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Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford

Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford

by Billy Ingram

During the mid-1960s, when I was growing up and fascinated with television programs, there were lots of 1950s shows in syndication, still popular. Sea Hunt, Whirlybirds, Sky King, Ripcord, Adventures of Superman, all of which I found highly entertaining.

Highway Patrol was another that seemed to turn up on TV in the afternoons on weekends, starring impossibly gruff Broderick Crawford as a California Highway Patrol officer. Crawford was most often cast in B-movies playing generic tough-guy roles but may be best known for his Oscar and Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Willie Stark in All the King's Men (1949).

This low budget ($25,000 per episode) police drama ran for four years (1955–1959) in first-run syndication, then Highway Patrol continued in syndication reruns on local TV stations around the country until around 1970 or so.

Oddly, Crawford was such a heavy drinker, with multiple DUIs, he'd had his driver's license permanently revoked. He was only able to drive the patrol car from one point to another for scenes on the TV show. Someone else would have to drive the car back if the scene needed to be reshot.

For the most part, ZIV Television, the producer of Highway Patrol, was the only production company willing to hire Broderick Crawford because of his drunkenly carousing ways. Frederick Ziv admitted in an interview, "To be honest, Broderick could be a handful!"

In a shrewd career move, Crawford's contract called for ten percent of gross receipts from Highway Patrol to go to the star. Besides the show, Highway Patrol inspired merchandise like lunch boxes, coloring books, comic books, and the like.

This black and white show was very much like Dragnet only along freeways and mountainous dirt backstreets instead of the inner city and suburbs; Crawford's rat-a-tat-tat delivery even resembles Jack Webb's no-nonsense, 'Just the facts ma'am' approach to acting.

After 156 episodes, Broderick Crawford quit Highway Patrol at the end of 1959, fed up with the demands of cranking out up to 39 episodes a year. He returned to syndicated TV in 1961 as ultra-modern security agent Johnny King in King of Diamonds, that series lasted only one season.

Highway Patrol


King of Diamonds

The melodic opening theme song for King of Diamonds gets jazzy at the end.

 

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