Frank Cannon

Created by Quinn Martin

Edward Hume


It may seem dated now, but in its day, Cannon was one of the biggest P.I. TV shows of the seventies and make no mistake: there was plenty of meat on those bones…

FRANK CANNON was a tough, expensive, overweight PI with a taste for fine food and wine. A former cop, he quit the force after the tragic death of his wife and infant son in an automobile accident. Haunted by the incident, he’s put all his energy and considerable weight into his new profession of private detective, eventually becoming well-known and well-respected among his peers, both public and private. Despite his bulk, though, he was no armchair detective, à la Nero Wolfe. He’d do his own legwork, thank you very much, and he wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty. He’d tool around town in his big ass Lincoln Continental, knocking on doors, taking down names, actually working his cases, unlike some TV dicks. He was a shrewd investigator, dedicated, clever and not afraid of getting physical if he had to.

It rose far above the gimmick of simply having a fat man as an action hero — a gimmick that was constantly referred to. In fact, Cannon may have been the most body-shamed private eye in television history. Even Frank made self-deprecating fat jokes…

Still, Conrad excelled in the role. His take on Frank was pretty much pitch perfect, balancing genial bonhomie, down-to-earth compassion and a hard-boiled pragmatism that brought credibility to what could have been a ridiculous part. People believed in Cannon. Some of the best writers and directors were involved in its production, and the guest star list was a veritable who’s who of Hollywood at that time. The scripts themselves were solid, for the most part, and occasionally excellent. The first season’s “Death Is A Double Cross” (December 7, 1971) was based on Every Bet’s A Sure Thing, a Mac novel by Thomas B. Dewey. The two-parter, “He Who Digs a Grave,” which kicked off the third season was adapted from a novel a novel by David Delman. The September 17, 1975 episode, “The Deadly Conspiracy,” involved Cannon’s efforts to investigate a large corporation’s activities. He enlisted the aid of an elderly private eye, Barnaby Jones, played by Buddy Ebsen. In fact, the conclusion aired as the premiere episode of the fourth season of Barnaby Jones, another QuinnMartin production.

The show proved to be very popular in its time, thanks in no small part to Conrad, and there was even a belated attempt, in 1980, to revive the show, with a two-hour made-for-television movie, The Return of Frank Cannon. In it, Frank is brought out of semi-retirement to look into the apparent suicide of a former Army Intelligence buddy.

Cannon even attracted an international audience, and there were several novelizations and even original novels published, many of them only available in Great Britain. Most of those were written by Douglas Enefer under his Paul Denver pen name. Enefer was a British writer who had been responsible for a series of private eye novels featuring Michael Power back in the early sixties for a British paperback publisher, Consul.


Quinn Martin was a highly influential American television producer, who had an incredible run, having at least one television series running in prime time every year from 1959 to 1980. His many hits included The Fugitive, The F.B.I., The Invaders, The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, and Barnaby Jones.

The show’s co-creator, Edward Hume (or possibly creator — how much did Martin really have to do with it?) is an American film and television writer, best known for creating and developing several crime and detective shows in the seventies , as well as for writing the highly acclaimed 1983 TV movie The Day After. During the week of April 21, 1974, four shows he had created (Cannon, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco and Toma) all appeared together in the Nielsen top twenty ratings.


  • Just between us? In retrospect, Cannon doesn’t seem all that fat. In some episodes, at least compared to today, he looks, well… almost svelte. Or at least as svelte as this guy


  • Thanks to a tip from BBally81, I just discovered that Cannon was so popular in its day that Filmation wanted to do an animated series. “Cannon was really working, so I called Freddie Silverman and said “What about doing Young Cannon? He’s a fat kid who solves crimes!” said Lou Scheimer, co-founder of Filmation Studios, which cranked out Saturday morning cartoons (Superman, Batman, The Archies, Star Trek,Fat Albert, Tarzan, the Lone Ranger, He-Man, etc.) for over twenty-five years. In his memoir, Creating the Filmation Generation (2012), Scheimer goes on to relate how “We got the rights from Quinn Martin, who was a really good guy, and I did a presentation, but Silverman didn’t buy it…” The mind boggles.


    (aka “Salinas Jackpot”)
    (March 26, 1971, CBS)
    2-hour pilot
    Writer: Edward Hume
    Director: George McCowan
    Producers: Adrian Samish, Arthur Fellows
    Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
    Starring William Conrad as FRANK CANNON
    Also starring Vera Miles, Barry Sullivan, J.D.Cannon, Lynda Day, Earl Holliman, Keenan Wynn, Murray Hamilton, Ellen Corby
    (1971-1976, CBS)
    120 60-minute episodes
    Writers: Edward Hume, Larry Alexander, Robert C. Dennis, Anthony Spinner, Gene Thompson, Larry Forrester, Bill S. Ballinger, Steve Fisher, Robert I. Holt, Karl Tumberg, Stephen Kandel, Meyer Dolinsky, Margaret Armen, S.S.Schweitzer, Irving Pearlberg, Brad Radnitz, Howard Dimsdale, Richard Landau, Stephen Kandel, Robert Lenski, Gerald Sanford, Robert Sherman, Carey Wilber, Robert Hamner, Jimmy Sangster, Norman Hudis, Robert Heverly, Jackson Gillis, Max Hodge, Richard Newhafer, Joel Murcott, Worley Thorne, Phyllis Robert White, Robert Blees, Larry Brody, Shirl Hendryx, Jack Guss, Ray Brenner, Herb Meadow, Carey Wilber, Robert Lewin, Douglas Day Stewart, E. Arthur Kean, Arthur Heinemann, Worley Thorne, James D. Buchanan, Ronald Austin, Del Reisman, Douglas Day Stewart, Harold Gast, Richard Nelson, George Bellak, Hal Sitowitz, George McCowan, Paul Playdon, Ken Trevey, David Moessinger, Jack Turley, Robert Collins
    Stories by Jack Turley, Robert Esther Mitchell, Anthony Spinner, Michael McTaggart, Ken Pettus, Bill Stratton
    Directors: William Wiard, George McCowan, Lawrence Dobkin, Seymour Robbie, Richard Donner, Leo Penn, Virgil W. Vogel, David Whorf, Chris Robinson, Leonard Kantor, Michael Caffey, Paul Stanley, Kenneth Gilbert, Albert Aley, Allan Reisner, Edward Abroms, Alf Kjellin, Harry Falk, Leslie H. Martinson, Robert Douglas, Gene Nelson, William Hale, John Badham, Charles S. Dubin, Herschel Daugherty, Jerry Jameson, Herbert Hirschman, Michael O’Herlihy, Phil Leacock, Don Taylor, Lewis Allen, Marvin Chomsky, Don Medford
    Producers: Harold Gast, Anthony Spinner
    A Quinn Martin Production
    Theme by John Parker
    Starring William Conrad as FRANK CANNON
    Guest stars: Nick Nolte, Tom Skerrit, Vincent Van Patten, Wayne Rogers, Martin Sheen, David Janssen, Vera Miles, Joan Van Ark, Cathy Lee Crosby, Anne Baxter, Stuart Margolin, Peter Strauss, Gordon Pinsent, David Hedison, Sondra Locke, Richard Hatch, Herb Jefferson Jr., Anne
    Lockhart, Keye Luke, Roy Scheider, Pricilla Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Dan Travanti, Conrad Janis, Richard A. Dysart, Robert Loggia, Fritz Weaver, John Vernon, Jack Carter, Joan Fontaine, Dean Stockwell, Stuart Whitman, Sandra Locke, Leslie Nielsen, Richard Jaekel, David Birney, Buddy Ebsen, Lee Meriwether, Barry Sullivan, Charles Durning, Abe Vigoda, Harold Gould, Monte Markham, Leif Erickson, Joan Van Ark, James Keach, Kay Lenz, Pat Morita, Dennis Dugan, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Forrest, David Soul, Robert Hays, Cindy Williams, Denver Pyle, Gerald McRaney, Jack Cassidy, Robert Goulet, Jay Silverheels, Anthony Zerbe, Charles Haid, Dabney Coleman, Anne Francis, Claude Akins, Dick Van Patten, Pernell Roberts, George Maharis, Stefanie Powers, Max Gail, Jr, Mike Farrell, Lloyd Bochner, Micky Dolenz, James Luisi, Lawrence Linville, Joyce Van Patten, Percy Rodriguez, Ed Lauter, Willie Aames, Theodore Bikel

    • SEASON ONE | Buy Season 1, Volume 1 on DVD Buy Volume 2
    • “Salinas Jackpot” (September 14, 1971)
    • “Death Chain” (September 21, 1971)
    • “Call Unicorn” (September 28, 1971)
    • “Country Blues” (October 5, 1971)
    • “Scream Of Silence” (October 12, 1971)
    • “Fool’s Gold” (October 19, 1971)
    • “The Girl In The Electric Coffin” (October 26, 1971)
    • “Dead Pigeon” (November 9, 1971)
    • “A Lonely Place To Die” (November 16, 1971)
    • “No Pockets In The Shroud” (November 23, 1971)
    • “Stone Cold Dead” (November 30, 1971)
    • “Death Is A Double Cross” (December 7, 1971)
    • “The Nowhere Man” (December 14, 1971)
    • “Flight Plan” (December 28, 1971)
    • “Devil’s Playground” (January 4, 1972)
    • “Treasure Of Saint Ignacio” (January 11, 1972)
    • “Blood On The Wine” (January 18, 1972)
    • “To Kill A Guinea Pig” (February 1, 1972)
    • “The Island Caper” (February 8, 1972)
    • “A Deadly Quiet Town” (February 15, 1972)
    • “A Flight Of Hawks” (February 22, 1972)
    • “The Torch” (February 29, 1972)
    • “Cain’s Mark” (March 7, 1972)
    • “Murder By Moonlight” (March 14, 1972)
    • SEASON TWO | Buy Season Two
    • “Bad Cats And Sudden Death” (September 13, 1972)
    • “Sky Above, Death Below” (September 20, 1972)
    • “Bitter Legion” (September 27, 1972)
    • “That Was No Lady” (October 4, 1972)
    • “Stakeout” (October 11, 1972)30
    • “The Predators” (October 18, 1972)
    • “A Long Way Down” (October 25, 1972)
    • “The Rip Off” (November 1, 1972)
    • “Child Of Fear” (November 15, 1972)
    • “The Shadow Man” (November 22, 1972)
    • “Hear No Evil” (November 29, 1972)
    • “The Endangered Species” (December 13, 1972)
    • “Nobody Beats The House” (December 20, 1972)
    • “Hard Rock Roller Coaster” (January 3, 1973)
    • “The Dead Samaritan” (January 10, 1973)
    • “Death Of A Stone Seahorse” (January 17, 1973)
    • “Moving Target” (January 31, 1973)
    • “Murder For Murder” (February 7, 1973)
    • “To Ride A Tiger” (February 14, 1973)
    • “The Prisoners” (February 21, 1973)
    • “The Seventh Grave” (February 28, 1973)
    • “Catch Me If You Can” (May 7, 1973)
    • “Press Pass To The Slammer” (March 14, 1973)
    • “Deadly Heritage” (March 21, 1973)
    • SEASON THREE | Buy Season Three
    • “He Who Digs A Grave” Part 1 (September 12, 1973)
    • “He Who Digs A Grave” Part 2 (September 12, 1973)
    • “Memo From A Dead Man” (September 19, 1973)
    • “Hounds Of Hell” (September 26, 1973)
    • “Target In The Mirror” (October 3, 1973)
    • “Murder By Proxy” (October 10, 1973)
    • “Night Flight To Murder” (October 17, 1973)
    • “Come Watch Me Die” (October 24, 1973)
    • “The Perfect Alibi” (October 31, 1973)
    • “The Dead Lady’s Tears” (November 7, 1973)
    • “The Limping Man” (November 14, 1973)
    • “Trial By Terror” (November 21, 1973)
    • “Murder By The Numbers” (November 28, 1973)
    • “Valley Of The Damned” (December 5, 1973; may not have been aired)
    • “A Well Remembered Terror” (December 12, 1973)
    • “Arena Of Fear” (December 19, 1973)
    • “Photo Finish” (January 2, 1974)
    • “Duel In The Desert” (January 16, 1974)
    • “Where’s Jennifer?” (January 23, 1974)
    • “Blood Money” (February 6, 1974)
    • “Death Of A Hunter” (February 13, 1974)
    • “The Cure That Kills” (February 20, 1974)
    • “Bobby Loved Me” (February 27, 1974)
    • “Triangle Of Terror” (March 13, 1974)
    • “The Stalker” (March 20, 1974)
    • SEASON FOUR | Buy Season Four
    • “Kelly’s Song” (September 11, 1974)
    • “The Hit Man” (September 18, 1974)
    • “Voice From The Grave” (September 25, 1974)
    • “Lady In Red” (October 2, 1974)
    • “The Deadly Trail” (October 16, 1974)
    • “The Exchange” (October 23, 1974)
    • “The Avenger” (October 30, 1974)
    • “A Killing In The Family” (November 6, 1974)
    • “Flashpoint” (November 13, 1974)
    • “The Man Who Couldn’t Forget” (November 20, 1974)
    • “The Sounds Of Silence” (December 4, 1974)
    • “The Prisoner” (December 11, 1974)
    • “Daddy’s Little Girl” (December 18, 1974)
    • “The Conspirators” (January 1, 1975)
    • “Coffin Corner” (January 15, 1975)
    • “Perfect Fit For A Frame” (January 22, 1975)
    • “Killer On The Hill” (January 29, 1975)
    • “Missing At Fl307” (February 5, 1975)
    • “The Set Up” (February 12, 1975)
    • “The Investigator” (February 26, 1975)
    • “Lady On The Run” (March 5, 1975)
    • “Vengeance” (March 12, 1975)
    • “Tomorrow Ends At Noon” (March 19, 1975)
    • “Search And Destroy” (April 2, 1975)
    • SEASON FIVE | Buy Season Five
    • “Nightmare” (September 10, 1975)
    • “The Deadly Conspiracy (Part One)” (September 17, 1975)
      Guest stars Barnaby Jones. Part Two aired as a Barnaby Jones episode.
    • “The Wrong Medicine” (September 24, 1975)
    • “The Iceman” (October 1, 1975)
    • “The Victim” (October 8, 1975)
    • “The Man Who Died Twice” (October 15, 1975)
    • “A Touch Of Venom” (October 22, 1975)
    • “Man In The Middle” (October 29, 1975)
    • “Fall Guy” (November 5, 1975)
    • “The Melted Man” (November 12, 1975)
    • “The Wedding March” (November 19, 1975)
    • “The Hero” (November 26, 1975)
    • “To Still The Voice” (December 3, 1975)
    • “The Star (2 Hours)” (December 10, 1975)
    • “The Games Children Play” (December 17, 1975)
    • “The Reformer” (January 7, 1976)
    • “The House Of Cards” (January 14, 1976)
    • “Revenge” (January 21, 1976)
    • “Cry Wolf” (January 28, 1976)
    • “The Quasar Kill” (February 4, 1976)
    • “Snapshot” (February 11, 1976)
    • “Point After Death” (February 18, 1976)
    • “Bloodlines” (February 25, 1976)
    • “Madman” (March 3, 1976)
    (1980, CBS)
    TV movie
    Directed by Corey Allen
    Produced by Quinn Martin
    Starring William Conrad as FRANK CANNON
    Also starring Allison Argo, Arthur Hill, Burr DeBenning, Taylor Lacher, Diana Muldaur, Ed Nelson, Rafael Campos, Joanna Pettet, William Smithers


    A really big set. Includes all 122 episodes, plus the two TV movies: the pilot and The Return Of Frank Cannon


  • Murder By Gemini (1971, by Richard Gallagher)
  • The Stewardess Strangler (1971, by Richard Gallagher)
  • The Golden Bullet (1973, by Paul Denver)
  • The Deadly Chance (1973, by Paul Denver)
  • I’ve Got You Covered (1973, by Paul Denver)
  • The Falling Blonde (1975, by Paul Denver)
  • It’s Lonely On The Sidewalk (1976; by Paul Denver)
  • Farewell, Little Sister (1978, by Douglas Enfer)
  • Shoot-Out! (1979, by Douglas Enfer)


    Art by Martin Asbury
    A two-page serial strip, with a full 7-page “complete-in-this-issue” one-shot.

    • “I’m a comic book fan (with the sign of the Bat tatooed to my shoulder), and I found that you have overlooked a very small fact: There actually was a comic about Frank Cannon in the seventies. Unfortunately I don’t have many facts about it, but I remember that it was drawn (probably also written) by Martin Asbury. Asbury also does the Garth series, which is a pretty bad strip. Asbury is, I think, British, if it can help your search. Cannon was somewhat better, and the hero of course was drawn to look like William Conrad. Anyway, I thought you might be interested. Thanks for your attention, and keep up the good work!”
      — Thor Willy Bakke from Norway“Just thought I’d add a detail or two on the comic strip version of Cannon… It ran in a comic called TV Action, which had started out life as Countdown, a very sci-fi centred British weekly. Cannon was usually a 2-page serial strip although occasionally there would be an issue with a full 7-page “complete-in-this-issue” story. Hawaii Five-OThe Persuaders and Mission Impossible were other non-sf TV shows which had been added to this revamped comic. Countdown/TV Action ran from about 1971 to 1973. Martin Asbury, in more recent times, did the storyboards in the James Bond flick Goldeneye.”
      — Corn


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Big Al Hubin for the tip, and Thor Willy Bakke, Corn and Randy Johnson for the comic info. Also a big tip of the fedora to Lee Golberg for filling in a few details. And ohmygawd! Thank you, BBally81!!!


4 thoughts on “Frank Cannon

  1. Another interesting fact:

    The show was so popular at the time that animation studio Filmation (Fat Albert, He-Man, She-Ra) tried to get an animated series off the ground titled “Young Cannon”, which was sort of a kid friendly prequel where Cannon is reimagined as a fat school kid solving mysteries.

    Filmation’s founder Lou Scheimer confirmed this in his book “Creating the Filmation Generation”.

  2. I’m glad others are giving Cannon/Conrad props. Cannon I is a flat bad ass.he doesn’t just get in fisticuffs , he KNOCKS people OUT COLD. William Conrad was also the original Marshal Dillon in Gun Smoke on the radio for years s before it became a tv show.

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