Created by G.G. Fickling (pseud. of Gloria and Forest Fickling)
Move over, Kinsey.
Step aside, Sharon.
Someone get the smelling salts for V.I.
Here comes the shocking truth. The first really successful female private eye in a series was a bimbo! Or at least frequently clothing-challenged and none-too-swift.
Evidence? Typical exclamation from her occasional rescuer and boyfriend, Johnny Doom: "Honey! Where are your clothes?"
Still, considering the decidedly pre-feminist times, HONEY WEST was, according to her co-creator Gloria Fickling, a "beautiful, brainy and very much determined, sensual female."
Actually, Honey was the creation of fashion writer Gloria and her husband, sportswriter Forest Fickling, who were friends of Shell Scott's creator, Richard Prather.
She first appeared in the 1957 novel, This Girl for Hire, as a very Shell-like P.I., with the same often zany blend of humour and sex, although her creators did darken things up a bit by giving her a very personal reason for pursuing the PI profession -- apparently Honey was searching for the murderer of her beloved father, Hank West, also a private eye, who was killed in an alley behind the old Paramount Theatre in Hollywood.
But of course, Honey was a "girl," so even if she did think of herself as something of a tough cookie, she was often in need of rescue (of either her life or her virginity) by her ever-virtuous partner, Johnny. She went on to appear in ten more frothy, light-hearted, innuendo-laden books from 1958 to 1971, and even popped up in a short-lived television series produced by Aaron Spelling in the mid-sixties, certainly one of the first TV dramas (if you can call then dramas) to feature a female lead.
Television's Honey kept her clothes on, and pretty much everything else was changed or tweaked when her character, after a successful appearance on an episode of Burke's Law, was spun off into her own show. It was 1965, and the world was going spy crazy. There was James Bond, The Avengers and The Man (and soon, The Girl) From U.N.C.L.E. So now she and Sam Bolt (who was Johnny in the books but could still be called upon, it seemed, to rescue Honey at least once in every show) were high-tech private eyes. They tooled around in a specially-equipped mobile crime lab/spy van with "H.W. Bolt & Co., TV Service" on the side. She now carried a .38 in her purse, a derringer somewhere else (wink, wink) and all sorts of gimmicks: an exploding compact, a garter belt gas mask, teargas earrings and a lipstick microphone.
Although Sam constantly pressured Honey to marry him, the love of Honey's life seemed to be Bruce, her pet ocelot -- another contribution from the TV writers. Gimmicks? What gimmicks?
All in all, though, it was a fun show, and Honey wasn't quite the bimbo she could have been (see Spelling's later Charlie's Angels to see how bad it could have been.) She was played by Anne Francis, drop dead gorgeous, and a dead ringer for Honor Blackman, the woman who played Pussy Galore in the James Bond flick Goldfinger. As Honey, Francis provided the much-needed smarts, class and ooomph to the role that the books too often lacked
And speaking of Charlie's Angels, following the original commercial success of the 2001 big screen remake, there were even rumours that actress Reese Witherspoon was all set to star in a film as Honey West, with the team behind her then-current smash Legally Blonde slotted to write and produce.
The Ficklings also created another smirky eye, high-priced P.I. Erik March, who was actually introduced in a bit part in Honey's first adventure, This Girl For Hire, and later thooked up with Honey in 1971's Stiff As a Broad.
- "I really appreciate your write up on the Honey West TV series. No one I know seems to remember the show. I was 7 or 8 when it first aired in prime time. I was a big fan of that show and it must of left quite an impression and here's the reason why: I grew up in NYC, East Harlem where even there, most little girls owned Barbie Dolls--except me. A lot of times family funds were so low that my parents could only afford to buy me the cheaper Barbie Wanna-Be dolls.
Well, I don't know if I put emotional pressure on my Mom or what because I actually ended up becoming the proud owner of an original Honey West doll! She came with a leopard coat and black leopard trim high heel boots, if I remember right."
GET MORE HONEY IN YOUR LIFE
- This Girl For Hire (1957) ., Buy this book
- A Gun For Honey (1958)
- Girl On The loose (1958)
- Honey in the Flesh (1959) ., Buy this book...Kindle it!
- Girl on the Prowl (1959)
- Kiss for a Killer (1960) ., Buy this book
- Dig a Dead Doll (1960)
- Blood and Honey (1961)
- Bombshell (1964)
- Stiff As a Broad (1971; co-starring Erik March)
- Honey on Her Tail (1971)
- BURKE'S LAW
Honey first appeared in an episode of Burke's Law, where she even managed to outwit the wily millionaire Chief of Police. She tested well, and was soon starring in her own show.
- HONEY WEST....Buy the complete series on DVD
Black and White
30 30-minute episodes
Created by G.G. Fickling
Writers: Gwen Bagni, Paul Dubov
Developed for television by Gwen Bagni
Story editor: Bud Kay
Directed by Thomas Carr, Bill Colleran, John Florea, Murray Golden, James Goldstone, Walter Grauman, Jerry Hopper, Ida Lupino, Sidney Miller, John Peyser, Seymour Robbie, Virgil W. Vogel, Paul Wendkos
Original music by Josep Mullendore
Theme: "Wild Honey" by Alfred Perry
Produced by Don Ingalls (associate), Richard Newton
Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling
A Four Star Production
Starring Anne Francis as HONEY WEST
With John Ericson as Sam Bolt
and Irene Hervey as Aunt Meg
Guest stars: Louise Arthur, Marvin Brody, Ray Danton, Herschel Bernardi, Lloyd Bochner, William Bramley, Richard Loo, Henry Jones, James Best, Herb Edelman, Bobby Sherman, Maureen McCormick, Harry Basch, J. Pat O'Malley, Kevin McCarthy, Bert Parks, Wayne Rogers, Ellen Corby, Ralph Manza, Larry D. Mann, Frank Wilcox, Adam Williams, James Griffith
- "The Swingin Mrs. Jones" (September 17, 1965)
- "The Owl and the Eye" (September 24, 1965)
- "The Abominable Snowman" (October 1, 1965)
- "A Matter of Wife and Death" (October 8, 1965)
- "Live a Little... Kill a Little" (October 15, 1965)
- "Whatever Lola Wants..." (October 22, 1965)
- "The Princess and the Paupers" (October 29, 1965)
- "In the Bag" (November 5, 1965)
- "The Flame and the Pussycat" (November 12, 1965)
- "A Neat Little Package" (November 19, 1965)
- "A Stitch in Crime" (November 26, 1965)
- "A Million Bucks in Anybody's Language" (December 3, 1965)
- "The Gray Lady" (December 10, 1965)
- "Invitation to Limbo" (December 17, 1965)
- "Rockabye the Hard Way" (December 24, 1965)
- "A Nice Little Till to Tap" (December 31, 1965)
- "How Brillig, O, Beamish Boy?" (January 7, 1966)
- "King of the Mountain" (January 14, 1966)
- "The Perfect Un-crime" (January 28, 1966)
- "Like Visions and Omens... and All That Jazz" (February 4, 1966)
- "Don't Look Now, But Isn't That Me?" (February 11, 1966)
- "Come to Me, My Litigation Baby" (February 18, 1966)
- "Slay, Gypsy, Slay" (February 25, 1966)
- "The Fun-Fun Killer" (March 4, 1966)
- "Pop Goes the Easel" (March 11, 1966)
- "Little Green Robin Hood" (March 18, 1966)
- "Just the Bear Facts Ma'am" (March 25, 1966)
- "There's a Long, Long Fuse A' Burning" (April 1, 1966)
- "An Eerie, Airy, Thing" (April 8, 1966)
- HONEY WEST
(1966, Gold Key)
1 issue, TV tie-in, with photo cover
- HONEY WEST
(2010-13, Moonstone Comics)
- "Killer on the Keys, Part 1: Bikini Death" (August 2010; #1)
- THE HONEY WEST SOUNDTRACK ., Buy this CD
No, really. This is a 2005 CD reissue of the original soundtrack, featuring the "brash and brassy score." by Joseph Mullendore.
ALSO OF INTEREST
- Honey West (2009; by John Fredericksen) ., Buy this book
A heart-felt tribute to the ground-breaking cult favourite that at its best surprise, surprise -- actually improved upon the original character, as created by G.G. Fickling, transforming the affable bimbo sleuth into something far more subversive: a lady dick with looks AND brains.
Report respectfully filed by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Peter for the scoop on the Honey West flick.
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