Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Investigators (1961)

In 1961 Franciscus returned to series television as the star of The Investigators, once more assuming the mantle of detective, but this time of the private rather than police variety. Franciscus played Russ Andrews, one of the three principals of Investigators, Inc.; his partners were ex-cop and tough guy Steve Banks (James Philbrook) and Bill Davis (Alan Austin). Maggie Peters (Mary Murphy) was their beautiful secretary.

The cast of The Investigators: James Franciscus, James Philbrook, Mary Murphy, and Alan Austin.

Investigators, Inc., based in New York City, worked large insurance claims. Franciscus's character, blueblood Ivy League WASP Russ Andrews, was very different from the blue collar Irish cop, Jimmy Halloran, that Franciscus had played on Naked City. Whereas Franciscus was able to channel both his Missouri Catholic childhood and New York City adolescence to play Halloran, he was able to draw on his years in prep school and at Yale to portray the cerebral, cultivated Yale grad Andrews.

James Franciscus as Russ Andrews of Investigators Inc.

By contrast, Andrews's partner Steve Banks was more of a Naked City character, a former NYC beat cop who as likely to resort to brawn as brains.

Franciscus with co-star James Philbrook.

The show was probably doomed from the start, resulting from and in a couple of bad breaks for Franciscus. It was beat badly in the ratings because it went up against Dr. Kildare; Franciscus had been the leading choice to play Dr. Kildare but had to decline the part because of a prior commitment, which was most likely... The Investigators. Franciscus might also have missed out on returning to Naked City when it was surprisingly revived in a new, hour-long format because of his commitment to this show.

The series only ran for 13 episodes, but in that short run it featured a host of famous guest stars, including Lee Marvin, Mickey Rooney, Dennis Hopper, Jane Wyman, Ida Lupino, Claire Trevor, Rhonda Fleming, Dina Merrill, Albert Salmi, and Joanna Barnes.

With guest star Mickey Rooney.

Exactly ten years after The Investigators, Franciscus again starred in a series about an insurance investigator (although this time a blind one), as Mike Longstreet. Stirling Silliphant, who knew and liked Franciscus from their work togehter on Naked City, was the creator and executive producer of Longstreet

With guest star Rhonda Fleming.