Darren McGavin passed away last Saturday, the 26th of February.  My brother always loved him as Mike Hammer. McGavin, however, played Hammer as satire.

(Taken from "Scarlet Street," 1994, by Richard Valley)

"Universal had made a contract with Spillane, and they made three pilots, one of them with Brian Keith.  They couldn’t show them because they were all too violent.  I don’t know why they called me to do the show.  I was doing a play in New York, and they called me to come out and do this series.  I read the script when I got there; I didn’t know what the hell we were doing!
    "I said, ‘This is ridiculous!  I mean, you can’t take this shit seriously.’
    "The producer said, "Well, yeah – we do.’
    "And I said, ‘No, this is satire.  It’s gotta be satirical.’
    "They said, ‘No, no, no – this is really very deadly, straight-on, dead-on serious.’
    "So we started shooting.  On the second day of the second segment, when they finally had the rushes from the first one, Mr. Lou Wasserman came over to the set and said, ‘You can’t do this, Darren.’
    "I said, ‘Do what?’
    "And he said, ‘You can’t make fun of this material.’
    "I said, ‘I’m not making fun of it; I’m just treating it in a lighter manner.’
    "And he said, ‘Well, we don’t want that.  We want it serious.’
    "I said, ‘Lou, I’ll tell you something.  We’re not deep into it.  We really aren’t.  You can hold these shows back and say I’m the cousin of the guy you’re gonna get to do it.’"
  I said, ‘I wanna go home.  I got a farm in upstate New York, and I’m really very happy there.  I don’t wanna do this the way you wanna do it.  Let’s just call it quits today, and you can hire somebody else to do it.’
    "He said, ‘We have a contract.
    "I said, ‘We have a contract for me to say the words that are put on the paper.  I don’t want anybody telling me how to do it.’
    "So he got a little upset.  After that, they left us alone, and we went ahead and made them – and they were instantly successful.  People thought they were funny."


McGavin will always be best remembered for the classic TV series, NIGHT STALKER — at least by my nephew, Lee Goldberg, who was as crazy about the show as I was — the show had problems (late scripts, lack of network support, etc) but the talent on screen made it a joy.


Yes that’s Betty Garrett with Burl Barer.

She is the widow of Larry Parks, star of The Jolsen Story and Jolsen Sings Again. She told one hell of a story about Sen. Joe McCarthy buying Larry and her drinks in Vegas after Larry’s career had been destroyed by the blacklist. I’ll give you the details next time around.


  1. dave zarkin

    This is a super post and thanks for the McGavin background. My son is crazy about “The Christmas Story,” which you didn’t mention. I don’t remember McGavin in Spillane but do remember Night Stalker. ABC revisited Night Stalker last fall but it bombed. “Supernatural” is much like Night Stalker and X Files. Thanks Mike Barer for Spokane tie in information.

  2. dave zarkin

    Re Betty Garrett: She was in spinoff from Happy Days sitcom in the 70s but can’t remember the name but I bet you do? Also, she was in musical with Janet Leigh, My Sister Eilleen, for Columbia in early 50s and may be Jack Lemmon’s first staring role. Academy Awards was a bit of a disappointment cuz I was hoping they would give lifetime acheivement award to Allied Artists and Mamie Van Doren for “Sex Kittens Go to College.” Glad I watched something else. Cousin Dave


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