Craig Stevens; Actor's 'Peter Gunn' Helped Create New Television Genre

Craig Stevens, 81, the actor who helped create a new genre of television detective heroes in the role of suave private eye "Peter Gunn," a series created by Blake Edwards. With its film noir style, deadpan humor and jazzy instrumental score by Henry Mancini, "Peter Gunn" featured one of the first of the coolly aggressive, lady-killer private detectives to be seen on television. Born Gail Shikles Jr. in Liberty, Mo., Stevens was on his way to a career in dentistry when he got the acting bug at the University of Kansas. He moved to California and was signed in 1941 at Warner Bros. He met his future wife, Alexis Smith, there and appeared with her in several films. He had steady work as a second lead throughout the '40s and '50s before moving into television with Gunn and then as a regular guest on various shows. His last role in a major film was in Blake Edwards' "S.O.B." in 1981. On Wednesday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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