Peter Gunn

Created by Blake Edwards
Pseudonyms include Sam O. Brown

Suave, sophisticated, hep to the jive, groovin’ to the oh-so-cool jazzbo-beat, PETER GUNN was like nothing ever seen before on television or anywhere else, really. He was a new kind of eye. While other dicks hung out in rundown offices, swilling rotgut, living hand to mouth, loners till the end, cloaked in rumpled trenchcoats and angst, Gunn hung out at Mother’s, a swank jazz club on the waterfront of a big but never named city, wearing his Ivy League finest, pitching woo at his best gal, singer Edie Hart, drinking nothing more than an occasional tasteful martini.

This was Rat Pack cool with the asshole bits boiled out.

The strong cast included Craig Stevens as Gunn, Lola Albright as Edie, Hope Emerson (and later, Minera Urecal) as Mother, and Herschel Bernardi as Lieutenant Jacoby, Pete’s long-suffering, sad-faced police contact and pal. A highly-innovative and influential show, it also boasted Mancini’s hit theme song, as well as witty dialogue, snazzy clothing and elaborate (for television) camerawork. A sort of Miami Vice for its time, but with far more substance and some very good, sometimes excellent, writing. It ran for two years on NBC, then for another year on ABC.

But for three years, Gunn hung around, tough, independent, principled and effortlessly cool, wooing Edie, and getting in–and then out of–trouble. And all in thirty minutes or less, displaying more private eye action that many (many!) sixty-minute shows would die for.

One of the other things that intrigues me is the violence in the show. Not that it existed–that’s a given for the era and the type of show it was–but the surprisingly visceral, almost brutal quality of some of it. There’s a rawness and wildness to the fight scenes, and some of the violence was just plain nasty, as when a frustrated thug suddenly kicks a prone Mother in the stomach.

And yet there were also moments of genuine tenderness and affection, particularly between Gunn and the beautiful but melancholy Edie, who were clearly in an adult relationship, and enjoying a healthy—if discreet–sex life.

Perhaps it was simply the era–violence and sexuality had not yet been codified into the shorthand of stale, overused tropes; the bland leading the bland. Watching the show now, there’s still a satisfying freshness to much of it.

But I like to think it was more than that–a perfect storm of solid casting, tight writing and someone at the helm with a clear sense of what he wanted.

That someone was creator Blake Edwards, who would soon be responsible for the Pink Panther movies and a lucrative film career, and and had previously worked the shamus game with radio’s (and television’s) Richard Diamond.

Occasionally, Edwards dusted off the Peter Gunn character, first in the ill-conceived 1967 theatrical release, Gunn, which missed the whole point, trying to turn Gunn into something he wasn’t–a cold-blooded Mike Hammer-style avenger (although the film was a reworking of “The Kill,” the very first episode of the TV show). It was stylish enough, but somehow, the charm of the series was missing. Also missing? Mothers, Lieutenant Jacoby, and Edie.

Then in 1989, a made-for-television movie/pilot for a new series appeared, starring Peter Strauss as an updated Gunn. The pilot didn’t catch on, but I thought Strauss was perfectly cast as Gunn. Alas, other changes weren’t quite as perfect. This new Gunn was cleaned up–he didn’t smoke, or even drink much, the scarf he sported seemed more like a dandyish affectation than any sort of stylistic cool, and he had an office complete with a ditzy secretary (a role seemingly written in to accommodate Jennifer Edwards, daughter of I wonder who?). In the series, Gunn hadn’t had an office–he’d worked out of Mother’s. After the nice, tightly-scripted thirty-minute plots of the original series, the pilot seemed overlong and bloated. It was a nice try, but nice doesn’t cut it. If only they’d cut down on the fluff, and given Gunn a drink, a smoke, and a better script, who knows?


  • “One sure winner among this season’s new shows is NBC’s Peter Gunn. (Although) basically just another private eye series, it has established itself above the average through skillful plotting, fine performances, interesting innovations, and sophisticated dialogue. It’s a must-watch for any detective story afficiando.”
    –TV Guide (November 29, 1958)
  • “Peter Gunn was the epitome of cool. The hippest detective there ever was and a lot of fun to watch. Everyone since, who’s attempted to merge music, mood and story, from Richard Diamond to Miami Vice and New York Undercover, owes a debt to Gunn, Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini. The first music video, come to think of it.”
    — Ted Fitzgerald


  • That’s a good question. I always thought Peter Gunn might be on one of the coasts, maybe Los Angeles or New York or San Francisco, because Mother’s back door (where Pete and Edie would go to talk or smooch) led to a porch overlooking the waterfront and what looked like a working harbour, but then I realized Mother’s was on River Street, expanding the possibilities to almost any town with a port on a large river. New Orleans? Memphis? Chicago? Buffalo?



  • PETER GUNN | Buy the complete series on DVD
    (1958-60, NBC; 1960-61, ABC)
    A Spartan Production
    114 30-minute episodes
    Writers: Blake Edwards, Tony and Steffi Barrett, George and Gertrude Fass, Lewis Reed, Vicki Knight
    Directors: Blake Edwards, Boris Sagal, Alan Crosland Jr.
    Theme by Henry Mancini
    Performed by Henry Mancini and His Orchestra
    Starring Craig Stevens as PETER GUNN
    with Lola Albright as Edie
    Herschel Bernardi as Lieutenant Jacoby
    Hope Emerson as Mother (Season One)
    and Minera Urecal as Mother (Season Two)
    Guest stars: Jackie Coogan, Shelley Berman, Gavin MacLeod, Roxane Brooks

    • Season One (NBC)Buy on DVD
    • “The Kill” (September 22, 1958)
    • “Streetcar Jones” (September 29, 1958)
    • “The Vicious Dog” (October 6, 1958)
    • “The Blind Pianist” (October 13, 1958)
    • “The Frog” (October , 1958)
    • “The Chinese Hangman” (October 27, 1958)
    • “Lynn’s Blues” (November 3, 1958)
    • ” Rough Buck” (November 10, 1958)
    • “Image of Sally” (November 17, 1958)
    • “The Man with the Scar” (November 24, 1958)
    • “Death House Testament” (December 1, 1958)
    • “The Torch” (December 8, 1958)
    • “The Jockey” (December 15, 1958)
    • “Sisters of the Friendless” (December 22, 1958)
    • “The Leaper” (December 29, 1958)
    • “The Fuse” (January 5, 1959)
    • “Let’s Kill Timothy” (January 19, 1959)
    • “The Missing Night Watchman” (January 26, 1959)
    • “Murder on the Midway” (February 2, 1959)
    • “Pecos Pete” (February 9, 1959)
    • “Scuba” (February 16, 1959)
    • “Edie Finds a Corpse” (February 23, 1959)
    • “The Dirty Word” (March 2, 1959)
    • “The Ugly Frame” (March 9, 1959)
    • “The Lederer Story” (March 16, 1959)
    • “Keep Smiling” (March 23, 1959)
    • “Breakout” (March 30, 1959)
    • “Pay Now, Kill Later” (April 6, 1959)
    • “Skin Deep” (April 13, 1959)
    • “February Girl” (April 20, 1959)
    • “Love Me to Death” (April 27, 1959)
    • “The Family Affair” (May 4, 1959)
    • “Lady Wind, Bells Fan” (May 11, 1959)
    • “Bullet for a Badge” (May 18, 1959)
    • “Kill from Nowhere” (May 18, 1959)
    • “Vendetta” (June 1, 1959)
    • “The Coffin” (June 8, 1959)
    • “The Portrait” (June 15, 1959)
    • Season Two (NBC) | Buy on DVD
    • “Protection” (September 21, 1959)
    • “Crisscross” (September 28, 1959)
    • “Edge of the Knife” (October 5, 1959)
    • “The Comic” (October 12, 1959)
    • “Death Is a Red Rose” (October 19, 1959)
    • “The Young Assassins” (October 26, 1959)
    • “The Feathered Doll” (November 2, 1959)
    • “Kidnap” (November 16, 1959)
    • “The Rifle” (November 23, 1959)
    • “The Game” (November 30, 1959)
    • “The Price Is Murder 7 December 7, 1959)
    • “The Briefcase 14 December 14, 1959)
    • “Terror on the Campus” (December 21, 1959)
    • “The Wolfe Case” (December 28, 1959)
    • “Hot Money” (January 4, 1960)
    • “Spell of Murder” (January 11, 1960)
    • “The Grudge” (January 18, 1960)
    • “Fill the Cup” (January 25, 1960)
    • “See No Evil” (February 1, 1960)
    • “Sentenced” (February 8, 1960)
    • “The Hunt” (February 15, 1960)
    • “Hollywood Calling” (February 29, 1960)
    • “Sing a Song of Murde” (March 7, 1960)
    • “The Long, Long Ride” (March 14, 1960)
    • “The Deadly Proposition” (March 21, 1960)
    • “The Murder Clause” (March , 1960)
    • “The Dummy” (April 4, 1960)
    • “Slight Touch of Homicide” (April 11, 1960)
    • “Wings of an Angel” (April 18, 1960)
    • “Death Watch” (April 25, 1960)
    • “Witness in the Window” (May 2, 1960)
    • “The Best Laid Plans” (May 9, 1960)
    • “Send a Thief” (May 16, 1960)
    • “Semi-Private Eye” (May 23, 1960)
    • “Letter of the Law” (May 30, 1960)
    • “The Crossbow” (June 6, 1960)
    • “The Heiress” (June 13, 1960)
    • “Baby Shoes” (June 27, 1960)
    • Season Three (ABC)Buy on DVD
    • “The Passenger” (October 3, 1960)
    • “Mask of Murder” (October 10, 1960)
    • “The Maitre D” (October 17, 1960)
    • “The Candidate” (Oct 24, 1960)
    • “The Judgment” (October 31, 1960)
    • “The Death Frame” (November 7, 1960)
    • “Death Across the Board” (November 14, 1960)
    • “Tramp Steamer” (November 21, 1960)
    • “The Long Green Kill” (Nov 28, 1960)
    • “Take Five for Murder” (December 5, 1960)
    • “Big Dream, Deadly Dream” (December 12, 1960)
    • “Sepi” (December 19, 1960)
    • “A Tender Touch” (December 26, 1960)
    • “Royal Roust” (January 2, 1961)
    • “Bullet in Escrow” (January 9, 1961)
    • “Jacoby’s Vacation” (January 16, 1961)
    • “Blind Item” (January 23, 1961)
    • “Death Is a Sore Loser” (January 30, 1961)
    • “I Know It’s Murder” (February 13, 1961)
    • “A Kill and a Half” (February 20, 1961)
    • “Than a Serpent’s Tooth” (February 27, 1961)
    • “The Deep End” (March 6, 1961)
    • “Portrait in Leather” (March 13, 1961)
    • “Come Dance with Me and Die” (March 20, 1961)
    • “Cry Love, Cry Murder” (March 27, 1961)
    • “A Penny Saved” (April 3, 1961)
    • “Short Motive” (April 10, 1961)
    • “The Murder Bond” (April 24, 1961)
    • “The Most Deadly Angel” (May 1, 1961)
    • “Till Death Do Us Part” (May 8, 1961)
    • “Last Resort” (May 15, 1961)
    • “A Matter of Policy” (May 22, 1961)
    • “A Bullet for the Boy” (May 29, 1961)
    • “Death Is a Four Letter Word” (June 5, 1961)
    • “Deadly Intrusion” (June 12, 1961)
    • “Voodoo” (June 19, 1961)
    • “Down the Drain” (June 26, 1961)
    • “Murder on the Line” (September 18, 1961)
  • PETER GUNN | Buy the DVD
    (1989, ABC)
    Originally broadcast April 23, 1989
    Written and directed by Blake Edwards
    Music by Henry Mancini
    Starring Peter Strauss as PETER GUNN
    Also starring Peter Jurasik, Barbara Williams, Jennifer Edwards, and Pearl Bailey as Mother



  • PETER GUNN (1960, by Henry Kane)
    An original story, using characters created by Edwards, written by Henry Kane, creator of Peter Chambers, another suave private eye.


    (1960, 4-Color #1087, Dell)
    1 issue only, tie-in to TV show


  • GUNN (1967, Paramount) | Watch it now!
    Written by Blake Edwards and William Peter Blatty
    Directed by Blake Edwards
    Music by Henry Mancini
    Produced by Owen Crump
    Starring Craig Stevens as PETER GUNN
    and Helen Traubel as Mother
    Also starring Laura Devon, Ed Asner, Albert Paulsen, Sherry Jackson
    Where’s Edie?


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Edmund for the spell check.

17 thoughts on “Peter Gunn

  1. Re the setting: The third series opener, The Passenger, shows what appears to be a map of Boston in Jacoby’s office. A fictionalized Boston seems to fit with other strands of geography scattered throughout the series.

    1. Maybe, although a lot of people have suggested the West Coast. And at times, it DOES seem like San Francisco or even LA. And a third season opener, on another network? I think the producers left it purposely vague, suggesting perhaps that no matter where you were, there was a place called Mother’s in YOUR town where a very cool private eye was biding his time, just waiting for you, to help you out of some jam.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    I especially liked the Beatnik characters Capri & Wilbur who appeared in 5 episodes, some of their dialog was like the most – “Like goodnight sweet prince and may angels swing thee to thy rest.”

    Guest starlets such as Linda Lawson, Sylvia Lewis, Lucy Marlow, Barbara Darrow, Maggie “My Mother the Car”
    Pierce, Vicki Duggan, Mara Corday and Diahann Carroll, wow!
    Only Burke’s Law and 77 Sunset Strip had a better Babes line up.

    Edie’s piano player Emmet was played by Bill Chadney. He and Lola Albright fell in love and married in 1961.
    Check out Alan “Fred Flintstone” Reed in the season 3 episode The Maitre D’.
    Billy “Bud Anderson” Gray from Father Knows Best is a hoot as a punk gumshoe in The Semi-Private Eye,
    which also serves as a wink to the audience as it satirizes all detective shows, Gunn included.

    Kevin, thank you for sharing the work you put into this site. I am really enjoying it.

    1. According to The Television Crime Fighters Factbook: Over 9,800 Details from 301 Programs, 1937-2003, by Vincent Terrace, page 128, Pete is a former cop.

      1. Is he? I’d love to locate the episode where he spills those beans. I always thought of him more as one of those classic hero archetypes—you know, the man with no past who wanders into town (or a situation), solves the problem and then moves on (in Gunn’s case, over to Edie’s place).

    1. The show garnered several Emmy nominations, and ranked #16 in popularity in its first season, but according to the blog Shroud of Thoughts, “Unfortunately, ratings for Peter Gunn dipped in its second season and NBC cancelled the show. It was picked up by ABC for its third season. For its third season Peter Gunn ranked no. 29 out of all the shows on the air for the year.”

      1. The last episode was “Murder on the Line”, by which time they knew they would be cancelled.
        So the series executive producer Gordon Oliver played Arthur McCutchen, right hand man
        to creepy hood and billionaire Cesar Carlyle. Carlyle was played by Robert Gist, a director
        of many of the Gunn episodes.

        Without a doubt, though, the best episode is “Pecos Pete.”

        By the way, Peter Gunn features a first in TV history that I am surprised has escaped all the experts. But once you catch it, you’ll slap your head and say “Of course, how did I miss that?”

  3. I’m pretty sure the show references significant things to both the East and the West, making it difficult to square with a coastal location (and it’s pretty clearly not the Gulf Coast). Chicago or Détroit are my guesses, the series generally has a strong freshwater feel to it.

      1. This and a comment by Leather in Edge of the Knife referring to a prison upstate got me to rewatch Pecos Pete in search of clues, and it turns out I found two big ones: first, Texas is four hours by plane (keeping in mind that I believe aircraft speeds improved significantly in the ‘70s and ‘80s), and second, Pete gets woken up by hooting and hollering, checks his watch, does a double-take and checks it against the alarm clock in his room, and they both read 5:08, indicating that Mother’s is in Central Time.

        Of course, all of this assumes that the geography is real and we don’t have a situation like the movie Se7en, which is set in a New York City with Seattle’s weather and with LA’s deserts just outside the city limits. Anyway, thanks for prompting me to take notes on these things!

  4. Hi Guys,
    Check out ‘The Hunt’, season 2/episode 21. A hit man forces Gunn to drive to a relatively
    nearby desert. They do stop for gas, so perhaps it’s a few hundred miles from home.
    Once they get to an old mining operation, Pete escapes, resulting in a
    tense game of cat and mouse. Last scene when Pete disposes of the hood is artfully
    composed, beaut photography, I had to pause and admire it.
    Anyway, since there is no Great Desert of Jersey, nor nomads roaming outside of
    Chicago, my money is and has been on San Francisco which would have had the
    California Cool jazz scene whose musicians – trumpeter Pete Candoli – show up on
    the series.
    Nevada has desert, driving distance from northern California, it all fits.

    Landlady: You a cop? 
    Gunn: No. 
    Landlady: Private dick? 
    Gunn: Just the private.
    Gunn: Lieutenant, I’m continually amazed at your knowledge of the fine arts.
    Lieutenant Jacoby: The public library is free. Comic books cost money.

    1. “You know, Lieutenant, there are times when I love you.”
      “Never mind do you love me, the question is will you support me in my old age when they throw me off the force without my pension?”

      In addition to San Francisco not having a river, in Hollywood Calling Pete tells the tale of a hoodlum from “our city” who “made it real big on the coast” before returning, indicating that they’re some distance inland. I’ll have to rewatch The Hunt for its clues.

    2. Rewatching The Hunt: Pete leaves Mother’s at a time when Edie is still singing and he doesn’t find it strange for someone to be on the street asking for a light. He goes home and gets a call from Edie, then is immediately bushwhacked. They drive out of town and stop for gas (ten gallons) by which time it’s already fully light (but “early” by whatever no-longer-a-farmer Jethro’s standards are). I get a late afternoon vibe from the mine sun, at least at the end, meaning that it could well have been twelve hours by car.

      Still, it could be earlier, in which case I think we’d have to conclude fictional geography. Good catch on the lack of desert near Chicago.

      1. Hi Jon,
        You have a point – “made it real big on the coast” – but there is always the factor of a writer
        for a given episode straying from the series “Bible”, the repository of all the biographical
        information for a TV series. Especially if the writer was a one off.
        I liked the quotes you supplied, thanks for sharing.

        Jacoby – “If I don’t get a line on this pretty soon, you can call me sergeant.”
        Gunn – “Alright then, sergeant.”
        Jacoby – “Don’t be so eager. I haven’t been frocked as yet.”

        Whoa, snuck that one past the censors. I ran that scene back 5 times and am 99% sure
        he says ‘frocked’. Season 3 Episode 6 The Death Frame

Leave a Reply