Roy Huggins' decidedly downscale Los Angeles private eye STUART BAILEY appeared in one pretty good novel, The Double Take (1946), and launched a career.
The novel was, as I said, pretty good, one of those Chandleresque rip-offs/homages so prevalent in the forties, not as good as Leight Bracket's No Good from a Corpse or Howard Browne's Paul Pine series, maybe, but definitely one of the better ones. It boasted a suitably convoluted plot -- Bailey's hired by a wealthy advertising executive to look into his wife's past, which eventually uncovers a couple of switched identities, some stolen loot, an angry mobster and a murder or two. There are some sharp wisecracks and a few well-etched similes that suggest Huggins was paying attention in Mr. Chandler's classroom.
If The Double Take didn't exactly set the world on fire, it did became a stepping stone to a long illustrious career in television for its author, Roy Huggins.
It was brought to the big screen in the now-forgotten but often effective 1948 film noir I Love Trouble, starring Franchot Tone as Bailey, Janet Blair and a well-rounded cast of crime flick vets, including Raymond Burr in a bit part.
But it was a few years later, after Huggins' burgeoning success in the TV market -- he'd already created and produced Maverick and The Fugitive -- that Bailey really made a splash. He was dusted off and cleaned up, given a fluency in foreign languages, a past as a government agent, a slick wardrobe, a partner and a hipper address -- and played by Effrem Zimbalist Jr. The result was 77 Sunset Strip, inarguably one of the most influential TV private eye shows in history -- for better and worse.
So successful, in fact, that Warner Brothers began spewing out copy cat versions such as Hawaiian Eye , Bourbon Street Beat, and Surfside Six almost immediately. Other studios were quick to follow suit, and the formula of handsome male leads, "wacky" characters who drop by and "cool" premises and locations, not to mention the now almost-ubitquious 60-minute format, can be seen in everything from Riptide to Magnum P.I. to Las Vegas.
Not that Huggins ever forgot what started it all. He reworked The Double Take for the next thirty years, using it as source material for episodes of 77 Sunset Strip (of course) but also Maverick, The Rockford Files (twice), Baretta, City of Angels and "probably every other series wirth which Huggins was associated," according to Marcia Muller in 1001 Midnights.
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