Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Grim Reaper Stays on Task

Yesterday we reported on the death of Edward Woodward, star of The Equalizer. Now comes word of the passing this last Sunday of yet another actor, Dennis Cole, who was known for his work on at least two TV series of note to crime-fiction enthusiasts.

As blogger Ivan G. Shreve Jr. recalled in a post earlier today, the Detroit, Michigan-born Cole’s “best known television showcase was as the rookie Detective Jim Briggs on the ABC-TV crime drama Felony Squad, which had a respectable run from 1966 to 1969.” However, Cole also starred with Rod Taylor in the short-run, 1971 CBS western-detective series Bearcats! about two soldiers of fortune who roamed the American Southwest during the second decade of the 20th century, helping people in trouble. The program took its name from the automobile Taylor and Cole drove: a 1914 Stutz Bearcat.

Cole almost added a third series to his resume, but he was axed at the last minute. After starring in the May 1975 TV pilot film Barbary Coast--playing a slick but shady saloon owner in San Francisco’s pleasure quarter of the 1870s opposite William Shatner, whose role was that of a government agent and master of disguise--he was replaced before the show debuted in September 1975 in favor of Doug McClure. It wasn’t a smart switch; Cole had a bit of mysteriousness and danger about him as gambler-turned-businessman Cash Conover, while McClure substituted boyish exuberance that made the whole venture seem sillier than it should have been. (The show’s “family hour” scheduling didn’t help any, either.) Screenwriter Douglas Heyes created both Bearcats! and Barbary Coast.

As the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) notes, Cole appeared in the TV drama Bracken’s World and later guested on such shows as The Streets of San Francisco, Police Story, The Fall Guy, Mike Hammer, and Murder, She Wrote. Prior to becoming an actor, he was employed as a male model. And Cole was married for three years to Jaclyn Smith, on whose series, Charlie’s Angels, he was featured several times.

FOLLOW-UP: YouTube hosts a collection of promo spots for TV shows that premiered during the fall of 1975. Among those is one for Barbary Coast (slotted between ads for On the Rocks and Matt Helm). The spot concludes by telling viewers that “Doug McClure stars as Cash. William Shatner stars as Cable.” Only one problem: all of the clips seem to come from the pilot film, and show Dennis Cole in the Cash role. Oops.

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