M Squad is an American crime drama television series that ran from 1957 to 1960 on NBC. It was produced by Lee Marvin's Latimer Productions and Revue Studios. Its main sponsor was the Pall Mall cigarette brand; Lee Marvin, the program's star, appeared in its commercials during many episodes. Alternate sponsors were General Electric (GE), Hazel Bishop and Bulova watches.
|Composers||Main theme by|
Incidental music and arrangements by
John T. Williams
Orchestra conducted by
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||117 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producers||John Larkin|
John B. Moss
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production companies||Latimer Productions|
|Original release||September 20, 1957 –|
June 21, 1960
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||38||September 20, 1957||June 13, 1958|
|2||40||September 19, 1958||July 3, 1959|
|3||39||September 18, 1959||June 21, 1960|
Set in Chicago, Illinois, it starred Marvin as Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger, a member of "M Squad", a special unit of the Chicago Police, assisting other units in battling organized crime, corruption and violent crimes citywide. Paul Newlan co-starred as his boss, Captain Grey. Although Marvin had been appearing in feature films since 1951, it was this series that made him a star, and he later went on to an even bigger film career afterward. Nelson Case was the announcer. The popularity of M Squad was proven in the ratings wars by the NBC network choosing a Friday night time slot opposite Frank Sinatra's ABC variety show in the fall of 1957 and Phil Silvers' long running CBS comedy, Sgt. Bilko, in 1958. Both series were eventually cancelled.
The theme music for the first season was composed by Stanley Wilson, who won the 1959 Grammy Award for the Best Soundtrack Album and Background Score from Motion Picture or Television. In the second and third seasons, the new theme was composed by Count Basie.
In episode "The Jumper", an officer was depicted taking bribes. This prompted Richard J. Daley, the Mayor of Chicago at the time, to discourage motion picture and television location filming in Chicago for the rest of his administration (1955-1976). (He made an exception for the 1975 John Wayne film Brannigan, because of Daley's personal admiration for Wayne.) The Blues Brothers, released in 1980, marked the reversal of the policy under then-mayor Jane Byrne.
Lee Marvin as Lt. Frank Ballinger carried two Colt Cobra snub nosed revolvers, the lightweight variant of Colt's "Detective's Special" revolver, which was popular with detectives at the time. Lt. Ballinger was the first T.V. police detective, of any note, to carry a backup revolver. The second Cobra revolver was carried in a more concealed position than the other.
A novel was published in 1962, M Squad: The Chicago Cop Killer, by David Saunders. It was published by Belmont Books, New York.
On November 4, 2014, Timeless Media re-released the complete series on DVD in a new 16-disc special edition collection that contains an entire disc of bonus content.