Peter Gunn


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

Peter Gunn, a top-rated detective drama, ran on NBC from 1958 to 1960, and then on ABC in 1960 and 1961. The television series was distinguished for its stylish and sophisticated lead character, Peter Gunn, and is also remembered for the jazz-influenced music of Henry Mancini. Created and produced by then neophyte filmmaker Blake Edwards, Peter Gunn was typical of the male private-eye genre of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The lead character was handsome, dashing, and consistently well--dressed in tailored suits, which never seemed to wrinkle even after the usual scuffles with the bad guys. Edwards clearly modeled the character of Peter Gunn on Cary Grant, considered one of Hollywood's most debonair leading men. The actor chosen to play Gunn, Craig Stevens, even bore a close resemblance to Grant.

The series was set in Los Angeles, and, more often than not, inside a jazz club called Mother's. The story line essentially centered around Gunn solving his client's problems, which always involved his having to deal with an assortment of hit men, hoodlums and assorted "hip" characters found on the jazz scene. He is often aided by his personal friend and confidant, police Lieutenant Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi). Although Gunn often had to endure many thrown fists, he himself did not advocate brutality, and violence was not a feature of the series. In the end, the crime was always solved, the criminals behind bars, and Gunn was shown relaxing at Mother's, where his girlfriend, the vocalist Edie Hart (Lola Albright), was the main attraction.

The style of Peter Gunn has been described by some viewers as borderline parody. The dialogue is delivered in a hip, deadpan fashion, and at times the series seemed to be poking fun at more conventional private-eye series. Blake Edwards attributed the critical success of Peter Gunn to the series' tendency to be somewhat over the top. The success of the show spawned many similar private detective dramas in the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as Philip Marlowe and Richard Diamond.

An important ingredient in the show, and which provided its unique character, was the music of Henry Mancini. He provided a new score for each episode, and when released on the RCA label, the two albums The Music of Peter Gunn and More Music From Peter Gunn proved to best-sellers. (The "Peter Gunn Theme" continues to be played on mainstream radio and has even been used as the vehicle for modern rock versions). Mancini's music was an integral part of the show's action, and here too it set the precedent for shows that were to follow.

Although the show lasted for only three seasons, by stressing style and sophistication, Peter Gunn caught the attention of many viewers. The combination of the main character's smooth, stoic demeanor, together with Henry Mancini's outstanding jazz themes, worked to leave a lasting impression in the minds of fans.

-Gina Abbott and Garth Jowett

CAST

Peter Gunn ..............................................Craig Stevens  

Edie Hart................................................... Lola Albright

Lt. Jacoby......................................... Herschel Bernardi

"Mother" (1958-1959)............................... Hope Emerson

"Mother" (1959-1961)............................... Minerva Urecal

PRODUCERS

Blake Edwards, Gordon Oliver

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

114 Episodes

NBC

September 1958-September 1960   Monday 9:00-9:30

ABC

October 1960-September 1961   Monday 10:30-11:00

FURTHER READING

Collins, Max Allan. The Best of Crime & Detective TV: Perry Mason to Hill Street Blues, The Rockford Files to Murder She Wrote. New York: Harmony, 1988.

Larka, Robert. Television's Private Eye: An Examination of Twenty Years Programming of a Particular Genre, 1949 to 1969. New York: Arno, 1979.

Meyers, Richard. TV Detectives. San Diego, California: A.S. Barnes; London: Tantivy, 1981.

Highlights
Ray Evans and Jay Livingston on their collaborations with Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn
01:32
Gene Reynolds on casting Peter Gunn
01:43
Gene Reynolds on working with Henry Mancini who wrote the Peter Gunn theme
01:38
Lamont Johnson on directing Peter Gunn, and on working with show creator Blake Edwards
04:30
Who talked about this show

Walter E. Grauman

View Interview
Director Walter Grauman on a tricky lighting set up done by Russell Metty on the Peter Gunn episode "Edie Finds a Corpse" (that worked for the camera, but was hard on the actors due to the intense heat from the lighting)
01:03
Director Walter Grauman on how Blake Edwards (ironically) advised him not to make artistic compromises on Peter Gunn
00:58

Lamont Johnson

View Interview
Lamont Johnson on directing Peter Gunn, and on working with show creator Blake Edwards
04:30

Jay Livingston

View Interview
Ray Evans and Jay Livingston on their collaborations with Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn
01:32

Gene Reynolds

View Interview
Gene Reynolds on casting Peter Gunn
01:43
Gene Reynolds on working with Henry Mancini who wrote the Peter Gunn theme
01:38

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