Janssen's career-changing stroke of good fortune came rather unexpectedly at the very end of 1956. A contract player at Universal just 8 months earlier, Janssen's film work had always been in supporting roles sometimes so fleeting that he liked to kid he was "the agreer:"
The star of the picture would approach me and ask, "Don't you think so, Harry?" and I would answer, "I'm with you, Jack. I'll back you up all the way." Then I'd disappear.
When his Universal contract ended in April, new representation with the prestigious William Morris Agency and his being cast in quick succession in two pictures at Warner Brothers (both starring Tab Hunter), may have combined to create a mini industry buzz – Janssen was an actor on the rise.
Producer-actor Dick Powell, who'd originated the RICHARD DIAMOND role on radio, had decided not to do the TV series ("I can't hold my stomach in for 39 weeks") and that it was a job for a new guy. Still, it was courageous for him to consider someone as unproven as Janssen.
All of 26 at the time, Janssen was still living at home with his parents to save money. He'd made $600 per week on the Warners films, but there was now a lot of uncertainty in his future as a freelancer.
The RICHARD DIAMOND team was struggling to cast the role. They'd supposedly passed on the first 24 candidates they'd seen. The decision to bring in Janssen was probably helped by the fact that his new agents at William Morris also handled Dick Powell. The call was last minute, and he was told to rush over in 10 minutes to meet Tom McDermott, head of the Benton and Bowles ad agency who represented the sponsor General Foods, and Richard Carr, the head writer/producer. Janssen recalled going over atypically unshaven and in old clothes. They responded favorably to Janssen and soon after he was approved to meet Dick Powell. Powell saw in the young actor a combination of "masculinity with good comedy sense."
But should the producer entrust his series to someone who'd never starred in anything? Neither of the two Warners films he'd completed in supporting roles were in release or even finished. So the DIAMOND people acquired and saw Janssen's screen test from THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND, the first of the two recent assignments. Then the director of the second film, William Wellman, personally recommended Janssen. They'd just finished shooting the WWII film LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE in November.
Janssen beat the odds and was offered the show.
When it rains it pours and Janssen found himself with offers to do leads in two other series at the very same time – THE CALIFORNIANS and PONY EXPRESS. Soliciting opinions from others, including his mother, Janssen took the DIAMOND offer, which he felt would prevent him from being type-cast as a cowboy, and allowed him to dress in the sharp modern dress clothing he was partial to.
Janssen was announced as the star of the program on January 25, 1957 and production started exactly one month later.
The show had an on-again, off-again run on 2 networks for over 3 years. Though it enjoyed no overwhelming plaudits, it was an entertaining vehicle which established Janssen as a likeable performer who could carry his weight as a leading man – at least on the small screen.
Developed for television by Dick Powell, based on the character created for radio by Blake Edwards
Producers: Richard Carr, David Heilweil, Mark Sandrich, Jr., Richard Whorf, Vincent M. Fennelly, Ed Adamson, Walter Blake
Music: Frank DeVol, Pete Rugolo, Richard Shores
Other recurring cast:
Regis Toomey as Lt. Dennis “Mac” McGough, NYPD (Seasons 1-2)
Bill Erwin as Sgt. Riker, NYPD (Season 1)
Russ Conway as Lt. Pete Kile, LAPD (Seasons 3-4)
Richard Devon as Sgt. Alden, LAPD (Season 4)
Mary Tyler Moore as Sam (Season 3)
Roxanne Brooks as Sam (Seasons 3-4)
Barbara Bain as Karen Wells (Season 3)
CBS episodes (Seasons 1-3) VIACOM as "Call Mr. D"
NBC episodes (Season 4) Genesis Entertainment
Janssen did not film any PILOT for this series. It was approved immediately for production in a 13 episode order. However Dick Powell's anthology series FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE may have filmed and aired a show with the Richard Diamond character earlier in1956. The shooting title may have been "The Doublecross." It is not known what actor played Diamond on this episode.
Click the season number to view details of each episode.
|Season 1:||7/1/57 - 9/30/57||Monday 9:30p-10p||CBS /13 episodes|
|Season 2:||1/2/58 - 9/25/58||Thursday 8p-8:30p||CBS / 21 episodes|
|Season 3:||2/15/59 - 9/20/59||Sunday10p-10:30p||CBS / 18 episodes|
|Season 4:||10/5/59 -1/25/60
6/28/60 - 9/6/60