Highway Patrol (American TV series)

  (Redirected from Highway Patrol (U.S. TV series))

Highway Patrol is a 156-episode action crime drama series produced for syndication from 1955 to 1959.

Highway Patrol
Highway Patrol-1950s Frederick Ziv series-Title screen.jpg
Highway Patrol title screen
Also known asTen-4
GenreAction/Police crime drama
StarringBroderick Crawford
Narrated byArt Gilmore
Theme music composerDavid Rose
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes156
Executive producerFrederick Ziv
ProducersVernon E. Clark
Jack Herzberg
Herbert L. Strock
Production locationCalifornia
Running time30 minutes
Production companyZiv Television Programs
DistributorZiv Television Programs
MGM Television
Sony Pictures Television
Original networkSyndication
Picture formatBlack and white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseOctober 3, 1955 (1955-10-03) –
September 1, 1959 (1959-09-01)


Highway Patrol stars Broderick Crawford as Dan Matthews, the gruff and dedicated head of a police force in an unidentified Western state. A signature shot of the series is fedora-wearing Matthews barking rapid-fire dialogue into a radio microphone as he leans against the door of his black and white patrol car. Matthews growls "21-50 to headquarters" and the invariable response is "Headquarters by" (as in, standing by).


Ziv Television Programs was founded by Frederick Ziv in 1948. Ten years later, Ziv TV was a major producer of 1950s and early 1960s first-run syndicated series, including Bat Masterson, The Cisco Kid, Men into Space, Science Fiction Theater, Lock-Up, Sea Hunt, and Ripcord.

Highway Patrol was created by Ziv in response to the California Highway Patrol wanting to be featured in a TV series. However, because Ziv thought that the show needed to have a broader police scope than the real CHP, the generic show name was adopted.

Crawford signed in April 1955.[1]


Highway Patrol premiered October 3, 1955, with "Prison Break", an episode filmed April 11–13, 1955. Initial ratings were strong, the show running second to I Love Lucy.[2]

Ziv Television Programs produced 156 episodes spanning four TV seasons, 1955–1959. In the four years of its run, Highway Patrol would feature many actors who would later become successful stars in their own right, among them Stuart Whitman, Clint Eastwood, Robert Conrad, Larry Hagman, Barbara Eden, Paul Burke, Leonard Nimoy, and Ruta Lee.

Episodes are generally fast paced, which is notable considering how a typical episode was filmed: two days on location and one day at the studio. The budget for an episode ranged from $20,000 to $25,000, and somewhat higher when a Bell 47 helicopter was used. Producer Frederic W. Ziv said the show moved fast to match Broderick Crawford's acting pace. Ziv said Highway Patrol introduced quick cutting to television, which started a new trend.

Highway Patrol is famous for its location shooting around the San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley, then mostly rural. Other notable Los Angeles area locations include Griffith Park, as well as Bronson Canyon just above Hollywood.[3] The show also filmed at railroad stations in Glendale, California, identified by a large sign, Alhambra, California, Santa Susana, California, and Chatsworth, California.

Unlike the California Highway Patrol, the agency featured in the TV series was more concerned with chasing criminals than enforcing driving laws. Local and county police officers were seldom if ever in evidence, only the Highway Patrol. With such a limited budget, there were very few car chases, crashes, and other motor mayhem that is more common in modern police dramas. Scenes were often filmed on rural two-lane paved or dirt roads to save money and because Crawford's own driver license was suspended for drunk driving. Excitement was mainly generated by Crawford's rapid-fire staccato delivery of his lines, frequent shootouts, and numerous plot contrivances in which time was a critical factor, such as a hostage death threat, the escape of a violent criminal, a train derailment, or other imminent catastrophe.

In the first two seasons the series received technical assistance from the California Highway Patrol. The patrol cars in early episodes are actual CHP vehicles with the show's car door emblem covering the CHP emblem (sometimes a real CHP star is briefly visible). For instance, the 1955 Buick Century two-door patrol car seen in early episodes was built exclusively for the CHP. Eventually the California Highway Patrol dropped its support, reportedly dissatisfied with how the show evolved. The show then had to create its own patrol cars using non-police models, but outfitted in CHP-style, distinctly subdued compared with many police agencies.

Officer uniforms are the CHP style of the day. In seasons one to three, the shoulder patch is essentially the CHP patch with "California" and "Eureka" (state motto) removed; the California bear and other California state seal elements are retained. In season four the show adopted a uniform patch that matches its patrol car emblem. Highway Patrol chief Dan Matthews usually wears a suit and fedora, but not to be undercover—he generally drives a black-and-white patrol car.

Art Gilmore's narration gives Highway Patrol a documentary feel, but several details are never mentioned. While described as a state police agency, the actual state is never stated. It is said to be a western state which borders on Mexico, but only eastern state Rhode Island is small enough to allow Dan Matthews to regularly drive from headquarters to every crime scene in just minutes. Towns have simple names like "Midvale", though sometimes a real place name is used because of a prominent sign. In some episodes Matthews uses an unlabeled wall map that appears to be central-east Oregon, with the towns of Bend and Redmond on the map's left. Cars in the show are always described by color and body style, but never by brand name: "blue coupe", "gray sedan". Cars have the black-on-yellow California license plate of the time, but with a piece of tape covering the name of the state (usually, but sometimes "California" is briefly visible). Episode "Mistaken Identity" did show a 1957 Illinois license plate in the opening scene.

A key element of the show is two-way radio communication among patrol cars and headquarters, with heavy use of police code "10-4" (meaning "acknowledged"). While 10-4 adds a feeling of authenticity, real police use many radio codes for brevity and clarity. The Highway Patrol show radio call signs are CHP style, except California Highway Patrol uses the first part to indicate the geographic region or office. Dan Matthews' unit "21-50" would be a CHP unit at office 21, which is in Napa County, California.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wrote five episodes, sometimes using the pseudonym "Robert Wesley". Future producer Quinn Martin was sound supervisor in the show's early years; style elements of "Highway Patrol" are evident in his later productions (The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Barnaby Jones, The Invaders, The FBI and The Streets of San Francisco).

When asked why the popular show ended, Crawford said, "We ran out of crimes". Crawford reportedly had had his fill of the show's hectic TV schedule (two shows per week), which had caused him to drink more heavily than ever, and he had decided to leave Highway Patrol to make films in Europe.[4] Ziv held up Crawford's 10% share of the show's gross (some $2 million) until Crawford agreed to sign for a new Ziv pilot and TV show, King of Diamonds. After returning from Europe, Crawford signed his new contract with Ziv and later starred in King of Diamonds playing diamond insurance investigator John King.[4] King of Diamonds lasted only one season before being canceled in 1962. Like most Ziv series, Highway Patrol repeats were syndicated for many years, sometimes with name Ten-4. In 2010, ThisTV began airing the series. In 2017, it was added to the lineup on MeTV.

Episode closingsEdit

Similar to the contemporary Ziv Television action/adventure series, Sea Hunt, each episode ended with a gratitude from Broderick Crawford himself for watching and an invitation to view again next week. Highway Patrol's style was different, however; he would deliver an aphoristic comment on traffic safety, including these:

  • "The laws of your community are enforced for your protection ... obey them!"
  • "Leave your blood at the Red Cross, not on the highway!"
  • "Leave your blood at the Red Cross, or your community blood bank, not on the highway!"
  • "The careless driver isn't driving his car, he's aiming it!"
  • "It isn't the car that kills, it's the driver!"
  • "No matter how new, the safest device in your car is you!"
  • "It isn't what you drive, but how you drive that counts!"
  • "The clowns at the circus, they're real funny, but on the highway they're murder!"
  • "Reckless driving doesn't determine who's right, only who's left!"
  • "If you care to drive, drive with care!"
  • "Try to be as good a driver as you think you are!"
  • "One tree can make a million matches, but it only takes one match to destroy a million trees!"

The style of these closings evolved slightly over time. In early episodes, Crawford promised next week's viewers a "different", "unusual", or "exciting" case; toward the end of the series this verbiage was dropped.


The only constant regular on Highway Patrol is star Broderick Crawford as Dan Matthews. Crawford won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1949 for All the King's Men. William Boyett became a regular in the fourth season as Sgt. Ken Williams. Boyett went on to play Sgt. MacDonald in Adam-12.

Another constant is the voice of Art Gilmore as the heard but unseen narrator. Gilmore narrated many movie trailers and was the announcer on The Red Skelton Show. He had a recurring role as Joe Friday's commanding officer on Dragnet (both the original late 1950s version and the series' reprise in the late 1960s) and on Adam-12. He also had a recurring role as L.A. County Battalion Fire Chief Sorensen in Emergency! in the early and mid 1970s.

Guest starsEdit

  • Peter Breck played escaped prisoner Whitey Sims in Hostage (1958)
  • Diane Brewster played the role of the dispatcher in Prison Break (1955).
  • Paul Burke played trooper #2217 in Prison Break (1955).
  • Robert Conrad played a murderer in 1959.
  • Pat Conway appeared as Mel in Radioactive (1955).
  • Jeanne Cooper played the female bandit in 1955.
  • Clint Eastwood appeared in a 1955 first-season episode called "Motorcycle A".
  • Barbara Eden appeared in the episode "Hostage Copter" (1957).
  • Bill Erwin appeared in the episode "Phony Insurance" (1955)
  • Joe Flynn appeared in the episode "Taxi" (1956).
  • Robert Fuller appeared as Judd Patterson in "Fire" (1959)
  • Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. appeared as Capt. Julio Gonzales in "Mexican Chase" (1959).
  • Ruta Lee played Lea Franklin in "Armored Car" (1957).
  • Joyce Meadows played Ella McKay in "Suspected Cop" (1957).
  • Leonard Nimoy played Harry Wells in "Hot Dust" (1957), and Ray in "Blood Money" (1958).
  • Carol Thurston played Patty March in "Officer's Wife" (1957) and Lita Morgan in "Women Escapee" (1959)
  • Stuart Whitman appeared in 13 episodes as Sergeant Walters.
  • Guy Williams (1955) played an occasional role as partner to top cop Dan Matthews on several episodes.
  • Kirk Alyn also appeared occasionally as a patrol officer working with Matthews.

In popular cultureEdit

Crawford makes a cameo in the 1977 episode "Hustle" of CHiPs, which is also about the California Highway Patrol. After chatting about Highway Patrol, Officer Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) says, tongue-in-cheek, "they don't make TV shows like that anymore."[5]

Crawford comes back with, "No, they sure don't."

To mark the 75th anniversary of the CHP in 2004, Los Angeles City Council Member Tom LaBonge, District 4 (which includes parts of Hollywood) asked his "Dollar a Year Man"[6] Gary Goltz to come up with an idea. In response, Goltz created the 10-4 Day Parade[7] which is held every October 4. Approximately 20 to 30 classic police cars from the CHP, LAPD, and many classic cop TV shows parade down Hollywood Boulevard stopping to pay tribute to Broderick Crawford's movie Star on the Walk of Fame. They are often joined by Erik Estrada, Kent McCord and other stars of classic cop TV shows. "The Star and the Car" a documentary about Goltz and his 1955 Broderick Crawford "Highway Patrol" Buick was released in 2018. In 2019 "Broderick Crawford Starring in Highway Patrol" a book on the series written by Goltz was released.

Show's availabilityEdit

All the 156 episodes are now available on DVD from the 35mm masters. The rights to all the 156 episodes are held by Ziv Television Productions' successor United Artists Television under MGM Television. In 2010 episodes began being shown on ThisTV, a network which features classic shows and movies. In 2017, it joined the line-up on MeTV. It has also appeared on the TV network Decades. Some episodes of Highway Patrol have been provided online via Hulu.com. MGM Home Entertainment released the first season of Highway Patrol on DVD on August 11, 2010. On April 2, 2013, TGG Direct released seasons 2, 3, and 4 on DVD. Most episodes are also available, for free, via YouTube.


  1. ^ Ames, Walter (29 April 1955). "Crawford to Direct 'Highway Patrol' Shows; Bishop Moves to ABC". Los Angeles Times. p. 34.
  2. ^ Ames, Walter (5 October 1955). "KTTV's Highway Patrol High in Rating; Darnell Gets Amnesia Starrer". Los Angeles Times. p. 30.
  3. ^ Daniels, Saul (18 February 2011). "Looking Back on Chatsworth Through the Flickering Eye of Television". ChatsworthPatch. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b Jason, Rick (July 2000). "Broderick Crawford - Highway Patrol". Scrapbooks of My Mind: A Hollywood Autobiography. Argoe Publishing. Retrieved 29 December 2018 – via scrapbooksofmymind.com.
  5. ^ "Episode Guide: Season 1: Hustle". CHiPs Online. Adequate.com. 2016. Archived from the original on July 23, 2003. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  6. ^ Baime, A.J. (July 27, 2016). "A 1955 Buick revives 'Highway Patrol'" (PDF). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 December 2018 – via GoltzJudo.com.
  7. ^ "Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford". Highwaypatroltv.com. Retrieved 29 December 2018.

External linksEdit