10 things you never knew about 'Burke's Law'

Aaron Spelling's millionaire cop show had Ronald Reagan, Honey West, a Rolls Royce and a 1990s reboot.

Top image: Dell Comics via eBay

Amos Burke was Bruce Wayne meets Columbo, a millionaire captain of the LAPD who cruised around in a chauffeur-driven 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II. It was a brilliant if highly unrealistic concept. Fresh off playing the debonair cowboy lead in Bat Masterson, Gene Barry again slipped into sharp suits to star in Burke's Law.

From 1963 to 1965, the mystery series featured clever and outlandish murder scenarios, with each episode title beginning with "Who Killed…?" In keeping with the trends of the times, a seismic and rather silly shift in tone led to the demise of Burke's Law. But as you will see, you can't keep a good cop down.

1. Ronald Reagan appeared in TV's first Amos Burke case.

Amos Burke first appeared in September 1961 in the premiere episode of the anthology series The Dick Powell Theatre, with Dick Powell himself playing the role. Future president Ronald Reagan (pictured far left) appeared as one of the murder suspects in "Who Killed Julie Greer?" Though the lead role of Burke would be recast, there are some carryovers from this pilot to the ongoing series. Leon Lontoc would stay in his role as Henry, the chauffeur. However, Amos Burke, an inspector in this original, was promoted to captain for the series.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

2. It was one of Aaron Spelling's earliest television successes.

The iconic TV producer, who would go on to give us The Mod SquadCharlie's AngelsFantasy Island, Melrose Place and much more, had a few credits under his belt at the time, largely Westerns, including Johnny Ringo and Zane Grey Theater.

Image: AP Photo

3. A Pulitzer Prize winner created the character Amos Burke.

The character was the brainchild of Frank D. Gilroy, a skilled writer of many arenas who penned the play The Subject Was Roses, winner of the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Burke's Law lured many great writers, including Columbo creators William Link and Richard Levison, as well as sci-fi great Harlan Ellison.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. The series completely changed to 'Amos Burke, Secret Agent' in season three.

In the wake of James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the network foolishly tried to ride the wave of the spy craze. The bosses forced Burke's Law to be retooled into Amos Burke, Secret Agent. "I hated it, Gene hated it, we all hated it, and ABC was very wrong to change it," Spelling later recalled in his autobiography. The ratings plummeted.

5. Famous Hollywood stars played the murder suspects each week.

"Before we started production, I had this great idea about having cameos by famous guest stars to round out the show. It was the first show to use multiple guest stars. Much later we did it on The Love Boat…" Spelling recalled in his memoir, Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life. The cast list from Burke's Law is an incredible Who's Who, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Annette Funicello, Buster Keaton, Tina Louise, Jayne Mansfield, Elizabeth Montgomery, Don Rickles, Gena Rowlands, William Shatner and dozens more.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. There was a comic book.

As with most television hits of the 1960s, the popularity of Burke's Law led to a comic book, published by Dell. The comic featured monsters and the hero's trademark witticisms, followed by his "Burke's law!" catchphrase. Take this panel for example, where he proclaims, "Never accept substitutes if you don't want your head handed to you — Burke's law!"

Image: Burke's Law #3 (1965) via captainvideossecretsanctum

7. It spawned the spin-off 'Honey West.'

Honey West, the pioneering female private eye created by Gloria and Forest Fickling, first appeared on television in the Burke's Law episode “Who Killed the Jackpot?” in 1965. The Anne Francis character proved to be so popular, she got her own series, produced by Aaron Spelling, of course.

Image: ABC / Wikimedia Commons

8. There was a revival series in the 1990s.

Aaron Spelling and Gene Barry would revive the character in 1994 for a CBS sequel series, also called Burke's Law. Only this time, Burke was assisted by his son, Peter (Peter Barton). After several time slot jumps, the series was canned after two seasons.

Image: The Everett Collection

9. Honey West had to be called Honey Best in the 1994 reboot.

Anne Francis reprised her role in the 1990s revival, too. Only this time, due to legal reasons, she had to be called "Honey Best."

Image: Honey West

10. Burke's Rolls Royce was most recently living in Florida.

Ever wonder what happened to that beautiful Rolls? After the series ended in 1965, Four Star Productions director Robert Gageby acquired the automobile and brought it to his home in Washington, D.C. Years later, the car would end up in the hands of fan Jim Inglis, who moved the car to his home in Florida. Check out recent photos of it.

Image: Spelling Television / CBS

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wdillon2 9 months ago
The Rolls Royce still looks good, I was visiting with Jim on 7-18-23 and we walked through 1 of his warehouses where the Rolls is kept. There were also 3 Avanti's a couple of Caddys, a lincoln, a Jag and more. Next visit with him, I want to go to his other warehouse/shop, he is restoring a Jolly...
Steve2021 32 months ago
When I was young, I never understood the series. Now vavavoom ! The cuties back in the sixties. Gene, he was a lucky guy.
LittleMissNoName 39 months ago
Saw the Flintstones spoof of this again just recently.
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