San Francisco in Cinema: McMillan & Wife

McMillan bedroom: The commissioner couldn't keep his hands off Sally, but Rock Hudson had more fun.
As played by Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan & Wife lived at 1132/1134 Greenwich Street between Hyde and Leavenworth. The series, which rotated with other detective shows on NBC's mystery night, cast Hudson as San Francisco Police Commissioner Stewart McMillan from 1971-1976. His wife, Sally, was a free spirit whose dilettantism consistently landed her in danger and/or at the center of her husband's caseload. In the pilot movie, Sally's $500,000 antique Egyptian sarcophagus is stolen from "Merryvale Antiques" while the commissioner and his wife attend an auction upstairs. (The pilot also features the Transamerica Pyramid as a construction site and a great bicycle chase through Russian Hill and Lafayette Heights!) In another scene, a character played by Rene Auberjonois takes a header through a glass door onto a balcony at The Comstock, 1333 Jones Street. McMillan and his wife move into the Greenwich Street digs in the first regular episode. Just moments after moving in, Sally finds a corpse in one of her moving boxes. The fact that the most famous closeted gay actor of the 20th Century was filming a series in San Francisco in the 1970s provides layers of irony in McMillan & Wife reruns. (Scenes include McMillan and sidekick Sgt. Charlie Enright's steamroom visits.) Though City locations are used liberally, the real action in the series takes place in the McMillan bedroom. The scripts were heavily laced with sassy dialogue, sexual innuendo, and pillow talk. Puffy but studly, Hudson was 21 years older than Saint James during the series. Both Saint James and Nancy Walker, who played housekeeper Mildred, were written out for the final season. McMillan was now a widower. Martha Raye joined the cast as the new housekeeper. Hudson, a onetime lover of Armistead Maupin, was the inspiration for the character identified only as ____ ______ in the serial More Tales of the City. The character was given a name, Cage Tyler, for the TV adaptation.

Entertainer Carole Cook appears as a phony psychic in the 1972 episode "Night of the Wizard," directed by Robert Michael Lewis. The episode starts out with an exciting chase scene on Russian Hill beginning at Hyde and Sacramento. Rock chases a bad guy through a series of moving cable cars. Night of the Wizard also stars Eileen Brennan, Phil Carey, and John Astin. Cook's husband Tom Troupe plays a sleazy music promoter in the Lewis-directed "Blues for Sally M," also from 1972.

In another episode, a suspect lives on a tree-lined street below Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Maupin refers to this area as "the pubes" in his 2000 novel, The Night Listener.

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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
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