Johnny Staccato

In the 1950s television, there was no one cooler than John Cassavetes’ as “Johnny Staccato.” Cool Jazz, hot women, and bad dudes. The setting is Greenwich Village.

“Peter Gunn,” a more successful show in the ratings, had more of a Hollywood glitz to it and less grit even though like “Johnny Staccato,” was set in New York’s Greenwich Village. Craig Stevens Peter Gunn is straight out of central casting, while Cassavetes Johnny Staccato looks more like the real deal. A streetwise dude who knew his way in the world.

My first exposure to John Cassavetes was in the low budget 1956 film “Crime in the Streets” directed by Don Siegel. Though he was too old (mid-twenties), he played the eighteen old leader of one of the street gangs. Sal Mineo, Mark Rydell, are fellow gang members and James Whitmore appeared as a social worker also starred. The following year, Cassavetes starred in Martin Ritt’s feature film directing debut, “Edge of the City.” The film is a tough and serious look at union corruption and racism on the docks of New York. Sidney Poitier and Jack Warden co-starred.

The following year, Cassavetes made his directing debut in one of the most influential independent films of the day. Though it died at the box office, to this day, “Shadows” remains a must see of the independent film movement.

That same year (1959) Cassavetes starred in “Johnny Staccato” for one season. Twenty-seven episodes before the network dropped it. Why? Probably because it was too hip for TV America. A stylish, moody, jazzy soundtrack, and noir like “Johnny Staccato” was not your standard TV fare of the day.

Some critics wrote the show off as a rip-off of “Peter Gunn”, which premiered the year before. Both are detectives and hang out in small New York jazz clubs of the day. However, besides the previously mentioned street grit, Cassavetes Johnny Staccato is a musician who plays in the club (Waldo’s) as part of the band. The scenes with the actor on the piano are highlights in themselves.   

Along with Cassavetes, the only other regular cast member was Eduardo Ciannelli as Waldo. Other well-known or soon to be well-known actors appeared. Among them, Mary Tyler Moore, Elisha Cook Jr., J. Pat O’Malley, Elizabeth Montgomery, Dean Stockwell, Harry Guardino, Charles McGraw, Michael Landon, Martin Landau and Gena Rowlands. 

If you are a fan of film noir or crime films/TV shows, “Johnny Staccato” will not disappoint. 

This is my contribution to CMBA’s “Big Stars on the Small Screen – In Support of National Classic Movie Day” Blogathon. Click here to see more excellent contributions.


6 comments on “Johnny Staccato

  1. Wow, I’d never heard of this show. I also haven’t seen much John Cassavetes, but I did catch him the other day in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes, and he’s always interesting to me. I would love to see him in Johnny Staccato (love the name!). Thank you for introducing him to me, and for participating in the blogathon!

    — Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Lady Eve says:

    Loved this show. Very cool, indeed. It was my introduction to John Cassavetes – I didn’t see “Crime in the Streets” until 10 or so years ago. I think it was on a “noir” compilation set, though it’s not noir. I also loved Peter Gunn, but you’re right, John, Johnny Staccato was waaay cooler. Great write-up on an underappreciated TV gem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So many wonderful shows are cut before their time. I’m so glad you introduced me to another one I need to check out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rick says:

    This is a great show to highlight, John! Did any actor do a better job of projecting intensity on the big or little screen? What was really cool about Johnny Staccato was that Cassavetes directed some of the episodes. Alas, ABC didn’t give the show much support. It aired after several Western series at 10:30 on Sunday night opposite What’s My Line? The Friday night time slot after The Untouchables would have made better sense!


  5. This is a new one to me. Cassavetes seems like perfect casting for this role – always totally cool. I’ll have to keep my (shaded) (private) eye out for this.


  6. Aurora says:

    Enjoyable show. I’ve caught a few episodes online.



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