Why Mike Connors moved from film to TV

The star of Mannix on why he left the big screen.

CBS Television Distribution

The acclaim that shows like Sopranos and The Wire garnered in the early 2000s changed the television landscape forever. Suddenly, there was a whole new world open to actors. While "important" work had once been exclusively available in theaters, opportunities were now cropping up on television. A critical consensus continued to build on TV, one that would shepherd a new era of career-defining performances.

But in 1967, things were very different. For the most part, success was measured in box office receipts. There was a class divide among actors wherein television work was looked down upon. All of the era's most respected performances were up on the big screen. TV was less than; it was the field where has-been actors were sent out to pasture.

However, Mike Connors made the jump from film to TV, and pioneered a new option for movie stars. So, why did Connors leave the auspicious world of film for the less-beloved world of TV?

"Well, I guess I made the move for a couple of reasons," he said in a 1970 interview with the Los Angeles Times

"No. 1, I wasn't getting the kind of parts I wanted in the kind of pictures I wanted." 

Years earlier, Connors had reached the pinnacle of the Hollywood ladder, appearing in pictures like The Ten Commandments and Stagecoach. But while these legendary pictures helped flesh out his filmography, Connors wasn't being offered compelling roles in any other celebrated films.

"No. 2, the offer they made me [for Mannix] was very lucrative."

Just how lucrative was the deal? Well, while the details may not be readily available, here's an interesting piece of trivia: CBS/Paramount made a huge bet on Connors as the title character in Mannix. The company took out an insurance policy of $1 million on its star. Their gamble paid off, as Mannix continues to be Connors' most-recognized work.

"And No. 3, I'm an actor and I like to act— I don't like sitting around idly for long periods."

Rather than sit around waiting for his next role, Connors was able to report to set for dozens of episodes each season. In all, Mannix produced 194 episodes, providing Connors with plenty of the interesting work he longed for. 

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13 Comments

Mannixishot 16 days ago
Mike Connors and Gail Fisher was a good enough actor and actress that I wish they had more things they were recognized for than just Mannix. It seems like both just did guest appearances on stuff after Mannix. Who knows, maybe it's how they wanted it to be? Maybe they were able to invest their Mannix money to the point where all they had to do was guest appearances whenever they wanted to work.
ElizabethBoop 17 days ago
TV probably also gave Connors a place to offer other Armenian actors a chance at a role, like Carol Bagdasarian (daughter of David Seville).
cinamac 17 days ago
I recently had to replace the master cylinder on my Prius…in an attempt to explain my concerns to coworkers, I searched for a video of Mannix, in his car, on a mountain road, careening out of control, after someone cut his brake line, to no avail!
Avie 17 days ago
Just how lucrative was the deal? Well, while the details may not be readily available, here's an interesting piece of trivia: CBS/Paramount made a huge bet on Connors as the title character in Mannix."

There was no such thing as CBS/Paramount back then; they were two entirely separate companies, though CBS bought "Mannix" from the studio which was not Paramount, but DESILU (whose physical studio lot was adjacent to Paramount's and often used its facilities), which was shortly thereafter acquired by Paramount.

And just TRY finding Connors in "The Ten Commandments." He's little more than an extra.
AgingDisgracefully 17 days ago
In a nutshell: Supply/Demand.
Plus Peggy was waiting to say, "Joe...be careful."
teire 18 days ago
Have the Mannix theme song stuck in my head now.
Avie teire 17 days ago
THere are no lyrics, therefore it is NOT a song. it's MUSIC, just music -- all songs are music; not all music is songs.
teire Avie 17 days ago
Merriam-Webster defines “theme song” as:
a song or melody strongly associated with someone or something
often: an identifying melody or song played at the beginning of a movie, television show, etc. and sometimes recurring during its course
19611313 teire 17 days ago
I love the Mannix theme "song" by Lalo Schifrin.
Runeshaper 18 days ago
Sounds like some very sound and logical reasons to make the switch 👍🏻
Bapa1 18 days ago
Also known as 'Touch' Connors.
BenSobeleone Bapa1 18 days ago
Yep, in the 1950s he was also in The Day the World Ended.
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