Craig Stevens, star of film and television, died Wednesday, May 10, in Los Angeles. He was 81. Born Gail Shikle Jr. in Liberty Mo. in 1918, he moved to Calif. to become an actor, signing a contract with Warner Brothers in 1941. His career began with leading roles in B movies including Secret Enemies and Spy Ship and led to smaller parts in bigger films such as God Is My Co-Pilot, and Humoresque.

But he is best known for being chosen by Blake Edwards for the title role of Peter Gunn, a detective series that ran on NBC from 1958 to 1960 and then on ABC for a year after that. Steven's portrayal of Gunn was that of a suave but cynical private investigator, who spent his spare time at a jazz club where his girlfriend, Edie (Lola Albright) worked as a singer. Henry Mancini's jazz compositions, which underscored much of the action in the edgy, film-noir style series, was popular enough among viewers to be issued in two best-selling albums.

After Peter Gunn, Stevens starred opposite Janis Paige in Here's Love, on Broadway. In the years that followed he made guest appearances on such television shows as Dallas, Bonanza and Man of the World. In 1981, he appeared in Edward's film S.O.B.

Stevens' wife, Alexis Smith, whom he met while working at Warner Brothers, died in 1993. They had no children.

-Compiled by Nancy Catmull 212/337-7141