Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Peter Gunn was an American private eye television series which aired on the NBC and later ABC television networks from 1958 to 1961. The show's creator (and also writer and director on occasion) was Blake Edwards.
The title character (played by Craig Stevens) is a private investigator in the classic film noir tradition, which was a popular genre on American TV in the late 1950s. However, a few traits differentiate him from the standard hard-boiled detectives, such as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. Gunn was a sophisticated "hipster", a dapper dresser who loved cool jazz; where other gumshoes were often coarse, Peter Gunn was portrayed as the epitome of "cool". He operated in a nameless waterfront city, and was a regular patron of Mother's, a wharfside club; his girlfriend, Edie Hart (Lola Albright), was a sultry singer employed there. Herschel Bernardi played Lieutenant Jacoby, a police detective.
The show's use of modern jazz music, at a time when most television shows used a generic, uninspired orchestra for the background, was another distinctive touch. Innovative jazz themes seemed to accompany every move Gunn made, ably rendered by Henry Mancini and his orchestra, lending the character even more of an air of suave sophistication. Most memorable of all was the show's opening (and closing) theme, composed and performed by Mancini. A hip, bluesy, brassy number with an insistent piano-and-bass line, the song became an instant hit for Mancini, earning him an Emmy Award and two Grammys, and became as associated with crime fiction as John Barry's theme to the James Bond films is associated with espionage. It has been covered by numerous jazz, blues, and rock artists since, including the Blues Brothers, Brian Setzer, The Cramps, Aerosmith, and many, many others. A version by The Art of Noise, with guest artist Duane Eddy on twang guitar (taking the piano riff) earned a Grammy Award in 1985. The theme is also used as the background music for the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter. Today, many people with no knowledge of the original show still can identify the theme.
After the two-season run on NBC and the single season on ABC, Edwards made numerous attempts to revive the character in other media. A novel and a comic book were released in 1960. A feature film, Gunn , was made in 1967, and ABC carried a pilot in 1989 with Peter Strauss in the lead role, but they failed to catch on.
Selected songs from the series
- "Peter Gunn Theme"
- "The Brothers Go to Mother's"
- "Blues for Mother's"
- "Sorta Blue"
- "Slow and Easy"
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