Sunday, December 01, 2013

Farewell, Mr. Musante

I was apparently far too distracted by the Thanksgiving Day holiday to hear about this, but American actor Tony Musante died last Tuesday at age 77. As The New York Times reported, Musante’s wife “said the cause was a hemorrhage, which occurred while he was recovering from oral surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital.”

The paper added that “Mr. Musante appeared opposite George C. Scott in the film ‘The Last Run’ in 1971, on Broadway with Meryl Streep in a 1976 production of Tennessee Williams’s ‘27 Wagons Full of Cotton,’ and in television dramas like ‘Ride With Terror,’ a ‘DuPont Show of the Week’ presentation with Gene Hackman in 1963. (Mr. Musante reprised the role, as an urban psychopath, in a 1967 film adaptation titled ‘The Incident,’ with Martin Sheen.)” His Internet Movie Database (IMDb) page notes that the Bridgeport, Connecticut-born Musante appeared as well in episodes of The Fugitive, Medical Story, The Equalizer, and The Rockford Files.

However, it may be Toma, a 1973-1974 ABC-TV crime drama, for which many people still remember Mustante best. Again, I’ll quote here from the Times’ obituary:
Mr. Musante, who preferred the creative opportunities of stage and film roles, was reluctant when, in 1973, he was offered the starring role in “Toma,” an ABC detective drama about a renegade police detective. He agreed on one condition: that he have the option to leave after one season.

The show did fairly well in the ratings against formidable competition--“The Waltons” on CBS and “The Flip Wilson Show” on NBC--but Mr. Musante stuck to his guns. He left the series to take the role of Lt. William Calley, the Army officer convicted of ordering the massacre of Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968, in Stanley Kramer’s 1975 television movie “Judgment: The Court Martial of Lt. William Calley.”

“Toma” was soon remade by its creator, Roy Huggins, as a vehicle for a replacement star, Robert Blake. The new show, renamed “Baretta,” ran from 1975 to 1978 and--like other Huggins shows, including “Maverick,” “The Rockford Files” and “The Fugitive”--had a successful afterlife in syndication.
You can watch the opening sequence from Toma here. And at least for the time being, a full hour-long episode of that series, “Rock-a-Bye” (originally broadcast on January 25, 1974), can be enjoyed here.

1 comment:

david hartzog said...

Nice write up. I remember Tony Musante best from the giallo, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and The Yards. Fine actor, underused.