Johnny Midnight

Created by Liam O’Brien

JOHNNY MIDNIGHT was the name and title character of an early sixties syndicated TV show (played by Edmond O’Brien), about an actor turned New York producer, theater owner and sometime private eye. His cases frequently brought him to the vicinity of Times Square and Broadway’s theatre district, the same area where he had enjoyed many of the thespian triumphs of his former career.

By the time O’Brien, the former film noir icon (The Killers, D.O.A.) and the first to play radio’s long-running insurance investigator Johnny Dollar) took on the role of Midnight, he was sporting a few more pounds (and years) than most fans were probably used to seeing on him. But a few extra pounds or not, Midnight had it good. He lived in a swank Manhattan penthouse above the Midnight Theater on West 44th St., complete with a “stunning view of the city” and a wise-cracking Japanese houseboy, called Aki. “Oriental” houseboys were once a staple of detective novels and films, but were almost extinct by the sixties.

Not that Aki was the only throwback — O’Brien narrated his cases in the clipped, terse style that Bogart made famous decades earlier, and a moody, haunting version off “The Lullabye of Broadway” from the 1935 film Gold Diggers of Broadway served as a quite effective theme song.

Most of his clients were in the theatrical business and he’s frequently call on skills garnered in his past life to go undercover. There are a few shows with some pretty hokey beatnik slang, but the series also had a very nice jazzy score provided by Joe Bushkin.


  • Supposedly, during the casting of the series, the producers were concerned about O’Brien’s weight and insisted he go on a crash vegetarian diet.
  • The show was produced by Revue (later Universal Studios), who were also responsible for M Squad with Lee Marvin, Johnny Staccato with John Cassavetes, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer with Darren McGavin, Markham with Ray Milland, Shotgun Slade with Scott Brady and Coronado 9 with Rod Cameron, all crime or detective shows built around the charm and talent of a strong male leads.


    (1959-60, Syndicated)
    Black and White
    39 30-minute episodes
    A Revue Production for MCA
    Created by Liam O’Brien
    Writers: F.W. Baldwin, Robert Leslie Bellem, Paul Blanchard, George Bruce, Lewis John Carlino, Lázló Görög, Joseph Johns, Stephen Kandel, Charles Larson, Liam OíBrien, Jo Pagano, William Parnell, Frank Phares, Barry Trivers, Robert Turner, Ed Waters
    Directors: John English, David Orick McDearmon, Robert Stevens
    Music: Richard Shores, Joe Bushkin, Gerald Fried
    Musical supervisors: Stanley Wilson
    Theme: “Lullaby Of Broadway,” as performed by Joe Bushkin
    Executive Producer: Jack Chertok
    Starring Edmond O’Brien as JOHNNY MIDNIGHT
    with Arthur Batanides as Sgt. Sam Olivera
    Barney Phillips as Lt. Geller
    and Yuki Shimoda as Aki
    Guest stars: Adam West, Doug McClure, Lurene Tuttle, Scatman Crothers, Maxine Cooper, Pat Morita, DeForest Kelly, Mike Mazurki, Paul Mazursky, Virginia Gregg, Joe Bushkin

      Being syndicated, dates are almost impossible to verify, although this is the order of the episodes.
    • “X Equals Murder” (January 12, 1960; pilot*)
    • “Voice of the Dummy”
    • “The Villain of the Piece”
    • “Leading Lady”
    • “Once Again”
    • “A Taste of Curry”
    • “Mother’s Boy”
    • “Award for Murder”
    • “Magic at Midnight”
    • “The Inner Eye”
    • “The Impressario”
    • “Beyond Infamy”
    • “An Old-Fashioned Frame”
    • “Slight Delay at Dimity”
    • “The Ninth Doll”
    • “Death Over My Shoulder”
    • “Phantom Bride”
    • “The Tokyo Doll”
    • “Trouble on the Road”
    • “Registered Mail”
    • “Somebody Loves You”
    • “The Emerald Star”
    • “Return to Murder”
    • “One Over Par”
    • “Tender Loving Care”
    • “Token of Love”
    • “Schatzi”
    • “Sweet-Tooth Murder”
    • “Ring of Truth”
    • “Her Sister’s Keeper”
    • “The Single”
    • “Dark Trophy”
    • “Inside Man”
    • “Ding-a-Ling”
    • “The Switchback Murder”
    • “Day-Off to Death”
    • “Romeo and Julie”
    • “How Tight a Web”
    • “The Whammy”


  • Strange Embrace (1962; by Ben Christopher) Buy the book
    Not really a Johnny Midnight novel, since the show was cancelled before it could ever be published by Beacon. It finally saw daylight in 1962 after numerous changes (Johnny Midnight became Johnny Lane, etc.). Years later it was republished by HardCaseCrime, under its author’s real name, some guy named Lawrence Block, who later republished it as Broadway Can Be Murder.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. And thanks to Doctor Shimoda for the nudge.

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