March 18, 2014

Reader mailbag - The Untouchables

It's question time! From the electronic mailbag, Jeff writes to ask:
I have watching The Untouchables on ME-TV and been wondering what happened to Jerry Paris (Martin Flaherty) on the Series. At first he was a major character in every episode, then his appearances got smaller & smaller. Then he totally disappeared. They explained it the returned to run the office in Boston. I wonder did he just happen to land the part of Jerry on the Dick Van Dyke Show and left or was it something else? I noticed all the other Untouchables became background characters after that. Was this the producers idea or Robert Stack? Stack was known as one of the "nice guys" in Hollywood so it would seem strange he would want to hog all the action. What do you think?

My first thought was that Jeff's got good taste in classic TV - The Untouchables is a favorite of mine as well.  Not great drama in the sense that we think of other shows from the Golden Age, but a lot of fun nonetheless.

I've never read anything that explains why Jerry Paris left The Untouchables.  I do know that the show was under frequent pressure from Italian-American groups regarding its portrayal of the Cosa Nostra as being dominated by Italian-Americans, and that the Rico Rossi character (played by Nick Georgiade) was created to counteract the criticism and serve as a positive image for Italian-Americans.  Now, does that mean that the producers might have downgraded Paris' role (and his replacement, Anthony George, whose character was actually killed off) in order to emphasize Rossi?  Or did Paris really just leave for the Van Dyke show? Or is there another answer out there?

I'm thinking that one of you good reades - Mike Doran, perhaps? - might have some additional information on this.  Anyone?

2 comments:

  1. As a fan of Robert Stack, may I point out that Mr. Stack was the star and people tuned in to watch him.at least I did. Paris and George bored me. Mr. Stack did not hog all of the space but he made it great as has said many people. His role in Written On The Wind gave him just what he needed as did Good Morning Miss Dove. etc [also Mr. Stack, Fernandez, Picerni, and London were the handsomest guys there especially Mr. Stack. Didn't Costner's portrayal of Eliott Ness at all. Boring, over the top and under played...Mr. Garcia was a prize in the movie...I watch it every night and am still thrilled when I see and hear Mr. Stack, missed Paul Picerni and wondered where he was until last night's broadcasting. Robert Stack WAS Eliot Ness just as Jack Lord was McGarrett...NO SUBSTITUTES.

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  2. Better late than never ...

    The sequence as best I can reconstruct it:

    - In the Desilu Playhouse pilot, 'Martin Flaherty' was played by Bill Williams (aka Mr. Barbara Hale); when ABC ordered the series, Jerry Paris got the part.

    - Paris left midway through the first season; he didn't enjoy being "third guy through the door."
    His replacement, Anthony George, didn't like that either; as soon as he got Checkmate the next season, 'Cam Allison' was killed off.

    - Jerry Paris spent 1960-61 on Michael Shayne, playing Shayne's reporter pal Tim Rourke.
    Dick Van Dyke started the season after that; Jerry Paris started as the neighbor (part-time), impressed Carl Reiner, and the rest is history.

    - 'Enrico Rossi', the token Italian Untouchable, was in the series from the first episode to the last, played by Greek-American Nick Georgiade.

    - Meanwhile, Paul Picerni, who appeared in the original pilot as one of Frank Nitti's henchmen, joined the series at the start of season 2, as 'Lee Hobson' - obviously not as Italian as Picerni actually was, but that's Hollywood for you.

    On an unrelated matter:
    I can't get my newly-minted E-mail address to work properly - AT ALL.
    So if you got any requests of me, you're gonna have to make them here in front of everyone.
    Sorry about that ...

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