The Ellery Queen Mysteries aired during the mid 1970s, and starred Jim Hutton as Ellery and David Wayne as his father. The premise of the show is: Ellery Queen is a 1940s best selling author of mystery books. Ellery’s father is a police inspector. They live together as only two bachelors could – Ellery has filled their living room (his writing room) with all sorts of murder weapons – guns, knives, even a snake with its venomous fangs exposed. Also, their kitchen seems to be mostly for making their coffee and morning toast.
Richard Levinson and William Link were the two men responsible for this series, as well as shows like Murder, She Wrote, Columbo, Mannix, and many television movies. The Ellery Queen Mysteries were a predecessor to Murder, She Wrote – a show which also featured many weekly guest stars. The good news, however, about the guest stars in the Ellery Queen Mysteries is this: Unlike Murder, She Wrote, the most famous guest star of each episode didn’t always turn out to be the person who committed the crime. For those of you who plan on watching these really good Cozy Mystery shows, the guest stars are big names from when the show aired as well as from the 1940s and 1950s Hollywood movies. People like Larry Hagman, Joan Collins, Eve Arden, Tom Bosley, Eva Gabor, Ed McMahon, and Betty White. (Oops, I guess she qualifies as a star today!)
Ellery tags along to crime scenes with his police detective father and invariably is attracted to some type of minutia. Some of the time Ellery doesn’t even want to be involved with the criminal investigation. A lot of the time he has an editor’s deadline he must hurry to meet, but something about the crime scene catches his attention. Why did the victim drag herself to the television set’s plug? Why did the comic book author mark a particular item?
Ellery loves to solve the cases with all of the suspects gathered togethrer (à la Hercule Poirot) – but this only happens after Ellery takes a “private moment” with the television audience. He looks into the camera and goes over all of the clues – asking us if we have figured out the solution.
I absolutely love the relationship between Ellery and his father. The chemistry is undeniable… you would think these two are truly related. David Wayne (Ellery’s dad) frets over his son – making sure he wears his coat in cold weather, giving him fatherly advise on taking care of his cold, etc. He is endearing. You don’t see such displays of father-son affection in very many television shows.
I don’t want to end this entry before mentioning that actor John Hillerman plays the host of a mystery theme radio show – “The Casebook of Simon Brimmer.” Hillerman is delightful as he somehow interjects himself into many of the cases. His ultimate goal is to find the culprit before Ellery or the police do, in order to publicly take the credit for the solving of the crime. Usually he “solves” the mystery only to have to amend his solution when he finds that Ellery has once again beat him at finding the correct solution to the mystery. As big a twit as Simon Brimmer is, John Hillerman is able to make him a likable know-it-all!
(PS>>> I have not read the Ellery Queen mystery books, so I cannot vouch for how true to the books these shows are.)
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