William Conrad's deep, booming sound helped him to become one of the most recognized voices in radio from the late thirties to the early sixties. By Conrad's own estimation, he played over 7,000 roles on the radio. Perhaps most significantly, Conrad originated the role of Marshal Matt Dillon on the Western program Gunsmoke from 1952-61. He was considered for the role when the series was brought to television in 1955, but his increasing obesity led to the casting of James Arness instead. The slight reportedly bothered Conrad for years, but he continued to do memorable radio and television work.
In 1963, William Conrad began a memorable stint as the narrator on the popular Quinn Martin production, The Fugitive. One might think William Conrad's association with The Fugitive helped Quinn Martin decide to build a show around Conrad when he wanted to put another series on the air. The seventies was an ideal time to give Conrad a shot at a leading role as a detective. Television was packed with men who wouldn't be considered leading man material by Hollywood standards--Raymond Burr (Ironside), Peter Falk (Columbo), Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) and Dennis Weaver (McCloud).
Cannon debuted on September 14, 1971 on CBS. William Conrad played Frank Cannon, an overweight private detective who resigned from the L.A.P.D. He charged large fees to corporations and well-to-do clients so he could assist the less fortunate for little or no charge. He lived in a penthouse, high above the Sunset strip, where he regularly indulged in his passion for gourmet cooking and eating.
CBS DVD recently released Cannon - Season One, Volume One which includes the first eleven episodes of the series, and the two part pilot that ran on CBS in the spring of 1971. The TV-movie pilot does a good job of establishing what kind of man Frank Cannon is. As the episode opens, Cannon is returning to his swanky penthouse apartment, just back from a job for a wealthy client in Yokohama. However, he quickly turns to his attention to the plight of an old friend. Vera Miles guest stars as a motel owner whose husband, an old Army buddy of Cannon's has been murdered and she has been accused of the crime. The movie is a good mystery with solid characters, including a police officer (J.D. Cannon), whose wife just might be a cheating murderess. Typical of most QM Productions, aside from the actors already mentioned, the list of guest stars fir the pilot is formidable: Barry Sullivan, Lynda Day George, Earl Holliman, Keenan Wynn, Murray Hamilton and Ellen Corby.