Peter Graves’ unanswered Call to Danger

Call to Danger was an idea that refused to go away. It never became a series but it affected one show that did.

The notion behind Call to Danger was that the U.S. government would maintain information on citizens with unusual abilities and talents. Such people would be enlisted to provide help for investigators on important cases. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would end up using a variation of this idea with the “innocent” characters who would become involved (sometimes by design, sometimes by accident) in assignments Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin carried out.

CBS commissioned a half-hour pilot of Call to Danger in 1961. That version starred Larry Blyden (later an U.N.C.L.E. episode innocent), according to Patrick J. White’s 1991 book, The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. While it didn’t sell, it remained on the minds of CBS executives.

In 1967, CBS tried again, this time commissioning an hour version starring Peter Graves. It sported a theme by Morton Stevens, who ran CBS’s West Coast music operation. Stevens had the choice of hiring composers or assigning jobs to himself. Once more, it didn’t sell although CBS managed to get the pilot on the air as part of something called Premier (which appears to have been a way to broadcast unsold pilots). Here’s how it started:

Meanwhile, Steven Hill had been fired after the first season of Mission: Impossible. No replacement had been lined up. According to White’s book, CBS liked Graves’ performance in Call to Danger. The network, according to White’s book, suggested to the brass at Desilu (the maker of Mission) that Graves would be just the man to take over as the mastermind of the Impossible Missions Force. That, of course, is exactly what happened, with Graves filling the new role of Jim Phelps.

CBS and Stevens also found other uses for the Call to Danger theme. For one thing, it was put on the 1969 Hawaii Five-O soundtrack. Also, a much-shortened version would be used as part of CBS specials:

After Mission: Impossible completed its run in 1973, a third Call to Danger pilot was made, once again starring Graves. The call went unanswered yet again. It started like this:

3 Responses

  1. Great post! I wrote about CALL TO DANGER in detail in my book UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS 1955-1989. The star of the first CALL TO DANGER was Lloyd Nolan as treasury agent Robert Hale…who Larry Blyden, a locksmith, to help him find stolen treasury plates. Graves played Jim Kingsley, an agent for the Office of National Resources, in the 1968 pilot. In the 1973 pilot, Graves is Treasury Agent Douglas Warfield, who uses a computer to select civilians to help him solve crimes.

  2. […] in-house productions. As a result, he assigned other composers on CBS productions while taking on some jobs […]

  3. […] composer initially thought about re-using the theme he wrote for an unsold pilot, CALL TO DANGER. His wife, Annie Stevens, strongly advised against the move, according to a 2010 STORY IN THE […]

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