Willie Dante (Dante’s Inferno)

Created by Blake Edwards
(1922-2010)

In the fifties, realizing he was perhaps a little too long in the tooth to reprise his role as Richard Diamond for television, Dick Powell turned to directing and producing. In 1952, along with David Niven, Charles Boyer and Ida Lupino, Powell created create Four Star Television (later Four Star Films), which produced Four Star Playhouse, an anthology show, as well as several other series.

But it turned out Powell wasn’t quite done with acting, or the wise-cracking tough guy persona he’d created in film and radio. Powell decided he wanted another crack at a Diamond-like character, and so he teamed up with his old pal Blake Edwards to create Dante’s Inferno, which appeared sporatically on Four Star Playhouse.

WILLIE DANTE was essentially an older, kinder take on Diamond; not a detective this time but a successful restaurant owner and man-about-town who had a not-so-secret casino tucked in the back, and a propensity for sleuthing. Regis Toomey co-starred as Lt. Manny Waldo, the by-the-book cop yearning to shut down Dante, despite the fact he had a begrudging respect for Dante’s deductive skills.

Alas, the show lacked Diamond’s customary warmth–or a regular girlfriend. Helen Asher or her counterpart was sadly needed. Only eight episodes of of the show were produced.

But Powell and Edwards still believed in the concept, and tried again several years later with the simply titled Dante (1960-61), this time starring Howard Duff as Willie, allegedly a reformed gambler. This new Dante’s Inferno was a “legit” San Francisco nightclub, and Dante was determind to go straight, even if he had to drag along  old-time cohorts buddies Biff and Stewart. Problem is neither the cops nor the crooks think Willie has gone straight.

It only lasted one season, but there was talk of a 1963 reunion show, sceduled as an episode of the anthology series, The Dick Powell Show, with Peggy Lee as a guest star, but plans fell through following Powell’s death in January 1963.

UNDER OATH

  • Dante with Howard Duff was a superior half hour mystery that remains entertaining today. It is a shame more people didn’t watch it when it first aired and there is not an official DVD available for viewers to discover it today.”
    –Michael Shonk (April 2013, Mystery*File)

TELEVISION

  • DANTE’S INFERNO Buy the DVD
    (aka “The Adventures of Dante”)

    (1952-56, CBS)
    Created by Blake Edwards
    Writers: Blake Edwards, Richard Carr
    Directors: Robert Florey, Robert Aldrich, Roy Kellino, William A. Seiter
    Starring Dick Powell as WILLIE DANTE
    and Regis Toomey as Lt. Manny Waldo
    Guest stars: Virginia Grey, Jack Benny, Richard Jaeckel, Jean Willes, Frances Bergen, Shirley Patterson
    An anthology series with alternating stars. There were eight episodes of Dante’s Inferno.

    • “Dante’s Inferno” (October 9, 1952) Buy the VHS
    • “The Squeeze” (October 1, 1953) Buy the DVD
    • “The Hard Way” (November 19, 1953)
    • “The House Always Wins” (April 28, 1955) Buy the VHS Buy the DVD
    • “High Stakes” (January 26, 1956) Buy the DVD
    • “No Limit” (February 16, 1956)
    • “A Long Way from Texas” (May 3, 1956)
    • “The Stacked Deck” (June 28, 1956)  Buy the DVD
  • DANTE
    (1960-61, NBC)
    26 30-minute episodes
    Created by Blake Edwards
    Writers: Harold Jack Bloom,  Aaron Spelling
    Directors: Ida Lupino, Richard Kinon
    Starring Howard Duff as WILLIE DANTE
    With Alan Mowbray as Stewart Styles
    Tom D’Andrea as Biff
    and Mort Mills as Lieutenant Bob Malone
    Guerst stars: Joanna Barnes, Dick Foran, Ruta Lee, Joan Marshall, Charles McGraw, Yvonne Craig, Pat Medina, Edward Platt, Marion Ross, Marion Ross, Troy Melton, William Schallert, Joan Tabor, Nita Talbot, Lori Nelson

    • “One for the Birds” (October 3, 1960)
    • “Opening Night” (October 10, 1960)
    • “The Feline Traveler” (October 17, 1960)
    • “Dante’s Dilemma” (October 31, 1960)
    • “The Misfortune Cookie” (November 7, 1960)
    • “San Question Quill” (November 14, 1960)
    • “The Unclean Green” (November 21, 1960)
    • “The Bavarian Barbarians” (November 28, 1960)
    • “My Pal, the Bullseye” (December 5, 1960)
    • “The Jolly Roger Cocktail” (December 19, 1960)
    • “A Punch from Judy” (December 26, 1960)
    • “Don’t Come On’a My House” (January 2, 1961)
    • “Wine, Women and Willie” (January 9, 1961)
    • “Dial D for Dante” (January 16, 1961)
    • “The Devil to Pay” (January 23, 1961)
    • “Dante Rides Again” ( (January 30, 1961)
    • “Dante’s Fickle Fate” (February 6, 1961)
    • “Aces and Eights” (February 13, 1961)
    • “Light Lady, Dark Room” (February 20, 1961)
    • “Not as a Canary” (February 27, 1961)
    • “Pick a Peck of Diamonds” (March 6, 1961)
    • “Dante in the Dark” (March 13, 1961)
    • “Hunter with a Badge” (March 20, 1961)
    • “Friendly Assassin” (March 27, 1961)
    • “Sesame Key” (April 3, 1961)
    • “Around a Dark Corner” (April 10, 1961)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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