(Written by Robert Pirosh; original airdate 11/13/75)

The Cast: 

A gem of a cast in a burlesque background, beginning with George Burns who, even though he only has a cameo, rates top billing!

Burns spent most of his hundred years performing. He was “discovered” when, as a seven-year-old syrup maker, he was caught singing harmony with a few other child workers.  The “Pee Wee Quartet” sang in saloons, brothels, and on street corners for pennies. He danced and did comedy, usually with a female partner, but nothing really clicked – until he met Gracie. They performed onstage and screen, but it was in the radio that they achieved lasting success in a program that evolved into one of the first and best situation comedy/variety shows. They moved to television in 1950 and lasted until 1958. Burns understood his value here was playing the straight man. He made me laugh in a different way than my favorite, Jack Benny, who had created a multi-faceted persona; Burns instead let Gracie be the “personality.” And yet, his dryness, his terrible singing, his low-key delivery always made me smile. When Gracie succumbed to heart disease in 1965, Burns, who had become a successful TV producer, could have rested on his laurels. But at the age of 79, he played one of The Sunshine Boys onscreen, replacing his best friend Jack Benny who had died – and his career was reborn. He even played God – three times.

I think I first met William Demarest when he played Shirley Temple’s rogue of a stepfather in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Another prolific character actor who appeared in 140 films, including ten for director Preston Sturges, Demarest replaced an ailing William Frawley on the 60’s sitcom My Three Sons. He was a mainstay of screwball comedy, appearing in some of my favorites, like The Lady Eve and The Devil and Miss Jones

I can’t say I was a real fan of Jack Carter’s abrasive form of comedy, but he was a part of that fabric of comedians and singers who dominated the mid-century nightclubs and The Ed Sullivan Show. He was friends with Sid Caesar and Dean Martin, and he managed to squeeze in stage and TV appearances, including many a celebrity roast. Don Porter made several dozen films before settling into much TV work. He played Ann Southern’s boss and Gidget’s dad, and guest-starred on enough great series that he joins the pantheon of “I know that guy!” guys! 

Julie Adams was a Midwestern beauty queen who made a so-so impact in the movies (her most famous starring role was in The Creature from the Black Lagoon) and had an extensive career in television. I always found her elegantly pretty, in the manner of Vera Miles. 

Barbara Rhoades appeared for eight months as a showgirl on Broadway in Funny Girl and then began a long career in a lot of TV shows, usually as a comically boisterous, often sexy best friend. She also did some movie roles in the 70’s but that didn’t jumpstart her away from the small screen. She is still with us, although her last credited performance was on the soap opera One Life to Live in 2011.


In 1937, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia shut down burlesque. Ten years later, veteran producer Sam Packer (Burns) is reviving the style in a new revue, Take It Off, starring sexy Veronica Vale (Rhoades) and comic Risky Ross (Carter), and directed by Dickie Bowie (Joshua Shelley) with financing by Broadway backer Gregory Leighton (Porter). Three days before opening, Packer drops dead in Veronica’s dressing room. The cause of death is ruled a heart attack, until at the funeral a film is played where Packer insists that he will have been murdered in the last of several attempts on his life. He believes the killer is either a member of his company or his wife Jennifer (Adams), and he leaves the solving in the capable hands of . . . Simon Brimmer!

Jennifer goes to her friend Ellery Queen and begs him to solve the case since the insurance company won’t pay off Sam’s life policy to her unless she is proven innocent of the crime. Ellery and Brimmer conduct separate inquiries and, in the end, Simon comes up with a nice penultimate (and wrong) solution. It is up to Ellery to figure things out, and he must take into account the mysterious disappearance on the day of Packer’s death of Veronica’s trained parrot, Galahad. 

Ellery interviews Veronica (Barbara Rhodes) – sans veils

My Take:

The milieu of the theatre and burlesque is all well and good, but it’s done in as economical a way as possible. (There is one nice high angle shot of Ellery walking down the aisle of the empty theatre at night, but we never see a full theatre . . . or a crew or any sense that this is an extravagant production worthy of Sam Packer.) Burns’ extended cameo is a highpoint, and Barbara Rhoades has the lions’ share of scenes with Ellery. Bill Demarest, 83 at the time, seems frail but gives his all as Pop, the requisite grouchy stage door guard. Adams is lovely and Carter and Porter are okay. It just feels like some scrimping was done on atmosphere and suspect development. 

When the solution rolls around, I don’t really buy how Ellery drew upon the cause of death, which (as he himself tells the audience in his challenge) is requisite knowledge for figuring out whodunnit. There are two more clues, one physical and the other verbal, that I didn’t spot, and they’re . . . fine but kind of tenuous. Nobody is going to get convicted on this kind of “evidence,” and the murderer would have done well to keep their mouth shut. 

One thing I did like was that Simon’s rivalry with Ellery is taken quite seriously here, both by the characters and the writer. He isn’t merely coming upon information Ellery already gleaned; instead, he uses different avenues to find out what’s up, and while his solution comes out of thin air, it’s an entertaining one. 

Another thing is that some of the dialogue is funny, in a burlesque “ba dah BUM” style. Two examples: 

Brimmer is rehearsing his radio show and has hired an older actor named Marcus Brady (Haydon Rorke) to play a role . . . 

Brimmer:       That’s your cue, Mr. Brady.

Brady:             My script says, “Pause, pregnant with suspense.”

Brimmer:        This is only a half-hour show, Mr. Brady. We can’t wait out the full term of the pregnancy.

Ellery is questioning Veronica Vale about her affair with Gregory Leighton . . . 

Veronica:        Greggie likes me for my talent. He reads to me from O’Neill and Ebsen.

Ellery:             Ebsen?

Veronica:        Yeah . . . I didn’t know Buddy wrote plays.

Maybe you had to be there.


Urer vf na rcvfbqr jurer V sryg fbzr fgenva qhevat Ryyrel’f svany fhzzngvba. Ur qrgrezvarf gung Fnz jnf cbvfbarq ol vaunyvat plnavqr fcenl znvayl qhr gb uvf ryvzvangvba bs nal fbhepr bs qevax. Fgvyy, gur fryrpgvba bs Evfxl’f cebc fcenlre frrzrq enaqbz gb zr. Gur vqrn gung ur jnf gur orfg cynprq gb fzhttyr bhg n qrnq oveq (xvyyrq orpnhfr Fnz jnf fgnaqvat arkg gb gur oveqpntr jura ur tbg fcevgmrq jvgu plnavqr) orpnhfr uvf pbfghzr vapyhqrq onttl cnagf vf bxnl, ohg ubarfgyl, jung cebsrffvbany npgbe qbrfa’g gnxr bss uvf pbfghzr jura ur yrnirf gur gurnger gb tb rng? 

Gur orfg pyhr vf gur bar pbapreavat gur zlfgrevbhf svyr gung Fnz chg gbtrgure nf n qbffvre bs nyy gur zbgvirf sbe uvf qrngu. Evfxl unq fgbyra vg, fb Oevzzre cergraqrq ur unq vg gb oyhss gur fhfcrpgf vagb erirnyvat gurve frpergf. Vg jbexrq sbe rirelbar ohg Evfxl, naq Ryyrel qrqhprf guvf vf orpnhfr Evfxl xarj Oevzzre unq ab yrggre. Abg zl snibevgr ireony pyhr: vg’f fhogyrgl vf cyrnfvat ohg n irel funxl ovg bs rivqrapr.

*     *     *     *     *


(Written by Peter S. Fischer, Story by Rudolph Borchert; original airdate 12/11/75)

The Cast: 

June Lockhart (who is still with us, bless her) tends to pop up on the oddest movies, playing a Cratchitt or the dreaded (but really nice) Lucille Ballard in Meet Me in St. Louis. She stars in She-Wolf of London, which pretends to be a horror movie but is really a nifty little mystery. Mainly, Ms. Lockhart haunted my TV screen (in the best of ways) throughout my childhood, playing Timmy’s third mother (after Jan Clayton and Cloris Leachman) in Lassie, Judy, Penny, and Will’s mom in Lost in Space, and a kindly country doctor in Petticoat Junction after Bea Benaderet died. 

Ross Martin made movies – he made a terrifying villain in Experiment in Terror and a charming one in The Great Race – but his big claim to fame was as Secret Service agent and master of disguise Artemus Gordon in The Wild Wild West, one of my favorite TV shows growing up. Robert Conrad provided the sex appeal and action, but Martin’s Artie was the heart and soul of the show. 

Simon Oakland, who, like Jack Benny, found his joy playing the violin, had one of those faces you saw everywhere and, more often than not, trusted as the police chief, editor or doctor. He famously explained the killer’s pathology at the end of Psycho, got bumped off (twice!) on Perry Mason, and played the exasperated foil to Darren McGavin’s monster finder on Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Nehemiah Persoff is now 103 and had a distinguished film and TV career. He played Marlon Brando’s craven brother in On the Waterfront, Henry Fonda’s supportive brother-in-law in The Wrong Man and Barbra Streisand’s solemn father in Yentl.

Oh, and keep your eye out for a very quick moment with a very young John Larroquette as a bellhop.


Norris Wentworth (Oakland) was a distinguished aircraft manufacturer until he was investigated by a Senate subcommittee for war profiteering. IT was never proved that he manufactured faulty aircraft, but his career was ruined. Now he has another chance in the limelight: he has recovered the fabled tomb of Amon-Ra, most recently stolen by the Nazis and had brought it to New York to be displayed in the museum run by Dr. Otis Tremayne (Martin). All of society is attending the opening gala of the exhibit, including Wentworth’s embittered wife Claudia (Lockhart), his angry son Bud (Joel Steadman), and his assistant, archaeologist Lois Gordon (Nedra Deen) who had accompanied Wentworth on his expedition and had authenticated the mummy.

The festivities are interrupted when Dr. Mustapha Hadid (Persoff) crashes the party and warns Wentworth that his appropriation of Amon-Ra will set off the curse that has claimed six previous owners. Wentworth tempts fate by opening the tomb in front of the guests and then orders Harry, the museum guard (Wallace Rooney) to throw Hadid out. 

Later that evening, Wentworth returns to his home for a meeting with Simon Brimmer, who is developing a special six-part radio series where each episode deals with the mysterious death of one of Amon-Ra’s owners. Wentworth agrees to cooperate “just as long as you don’t make me out to look like a grave robber” when he receives a phone call. He tells Brimmer something urgent has come up and that he must leave immediately. He drives off into the night.

Meanwhile, Ellery has had to hire a stenographer named Nikki Porter Margie Coopersmith due to an unfortunate accident his finger had with a can opener. His dictation is interrupted when Inspector Queen receives a call from Velie, telling him that Norris Wentworth’s dead body has been discovered – in front of the tomb of Amon-Ra!

“Will Robinson! Come down from that cursed pharoah’s tomb at once!

My Take: 

Another take on the King Tut curse! Another script by Fischer! The second episode in a row with Simon Brimmer!! All of this bodes well and, sure enough, this is easily one of the best episodes in the series. From the creepy opening shot as Persoff sneaks into the museum to the final confession of a killer whose identity comes as a complete surprise but was completely and fairly clued, and whose confession raises the level of drama in this show, everything works. It is one of the better-clued puzzles, and even the extraneous bits work to point Ellery in the right direction. 

Best of all, it’s the finest use of Simon Brimmer so far. His desire to solve the mystery is prompted by something other than a sense of rivalry; in fact, he proposes to Ellery that they team up because they are the only two who believe that Wentworth was murdered. (Naturally, Ellery’s reasoning for this is clue-based, while Brimmer needs Wentworth to have been killed in order to provide the capper on his proposed series.) This is also Brimmer’s best “false” solution! In fact, it is the solution I had in my head (at least the method if not the killer), and Fischer even provides a juicy clue that is a total red herring made to lead Brimmer (and me) totally astray. 

I’ve pouted a bit over how sometimes the silliness injected into the series can distract from the good parts. Here, Ellery’s vagueness not only is not over-the-top, it serves the greater plot. And for one of the only times in the series, the finale is heart-breaking. An interesting side-note, however: William Link himself spoke about this episode in his memoirs, using it as evidence that “the Ellery Queen show was too complicated for its own good.” We have been pondering the reasons why EQ lasted only one season, and it looks like the pandering to the real fanboys in the manner of clever clueing (Link points here to the clue of the keys) and complex puzzle plots is not what your great unwashed public comes to see! They want the jokes . . . 


Gurer vf fb zhpu gb ybir urer, ortvaavat jvgu gur snyfr fbyhgvba. Oevzzre oryvrirf gung Qe. Unqvq yherq Jragjbegu gb gur zhfrhz naq whzcrq bhg bs gur zhzzl pnfr gb fpner uvz gb qrngu. (Znetvr’f reenag pbzzrag gnxrf Oevzzre gurer, fubjvat gung AB pbairefngvba vf jnfgrq urer!) Gurer’f rira n pnershyyl cynprq cnve bs pyhrf gb gnxr hf gb guvf snyfr cynpr: gur guernqf bs gur zhzzl sbhaq ba Qe. Unqvq’f pybgurf, naq gur ont bs juvgr pybgu/pybguvat Uneel sbhaq va gur erfgebbz naq fubjrq gb Ryyrel naq Ybvf. V sryy sbe gung vqrn, ubbx. yvar naq fvaxre.

OHG . . . Oevzzre’f gurbel qbrfa’g gnxr vagb nppbhag gur gjb oevyyvnag pyhrf gung Ryyrel sbhaq. Svefg, gur avgebtylpreva gnoyrgf fubhyq unir orra va Jragjbegu’f EVTUG cbpxrg fvapr urneg nggnpx ivpgvzf svaq gurve yrsg nez vapncnpvgngrq. Gur snpg gung gur cvyyf jrer va gur YRSG cbpxrg zrnaf fbzrbar ryfr chg gurz gurer. Frpbaqyl, gur xrlf: Ryyrel qrqhprf gung Jragjbegu pbhyq abg unir hfrq gur zhfrhz xrl tvira gb uvz qhr gb vgf cynprzrag ba gur evat (gung jnf snfpvangvat!); gurersber, fbzrbar zhfg unir yrg uvz va, naq gur ybtvpny crefba gb qb gung jnf . . . Uneel, gur thneq.

Jura Pynhqvn qrfpevorq ure uhfonaq’f cresvql ertneqvat gur nvecynarf, bs pbhefr V gubhtug bs Neguhe Zvyyre’f NYY ZL FBAF. V qvqa’g ernyvmr gung guvf jbhyq cebir gur pehk bs gur pnfr, naq Jnyynpr Ebbarl qbrf n ornhgvshy wbo qryvirevat Uneel’f pbasrffvba. Vg jnf avpr nyfb sbe Svfpure gb fubj hf gung Uneel’f npgvbaf, juvyr abg ynpxvat va zbgvir, ner abg fgebat rabhtu gb pbaivpg uvz bs zheqre. Svatref pebffrq ur tbg bss.

36 thoughts on “BURLESQUE QUEENS OF THE NILE: EQ Episodes 9 and 10

  1. Generally, the initial announcement is that in a few minutes, someone will be dead/murdered. Episode 9 is the first episode where the victim is already dead before the episode begins. The only other episode where the victim is already dead is episode 16 The Adventure of the Judas Tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The comedy in the burlesque seems terribly unfunny. I am reminded of the Poirot TV series which when showing scenes from the theatre always seemed to suggest 1930s shows were dreadfully boring by modern standards.

    The clueing in Episode 10 is really good, but I would have preferred the car window to be more integral to the plot. Maybe have the murder smash it to retrieve the keys and place them on the body, to avoid drawing questions why the victim was not carrying them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As to the “too clever” theory, I’ m really not convinced . As much as I love the Ellery Queen series, and as much as it was seminal in my love of the genre (and I bask in its late Golden Age atmosphere) I find myself comparing it to Monk which— though it admittedly had its substantial share of duds— very often in its even shorter per-episode running time offered more varied puzzle plotting, cleverer clues, and richer character sub plotting that was often even integrally woven into the plot proper. Though the summation of a Monk solution was often merely an abductIve chain of already acquired points, the number of earlier deductive conclusions reached in an episode was generally much higher. It may not have been as ostentatiously clever as EQ, but I’d say it was truly more so. Maybe it’s because it didn’t offer its cleverness as an overt challenge to the viewer that it was able to last so much longer.


    • My assumption here is that you are arguing that Monk was just as clever but managed to last eight seasons. The thing is, though, that I never watched Monk, but I knew about it as the show that featured Tony Shalhoub as an indelible TV character. I think a lot of people watched this show for Shalhoub and the comedy, just as they watched Columbo for Peter Falk’s portrayal and for all those guest stars; most of these fans paid little to no attention to the puzzle. I love Hutton and his chemistry with David Wayne, but his EQ wasn’t the same sort of draw. (Neither, I’m guessing was Vincent Baggetta as Eddie Capra . . . I’m going to find out later about that one.)

      Listen, you may be righter than William Link, who offered this opinion in his own memoirs. It may be that the period setting sunk the series or the shows on other networks were too stiff competion (The Streets of San Francisco was a big hit) or NBC constantly moving EQ around different time slots lost some viewers. All of this probably contributed to the end of the show. But the “too clever” notion would explain why Levinson and Link did what they could to promote the amusement factor of the show. Keep it light, keep it gay! This is exactly what Murder, She Wrote became.


      • I think you’re right about the reason for Monk’s success, but it still managed to be (at its best) quite substantially more clever than Ellery Queen, and almost infinitely more so than Murder, She Wrote. It’s a show that somehow seems to pack much more of everything (puzzle plotting, humor, sometimes pathos) into every episode, and makes Ellery Queen look a bit like an inefficient use of running time, much as EQ does to MSW. You really should check out some of its better episodes— some of the best and most interesting puzzle plotting in television history, as well as a lot of laughs.

        As for these two episodes, I agree that Pharaoh’s Tomb has more going for it, but I find the key ring bit to be a bit shaky and unconvincing for its function as a pivotal clue


      • Monk really invested in the puzzles though, as well as the character. You could just as much say people watched the Sherlock Holmes stories for the character and didn’t really care about the puzzles. No doubt some people dis and do. But other people are drawn to the puzzles. And some like ’em both!


        • Yes, I suspect that Ellery Queen could’ve succeeded being just as clever as it was (or even more so) if it had just offered other appeal as well. As much as I enjoy Hutton and Wayne, I just don’t think they were enough.


          • Well, I haven’t watched Monk in like a decade, but off the top of my head the one at the Mexican motel and the one where Monk solves a murder during a freeway traffic jam come to mind. I will have to take a look at the episode summaries to jog my memory. The one during the jury room deliberations was good too. You know, in other eps. they also ripped off The Six Napoleons (though who hasn’t) and The Poisoned Chocolates Case (short story). Those were good episodes but they only get partial credit!


          • It’s a difficult thing. As a plot-focused enthusiast, none of my favorite episodes are those almost entirely centered on characterization and humor. But those aspects are still significant factors in my interest and affection for the series. Some of the titles listed below have very strong or interesting “motivational pretexts” (e.g. The Red Headed League”) but somewhat flimsy clueing, or vice versa. Ans some of the most interesting plots are also among the least logistically convincing. And finally, many of them could easily be replaced on my list by several others in the series (there are very few clear cut winners in my book— and I doubt any two people’s list of top favorite Monk episodes would look all that similar, unlike lists of Christie novels). But here are 15 titles I think of with particular affection, and I suspect several of them would be found on many people’s favorites lists.

            (One episode I would NOT recommend is one of those referenced by Curt— Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico. Its solution is pretty much the first twist of one of my very favorite Carr novels, but that twist is quite satisfyingly balanced by Carr with a very different type of plot in the second half, and not here. But his other referenced episodes I concur with).

            I’ve have not included either of the two-part episodes on my list, though they are both among my favorites:

            Mr. Monk and the Sleeping suspect
            Mr. Monk and the Naked Man
            Mr. Monk and Little Monk
            Mr. Monk Gets Fired
            Mr. Monk and the The Kid
            Mr. Monk Meets His Dad
            Mr. Monk Bumps His Head
            Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine
            Mr. Monk and the Three pies
            Mr. Monk and the Goes to the Ballgame
            Mr. Monk and the Captains Marriage
            Mr. Monk’s 100th Case
            Mr. Monk and the Dog
            Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man
            Mr. Monk’s Favorite TV Show

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I watched the first six episodes and I felt like by far the best ones, as entertainment value, were the first Wrightsville one and the radio serial one. (Is that three and six?) As I recollect five of the six pivoted on dying clues? That’s way too much. Actually my next favorite one was the first episode, and not because of the mystery but for all the vicious backbiting among the suspects lol.

    My recollection of this series is that the best episodes came later on, but it still has huge nostalgic value for me, I first watched it when I was nine years old.


    • Those two are my favorites as well (among the first six) but for plotting reasons: I find the method-motive connection in Chinese Dog excellent (and perhaps unique), and the alibi opportunity and explanation of first “attempt” of Aggie’s Farewell I find excellent (though the dying clue is particularly stoooopid!).


      • Totally agree. When I say entertainment value a big part of that is the puzzles. But also the radio stuff in 6 was nicely done and the supporting cast was good and I actually liked the Wrightsville country stuff in 3. 2 a had a decent puzzle but just seemed inert dramatically. You didn’t really need Ida Lupino (who gets bumped off in about six minutes) and Don Ameche, etc. for those parts.

        So far the only puzzle I remembered was 3, which tells me it was more memorable. But the parts of 6 as you mention were clever too, though as you say the dying message was risible. Even worse was that Ellery extracted a confession based on that! That’s much worse than Perry Mason’s on the stand confessions.


  5. They’re both very different but highly entertaining episodes. Glad to hear Persoff us still with us – I saw him and Ben Vereen in I’M NOT RAPPAPORT in San Francisco about 30 years ago. I didn’t know Link had published his memoirs – I only have the two books he wrote in collaboration with Levinson (STAY TUNED and OFF CAMERA). Did he write one on his own? Details please I’d love to get it!


    • Sorry, Sergio, I have NO details . . . I read it in passing, and the writer said, “Link, in his memoir . . . ” This could be a part of the books he wrote with Levinson . . . although your photographic memory would have recorded a comment so meaningful.


      • Darn! Thanks for checking Brad. Will hunt around. May be in his interview with the Archive of American Television. But Fischer and Levinson all said the same thing in retrospect too. I think it is fair to say that the approach was probably a bit nieche for the masses in 1975 …


  6. Good Lord, Nehemiah Persoff is still alive?

    You and my sister. She liked Lost in space too. To this day I have never seen an episode. Or one of Lassie, guess you had to be there, lol. I have seen Flipper though. Whatever happened to the father on that show, woof!

    I just checked and Persoff hasn’t acted in two decades, I wonder how he’s doing. Someone should interview him about those old Alfred Hitchcock Presents eps., etc.


  7. I used to think that Coopersmith is always spelt with a C , but after seeing episode 10, I came to learn that it can also be spelt with a K !


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