Saturday, 27 September 2008

Colonel Niven and Nina (and Frederick)

I’ve watched a second Ellery Queen show, ‘The Adventure of Colonel Niven’s Memoirs’. This wasn’t, to my mind, quite as clever or as gripping as the previous episode I’d seen, but nevertheless was okay, undemanding viewing.

A feature of the Ellery Queen series was the use of interesting guest stars, and in this story – about a very unpleasant writer and former spy – the big name was that of the blonde and elegant Nina Von Pallandt. Now I remember her from my childhood as part of a not very inspiring folk duo, Nina and Frederick. Her fame probably owed more to her good looks that her singing, but she did record a song, written by the formidable combination of John Barry and Hal David, for the soundtrack of the Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It rejoiced in the name of ‘Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?’ and it didn’t exactly race to the top of the charts, although another, much better song the composers wrote for the movie, ‘We Have All The Time in the World’, eventually did just that.

I did a quick check on Nina via the internet. Apparently she split up with Frederick, who was a Continental baron. After a colourful and mysterious life, he was murdered by river pirates. Blimey, I’d never have guessed that. Maybe someone ought to write a book about him.


Mike Tooney said...


You'll discover as you view the "Ellery Queen" series that more emphasis is placed on characterization and ambience than plotting. Therefore most of the episodes fail as EQ-quality whodunnits. However, the ones about the locked-elevator murder, the movie-set murder (with its ironic twist), and of course the adaptation of "The Mad Tea Party" still stick in my mind after more than thirty years as examples of clever plotting. (One day I must purchase the DVD collection.)

Once you've viewed them all, it would be instructive to hear your final summation of the series. I'm interested in hearing the opinion of a professional crime/mystery fiction author, especially about this show, the last serious attempt to bring the Golden Age of Detection to the small screen.

Best regards,
Mike Tooney

P. S.: Notice the men's hair styles; just right for the late '70s, all wrong for the late '40s.

Mike Tooney said...


I must amplify my comment. The last sentence should have read: "... this show, the last serious attempt to bring the Golden Age of Detection to the small screens of America." Certainly the Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Poirot, Lord Peter, and Mr. Campion series in the U. K. were worthy attempts to do just that. Since Ellery Queen, we here in the States have had a surfeit of gun-toting, dame-chasing, car-crashing, language-mangling, gum-chewing private eyes in the hardboiled tradition.

Mike Tooney

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Mike. The EQ shows seem to have vanished as suddenly from the Sky schedules as they appeared, but I'm hoping they will return soon. I'd certainly be very interested in a DVD set, if it was compatible with UK DVD players.

Did you ever come across the UK series from the 1960s, 'Detective', which adapted many classic whodunits?

Steve Lewis said...

Nina Von Pallandt is of course most known in many quarters for her leading female role in Altman's controversial version of Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye." I don't remember her as much of actress, but she was a beautiful woman. "Blonde and elegant," yes. I think at one time she was involved with Clifford Irving, wasn't she?

The complete series of Jim Hutton EQ shows is available on region-free DVD. The set is a little pricey, around $100, but if you go to, they'll come up easily on a search for them.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for this, Steve. I will check it out.

vegetableduck said...

I saw these as a kid and liked them, but I honestly can't remeber anything about them besides their having Jim Hutton and David Wayne and that insidious theme song!

I was afraid they would seem kind of cheesy today, like most seventies television.

The semi-recent Nero Wolfe series was wonderful, I thought. It would have been nice if that had launched some other such series, but no luck!

Kevin Killian said...

Nina van Pallandt was also featured in Altman's later films A WEDDING, OC AND STIGGS, and QUINTET, and played a part in AMERICAN GIGOLO. She's great and thanks, Martin, for pointing out an acting part for her I had no idea of previously. I'll have to watch this "Ellery Queen" show you speak of.