Charles McGraw on Television


Being a fan of CHARLES MCGRAW, I was curious to see something of his two forays into television in the  mid 1950s.

Warner Brothers got into television production in 1955, starting with an anthology series called “Warner Brothers Presents”.

The first of 20 series which Warner Brothers Televsion produced between 1955 and 1963 included THE ADVENTURES OF THE FALCON, KINGS ROW and CHEYENNE.

Jack  Warner’s son-in-law, William T. Orr was the executive producer of all the shows.

Of the first three,only “Cheyenne” succeeded.

“Kings Row” had only 7 episodes made, with Jack  Kelly in the Robert Cummings role and Robert Horton in the part played in the original film by Ronald Reagan.

(I was interested to read that actor Paul Stewart directed three episodes of Kings Row.)

Charles McGraw was cast in “The Adventures of the Falcon” which managed 39 episodes before disappearing from the schedules.

Around 25 of the half hour episodes are available on You Tube, which is where I viewed a few.

The character of The Falcon has a long history dating back to 1936 , including books , a ten year radio series and various films starring George Sanders and his  brother,Tom Conway.

From what I’ve been able to find out, an author called Drexel Drake created  a crime fighter called The Falcon in 1936, with three books. Then in 1940, writer Michael Arlen wrote another story about the Falcon.

Over the years, the Falcon had several names – Gay Stanhope Falcon, Gay Laurence, Tom Laurence . Charles McGraw introduced himself as ,”I’m  Mike Waring, alias The Falcon.”

What’s funny is that no explanation is ever given for the Falcon alias, other than that first name.

Described as radio’s most debonair detective. I doubt anybody would describe Charles McGraw as debonair! (George Sanders fitted the bill on the big screen.) But the character written for Television had lost all his charm and wit and become McGraw-serious .

Topically, set in the 50s Cold War era,McGraw is an espionage agent who travels the   World ( and various parts of America) as a trouble shooter for Army Intelligence. ( On the radio and in the Falcon films, the character had been a freelance detective, an insurance investigator and a government operative!)

Of course everything was filmed in Hollywood.

The episodes are heavily action driven, with little chance for more than broad characterisation. There are no sidekicks or any friends for the audience to build up a rapport with. So McGraw has little to do but speak the lines and wind up the story each week.

With better writing, I’m sure McGraw could have put  his stamp on the character.

The show was like a who’s who of Hollywood supporting characters – Douglas Fowley, Paul Fix,Percy Helton, Evelyn Ankers,June Vincent, Ted De Corsia and so many more.

When the show didn’t survive amongst all the shows being made at the time, Warner Brothers didn’t give up on McGraw.

They dusted off their most famous film, CASABLANCA, and cast McGraw in the lead. Perhaps fearing Bogart comparisons, the lead character was called Rick Jason, not Blaine. And his club became ‘Club American’, not ‘Rick’s Cafe Americain.’

 

Charles McGraw,Anita  Ekberg. CASABLANCA.

With a nod to the original classic,Dan Seymour was cast as Senor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet in the film), and  Marcel Dalio became Capt. Renault- having played the croupier in the film.)

Clarence Muse, who had auditioned for the part of ‘Sam’ in 1942, finally got to play the pianist in the TV series.

 

Anita Ekberg, Clarence Muse

 

The series alternated with “Kings Row ” and “Cheyenne ” as part of Warner Brothers Presents .

The show only lasted 10 episodes , and I think only the first episode  can be seen as an extra on one of the film’s DVD releases.

I haven’t seen it myself , but reviews are not great.

With an hour long format, Warners promoted their cinema releases in the last 10 minutes.

As far as I know, some  of the original sets and props were used.

 

David Soul

Warner Brothers tried again with  Casablanca in the 1970s, with even less success. David Soul played the Bogart character.

 

Humphrey Bogart

There’s only one Rick Blaine.

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2 responses »

  1. I like McGraw in almost anything. These old TV shows can be quite addictive and the talent involved is generally impressive. YouTube is a marvelous resource since only a relatively small proportion of material has been released to disc.

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