5 October 2002 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
They always ended up in bed
"DIck and the Duchess", rather unusually for the 1950s, was an American sitcom that was filmed at MGM's studio in Elstree, England (with a primarily English cast and some interesting locations). The 26 episodes aired in the USA on CBS-TV from September 1957 through May 1958 ... and then aired on ITV in Britain from September 1958 to April '59.
American actor Patrick O'Neal (Ryan O'Neal's cousin) starred as Dick Starrett, an insurance claims investigator based in London and married to an Englishwoman. The "duchess" of the title was his wife Jane (the gorgeous Hazel Court): not an actual duchess, but a very proper and patrician upper-class lady whom Dick lovingly calls "Duchess".
Many prominent English actors appeared in this series. Richard Wattis (the British equivalent of Franklin Pangborn) played a recurring role as Dick's fussy business associate Peter. Others who strolled through the proceedings were Dame Margaret Rutherford, Alfie Bass, Irene Handl, Lionel Jeffries, and Kenneth 'Carry On' Williams.
Regrettably, the basic premise of 'Dick and the Duchess' was much too similar to several other American sitcoms. Jane would try to 'help' her husband by interfering in his business affairs, with chaos the inevitable result. The clever husband would then have to undo all the trouble that his foolish little wifey had caused.
Rather cheekily, the very last scene of every episode always depicted Dick and the Duchess in bed for the night, discussing the events of the day. But of course, this being an American tv show of the fifties, the husband and wife slept in twin beds. Oh, well...