JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

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Dewey1960
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JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

Post by Dewey1960 »

Any number of you have tolerated my periodic paeans extended to John Cassavetes’ brilliant, short-lived private-eye TV series JOHNNY STACCATO. Here I am again. Only this time for a really good reason!

Cassavetes starred as the title character during its one brief (1959-1960) season. Staccato, a one-time Greenwich Village jazz musician, now earns his meager living as a private eye, headquartering himself at Waldo's, a hip jazz club run by Eduardo Ciannelli (as Waldo). The stories were extremely dark and didn’t always end well. In short, the purest and most succinct example of “TV Noir” the medium had yet concocted.

I’m thrilled to present here (FINALLY! and for the FIRST TIME!), compliments of YouTube, the entire half-hour episode (about 25 mins sans commercials) entitled “Tempted” which guest stars Elizabeth Montgomery. It’s broken up into three parts and it goes great with either coffee or scotch. (Bear with the first few minutes of part one, as the sound is out of sync; it corrects itself, tho.)
JOHNNY STACCATO
“Tempted” (part one)
[youtube][/youtube]
“Tempted” (part two)
[youtube][/youtube]
“Tempted” (part three)
[youtube][/youtube]
Last edited by Dewey1960 on March 8th, 2009, 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

Nice to see this. Looking back though Cassavetes’ output, I'd seen the title, but never had any idea it was such a role. Lots of fun lingo and interesting advice from the wizened-sage club owner (was he a regular?). This also has quite a bit of music in it (and not simple intros either) for a TV show.
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Dewey1960
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Post by Dewey1960 »

Glad you enjoyed it, Ark. The music in this show played as big a part as anything else. The incidental themes you refer to are Elmer Bernstein’s; his work is splashed through every show. And on any given episode the "house band" at Waldo’s might include Johnny Williams (yes, that John Williams), Red Mitchell, Ray Brown, Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne. Without a doubt, the hippest TV show the medium had yet created.

The wonderful Eduardo Ciannelli appeared as Waldo, the only other regular aside from Cassavetes on the program. Apart from running his jazz club, Waldo’s other preoccupation was to provide Johnny with just enough friendship and advice to keep him from sinking his own ship. They made a terrific team.

For a show that was only around for one lonely season, it certainly attracted its share of interesting guest stars, including Gena Rowlands, Charles McGraw, Cloris Leachman, Anthony Zerbe, Elisha Cook, Jr. (twice), Paul Stewart, Mary Tyler Moore and many others.

The potent visual dynamics of the show, steeped in the darkest noir traditions, are the result of having the services of such cinematographers as Lionel Lindon (“Manchurian Candidate”) and Benjamin Kline (“Detour”) on a number of episodes. As mentioned, there are DVD and VHS boots of this show floating around the internet (eBay) of varying quality.

In 1960, Capitol Records released an LP soundtrack for JOHNNY STACCATO and, despite being cancelled early on, became quite a popular recording. Just this year it’s finally been released on CD and it’s highly recommended!

They still love Johnny on Italian TV...
[youtube][/youtube]
Last edited by Dewey1960 on March 8th, 2009, 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by moira finnie »

Eduardo Ciannelli (the "wizened-sage club owner") was indeed a regular, Arkadin. Playing "Waldo", the owner of the kind of comfy joint most of us have been looking for all our lives, he held court and offered aid and comfort along with some cautionary wisdom for Johnny, as well as providing jazz artists in the Pete Candoli combo, which featured musicians Ray Brown, Barney Kessel and Red Norvo a port in a storm. The show's musical "godfather" was none other than Elmer Bernstein.

Ciannelli, who had been an opera singer in Italy, was better known for his far less benevolent roles, usually as some sort of vicious gangster. I am fond of his slimey portrayal of "Sol 'Knuckles' Lanzetta" in The People Against O'Hara (1947) and his meanie nightclub owner in Marked Woman (1937). However, my favorite part was when he appeared in Gunga Din (1939) as the mad Guru, exhorting his Thuggee acolytes to murder in the name of Kali!

Image
A happy looking Eduardo Ciannelli in the 1940s.

I enjoyed Johnny Staccato when I discovered it a couple of years ago on the now vanished network, Trio. I have since learned that one reason it was so consistently lively may have been the talented directors, who included Joseph Pevney, Boris Sagal, Bernard Girard, Robert Parrish, John Brahm, Sidney Lanfield, Richard Whorf, Paul Henreid and that endearingly intense, sometimes over-the-top star, John Cassavetes. I also like many of the character actor guest stars, from Elisha Cook, Jr. to Mike Kellin to Paul Stewart and the occasional location shots of NYC streets in the late '50s.

Are you familiar with Peter Gunn, the program that, in many ways provided the template for Johnny Staccato? Craig Stevens could never be accused of overacting a la Cassavetes. There are some who might claim that Stevens never acted, period. But I like him. Here's a glimpse of the first episode. There are some very familiar faces popping up in this show, including Hope Emerson (as a good gal!) and the very laid back Lola Albright:
[youtube][/youtube]
Last edited by moira finnie on November 17th, 2008, 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by moira finnie »

Oops, looks as though we were posting simultaneously, Dewey. So sorry!
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Post by Dewey1960 »

No problem, Moira; the more said about Johnny, the better!
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

Yes, I'm very familar with Peter Gunn. My Dad loved that show and was fond of this kind of TV, which is why Johnny S. was a surprise for me (as he's never mentioned it). I was born at the tail end of the 60's, so I was not one of the original viewers.
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Post by ken123 »

IMHO Peter Gunn is a total bore with very wooden (& worse) performances, especially by the lead Craig Stevens. The delightful Lola Albright is totally wasted in her role as Edie Hart,as Mr Gunn's love interest. The noirish program is shown here in Chicago after midnight, if I watch it it is only because of the shapely Ms Albright. :)
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Post by Dewey1960 »

Moira - Thanks for linking this thread to PETER GUNN, another excellent example of late 50s TV Noir. Where STACCATO trafficked in edgier and often more adult subject matter, GUNN offered a sleekly sophisticated version of noir, beautifully set to Henry Mancini's trend-setting score and crafted with uncustomary elan (by television standards, anyway) by producer and sometimes director Blake Edwards. All things considered, a terrific show--even if it fell short of STACCATO's overall greatness.
A superb sequence from the PETER GUNN episode "Jazz and Murder Smell the Same"
[youtube][/youtube]
Last edited by Dewey1960 on March 8th, 2009, 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Dewey1960 »

Here, again compliments of our friends over at YouTube, is the opening pre-credits sequence of another JOHNNY STACCATO episode, "The Return." This ice-cold drama, from late 1959, was written by James Landis (not to be confused with "Animal House" director John Landis) who, four years later would write and direct one of the most brazenly shocking exploitation films ever made: THE SADIST starring Arch Hall, Jr. This factoid should be of interest to our friend ChiO, who I know is a big fan of that film. (Landis wrote one other episode of STACCATO, "An Angry Young Man" (1960) which guest-starred Warren Berlinger.)
[youtube][/youtube]
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Re: JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

Post by ChiO »

Having this week found a disc with four episodes of JOHNNY STACCATO, I quickly wolfed them down.

The Shop of the Four Winds (Oct. 1, 1959) -- Directed by Boris Sagal (father of my favorite TV comedic femme fatale, Katey Sagal -- if MARRIED WITH CHILDREN isn't film noir, then what is?), this was the least interesting episode in terms of plot and visuals. But, the jazz was the hottest.

Nature of the Night (Oct.15, 1959) -- Another one directed by Boris Sagal, but far more engaging. I was reminded of FOURTEEN HOURS. The always wonderful Dean Stockwell is the man-on-the-ledge and Cassavetes gives a great performance...in the dark...on the edge...and on the ledge.

Night of Jeopardy (Jan. 21, 1960) -- The moment it started, I could tell that this one was going to be great. The camera moved more crisply. Every scene was beautifully framed. The dialog was crisper and hipper. Johnny kills a man who has plates for counterfeiting. The Mob thinks Johnny now has the plates. The T-men are on everyone's tail. Fists, knives, guns. Noir at its best. I had difficulty waiting for the end credits to see who directed this episode. Director: John Cassavetes.

An Act of Terror (Feb. 18, 1960) -- A storyline of the most tired sort. A ventriloquist with a recurring nightmare of killing his wife who is now missing. A dummy with the same name as the wife. Conversations between the ventriloquist and dummy. "Johnny! You've got to find my wife for me!" Like we don't know where this is going. And it doesn't matter because it is so dark and hip and edgy that they had me all the way. Another one that had me anxiously awaiting the end credits. Director: John Brahm.

The next time I'm in Manhattan, I'm definitely having a drink at Waldo's...but not at night.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles
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Dewey1960
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Re: JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

Post by Dewey1960 »

ChiO: Congrats on entering the demented world of JOHNNY STACCATO. I had little doubt that you would find these episodes completely rewarding (well, at least three out of four!) Of the twenty-seven episodes produced, there are but maybe three or four that fall short of total excellence---a remarkable on-base percentage if ever there was one. I hope you're able to score more episodes. Be on the look out for: SOLOMON (guests Elisha Cook, Jr. and Cloris Leachman; directed by JC), THE WILD REED guest star Harry Guardino as a dope-addicted jazz musician), A PIECE OF PARADISE (directed by JC), MURDER FOR CREDIT (guest star Charles McGray and directed by JC), DOUBLE FEATURE (with JC in an incredible dual role), THE LIST OF DEATH (with the amazing Paul Stewart), A NICE LITTLE TOWN (the most Twilight Zonish of all the episodes), EVIL (Elisha Cook again and directed by JC.)
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Re: JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

Post by ChiO »

Tonight I finished watching all of the JOHNNY STACCATO episodes, an adventure well-taken. The Henreid directed episodes were especially satisfying.

Query for STACCATO fans: Was there a noticeable arc to the season?

Perhaps it was my mood, or settling into a rhythm, but I found the first third or so of the episodes to be outstanding, the middle third to be far less so, then the final third to be out-of-this-world incredible, almost surreal. It's as if the team wanted to do something different and edgy, then thought "We're losing the audience, so let's be more commercial", then figured "We're goners, so let's go wild!"

But, of course, with Cassavetes in the lead, it's hard to go wrong.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles
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Re: JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

Post by RedRiver »

Guess what I got for Christmas? The entire collection of this series! I've only watched four episodes so far, but I enjoyed them. I don't know that I'd call it better than PETER GUNN. But it's certainly harder, more mature. The show has a no nonsense approach that lets you know a happy ending is not promised. I like the outdoor footage of the city.

I wonder...was the show originally called STACCATO? No Johnny? That's what appears on the title screen in these early episodes. I'll watch some more tonight. For once, I got a gift I can actually use!
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Re: JOHNNY STACCATO Right Here! Right Now!

Post by RedRiver »

I love that Johnny takes the subway around town. Most tough PI's drive cool cars. Not Staccato. He hops on the A train!
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