During the fall season of 1965, viewers who stayed tuned to ABC following the kooky sitcom The Addams Family on Friday evenings were greeted by an anomaly for network television — a Karate-flipping, high-tech-gadget-wielding, convertible-racing private eye named Honey West. Following in the primetime footsteps of art dealer-turned-detective Anna May Wong (The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong) and government spies Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg (The Avengers), star Anne Francis’ wily private eye Honey West represented a groundbreaking lead action role for women in television. Based on a series of dime store novels by the married writing team of Gloria and Forrest E. Fickling and loosely modeled after the aforementioned Avengers, ABC’s Honey West blended James Bond and noir-lite into jazzy, effervescent half-hours powered by the considerable talents of Francis (and her character’s pet ocelot, Bruce).
In a celebrated career boasting over 150 acting credits, including co-starring roles in the critically acclaimed social drama Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), the sci-fi landmark Forbidden Planet (1956), and a memorable turn on The Twilight Zone as an unfulfilled mannequin, the cult-classic Honey West marks a highlight of Francis’ filmography. For her charismatic work as the eponymous crime-fighting gumshoe, the actress received an Emmy nomination and was awarded a Golden Globe for “Most Popular Female Personality in Television.” Executive produced by future broadcast baron Aaron Spelling, Honey West also showcased other exceptional talents, with three spry episodes penned by the Television Academy Hall of Fame writing duo of Richard Levinson and William Link (creators of Columbo) and a dynamic series pilot helmed by the prolific Walter Grauman (whose directorial credits include the ultra-dark feature Lady in a Cage and over 50 episodes of Murder, She Wrote). Unfortunately, despite the notable contributions of these creative giants and numerous merchandise tie-ins, including its own comic book, the proto-feminist Honey Westsurvived only 30 episodes. The innovative series was felled after a single season due to the lower costs to import its inspiration, Britain’s superb Avengers, and an indomitable ratings rival on CBS named Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Program notes by Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator.
The Andy Williams Show: 23rd Golden Globe Awards [excerpt]
From the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, host Andy Williams presents the 23rd Golden Globe Awards for Most Popular Personalities in Television.
Digital video, color, 4 min. NBC. With: Andy Williams, Phyllis Diller, Anne Francis, Robert Goulet, David Jansen. Special thanks to RetroVideo.
Honey West: “The Grey Lady”
35mm network pilot print
While Honey West was spun off from an episode of the Gene Barry series Burke Law’s, director Walter Gruman’s (The Fugitive) quickly-paced pilot places the eponymous character and its star Anne Francis squarely in the center of the action. Twists and quips from stalwart writers Richard Levinson and William Link (Columbo) abound as West employs high-tech gadgetry, including a lipstick walkie-talkie and closed-circuit TV, in an attempt to capture a debonair jewel thief (Cesare Danova). With scene-stealing, karate-chopping guest star Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
35mm, b&w, 30 min. ABC. Production: a Four Star production. Producer: Aaron Spelling. Producer: Richard Newton. Director: Walter Grauman. Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link. With: Anne Francis, John Ericson, Cesare Danova, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Kovac.
Honey West: “Invitation to Limbo”
16mm network print with commercials
Emmy-winning writers Richard Levinson and William Link’s teleplay finds Honey West (Anne Francis) and her right-hand man Sam (John Ericson) immersed in a strange case of corporate espionage involving hypnotism. During the action, West displays her martial arts prowess and employs a trademark of the series — her high-tech make-up compact (secretly a two-way radio). Helmed by Tom Gries, director of Charlton Heston’s acclaimed western Will Penny(1967) and guest-starring familiar television faces Wayne Rogers (M.A.S.H.) and Dan Frazer (Kojak).
16mm, b&w, 30 min. ABC. Production: a Four Star production. Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling. Producer: Richard Newton. Director: Tom Gries. Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link. With: Anne Francis, John Ericson, Wayne Rogers, Dan Frazer.
Honey West: “An Eerie, Airy, Thing”
16mm network print with commercials
In this final and most distinctive episode of the series, writers Richard Levinson and William Link spin a sophisticated plot that concerns a television weatherman (Adam Williams) threatening to jump to his death from a ledge unless his wife is summoned. As Honey (Anne Francis) and her partner Sam (John Ericson) investigate, they find the wife has been murdered, with the prime suspect a woman (Lisa Seagram) who just happens to be a weather person on a rival station. Directed by James H. Brown, assistant director on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964).
16mm, b&w, 30 min. ABC. Production: a Four Star production. Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling. Producer: Richard Newton. Director: James H. Brown. Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link. With: Anne Francis, John Ericson, Adam Williams, Lisa Seagram.
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