DANTE. “Dante in the Dark.” NBC, Four Star Producions. 13 Mar 1961 (Season 1, Episode 22.) Howard Duff (Willie Dante), Alan Mowbray, Tom D’Andrea, Bert Freed. Guest Cast: Marion Ross, Troy Melton. Created by Blake Edwards. Director: Richard Kinon.

   This late in the season – it lasted only for one and 26 episodes – there was no attempt by the screenwriter or director to fill in any of the general background for the series, but starting with this one, as I did, it was easy to fill in some of the gaps. Howard Duff plays Willie Dante, owner of a nightclub called Dante’s Inferno, and while he and Det. Sgt. Rickard (Bert Freed) obviously know each other well, the relationship is very much a rocky one.

   Which comes into play as a major theme in “Dante in the Dark.” When a customer is gunned down in front of his club, the police are very reluctant to tell either him or the dead man’s fiancée  anything about the case, or even to let the young woman (a most definitely not very matronly Marion Ross) see the body. Even more strange is that the police allow a previously unknown cousin take the body for disposal to a crematorium without telling her.

   All is eventually explained, and it’s a torturous and interesting path getting there, but the good old boys joking around at the end seems even more forced than usual. No matter. It is always good to see Howard Duff in action. I only have to close my eyes and here the sound and cadence of Sam Spade’s voice on the radio with no difficulty at all.


NOTE: For much more background on the series, including a mention of this particular episode, see Michael Shonk’s in depth overview of the show posted here much earlier on this blog.