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Hong Kong (1960-61)

Rod Taylor played Glenn Evans, a "two-fisted American correspondent" based in Hong Kong and assigned to cover the Orient.

Evans was equally adept at crime-solving, fisticuffs and romance. The suave newspaperman thwarted blackmailers, smugglers, kidnappers and murderers. But he also managed to spend plenty of time in a white dinner jacket, entertaining lovely ladies at the Golden Dragon nightclub.

In fact, if you listen to Taylor himself, "The most wonderful thing about making the 'Hong Kong' series," he said in a 1961 interview, "was that they used a different leading lady every week."

The show created a strong sense of place and adventure as Evans zipped about in his white convertible, with Hong Kong as a backdrop. Also helping set the mood was the show's extraordinary musical score, by Lionel Newman.

The rest of the supporting cast included Lloyd Bochner as the very proper Chief Inspector Neil Campbell and Jack Kruschen as Tully, the owner of Tully's Bar.

Reports say that Taylor turned down more than a dozen series before signing the deal for "Hong Kong," which made him the most highly paid actor in an hour-long series: $3,750 per episode, plus a 15 percent ownership stake. The concept and the character intrigued him, as he told an interviewer while working on the show:

I felt the character of Glenn Evans could very well be Rod Taylor. I'm not creating a separate screen personality for this. If I got up there on the screen and "pretended" for 39 weeks, somebody would see through it or else get awfully sick of it. Either the public buys me, or we're out of luck.

Now, don't confuse "screen personality" with "character." This character of Glenn Evans, for instance, the roving American correspondent, is a guy who can be charming in a Cary Grant situation and be just as suave -- then take off his coat and slug it out, as Cary Grant wouldn't. He can be a gentleman and still be tough.

-- TV Radio Mirror, January 1961

ABC and 20th-Century Fox TV thought "Hong Kong" might be a blockbuster, but it couldn't compete against "Wagon Train" on NBC. Also, the sophisticated, adult adventure show had an inappropriate time slot -- starting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays -- and was a bit strong for the kiddies. It pulled in Nielsen ratings of 10.6 to 12.7 ("which means," Taylor noted sarcastically, "that only 13,500,000 are watching us"), while "Wagon Train" racked up ratings of about 34.5 each week. After its cancellation, Rod told an interviewer:

We tried NOT to make this just another "Hawaiian Eye," but to really do a job with a bit of character and reality to it. And what happens? The bleeding rating services say nobody watches us. Nobody?! What about the thousands and thousands of letters that pour in here because we're going off the air. [After cancellation, the studio counted 10,000 letters of protest.]

-- TV Channels, July 23, 1961

Nevertheless, it was a growing experience for the young lead actor. In addition to getting his name and face more well known, Taylor said, "I learned so much professionally. Learned to work in different areas, to relax where I'd been tense. And I learned to put more of myself in the part, to channel more of Rod Taylor and less of Glenn Evans into the show."

The studio did try to start "Hong Kong" up again under a new title. During February 1962, Rod shot the pilot film for "Dateline: San Francisco," relocating Glenn Evans to the city by the bay. However, in a 1965 fan newsletter, Rod reported that the pilot was finished too late to get a good network time, so it was shelved by the studio.

More about "Dateline: San Francisco" >>

HONG KONG EPISODE GUIDE

Here's a episode guide for the 26, black-and-white, one-hour episodes, plus the pilot: (JS = summary by John Sonnenthal; DT = summary by Diane Tomasik)

0.1 -- Unaired 30-minute pilot -- "Blind Justice"

The 30-minute unaired pilot is the short version of the "Blind Bargain" episode. Instead of Lloyd Bochner as Inspector Neil Campbell, Alex Davion played Inspector Geoffrey Scott.

1.1 -- Sept. 28, 1960 -- "Clear for Action"

The first episode, of course, sets the scene and introduces the regulars. Rod Taylor gets to be debonair and daring. This one also features a corny plot device featuring a naive Navy man, a runaway pig and a lovely lady named Happy (France Nuyen). Directed by Ida Lupino.

Taylor experienced some real-life drama when trying to shoot a scene at the border between Hong Kong and communist China: "We set up the camera as if we were going to shoot the Hong Kong side," he told a magazine in 1961. "And then I walked across a little narrow railroad bridge, gave a signal behind my back, and the camera swung around to shoot the border. ... When I walked up to the border, this [Red China police] guy has his machine gun trained on me."

1.2 -- Oct. 5, 1960 -- "Murder Royal"

Glenn gets involved in a plot to assassinate the visiting king of an Asian country. In the end they kill the king but get his son to safety.

1.3 -- Oct. 12, 1960 -- "Pearl Flower"

Glenn helps an American visitor (guest star Inger Stevens) locate a little girl she's been sending care packages to. But the charity turns out to be a front for a spy operation.

1.4 -- Oct . 19, 1960 -- "Freebooter"
(aka "Flight to Nowhere")

Glenn helps a buddy and his wife (Beverly Garland) out of a tough spot. The old buddy is a former Air Force pilot and now a mercenary helping rebel forces in a nearby nation. The government, of course, doesn't like it. Glenn uses his wits and muscle to rescue the couple from the villains' ship. -- DT

1.5 -- Oct. 26, 1960 -- "The Jade Empress"

In a Maltese Falcon-esque storyline, Glenn winds up with a valuable jade figurine following the murder of a Canadian colleague in whose care the treasure had been placed. Glenn must win the trust of the figurine's lovely owner (Patricia Crowley) and outwit an array of bad guys. -- DT

1.6 -- Nov. 2, 1960 -- "The Jumping Dragon"

This is a dark episode filled with murder, smuggling, and people being thrown out of airplanes. Glenn woos a Swedish stewardess, but danger gets in the way.

1.7 -- Nov. 9, 1960 -- "Blind Bargain"

Joanna Moore guest stars as an American correspondent, Carol Pryor, with whom Glenn has had a prior relationship. He discovers she's paying the Chinese to cross the border to look for a story. Glenn and Carol are taken hostage, but Glenn fights off their kidnappers and they slip off the boat as the police ride to the rescue. -- JS

1.8 -- Nov. 16, 1960 -- "Colonel Cat"

A hated Japanese commander, known as Colonel Cat, escapes imprisonment and returns to Hong Kong to retrieve a hidden fortune. Blackmail, karate and murder ensue. Glenn steps in to solve the case, using the help of friend and bar owner Tully, who knows all the criminal types around town. Glenn ultimately fights and kills the colonel, saves Tully from danger and returns the fortune to its rightful owner. -- JS

1.9 -- Nov. 23, 1960 -- "The Turncoat"

A man (Christopher Dark) left behind as a prisoner at the end of the Korean War is taken to Red China where he becomes a "turncoat," supposedly working for the communists. As he escapes from Red China, a Chinese reporter -- a woman (Lisa Lu - photo) who used to be the man's secretary, interpreter and lover -- tries to reach Glenn to get exile for both of them. She winds up kidnapped by smugglers, and Glenn steps in to save her. The turncoat gets his exile, but the girl stays behind with Glenn. Directed by Ida Lupino. -- JS

1.10 -- Nov. 30, 1960 -- "To Catch a Star"

A flight carrying a movie crew overcomes a perilous landing, but Glenn is skeptical that it wasn't a publicity stunt. He charms his way into a date with the leading lady (Luciana Paluzzi, who would also be Rod's co-star in "Chuka" and "Powderkeg.") Then she's kidnapped. Glenn suspects another publicity stunt. It starts out that way, but turns serious -- and deadly. A swarm of shoe-shine boys help Glenn save the day. Also guest-stars Edward Andrews.

1.11 -- Dec. 7, 1960 -- "Nine Lives"

This top-notch episode exudes atmosphere, starting with Glenn's shipboard encounter with a slick gambler and his "niece" (Patricia Barry) as well as a survivor of a prison camp who's out to expose a traitor in Hong Kong. The traitor has established himself as a respectable publisher, and is a friend of Glenn's, setting up tests of loyalty and character for both men. Directed by Ida Lupino.

1.12 -- Dec. 14, 1960 -- "The Dragon Cup"

Glenn rekindles a love affair with an American reporter, Kate Martin (Bethel Leslie), who gets in trouble while in Hong Kong on assignment. Turns out a man in one of the photos she took was a judge who fled the U.S. with thousands of dollars from a corruption scheme. But he changed his life and was using the money to help refugees. Kate makes the story front-page news, causing trouble for all. -- JS

1.13 -- Dec. 21, 1960 -- "When Strangers Meet" 

A diplomat, Andrew Manton (Kenneth MacKenna), arrives in Hong Kong where he meets a private detective. Manton's son was killed in an accident and Evans believes that he's having the incident investigated. In addition to pursuing the story, Glenn also flirts persistently with Manton's secretary, Peggy Jackson (Pippa Scott).

1.14 -- Jan. 4, 1961 -- "Suitable for Framing"

Glenn is courting a lovely singer (guest star Julie London), but romance is interrupted as he gets framed for murder in retaliation for a damaging article about a smuggling scheme. After being slipped a mickey, Glenn wakes up to find a dead man in his apartment. He goes into hiding, and with the help of the lovely singer, sets out to clear himself.

1.15 -- Jan. 11, 1961 -- "Lesson in Fear"

Guests stars included David Hedison and Suzanne Pleshette. Evans goes on holiday to Honolulu. Of course it's not a real holiday -- he's after a story concerning jewel smugglers. But he gets more than he hoped for when a sailor turns up. He romances a femme fatale again in this one.

1.16 -- Jan. 18, 1961 -- "The Survivor"

Glenn survives a helicopter crash, but the couple he is traveling with perish. Glenn is the godfather of their young son, and he must vie with the child's grandfather in Red China. The grandfather hatches a kidnapping plot involving a fake American aunt. The first fake aunt almost involves Glenn in a romantic dinner, but she ends up being unmasked and runs away. A second fake Aunt comes closer to succeeding, but Glenn and Chief Campbell figure it out in time to rescue the boy. Guest star is Coleen Gray. -- JS

1.17 -- Jan. 25, 1961 -- "Night Cry"

Where's Rod? The story line involves a bad cop who kills a guy and frames an old friend of the police chief. Meanwhile, Glenn is off in Tokyo, appearing briefly at the beginning and end of the show.

1.18 -- Feb. 1, 1961 -- "Double Jeopardy"
(aka "Bad Penny")

The show opens with a beautiful woman (guest star Felicia Farr) poisoning her partner in crime. After stashing away a large sum of money, she shows up at Glenn's door and invites herself in for the night. Glenn, of course, is accommodating. While he's working the next day, she is killed in his apartment. Soon afterward, Glenn encounters the woman's twin sister (also Felicia Farr). A romance begins, and Glenn solves the mystery behind the murders. Or does he? The money is still missing -- and which twin really committed the crime?

1.19 -- Feb. 8, 1961 -- "Lady Godiva"

Dina Merrill guest stars as Mrs. Helen Rowan Randolph. From the first mention of her arrival in Hong Kong (the news is received by a shirtless and hung-over Glenn Evans) we know she and Glenn have history. They were correspondents together in Korea, about 10 years previously. Then she went back home and married the publishing magnate for whom they worked. He subsequently died and left her the empire.

Glenn calls her "the 20th century's answer to Lady Godiva," referring to her crusading nature. What he won't call her is boss. "I just file a weekly story for her late husband's magazine," Glenn insists.

Helen is visiting Hong Kong to investigate the murder of one of her journalists, Howard Conrad. Gunfire, poisoning, double-crossing, snappy repartee, regrets and romance combine for an entertaining episode.

1.20 -- Feb. 15, 1961 -- "The Hunted"

A U.S. doctor is accused of assassinating a foreign minister in an unspecified (presumably communist) country. Evans gets involved trying to prove his innocence.

1.21 -- Feb. 22, 1961 -- "With Deadly Sorrow"

Chief Campbell gets the girl (guest star Anne Francis) and the focus of the mystery. Glenn makes brief appearances at the beginning, middle and end -- when he gets a girl of his own, a Swedish starlet. -- DT

1.22 -- March 1, 1961 -- "Murder by Proxy"

Glenn is almost killed by a cab right after leaving the Golden Dragon, where he had met a variety of friends and foes, including an old (now-married) girlfriend (Nancy Gates). When the woman's husband is shot and killed while talking to Glenn, everyone assumes Glenn was the real target. But his detective work reveals otherwise -- and why. -- JS

1.23 -- March 8, 1961 -- "The Woman in Gray"

A Japanese woman, wrongly imprisoned for killing her husband, sees a picture in the newspaper of a woman in gray who had been at the murder scene. Glenn goes after the story and the woman in gray (Rhonda Fleming). Romance begins, but it turns out that the woman's alibi was false. Glenn uncovers a smuggling and blackmailing scheme, the woman in gray ultimately confesses, and the imprisoned widow is set free. -- JS

1.24 -- March 15, 1961 -- "Love, Honor and Perish"

A friend of Glenn Evans' (Joan Caulfield) arrives from San Francisco to meet her husband, who fled to the Orient four years previously to seek his fortune. But it turns out that the husband has another identity and is living in Macau, smuggling gold to Red China. Glenn and the girl set out on the perilous task of tracking him down. -- JS

1.25 -- March 22, 1961 -- "The Innocent Exile"

Glenn stages a few coincidences to meet a beautiful woman (Susan Kohner), who turns out to be the step-daughter of the overthrown dictator of a republic called Costa Verde. Political intrigue and kidnapping interrupt a couple of times, but romance prevails. -- JS

1.26 -- March 29, 1961 -- "The Runaway"

The series climaxes with an episode full of romance, espionage and Cold War-era deception. A lovely fugitive (Gia Scala) asks Glenn to dance, then disappears. Then reappears. Her name, her story keeps changing. Is she a victim or a murderer? -- DT

 

 

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LINKS

IMDb // Wikipedia

Dateline: San Francisco: Glenn Evans' next assignment.

Classic TV Archive: Episode guide and other information on "Hong Kong."

Golden Globe award, 1961

Review from Mystery*File blog

TVparty.com features "Hong Kong" among its Action Shows of the Sixties section.

The Gold Jeeps of 1961 and the TV series Hong Kong

Booklet in Spanish (PDF)

TV Radio Times article, 1961 (PDF)

"He Man From Down Under" article, 1961 (PDF)

The Music:
Hong Kong Title Theme
and Evans Theme 
(.wma files)

Connections:
"Hong Kong" was loosely based on "Soldier of Fortune," a 1955 movie from 20th Century Fox.

 

TV Guide article

Rod and Julie London
Item about this episode
on JulieLondon.org

 

VIEWER'S GUIDE

UCLA's Film and Television Archive: If you're in the neighborhood, UCLA has all of the episodes of "Hong Kong" available for viewing.

The Golden Age of Television

Episodes on YouTube:

Pilot

1.1 Clear for Action

1.2 Murder Royal

1.3 Pearl Flower

1.4 Freebooter

1.5 Jade Empress

1.6 Jumping Dragon

1.7 Blind Bargain

1.8 Colonel Cat

1.9 The Turncoat

1.10 To Catch a Star

1.11 Nine Lives

1.12 Dragon Cup

1.13 When Strangers Meet

1.14 Suitable for Framing

1.15 Lesson in Fear

1.16 The Survivor

1.17 Night Cry

1.18 Double Jeopardy

1.19 Lady Godiva

1.20 The Hunted

1.21 With Deadly Sorrow

1.22 Murder by Proxy

1.23 The Woman in Gray

1.24 Love Honor & Perish

1.25 The Innocent Exile

1.26 The Runaway

 

Rod with France Nuyen

Rod with Ida Lupino

Rod with Luciana Paluzzi

Rod with Rhonda Fleming

Rod with Coleen Gray

         
   

www.rodtaylorsite.com