August 12, 1957 (1957-08-12)
88"The Chess Player"August 19, 1957 (1957-08-19)
99"The Torch Carriers"August 26, 1957 (1957-08-26)
1010"The Pete Rocco Case"September 9, 1957 (1957-09-09)
1111"Venus of Park Avenue"September 16, 1957 (1957-09-16)
1212"Merry-Go-Round Case"September 23, 1957 (1957-09-23)

Season 2: 1958[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
131"The Space Society"January 2, 1958 (1958-01-02)
142"The Dark Horse"January 9, 1958 (1958-01-09)
153"The Payoff"January 16, 1958 (1958-01-16)
164"Double Jeopardy"January 23, 1958 (1958-01-23)
175"Arson"January 30, 1958 (1958-01-30)
186"The Ed Church Case"February 6, 1958 (1958-02-06)
197"Chinese Honeymoon"February 13, 1958 (1958-02-13)
208"Rodeo"February 20, 1958 (1958-02-20)
219"A Cup of Black Coffee"February 27, 1958 (1958-02-27)
2210"The George Dale Case"March 6, 1958 (1958-03-06)
2311"Juvenile Jacket"March 13, 1958 (1958-03-13)
2412"Pension Plan"March 27, 1958 (1958-03-27)
2513"Short Haul"April 10, 1958 (1958-04-10)
2614"Another Man's Poison"April 17, 1958 (1958-04-17)
2715"The Purple Penguin"April 24, 1958 (1958-04-24)
2816"Lost Testament"May 1, 1958 (1958-05-01)
2917"The Percentage Takers"May 8, 1958 (1958-05-08)
3018"Widow's Walk"May 22, 1958 (1958-05-22)
3119"Bungalow Murder"May 29, 1958 (1958-05-29)
3220"One Foot in the Grave"June 12, 1958 (1958-06-12)
3321"Snow Queen"June 26, 1958 (1958-06-26)

Season 3: 1959–60[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
341"The Sport"February 15, 1959 (1959-02-15)
352"Pack Rat"February 22, 1959 (1959-02-22)
363"Body of the Crime"March 1, 1959 (1959-03-01)
374"Soft Touch"March 8, 1959 (1959-03-08)
385"Boomerang Bait"March 15, 1959 (1959-03-15)
396"Matador Murder"March 22, 1959 (1959-03-22)
407"Murder at the Mansion"March 29, 1959 (1959-03-29)
418"Marineland Mystery"April 5, 1959 (1959-04-05)
429"Charity Affair"April 12, 1959 (1959-04-12)
4310"Two for Paradise"April 19, 1959 (1959-04-19)
4411"Crown of Silla"May 3, 1959 (1959-05-03)
4512"Jukebox"May 10, 1959 (1959-05-10)
4613"Echo of Laughter"May 17, 1959 (1959-05-17)
4714"The Limping Man"May 24, 1959 (1959-05-24)
4815"Hideout"May 31, 1959 (1959-05-31)
4916"Rough Cut"June 7, 1959 (1959-06-07)
5017"Family Affair"June 14, 1959 (1959-06-14)
5118"Design for Murder"June 21, 1959 (1959-06-21)
5219"Hoodlum"October 5, 1959 (1959-10-05)
5320"Act of Grace"October 12, 1959 (1959-10-12)
5421"Bookie"October 19, 1959 (1959-10-19)
5522"The Client"October 26, 1959 (1959-10-26)
5623"The Runaway"November 2, 1959 (1959-11-02)
5724"No Laughing Matter"November 9, 1959 (1959-11-09)
5825"The Messenger"November 16, 1959 (1959-11-16)
5926"The Counselor"November 23, 1959 (1959-11-23)
6027"The Image"November 30, 1959 (1959-11-30)
6128"The Adjuster"December 7, 1959 (1959-12-07)
6229"Marked for Murder"December 14, 1959 (1959-12-14)
6330"The Caller"December 21, 1959 (1959-12-21)
6431"One Dead Cat"December 28, 1959 (1959-12-28)
6532"Dead to the World"January 11, 1960 (1960-01-11)
6633"Seven Swords"January 18, 1960 (1960-01-18)
6734"The Fine Art of Murder"January 25, 1960 (1960-01-25)

Season 4: 1960[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
681"The Popskull"June 28, 1960 (1960-06-28)
692"And Whose Little Baby Are You?"July 5, 1960 (1960-07-05)
703"Fallen Star"July 19, 1960 (1960-07-19)
714"Coat of Arms"August 2, 1960 (1960-08-02)
725"Double Trouble"August 9, 1960 (1960-08-09)
736"The Lovely Fraud"August 16, 1960 (1960-08-16)
747"Accent on Murder"August 23, 1960 (1960-08-23)
758"East of Danger"August 30, 1960 (1960-08-30)
769"Running Scared"September 6, 1960 (1960-09-06)
7710"The Mouse"September 13, 1960 (1960-09-13)

Adaptations[edit]

In 1968, Four Star president David Charnay announced a feature film revival starring David Janssen, but nothing came of the plans. Shortly before his death in 2004, actor/comedian Alan King wrote a pair of short stories about the character set in 1948. They were published posthumously in 2016.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dunning, John. On the air : the encyclopedia of old-time radio. New York. ISBN 0195076788. OCLC 35586941.

External links[edit]