“The Detectives,” also called “Robert Taylor’s Detectives’ and “Captain of Detectives,” ran from 1959 through 1962. The protagonist is Captain Matt Holbrook (Mr. Taylor) a hard bitten (and slightly Dick Tracy-esque) Captain of the detectives in a large (and unnamed) city. In season 2 Ursula Thiess joined the cast as a newspaper reporter and Holbrook’s love interest. Robert Taylor didn’t want a love interest, but the fans wanted him to have one. He consented only if his wife would play her. Oddly, the first time we meet Matt Holbrook in episode one, “The Streger Affair,” he is in bed–alone.
The hat gesture also appears in “Flight Command,” “Westward the Women” and “A Yank at Oxford.”
For those who remember the early sixties, the show transports us back to the world of our youth–no cell phones, no computers, great clothes and terrific cars. Everyone smokes like a chimney. Younger viewers will be introduced to a world very different from today. Women are called girls but are treated respectfully and are frequently as tough as the men. The sixties idea of risque seems very tame nowadays.
The acting is uniformly fine. The regular cast members are Lee Farr (season one), Russell Thorson (one and two), Mark Goddard (two and three) and Adam West (three). The producers were constantly looking for a sexy young male cop and even referred to both Goddard and West as “pretty boy” on occasion. Taylor has 10 times the sexual magnetism of any of them.
Sparks fly when Mr. Taylor and Ms.Thiess are together. The looks they give each other are almost embarrassingly intimate. Ms. Thiess didn’t return in the third season because she no longer enjoyed acting and wanted to stay home with her family.
Robert Taylor attracted high quality guest stars. These include Edward G. Robinson, Frank Gorshin, Jean Hagen, Fay Spain, Pernell Roberts, George Grizzard, Robert Culp, Robert Middleton, Charles McGraw, Marsha Hunt, Spring Byington, Eva Gabor, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Inger Stevens, Telly Savalas, Grace Lee Whitney, James Whitmore, Bruce Dern, James Drury and Vera Miles. Gene Roddenberry wrote the episode “Karate.”
DVDs of “The Detectives” are hard to come by. There are usually a couple of episodes available on eBay. There is a complete set of 96 episodes available in German. The series is called ‘Kein Fall fur FBI” in German. The quality of the German dvds is excellent but they are in German and won’t play on North American players unless they are region free. You can also get a set of 70 to 75 episodes from ioffer. I bought this set. The quality varies from pretty awful to pretty good. Series 3 looks the best, season 1 is almost unwatchable. My experience buying this set was not good. One disk is defective and the seller threw a fit when I asked for a replacement, although he eventually provided one. Be warned. Some episodes are available on You Tube. I don’t know why the German version can’t be issued in English, the original language. Shall we lay siege to Warner Archives until they give in?
Robert Taylor’s Detectives Episodes in Order
The first two columns were compiled from TVGuide.com and the Classic TV Archive, http://www.ctva.biz. The archive had complete cast lists, producer and director lists and some synopses. Highly recommended. The third column is my opinion.
First Season 1959-1960 (all 30 minutes) ABC
*Episodes in which Robert Taylor has the leading role. He only made brief appearances in some episodes, often towards the end.
|Title||First Aired||*Taylor starring|
|The Streger Affair||10/16/59||yes|
|Shot in the Dark||10/23/59||yes|
|The Hiding Place||10/30/59||no|
|The Murderous Deadline||11/13/59||no|
|My Name Is Tommy||11/27/59||yes|
|The Long Drive||12/18/59||no|
|Life in the Balance||1/1/60||no|
|My Brother’s Keeper||1/22/60||no|
|Conspiracy of Silence||2/12/60||no|
|Twelve Hours To Live||2/19/60||yes|
|Anatomy of Fear||2/26/60||no|
|Armed and Dangerous||3/4/60||no|
|The Bad Eye of Rosa Rosetti||3/11/60||no|
|Time and Tide||3/18/60||no|
|Little Girl Lost||3/25/60||yes|
|The Chameleon Truck||4/1/60||yes|
|The Old Gang||4/8/60||no|
|Face Down, Floating||4/29/60||no|
|The Long Jump||5/6/60||yes|
|Trial by Fire||5/13/60||no|
|The Retirement of Maria Muir||5/20/60||yes|
|Song of Songs||5/27/60||yes|
Second Season 1960-61 (all 30 minutes) ABC
|The New Man||9/16/60||yes|
|The Sports Job||9/30/60||yes|
|Cop on Trial||11/4/60||yes|
|The Little Witness||11/11/60||yes|
|You Only Die Once||11/18/60||no|
|The Other Side||12/2/60||no|
|The Frightened Ones||1/6/61||no|
|See No Evil||2/3/61||unknown|
|An Eye for an Eye||2/24/61||no|
|Not So Long Age||3/10/61||no|
|Time for Decision||3/31/61||no|
|Terror on Ice||4/7/61||no|
|Little Boy Clue||4/14/61||no|
|The Short Way Home||4/21/61||yes|
|The Airtight Case||5/5/61||no|
Third Season 1961-62 (all 60 minutes) NBC
|The Legend of Jim Riva||10/6/61||no|
|Shadow of His Brother||10/13/61||yes|
|A Barrel Full of Monkeys||10/27/61||yes|
|One Lucky Break||11/3/61||no|
|A Piece of Tomorrow||11/10/61||no|
|Beyond a Reasonable Doubt||11/17/61||yes|
|Hit and Miss||12/1/61||no|
|Song of the Guilty Heart||12/8/61||no|
|The Queen of Craven Point||12/22/61||yes|
|Act of God||12/29/61||no|
|Point of No Return||1/12/62||yes|
|Night on the Town||1/26/62||yes|
|The Jagged Edge||2/9/62||unknown|
|Walk a Crooked Line||2/23/62||no|
|One Lousy Wednesday||3/9/62||unknown|
|The Con Man||3/16/62||no|
|Never the Twain||3/23/62||no|
|Three Blind Mice (part 1)||3/30/62||yes|
|Three Blind Mice (part 2)||4/6/62||yes|
|The Fourth Commandment||4/20/62||yes|
|The Walls Have Eyes||4/27/62||yes|
|Strangers in the House||5/4/62||no|
Another great post Judith. Anchored in an outer suburban home with a young family, I was estatic when The Detectives came to Australian TV. We started to get feature articles in our TV magazines about the show and my Robert Taylor. News of his family was mainly restricted to Ursula with little reported about the children, probably Bob and Ursula protecting their privacy, Needless to say showtime was looked forward to each week and fiercely protected, with strictly “no visitors” ! The “pretty boys” cast for eye candy for female viewers, probably meant they were able to show episodes with brief appearances by RT, much to my chagrin. I wrote him a fan letter and asking if the show could be extended to an hour. He probably never saw it but I did get a signed photo in return, and, the show did extend to an hour, probably due to weight of numbers from his fans. With the event of the internet I managed to get some VHS copies of The Detectives including a couple with Ursula in the show. These were jealously kept until I no longer had the equipment to play them. I sent them to Bryan Aherne a couple of years ago but I suppose they would have deteriorated by now. I loved that show and still find myself humming it’s opening musical theme. Yes it is a shame we can’t get DVD copies and you are right that being only available in German is so frustrating to the rest of his English speaking fans. Just love your work.
Hi, June. I had such fun last week having myself a “Detectives” marathon. It brought back images of my mother and me on my parents big bed watching the show every week. She had been a fan in the thirties, although she did say he was almost “too pretty,” if I knew what she meant. As it happened, I didn’t know. I was an innocent young thing. Since we were getting along about as well as 15 year old girls and their mothers usually do, this was something that brought us together, as well as starting me on a career of watching RT movies on late night TV with the sound low. I too wrote the show and got what was probably the same picture. I just got another one on eBay and it hangs above my desk. I rather like the idea of RT as the “Deus ex machina,” the god-figure who appears at the end of a Greek play and sorts everything out. He may have been a “for the money” actor by that point but he still gave his all. Some of the cutting is funny, though. In one episode Holbrook and a villain are fighting and it keeps shifting to long shots with a double and then back to RT. It was doesn’t done too skillfully and it’s perfectly obvious that it’s too different people. I love the way he looks at Ursula–and she at him. Maybe English-language DVDs will come along one day. I think RT is having kind of a renaissance thanks to the Alexander & Tranberg bios and the attention he gets on TCM in this country and on You Tube for everyone. Hope so, anyway. Maybe Linda will mention it in the 2nd edition of her book. Watched “D-Day the 6th of June” last night and took notes. I have to write the review in my head first and then on the computer. I’ve also got some good snips or frame grabs. Fred winces every time I say snip so I guess I should stick to frame grab. Yesterday was his birthday so we went over the Disney’s Animal Lodge for lunch and then walked around and looked at the animals. I bought him some fancy coffee and the people at the gift shop gave him a button that says Happy Birthday. All very nice. Enough rambling. Judith
OMG, what a post Judith! Since I rediscovered “The Detectives” just a couple years ago, I’ve been a truly fan of Capt Holbrook & Co. Why the entire series hasn’t yet been released on DVD in its original language is beyond me, however I don’t (I won’t!) give up hope. As I watched even the German DVD set (not catching any single line of dialogue, as you may infer, but…) I’d anyway like to give you some input to your “Taylor starring” column. One episode I particularly remember from the German box set is “The Sports Job”–it was an ALL Taylor episode and a great one! Will fill you in on this as soon as I can. Thank you for keeping this wonderful vintage TV series alive!
Thanks, Su. I’ll update “The Sports Job.” Strangely enough, I found that I could understand the episode I have in German after a few viewings. I studied German in college but haven’t used it since and was very surprised about how much I could get. They say the brain retains absolutely everything somewhere and I guess this is evidence. Now if I could only remember where I put my keys…..
I bought a set of about 75 episodes about 5 years ago. Quality varies tremendously. Unbelievable that the 90 original episodes in German cannot be restored & dubbed with their original English sound tracks. I planned my social life, as much as possible, around that show from 1959 to 1962 when I was a junior & senior in college & a first-year working woman.
It’s so frustrating that there isn’t an English language set. I have some in German and what’s probably the same set you bought–some crummy, some ok. I wish there was someone we could write to to say “please do this.” I know a lot of people would buy it. Thanks for writing.
HELLO ADAM WEST HOW ARE YOU LAWRENCE IS FIDE. LAWRENCE BLACK SAW YOU A PHOTOGRAPH IN BLACK AND WHITE WITH ROBERT TAYLOR
HELLO ADAM WEST HOW YOU LAWRENCE IS HAPPY AND WELL LAWRENCE SAID SAW SUPERGIRL ON TELEVISON SKY ONE WHEN BATMAN BE BACK ON SKY ONE WITH SUPERGIRL IN EASTER EGG BEST WSIHED FROM LAWRENCE BLACK
Warner Archives is not the company to contact, since the series is owned by Fox (which owns the Four Star holdings). I’m thinking that Timeless Media would be a better outlet for a possible Detectives DVD…they’re owned by Shout! Factory, a company to which Fox sub-licenses the more collectable shows, and Timeless seems to specializes in older Westerns and cop shows.
Mark, thanks for the information. I wasn’t sure who owned the rights to it. Now to try to get them to make “The Detectives” available. Thanks for writing.
ANYONE THAT IS A FAN OF THE DETECTIVES…SEND AN EMAIL TO SHOUT FACTORY AND SUGGEST THE DETECTIVES STARRING ROBERT TAYLOR…THEY JUST PRODUCED WKRP IN CINCINNATI AND IT IS AWESOME! http://www.shoutfactory.com
Thank you so much. I’m going to put this up as a blog entry. I’ve already written and told them this blog has had 150,000 views and those viewers could be customers. Thanks again.
FYI – “The Detectives” is currently being shown on Talking Pictures TV in the UK
That’s great, Mark. I wish they would show it in the USA as well. Thanks for writing.
The BEST cast grouping on The Detectives was the Season 2 cast : Taylor, Russell Thorson as Otto, Tige Andrews, as Johnny , and Mark Goddard as Chris. Once Otto was gone , replaced by Adam West , the series was never the same. I also HATED the jazzed-up third season theme and opening . This was THE DETECTIVES…not 77 Sunset Strip. The producers made some serious errors with season 3, and the fans obviously thought so too…as there was no Season Four
I completely agree about the theme. Wasn’t Season 3 on a different network? I liked the longer epsodes but they did need Otto. So many shows feel that they have to appeal to the young which I’m sure was the reason for Adam West. I guess he was supposed to add sex appeal. So foolish–to the end of his life Robert Taylor reeked sex appeal. I also liked Ursula Thiess on Season 2. Thanks for writing. Judith
I enjoyed the revisit to this blog from 2013. Of course The Detectives is still a great sense of frustration because it was never available on DVD. However it is interesting that you still get responses to your blog, which must please you.
Happy New Year, may 2018 be a year of peace and happiness to you and yours.
Hi, June. I’ve been in touch with somebody who might do DVD’s of The Detectives. Nothing definite, and who knows when, but I’ll certainly let you know if anything happens. The US Postal Service, aptly called Snail Mail, finally delivered your package. How do you find such unusual calendars? I know we’ll both enjoy it for the coming year. Happy New Year!! Judith
Warner doesn’t own the show, Fox does, which is now Disney, by way of Four Star. In any event, Disney doesn’t release shows so its a lost cause.
The show airs on a British network called Talking Pictures, if anyone has a contact over there.
Thank you, Mark, I didn’t know that about Disney. Judith