Barney Ruditsky was a real-life detective in New York City during the roaring 20’s, and later, after he retired from the force, became a well known private detective in Hollywood, California.
In fact, he was hired by Joe DiMaggio to tail fiancé Marilyn Monroe prior to their marriage.
His work as a P.I. in Hollywood put him in contact with a number of producers, and in 1959 a TV series (very) loosely based on his career during the Prohibition years was created called The Lawless Years.
The show was the first `roaring 20’s’ show on TV, appearing on NBC 6 months before Robert Stack would make a `Ness’ of things on ABC’s The Untouchables.
Ruditsky served as a technical advisor on the show.
The star was a James Gregory, probably better known to younger viewers as Inspector Lugar on Barney Miller, but in reality one of the hardest working character actors in Hollywood.
His first film (uncredited) was Naked City in 1948, but his distinctive looks and gravelly voice soon fetched him a series of roles in television and film.
He made television history by starring in the first episode of The Twilight Zone ( “Where Is Everybody?”), and played in such big-budget films as The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and PT 109 (1963).
In fact, it would be hard to find a TV show during the 1960s and 1970s where he didn’t show up in a guest appearance at least once; Star Trek, Gunsmoke, M.A.S.H., The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West among others.
Beginning in 1959, and over 2 years and 47 30-minute episodes, Gregory played the role of Barney Ruditsky in The Lawless Years.
As a period piece, the show still holds up pretty well, and as a bonus and you’ll catch a lot of young actors in guest roles before they became household names.
Clu Gulager, Robert Fuller, Burt Reynolds, Martin Landau, Warren Oates, Jack Weston and Nita Talbot . . . to name a few.
The show aired on Thursday evenings at 10:30 EST, opposite the stiff competition of CBS’s Playhouse 90.
James Gregory died in September of 2002, at the age of 90. He had appeared in well over 100 television and film roles, and remains one of the best remembered faces (and voices) of the the baby boomer generation.