ARREST AND TRIAL
by Stephen Bowie
A gritty urban crime show, but with a difference. Each week the action is bisected neatly into two halves, so that the audience gets two genres for the price of one. During the first segment, tough but compassionate cops go after a criminal, usually a murderer, and place him or her in detention. Then, after the midpoint, lawyers for the prosecution and the defense argue the case out in court, and the program closes with the detainee on his way behind bars or back out on the streets.
Sound familiar? It should if you’re part of the sizeable audience that made NBC’s long-running Law and Order an ongoing hit. Starring top movie character actors like Paul Sorvino, Michael Moriarty, George Dzunda, Steven Hill, Jerry Orbach, and Sam Waterston, and shot on location in the streets of New York City, Law and Order won plaudits from many critics who noted its “unique” format.
Novel, yes, but not unique. Law and Order’s split structure originated in a show that predated it by nearly thirty years. Arrest and Trial lasted only one season and earned few, if any, rave reviews, but it set the precedent for one of the nineties’ best-loved cops and courtroom programs and, more importantly, it told a few pretty compelling stories of its own.
In keeping with its bifurcated nature, Arrest and Trial featured not two stars but one, and the actors were polar opposites. Ben Gazzara played Sergeant Nick Anderson, an LAPD detective who was about as far away from Joe Friday as you could get. The series’ press materials touted him as TV’s first intellectual cop. In 1960s television terms meant, that meant that on the infrequent occasions the audience glimpsed Anderson off the job and in his apartment, he was usually reading a book and listening to classical music.
A college man, Anderson had interrupted his studies to fight in Korea and never gone back to them, opting to wear the badge instead. Like all handsome TV heroes, Anderson remained resolutely single, in keeping with the network-executive theory that his bachelorhood would keep a hopeful female viewership tuned in. He does, however, appear in the company of a steady date (Joyce Hallam, played by Merry Anders) in a couple of episodes.
Anderson claims in one segment that he enjoys fishing at Big Bear Lake in his spare time, but his real passion was undoubtedly for the job that allowed him to practice garden variety social work in between making the occasional collar.
“I’m supposed to be a thinking man’s cop,” Gazzara told TV Guide. “I’m a serious student of human behavior, more concerned with what creates the criminal than how to punish him . . . . It’s my job to show that there is room for passion and intellectualism and personal display even within a policeman.”
In other words, Gazzara’s Nick Anderson was a classic New Frontier-era kind of cop, a rethinking of hard-nosed police stereotypes at a time when liberalism ruled public policy and it seemed that compassionate civil servants could be the solution to urban blight. Universal, in its press releases, might have claimed this as an innovation, but in fact Arrest and Trial had borrowed this idea from progressive New York-based police procedurals like Brenner, Decoy, and Naked City. In particular, Nick Anderson was a clone of Naked City’s Adam Flint (Paul Burke), another young plainclothes detective more inclined toward armchair psychology than kicking in doors.
Arrest: Ben Gazzara and his original partner, Paul Carr, conduct an interrogation in the series pilot.
But Gazzara must have felt passionately about the originality of his character to take time off from a burgeoning theatre and film career and devote a year to series television. Born Biagio Anthony Gazzara on August 28, 1930, Ben grew up on the Manhattan’s East Side, living the typical life of an Italian slum kid. His father drank heavily and often relied on Ben’s mother to earn the rent for their fourth-floor tenement apartment. Gazzara escaped to the City College of New York, but dropped out after four semesters to pursue acting. A year later, Gazzara won a slot in the Actors Studio, and he quickly came to the fore as one of most promising talents in the second wave of hot young performers to emerge from the famous workshop that popularized “Method” acting.
By 1962 Gazzara had starred in a trio of major Broadway hits (End as a Man, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Hatful of Rain) and begun his film career with Jack Garfein’s excellent The Strange One (the 1957 film version of “End as a Man”). Anatomy of a Murder (1959), in which he played the defendant rather than the detective, followed, as did The Young Doctors (1961), Convicts Four, and Captive City (both 1962). In the meantime Gazzara married and started a family with actress Janice Rule.
If Gazzara’s star was on the rise, then his co-star’s career had just peaked. Brooklyn-born in 1921, enormous and famously square-jawed, Kevin “Chuck” Connors parlayed his 6’5” frame into a diverse career in professional athletics. He began as a basketball player for the Boston Celtics, then switched to baseball and bounced from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the Chicago Cubs to the L.A. Angels. Los Angeles was the perfect venue for Connors, whose hammy antics in the infield caught enough attention from the moviemakers in the stands to secure him a minor film career once he retired from ball-playing. After dozens of supporting parts in movies from Pat and Mike (1952) to Designing Woman (1957), Connors somewhat surprisingly became a huge TV star when he took on the role of Lucas McCain, gun-toting homesteader and kindly father figure, in 1958.
When The Rifleman ended in 1963 after five seasons, Connors was in an enviable position. He negotiated a seven-year contract with MCA/Universal guaranteeing him starring roles in seven feature films (not all of which materialized). Arrest and Trial, a piece of which Connors owned through his company Ranch Productions, was part of the deal. Along the way the athlete-turned-actor starred in Rifleman director Arnold Laven’s biopic Geronimo! (1962) and made the film’s leading lady, Kamala Devi, his second wife. The couple married in April of 1963, just two months before Arrest began production. (Devi guest starred in one of the series’ last episodes, “A Roll of the Dice.”)
For Connors, Arrest and Trial represented a crucial bid at respectability, his chance at being accepted as a serious actor rather than just a rugged action-adventure star. He had a bit of a safety net in that his character, famous defense attorney John Egan, bore some conspicuous similarities to Connors. Egan grew up in New York, gaining a reputation as “Brooklyn’s #1 Romeo,” and first came to fame as an athletic hero (he played football for USC). But Egan grew up in an orphanage, and his politics were more liberal than those of prominent Republican Connors: Arrest’s writers made a point of Egan’s passionate opposition to the death penalty. Like Nick Anderson, Egan was a swinging bachelor.
Connors and Gazzara each signed contracts guaranteeing them $7500 a week. Initially the two stars shared billing on the same title card, with their names positioned in the lower left and upper right so that neither appeared to rank above the other, but after the first episode they settled upon alternating top billing each week.
To a large extent, the characters of Anderson and Egan evolved to suit the personalities of the Arrest and Trial stars. The series was developed in-house at Universal, so the authorship of its original premise remains murky.
The closest thing to a creator credit in Arrest and Trial’s closing titles is the perplexing “Series Developed in Association With Herb Meadow.” Meadow (1911-1995) was a veteran B-movie writer who had co-created the hit western Have Gun Will Travel (with Sam Rolfe, who produced the series without him). Meadow wrote the pilot for Arrest and Trial and received a $750-per-episode retainer for the duration of the series, so it’s likely that he originated the characters and the format of the show but that Universal stingily denied him the royalties attached to a “created by” credit.
Meadow’s original proposal for Arrest and Trial, dated June 1, 1962, described a pair of protagonists quite unlike the two that finally emerged. Todd Anderson was a psychology major and the son of a scholar, a “con artist with a badge” who might have come across a bit more roguishly than Gazzara’s Nick Anderson but otherwise wasn’t too different. Initially, though, Anderson was the junior partner of his detective team.
The leader of the two cops was to have been Sgt. Jim Hogan, a New York-born Irish-American war veteran who lived with his widowed mother and who, in the language of a writer’s pitch obviously aimed at male executives, “has no noticeable personal attraction to women regardless of the size of their busts or buttocks” while on the job, although the ladies admire his “male animal manliness.” Hogan’s blunt, forceful approach to police work, perhaps inspired by the death of his cop father at the hands of a criminal, was intended to contrast with Anderson’s.
The Hogan character may have been dropped because he too closely resembled John Egan. At first, Egan was a bit rougher around the edges than Connors played him — he went to night school, not USC, and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks — and he lived it up quite a bit more than Connors’ stolid Egan. He wore fancy hats, according to the original series presentation, and had the “best parking spot at the Hollywood Park racetrack and the most desirable table at Romanoff’s.” He also displayed a brilliance that rarely came through in Chuck Connors’ delivery. “His brain works with the dexterity of a great boxer. He bobs, weaves, dodges, ducks until he finds his opening and then throws a solid punch,” extolled the proposal.
The 1962 Arrest and Trial presentation also included a litany of supporting characters, only some of whom were ultimately incorporated into the series. The original denizens of Sgt. Anderson’s station house included Red Daugherty, an overweight and irritable cop who rode a desk; Happy Johnson, the dedicated precinct captain; Barney Burns, a young crime reporter for the L.A. Examiner who makes passes at the prostitutes and strikes the detectives as a “severe pain in the you-know-what”; and Nellie, a pretty policewoman whose (again in the pre-women’s lib parlance) “severe, man-tailored jacket can’t hide the two mountains of joy that appear somewhere between the navel and the shoulders!”
On the Trial side, Egan was to face off each week against District Attorney Jerry Miller, a married man who, like Egan, enjoyed sports (particularly golf). Miller, a friend as well as an adversary of Egan’s, tended toward excitability and pounded his desk a lot. Egan’s sizeable office staff was to include Enid, a “male-girl” executive assistant, and several law clerks, the most prominent of whom was “way out” music-lover Elmo Taft. In keeping with Egan’s status as a ladies’ man, the lawyer was supposed to rotate secretaries each week.
Herb Meadow, or whoever drafted the initial Arrest and Trial outline, clearly had the most fun with Jerry Miller’s assistant D.A., Barry Klein. Klein, the son of a kosher meat dealer, had garlic-breath and graduated 256th in a USC law school class of 256. Waxing philosophical, the presentation mused that “Barry should have played the part opposite Perry Mason because he couldn’t convict Dillinger with a signed confession” and that “although he’s 25, one has a feeling that he still spends that extra ten minutes in the bathroom doing what most boys do at 14”!
By the time Arrest and Trial reached the small screen, the producers had boiled the supporting cast down to eight. Third-billed John Larch, another Brooklyn-raised pro-baseball player, portrayed Jerry Miller essentially as described above. Larch, a veteran of radio, appeared in A-list films like Written on the Wind (1956), How the West Was Won (1962), and Dirty Harry (1971), but he may be best remembered as the father of the kid (Billy Mumy) who wishes people into the cornfield in the scary 1961 Twilight Zone classic “It’s a Good Life.” A fine performer in the right part, Larch seemed bemused by the lack of depth to his Arrest and Trial character and reacted by wildly overplaying the role in many episodes.
Two of Meadow’s characters made it into the pilot but not into the subsequent 29 episodes. Time Tunnel’s Robert Colbert appeared as Elmo Taft and Paul Carr played Jim Hogan, now reconceptualized as a generic young sidekick type so as to leave Ben Gazzara the undisputed star of the arrest segments. After the show went to series, Universal replaced the two actors with equally fresh-faced types, and their characters, though renamed, remained essentially the same.
Trial: Chuck Connors with his original second chair, Robert Colbert, who didn’t make it past the series pilot.
Roger Perry, a singer-songwriter who broke into acting after Lucille Ball discovered him, joined the cast as Anderson’s new partner, Sgt. Dan Kirby. Prior to Arrest and Trial, the Colorado-raised Perry had starred (as a lawyer) in the failed Pat O’Brien sitcom Harrigan and Son (1961-62), made his first feature film (1963’s Follow the Boys), and gone under contract to Universal’s television arm, Revue Productions. Like the other young members of the Arrest and Trial cast, Perry was a protégé of Monique James, the former agent whom Lew Wasserman placed in charge of developing new talent when MCA bought out Universal Studios in 1959.
“Probably Monique said, ‘He’s the right type,’ and she might have shown them some film. It was mostly Monique James [who got me the part],” Perry said of the influential executive who rode herd over the last major stable of contract players in Hollywood.
Most prominent among the lesser, semi-regular characters was law clerk Mitchell Harris, the last-minute substitute for Colbert’s Elmo Taft. Young, Kentucky-born Don Galloway left his regular role on the CBS soap The Secret Storm to play Harris, and although he didn’t make much of an impression here Universal later found him a long-running part as one of Raymond Burr’s wheelchair-pushers in Ironside (1967-75).
Rounding out Egan’s office staff, Jo Anne Miya appeared as Egan’s Asian-American girl Friday, Janet Okada. A revised version of the series’ network presentation informs us that Janet took law courses at USC, and concealed a clandestine love for her boss even though she had a med-student boyfriend. But since Miya, a hoofer who had danced in the films The King and I and West Side Story, generally only got to say two or three lines per episode, none of Janet Okada’s backstory ever made it off the page.
Veteran character actor Noah Keen co-starred as Lt. Carl Bone, Anderson and Kirby’s perpetually angry boss and an amalgam of the squadroom brass mentioned in Meadow’s proposal for the show. Keen, a former medical student who fell into acting when a friend put together an amateur theatre company, had the misfortune to break a leg playing softball midway into the series’ production schedule. He tried staying behind a desk for a few episodes, but the producers replaced him midseason with Ken Lynch (as Lt. Handley). The gravel-voiced Lynch was the ultimate TV cop. He lent his voice to the never-seen title character in the experimental live drama The Plainclothesman (1949-54), which was shot from the detective’s point of view, and had recurring roles on Checkmate (1960-62), Honey West (1965-66), and McCloud (1970-77), always as a grim, unsmiling police officer.
The wild card in Arrest and Trial’s ensemble was John Kerr, who played a heavily revised version of Barry Klein. Now de-ethnicized to Barry Pine, the assistant district attorney now had a high IQ, a Yale Law degree, and a silver-spoon background. He no longer reeked of garlic and incompetence but did possess an “intolerant, arrogant, and supercilious view of life.” The series’ writers often used Pine’s conservative, pro-capital punishment stance for ideological contrast with John Egan’s politics.
Barry Pine seems to have been intended as a regular character. However, he did not appear in every episode, perhaps because (as he later admitted) Kerr disliked the role intensely. A flash-in-the pan star of the mid-1950s by virtue of his exceptional performances in the stage and screen versions of Robert Anderson’s Tea and Sympathy, Kerr found himself relegated, a decade later, to supporting parts on television. In a case of life imitating art, Kerr gave up acting in the early 1970s, passed the bar, and went into private practice as an attorney.
Kerr was a superb actor and his work on Arrest and Trial reflected his talent. Kerr struck just the right balance with Barry Pine, making the young lawyer difficult to like but just sympathetic enough to come across as a fully dimensional person; and since Pine was the only character who could generate any internal conflict among the series regulars, it’s a shame that the producers failed to carve out a larger niche for him. A year later, Kerr seemed to have more fun, and more to do, as a similarly obnoxious but recognizably human district attorney on the hit prime-time soap Peyton Place.
John Kerr and John Larch as the district attorneys, seen here in the set for Jake Shakespeare’s nightclub.
The remaining characters from Meadow’s June 1962 presentation thankfully went into the scrapheap, either on the grounds of general good taste or because the series’ increasingly somber slant left no room for comic relief.
At the request of Chuck Connors, Arrest and Trial’s producers inserted a final, important addition to the ensemble at the last minute, after photography on the pilot had already been completed. Joe Higgins joined the cast as Jake Shakespeare, proprietor of the bar and grill where both cops and attorneys congregated in their off-duty hours. Shakespeare’s restaurant quickly became an important location, one the writers used to bridge the narrative gap between the two parts of the show and to allow both sets of characters to intermingle.
Shakespeare, like the actor who played him, was an ex-vaudevillian and nightclub comic. Connors had the role tailored to fit his close friend Higgins, who was also a vice president in Ranch Productions and had been a semi-regular on The Rifleman as Nils, the blacksmith. Born in 1910, Higgins worked as a clown and a radio broadcaster and earned an education degree from the University of Dayton before he latched onto his Hollywood meal ticket in the early 1960s.
Just as Perry Mason had done, Arrest and Trial made its courthouse seem like a real workplace by reusing the same roster of recurring bit players in multiple episodes. Edward C. Platt and Bill Quinn popped up in six episodes each as the show’s most frequently seen jurists, Judge Browne and Judge Tesmann, respectively. Vinton Hayworth and Robert Simon also played judges in more than once, while Joe Quinn and Tom Daly recurred as court staffers. John Gallaudet had a featured role in three segments as the blustery (and unsubtly named) state psychiatrist Dr. Horsely, while on the Arrest side Morgan Jones played lab man Charlie Phillips and Joseph Mell was seen occasionally as a jailer.
The Arrest and Trial pilot, “Run Little Man Run,” went into production on December 21, 1962 and wrapped up principal photography on January 31, 1963. Sometime in 1963 Arrest and Trial’s producers hastily reshot new scenes with Roger Perry and Don Galloway and inserted them rather haphazardly into the pilot, so that Anderson had two partners who were never in the same room together and Egan had two clerks who also never fraternized. Perhaps because of these confusing cast changes, Universal held the pilot for broadcast until the week of Christmas 1963, when television viewing would be at a minimum.
“Run Little Man Run” begins with an exciting and brutal gunpoint holdup of a church bazaar, during which a woman with a heart condition drops dead. Anderson and his partner(s) nab small-time hoodlum “Antsy” Jackson (John McIntyre) for the robbery-turned-homicide, based largely on an eyewitness identification by Fred Stukey (King Donovan), the dead woman’s husband. During the course of the defense Egan uncovers evidence indicating that the Stukey is perjuring himself.
The pilot contains some clever challenges to the conventions of the genre. Chuck Connors’ first scene shows him losing a murder case, for example, so John Egan’s entrance into the series certainly ranks as one of the more humbling character introductions in television history. In its pilot, at least, Arrest and Trial telegraphed its intent to refute the good-guys-always-win monotony of television’s ruling courtroom drama, Perry Mason.
But there are glaring flaws as well. Wagon Train star John McIntyre’s hammy portrayal of Antsy as a lovable rogue runs counter to the serious tone of the series, and the improbable denouement resorts to the old Perry Mason gimmick of the defense attorney wringing an admission of guilt out of the actual murderer during a brutal cross-examination.
Nevertheless, ABC picked up Arrest and Trial for a full season. The network was probably swayed less by the questionable merits of “Run Little Man Run” than by the promise of Arrest and Trial’s unusual structure and the novelty of its 90-minute length. During the sixties and early seventies, Universal’s television unit, Revue Productions, invested heavily in the idea of long-form television, producing the first made-for-TV movies and inventing the rotating ninety-minute mystery wheel that spawned such hits as The Name of the Game, Columbo, and McCloud. The sales pitch that accompanied the showing of “Run Little Man Run” to network buyers illustrates one reason why programs longer than one hour were attractive to the webs — Arrest and Trial’s “flexibility of purchasing design” allowed for two sponsors, one for Arrest and one for Trial, to underwrite the show and yet have the full identification that came with a single program.
For the 1962 season Universal had sold NBC its prestigious ninety-minute western The Virginian, and the success of that series left third-place ABC open to the suggestion that long-form was the way of the future. The network expanded its own Revue western, Wagon Train, to an hour and a half, and bought Arrest and Trial with the expectation that it might revitalize the crime genre in a similar way.
It didn’t. The failure of Arrest and Trial was a classic case of lofty expectations that went unrealized. As originally conceived, the series would have incorporated variations on the standard cop or courtroom show that went far deeper than tacking an extra thirty minutes onto each episode. Herb Meadow’s proposal promised that Arrest and Trial would be the “first series where both protagonists will not always be right each week,” and as on The Defenders – the New York-based lawyer show that was then widely regarded as the finest dramatic program on the air – the verdicts could be guilty or innocent, right or wrong.
The series’ proposal also had pretensions toward the socially conscious territory that New York-produced dramas like Naked City and East Side/West Side had long since staked out but that few mainstream Hollywood shows had entered. “We want to deal with the dilemmas and delusions of today’s system of law and order. We want to deal with capital punishment, or the terrifying consequences of guilt by association, or the horrors of blind hatred and ignorance,” proclaimed Meadow’s presentation. The producers also pledged to research actual cases and chronicle them documentary-style, and that the series would “not shun important issues.”
Arrest and Trial also promised to distance itself from tired stereotypes. The arrest segments were originally conceived as a kind of intellectual puzzle, in which each of the two cops would favor a different suspect and the viewer would try to guess which approach — Anderson’s gentle tack, Hogan/Kirby’s confrontational style — would net the right bad guy. The second half would not always follow the case through to a verdict; sometimes none or only part of a trial would take place, as defendants might cop a guilty plea or prosecutors rescind an indictment. The series would focus on the procedural aspects of the justice system, rather than the histrionics of legal prima donnas like Perry Mason.
As audiences soon discerned, and as the critics pointed out when they tore into the show, Arrest and Trial rarely achieved its lofty goals and slipped instead into a routine of melodrama and cliche.
Antsy: Wagon Train star John McIntyre hammed it up in a middling series pilot that still sold ABC on Arrest and Trial’s potential.
Much of the slippage between Arrest and Trial’s intent and its results can be attributed to the company that produced it. Universal was the wrong place for a trenchant, gritty, innovative show to try to thrive. Revue Productions began humbly as the MCA agency’s small TV production unit in 1953, but it grew steadily throughout the fifties and benefitted enormously by MCA’s purchase of Universal Studios in 1959. Ensconced in Universal’s sizeable backlot, Revue had become, by the time of Arrest and Trial’s debut, the largest provider of TV programming to the three networks. But Revue/Universal tended to sacrifice quality for quantity, developing a reputation for corporate red tape and obsessive penny-pinching that discouraged some of TV’s brightest talents from working there.
“I always had the feeling when I went to Universal that they had these huge glass eyes on the gate, and as you went through this beam [would] strip you of all creative intention. You’d come in and just do the job, get it done on time,” said Arrest and Trial director Ralph Senensky, who accepted only two assignments on the series because of his dislike for the studio.
While filming atop a high-rise construction site, Senensky requested a crane for use in a certain shot in the first episode filmed after the pilot, “My Name Is Martin Burnham.”
“At any other studio, I would have gotten it. This being Universal, not only did I not get it, they didn’t tell me that I didn’t get it until I arrived that morning to shoot,” recalls the director.
When they created Mannix, Arrest and Trial writers William Link and Richard Levinson based the corporatized private detective agency, Intertect – with its interchangeable operatives and humongous computer banks – on Universal, which was the first of the Hollywood studios to track its employees by computer. The name of Joseph Campanella’s character, Lew Wickersham, was an amalgam on Universal president Lew Wasserman and the street in North Hollywood where it had its main entrance, Lankershim Boulevard.
The production staff of Arrest and Trial reflected the general mediocrity of the behind-the-scenes talent who felt comfortable working in Universal’s factory-like atmosphere. The series’ executive producer, Frank P. Rosenberg, wrote for radio during the thirties and moved into publicity at Columbia Pictures during World War II. In 1947 he began producing his own features, among them Where the Sidewalk Ends and Miracle in the Rain, before he landed at Revue in the late fifties. By the time he took the reigns of Arrest and Trial, Rosenberg was escalating on Universal’s executive ladder, and he assumed a vice-presidency in the company immediately after the series was cancelled.
“He was in his own world somewhere,” producer Seeleg Lester said of Rosenberg. “He had a compulsion to do it his way, and his way was kind of pedestrian.”
Ralph Senensky recalled an experience, illustrative of the conventionality of Rosenberg’s approach to the show, in which the director went to the L.A. County Jail to research the staging of some scenes in “My Name Is Martin Burnham”:
“They told [us], in terms of the visitors, what the routine was. I found out who would bring them in, and where they’d have to check in, everything that was done. They’d go in and sit down at these long tables.
[Later,] I was rehearsing a scene with Jimmy Whitmore and Chuck [Connors], when they were consulting in the visiting room. Frank came on the set, and he said, ‘Why are you doing the scene in here?’
I said, ‘That’s the way they do it.’
He said, ‘It should be in the jail cell.’
I said, ‘Frank, they don’t do it that way!’
He said, ‘But it just doesn’t look real!’
To his credit he let me do it, but I do remember the following week the show was on the air and the interview was conducted in the jail cell!”
Rosenberg and his staff, which included his assistant James McAdams and “production executive” (Universal-ese for associate producer) Jon Epstein, were well-liked by most of Arrest and Trial’s cast and crew. But Rosenberg’s relationship with the producers under him, who were responsible for the development of the scripts, was a different story.
Many Revue shows experienced a high turnover in producers, in part due to the company’s habit of shifting its personnel around in order to ensure that their loyalty stayed with the studio rather than with a particular series. Arrest and Trial went through four producers and a “script consultant” (story editor) in a single season. Arthur H. Nadel, who had worked with Chuck Connors on The Rifleman, lasted the longest and received credit on nine episodes; the following season, he reteamed with Rosenberg to succeed Roy Huggins on the second season of Kraft Suspense Theatre. Charles Russell, a live TV veteran who had courageously hired blacklisted authors to write pseudonymously for his series Danger (1950-55) and You Are There (1953-57), worked on five shows. Story editor Paul Mason made it through the first eight segments, and David Lowell Rich was the credited producer on one episode (“A Shield Is For Hiding Behind”) that he directed.
The fourth producer, Seeleg Lester, whose name appears only on the episode “The Witnesses,” remained with Arrest and Trial for about two months.
“He interfered with scripts,” Lester said of his boss. “He rewrote it, and I had to rewrite him again. When I was brought in, Rosenberg had on his desk about a half a dozen scripts. Different scripts that were useless. In all my five years on Perry Mason, I never lost a show, never lost a script. If necessary I [would] rewrite the whole script, but I usually managed to order scripts that had a grain of something that could be useful. [Rosenberg’s own rewriting] was why those six or seven scripts were on his desk when I walked into his office and he said, ‘See what you can do with them.’” Of course, poaching a producer from the one series that Arrest and Trial had been partly conceived as a reaction against was itself a sign of Rosenberg’s unsuitability for the task of turning Arrest and Trial into something special.
Arrest and Trial’s script problems, which gained some notoriety within the industry, were nothing short of colossal. Rosenberg purchased and shelved countless story outlines, plus at least 20 full-length scripts beyond the thirty that were ultimately filmed. A number of talented and well-known television writers toiled on these abandoned Arrest and Trial scripts, among them Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone), David Moessinger (Combat), Ed Waters (Mannix), Sheldon Stark (The Fugitive), Robert Dozier (Harry O), Shimon Wincelberg (Star Trek), Calvin Clements (Gunsmoke), and even distinguished screenwriters Sidney Boehm (The Big Heat) and Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse (D.O.A.).
With the work of such prominent wordsmiths relegated to the waste bin, the lack of quality in many of the produced Arrest and Trial scripts seems all the more surprising. The show’s writers dusted off some of the creakiest cliches in Hollywood. “A Flame in the Dark” was a juvenile delinquency story about a troubled young boy alienated from his domineering father. “Those Which Love Has Made,” borrowing from Hitchcock’s Rope and the recent Fox feature Compulsion, introduced yet another pair of collegiate killers based on Leopold and Loeb. “People in Glass Houses,” which gave Roger Perry a rare leading role so that Ben Gazzara could return to New York for Christmas with his family during the episode’s December 1963 shoot, played like a fifties B-movie with its story of heroic cop and scared ingenue kidnapped by a pair of hopped-up hoodlums. “The Best There Is” had John Egan realizing that his aging mentor has become too feeble to continue practicing law. “A Circle of Strangers,” perhaps the worst segment, reset Romeo and Juliet among a community of Romanian immigrants.
Peter Fonda and Janet Margolin in “A Circle of Strangers.”
Arrest and Trial was riddled with some of the most stilted dialogue in television history. Consider this exchange between the ill-fated young lovers in “A Circle of Strangers” as they contemplate shooting their way out of a police dragnet:
ALEX: Sometimes I have the feeling we’re being tested. Back home we wouldn’t have had a chance, because our families just don’t understand what love is. All they know is hating. We mustn’t let them make us a part of that. If we get out of this, if we get out of here, we’ll get to fight awfully hard for something new, and fresh, for ourselves . . . .
ALEX (looking at his revolver): If I use this . . . .
HELEN: Then they’ve won — our families. It’s an act of hate — their kind of hate. It’s not what we want for our life. Please . . . .
ALEX (handing her the gun): Love is for the living — not the dead.
Scripts like that one led to turmoil on the set, as the cast and directors rebelled at the lackluster material. “There was some dissatisfaction along the line,” said Roger Perry. “I do remember Sydney Pollack, on the show that he did [The Quality of Justice], ranting and raving and screaming about the script — ‘This is no good!’ And he had one of the best writers around, Howard Rodman.”
For the most part the two stars retained their professionalism, but as the series wore on Chuck Connors in particular began to vent his frustrations on those around him. When Universal stopped providing free coffee and donuts during the filming of “My Name Is Martin Burnham,” the actor stood up for the cast and crew and walked off the set until the front office reinstated the privilege. Connors also insisted upon the replacement of John Brahm, the eminent German-born director responsible for numerous Twilight Zones and several cult horror films, after a dispute on the set of “Call It a Lifetime.”
“I went in to take over for [Brahm] because Chuck didn’t want him,” said Universal contract director Earl Bellamy. “The chemistry didn’t work with he and Chuck, and Chuck just said, ‘No, you have to get rid of him.’ When I took over, Chuck said, ‘Earl, what would you do if we did that to you – raised such a ruckus and got rid of the director?’
“I said, ‘Chuck, I’d hit you right smack in the face with a lamp.’ He laughed. He said, ‘Well, I’m glad you’re here.’ I would have [really hit him], because one day he was on Arthur Nadel’s back real bad, and had it been me, yeah, he’d have got the lamp.”
Brahm wasn’t the only director who ran afoul of either the stars or the front office. Production records indicate that producer Arthur Nadel replaced Jack Smight as director of “A Flame in the Dark.” According to Roger Perry, even the great Lewis Milestone, an Oscar winner for All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) who spent his twilight years slumming in television, was booted off the set of “An Echo of Conscience.”
A complete shutdown of filming occurred for nearly three weeks following the eighth episode, “Whose Little Girl Are You?,” an unusual step likely triggered by the series’ severe story development troubles. Two episodes, “Tears From a Silver Dipper” and “A Circle of Strangers,” were filmed entirely by a second unit at the same time other segments were in production, with the stars juggling their schedules to fit in their scenes in each. Undoubtedly this measure was the only way in which a weekly ninety-minute series could have been completed in time to make its airdates. It would have been impossible at a production company less gargantuan than Universal.
Toward the end of the season, TV Guide reported that Gazzara was fed up with the subpar material, and quoted a terse Chuck Connors: “I won’t just quit. But if things don’t work out, I would like to be replaced.”
Arrest and Trial had problems that went further than its disorganized production staff or its clunky scripts. Even before they began, the series’ writers and producers faced some basic flaws in the show’s concept that, in retrospect, seem painfully obvious.
The corner into which the writers inevitably found themselves painted was the schism between the motives of the two leads. Arrest and Trial put Anderson and Egan on opposite sides of the judicial process: Anderson’s job was to catch the criminals and Egan’s was to turn them loose. Allowing the principals to be wrong “occasionally” might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but it meant that every week one of them would have to make a fool of himself — either Anderson arrests the correct perpetrator and Egan loses his case, or Egan sets his client free by proving that Anderson busted the wrong guy.
Law and Order solved this problem decades later by making the district attorney the hero of the “order” segments — even if the cops and the lawyers happened to be railroading an innocent person onto death row, at least they were working together. But all Arrest and Trial’s writers could do was find innovative tricks to sidestep the horrendous pothole in the series’ format.
It proved more palatable to have Anderson apprehend the wrong suspect than to have Egan ineffectually defend a guilty man, so the series conjured up a variety of excuses for the detective’s mistakes. In “An Echo of Conscience” Anderson’s private detective friend (Neville Brand) gives him false leads to cover up his own guilt. In “Funny Man With a Monkey,” a junkie comedian (Mickey Rooney) offers Anderson a false confession to protect the real killer. If worst came to worst, Anderson could even undermine his own case; in “Run Little Man Run,” for example, he asks Egan to step in and defend the suspect on the grounds that his evidence isn’t particularly strong.
Other episodes found even more creative ways to walk the tightrope between law and order. In “The Quality of Justice” the villain is so reprehensible that Anderson and Egan both hate him, so the audience can safely root against the guy even as Egan takes the moral high ground and reluctantly defends him. “Tigers Are For Jungles,” the obligatory organized crime episode, offers the audience two contract killers – one a young psychopath for Anderson to lock up and throw away the key, the other an aging hood with a conscience for Egan to get off. “A Shield Is For Hiding Behind” takes a particularly startling swerve in midstream – just when Anderson is about to arrest his quarry, the kid pulls out a weapon and Anderson shoots him dead. The second half then allies the two leads, putting Anderson on trial to keep his badge, with Egan as his attorney.
The best way to save face for both of the stars, though, was to fuzz over the question of each defendant’s guilt. This logic led to the writers’ salvation: armchair psychology. If the criminal were neurotic, psychotic, delusional, mentally retarded, or even just really depressed, he or she could be undeniably guilty of the crime but not responsible for his or her actions. Anderson could make the arrest out of duty, and Egan could plead for leniency out of mercy.
It was the perfect solution. Hence “My Name Is Martin Burnham,” in which the title character accidentally kills a man while attempting suicide; “Isn’t It a Lovely View?,” with Vera Miles as a wheelchair-bound woman who keeps a crib filled with toys for her dead baby; “We May Be Better Strangers,” in which a prominent judge’s illegitimate son beats two people nearly to death but compels the sympathy of Anderson and Egan because he, in the words of a Universal press release, “displays both great intellect and anti-social behavior”; “Some Weeks Are All Mondays,” with Joey Heatherton as a teenage nymphomaniac who vamps Sgt. Anderson; “A Flame in the Dark,” in which a fourteen year-old’s slaying of his own mother is considered accidental because he was aiming at his abusive father; and so on. The most bizarre of these episodes was “Whose Little Girl Are You?,” a treatise on ageism in which an elderly machinist about to enter forced retirement fractures his replacement’s skull with a hammer, and Egan hesitates to use an insanity defense because it will harm the old man’s “self-respect.”
Needless to say, the critics sharpened their knives for plots like these. TV Guide’s Cleveland Amory sneered that “so far, the series has been more trying than arresting,” and ridiculed the specious liberal bias that used racial prejudice (“Tears From a Silver Dipper”) or a third party’s insanity (“Isn’t It a Lovely View”) to tacitly excuse a homicide.
Martin Williams of The Village Voice conceded that Arrest and Trial contained some “diverting” melodrama, offering the backhanded compliment that “the bargain-basement Freud is offensive – but so is the bargain-basement Freud in middle-period Eugene O’Neill.” But he retracted it all later in the season, citing “subsequent episodes” that deteriorated in quality.
Aptly, Williams took exception to the artificiality of the show’s premise, suggesting that Arrest and Trial was the product of some shrewd executive’s plan to combine the most salable elements of the popular police, courtroom, and psychiatric dramas. Arrest and Trial was high-concept – describable in 25 words or less, exciting on paper, easier to sell than to produce – long before Hollywood coined the term.
Arrest and Trial certainly doesn’t stand out as one of the great television shows, or even one of the very good ones, but it does have merits that were ignored by the press at the time of its initial network run and that still make it popular among TV collectors in spite of its relative scarcity. The series managed a reasonable approximation of the New York-style realism it sought, thanks to extensive location shooting – an average of three days’ worth out of every episode’s nine-day schedule. The arrest segments were particularly exterior-laden, and Ben Gazzara and Roger Perry spent more time on the streets of Los Angeles (often in unsavory parts of town) than in the studio.
“Being the second-in-charge [cop], I would always get in the car and drive,” said Roger Perry of the numerous scenes in which he and Gazzara shared a police cruiser. “Sometimes you had to drive fast – you’d get in and speed off, or drive in fast and hit the brakes. And of course Ben was frightened to death of cars, because he lived in New York – he was a walker. I used to scare the hell out of him, but I loved it.”
Arrest and Trial’s courtroom scenes often seemed stodgy and setbound in comparison to the on-the-street feel that dominated the first half of each episode. But even the trial segments attempted a documentary-style veracity. A large chunk of the pilot’s whopping $328,000 budget paid for the near-identical duplication of a courtroom and the jail facilities of the then-new Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles. According to Ralph Senensky, Universal’s art department may have taken their recreation task a bit too literally: “I got my first shot from wide angle, and for my second shot I needed to have a wall taken out to do it. That caused all kind of consternation, because the set had been put together as if it were going to be lived in and never dismantled. It took the longest time to get the set ripped apart and fixed up so that you could roll walls in and out.”
Universal spent money on other aspects of the series, too, as it poured an exorbitant (relative to other Revue productions) amount of money into its ambitious 90-minute experiment. Each episode cost an average of just over $200,000, with “Call It a Lifetime” setting the record at $249,548 and “Journey Into Darkness” the most frugal at $184,908.
Part of these expenses went toward the compilation of a lush library of music cues for Arrest and Trial. Rosenberg hired Academy Award-winning Polish composer Bronislau Kaper, whose film scores included The Red Badge of Courage and The Brothers Karamazov, to write a magisterial opening title theme and the music for “Call It a Lifetime.” Morton Stevens, famous for his Bonanza and Hawaii Five-O themes, scored the pilot, and the legendary Franz Waxman (Rebecca, Sunset Boulevard, A Place in the Sun) composed for three episodes.
Arrest and Trial also paid top dollar for its performers. The four highest paid guest stars – Mickey Rooney, Barry Sullivan, Richard Basehart, and Tony Franciosa – each earned $10,000 for their work on the series. (The most expensive actress to appear on Arrest and Trial, Oscar winner Dorothy Malone, only received $6,000.)
And, despite the variable quality of the scripts, Arrest and Trial’s writers did achieve some of the goals laid out in Herb Meadow’s series presentation. For example, the producers gave the trial halves a lot of latitude, so that many episodes avoided traditional courtroom procedures. In “The Black Flower,” John Egan takes his defense to the streets, reinterrogating witnesses until he dredges up new evidence that convinces D.A. Miller to drop the charges against his client. “A Circle of Strangers” has no trial at all, since the frightened young protagonist elects to jump bail and flee rather than face a judge.
Other episodes varied the venue of the trial: “Tears From a Silver Dipper” climaxes in a military tribunal, “Inquest Into a Bleeding Heart” at a coroner’s hearing. “People in Glass Houses” even does away with the two-part format entirely, opening with a brief courtroom sequence in which a pair of thugs escape detention and hold Judge Tesmann at gunpoint in his chambers. The rest of the episode details the search for the criminals and their hostages, with Egan putting in only a brief appearance to try and talk the hoods into surrendering.
A handful of episodes didn’t have to rely on gimmicks like these — they were just plain good. The episode that most Arrest and Trial staffers remember, and the one that may rank as the best of them all, is “Funny Man With a Monkey.” Nominally the story of Hoagy Blair, a heroin-addicted nightclub comedian who plans to challenge existing narcotics laws in court after his arrest on a drug-related homicide charge, “Funny Man” is actually a semi-documentary tour of the nightmarish world of chemical dependency.
Mickey Rooney yuks it up in “Funny Man With a Monkey.”
The Arrest introduces the fascinating character of Sgt. Reggie Gregson (Bert Freed), a narco cop whose brutal methods of dealing with drug addicts meet with Anderson’s disapproval. But by the time Gregson has shown his colleague the callous pushers, the safehouses full of catatonic dopeheads, and the pathetic spectacle of a withdrawal-ridden addict begging for a fix, Anderson (and perhaps the audience) are ready to concede that a more compassionate approach might have no effect. The Trial segment packs a wallop, too, when John Egan discovers that Hoagy’s apparently naive upper-class wife has, in fact, concealed her own drug habit for years.
Writer Jerome Ross and director Ralph Senensky both visited the drug treatment center Synanon to research the topic, and the crew ventured into the dirtiest slums of downtown Los Angeles to capture the sordid feel of the end-stage addict’s turf. (Perhaps inspired by this episode, Chuck Connors starred in the 1965 film Synanon.) Fortunately, guest star Mickey Rooney, cast as Hoagy, was on hand to liven the depressing setting up.
“We were on location in Skid Row, and Mickey was just sensational,” remembered Ralph Senensky. “He was on one of his streaks where he was out to save the world, and all of these poor pathetic guys down on Skid Row recognized him and came to him, and he was encouraging all of them: ‘Get your act together, you can get out of here!’ He was just surrounded by them.”
The fourth day of lensing on “Funny Man” was November 22, 1963. “I was on the roof of a six-story building, shooting down to see Mickey running through the streets. We had gone up there and were setting up the shot with the Arriflex camera, and the cameraman was ready,” recalled Senensky. “We were ready to go, and I was calling down, and nobody was paying any attention. Finally, I yelled down, ‘Come on, let’s go, let’s go!’ And somebody was going to call up something, and Eddie Dodds, the assistant director, said, ‘Don’t say it.’ So I went running down these six flights of stairs and what they told me was what had happened to President Kennedy.”
As the news of the assassination broke, Senensky found himself crowded into the backseat of a car with Rooney and a pair of Skid Row derelicts as they strained to hear the radio. “We had one more shot to do, where Mickey runs by and the camera does a strange tilt,” Senensky continued. “Mickey agreed to do that, and then he could not work any more and went home. And then we waited for the studio to dismiss the crew, which they didn’t do. They brought us back in to the studio and called Benny [Gazzara] in, and John Larch. We spent the rest of the day trying to do one short little scene, but but the attention span was just not there. It was terribly difficult, and we sort of muddled through the day. I think they were the only studio that didn’t [send its personnel home early].”
When he finally did return to his rented Los Angeles home that day, Ben Gazzara received a nasty surprise: he walked in on his wife, Janice Rule, in the arms of a mutual friend. The couple soon separated.
Another extraordinary episode with an unusual literary pedigree was Alfred Brenner’s “Journey Into Darkness.” Based on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the segment starred a perfectly cast Roddy McDowall as an updated Raskolnikov whose Nietzschean philosophy comes crashing down around him after Anderson wins their fascinating battle of wits. The producers chose this episode to submit to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for award consideration, and “Journey”’s three guest stars – McDowall, Martine Bartlett, and Anjanette Comer, impressive as an existential hooker – scored Arrest and Trial’s only Emmy nominations.
Roddy McDowall does Dostoevsky in denim in “Journey Into Darkness.”
Arrest and Trial finally came close to the sensibilities of those left-leaning New York dramas in “The Revenge of the Worm,” in which Telly Savalas carried off a true tour-de-force as the poor but impossibly, nobly proud delivery truck driver Frank Santo. Squeezed by a loan shark for outrageous interest, Santo goes to Sgt. Anderson for advice on how to challenge the organized crime syndicate to which he owes money. The cop’s cynical advice: “Pay them.” Santo refuses, and when the racketeers threaten his family he goes over the edge. In an unforgettable sequence, Santo sneaks onto the head crime boss’s lavish estate and murders him in cold blood – with a machine gun.
Blacklisted writer Ben Maddow (The Asphalt Jungle) authored this observant study in desperation with a keen eye for detail in the lives of the little people – particularly a real little person, a newsvendor (played by Michael Dunn, The Wild Wild West’s Dr. Loveless) who would be the only man to stand up to the mob alongside Santo but, he tearfully acknowledges, for his physical stature. Santo’s rather cockeyed defense strategy makes the trial segment seem like an afterthought, but the first hour of “Revenge of the Worm” stands as one of the most intense, uncompromising moments in sixties television.
“Call It a Lifetime,” despite its production problems, featured a brilliantly on-the-edge guest turn from Tony Franciosa and a tautly directed first half in which Anderson and his prisoner find themselves stranded together in the desert. Gazzara and Franciosa shot their scenes in 120-degree heat in the Mojave desert, but the effort was worth it. The producers selected “Call It a Lifetime,” the sixth episode filmed, to open the series when it debuted on September 15, 1963. Another segment distinguished by unusual location shooting, “A Roll of the Dice” told a harrowing, character-driven tale of gambling addiction. The company filmed on location at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas, and Nick Adams turned in an excellent performance as the desperate dice-aholic.
As sensitive as “Funny Man With a Monkey” was hard-hitting, Howard Rodman’s “A Quality of Justice” centered on an unrepentant child murderer – certainly a hateful character, but since he’s also mentally retarded, can society hold him responsible for its acts? Would the death penalty represent justice, or just vengeance? The episode handled this moral puzzle intelligently, and featured some particularly poignant moments from Jack Klugman and Carol Rossen as the grieving parents.
The lighthearted “Birds of a Feather,” by contrast, provided a nice change of pace with a refreshingly trivial story of grifters trying to out-con each other. Gilligan’s Island’s Jim Backus turned in a terrific comic turn as a Texas oilman in hock to the mob. “Birds of a Feather,” the only quasi-comedic Arrest and Trial episode, was a strange choice to end the series’ run – which it nonetheless did, airing as the last original episode on April 30, 1963.
Arrest and Trial disappeared without much fanfare. Universal licked its wounds and moved on to more successful experiments in 90- and 120-minute programming.
Ben Gazzara took a year off before returning to the Universal backlot and settling into his role as Paul Bryan, terminally ill hero of the hit drama Run For Your Life (1965-68). While doing a cameo in another Universal TV production, the Chrysler Theatre segment “Free of Charge,” Gazzara met the actor-director John Cassavetes, which led to a series of towering performances in films like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.
Chuck Connors fared less well. His next two television vehicles — the interesting Western Branded (1965-66) and the poorly-received Rifleman rip-off Cowboy in Africa (1967-68) – flopped, as did the feature films he made under his Universal contract. The actor starred in low-end action movies in Europe during the seventies, and gradually drifted into a semi-retirement of Police Storys and Murder She Wrotes until he died of lung cancer in 1992.
As for Arrest and Trial, its cumbersome length and short run has kept it from being revived in syndication over the years. Its resemblance to Law and Order makes it the answer to a good Trivial Pursuit question, but otherwise, for the time being, the series’ legacy remains confined to the memories of nostalgia buffs who recall its high points with fondness.
EPISODE GUIDE with cast and production credits
The author offers his sincere gratitude to those who granted him interviews for this article in 1997-1998: the late Earl Bellamy, James H. Brown, Noah Keen, John Kerr, the late Seeleg Lester, Roger Perry, Jerome Ross, Mann Rubin, and Ralph Senensky. Don Galloway shared some brief reminiscences in a letter, and Adele Nadel, widow of the late Arthur H. Nadel, was also helpful. Ned Comstock of the USC Cinema-Television Library provided an essential clue when he steered me toward the series’ production records in that library’s Chuck Connors papers.
Copyright © 1998, 2008 Stephen W. Bowie
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