Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel 

Jessica is summoned to California where a recently recovered Air Force plane could pin a decades-old murder on her dead husband, Frank.


Vincent McEveety


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 4 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Michael Ansara ... Nicholas Rossi
Jane Greer ... Bonnie Phelps
Clifton James ... Ray Dressler
Martin Milner ... Major Clint Phelps
Richard Roundtree ... Major Kevin Cooper
Robin Strasser ... Sylvia Gagliano
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. ... Gen. Marcus Havermeyer
Danny Hassel Danny Hassel ... Lt. Gaynes
Doug Dupuy ... Polygraph Technician
Mark Costello ... Guard
Scott Richard Ehredt Scott Richard Ehredt ... Sergeant
J. Michael Warren J. Michael Warren ... Young Officer
Colleen McDermott Colleen McDermott ... Young Woman
Gerry Okuneff Gerry Okuneff ... First Man


When a military plane, on which Jessica's husband's was a crew member, is found, she and the other surviving members go to the Air Force base where the plane is being returned. When they arrive, they discover that a member of the crew, who supposedly jumped with the rest of the crew, was actually murdered. So an investigation ensues and the man investigating makes all the members take a polygraph test and, when they all pass, he concludes that Jessica's husband is the one who killed him. Jessica, not believing that, sets out to prove her husband's innocence. And she discovers a few oversights the investigator made but not enough to convince him of her husband's innocence. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

18 December 1988 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The vintage "Dixie Damsel", one of the few "Air Fortress" still in mechanical order for flight, was flown into Burbank from where the airplane is berthed in Idaho State. See more »


[first lines]
Reporter: [voice over] Good news from Alaska, where earlier this week search-and-rescue teams of the United States Air Force found the crew of a C-97 cargo transport, downed last week in a raging blizzard hundreds of miles west of Anchorage. Stranded on the slopes of the Kuskokwim Mountains near Stony River, the crew of the Dixie Damsel has little to protect them from the 10-below-freezing snow and sleet, except Yankee guts and ingenuity. Still missing are the flight engineer Sergeant Peter ...
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: UNIVERSAL PICTURES present UNIVERSAL NEWSREEL: Downed Fliers Rescued After 72 Hour Ordeal (superimposed on archive footage) See more »


References The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (1980) See more »


Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Cold Reception Foreshadows a Cold Cold Case Investigations
29 September 2009 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

A vintage newsreel featuring Young U.s. Air Force (USAF) Captain Frank Fletcher's (John Newberg) emerging from the USAF C-97 Cargo Transport Airplane "Dixie Damsel" to embrace American soil en route from Seoul, during the Korean War.

In the current day, from Seattle, Washington, Bonnie Phelps (Jane Greer) telephones Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), in Cabot Cove, Maine, to inform her that the Dixie Damsel has been found in an Alaskan snowbank, after its crew had parachuted during a 1952 blizzard. Bonnie and Jessica had shared quarters back in San Diego, California, during those years when their husbands were stationed together during the Korean War.

And now Bonnie plans to accompany her husband, Clint Phelps (Martin Milner), to Crawford Air Force Base, in California, to greet the arrival of the restored USAF Cargo Transport, which had been abandoned during a 1952 blizzard by four of five crew members, who were rescued 72 hours later.

Bittersweet memories transpire for Jessica, who, upon her arrival to the airfield, observes a Young Officer (J. Michael Warren) and his companion, a Young Woman (Colleen McDermott), merrily exiting into a convertible. Jessica then experiences a pleasant reunion with Bonnie and Clint inside, before accusations begin to fly.

When Air Force Major Kevin Cooper (Richard Roundtree) dismisses Jessica as unnecessary for his investigation, she requests a bit of common courtesy. But their meeting is interrupted by the return of the Dixie Damsel to the airfield.

Officer Lee Goddard (Dale Robertson) had left his Tuscon, Arizona, ranch two days earlier to fly to Alaska, and now to pilot the Dixie Damsel back to Crawford Air Force Base, to reunite with Clint, Bonnie and Jessica. When they ask why they cannot receive answers from Major Cooper, Lee explains that a body has been found aboard the airplane, preserved in the snowbank some 36 years, after being shot. And now, Major Cooper investigates which of the Cargo Transport crew has committed the murder.

Several out of town guests spend the evening at Desert Blossom Motel and dine at Gondolier Restaurant, at which Bonnie, Clint, Lee and Jessica notice the arrival of former Dixie Damsel crew member, radio operator Sergeant Ray Dressler (Clifton James), a grouchy type bearing a superiority complex, who has arrived from Armarillo, Texas, to take the lie detector test, which Major Cooper has scheduled for the next morning.

With Major Cooper on hand, Polygraph Technician (Doug Dupuy) finally administers the test to Clint Phelps, while Jessica waits in the outer office with Lee Goddard and Ray Dressler, who has no use for Major Cooper, nor the arriving Nicholas Rossi (Michael Ansara), who introduces himself as a cousin of the victim, Pete Gagliano, who accompanies Pete's long-estranged daughter, Sylvia Gagliano (Robin Strasser), to identify the body.

Lieutenant Gaynes (Danny Hassle), Sergeant (Scott Richard Ehredt) and Guard (Mark Costello) also serve on the base, where Major Cooper asks Lieutenant Gaynes to make Jessica to feel at home after he accuses her late husband, Frank, of the murder by process of elimination, based upon his preliminary findings of the lie detector tests. Jessica, therefore, demands a complete investigation, and if the Air Force won't do it, then she certainly will.

General Havermeyer (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) arrives on the airfield from St. Petersburg, Florida. He had been stationed in Tokyo during the Korean War, and would frequently ship furniture and other personal belongings back to the States via Air Cargo Transport. During "The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel," General Havermeyer had shipped a vintage automobile, which he had purchased for his wife on the occasion of their 20th wedding anniversary.

Jessica is therefore determined to prove that there was a sixth individual on board the Dixie Damsel, supported by the fact that the five parachutes were all missing from the cargo supply, and because she discovers another clue upon examining the vintage automobile.

But that evening, outside of the bar of Gondolier Restaurant, First Mugger (Gerry Okuneff) and Second Mugger (Bob Minor) ambush one of the suspects in a knife attack.

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