29 October 2006 | Cheyenne-Bodie
Bradford Dillman in the first "JAG"
Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves starred as dynamic JAG lawyers during World War 11. Dillman played Captain David Young and Graves was his superior, Major Frank Whittaker.
The pilot was the two part opener of "Kraft Suspense Theater" in 1963. Lee Marvin played Sergeant Paul Ryker, an accused traitor during the Korean War. Dillman defended him and Graves prosecuted. Dillman gets into big trouble for falling in love with Ryker's stunning wife (Vera Miles). The pilot was an entertaining court-room melodrama and mystery, produced by the great Roy Huggins ("Maverick", "77 Sunset Strip", "Run For Your Life", "The Rockford Files").
"Court Martial" could have made a great series. The premise was very viable and the two stars made dazzlingly attractive heroes. Production was moved to England. It was a co-production of Perry Como's Roncom productions and England's ITC ("The Saint"). I don't think Roy Huggins was involved in the series. "Court Martial" was very professionally done, but the stories just didn't have the zing of the pilot, and the overall approach was a little too subdued for Americans. However the show did win the English BAFTA award for Best Dramatic Series.
Guest stars on "Court Martial" included Diane Cilento, Martine Beswick, Darren McGavin, Donald Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Joan Hackett, Sal Mineo, Anthony Quayle, Judi Dench and Oliver Reed.
Executive producer was English actor/director Robert Douglas. Directors included Harvey Hart, Sam Wanamaker, Peter Medak and Robert Douglas.
Harvey Hart directed Bradford Dillman again nine years later in a Movie of the Week called "Murder or Mercy" (1974). It was a pilot for a Quinn Martin series where Denver Pyle and Dillman would have played father and son lawyers named Champion.
Bradford Dillman was a Yale graduate and a former Marine Corps officer.
He got off to a great start on Broadway as Jason Robard's younger brother in a legendary production of O'Neil's "Long Day's Journey into Night", that also starred Fredric March and Isobel Elsom as the parents. When Jason Robards went out to Hollywood to make the film version, he said he never felt comfortable. Robards couldn't get used to co-stars Katherine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, and Dean Stockwell in their roles. To Robards, March, Elsom, and Dillman were the other members of the Tyrone family.
Dillman was terrific in the movie "Compulsion", with Orson Wells and Dean Stockwell. Dillman was often brilliant as the guest star on other people's series. He received an Emmy nomination for "The World of Charlie Pont" with Diana Hyland and Robert Redford. But he never found that series role that would have brought fame and fortune. I think his best chance might have been "The Man From Uncle", where he could have made an interesting Cary Grant surrogate.
Bradford Dillman and Stuart Whitman were both under contract to 20th Century Fox in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Fox had decided that one of the two actors would star in "The Mark" and the other would star in "Circle of Deception". But Fox couldn't determine who should be in which film. Whitman was finally given "The Mark", for which he was nominated for a best actor Oscar. Dillman made "Circle of Deception", where he met his future wife-supermodel Suzy Parker. Suzy Parker according to one account was the basis for the Audrey Hepburn character in "Funny Face".
Both Bradford Dillman and Stuart Whitman should have had much bigger careers in television.
Peter Graves, of course, found immortality two years after "Court Martial" on "Mission: Impossible".