If you have been confined to quarters because of the COVID-19 emergency chances are, like me, you’ve been watching a lot of TV. Most likely you are also pining for some classic cars, in fact you might be craving Lincolns of a bygone era. Well fear not. Help is at hand.
For those of you with the capability to receive programming from KAZA, ME -TV, which is Channel 54 on my Directv remote, on any given weeknight (3 a.m. really so set your DVRs) famed ’70s-era detective Frank Cannon and his trusty Mark IV are careening around the roads in and around Los Angeles saving clients and capturing bad guys.
Played by portly actor William Conrad, Det. Cannon is an ex-cop with a taste for gourmet food and expensive toys. His silver blue Mark IV is a regular member of the cast. For 122 episodes from 1971 to 1976 in virtually every show Cannon is either chasing the villain, being chased by him, being shot at or in some other distressful predicament involving the car.
We sit spellbound in amazement as often the Mark IV speeds off road bumping along in desert and hilly settings between the rocks and the tumbleweed. Some of these locations have probably morphed into luxury high-rise condominiums by now as California’s population roughly doubled from 20.59 million people in 1972 to around 40 million today.
And what did the Mark IV morph into? You can be sure it wasn’t intended as such, but we can consider Cannon’s car as Lincoln’s first off-road vehicle, If that’s so, then the Navigator, Aviator, and Corsair all were inspired by it.
Sometimes Cannon used another special tool to get out of trouble—his car phone—as we looked on in envy. It’s clunky by today’s standards but way ahead of its time for the early ’70s and available then only for the ultra rich. Here’s a sample.
Although he packed some extra pounds Cannon was a tough and resourceful detective, not afraid to take on even the nastiest foe. As mentioned, he was pretty rough on his vehicles and it was reported that the car he drove for the series pilot was wrecked by the bad guys. Nevertheless, his luxury Marks remained fixtures of the show for its entire run.
In real life William Conrad was the son of a theater owner and grew up as a young lad in the 1920s and ’30s watching movies. His family moved to California when he was in high school and he majored in drama while at Fullerton College. Using his great voice, Conrad became a radio announcer at L.A. station KMPC. Later he served as a fighter pilot during World War II from 1943 until the war ended in 1945, achieving the rank of captain.
Then he went back to his first love—radio—where he originated the role of Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke from 1952-61. He narrated many familiar programs on radio and TV (including The Fugitive) and played movie tough guys before finally achieving fame as Cannon. He had a long and varied career as a performer and behind the scenes, married three times, and finally passed away at the age of 73 in 1994.
Some of us still miss him—-and his Marks. But through the magic of late- night TV we can see him and his cars again!