Paul Burke dies at 83; actor starred in gritty TV show ‘Naked City’

Paul Burke played Col. Joe Gallagher in the TV series "Twelve O'Clock High," above, and received two Emmy nominations for his role as Det. Adam Flint on the critically acclaimed New York cop drama "Naked City."
(Basra Entertainment)

Paul Burke, who received two Emmy nominations in the early 1960s for his role as Det. Adam Flint in the acclaimed dramatic TV police series “Naked City” and later starred as a World War II Army Air Forces colonel in the action-adventure series “Twelve O’Clock High,” has died. He was 83.

Burke obituary: The obituary of actor Paul Burke that appeared in Section A on Sept. 15 quoted Burke in a 1963 interview in which he said he did numerous stunts on the TV series “Naked City,” including once climbing to the top of the 59th Street Bridge in New York City and, on another occasion, jumping from one roof to another. Max Kleven, who was the stuntman on “Naked City” and Burke’s stunt double, said he did all of the stunts for Burke, including the two mentioned. —

Burke, who had leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, died Sunday at his home in Palm Springs with his wife Lyn at his side, said family spokeswoman Daniela Ryan.

During a four-decade career that included roles in the movies “Valley of the Dolls” (1967) and “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968), Burke starred as U.S. 8th Air Force Col. Joe Gallagher on “Twelve O’Clock High,” which ran from 1964 to ’67.

He also was a frequent TV guest star and played the recurring role of congressman Neal McVane on “Dynasty” in the ‘80s.

One of the roles Burke was most proud of was Flint on “Naked City,” the 1958-63 ABC series shot on location in New York City and known for its gritty realism. He joined the show in 1960, the year it expanded from half an hour to an hour.

When the series ended, Los Angeles Times TV columnist Cecil Smith wrote that it “may be remembered as television’s finest weekly hour.”

“It took the police show and gave it a dignity and compassion that at times approached high tragedy,” Smith wrote. “And it shot them on the harrowing schedule of television, trying for impossible deadlines. But the end result was films and productions of such quality that they rivaled the finest theater films.”

Burke did numerous stunts on the show, including climbing to the top of the 59th Street Bridge.

“Another time,” he told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper in 1963, “I had to jump from one roof to another when the stunt man refused because it was too windy to take the chance.”

To get a feel for the role, Burke went on raids and arrests with New York police detectives.

“I know areas of the city that are truly jungles,” he said. “I wouldn’t be a detective there for $1,000 a day.”

For an episode in which his detective character is sent to Sing Sing prison to witness the execution of a man he arrested, Burke actually spent a night at the facility.

“The area of the condemned has barred windows that look down over the Hudson,” he told Smith in 1963. “You can see trains going by -- as if to emphasize the life outside that is to be taken away. I was not against capital punishment before we made that show -- but now, I don’t know.

“It’s experiences like that on ‘Naked City’ that make it tough to see it end,” Burke said of the series. “It went beyond the monetary -- it was something you were proud to be associated with.”

Born on July 21, 1926, in New Orleans, Burke was the son of prize fighter Martin Burke, who became a promoter and nightclub owner. While growing up, Burke’s family owned the popular French Quarter nightclub and restaurant Marty Burke’s.

After moving to Hollywood as a young man in the late ‘40s, Burke studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse for two years. Movie director Lloyd Bacon, a friend of Burke’s father, got him his first role: an uncredited bit part in the 1951 Betty Grable musical “Call Me Mister.”

Small parts in films such as “Francis in the Navy” and guest roles on series such as “Highway Patrol,” “Navy Log” and “Dragnet” followed.

Burke also starred in the short-lived 1956-57 series “Noah’s Ark” and the 1957-58 series “Harbourmaster.”

His last credit was the 1990 movie “The Fool.”

In addition to his wife of 30 years, Burke is survived by his three children from his first marriage, Paula Burke-Lopez, Paul Brian Burke and Dina Burke-Shawkat; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is pending.