Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer was the title used for two
television series about the fictional private detective Mike Hammer, the
creation of American crime author Mickey Spillane.
The first Hammer series was a syndicated one of which 78
episodes were produced in the late 1950s. In this version, Hammer was
portrayed by Darren McGavin. The series was criticized by some as being
full of excessive, gratuitous violence, though incredibly mild by today's
standards and there were no more deaths on the average episode of Hammer
than the average western. TV Guide referred to it as "easily the
worst series on TV." Spillane later admitted that his involvement in
the first series was minimal. He was quoted as saying, "I just took
the money and went home."
A second Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, starring Stacy Keach was
produced for CBS from 1984 to 1987. Unlike the previous series, Spillane
was closely involved with, and quite proud of, this incarnation. Initially
this show was about as brutal as its predecessor, and criticized as being
extremely sexist, with almost every female character adorned with a
push-up bra and a costume that emphasized cleavage, but nonetheless found
something of a large audience.
However, production was interrupted when Keach was arrested in England
for possession of cocaine while there for the production of the film
Mistral's Daughter.Production was suspended while Keach served six months
in prison, and when the series returned as The New Mike Hammer, the
sexist elements of the program were somewhat downplayed (although the
violence certainly was not). An interesting continuing element in this
series was the presence of the "The Face", a beautiful woman
whom Hammer saw briefly in each episode but who would vanish before he
could meet her. One of the most popular elements of this program was its
theme music, "Harlem Nocturne" by Earle Hagen.
Keach's version of Hammer was revived with 26 more syndicated episodes
produced about a decade later under the title Mike Hammer, Private Eye,
but this revived version never found particularly wide distribution or
much of an audience.