Yeah, I know this book has been unForgotten before, notably in fine reviews by Richard Robinson and J. Kingston Pierce, and I encourage you to check them out.
I wrote this piece some months back for THE TAINTED ARCHIVE's TV Cops Weekend, but I screwed up and failed to send Gary all the artwork. So here's the article with art included . . .
Along with all the TV Westerns I watched as a kid, and there were a LOT of them, I somehow found time for the Warner Brothers stable of private eye shows - Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside Six, and the best of them all - 77 Sunset Strip.
Back then, I had no idea that 77’s lead detective, Stu Bailey, had first appeared in a novel. But I know now, and would see the show (if I COULD see it) in a whole different light.
The Double Take was published in 1946, appearing both in hardcover from William Morrow & Co, and in the March 1946 issue of Mammoth Mystery, a magazine edited by mystery writer Howard Browne. Browne must have loved this extremely Chandleresque novel by newcomer Roy Huggins, because Browne’s own first homage to Chandler (Halo in Blood by John Evans) was published that same year.
The opening sentence of The Double Take tells you what to expect:
“I was sitting in his paneled office on the top floor of the Security Bank Building looking at him across a desk that was bare as a mannequin’s mind and large enough for a pair of midgets to play badmitton on.”
Yep, it starts like a Philip Marlowe novel and never lets up. Reading the book again recently, I found myself smiling on every page.
(click to enlarge)
Huggins followed up later that same year with two Stuart Bailey novelettes for The Saturday Evening Post. A third Stu Bailey story appeared in Esquire in 1952. Meantime, The Double Take appeared in paperback and Huggins wrote two more unrelated mystery novels, Too Late for Tears and Lovely Lady, Pity Me.
Huggins got his first taste of the motion picture business in 1948, writing the screenplay for the film version of The Double Take, titled I Love Trouble. In this one, Stu Bailey was portrayed by Franchot Tone.
From then on, Huggins’ literary career fell by the wayside as he devoted himself almost exclusively to films and television. In the late 50s he went to work for Warner Brothers, revitalizing Cheyenne (a show that was in trouble) and creating Maverick.
That’s when Jack Warner asked him for a detective show, and Huggins created 77 Sunset Strip, using old Stu Bailey as the hero. He moved Bailey of his shabby Marlowe-style office into swanky digs on the Sunset Strip, right next to Dean Martin’s nightclub, Dino’s. He made the new Bailey an ex-secret service man, and gave him an ex-lawyer (played by Roger Smith) as a partner.
Unfortunately, Huggins was robbed of the credit. Jack Warner wanted to own the show outright, so he had a pilot written and produced by someone else, then had it briefly shown as a motion picture in the Caribbean. This gave Warner the legal footing to claim that the TV show was based on the film “Girl on the Run” rather than on Huggins’ literary works.
This soured Huggins’ relationship with Warner Brothers and he had little more to do with the show. But he’d given it a great start, and it rolled on from 1958 to 1964. Ed Byrnes, who had died as a villain in the pilot, was so well-received that he returned in a new role as “Kookie” the parking lot attendant and eventually graduated to private eye. 77 Sunset Strip was so popular that Warner Brothers built the three shows mentioned above on the same formula, and sometimes had crossovers between the series.
(from Mammoth Mystery - click to enlarge)
In 1959, Huggins strung his three Stu Bailey novelettes into a “novel”, published in paperback as 77 Sunset Strip. To see my review of that book, pics of 77 memorabilia and a complete episode of the show (from YouTube) click HERE.
Roy Huggins went on to create The Fugitive and (with Stephen J. Cannell) The Rockford Files, and produced such shows as The Virginian, Baretta and Alias Smith and Jones. He died in 2002.
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