I got to thinking about this show the last couple of days as I’m reading the collection of short stories, LEE(the review will appear tomorrow), based on the actor Lee Marvin. M SQUAD was my first encounter with the actor probably shortly after the show began. It had a run from 1957-60 on NBC television and our family got our first TV along about ’57, a gift from the man my mother was seeing at the time, who later became our stepfather.
The show was a police drama starring Marvin as Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger of Chicago. M Squad helped out other divisions battling organized crime and other major illegal activities in the city. Produced by Marvin’s production company, Pall Mall was it’s main sponsor and the actor himself appeared in many of it’s commercials.
A number of later big name stars appeared in episodes, including Charles Bronson, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley, Burt Reynolds, Don Rickles, James Coburn, and Angie Dickinson.
An episode featuring a Chicago cop taking a bribe led Mayor Richard J. Daley to block any future shows or features from filming in Chicago, a ban that held until THE BLUES BROTHERS. The format and style also inspired the theme song and Leslie Neilsen’s character, Lt. Frank Drebin, of the POLICE SQUAD series and movies. That theme song was composed by Count Basie.
117 thirty minute black and white episodes were produced. Here’s the first episode, one presumes the pilot, though I’m not sure things were done that way back then.
Marvin had already appeared in movies, most of the time as a villain, and this show helped his star appeal. His Oscar for Cat Ballou made him a superstar though.
As always on Tuesdays, drop in on SWEET FREEDOM where Todd Mason does the gathering.