Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010

Affable Ellery Queen'

By David Luhrssen
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There never was an Ellery Queen, but he was one of the 20th century’s bestselling authors as well as the star of his own stories. Actually a partnership between Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, Ellery Queen debuted in a 1929 novel and the author-character was soon adapted for radio dramas and Hollywood pictures. Belatedly, the concept became a TV series (1975-76). “Ellery Queen Mysteries” is out now on a six-disc DVD set.


Art Deco nostalgia was in the air and the producers decided to set their adaptation in the stylish environs of late ‘40s New York. With Jim Hutton in the lead role, Ellery was depicted as an affable goof who often couldn’t find his glasses but could see—nevertheless—the patterns behind the homicides he was called to solve. The call usually came from his dad and roommate, a NYPD inspector (played by David Wayne). Although his day job involved pounding out detective novels on deadline, Ellery found time to help his father uncover killers in real life.



Irony was onboard and those episodes that took the scenario least seriously were the ones least successful. For the most part, “Ellery Queen Mysteries” was good who dun-’it fun, with a unique father-son chemistry and a dedication to avoiding the convoluted excesses that sometimes tormented Agatha Christie. The series also provided guest star opportunities for a host of great Hollywood actors in their golden (or at least silver) age, including Ray Milland, Vincent Price, Dana Andrews and Sal Mineo.

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