Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming, smarmy psychiatrist
Los Angeles, Spring 1967
Film: Prescription: Murder
Original Air Date: February 20, 1968
Director: Richard Irving
Costume Designer: Burton Miller
This week in 1968, TV audiences were introduced to an unassuming yet indefatigable homicide detective in a wrinkled raincoat whose humble mannerisms and appearance belied an uncanny ability to bring murderers to justice. Oh, and just one more thing… that detective was named Columbo.
Peter Falk wasn’t the first to play the detective, nor was he even the first choice when Richard Levinson and William Link’s stage play was adapted for TV as Prescription: Murder, the first episode of what would become the long-running series Columbo. Bert Freed had originated the role in a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, to be followed by Thomas Mitchell when Levinson and Link debuted the play Prescription: Murder two years later in San Francisco.
Prescription: Murder establishes many trademark elements of Columbo, including the delayed introduction of the shrewd but shabbily dressed lieutenant himself until after we watch the murderer of the week commit his—or her—crime.
Gene Barry set a standard in Prescription: Murder that the killers foiled by Columbo would follow for decades to come: arrogant, well-dressed, and clever enough to pull together a murder scheme that keeps them above suspicion… from all but Lieutenant Columbo, of course. Continue reading
Elliott Gould as Capt. “Trapper John” McIntyre, irreverent U.S. Army chest surgeon
Korea, Summer 1951
Release Date: January 25, 1970
Director: Robert Altman
Before there was Magnum, there was M*A*S*H, in which Elliott Gould set the “Gould standard” for effectively pairing a prolific mustache with an Aloha shirt. Robert Altman’s film was based on the then-recently published MASH: A Novel of Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker, which would in turn be adapted into a long-running TV series that would last almost four times as long as the Korean War itself.
While maverick Army doctor “Hawkeye” Pierce was arguably the central figure (and increasingly the show’s moral fiber, under Alan Alda’s creative direction), I was also fond of his cinematic sidekick, Captain “Trapper John” McIntyre as portrayed by Elliott Gould, born 82 years ago today on August 29, 1938.
Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, fugitive and former doctor trying to clear his name
Chicago, Spring 1993
Film: The Fugitive
Release Date: August 6, 1993
Director: Andrew Davis
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
In addition to being one of the best modern thrillers, The Fugitive is also one of the best TV-to-movie adaptations, seamlessly updating the characters and story to transform four seasons of a 1960s TV show into a compelling and suspenseful 1990s action flick. Continue reading
Jude Law as Dr. John Watson, adventurous physician and amateur detective
London, August 1890
Film: Sherlock Holmes
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan
While the current British series Sherlock offers more universally adaptable wardrobe options due to its contemporary setting, I unfortunately have yet to see the show (which I know I will love) or own it on a screencappable medium. Thus, to celebrate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 155th birthday this week – May 22 – I’ll be offering a suit worn by Jude Law in the 2009 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.
Dr. John Watson is the second-greatest invention of Conan Doyle, forever influencing the “active narrator” present in mysteries and thrillers. Throughout the years, Dr. Watson evolved from Conan Doyle’s stoic if somewhat stodgy man of action into a total dolt whose friendship with Holmes was the only thing keeping him alive. Continue reading