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About Gail Shikles, Jr.
Craig Stevens (July 8, 1918 – May 10, 2000) was an American motion picture and television actor.
Early and personal life
Born Gail Shikles, Jr., in Liberty, Missouri, his father was a high school teacher.
Stevens studied dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1936. Acting with the university's drama club prompted him to halt his studies and instead to audition in the Hollywood film industry. Adopting the stage name Craig Stevens, he debuted in a small role in 1939 and thereafter played mainly secondary parts.
On June 18, 1944, at the Church of the Recessional, Forest Lawn, he married Canadian actress Alexis Smith, to whom he was wed for almost fifty years until her death in 1993. Stevens died from cancer at the age of eighty-one in Los Angeles, California. The Stevenses were childless.
On October 29, 1954, Stevens guest starred on the 1953-1955 ABC sitcom with a variety show theme, The Ray Bolger Show. Ray Bolger portrayed Raymond Wallace, a song-and-dance man who was repeatedly barely on time for his performances. Stevens portrayed a novelist interest in Ray's girlfriend, Susan, played by Marjie Millar.
After nearly twenty years in film, in 1958, Stevens gained national prominence for his starring role as private detective Peter Gunn, a television series which aired on NBC (and later ABC.) The series was produced by Blake Edwards, who also wrote and directed many of the episodes. The theme music for the series was composed by Henry Mancini and helped establish his early fame.
During the late 1950s, Stevens appeared three times on Rod Cameron's syndicated western-themed crime drama, State Trooper, and once on the CBS sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve, with Howard Duff and Ida Lupino, and on the syndicated military drama The Silent Service. On May 7, 1959, Stevens was a guest star on the NBC variety series, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. He and Tennessee Ernie Ford did a comedy skit based on Peter Gunn. He also sang on the The Dinah Shore Chevy Show with Dinah Shore and did multiple appearances on such popular series as Hotel, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote.
After Peter Gunn ended, Stevens was called on by Sir Lew Grade of ITV to move to London, England, to play the lead role in a made for TV series called Man of the World in the early 1960s. In 1964, Stevens followed this series where he starred as Mike Bell, a New York City public relations specialist in the 13-week CBS drama, Mr. Broadway. Horace McMahon (1906–1971) played his assistant and police contact, Hank McClure. The series was produced by David Susskind. Stevens and Blake Edwards brought Peter Gunn to the big screen with a feature film called Gunn (1967) without his supporting characters of Lola Albright and Herschel Bernardi and with Helen Traubel replacing the late Hope Emerson as the nightclub owner known as "Mother". Though advertised as Gunn-Number One no sequels followed. Other TV roles included the 1974 TV movie Killer Bees with Gloria Swanson. He worked with Blake Edwards again in the comedy hit S.O.B. and was featured with his wife two more times in Joseph Losey's drama La Truite and the 1988 Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Holiday Affair starring Robert Young.
Stevens did a considerable amount of stage work, including lengthy national tours in the musical Plain and Fancy and the comedy hit Cactus Flower, both co-starring his wife Alexis Smith. He made his Broadway debut in the Meredith Willson musical Here's Love opposite Janis Paige and recorded the cast album for Columbia Records. He later toured as Professor Higgins in a production of My Fair Lady with Jane Powell.