James Stewart - Hawkins

DVD Review: James Stewart is Hawkins – The Complete TV Movie Collection

In DVD's by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

One of the most recognized and beloved movie stars of all time, James Stewart made a couple of forays into television with mixed results. His first series, The Jimmy Stewart Show, debuted amid lots of fanfare but failed to catch on with viewers. His second television project, Hawkins, followed a movie-of-the-week format—more precisely, every other week—alternating with a TV adaptation of Shaft. This arrangement undoubtedly made it difficult for either series to build up much in the way of consistent viewership. After eight feature-length episodes, Hawkins was cancelled by CBS. Recently, Hawkins was made available through Warner Archive in a four DVD set.

James Stewart - HawkinsStewart plays Billy Jim Hawkins, a crafty West Virginia lawyer. He uses his folksy Southern charm to fool opposing legal counsel into underestimating his considerable legal prowess. If it sounds like a precursor to Matlock, it was (reportedly, Andy Griffith was approached to play the role of Hawkins, but declined). Since Hawkins also investigates his cases he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the courtroom. He regularly visits crime scenes, assisted by his cousin R.J. (Strother Martin), complete with cowboy hat and drawl.

Each movie is a standalone affair. In each case, Hawkins is called in to defend his client against murder charges. In “Death and the Maiden,” Hawkins defends a young heiress (Bonnie Bedelia) accused of murder, after she comes home to find her family dead. In “Murder in Movieland,” Hawkins travels to Hollywood when a movie star’s (Sheree North) husband (Cameron Mitchell) is accused of murder. In “Die, Darling, Die,” Hawkins defends a woman (Julie Harris) who may or may not have deliberately withheld her husband’s medication, resulting in a fatal heart attack. Sam Elliot and Diana Douglas also guest star. “Life for a Life,” has Hawkins defending a man (William Windom) accused of killing his son’s alleged killer. Tyne Daly and Jeanne Cooper (The Young and the Restless) also guest star. A Civil War reenactment turns deadly in “Blood Feud.” Lew Ayres and Diana Ewing guest star. In “Murder in the Slave Trade,” Hawkins defends a recently retired pro football player (Peter Mark Richman) accused of murdering the team’s owner. Stacy Keach, Sr. also guest stars. In “Murder on the 13th Floor,” Hawkins client is the son of an old girlfriend (Theresa Wright). He was found in the same hotel room, moments after his girlfriend was murdered. It doesn’t look good for campaign manager Paul Burke when a reporter with dirt on senator Pernell Roberts turns up dead in “Candidate for Murder.”

Hawkins isn’t particularly suspenseful. It’s generally paint-by-the-numbers stuff that won’t keep you guessing for very long. However, James Stewart is so charming and list of guest stars so impressive, it’s hard not to find something to like about these movies if you’re a fan of Stewart’s work.

Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Warner Archive’s presentation is fine, but it certainly won’t bowl anyone over. The print is largely free of damage, but compression issues and fuzzy edges, particularly on faces, do pop up.

The mono soundtrack does a fine job delivering dialogue and music.

No special features are available.

Purchase James Stewart is Hawkins: The Complete TV Movie Collection from the Warner Archive Collection.