The Fugitive is an American television series produced by QM Productions and United Artists Television that aired on ABC from 1963-1967. David Janssen starred as Dr. Richard Kimble, an innocent man from the fictional town of Stafford, Indiana, who is falsely convicted of his wife's murder and given the death penalty. En route to death row, Kimble's train derails and crashes, allowing him to escape and begin a cross-country search for the real killer, a "one-armed man" (played by Bill Raisch). At the same time, Dr. Kimble is hounded by the authorities, most notably by Stafford Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard (Barry Morse).
The series premise was set up in the opening narration, but the full details about the crime were not offered in the pilot episode, which started with Kimble having been on the run for six months. Not until episode 14 "The Girl from Little Egypt" does the viewer finally get the full details of Richard Kimble's plight. Through a series of flashbacks the viewer can see the fateful night of Helen Kimble's death, and for the first time see "the one armed man."
The concept also proved to be perfect for television programming. While shows like Route 66 had employed the same anthology-like premise of wanderers finding adventure in each new place they came to, The Fugitive answered two questions that had bedeviled many similar series: "Why doesn't the protagonist settle down somewhere?" and "Why is the protagonist trying to solve these problems himself instead of calling in the police?" The Fugitive's premise answered these questions, and numerous other television series have imitated it, with the twists being mostly in the nature of the fugitives: a German shepherd (Run, Joe, Run 1974); a scientist with a monstrous alter ego (The Incredible Hulk, 1978); a group of ex-US Army Special Forces accused of a war crime they committed under orders (The A-Team, 1983); a husband and wife (Hot Pursuit, 1984); a young man afflicted with lycanthropy (Werewolf, 1987) and a reinstated detective (Life, 2007).
The plot device of an innocent man on the run from the police for a murder he did not commit and, simultaneously, pursuing the real killer, was a popular one with audiences, in particular the Alfred Hitchcock movies The 39 Steps, Saboteur and North by Northwest.
In its debut season, The Fugitive was the 28th highest rated show in the US (with a 21.7 Rating), and it jumped to 5th in its second season (27.9). It fell out of the top 30 during the last two seasons. However, the show's finale became the most watched TV episode ever to air, up to that point.
The show also came away with other honours. In 1965, Alan Armer, the producer and head writer of the series, received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his work. And in a 1993 ranking, TV Guide named The Fugitive the best dramatic series of the 1960s.
A respected small-town Indiana pediatrician, it was generally known around Stafford that Richard and his wife Helen had been having arguments prior to her death. Helen's pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage, and this event had also apparently rendered her infertile. The couple was devastated, but Helen refused to consider adopting children as Richard wanted. The night of Helen's murder, the Kimbles were heard arguing heatedly over this topic by their neighbours. Richard later went out for a drive to cool off; as he was returning home, he briefly glimpsed a one-armed man fleeing from his house. He then entered his home to find that Helen had been killed. No one had seen or heard Dr. Kimble go out for his drive, or seen him while he was out and he was convicted of Helen's murder. This story was enlarged upon in the first season episode: The Girl From Little Egypt.
After his escape from custody, Kimble moved from town to town, always trying to remain unobtrusive and unnoticed as he searched for the one-armed man while also trying to evade police capture. He usually adopted a nondescript alias and toiled at low-paying menial jobs (i.e. jobs that required no ID or security checks) in order to survive. Though Kimble tried to keep a low profile, circumstances often conspired to place him in positions where he would be forced to risk capture in order to help a deserving person he had met in his travels.
He is incredibly smart, usually able to perform well at any trade he encounters. He also displays considerable prowess in hand to hand combat.
Whatever his name, the one-armed man was rarely seen on The Fugitive, appearing in person in only nine episodes and also in a photograph in the episode "The Breaking Of The Habit" with Eileen Heckart. A shadowy figure, the one-armed man was a drifter who was both crafty and almost superhumanly strong. A number of times, he tips the police off as to Kimble's whereabouts.
Morse did portray Gerard as a man duty-bound to capture Kimble, but who did appear to have some doubts as to his guilt, something the shrewder screenwriters seemed to pick up. In one episode, when a woman witness remarks that Kimble killed his wife, Gerard simply replies "The law says he did", with a tone of doubt in his voice (though in "Wife Killer" he did state with certainty that the one-armed man did not exist and that Kimble was guilty, though this was presumably more to intimidate newspaper editor Herb Malone (Kevin McCarthy) than out of complete and utter conviction).
The angle of Gerard being gnawed by doubt about Kimble's guilt was augmented as Kimble rescues Gerard in episodes such as "Never Wave Goodbye," "Corner Of Hell," "Ill Wind," "The Evil Men Do," and "Stroke of Genius." "Evil" in particular played on the respect that had developed between the two men when Gerard is pursued by former Mob hitman Arthur Brame (James Daly) who was rescued from a runaway horse by Kimble; Kimble rescues Gerard from Brame, and in their dialogue Gerard makes clear he knows Kimble didn't hire a hitman; it is also interesting that Kimble escapes from Gerard but the lieutenant does not pursue Kimble, instead going after and killing Brame. In the epilogue Gerard explains his decision to Brame's wife Sharon (Elizabeth Allen) by noting Arthur's career as a killer while "Kimble, he's done the one murder he'll ever do," in reference to Helen Kimble's murder, but stated with little conviction on Gerard's part that Kimble in fact has ever killed anyone.
In "Nemesis", Kimble unintentionally kidnaps Gerard's young son Philip Junior (played by 12-year-old star-to-be Kurt Russell). Though as concerned as any father should be, Gerard is confident that Kimble will not do his boy any real harm. After his experience with Kimble, Philip Junior questions whether or not he is guilty and his father openly admits that he could be wrong, though it changes nothing in that Kimble has to be brought in. The epilogue also hints at the respect Kimble has for Gerard the man. Earlier he'd confiscated some football cards which Phil Jr. was using in order to leave a trail; in the epilogue Kimble puts the remaining cards in an envelope and mails them back to the Gerards.
The doubt that gnaws at Gerard about Kimble's guilt begins to get the best of him in "The Judgement, Part One" (early on he tells LA Police Lt. Ralph Lee (Joseph Campanella), "I've lost a lot of things these last four years, starting with a prisoner the State told me to guard.") when he interrogates Johnson and finds discrepancies in his story, to where he grabs Johnson and demands to know if he killed Helen Kimble. There is a script error here: In an earlier episode, it says in a newspaper Kimble is reading, that Helen was killed on "SEPTEMBER 17th. In the final episode, Gerard asks Johnson, "Where were you on SEPTEMBER 19th, the day Helen Kimble was murdered? Later he captures Kimble, but in arresting him he actually apologizes to him for performing his duty ("I'm sorry. You just ran out of time") - building on the twin themes of Kimble's respect for Gerard and also his exhaustion with running, Kimble makes no effort to escape here.
There are parallels to be seen between Gerard's pursuit of Kimble and the pursuit of Jean Valjean by Inspector Javert in Les Miserables, though Javert never let go of his obsession to follow the letter of the law and hunt down his fugitive, even killing himself when he could not reconcile the justice Valjean dishes out. Gerard, on the other hand, was portrayed externally as a man like Javert, willing to even risk his own loyal followers to catch his man, but internally was more of a thinking man who could balance justice and duty.
According to some of those who worked on the show, these parallels were not coincidental. Stanford Whitmore, who wrote the pilot episode "Fear in a Desert City," says that he deliberately gave Kimble's nemesis a similar-sounding name to see if anyone would recognize the similarity between 'Gerard' and 'Javert'. One who recognized the similarity was Morse; he pointed out the connection to Quinn Martin, who admitted that The Fugitive was a "sort of modern rendition of the outline of Les Misérables." Morse accordingly went back to the Victor Hugo novel and studied the portrayal of Javert, to find ways to make the character more complex than the "conventional 'Hollywood dick'" Gerard had originally been conceived as. "I've always thought that we in the arts ... are all 'shoplifters,'" Morse said. "Everybody, from Shakespeare onwards and downwards ... But once you've acknowledged that ... when you set out on a shoplifting expedition, you go always to Cartier's, and never to Woolworth's!"
Gerard directly appears in only thirty-eight episodes, and Fred Johnson is seen in only nine episodes though he appears in the opening credits beginning with the show's second season. He appeared only twice in the show's first season and one time apiece in the second and third seasons, but appeared in six fourth-season episodes, a reflection of new producer Wilton Schiller's desire to steer the show toward a more action-oriented direction. Kimble's brother-in-law Leonard Taft was played by several actors in different episodes, including Richard Anderson, James B. Sikking and Lin McCarthy.
The 120 episodes of The Fugitive offered a who's who of Hollywood character actors and upcoming talent. Many guest stars reappeared in multiple episodes. For the devoted viewer, this offered the entertaining fun of guessing whether a particular reappearance by an actor would represent a character who would aid Kimble or seek to turn him in. Mel Proctor's book, The Official Fan's Guide to The Fugitive, lists all the actors and their episode numbers as Appendix 5. It is a daunting list of accomplished, well-known talent.
What little original melody was actually written and recorded was built around a fast-paced tempo representing running music. Different variations, from sad to action-oriented, would be used, with many arrangements developed for the music supervisor to select as best suited for particular scenes. There was also an original "Dragnet"-type theme for Lt. Gerard.
A soundtrack issue containing the key music Rugolo wrote and recorded for the series is now available on CD from Silva Screen Records. About 40 minutes in length, this CD contains mono yet hi-fidelity cuts and cues that were recorded in London.
For the recently released Season 2, Vol. 1 release, entirely new musical scores (created on synthesizer and composed by Mark Heyes, with additional contributions by Sam Winan and Ron Komie) were done to replace the tracked music that had been used for original and rerun broadcasts, syndication and earlier home video releases. CBS/Paramount has yet to offer any detailed explanation for the music replacement, though a recent article on the Film Music Society's web site suggests that the use of several cues from the Capitol Music Library that may have been difficult or impossible to clear (because the rights have reverted back to the original composers or their heirs) could have been the cause. Many fans of the original score have opted to boycott this release with the hope that CBS/Paramount will reissue the collection with all of the original music intact, or only the specific music cues in dispute replaced.
In the story, the one-armed man, Fred Johnson, is arrested in a bar. The event, read by Kimble in a newspaper, is the catalyst for the turn of events that will follow. By the time we get to the second part of the story, Dr. Kimble has been captured by Gerard in Los Angeles and is being transported back to Indiana. During the lengthy train trip, Kimble persuades the detective to provide him one final opportunity to catch Johnson.
The clue he follows is a bail bond slip allegedly signed by Kimble's brother-in-law, Leonard Taft. In fact, the bond was signed by a previously-unseen neighbor, Lloyd Chandler (J.D. Cannon), a war hero who was at the house the night of the murder. Rather than stop the killer, Chandler had cowered in fear, and is now being blackmailed by the killer. Kimble and Gerard discover this and head to an abandoned amusement park, where Kimble has a dramatic confrontation on a carnival tower with Johnson. This segment was filmed at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica. In the struggle, Johnson gains the upper hand and, finally admitting he killed Kimble's wife, is about to kill the fugitive to complete the task he started five years before. At this crucial point, Gerard shoots him dead from long range with a rifle. Afterwards, Chandler finally admits what happened that night, and agrees to testify in court in Kimble's exoneration. Kimble is finally cleared of charges. In the final scene of the episode and the series, an exonerated Kimble shakes hands with Gerard while leaving a courthouse and walks off toward his new life, as narrator Conrad intones: "Tuesday, August 29: The day the running stopped." The final episode on August 29 was interrupted or not shown in some parts of the country due to local baseball telecasts. "The Judgment, part 2", was shown in those markets the following week. The William Conrad voice over was changed to "Tuesday, September 5, The day the running stopped" (this is the VA used on the VHS version).
Part two of the finale brought in 30 million viewers (72 percent of all viewers at that time). Until the November 21, 1980 "Who Shot J.R." episode of Dallas, this episode was the highest-rated series television program ever. In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," topped both programs.
The theme of one or more people on the run, criss-crossing America and getting involved in the personal lives of the people they meet, has become the basis of many similar TV shows.
These have included:
Gerard and his team of Marshals returned in the film U.S. Marshals, played by the same actors. Even though it was not a sequel, it had a similar plotline of an innocent man evading police to prove his innocence.
To coincide with the theatrical release, NBC aired the show's first and last episodes in the summer of 1993, and would later be the host to the film's broadcast premiere in 1996.
A short-lived TV series remake (CBS, 2000-2001) of the same name also aired, filmed in Everett, Washington starring Tim Daly as Kimble, Mykelti Williamson as Gerard, and Stephen Lang as the one-armed man. Produced by Warner Bros. Television, CBS canceled the series after one season with a total of 22 episodes. It's interesting to note, however, that this was the very first lead in show to another CBS show, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (which ran after The Fugitive on Friday nights), which became a massive hit when it debuted in the same year.
Currently, Republic Pictures and CBS Paramount Television own the rights to the series (while CBS themselves now own the copyright); CBS Home Entertainment (with distribution by Paramount) released Season 1, Volume 1 on DVD in Region 1 in late 2007. Reviews of the first DVD set have been very positive as the show appears uncut and uncompressed, re-mastered from the original negatives and magnetic soundtrack, although a disclaimer by CBS mentions some episodes are "edited from their original broadcast versions" and some music changed for home video. (Incidental music was altered in at least two episodes, Where the Action Is and The Garden House.) There are no subtitles or alternate languages, and the "liner notes" consist merely of TV-Guide-style episode synopses inside the four-disc holder. Season 1, Volume 2 was released on February 26, 2008. Season 2, Volume 1 was released on June 10, 2008. Many reviews of this third DVD set were highly negative due to the replacement of the original used music tracks with the aforementioned synthesizer music (see Musical Score above for details.)
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|Season 1, Volume 1||15||August 14, 2007|
|Season 1, Volume 2||15||February 26, 2008|
|Season 2, Volume 1||15||June 10, 2008|
|Season 2, Volume 2||15||TBA|
|Season 3, Volume 1||15||TBA|
|Season 3, Volume 2||15||TBA|
|Season 4, Volume 1||15||TBA|
|Season 4, Volume 2||15||TBA|
MAD magazine published a satire called "The Phewgitive" in its 89th issue (September 1964).
On an episode of a variety show, the late actor-turned-comedian Frank Gorshin once parodied The Fugitive in a diner spoof by ordering a cup of coffee--to go.
In one episode of the 2000 TV series remake, titled "DrRichardKimble.com," there is a scene that shows a series of wanted posters. One of the posters is a cameo of none other than Dr. Sam Sheppard, the Ohio physician who was imprisoned for killing his wife in 1954 and who most people believe was the real life inspiration for the TV series.
David Lynch included a one-armed man in Twin Peaks as an homage to Fred Johnson. The one-armed man's name is Phillip Michael Gerard, a reference to Lieutenant Philip Gerard in The Fugitive. Coincidentally, CBS now owns the rights to both Twin Peaks and The Fugitive - in both cases with Republic Pictures.
One episode of Saturday Night Live featured a skit entitled The Liberal, set during the ultra-Conservative era of the late 1980s, where the last known Liberal is being hunted down relentlessly.
At the beginning of a series two episode of Life on Mars DC Chris Skelton has a fear of going to prison for murdering his wife even though he does not have one. DI Sam Tyler believes he means Harrison Ford even though he knows it is too early.
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