77 Sunset Strip
77 Sunset Strip is an American television private detective series created by Roy Huggins and starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Roger Smith, Richard Long (from 1960 to 1961) and Edd Byrnes (billed as Edward Byrnes). Each episode was one hour long including commercials. The show ran from 1958 to 1964.
|77 Sunset Strip|
Louis Quinn and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., 1962.
|Created by||Roy Huggins|
|Directed by||Irving J. Moore et al|
|Starring||Efrem Zimbalist Jr.|
Joan Staley (Season 6)
|Theme music composer||Mack David|
Jerry Livingston (original)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||206 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||William T. Orr|
Gordon Bau (make-up)
|Running time||48–50 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Warner Bros. Television|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||October 10, 1958 –|
February 7, 1964
|Preceded by||I Love Trouble|
Conflict episode: "Anything for Money"
|Related shows||Surfside 6|
Bourbon Street Beat
Initial set-up and charactersEdit
As with the previous Warner Brothers series Maverick, having only one star would prove to be too demanding for the frantic production schedule. Accordingly, after the initial pilot which featured Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as solo private detective Stuart ("Stu") Bailey, the series concept became tied to the firm of Bailey & Spencer. Bailey was a former government secret agent, and was a character Huggins had originated in his 1946 novel The Double Take (which he later adapted into the 1948 movie I Love Trouble, starring Franchot Tone in the role). Roger Smith played Jeff Spencer, also a former government agent, and a nonpracticing attorney. The duo worked out of stylish offices at 77 Sunset Boulevard, Suites 101 and 102. The street address was colloquially known as Sunset Strip, and was located between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road on the south side of the strip next door to Dean Martin's real-life lounge, Dino's Lodge. Typically, the two detectives would alternate as leads, with a Stuart Bailey case being featured one week, and a Jeff Spencer case the next -- although depending on the nature of the case, sometimes the two would team up.
Suzanne Fabry, the beautiful French switchboard operator played by Jacqueline Beer, handled the phones for Sunset Answering Service located in suite 103. The firm of Bailey & Spencer employed her answering service, as did other clients. Although not technically an employee of the firm, Suzanne would, especially in season two, be involved in casework from time to time.
Comic relief was provided by Roscoe the racetrack tout (played by Louis Quinn). Roscoe was forever hanging around the offices, giving horse racing tips. However, he was sometimes used as an operative, and was an ever-informed source concerning the word on the street.
The firm's most frequently seen police contact was Lt. Roy Gilmore, who was almost never called by his first name. (He was often called "Gil".) Gilmore was played by Byron Keith, who for most of the first season was billed as Keith Byron.
The 'breakout' character, who had not been included in the pilot film, was Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III (played by Edward Byrnes), the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing hipster and aspiring PI who initially worked as the valet parking attendant at Dino's, the club next door to the detectives' office. Byrnes had originally been cast as a contract killer in the series pilot, but proved so popular that he was brought back in a new role for the series. "Kookie" often found a way to get himself involved in the firm's cases, and was eventually made a full partner in the firm with his own office. Note that although he would adopt the name "Edd Byrnes" around this time for his work as a recording act (and later use that name exclusively) during the years the series was in the air, he was always billed as Edward Byrnes.
Also seen relatively frequently were The Frank Ortega Trio, playing themselves as the jazzy house band at Dino's Lodge.
All the above characters were regulars for the first five seasons, though Byrnes was not seen for several months in 1960 due to a contract dispute.
Tone and cultural impactEdit
Despite Huggins' hopes for a hard-edged drama, the tone of the series was much lighter and featured a strong element of self-deprecating humor. Many of the episodes were named "capers". The catchy theme song, written by the accomplished team of Mack David and Jerry Livingston, typified the show's breezy, jazzed atmosphere. The song became the centerpiece of an album of the show's music in Warren Barker-led orchestrations, which was released in 1959, a top-10 hit in the Billboard LP charts.
The Kookie character became a cultural phenomenon, with his slang expressions such as "ginchy" and "piling up Zs" (sleeping). When Kookie helped the detectives on a case by singing a song, Edd Byrnes began a singing career with the novelty single "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" (Warner Bros. 5047), based on his frequent combing of his hair; this featured Connie Stevens on vocals in the chorus and the song, with words and music by Irving Taylor, became the first hit single for the recently established Warner Bros. Records. Kookie was also used to provide product placement for Harley-Davidson, appearing on their Topper motor scooter in the show and in Harley-Davidson advertisements.
Cast changes during seasons 1-5Edit
When Byrnes' demands for more money and an expanded role were not met, he left the show for a period in season two. After an absence of 16 episodes beginning in January 1960, Byrnes and Warner Brothers settled their differences, and Kookie came back beginning in May. (During his absence, Roscoe's and Suzanne's roles were beefed up to handle the leg work normally assigned to Kookie.)
For the 1960-61 season, Richard Long (who had previously been seen in different roles in two season one 77 Sunset Strip episodes) moved over from the recently canceled detective series Bourbon Street Beat. His BSB character of Rex Randolph was said to have left New Orleans and relocated to North Hollywood, joining Bailey and Spencer's firm, and taking office 104. The character was dropped after one season, but Long (once again playing different one-shot guest characters) was seen again on 77 Sunset Strip in seasons five and six.
Kookie became a full-fledged detective and partner in the firm as of season four, taking over Rex Randolph's office in 104. At the same time, Robert Logan became the new parking lot attendant, J.R. Hale, who usually spoke in abbreviations. Hale was seen throughout seasons four and five.
Episode and guest cast highlightsEdit
One of the series' more unusual episodes was the 1960 "The Silent Caper", written by Smith. It presented its story completely without dialogue, hence the title. Another off-beat entry was 1961's "Reserved For Mr. Bailey", which finds Zimbalist alone in a ghost town. He is the only actor on screen for the entire hour. (This latter episode was never included in the syndication package, and many fans had expressed their frustration at being unable to see it again. After 56 years out of circulation, it finally resurfaced on MeTV on June 17, 2017.)
The show's popularity was such that rising young actors clamored for guest spots. Up-and-comers who made guest appearances included Ellen Burstyn, Roger Moore, DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, Mary Tyler Moore, Shirley MacLaine look-alike Gigi Verone, Robert Conrad, Dyan Cannon, Janet De Gore, Jay North, Connie Stevens, Irish McCalla, Adam West, Tuesday Weld, Sherry Jackson, Marlo Thomas, Max Baer Jr., Carole Mathews, Elizabeth Montgomery, Karen Steele, Randy Stuart, Susan Oliver, Robert Vaughn, Suzanne Storrs, Peter Breck, Donna Douglas, Troy Donahue, Chad Everett, Gena Rowlands, Cloris Leachman, Eve McVeagh, and Diane Ladd. Established film and TV actors and older stars guest-starred, as well, including Fay Wray, Francis X. Bushman, Rodolfo Hoyos Jr., Ida Lupino, Liliane Montevecchi, Keenan Wynn, Rolfe Sedan, Jim Backus, Billie Burke, Buddy Ebsen, George Jessel, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Burgess Meredith, Nick Adams, Gerald Mohr, and Roy Roberts, among others. The show occasionally featured sports stars such as Sandy Koufax in guest roles.
The Controversial sixth season, 1963–1964Edit
In 1963, as the show's popularity waned, the entire cast was let go except for Zimbalist. Jack Webb was brought in as executive producer and William Conrad as a producer/director. The character of Stuart Bailey was presented as a solo private investigator, with no continuity or reference to his past years with Jeff Spencer, Suzanne, Kookie, and Roscoe et al, or his military OSS background. It was an abrupt, unexplained disconnect. The series and Bailey's personality took on a darker tone, and the familiar office, parking lot and Dino's Lodge were gone. A new musical theme was written by Bob Thompson.
The season six show title was not changed, it still was an address, but Bailey's new office was dramatically different from Bailey and Spencer's 77 Sunset Strip office of the past five years. The interior of Bailey's new office building was shown behind the show's opening and closing credits, forcing viewers to ponder how the same address could look so very different (it was actually the historic Bradbury building in downtown Los Angeles). There seemed to be no spoken mention of his office address in the season six shows, although in the episode "Bonus Baby" when a police officer inspects Bailey's Private Investigator License, a close-up shows the address "77 Sunset Strip".
As the season progressed, there were some shifts in tone. Several episodes into the season, Bailey's stern personality became lighter, though still different from prior seasons. His secretary Hannah, previously known to sixth season viewers only because Bailey addressed her in his recorded dictations, was seen on-screen beginning in the season's eleventh episode. Played by Joan Staley, Hannah worked in Bailey's office, where he developed a romantic interest in her -- but she continually frustrated him by playing hard-to-get. As of episode "Alimony League" (the sixteenth of the season's twenty episodes), the opening and closing background of Bradbury building was gone, replaced by Bailey in silhouette walking past lighted store windows.
Episode "The Target" was unusual because key roles were played by the show's primary behind-the-scenes people, who happened to also be experienced actors. Show producer William Conrad played "Maestrian", associate producer James Lydon played "Charlie", writer Tony Barrett played "Carnovan", and director Lawrence Dobkin played "Landers".
Season six of "77 Sunset Strip" was essentially a different show from what had aired in seasons one to five -- a show that oddly used the title (and one character name and actor) from the different prior show, and showed a different building with the same address. Viewers did not appreciate such a massive alteration, and the show was cancelled halfway through its sixth season in February 1964. In the 1964 summer reruns period, shows from the Bailey and Spencer years were shown; the Season Six episodes were abandoned, rarely seen until September 2017 on MeTV.
NOTE: The most frequent time slot for the series is in bold text.
- Friday at 9:30–10:30 pm on ABC: October 10, 1958 – May 29, 1959; October 12, 1962 – June 14, 1963
- Friday at 9:00–10:00 pm on ABC: October 2, 1959 – June 29, 1962
- Friday at 7:30–8:30 pm on ABC: September 20, 1963 – February 7, 1964
The show was the subject of an ownership battle between Roy Huggins and Warner Bros., which was the proximate cause of Huggins' departure from the studio. The series was based on novels and short stories written by Huggins prior to his arrival at Warner, but as a matter of legal record, derived from a brief Caribbean theatrical release of its pilot, Girl on the Run, which was also given a theatrical release in the UK on the ABC circuit in 1959 and the supporting film to Warner Bros. The Old Man and the Sea starring Spencer Tracy.
The success of 77 Sunset Strip led to the creation of several other detective shows in exotic locales, all produced by the Warner Bros. studio, which created Strip — Bourbon Street Beat in New Orleans, Hawaiian Eye in Honolulu, and Surfside 6 in Miami Beach. The casts and scripts of these various shows sometimes crossed over, which was logistically easy, since they were all shot in Burbank on the Warner Bros. lot.
The office and bar/nightclub sets of 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye were on the same WB soundstage, intertwined to save space, with shared room walls and some doors actually going between the sets (not obvious to viewers). Production crews would pay attention to each other. For example, a carpenter hammering on a set would hear "Quiet" from the other set and hold the hammer mid-stroke until hearing "Cut".
Currently, only an engraving in the Sunset Boulevard sidewalk (address number 8524) between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road commemorates 77 Sunset Strip, and the area is slated for redevelopment as part of "The Sunset Millennium" project. In a twist of fate, the opposition to the redevelopment of the area is known as "Save Our Strip" or "SOS" and is spearheaded by former 77 Sunset Strip semiregular Gigi Verone. No number 77 exists on the Strip, as all Sunset Boulevard addresses in the area have four digits.
The show was referenced in an episode of Jay Ward's Fractured Flickers, showing a satirical depiction of Ward looking at a lineup of fictional shows, one of them being "77 Gaza Strip".
Episodes of the television series can be seen in reruns, through syndication packages offered by Warner Bros. Studios. At one time, 43 episodes had been removed from syndication for various legal reasons, but 13 of these can now be seen in reruns. As of 2017, the syndication package aired on Me-TV contained every original episode.
Thirty-one years after the series left the air, Warner Bros. proposed a modern revival of 77 Sunset Strip, that was to be the first hour-long drama series to air on the new WB Television Network. It was to be produced by Clint Eastwood and starred Jim Caviezel, Timothy Olyphant, and Maria Bello. A 25-minute pilot presentation was shot for upfronts in the spring of 1995, but despite a few attempts to get it modified and finalized for broadcast in 1995–1996, the project never made it past the testing stage. Early mentioning of the show was made in the network's fall affiliate presentation promotion, the 77 Sunset Strip logo visible in the movie backlot motif.
- Dregni, Eric; Pete, Pixel (2005). "Chapter 1: Scooter History". Scooters: Everything You Need to Know. MBI Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7603-2217-8. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
Being the little brother to world famous motorcycles, the Harley Topper could never live up to that rebel image, even with Kookie from 77 Sunset Strip pushing the putt-putts with ad copy like "Kookie, where's your Topper?"
- Grant, Roderick M., ed. (December 1959). "Harley-Davidson advertisement". Popular Mechanics. Chicago, IL USA: Popular Mechanics. 112 (6): 211. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
- Milk Amplifier (November 13, 2012). "77 Sunset Strip" – via YouTube.
- Adams, Val (January 1, 1964). "A.B.C.-TV TO DROP '77 SUNSET STRIP' / Also Discontinuing 3 Other Series Before April". The New York Times, p.41. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
- "The Sunset Millennium Project".
- "Timothy Olyphant: 'Justified' In Laying Down The Law". NPR.org. March 28, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2013.