If you’ve done any researching into matters bibliographical, you know how it goes. You’re looking up one thing, you find another. In the case at hand, I was trying to pin down some information on a performance of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White on TV in the early 1960s. I found it without too much trouble, but in the process I discovered that it happened to be an episode of a series that not only do I not ever remember seeing, I don’t even remember reading about it: The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries.

   It was on, as it turns out, while I was off in college in a town so small that there we could get only one channel, and even though the local station was an NBC affiliate, I don’t remember taking very many study breaks to watch television. Except for Johnny Carson late at night, I do admit, thinking back upon it, every once in a while.

   More investigating was in order. There’s nothing on the series in my only handy in-print resource, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, 1946-Present, 3rd Edition, by Tim Brooks & Earle Marsh.

   So it was off to the computer and www.imdb.com, and lo, there it is. Here’s a list of the titles of the stories that IMDB says were adapted:

The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries. A series of seven television specials hosted by John Welch.

Season 1, Episode 1: The Bat [Mary Roberts Rinehart]
Original Air Date: 31 March 1960

From Time magazine April 4, 1960:

Dow Hour of Great Mysteries (NBC, 9-10 p.m.). The first of a series of classic mysteries adapted for TV. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Bat stars Helen Hayes and Jason Robards Jr. Host: Joseph Welch.

Season 1, Episode 2: The Burning Court [John Dickson Carr]
Original Air Date: 24 April 1960

Season 1, Episode 3: The Woman in White [Wilkie Collins]
Original Air Date: 23 May 1960

Season 1, Episode 4: The Dachet Diamonds [Richard Marsh]
Original Air Date: 20 September 1960

Season 1, Episode 5: The Inn of the Flying Dragon [Sheridan Le Fanu]
Original Air Date: 18 October 1960

Season 1, Episode 7: The Great Impersonation [E. Philips Oppenheim]
Original Air Date: 15 November 1960

   But continuing on and doing some Googling around, I came up with the following, a short piece from the NY Times. Where does this fit in?

PLOT DESCRIPTION for Columbo [TV series]

   It all began in 1960 as a stage play called “Prescription: Murder” written by whodunit enthusiasts Richard Levinson and William Link. Joseph Cotten starred as a prominent society doctor who smugly believed he had committed the perfect murder when he knocked off his wife. The detective assigned to the case was a slovenly, disorganized seemingly aphasic old coot played by Thomas Mitchell. Secure in the assumption that so cloddish and unprepossessing a detective would ever be smart enough to tumble to his guilt, the doctor allowed the elderly cop to engage in a game of cat and mouse as they affably discussed possible motives and methods related to the murder. But the doc had underestimated the detective, who had a mind like a steel trap, and by the end of the play had ever so politely and unassumingly allowed the murderer to hang himself with his own words. “Prescription Murder” never made it to Broadway, but Levinson and Link revived the property as a one-hour TV drama on the NBC anthology The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries, with Bert Freed in the role of the unkempt but cagey detective, now named Lt. Columbo. [No date given.]

and this, also from a Time magazine TV column:

Tuesday, 09-27-60

The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries (NBC, 10-11 p.m.). The Cat and the Canary [John Willard, play]

   It doesn’t make sense for me to try to put anything more together if a episode log has already been done. If someone’s already done one, please let me know about it. My attention has been gotten.

[UPDATE 01-25-07] To answer my own question, yes, according to the BFI website, “The Cat and the Canary” is a Dow program and correctly should be number five in the series, contrary to IMDB, with “The Inn of the Flying Dragon” number six.

   Of course, to return to the theme I began at the beginning of this blog entry, while checking out the Dow series, I came across yet another series called Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries (1973-74), which is also not found in B&M, but is included on IMBD. What network it was on, or whether it was syndicated, I know nothing more.

Season 1, Episode 1: Captain Rogers
Original Air Date: 1 September 1973

Season 1, Episode 2: The Leather Funnel
Original Air Date: 8 September 1973

Season 1, Episode 3: A Terribly Strange Bed
Original Air Date: 15 September 1973

Season 1, Episode 4: La Grande Breteche
Original Air Date: 22 September 1973

Season 1, Episode 5: The Dinner Party
Original Air Date: 29 September 1973

Season 1, Episode 6: Money to Burn
Original Air Date: 6 October 1973

Season 1, Episode 7: In the Confessional
Original Air Date: 13 October 1973

Season 1, Episode 8: Unseen Alibi
Original Air Date: 20 October 1973

Season 1, Episode 9: Battle of Wits
Original Air Date: 27 October 1973

Season 1, Episode 10: A Point of Law
Original Air Date: 3 November 1973

Season 1, Episode 11: The Monkey’s Paw
Original Air Date: 10 November 1973

Season 1, Episode 12: The Ingenious Reporter
Original Air Date: 17 November 1973

Season 1, Episode 13: Death of an Old-Fashioned Girl
Original Air Date: 24 November 1973

Season 1, Episode 14: For Sale – Silence
Original Air Date: 1 December 1973

Season 1, Episode 15: The Inspiration of Mr. Budd
Original Air Date: 8 December 1973

Season 1, Episode 16: An Affair of Honour
Original Air Date: 15 December 1973

Season 1, Episode 17: Farewell to the Faulkners
Original Air Date: 22 December 1973

Season 1, Episode 18: The Power of Fear
Original Air Date: 29 December 1973

Season 1, Episode 19: Where There Is a Will
Original Air Date: 5 January 1974

Season 1, Episode 20: A Time to Remember
Original Air Date: 12 January 1974

Season 1, Episode 21: Ice Storm
Original Air Date: 19 January 1974

Season 1, Episode 22: Come Into My Parlor
Original Air Date: 26 January 1974

Season 1, Episode 23: Compliments of the Season
Original Air Date: 3 February 1974

Season 1, Episode 24: Under Suspicion
Original Air Date: 10 February 1974

Season 1, Episode 25: Trial for Murder
Original Air Date: 17 February 1974

Season 1, Episode 26: The Furnished Room
Original Air Date: 24 February 1974

   I never saw this one, either. Whatever you can tell me about it would once again be appreciated.

[UPDATE: 01-26-07] Mark Murphy sent me an email which addresses two issues. The first one deals with the genesis of the Lt. Columbo character — as hard as it may be to believe, the piece quoted above from the New York Times has gotten several of its facts wrong. Mark has led me to enough information about the origins of the character that I’ve decided to make a separate post out it. Look for it soon.

Mark also goes on to say, and I’m quoting here:

   I also remember the Orson Welles “Great Mysteries” shows. They were a half-hour, syndicated. I think they were done in England, with Welles doing the intros. I don’t remember being very impressed by them, but then I was a kid then.

    “Great Mysteries” was one of a number of shows syndicators made money with when the FCC started its “family hour” rule. (I think that’s what it was called, though I could be wrong.)

   As I recall, before this rule took effect, network programming ran from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The rule restricted it to 8 to 11 p.m. under the theory that local stations would produce local content to fill the extra half-hour. What they got was stuff like “Great Mysteries” and game shows.

   Hope this helps, and I enjoyed your site.

      Mark Murphy

   Thank you, Mark. Yes, I remember when that “family hour” ruling came along, prompted by the FCC. It was early in 1975. Not only did it provide for the “family hour” between 7 pm and 8, but the network heads adopted a self-declared “family viewing” hour in the first hour of network evening prime-time (8:00-9:00 P.M., Eastern time). Quick to complain was Norman Lear producer of the popular but still controversial comedy, All in the Family. Follow the link to learn more about it.

[UPDATE 01-27-07]
Taken from a followup email from Mark M. —

   As I recall, our local NBC affiliate stuck the Orson Welles shows on on Sunday nights at 10:30; network programming on Sundays on those days was 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. I think the ABC affiliate did something similar with Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected show.

   I only recall two episodes of the Welles show. One, “The Inspiration of Mr. Budd,” was based on a Dorothy Sayers story. I think Hugh Griffith may have played the heavy. Another was based on a Stanley Ellin story, the twist being (as I recall) that the victim had accidentally stabbed herself to death.

   Amazing how I can seem to recall stuff like this but can’t always remember where I left the remote control, or my keys….

            Mark M.

   That’s because those fellows have minds of their own. But all seriousness aside, it beginning to look as though someone (maybe even me) should do some annotations for the Orson Welles series. Who wrote the original stories, and who the cast members were for each episode, that sort of thing.

   Yes, it’s probably all on IMDB, but you have to work to find it. Which is also probably why I won’t get to it right away, either.