No Wonder You Remind Me of Me: Jim Hutton & Timothy Hutton

Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen
I love being able to put together pieces of media puzzles. I've always been vaguely curious why Timothy Hutton left doing rather depressing "profound" movies to produce (and star in) the clever and visually pleasing Nero Wolfe, followed by the  cute and catchy Leverage (which includes the underlying theme of a father mourning his son).

And then, finally, I watched Ellery Queen with Jim Hutton.

It's amazing that it took me so long to watch Ellery Queen, considering how much I love all things mystery. On the other hand, the show lasted just 1 season from 1975-76 (my local library has the box set). Jim Hutton died in 1979, one year before his son received his Academy Award for Ordinary People.

"No wonder you remind me of me."
Like with Phil Hartman, learning Jim Hutton's bio sent me into post-posthumous mourning. Especially since Jim Hutton, a skilled actor in his own right, would likely still be doing character parts and tribute movies today, as Peter Falk did with Princess Bride and Columbo (the latter well into his 70s).

Take, for example, the delightful and hilarious Walk Don't Run that not only has, as my brother Joe says, the perfect ending but some of the best banter in all screwball comedy. It's as if Grant is handing off the baton to the man who could reasonably (including height-wise) take his comedic place (nobody but Grant has quite the same range, but still). Wikipedia and IMDB state that Hutton was seen as Jimmy Stewart's successor, and the clean-boy image is not dissimilar, but that not-quite-cocky-innocent-smile-masking-a-quick-wit-which-is-far-more-ironic-than-the-viewer-first-realizes: that's pure Grant.

Hutton & Wayne
Even if Hutton had opted for television over movies (as he seemed prone to do), he was well on his way to becoming a beloved Falk-like icon. Ellery Queen is a bit routine, but it is impressively well-cast with the impish David Wayne as Hutton's Dad (I recognized Wayne from
Barney Miller's "The Bureaucrat". What a bonus!).

In fact, the comparison to Falk's Columbo is far more apt than to, say, Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher; Murder, She Wrote is just as packed with celebrities as Ellery Queen and Columbo but not as well-written or well-acted (Angela Lansbury mostly just acts like a true lady, i.e. herself).

Timothy Hutton as Ellery Queen
All in all, watching Jim Hutton in Ellery Queen went a long way towards explaining, for me at least, why in his early 40s* Timothy Hutton suddenly produced the lavish, set-in-1950s-NYC Nero Wolfe. And also why, in Leverage's "Ten Li'l Grifters Job," Nate (Timothy Hutton) dresses as Ellery Queen, the "world's greatest detective."

Both touching tributes to an actor who died far too young.

*Both Huttons were 41 when they starred in their respective mystery shows.
Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin

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