Frank D. Gilroy dies, playwright created Burke’s Law

The cast of

The cast of “Who Killed Julie Greer?” including Dick Powell as Amos Burke, first row, right

Frank D. Gilroy, a distinguished playwright, has died at 89, according to obituaries published in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WRAP.

Gilroy won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1964 play The Subject was Roses. Prior to that work, he did a teleplay that brought to life a TV character of note.

It was Gilroy who created the character of millionaire police detective Amos Burke, who made his debut in the first episode of The Dick Powell Theatre, Who Killed Julie Greer?

In that 1961 episode, Powell himself played Amos Burke, who proceeded to the crime scene in a chauffeur-driven limousine. The show has a brief exchange between a police sergeant and a reporter (Alvy Moore).

The reporter asks how Burke had become rich. “The smart way,” the sergeant replies, “he was born with it.” The sergeant informs the reporter that Burke started as a rookie cop and worked his way up to being the top detective on the police force.

“You mean he loves crime that much?” the reporter asks.

“Crime in general, murder in particular,” the sergeant replies.

Two years later, after Powell’s death, the concept was picked up as a series, Burke’s Law. This time, Gene Barry played Burke. After two seasons, the show got a major makeover, turning Burke into a secret agent. The series was renamed Amos Burke, Secret Agent. It was canceled midway during the 1965-66 season.

Throughout the series, Gilroy got a credit during the end titles that the show was “based on characters created by” the playwright.

Who Killed Julie Greer? included a lot of snappy dialogue, something that carried over to the series. For Gilroy, Amos Burke wasn’t the main highlight of his resume, but Burke still has his fans today.

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