|Steve Dunne [Francis Dunne]
(Dr. Daniel Danfield)
Stage, Screen, Radio, and Television Actor
Birthplace: Northhampton, Massachussets, U.S.A.
1946 Danger, Dr. Danfield
1947 Deadline Mystery
1947 Family Theatre
1949 Richard Diamond, Private Detective
1949 Screen Director's Playhouse
1950 Lux Radio Theatre
1950 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1953 Stars Over Hollywood
Steve Dunne publicity photo, ca. 1945
Steve Dunne (as Michael Dunne) in Shock! (1946)
Steve Dunne in Alfred Hitchcock Presents' The Man with Two Faces from Dec. 13, 1960
Steve Dunne in Alfred Hitchcock Presents' Special Delivery from Nov. 29, 1959
Steve Dunne in Alfred Hitchcock Hour's What Really Happened from 1963
Steve Dunne pretty much as himself in The Andy Griffith Program from Jan. 23, 1967
Steve Dunne appearing in The Brady Bunch from 1971
Brown-haired, blue-eyed Steve [Francis] Dunne was born and raised in Northampton, Massachusetts. He got his start in his working life as a stenographer for the local General Electric Company, but at the age of 17 determined to increase his knowledge. He entered the University of Alabama, majoring in Drama and Journalism.
To finance school he secured a job as a disc-jockey at the local radio station. He liked it--so much so that he quit school and moved to Chicagoland where he became a top-flight Radio announcer. From there he took the leap of faith to the Big Apple and WOR, New York, and the Mutual Broadcasting System.
New York employment led to a screen test and a movie contract that eventually netted him featured roles in 30 films. Steve Dunne met Vivian Bellveau in 1940. They married and soon had two children--Stephen and Christina. His Film work took him back to the West Coast, where he hooked up with Southern California Radio and Television stations under the CBS Network.
By the 1950s a locally popular fixture on KTSL, the CBS Flagship Television station, Dunne stayed busy with local origination quiz shows, late-night movie retrospectives, and the occasional Film role. His first real break in Radio came with the premature, short-lived cancellation of the Golden Age Radio classic, The Adventures of Sam Spade, formerly starring Howard Duff as Sam Spade. Clouded in obfuscation, no believable reason was ever cited for the cancellation of the program. Inundated by negative correspondence, NBC frantically resuscitated the program as The New Adventures of Sam Spade while racing around to reassemble what was left of the crew, direction, scripts and actors. The following newspaper clipping pretty much sums up the selection process:
"THE NEW Sam Spade, one of radio's most rewarding acting plums, is Steve Dunne. A veteran actor with 30 film credits and hundreds of West Coast radio and TV performances under his belt, Dunne was selected for the part in Hollywood by Director-Producer William Spier after a score of radio actors were auditioned. He now carries on his San Francisco capers on "The New Adventures of Sam Spade" at 8:30 P.M. Fridays on WSYR, playing opposite Lurene Tuttle, still heard in the
role of Effie, his secretary. Dunne succeeded Howard Duff in the title role. He was called up for the private eye assignment as a result of a five-year-old note scribbled and filed by Spier. In 1945, the producer saw a movie, "Shock," in which Dunne played a small part. Spier never met or interviewed the actor until this year, when he sought the new Sam Spade after checking his file."
Now the newest Sam Spade on the radio, Dunne was wisely hedging his bets with a featured daily appearance on the newly launched Jack Kirkwood Show on radio. He continued to work at CBS Television station KTSL and continued to develop even more ambitious plans to augment his Sam Spade success. But alas, the Sam Spade role was embarassingly short-lived. Running for only 24 'new' installments, the Adventures of Sam Spade--'New' or otherwise--came to an abrupt end at the end of April 1951.
Dunne for his part, continued to announce the commercials on What's the Name of That Song and narrate Stranger Than Fiction, in addition to starting his own program in a disc-jockey setting 'spinning platters' of 'soundie' vignettes for a call-in audience to guess at. The resulting program, Picture Platters, was relatively short-lived as well.
Dunne's career didn't lack for brushes with greatness. In 1949, Dunne starred in Columbia's Kazan (1949), with Lois Maxwell, the leggy secretary of James Bond Film fame. He did get a full six-months of acting lessons from Lurene Tuttle in the short lived New Adventures of Sam Spade. He made an erstwhile connection with famed CBS producer William Spier and his wife, June Havoc. But he later somewhat embarassingly stabbed June Havoc in the professional back by making her the goat over a silly on-screen credit kerfuffle.
The rolling credits for James Mason's 1952 film Lady Possessed said 'Introducing Steve Dunne'. Of course by that time, Dunne had already appeared in some 31 minor and feature films already. He passed it around that the Director's wife and co-star June Havoc was the one raising a ruckus about having to share on-screen credit with Dunne. Understandably, any goodwill Dunne had accrued with famed Director William Spier and his equally famous actress wife, June Havoc vanished in a thrice.
A shameless self-promoter, Dunne had compiled a long record of self-promoting, self-advancing strategies during his long employment with KTSL in Los Angeles. From his various TV disc-jockey programs, to his Love and Kisses (1950) situation comedy, to his nightly sign offs on KTSL to his short-lived Professional Father (1955) series, Dunne was never one to miss any opportunity to paint himself in a better professional light.
Sadly, almost all of these exploits seem to have continually resulted in somewhat short-lived professional showcases of his talent. He continued to compile a longer Film and Television resume, but he never again found that dream shot, like The New Adventures of Sam Spade had promised to be.
Dunne's career was not without its lighter moments. Witness this amusing account of a live 'wardrobe malfunction' during the early years of live Television situation comedy:
"Why actors prefer filmed TV:
Steve Dunne raced off stage for a wardrobe change while emoting in CBS' "My Favorite Husband." The overzealous wardrobe man in his haste not only pulled off Steve's trousers, but his shorts, too. Joan Caulfield and Barry Nelson had to ad lib while Steve recovered his dignity in the wings."
With some 80+ Television appearances to his credit, Dunne certainly proved his durability in the medium. Indeed his Television career pretty much paralleled his Radio career with a dizzying array of 'almosts' over the span of twenty-five years. If there was an Emmy for "picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting all over again," Steve Dunne may very well have been a perennial award recipient. But alas it didn't pan out that way.
Doomed to be remembered as either the local L.A. TV personality that made good, or the actor that finally killed Sam Spade, neither prospect has a great deal to offer in the form of historical import. But that's not being fair, either. In the case of Sam Spade, that was NBC's incompetent bungling and no one else's. That William Spier, Lurene Tuttle, and Steve Dunne even managed to throw together another 24 episodes is a tribute to the three of them, all things considered.
As for the rest of Steve Dunne's ostensibly lackluster career, the 'luster' is clearly in the eyes of the beholder. In a market as huge as Southern California, Dunne could have simply soldiered on-- locally--and done very well for himself, thank you very much. Did his reach exceed his grasp? Possibly. But at least he reached.