What's Coronet Blue?
Coronet Blue was a summer replacement TV show which aired on Mondays at 10 PM starting in late May, 1967. (Apparently it was actually filmed in 1965.) In it, Michael Alden, played by Frank Converse, is running from some men when he falls into the harbor. He climbs out remembering only that he was running and the phrase "coronet blue." As the show continues from week to week, Mike tries to piece together clues as to his identity as individuals he refers to as Greybeards seem to be intent on killing him.
The theme song, sung by Lenny Welch, was unforgettable. In fact, I can still hear it in my head today!
The IMDB site that gives more details about this production is here.
The basic idea - a person who is in danger and has amnesia attempts to reconstruct his or her past - has been used in film noir before. (Mulholland Drive and Fear in the Night and The Bourne Identity come to mind. The idea was later used in the mid-Nineties TV show Nowhere Man.)
I was only eleven when this noirish show aired, but I distinctly remember it - especially one scene in one episode. Apparently a girl had been assaulted in a car, and a police detective and Michael Alden are shown discussing clues. When the detective mentioned that a starchy, organic substance was found on the upholstery of the car, my mother quickly sent me out of the room. Being the typically curious eleven year old, I was wondering, "What was THAT all about?" Nowadays I wonder... did I actually remember this correctly? If so, this was a pretty bold detail in a mystery show aired in 1967!
The show was unexpectedly popular and had the makings of a hit, but CBS, feeling that the show was too intellectual for its audience, axed it and left the mysterious story line unresolved. But ever since, viewers who remember the show have wondered about it.
The mystery is resolved in a passage about Coronet Blue from a biography of TV creator and writer Larry Cohen, "The Radical Allegories of an Independent Filmmaker."
"When the Brodkin Organization took over the series, they wanted to turn it into an anthology... so they played down the amnesia aspect until there was nothing about it at all in the show. It was just Frank Converse wandering from one story to the next with no connective format at all. Anyway, the show ended after seventeen weeks and nobody found out what 'coronet blue' meant. The actual secret is that Converse was not really an American at all. He was a Russian who had been trained to appear like an American and was sent to the U.S. as a spy. He belonged to a spy unit called 'Coronet Blue.' He decided to defect, so the Russians tried to kill him before he can give away the identities of the other Soviet agents. And nobody can really identify him because he doesn't exist as an American. Coronet Blue was actually an outgrowth of 'The Traitor' episode of The Defenders."
(Larry Cohen was the Coronet Blue series creator and wrote the episode titled "A Dozen Demons.")
The Defenders: THE TRAITOR
Aired 16 Feb 1963
Written by Larry Cohen
Directed by David Greene
Fritz Weaver (as Vincent Kayle)
Tim O'Connor (Peyton Place)
Representing accused traitor Vincent Kayle (Fritz Weaver), Preston must prepare a defense while struggling against his deep personal disgust for the man's actions.
Tony Williams, "Larry Cohen: The Radical Allegories of an Independent Filmmaker. " Jefferson, NC. McFarland, 1997.
The passage from the book is taken from a posting by George, which appeared on "the Blackboard" (a film noir Internet discussion board). I thought it was too good to let disappear on a message board!