Thu 28 Nov 2013
“MEET McGRAW” – An episode of Four Star Playhouse. CBS, 25 February 1954. Four Star Productions. Cast: Frank Lovejoy, Audrey Totter, Ellen Corby, Paul Picerni, Percy Helton, Peter Whitney, and Steve Darrell. Original Story and Screenplay by John and Gwen Bagni. Executive Producer: Don W. Sharpe. Produced by George Haight. Director of Photography: George E. Diskant. Directed by Frank McDonald.
The episode is also available to watch at Archive.org.
McGraw (no first name was ever given) was the typical hardboiled PI of the fifties, a tough guy with a soft spot for dames. The story made full use of the tropes of the fifties PI, complete with the less than handsome PI wearing a fedora and cheap suit as he smokes a cigarette while walking down dark streets to visit a bar to meet the femme fatale. McGraw was different in one way he was a traveling trouble-shooter as opposed to a PI with a set location.
The writing was better than most from that the era, overcoming the limited budget and primitive filming conditions with the proper banter and a strong complicated plot. Writers John and Gwen Bagni were a married couple. He would die in 1954 and she would go on to write for many TV series including ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Gwen Bagni (with Paul Dubov) would later develop HONEY WEST for TV.
Director Frank McDonald was a successful director of low budget films in the thirties and forties and moved over to television in the fifties where he continued into the sixties. His direction on MEET McGRAW was professional but nothing special.
The cast fit perfectly in their roles. Frank Lovejoy looked and sounded the part of hardboiled trouble-shooter McGraw. Audrey Totter was well casted as she had a history of playing the hard tough dame in films such as POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, LADY IN THE LAKE and THE SET UP. The supporting cast featured wonderful character actors such as Ellen Corby, Peter Whitney and Percy Helton.
According to TVTango.com, the episode aired opposite THE RAY BOLGER SHOW on ABC, BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD: HEADLINE CLUES on Dumont and TREASURY MEN IN ACTION on NBC.
Three years later and with the growing popularity of the TV detective, MEET McGRAW would become a weekly series on NBC. The series would air Tuesday at 9pm from July 2, 1957 to April 22, 1958.
“Broadcasting” review (July 8, 1957) of the first NBC episode was favorable, especially for Blake Edwards’ script. It also listed some other information. Production cost was $36,000. The series was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble through Benton and Bowles. Frank Lovejoy repeated his role as McGraw. The series writers alternated among Blake Edwards, Frederic Brady, E. Jack Newman, and Lowell Barrington. Directors alternated between John Peyser, Harold Schuster and Anton Leader. Producer was Warren Lewis. The series was filmed and each episode was a half-hour long.
Forty-one episodes were produced for MEET McGRAW on NBC. Adding the FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE episode made forty-two half-hour episodes available for syndication. But before it went into syndication, ABC would air the reruns starting November 23, 1958 on Sunday (it had three different time slots during its run – 10pm, 9:30pm and 10:30pm). It would remain on the ABC network schedule until September 20, 1959. ABC Films released it into syndication for local markets on October 1, 1959.
Despite claims by Wikipedia and IMDb, I can find no record of the series being called ADVENTURES OF McGRAW. “Broadcasting” always referred to it as MEET McGRAW, from its beginnings to its days in syndication (as late as March 25, 1963). I suspect (but can’t prove) the title ADVENTURES OF MCGRAW might have been used when Official Films took over the syndication rights from ABC Films (whenever that was).