Created by Douglas Heyes
Pseudonyms include Matthew Howard
Early P.I. renaissance man Douglas Heyes (cartoonist, actor, writer, director, producer and musician) created San Francisco private eye LEO GORDON (complete with trenchcoat) who gets drawn into a complicated mess the 1969 made-for-television movie (and would-be pilot) The Lonely Profession (1969), which aired on October 21 on NBC-TV’s Tuesday Night At The Movies.
Gordon was played by crag-faced actor Harry Guardino, who was by most accounts quite credible as a middle-aged shamus hired to trail the mistress of a rather peculiar millionaire, but ends up sleeping with her.
And–surprise, surprise–ends up waking up beside her corpse. Despite the over-used trope and the overly convoluted plot, it was supposedly an honest attempt to depict a real-life P.I.’s work.
For a long time I thought, based on what I thought were reliable sources, that the film was based on Heyes’ 1963 novel The Twelfth of Never (1963), but faithful reader Jack Seabrook put me straight on that one:
“Sorry, but The Twelfth of Never is not a private eye novel. It concerns a man who switches identities with a dying man so he can inherit his father’s fortune without dying himself. Complications ensue… “I can say with 100% confidence that… The Lonely Profession is unrelated to any book.”
Despite a pretty impressive cast for a TV movie, full of big-at-the-time names, some nifty use of the San Francisco setting, and some generally favorable reviews at the time, a series never materialized.
Which is disappointing, because I’ve generally enjoyed Heyes’ work. Guess I’ll have to track this one down, and judge for myself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Initially a private in the 618th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, a cartoonist for Disney, a comic strip artist and a greeting card art director, Heyes has been involved in all sorts of P.I. things over the years, from books to radio, film and television, writing, directing, acting and Lord knows what else. He created P.I’s Steve Mallory and Ray Ripley, and was involved in directing and/or writing some other great crime P.I. (and P.I.-adjacent) tales on television and film, including the 1974 pilo, The Underground Man, for a proposed series based on Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, plus episodes of Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, City of Angels, Thriller, Magnum P.I., Checkmate, Bearcats! and other series from 1950s through the 1970s, and had a long working association with Roy Huggins, that went far beyond The Lonely Profession. Heyes’ work was always good and always entertaining.
- ” … a fine private-eye teleflick”
— Ric Mayers in TV Detectives
- Good results by any medium’s standards. Above average.”
— Leonard Maltin in TV Movies and Video Guide
- “I do not recommend sitting through it. It’s pretty bad.”
— Jack Seabrook
- THE LONELY PROFESSION
(aka “The Savarona Syndrome”)
Original broadcast October 21, 1969
Written by Douglas Heyes, based on his novel The Twelfth of Never
Directed by Douglas Heyes
Producer: Jo Swerling, Jr.
Executive Producer: Roy Huggins
Original music by Pete Rugolo
Starring Harry Guardino as LEO GORDON
Also starring Ina Balin, Jack Carter, Joseph Cotten, Troy Donahue, Dean Jagger, Fernando Lamas, Barbara McNair, Stephen McNally, Dina Merrill