Richard Widmark starred as New York homicide detective Daniel Madigan, a grim-faced loner who lived alone in a sparsely furnished one-room apartment. His cool indifference may well have put people off but in reality his rough exterior hid a genuinely soft centre.
Madigan began life as a novel, The Commissioner by Richard Dougherty, before getting the big screen treatment by co-writers Howard Rodman, Abraham Polonsky and Harry Kleiner with direction by Don Siegel. Apparently, Rodman wasn't happy with the way it turned out and changed his name on the credits to Henri Simoun, mainly because what started out as a deliberate attack on police department hierarchy finished up as a pretty standard (although in many critics opinion - stylish) action packed cops and robbers story. Rodman at the time was active with a local construction union and Polonsky may have still felt some bitterness about being a blacklisted writer in the 1950s.
There were also well documented instances of Siegel and producer Frank Rosenberg clashing behind the scenes as each tried to stamp his authority on the project. Nonetheless, the cast, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens and Harry Guardino overcame any upheavel off set by producing the goods in front of the cameras and sending audiences home more than happy. The titular character was played by Academy Award nominated actor Richard Widmark who first entered show business in 1943 after a perforated eardrum stopped him from joining the military. In 1950 and 1952 Widmark starred in Panic In The Streets and Night and the City, respectively - each considered classic examples of film noir.
In 1971 NBC began a series called The NBC Mystery Movie an umbrella title for a trio of rotating series that appeared in the same time slot (Wednesday 8:30 - 10pm) every week. These included Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. The series became so popular that in 1972 it was moved to Sunday night where it was imaginatively titled The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie and at the same time three new series were introduced for the Wednesday night version; Banacek, Cool Million and Madigan. None of them faired as well as their predecessors and only six episodes of Madigan were made. Several of these took Dan Madigan out of the country ('The Lisbon Beat', 'The London Beat' and 'The Naples Beat' give a clue to their location) but as a quintessential New York creation Madigan only ever worked well when seen on home ground.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Widmark has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2002 he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He last worked professionally in 1996 just a year before his wife of 55 years, writer Jean Hazlewood, passed away. Now retired, Widmark resides in Roxbury, Connecticut, where he has lived since the 1950s.
Published on December 31st, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.