23 October 2005 | zippgun
Everybody comes to Dante's in a forgotten 60s crime show.
Dick Powell had originally played "Willie Dante" in a couple of 50s TV plays.When Powell's TV production company "4 Star Television" decided to "spin off" the character into a series,second rung 50s movie star Howard Duff took over the role."Dante" is a half hour crime drama,a category of programme which has vanished from the schedules,but was common during the early days of filmed television series.The show is reminiscent of the series "Mr Lucky",which made its debut in 1959,the season before "Dante" appeared.Dante is a gambler,who runs a night club-Mr.Lucky was a gambler who owned a gambling club/restaurant,though the latter operated from a ship at sea,while "Dante's Inferno" was on dry land.Like Mr.Lucky,Dante seemed to have a vaguely shady background,with the police regularly suspicious about his activities,though Willie Dante,like Lucky,has long abandoned any behaviour not strictly "legit".Duff is the sort of hero who is tough but suave,great with the women,and always ready with a good retort or quip when required.The series is helped greatly by the presence of character players Tom D'Andrea as Biff,and Alan Mowbray as Stewart,Willie's associates from way back,who work with him in the club.Biff the barkeep still harbours some regrets for the good old (less legal)days,Stewart,the urbane polished Maitre D,a former con artist,seems more settled with his present respectability. One of the main problems for Willie and the boys is that people have a tendency to pop up from their past,plunging them back against their will into the milieu of crime-they have to deal with this,while making sure their roles in the business can't be wrongly construed as illegal by a police force ready to think the worst of them.It's often surprising how much these half hour dramas can fit into a tight running time-"Dante" succeeds thru solid "4 Star" production values,neat if routine little stories,good characterizations from the principals,and the reliable array of guest stars(Robert Strauss,John Anderson,Joan Marshall,Ruta Lee,Charles McGraw,Patricia Medina-and even a young Yvonne Craig among them)"Dante" appears to be a "lost" show,rarely referred to or remembered,and does not seem to have made even the kind of minor mark in popular culture achieved by "Mr Lucky"(the latter series was undoubtedly helped here by the Henry Mancini music-Lucky certainly had the better theme tune,and the music became popular on record at the time). There were 26 episodes of "Dante" made.Duff went on to greater TV success in the late 60s with "Felony Squad".The inspiration for "Dante" probably came from the film "Casablanca" and Bogart's character Rick Blaine.