Some of TV's most memorable characters - Bret Maverick (Maverick
), Dr. Richard Kimble (The Fugitive
), Stu Bailey (77 Sunset Strip
) and Jim Rockford (The Rockford Files
) - all sprang from the mind and pen of Roy Huggins. This immensely talented screenwriter and producer left a legacy of work that is still being enjoyed by fans to this day.
Huggins, born July 18, 1914 in Litelle, Washington, graduated from the University of California "summa cum laude". After a civil service stint during World War II, he began writing, training himself by copying Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely
in longhand. In 1946, he wrote his first novel, The Double Take
. It was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post
and introduced the character of private eye Stu Bailey. This detective, in the vein of Philip Marlowe, would appear in three more Huggins short stories before becoming the principal character of a TV series. He wrote two more novels before he realized he could make a better living as a screenwriter. The Double Take
was turned into a film, and Huggins wrote screenplays including The Fuller Brush Man
, The Good Humor Man
, and Hangman's Knot
In 1955, he moved on to television, working first for Warner Bros., and then for Universal. He created Maverick
(1957), starring James Garner
as Bret Maverick, a silver-tongued gambler in the Old West who could talk a big game - but once trouble started, he preferred using his mind to his gun. Huggins next brought his literary private eye, Stu Bailey, to TV in 77 Sunset Strip
, starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
as Bailey. In 1963, Huggins created The Fugitive
, which would later be regarded as one of the finest anthology-drama series of all time. Starring David Janssen
, the series focused on Dr. Richard Kimble, falsely convicted of the murder of his wife but freed en route to death row by a train wreck. Kimble crisscrossed the country, evading re-capture as he searched for the one-armed man he saw fleeing the scene the night his wife was killed. The show was a huge success over its four season run and for many years, its finale was the highest rated program in TV history. More recently it inspired an Academy-award winning film in 1993 which starred Harrison Ford
and Tommy Lee Jones
, as well as a second series in 2000.
Huggins also created Run for Your Life
with Ben Gazarra
, a moderately successful series inspired by The Fugitive; The Outsider
, a private eye drama starring Darren McGavin
; and another great success, The Rockford Files
. James Garner (Rockford) turned the private eye genre on its ear just as Maverick
had done earlier for Westerns. Jim Rockford didn't have a leggy secretary, often was on the receiving end of beatings and hardly ever carried a gun (which he kept in the cookie jar). His charm, combined with sharp writing and a great supporting cast, carried the series, which is still entertaining people today. It was on this series that Huggins began working in earnest with Stephen J. Cannell
. Cannell, now a successful writer/producer with several hits under his belt, credits the lessons he learned from Huggins with a great deal of his later success in television.
While at Warner's, Huggins ran afoul of studio executives who regularly tried to deny him credit and
compensation for the shows he created. On 77 Sunset Strip
, his credit as creator was taken away. This led to Huggins demanding ownership of his creations. The demand became known in the industry as the "Huggins contract." The best example of the "Huggins contract" in action was the deal he struck for The Fugitive
, which later allowed him to sell the film rights.
Although Huggins was a producer on Baretta
and Alias Smith and Jones
, he was not an active showrunner until his protege, Stephen J. Cannell, brought him out of retirement to run Cannell's series Hunter
for three seasons. With the shows and protagonists he created, Roy Huggins broke the mold and gave TV some of its most memorable characters. His fellow professionals loved working with him and remember him fondly, freely acknowledging the huge influence he had, both on the action series genre and on television in general. As long as viewers still tune in to see Richard Kimble on the lam or Jim Rockford on the case, Roy's legacy will live on.