MAN CALLED IRONSIDE. A {PILOT MOVIE} (TV)

Summary

The pilot of this series about Robert Ironside, a former police chief paralyzed from the waist down by a would-be assassin's bullet. Robert Ironside, Chief of Detectives for the San Francisco Police Department, is shot by an unseen sniper while on vacation on a farm owned by his friend and superior, Police Commissioner Randall. His unconscious body is discovered the next morning and he is rushed away in an ambulance. The people of San Francisco, both police and civilian, are saddened by the attack on Ironside, including Detective Sergeant Ed Brown and policewoman Eve Whitfield; Ironside served as a mentor to both of them. Ironside miraculously pulls through, awakening in a hospital in Sonoma two days after the attack, tended to by doctors and nuns. Brown comes to visit him and reports that there has been no significant progress in finding the identity of the assailant who shot him. Ironside calls Commissioner Randall and insists on taking over the case himself as soon as he gets out of the hospital. However, the doctor has bad news: due to nerve damage sustained in the shooting, Ironside is paralyzed from the waist down and will never again be able to walk. Despite this, Ironside seems determined to get out and take the case. As Brown and Whitfield drive Ironside back to San Francisco, he chastises them for thinking of him as a "cripple," insisting that he will not be impeded by his disability. He meets with Commissioner Randall and, through a series of legal loopholes, gets him to grant him a position as a special consultant in the police department, starting with him working on finding the assailant. He is given an unused room as an office and asks for Brown and Whitfield to be his staff. In addition, he commandeers an old police van and has it modified so that he can enter and exit it. He and his staff search through various suspects, but it is difficult; there are many people Ironside has put in prison over his long career in the police department who have the desire to kill him. One suspect is Mark Sanger, a former juvenile delinquent recently released from his sentence that Ironside stood up for during his sentencing. Ironside decides that Sanger did not try to shoot him and tests that theory by handing him his pistol and daring him to shoot. Sanger believes this is a bluff until he shoots the window, confirming the gun is loaded. Ironside merely asks that he pay for the damage to his window and that he return the next day. The next day, Sanger returns only to say that he can't pay at the moment. Ironside offers him a job as his driver and caretaker, with the stipulation that he would also have to go back to school. After some thought, Sanger begrudgingly agrees. Ironside assembles his staff to continue his investigation, discounting one of his suspects working at a gas station. They return to the scene of the crime, where Ironside figures out a key piece of evidence overlooked due to improper evidence labeling on Brown's part. Specifically, Ironside notes the presence of acorns near the sycamore tree where the shooter stood, despite the fact that there are no oak trees in the vicinity. With the aid of a local boy scout troop, Ironside discovers the nest of a nearby pack rat, and inside Ironside discovers six bullet shells. He explains that pack rats always replace objects that they steal with other objects, and since six shots were fired, Ironside deduces that the pack rat stole the discarded shells and replaced them with the acorns. Inspecting the shells, he finds the initial "W.D." on them, signifying that they originated from the War Department sometime before 1945. He reasons that they must have been sold to a college or military school, and thus the suspect likely attended one. That leaves only one suspect who is not either dead or imprisoned: Anthony Emmons, an intelligent young man with severe antisocial problems and a talent for rifle marksmanship. He was expelled from military school at the age of 17 for nearly killing another student and was sentenced to a juvenile institution, where was eventually released, apparently cured of his mental instability. He claims that he got rid of his rifle, but the bullet extracted from Ironside matches the ones used by Emmons. They visit the institution that Emmons was sentenced to and hear reports that he was quiet, intelligent, and obedient. Their only lead is a girl he became friendly with during his time there named Ellen Wells. Emmons's rich parents provide little help; he resented them and spoke to them little. They inform Ironside and his team about an art teacher at his military school named Honor Thompson whom he became close with. They inquire about Thompson further, discovering that she taught metal shop and made abstract metal art. The headmaster of the school denies that there was any romantic relationship between Emmons and Thompson. Ironside has no success tracking down Wells, and Brown becomes frustrated that Ironside is apparently unwilling to acknowledge his disability and storms out. Whitfield finds out the location of Thompson's art studio in Sausalito. The next day, Ironside visits her and questions her about Emmons, but she claims not to have seen him for a long time. However, Ironside goads her into offering further assistance by claiming that Emmons will die if he continues to resist the police. She brings Ironside and his team to an art house in order to search for Emmons, but they find nothing. Back at the police station, Ironside encounters Wells, who says she knows where Emmons is living but is concerned about him. Ironside gives her the same ultimatum that he gave to Thompson, and she says that she is meeting Emmons in half an hour and advises Ironside to come alone. Ironside agrees and goes into the lobby of a clinic where they are meeting, but Emmons becomes scared and runs off as Ironside struggles and stumbles down an escalator. That night, Ironside feels limited by his disability for the first time, believing he could have captured Emmons if he still had the use of his legs and that he's made the situation worse by letting him get away. He tells Sanger he is contemplating giving up on the whole thing, but Sanger responds that if Ironside quits, he will leave school, as Ironside's determination is what kept him going. Ironside quickly reverses his decision and decides to keep at it. Thompson contacts Ironside and they work out a plan together to help capture Emmons; she is to meet with him that night and signal Ironside when Emmons arrives so he can attempt to capture him again. That night, Ironside moves in at the proper time, only to find that Emmons has apparently committed suicide. Thompson, in tears, tries to explain what happened, but Ironside notices some inconsistencies and suspect pieces of evidence that leads him to the truth: Thompson shot Emmons and made it appear to be a suicide. As she attacks Ironside with a blowtorch, she explains that Emmons actually had reformed and decided to abandon his desire to kill Ironside, but that she carried it out for him. Ironside deduces that she was motivated not only by Emmons's change of personality, but by the fact that he had dumped her in favor of Wells, a much younger woman. During their confrontation Thompson sets her studio on fire and Ironside's team, watching from afar, rushes in to save them. As they pull Ironside out they explain they came of their own volition despite his instructions to the contrary. Ironside, however, notes with a heavy heart that if he had figured out the truth about the case earlier, he might have saved Emmons's life. Commercials deleted.

Details

  • NETWORK: NBC
  • DATE: March 28, 1967 Tuesday 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:36:38
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T78:0381
  • GENRE: Drama, police
  • SUBJECT HEADING: African-American Collection - Drama
  • SERIES RUN: NBC - TV series, 1967-1975
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Collier Young … Producer, Based on a story by
    • James Goldstone … Director
    • Don M. Mankiewicz … Writer
    • Quincy Jones … Music by
    • Raymond Burr … Cast, Robert Ironside
    • Geraldine Brooks … Cast, Honor Thompson
    • Wally Cox … Cast, Scoutmaster
    • Kim Darby … Cast, Ellen Wells
    • David Sheiner … Cast, Doctor
    • Lilia Skala … Cast, Sister Agatha
    • Gene Lyons … Cast, Police Commissioner Randall
    • Don Galloway … Cast, Det. Sgt. Ed Brown
    • Barbara Anderson … Cast, Eve Whitfield
    • Donald Mitchell … Cast, Mark Sanger
    • Joel Fabiani … Cast, Dr. Schley
    • Ayllene Gibbons … Cast, Baby Peggy Marvel
    • Terrence O'Flaherty … Cast, Announcer
    • Eddie Firestone … Cast, Wheels Montana
    • Antonio Fargas … Cast, T.D. Harris
    • Bruce Garrick … Cast, Billy Matling
    • Stuart Margolin … Cast, News Show Staff
    • Frances Stevenson … Cast, Policewoman
    • Tiny Tim … Cast, Art House Performer
    • Grace Lee Whitney … Cast, Stripper