When I was growing up, Disney’s Sunday night presentations were must-see TV in my household. Yet aside from The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963), starring Patrick McGoohan, and a rebroadcast of Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (comprising the first three episodes of a five-part serial originally shot for Disney in the 1950s), I don’t recall many of the shows produced specifically for Wonderful World, as opposed to Disney theatrical pictures that were subsequently rerun on Sunday nights. Oddly, however, I have strong memories of Michael O’Hara the Fourth. Or perhaps it’s not so very odd, as that film left me with a huge crush on its star, Jo Ann Harris.
Although she was then 22 years old, Harris was cast as Michael “Mike” O’Hara IV, a teenage wannabe sleuth—very much in the Nancy Drew mode—whose father was Michael O’Hara III, a police captain in an unnamed city, played by Dan Dailey (later to feature in the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie segment Faraday and Company). The Disney Wiki explains how Harris’ character came by her distinctly masculine moniker:
The name Michael O’Hara has become synonymous with law enforcement. There have been three generations of Michael O’Hara’s and all have been exemplary policemen. When Michael O’Hara III’s child was born, he was told that [he and his wife would] not be able to have any more children, and there ha[d] always been a Michael O’Hara, so he named his child Michael O’Hara IV, despite the fact that she [was] a girl.
Now, Mike has a tendency to get involved with police matters and not always with good results, which annoys her father. And despite being told repeatedly to stay out of it, she continues her amateurish detective activities.
Michael O’Hara the Fourth was first shown in two parts, on successive Sunday nights: March 26, 1972, and April 2, 1972. It found the delightful, blonde Miss Mike recruiting her friends, especially her sort-of-boyfriend, Norman (Michael McGreevey), into one harebrained escapade after another, always intending to help her father with his crime-solving—but usually resulting in minor disasters. Although Mike wasn’t a tomboy (she favored short skirts), she didn’t shy away from mixing it up with crooks and killers. In the first part of this film, she and Norman try to get to the bottom of a money-counterfeiting operation, while the second half finds them seeking to crack the alibis of businessmen implicated in a murder.
This picture may have been intended for young audiences, but it’s far from silly, and its humor and high jinks remain entertaining even after all these years. I’m a bit surprised Disney didn’t shoot a sequel. Or two.