|Genre Crime drama|
Country of origin United States
|Theme music composer Herschel Burke Gilbert|
|Also known as 'Amos Burke, Secret Agent'|
Created by Frank D. Gilroy Ivan Goff Ernest Kinoy
Starring Gene Barry Regis Toomey Gary Conway Eileen O'Neill
Burke's Law is an American detective series that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1965 and was revived on CBS in the 1990s. The show starred Gene Barry as Amos Burke, millionaire captain of Los Angeles police homicide division, who was chauffeured around to solve crimes in his 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II. Though the original series was converted from a detective show to a spy drama ("Amos Burke: Secret Agent") in its third and final season, the revived series returned to the original title and cop-show formula. The Rolls-Royce used in the original 1963–1965 series still exists, and is owned by a collector in Palm Beach, Florida.
Stylistic similarities to Barry's previous series, Bat Masterson exist, in which he had played the debonair lawman of the Old West. During the opening credits, as the title flashed onscreen, a woman's voice was heard seductively pronouncing the words "It's Burke's Law!" The title also reflected Burke's habit of dispensing wisdom to his underlings in a professorial manner, e.g.: "Never ask a question unless you already know the answer. Burke's Law."
The title of each episode started with the words "Who Killed...?" with the name or description of the victim (who invariably died in the show's opening minutes) completing it. Five or six "special guest stars" comprised the list of suspects. Burke then was driven to the crime scene in his Rolls-Royce by his loyal chauffeur, Henry.
In the original series, Burke was assisted by Detective Tim Tilson (Gary Conway), Detective Les Hart (Regis Toomey), and chauffeur Henry (Leon Lontoc). Two recurring characters were coroner George McLeod (Michael Fox) and lovely desk sergeant Gloria Ames (Eileen O'Neill). Tilson was a go-getting young man whose skill at finding clues and trace references did not result in his solving the murders, being always outflanked by Burke's cool intuition, while Hart was a no-nonsense, seen-it-all veteran, perhaps a nod to Toomey's numerous roles as cops in feature films.
A guest appearance by Anne Francis as female detective Honey West in the season-two episode "Who Killed The Jackpot?" (Francis appeared in season one's "Who Killed Wade Walker?" in another role) led to a short-lived spin-off series.
The role of Amos Burke actually antedated Barry's series, having been played by Dick Powell on "Who Killed Julie Greer?," the initial episode of The Dick Powell Show in September 1961. The first incarnation of the series was produced by Powell's company, Four Star Television. As in the later series, the episode features several well-known TV and movie stars in cameo appearances as suspects – one of whom is the murderer (in the original Dick Powell episode Ronald Reagan played one of the suspects). Leon Lontoc was the only cast member of the episode to reprise his role in the later series.
In the final season of the original series (1965–1966), the show was given a complete overhaul and retitled Amos Burke, Secret Agent. Burke went to work for a secret government agency, but still drove around in his Rolls, which had been discreetly bulletproofed by the agency. The supporting cast of the earlier seasons was dropped, as was the heavy use of celebrity cameos. The change in format was a reaction to the wildly popular spy trend inspired by the James Bond films and the television success of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (That year also had the debut of I Spy, The Wild Wild West, and Get Smart.) The new show was not a success and only 17 episodes were broadcast instead of the 32 of the first two seasons.
The show's array of guest stars included: June Allyson, Don Ameche, Mary Astor, Frankie Avalon, Ed Begley, William Bendix, Joan Blondell, Ann Blyth, Hoagy Carmichael, Rory Calhoun, John Cassavetes, Dick Clark, Jeanne Crain, Broderick Crawford, Arlene Dahl, Sammy Davis, Jr., Linda Darnell, Laraine Day, Yvonne DeCarlo, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Diana Dors, Joanne Dru, Dan Duryea, Barbara Eden, Nanette Fabray, Felicia Farr, Rhonda Fleming, Nina Foch, Anne Francis, Annette Funicello, Eva Gabor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gloria Grahame, Jane Greer, Gypsy Rose Lee, George Hamilton, Phil Harris, June Havoc, Celeste Holm, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., Tab Hunter, Betty Hutton, Martha Hyer, Carolyn Jones, Buster Keaton, Eartha Kitt, Frankie Laine, Fernando Lamas, Dorothy Lamour, Elsa Lanchester, Lauren Lane, Tina Louise, Ida Lupino, Paul Lynde, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Maxwell, Virginia Mayo, Burgess Meredith, Una Merkel, Dina Merrill, Vera Miles, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, Elizabeth Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Rita Moreno, Sheree North, Janis Paige, Fess Parker, Suzy Parker, Bert Parks, Walter Pidgeon, Zasu Pitts, Juliet Prowse, Basil Rathbone, Edward Everett Horton, Aldo Ray, Martha Raye, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Ruth Roman, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Gena Rowlands, Janice Rule, Soupy Sales, Telly Savalas, William Shatner, Nancy Sinatra, Jan Sterling, Jill St. John, Gale Storm, Susan Strasberg, Gloria Swanson, Terry-Thomas, Mamie van Doren, James Whitmore, Michael Wilding, Chill Wills, Ed Wynn and Keenan Wynn.
The musical score for Burke's Law was largely the work of Herschel Burke Gilbert, who also wrote the show's theme, although Richard Shores and Joseph Mullendore also composed scores. Gilbert's theme was rearranged for Amos Burke, Secret Agent.
VCI Entertainment has released season one of Burke's Law on DVD.
VCI released the complete first season on April 5, 2016.
In the revival of the show, which ran on CBS from 1994 to 1995 and was produced by Aaron Spelling's production company, the title again became Burke's Law and Burke was back at work as a police detective. In the second incarnation, Burke, now a deputy chief, was assisted by his son, Peter (Peter Barton).
The revival, even more than the original program, was regarded as being largely camp. In a nostalgic touch, many of the guest stars were Barry's peers in 1960s cop shows and spy-fi programs, including Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Peter Lupus (Mission: Impossible). Anne Francis appeared reprising the character Honey West (though she was called "Honey Best" for legal reasons).