Fri 11 Jun 2010
“Let’s Kill Timothy.” An episode of Peter Gunn (Season 1, Episode 17). First air date: 19 January 1959. Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn), Lola Albright (Edie Hart), Herschel Bernardi (Lieutenant Jacoby), Hope Emerson (Mother), Mel Leonard (Casper Wellington), Henry Corden (Vladimir Sokolawsky), Arthur Hanson (George Tate), Frank Richards (Tiny Walsh), Peter Brocco (Sam the drunk), David McMahon (Mike the desk sergeant). Story: Blake Edwards. Teleplay: Lewis Reed. Director: Blake Edwards.
Timothy is a most unusual individual: modest, unassuming, reticent to a fault. He is also many things to many people.
To Peter Gunn, Timothy is an unexpected baby sitting charge. To Lieutenant Jacoby, he’s a “thing” that indecorously invades his office.
To Casper Wellington, Timothy is both a friend and the way to fabulous wealth, while to George Tate and Tiny Walsh he’s worth kidnapping and gutting like a fish.
But through it all Timothy maintains his composure. He may be a little guy — three feet tall and three hundred pounds — but he can fend for himself. Of course, practically no one can ward off two burly brutes intent on kidnapping; when that happens, even his foreflippers are of no avail.
You know, if things keep going the way they have been, Timothy could soon be up on a grand theft felony charge. You have to wonder if the California penal system is capable of providing enough fish for an upwardly mobile but healthy young seal ….
The normally drop dead serious Peter Gunn series veers into comedy with this one, and the whole thing works beautifully as director-creator-writer Blake Edwards shows he can do funny stuff with the mystery genre. Maybe this was him warming up for Inspector Clouseau.
The best scene is at the police station, first with a drunk being booked, and then in Jacoby’s office when Gunn leads Timothy in, who immediately makes himself at home by flopping down on the couch. Gunn and Jacoby have an entire conversation without Jacoby once referring to the seal until the very end, but even then he doesn’t state the obvious — a nice piece of underplaying by everybody concerned.
When Gunn is trying to locate Casper Wellington, he goes to one of his snitches, “artist” Vladimir Sokolawsky (Henry Corden), who is as surreal as any of his “artwork.” Like Victor Buono, Corden (1920-2005) could always do over-the-top superbly, and in his one bizarre scene he nearly steals the show.
Mother was played in 25 Peter Gunn episodes by a fine character actress, Hope Emerson (1897-1960). In this show, she gets to “sing” “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” — but the less said about that the better. (You’ve been warned.)
Note: According to the Internet Movie Database, this Peter Gunn episode was based on a Richard Diamond radio program, “Timothy the Seal” (5 February 1950).
Editorial Comments: Click on the link provided to listen to the radio program that Mike mentions. The series, which starred Dick Powell as medium-boiled PI Richard Diamond, was on radio for several years. Many more episodes can be found here: http://www.archive.org/details/RichardDiamond2.
The movie Gunn was reviewed here on this blog by Dan Stumpf about a month ago.