1 9 5 8 – 1 9 6 1 (USA)
114 x 30 minute episodes
Peter Gunn was a top-rated detective drama which 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 filmmaker Blake Edwards (and based on Richard Diamond, Private Detective which was also created by Edwards for a radio series starring Dick Powell and a TV adaptation starring David Janssen), 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 modelled the character of Peter Gunn on Cary Grant, considered one of Hollywood’s most debonair leading men at the time. The actor chosen to play Gunn, Craig Stevens, even bore a close resemblance to Grant.
The series was set in Los Angeles (although the actual city was never mentioned by name in the series) and, more often than not, inside a jazz club called Mother’s.
The storyline essentially centred around Gunn solving his client’s problems (for which he charged $1000 a case), which always involved having to deal with an assortment of hitmen, hoodlums and assorted “hip” characters found on the jazz scene.
He was often aided by his personal friend and confidant, police Lieutenant Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi, pictured at right).
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, pictured below left) was always the main attraction.
The style of Peter Gunn has been described by some viewers as a borderline parody. The dialogue is delivered in a hip, deadpan fashion and, at times, the series seemed to be poking fun at other more conventional private eye series’.
An important ingredient in the show, 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 be best-sellers.
The Peter Gunn Theme is instantly recognisable and continues to be played on mainstream radio and has even been used as the vehicle for modern rock versions.
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 demeanour, together with Mancini’s outstanding jazz themes, worked to leave a lasting impression in the minds of fans.
Hope Emerson (1)
Minerva Urecal (2)