Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford, was a 156-episode action crime drama series produced for syndication from 1955 to 1959. It was “one of the most popular syndicated series in television history”
16 August 2023 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
William Broderick Crawford (December 9, 1911 – April 26, 1986) was an American actor. He is best known for his portrayal of Willie Stark in the film All the King’s Men (1949), which earned him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Often cast in tough-guy roles, he later achieved recognition for his starring role as Dan Mathews in the crime television series Highway Patrol (1955–1959).
All the King’s Men and stardom
In 1949, Crawford reached the pinnacle of his acting career when he was cast as Willie Stark, a character inspired by and closely patterned after the life of Louisiana politician Huey Long, in All the King’s Men, a film based on the popular novel by Robert Penn Warren. The film was a huge hit, and Crawford’s performance as the bullying, blustering, yet insecure Governor Stark won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Highway Patrol: Overview
Highway Patrol stars Broderick Crawford as Dan Mathews, the gruff and dedicated head of a police force in an unidentified Western state. Mathews had “no particular title — just the boss,” Crawford said.
The program was “based on authentic stories from the files of highway patrol headquarters throughout the country.” Episodes dealt with pursuing and arresting criminals such as smugglers, hijackers, and robbers. Two technical advisors (one a patrolman on active service and one retired) read scripts before scenes were shot and were present during filming “to speak up whenever a technical violation, however slight, occurred.”
A signature shot of the series is fedora-wearing Matthews barking rapid-fire dialogues into a radio microphone as he leans against the door of his black and white patrol car. Crawford’s acting style in the series was one of studied rudeness.
Ziv Television Programs produced the show. Crawford signed in April 1955.
Highway Patrol premiered October 3, 1955, with “Prison Break”, an episode filmed April 11–13, 1955. Initial ratings were strong, the show running second to I Love Lucy.
Ziv Television Programs produced 156 episodes spanning four TV seasons, 1955–59. During the four years of its run, Highway Patrol would feature many actors who would later become successful stars in their own right, among them Stuart Whitman, Clint Eastwood, Robert Conrad, Larry Hagman, Barbara Eden, Paul Burke, Leonard Nimoy, and Ruta Lee.
Highway Patrol is famous for its location shooting around the San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley, then mostly rural. Other notable Los Angeles area locations include Griffith Park, as well as Bronson Canyon just above Hollywood. The show also filmed at railroad stations in Glendale, California, identified by a large sign; Alhambra, California; Santa Susana, California; and Chatsworth, California.
Officer uniforms are the CHP style of the day. In seasons one to three, the shoulder patch is essentially the CHP patch with “California” and “Eureka” (state motto) removed; the California bear and other California state seal elements are retained. In season four the show adopted a uniform patch that matches its patrol car emblem. Highway Patrol Chief Dan Matthews usually wears a suit and fedora.
Art Gilmore’s narration gives Highway Patrol a documentary feel, but several details are never mentioned. While described as a state police agency, the actual state is never identified. It is said to be a western state which borders Mexico. A key element of the show is two-way radio communication among patrol cars and headquarters, with heavy use of police code “10-4” (meaning “acknowledged”).
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wrote five episodes, sometimes using the pseudonym “Robert Wesley”. Future producer Quinn Martin was sound supervisor in the show’s early years; style elements of “Highway Patrol” are evident in his later productions (The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Barnaby Jones, The Invaders, The FBI and The Streets of San Francisco).
When asked why the popular show ended, Crawford said, “We ran out of crimes”. Crawford reportedly had had his fill of the show’s hectic TV schedule (two shows per week), which had caused him to drink more heavily than ever, and he had decided to leave Highway Patrol to make films in Europe.
Ziv held up Crawford’s 10% share of the show’s gross (some $2 million) until Crawford agreed to sign for a new Ziv pilot and TV show, King of Diamonds. After returning from Europe, Crawford signed his new contract with Ziv and later starred in King of Diamonds playing diamond insurance investigator John King. King of Diamonds lasted only one season before being canceled in 1962. (Wikipedia)