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? TV  


  1. As a fan of Robert Stack, may I point out that Mr. Stack was the star and people tuned in to watch 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.

  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 ...

  3. What started as a way for Ness to help bring focus on herself throughout cafes coming from girls found themselves in the book authored by Oscar Fraley. Fraley ended up being a great Related Press news reporter and also presumed Ness, who right now gave herself your starring role of lowering Capone. "The Untouchables" role

  4. For what it's worth, Paris later joined Robert Stack, along with Bruce Gordon, on a Boston morning talk show. All were clearly good friends. And Stack said that after Anthony George left the series at the end of season one, Stack lobbied to bring Paris back. In the show it was explained that "Flarahety had left the squad to head up the Cleveland bureau. He was not killed off like George's character was. By then Paris had been signed to do Dick Van Dyke. As to why he left there was also the issue, believe it or not, that Paris was too tall! They wanted an actor who literally would not overshadow Stack. Stack thought that silly but as Paris was not happy with his small role anyway, he went along with it. Paris was prominently featured in at least 3 episodes but overall I think the part was just not "rich" enough.

    1. Yes, it's on Youtube. Stack and his very attractive wife and both Paris and later Bruce Gordon come out and the affection Stack had for both of them is very apparent. Stack was truly one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. Even cranky Ed Asner, in a playboy interview, spoke how nice he was. And of course had to point out that Stack was a conservative man, unlike the very liberal Asner. Asner "He's a real conservative, but a nice guy". High praise from Asner I guess!

  5. One more thing regarding Jerry Paris. He left, or was pushed out of the Untouchables midway through the 1959-1960 first season. He immediately landed a role in the 1960-61 series Michael Shayne, a private eye show. Paris played a reporter friend of the PI. That show was cancelled after that season and then he landed the role on Dick Van Dyke show, which debuted in 1961. So he was unavailable to come back in the 2nd season of Untouchables in 1960 anyway, but not because of the Dick Van Dyke show.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!