Sunday, June 5, 2005


J.D. Cannon's best-recognized role would have to be that of Peter B. Clifford, chief of detectives in a New York City precinct overseeing such cops as Sgt. Grover and Detectives Broadhurst and 'McCloud'.

Before 'Hill Street Blues' came along, most police procedurals were full of cliches - which is fine, since every cliche had to begin as an original idea at one time. And nobody could play the cliche of the irascible, exasperated, and probably ulcer-ridden cop in charge than J.D. Cannon on 'McCloud'. (Except maybe Herbert Lom as Inspector Dreyfuss, and the 'Pink Panther' franchise resides in the Cineverse.)

But there were so many other roles in Toobworld for J.D. Cannon, especially in crime dramas and westerns. He was equally at home guest starring on 'Murder, She Wrote', 'The Mod Squad' and 'The Name of The Game' as he was on 'Bonanza', 'Gunsmoke' and 'The Guns Of Will Sonnett'.

A good combination of his cop and cowboy roles would be as Harry Briscoe, agent for the Bannerman Detective Agency out of Chicago (as seen on 'Alias Smith And Jones'). The character of Briscoe also mixes in a a few shades from Cannon's rogues' gallery because he was often tempted to stray from the straight and narrow. Luckily for him, the bank robbers Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry (AKA Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones) steered Harry Briscoe away from temptation even though he was working for the agency determined to bring the pair down.

I also particularly liked Cannon's role as Kenton Campion in 'Testimony Of Two Men'. Campion was a steely, scheming politician who was using his military reputation to push his agenda for America as a world power through "Manifest Destiny".

By "googling" for images of J.D. Cannon, I found a frame grab of the actor as Sam Houston for 'Profiles In Courage'. Frozen forever in the photo, he captures a larger-than-life quality for Houston.

And the Texan legend was not the only famous personage from the Real World for whom J.D. Cannon provided a televersion avatar.

Among the others are:

General Walter Bedell Smith ('Ike: The War Years')
Dutch Schulz ('Fantasy Island')
Pontius Pilate ('Hallmark Hall Of Fame' - "Neither Are We Enemies")

But it's another character I'd like to... spotlight. The reflex was to type in "salute" or "honor", but his actions - or lack of action to be honest - preclude that. It wasn't that this character was a villain, per se, although it could be argued; it's just that he failed to do the right thing until it was almost too late.

And yet because of his moral lapse, Toobworld gained one of its greatest epics, a true evocation of "the Hero's Journey": 'The Fugitive'.

Lloyd Chandler had been a war hero, and in the years following WWII, he had burnished and expanded his reputation to become something of a legend back home. Lloyd Chandler had transformed himself into a big fish in the small pond of Stafford, Illinois.

On September 19, 1961, Chandler was in the Kimble home to talk with Helen Kimble about whether or not she and her husband, Dr. Richard Kimble, should adopt a child. Helen had gone downstairs where she startled Fred Johnson as he burgled the house and he savagely beat her to death with a lamp.

Chandler was on the stairs where he saw the whole thing. He could have stopped Johnson, could have saved Helen, but he was paralyzed with fear. Afterwards, when it was too late, Chandler compounded his complicity by not stepping forward to tell what he knew, because it would deliver a mortal blow to his image as a war hero.

And so he stood by and said nothing as Dr. Richard Kimble was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of his wife.

Kimble went on the run for several years, doggedly pursued all across the country by Lt Philip Gerard and by a booming Voice-over who usually worked out of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, ('Rocky & Bullwinkle').

When it finally looked as though all hope was lost with the death of Fred Johnson, Lloyd Chandler finally found the backbone he had so long been missing.

It was too late for Helen Kimble, too late for Dr. Kimble to reclaim those lost years of his life. But at least Lloyd Chandler was able to restore some part of his humanity.

And he serves as the best example as any that the majority of characters in Toobworld are not divided into just heroes and villains. As much as 'Lost' seems to be suggesting otherwise, it's not all Black and White in the world. There are varying shades of Gray.

And Lloyd Chandler just happened to be grayer than most.......


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