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Stevens in 1960
Gail Shikles Jr.
July 8, 1918
Liberty, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||May 10, 2000 (aged 81)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1944; died 1993)
Craig Stevens (born Gail Shikles Jr.; July 8, 1918 – May 10, 2000) was an American film and television actor, best known for his starring role on television as private detective Peter Gunn from 1958 to 1961.
Stevens was born in Liberty, Missouri to Marie and Gail Shikles. His father was a high school teacher in Liberty and later an elementary school principal in Kansas City, Missouri. He studied dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1936.
Acting with the university's drama club prompted him to halt his studies to audition in the Hollywood film industry. Under the name Michael Gale" (a play on his first name), his first screen role was a sailor in Coast Guard (1939). After his debut in a small role in 1939, he adopted the stage name Craig Stevens. For the next period of his film career, he played mainly secondary parts.
He could be glimpsed in Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Alice in Movieland (1940), a short at Warner Bros; Those Were the Days! (1940); Argentine Nights (1940); Lady with Red Hair (1940) at Warners ; and I Wanted Wings (1941), at Paramount.
Stevens signed a contract with Warner Bros. They put him in Affectionately Yours (1941), then in Dive Bomber (1941); the latter starred his future wife Alexis Smith, although they shared no scenes in the film.
Stevens had a support role in Law of the Tropics (1941) and the lead in a short, At the Stroke of Twelve (1941). He was in The Body Disappears (1941) and was third billed in Steel Against the Sky (1941), with Smith top billed.
Stevens' first lead in a feature was Spy Ship (1942), a B movie. He followed it with leads in two other "B"s, Secret Enemies (1942), and The Hidden Hand (1942). He and Smith married in August 1942 just before he entered the army.
During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Corps' First Motion Picture Unit based in Culver City, California acting in propaganda and training films. That unit came to be known as "The Culver City Commandos".
He appeared in films like Three Cadets' (1943), Learn and Live (1944), and Resisting Enemy Interrogation (1944).
Stevens had a small role in Since You Went Away (1944) for Selznick and The Doughgirls (1944) for Warners. He played himself in Warners' Hollywood Canteen (1944) and had the lead in Plantation Melodies (1945) playing Stephen Foster.
Stevens had support roles in Too Young to Know (1945), God Is My Co-Pilot (1945), Humoresque (1946), The Man I Love (1946), That Way with Women (1947), Love and Learn (1947), Night Unto Night (1948), and The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949). He left the studio.
Stevens guested on shows like Stars Over Hollywood, The Bigelow Theatre and Hollywood Opening Night as well as appearing in films like Drums in the Deep South (1951) and Phone Call from a Stranger (1951).
Stevens had a lead role in the low budget Murder Without Tears (1953) and was the romantic male lead in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953). He was down to support in The French Line (1953) and Duel on the Mississippi (1955).
Stevens was in The Revlon Mirror Theater, The Lineup, The Star and the Story, The Eddie Cantor Comedy Theater, Private Secretary, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, The Whistler, The Millionaire, Science Fiction Theatre, Matinee Theatre, Four Star Playhouse, Chevron Hall of Stars, The Ford Television Theatre, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre , The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna, Mr. Adams and Eve, The Silent Service, Lux Video Theatre, Studio 57, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Loretta Young Show, Schlitz Playhouse, and State Trooper.
On October 29, 1954, Stevens guest-starred on the 1953–1955 ABC sitcom with a variety show theme, The Ray Bolger Show. Ray Bolger portrayed Raymond Wallace, a song-and-dance man who repeatedly arrived for his performances barely on time. Stevens portrayed a novelist interested in Ray's girlfriend, Susan, played by Marjie Millar.
In 1958, after 19 years working in films, Stevens gained national prominence for his starring role in the private detective series Peter Gunn, which ran on NBC from September 1958 to September 1960 and then moved to ABC, where it continued for another year.
On May 7, 1959, Stevens was a guest star on the NBC variety series The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. He and Tennessee Ernie Ford did a comedy skit based on Peter Gunn. He sang on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show with Dinah Shore.
During the run of Peter Gunn Stevens guest starred on Special Agent 7, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and The Chevy Show. He shot a pilot that was not picked up The Mighty O (1961).
In 1964, Stevens followed this series with Mr. Broadway, the 13-week CBS drama in which he starred as Mike Bell, a New York City public relations specialist. Horace McMahon played his assistant and police contact, Hank McClure. The series was produced by David Susskind.
Stevens starred in a film, The Limbo Line (1968), shot an unsold pilot The Best Years, and guest starred on The Name of the Game, The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, McCloud, My World and Welcome to It, The Governor & J.J., My Three Sons, To Rome with Love, Bracken's World, The Virginian, Marcus Welby, M.D., Alias Smith and Jones, Medical Center, Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, The Rookies, Here's Lucy, Love, American Style, The Snoop Sisters, Circle of Fear, Search, Faraday and Company, and Chase.
He later starred as Professor Higgins in a national touring production of My Fair Lady with Jane Powell. He also made lengthy national tours in Cactus Flower, co-starring again with his wife .
When the series ended he guest starred on Starsky and Hutch, Gibbsville, Police Woman, and Project U.F.O.. He had a role in Secrets of Three Hungry Wives (1978) and could be seen on The Incredible Hulk, Flying High, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, David Cassidy - Man Undercover, B.J. and the Bear, Dallas, Quincy M.E., Happy Days, Fantasy Island, Hotel, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and Supercarrier.
His last appearance was in the TV movie Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Holiday Affair (1988)
On June 18, 1944, Stevens married actress Alexis Smith at the Church of the Recessional, Forest Lawn. They were married for almost 50 years. The couple remained together until her death in 1993. They had no children.
In 2000, at age 81, Craig Stevens died of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. The year after Stevens's death, funds were granted by his estate to The University of Kansas to endow The Alexis and Craig Stevens Performing Arts Scholarship in the school's theatre department. The scholarship provides financial aid to undergraduate and graduate students who are studying theatre.