More than a decade before Sean Connery redefined the suave and debonair cold war secret agent James Bond, Brian Donlevy undertook the role of special agent Steve Mitchell for 4 years on the radio . . . and in 39 early television episodes . . . in Dangerous Assignment.
Arguably, the radio series was a better venue for Donlevy than was the TV series, as his vocal talents gave him the gravitas to play world-weary Steve Mitchell as he is sent off to obscure backwater ports to smash spy rings, rescue defectors, thwart smugglers, or retrieve stolen classified documents.
Steve Mitchell was called an “International Troubleshooter” – not a spy – and he worked for an un-named US government agency.
He received his assignments each week from `The Commissioner’, after which he was soon winging his way to Berlin, or Prague, or Beirut to solve a crisis in just under 30 minutes of air time (including commercials).
Visually, Donlevy was less of the `hero’ type as he was already in his early 50’s when the series was filmed, and he looked every inch of it.
The radio series ran the NBC radio network from 1949 to 1953. During the last year of the radio show Donlevy pitched the show to the TV networks, but no one was interested. He put together his own production company and produced 39 filmed TV episodes, which were sold into syndication around the country.
In its favor, the TV show had decent production values for 1953, was one of a small handful of filmed programs of the time, and provided a large dose of daring-do in (simulated) exotic locations for viewers of the day.
We’ve 90+ episodes of the radio show available on The Internet Archive, along with a growing number of TV episodes.
Six half hour TV shows are currently available.
Dangerous Assignment: The Alien Smuggler Story
Dangerous Assignment - Season 1, Episode 1Dangerous Assignment - The Bhandara Story
Dangerous Assignment - Season 1, Episode 7
Dangerous Assignment: The Sunflower Seed Story
Dangerous Assignment - Season 1, Episode 13
Dangerous Assignment: The Missing Diplomat Story
Steve Mitchell goes to Barcelona to track down a European diplomat who has gone missing with top secret papers. Episode 17
Dangerous Assignment: The Art Treasure Story
Steve Mitchell is on board a train in search of a Nazi art treasure and a former Nazi official that commits multiple murders. Episode 27
Dangerous Assignment: The Assassin Ring
Steve Mitchell needs to find out who killed an Arabian king and framed the US for being behind the assassination. Episode 31
If more episodes turn up, you can find them using THIS LINK.
Brian Donlevy – a long-time stage actor in New York - make his mark in the movies first in 1935 in the Edward G. Robinson film Barbary Coast. He followed that debut with a number of successful films, including his Oscar nominated role of Sergeant Markoff in Beau Geste.
During the 1940s he played many `heavies’ in film noir productions, and perhaps most famously, played conniving Dan McGinty, in The Great McGinty (a role he would reprise in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek).
In 1946 he played the role of Trampas in The Virginian and two years later played opposite Clark Gable, Van Johnson, and Walter Pidgeon in Command Decision.
His movie career dwindled by the early 1950s, and he moved into the burgeoning field of TV, appearing in anthology series like Studio One, Kraft Theatre, and Lux Video Theatre along with guest shots on shows like Rawhide, Wagon Train, and Perry Mason.
Brian Donlevy died in 1972, at the age of 71, from throat cancer.