Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oh, Brothers, Where Art Thou?

Here’s a very old TV show that’s new to me: The Brothers Brannagan, a syndicated American series that ran from September 1960 to July 1961, offering 39 black-and-white, half-hour episodes. I’d never heard of the show, until a reader brought my attention to it in relation to a recent post about the 1980s detective drama Simon & Simon.

I have since come across more than one reference on the Web to The Brothers Brannagan having inspired Simon & Simon. Both were about sibling sleuths, though Simon & Simon cast Rick and A.J. Simon as private eyes in San Diego, California, while The Brothers Brannagan imagined Mike and Bob Brannagan as gumshoes working out of the Mountain Shadows Resort Inn in Arizona’s Paradise Valley, near Phoenix. (The “low-budget” series was apparently filmed on location around the Grand Canyon State capital.) As The Thrilling Detective Web Site recalls, Bob Brannagan (played by Mark Roberts) “was the more serious, professional brother, Mike [Stephen Dunne] the poetry-quoting romantic, constantly in trouble with various women. As always, there was sibling rivalry to contend with. They lived together in a large luxury apartment, complete with a maid and a doorman. The rivalry between the brothers and (for the time) unusual setting weren’t enough, however, to compensate for weak scripts, and the show only lasted one season.”

The episodes found these brothers working cases involving theft, extortion, kidnapping, insurance fraud, body guarding, murder, and even the protection of a “French poodle with a rhinestone-studded collar.” William Schoell’s Great Old Movies blog suggests that “the best episode was ‘Damaged Dolls’ [December 31, 1960], a suspenseful story that had entertainers being blackmailed and/or murdered after receiving mutilated dolls in boxes.” Since they were handsome bachelors in their late 30s, early 40s, the Brannagans did their best to throw money around the Phoenix bar and nightclub scene, and woo the most comely young ladies they encountered there.

Novelist-blogger James Reasoner, who wrote about this show last year, pointed out that a tie-in novel--appropriately titled The Brothers Brannagan, and written by one Henry E. Helseth--was published by Signet in 1961, probably with the hope that this crime drama would last longer than it did. Instead, the show came and went quickly, and seems to have been pretty thoroughly forgotten in the succeeding five decades. I see that somebody is offering about a third of the episodes on DVD on the Web sales site I haven’t yet laid down my hard-earned cash for that set, though. And I may not. Scouring the few comments available on the Internet, it seems that the most memorable thing about The Brothers Brannagan was its “snappy” theme music (composed by Alexander Courage, who would go on to achieve something close to immortality by composing the original Star Trek theme). Courage’s tune figures into the opening title sequence, a version of which--taken from the November 19, 1960, episode “Her Brother's Keeper”--is embedded atop this post. (The opening apparently changed frequently, perhaps even per episode. Another example can be found here.)

Does anyone out there remember watching The Brothers Brannagan? And if so, do you think it’s worth my trying to track down the 39 existing episodes, or even the tie-in novel?

READ MORE:A TV Series Review: The Brothers Brannagan (1960-61),” by Michael Shonk (Mystery*File).


D.A. Trappert said...

I have a copy of the tie-in that I picked up in a used book store a while back. I didn't realize it was a tie-in until I got home. I don't usually buy those. I may need to give this one a look. It turns out to be a pretty good pickup; the cheapest one at now is $17.

Jerry House said...

I read the tie-in whan it came out and I remember enjoying it but I don't remember anything else about it.

J F Norris said... tells me that this is the opening to "Her Brother's Keeper," episode 9 first broadcast on Nov 19, 1960. Apart from Dunne and Roberts the actors seen in the clip are Kent Taylor as Ray Norton, Maureen Leeds as Rita, and Bek Nelson as Nancy. Taylor was Boston Blackie in a TV crime series from 1951-53, but I remember seeing him in a few low level B horror and crime movies. I've never heard of the two actresses.

michael said...

Darn, I was hoping some lost fan of the show would post. So Jeff, which one of us is going to have to break down and buy this thing?

Anonymous said...

Mountain Shadows was a very real resort that allowed on site filming.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I want to thank whoever this last, "anonymous" commenter is, because he or she pointed me toward information about the authentic Mountain Shadows Resort. I've now written a short post about that resort's past and quite dubious future, which can be found here: