On November 19, 1971, NBC-TV brought Ellery Queen back to television with a movie based on Cat of Many Tails. The film, by concentrating only on the main characters and not more on the zeitgeist of a city during a heat wave and murder rampage, falls short of the novel.
There were other problems, as well. Peter Lawford played a very hip and British Ellery Queen, and Harry Morgan played his very American, wait for it – uncle, Inspector Queen. Several other stars fill out the cast, but that’s not the most interesting part of the movie.
Ellery Queen was, of course, a pseudonym used by Frederic Danny and Manfred Lee. The credited scriptwriter of this TV movie is Ted Leighton. Mr. Leighton’s name appears on six TV shows between 1971 – 1982, and little else is available on IMDB. However, Leighton, it turns out, was the pseudonym of two writers used when their scripts had been mangled beyond recognition. The writers were Richard Levinson and William Link, famous for creating Columbo, Mannix and Murder, She Wrote. Four years after this debacle, they would give Ellery Queen another try.
Nevins, I think, quotes Dannay — or maybe he states it as his own observation — that this telefilm had the biggest budget of any EQ movie adaptation ever. This was 4 years before the Jim Hutton Levinson-and-Link TV series, so he’s probably right.