Peter Gunn is 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. A total of 114 thirty-minute episodes were produced.
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
", 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. Edwards developed the character from an earlier fictional detective he created. Richard Diamond, Private Detective
starred Dick Powell
and aired as a radio series from 1949 to 1953. David Janssen
later starred in the television adaptation from 1957 to 1960. It was this character's success that prompted his creator to revisit the concept as Peter Gunn. Edwards had earlier written and directed a Mike Hammer television
pilot for Brian Keith
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 that set the standard for many years to come. Innovative jazz themes seemed to accompany every move Gunn made, ably rendered by Henry Mancini
and his orchestra (which at that time included John Williams
), 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 Monty Norman
's theme to the James Bond
films is associated with espionage
. The harmonies fit the mood of the show, which was a key to success. "The Peter Gunn Theme" has been covered by numerous jazz, blues, and rock
artists since, including Ray Anthony
, Duane Eddy
, Quincy Jones
, The Remo Four
, The Blues Brothers
, Croon & The Creepers
, Brian Setzer
, The Cramps
, Jimi Hendrix
, Emerson, Lake & Palmer
, Roy Buchanan
, Melvin Taylor
, Umphrey's McGee
, Dick Dale & The Del-Tones
, and many others. A version by Art of Noise
, with guest artist Duane Eddy
reprising his original 1959 performance on twang guitar
(taking the piano riff) earned a Grammy Award in 1987. Furthermore, the riff has been incorporated into many blues and jazz songs. The theme is also used as the background music for the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter
, with Saliva
recording a song which used the main theme, with added lyrics, for the 2001 remake
. Versions of the theme have appeared in countless films, including The Blues Brothers
and Sixteen Candles
. In 2004 the theme was used in The Lion King 1½
when Timon and Pumbaa try to break up Simba
. Today, many people with no knowledge of the original show still can identify the theme.
The Boston University Pep Band, of Boston University in Boston Massachusetts, plays the Peter Gunn theme when the Terrier Hockey team comes out onto the ice
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. In 2001, Edwards joined Norman Snider
in developing an updated television series, but the project was scuttled when John Woo
and David Permut
began developing a big screen remake for Paramount
. Both projects remain stuck in development.
In 2002, A&E Home Video released the first two seasons of Peter Gunn on DVD.
Selected songs from the series
- "Peter Gunn Theme"
- "The Brothers Go to Mother's"
- "Blues for Mother's"
- "Sorta Blue"
- "Slow and Easy"