This week’s mystery production has been the TV series “Johnny Staccato,” starring John Cassavetes, which aired 27 episodes on NBC in the 1959-1960 season. The mystery episode was “Fly Baby, Fly,” featuring Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands (his wife), Howard Freeman, Dort Clark, Nesdon Booth, Ingrid Goude, Jan Brooks, Mike Steele and Dennis Sallas. It was directed by Robert B. Sinclair, written by Philip S. Goodman, with music by Elmer Bernstein and photography by Ray Cory. The series was produced by Everett Chambers and the executive producer was William Frye.
Other episodes feature such familiar faces famous character actors as Ted de Corsia, Elisha Cook Jr., Lloyd Corrigan and, according to IMDB, Snub Pollard.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 10, 1959), Cecil Smith said Johnny Staccato “is almost a carbon copy of of Peter Gunn. The jazz blares, the liquor flows, the girls wait breathlessly for the slightest gesture of affection from Johnny Staccato.” Smith called Cassavetes “one of the best actors in television” and praised the show’s “great jazz music scored by Elmer Bernstein and played by such marvels as Red Norvo, Barney Kessel, Shelley Mann, etc.” (Note: Smith also disliked “Tightrope,” but praised Mike Connors.)
The TV series was made about the same time that Cassavetes was directing “Shadows,” which began as an improvised acting exercise and grew into a film shot over 12 weeks in New York.
Cassavetes told Charles Champlin (Aug. 27, 1984): “When I started making films, that was exactly what I wanted to do, make Frank Capra pictures. But I’ve never been able to make anything except these crazy, tough pictures. It’s not intentional. You just are what you are.”
“Johnny Staccato” is available on DVD from Amazon and random episodes are on DailyMotion.com.