Created by Blake Edwards
Country of origin United States
Writers Blake Edwards
Genre Action/Crime drama
Composer(s) Henry Mancini
Theme song Peter Gunn
Music composed by Henry Mancini
|Written by Steffi Barrett
Gene L. Coon
Starring Craig Stevens Lola Albright Herschel Bernardi Hope Emerson Minerva Urecal
Cast Craig Stevens, Lola Albright, Herschel Bernardi, Hope Emerson, Minerva Urecal
Peter Gunn is an American private eye television series which aired on the NBC and (later) ABC television networks from 1958 to 1961. The series was created by Blake Edwards (who, on occasion, was also writer and director). Episodes were also directed by Boris Sagal, Robert Gist, Jack Arnold, Lamont Johnson, Robert Altman (for one episode) and several others. A total of 114 thirty-minute episodes were produced by Spartan Productions. Season one was filmed at Universal Studios, while seasons two and three were filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Philip H. Lathrop and William W. Spencer were cinematographers on many episodes. Craig Stevens' wardrobe was tailored by Don Richards and Lola Albright's fashions by Jax.
The series is probably best remembered today for its music, especially the popular "Peter Gunn Theme", which won an Emmy Award and two Grammys for Henry Mancini and subsequently has been performed and recorded by many jazz, rock, and blues musicians. The series was No. 17 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1958–1959 TV season.
The title character, played by Craig Stevens, is a well-dressed private investigator whose hair is always in place and who loves cool jazz. Where other gumshoes might be coarse, Peter Gunn is a sophisticate with expensive tastes. He operates in a nameless, fictional riverfront city and can usually be found at Mother's, a smoky wharfside jazz club that he uses as his "office", often meeting clients there. Pete's standard fee is $1,000. He has a reputation of being one of the best investigators and trustworthy. He sometimes works cases out of the state and on at least one occasion out of country, with one case occurring in Mexico and another involving a tour of Western Europe. Gunn drives a 1958 two-tone DeSoto two door hardtop in the first few episodes of the first season, then a 1959 Plymouth Fury convertible with a white top and a car phone. In the third season Gunn drives a 1961 white Plymouth Fury convertible with a car phone.
Gunn's girlfriend, Edie Hart (Lola Albright), is a sultry singer employed at Mother's; she opens her own place in season 3. His pet name for Edie is "Silly". Herschel Bernardi costarred as Lieutenant Charles "Chuck" Jacoby, a somber police detective and friend of Gunn. Occasionally he refers people to Gunn as clients. Bernardi received his only Emmy nomination for the role. Hope Emerson appeared as "Mother", who had been a singer and piano player in speakeasies during Prohibition. She received an Emmy nomination for the role. For the second season, "Mother" was played by Minerva Urecal, following the death of Emerson. Associate producer Byron Kane portrayed Barney, the bartender; Kane was never credited for playing this role. Bill Chadney appeared as Emmett, the piano player at Mother's. (Chadney and Albright married in 1961.)
Both Billy Barty as pool hustler Babby and Herbert Ellis as Beat bistro owner, painter, and sculptor Wilbur appeared in several episodes as occasional "information resources", as "Mother" also often is. Capri Candela played Wilbur's girlfriend Capri. Frequent director Robert Gist appeared as an actor in different roles in three episodes.
Edie opened her own night club "Edie's" with James Lanphier as Leslie the maitre d' in Season 3.
Frequent director Robert Gist appeared as an actor in different roles in three episodes.
Peter Gunn ran for three seasons starting in late 1958. A total of 114 episodes were produced during the three season run. Peter Gunn premiered on September 22, 1958 with the episode The Kill. The first season ran from September 1958 through June 1959 and contained 38 episodes.
Origin of series
Edwards developed Peter Gunn from an earlier fictional detective that he had created. Richard Diamond, Private Detective starred Dick Powell, and aired as a radio series from 1949 to 1953. David Janssen later starred in the television adaptation from 1957 to 1960. It was this character's success which prompted his creator to revisit the concept as Peter Gunn. Edwards had earlier written and directed a Mike Hammer television pilot for Brian Keith.
The show's use of modern jazz music was a distinctive touch that helped set the standard for many years to come with cool, modern jazz themes accompanying every move Gunn made. The music, composed by Henry Mancini, was performed by a small jazz ensemble which included a number of prominent Los Angeles based jazz and studio musicians. Trumpeter Pete Candoli, alto saxophonist Ted Nash, flutist Ronny Lang, trombonist Dick Nash, and pianist John Williams, provided most of the improvised jazz solos.
Prominent jazz musicians occasionally made on-screen appearances. Trumpeter Shorty Rogers appeared in the episode titled "The Frog" playing flugelhorn as Lola sings "How High the Moon". Drummer Shelly Manne, in addition to performing on the soundtrack album, was credited with a Special Guest role in the 1959 episode "Keep Smiling" playing drums in the "Bamboo Club" combo. Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida plays guitar as himself in the 1959 episode "Skin Deep".
In his autobiography Did They Mention the Music? Mancini stated:
The "Peter Gunn Theme" became an instant hit, earning Mancini an Emmy Award and two Grammys.
The RCA Victor soundtrack album by Henry Mancini reached No. 1 in Billboard's Pop LP Charts. The popularity of this album prompted RCA to issue a second Mancini album of Peter Gunn music titled More Music from Peter Gunn. Bandleader Ray Anthony's recording of the theme music reached No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100. Shelly Manne recorded two jazz albums of themes from the show in 1959, Shelly Manne & His Men Play Peter Gunn and Son of Gunn!!.
"The Peter Gunn Theme" has been recorded and performed by numerous musicians. Today, many people who have never seen the TV show can easily identify the theme.
The series was nominated for 8 prime time Emmys without wins, all in 1959. They were for Best Dramatic Series - Less than One Hour, Craig Stevens as best lead actor in a drama, Herschel Bernardi as best supporting actor in a drama, Lola Albright and Hope Emerson as best supporting actress in a drama, Henry Mancini for best musical contribution to a television production, and Blake Edwards for best writing and direction of a single episode of a drama series.
The series made the transition to other media. An original novel and a comic book adaptation were published by Dell Publishing in 1960. A feature film, Gunn, was released by Paramount in 1967 scripted by Edwards and William Peter Blatty and directed by Edwards with Stevens reprising the title role six years after the series finished. ABC broadcast a 90-minute pilot in April 1989 with Peter Strauss in the lead role that was written, produced, and directed by Edwards, but the network failed to order a series despite strong ratings and reviews. In 2001, Edwards and his son, Geoffrey, joined with producers Jeffrey Tinnell and John Michaels and writer Norman Snider in developing an updated television series, but the project fell through when producers John Woo and David Permut began developing a big screen remake for Paramount with screenwriter W. Peter Iliff. Neither revival made it beyond the script stage.
TNT announced a new series was in development in May 2013 from producers Steven Spielberg, Julie Andrews, Lou Pitt, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank with writers Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, and André Nemec. The series was not picked up for the 2014-2015 season.
In 2002, A&E Home Video released two volume sets of Peter Gunn on DVD in Region 1, which comprise 32 episodes from Season One. These releases have been discontinued and are now out of print.
On October 23, 2012, Timeless Media Group released Peter Gunn – The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. The 12-disc set features all 114 episodes of the series, as well as a bonus CD of Henry Mancini's award winning score.