Spring 1964: U.N.C.L.E. gets a new chief

Leo G. Carroll's title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

Leo G. Carroll’s title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

With less than a month before regular series production began, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had some tweaks, both major and minor.

Superficially, star Robert Vaughn changed his hairstyle, switching his part and going for more of a “dry look” compared to the pilot that would air as the first episode.

More substantively, U.N.C.L.E. would have a new chief: Leo G. Carroll, a mainstay of several Alfred Hitchcock films, was cast as Alexander Waverly, replacing Will Kuluva’s Mr. Allison.

Carroll was three decades older than Kuluva. He had two basic on-screen personas: kind and bumbling (the 1955 comedy We’re No Angels or the Topper television series) or cold and calculating (“The Professor” in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest).

Occasionally, he got to a character where he displayed *both* personas (such as THIS EPISODE of the Boris Karloff Thriller anthology series where his character’s seeming bumbling masked his true persona).

Here’s an entry from Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE:

Monday, May 18, 1964

(Executive Producer Norman) Felton officially informs NBC that (Rober) Vaughn and (David) McCallum will remain to play running characters but Will Kuluva has been dropped. The new chief at U.N.C.L.E. will be played by Leo G. Carroll, and the character’s name has changed from Allison to Alexander Waverly.

Arguably, Carroll’s Waverly is an extension of his “Professor” character. Waverly is calculating and, as the series went on, showed he was more than willing to sacrifice his operatives if necessary. In one second-season episode (The Foxes and Hounds Affair), Waverly drops Solo (just returning from a vacation) into the middle of a complicated assignment where the ace agent’s life is in danger.

The official casting of the new U.N.C.L.E. chief came less than two weeks before series production began on June 1. The first draft for The Double Affair, which would be the eighth episode broadcast, still refers to Allison as the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

As the first season unfolded, the production team would seek to expand Carroll’s role. Waverly would be given a cousin who bore an uncanny resemblance (The Bow-Wow Affair) and would occasionally demonstrate he had once been a pretty mean operative himself (knocking out a lackey in The Deadly Decoy Affair).

The on-camera team was now complete. The question now was whether the show would work — or even survive.

Eleanor Parker, U.N.C.L.E.’s last villainess, dies

Eleanor Parker in the final episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  That's Leslie Nielsen in the background. She's not going to like what his character does moments later.

Eleanor Parker in the final episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. That’s Leslie Nielsen in the background. She’s not going to like what his character does moments later.

Eleanor Parker, who played the final villainess in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, has died at 91, according to AN ASSOCIATED PRESS OBITUARY ON THE MIAMI HERALD WEBSITE.

Parker played a wide variety of parts according to her HER ENTRY ON IMDB.COM. For spy fans, though, one significant role was filmed in 1967 and aired in January 1968. She was in the final two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. It was released outside the U.S. as a movie called How to Steal the World.

In that story, an U.N.C.L.E. official named Robert Kinsley (Barry Sullivan), decides to tip the fight between good and evil in favor of good via a “will docility gas” that will force the world’s population to be compliant. What Kingsley doesn’t know is that his wife (Parker) has been manipulating him in partnership with a Thrush operative named Webb (Peter Mark Richman).

Originally, the story, written by Norman Hudis, was intended as a one-hour episode. But, with NBC opting to cancel U.N.C.L.E. in the middle of its fourth season, executive producer Norman Felton had the script expanded to be a two-parter. It would be the eighth, and final, U.N.C.L.E. movie for international audiences.

Parker’s character meets her demise when Robert Kingsley, finally aware of his wife’s plans, orders a General accidently exposed to the docility gas (Leslie Nielsen) to kill her. Overall, the story’s quality varies greatly, in part because of the last-minute expansion. But it’s still a major part of U.N.C.L.E. lore.

1964: Broccoli and Saltzman try to derail U.N.C.L.E.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

By early 1964, post production was underway on the pilot for Solo. On Jan. 7, composer Jerry Goldsmith recorded his score, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline. But things would shortly get bumpy for Norman Felton’s production.

Toward the end of January, The New York Times ran an article about spy-oriented pilots, including Solo. In early February, Albert R. Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, which made the 007 films, had had enough. Here’s how the Henderson website describes it:

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 1964
Cubby Broccoli telephones Sam Kaplan of Ashley-Steiner, telling Kaplan he intends to sue Arena, Felton and all others connected with Solo for violating Broccoli’s and Saltzman’s rights to the James Bond stories, referring specifically to the Jan. 26 New York Times story.

Ian Fleming hadn’t been involved with Solo since June of the previous year. The author signed away his rights under pressure from Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the other co-head of Eon. The name Napoleon Solo had been one of his few contributions to make it to the final product of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot..

Still, it appears Broccoli couldn’t stand U.N.C.L.E. In his later years, in ill health, Broccoli worked on an autobiography that wouldn’t be published until after his death. Here’s how he described U.N.C.L.E.:

MGM came in with The Man From UNCLE, which was a straight steal from Fleming’s use of acronyms like SMERSH and SPECTRE.

When The Snow Melts, the autobiography of Cubby Broccoli with Donald Zec, 1998, page 199

Of course, Smersh wasn’t an acronym and Fleming was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until June 1963. Nothing had been stolen from Fleming (though he signed away his rights for a mere one British pound). Also, it was pretty easy to tell Napoleon Solo, suave U.N.C.L.E. agent apart from Mafia boss Solo in Fleming’s Goldfinger novel and Eon movie.

None of that mattered. Again, an excerpt from the Henderson website:

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1964
New York law firm for Saltzman and Broccoli sends cease-and-desist letter to Felton, MGM, NBC and Ashley-Steiner demanding immediate end to use of Fleming’s name in connection with planned Solo series — and end to all use of name and character “Solo,” “Napoleon Solo” and “Mr. Solo,” claiming theft of the “Mr. Solo” character in Goldfinger, which Eon is currently filming.

By April, the two sides agree Solo won’t be the title but the Napoleon Solo name is retained for the television series. NBC picks up the series to debut the following fall.

In May, the new series title ends up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. By that time, first drafts of series scripts have been written. The first draft for an episode to be called The Double Affair refers to the villainous organization as MAGGOT. The name is later changed to Thrush, which had been the choice of Felton and Sam Rolfe, the writer of the pilot, all along.

U.N.C.L.E. is now on its way to becoming reality. But more changes await before the cameras roll on the early episodes of the show.

CRAIG HENDERSON’S U.N.C.L.E. BOND TIMELINE FOR 1964

Earlier posts:

JUNE 1963: IAN FLEMING SIGNS AWAY HIS U.N.C.L.E. RIGHTS

MAY 1963: IAN FLEMING CRIES U.N.C.L.E.

Fall 1963: Norman Felton casts his Solo

The Solo that William Boyd forgot

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Producer Norman Felton had to make a decision: Who would be cast as Napoleon Solo, the character he co-created with Ian Fleming?

The task may not have been difficult as finding a Solo for a 21st century movie version of the show (finally cast with Henry Cavill). But it wasn’t a slam dunk, either.

According to Jon Heitland’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. book, Felton for a time considered a friend, Harry Guardino, for the part.

Also in the running was actor Robert Brown, who five years later would briefly be cast as Hawaii Five-O’s Steve McGarrett until the part was re-cast with Jack Lord. Also, according to the Heitland book, Felton decided to offer the role to Robert Culp, but the actor wasn’t available.

Felton ended up going with an actor already in his employ: Robert Vaughn, 30, who was the second lead in The Lieutenant, a drama about U.S. Marine Corps officers. Felton was the show’s executive producer, with Gene Roddenberry as the creator-producer.

“I was looking for someone who would give the character a certain visual sense of sophistication,” Felton told Heitland in an interview for the 1986 book.

Vaughn, in 2007, recalled the deal being done quickly:

Other work on the project proceeded. Sam Rolfe turned in his second-draft script and Don Medford was hired to direct on Oct. 9, 1963, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline.

By November, the rest of the cast was in place. David McCallum would play the small part (in the pilot script) of Illya Kuryakin, a Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent, and Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

Production was scheduled to begin on Nov. 20. It would be shut down for four days because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy two days later.

In the coming months, two men named Broccoli and Saltzman would present another challenge.

Earlier posts:

July 1963: U.N.C.L.E. presses on without Fleming

June 1963: Ian Fleming signs away his U.N.C.L.E. rights

Some fan complaints about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans react to what they've seen about the new movie.

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans react to news about the new movie.

Everybody’s a critic, the saying goes. So it is with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie a month after it began filming.

The Internet in its myriad forms, including Facebook, Twitter, listservs message boards and blogs like this one, has the potential to give every fan a voice. And many take advantage of the opportunity.

While it’s hard to say how representative they are, here’s a sampling of some fan complaints about the movie that stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in the roles originated by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. A lot of this is subjective and if you’re an U.N.C.L.E. fan you may agree or disagree.

1. The lead actors are too tall: Norman Felton, executive producer of the original 1964-68 series, was on record as not wanting “big, ballsy men” as his leads, which is one reason why Vaughn and McCallum, each below 6-feet tall, got the roles. Some fans refer to Kuryakin/McCallum as LBG, or “little blonde guy.”

Cavill is 6-goot-1 while Hammer is 6-foot-5. That is admittedly a big change and some fans don’t like it. Cavill was a last-minute casting change for 5-foot-7 Tom Cruise, who opted out of the project.

2. Henry Cavill is too muscular: Cavill, 30, is the latest screen Superman (in 2013’s Man of Steel) and will reprise the role in 2014 for a Superman-Batman movie that will be released in the summer of 2015. That’s different that Felton’s “everyman” vision.

3. Armie Hammer isn’t blonde enough: Hammer had dark hair playing the Lone Ranger in the 2013 Disney movie. He has lightened his hair, but for some fans he’s not blond enough.

Armie Hammer with a David McCallum haircut.

Armie Hammer with a David McCallum haircut.

4. Hammer doesn’t have Illya Kuryakin’s hairstyle: McCallum’s Kuryakin had bangs and his hairstyle got shaggier later in the series. Based on photos taken during filming in Rome SUCH AS THIS ONE, Hammer isn’t attempting the same hairstyle.

5. Why does Hollywood do all these remakes and/or sequels? This is a broader complaint about Hollywood in general. As movie costs have spiraled, studios have gotten conservative and are viewed as less willing to take risks in general.

Occasionally, there are remakes worth doing. Humphrey Bogart wasn’t the first actor to play Sam Spade. My Fair Lady, seen as a screen classic, is essentially a musical remake of Pygmalion. Some argue The Godfather Part II is better than the original. The problem isn’t necessarily remakes per se, but how they’re executed.

6. This is going to be a flop on the scale of 2013’s Lone Ranger movie! Actually, that’s almost impossible. The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s budget is a reported $75 million, while Disney’s Lone Ranger movie had a budget of as much as $240 million.

Meanwhile, as far as U.N.C.L.E. concerned, the past 30 years of fan discussion has centered on either the original show or U.N.C.L.E. projects that didn’t get made. Looking on the bright side, the U.N.C.L.E movie is something new to talk about — whether the movie turns out good or ill — for the first time in a long time. It also may recruit new U.N.C.L.E. fans, starting with fans of the lead actors.

Two more questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in photo on Zimbo.com site

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming

Photos appeared on Oct. 2 on places such as Zimbio.com and Us magazine’s Web site of filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. Shots included stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer together and in costume. There were also PHOTOS of Hugh Grant as Waverly and actress Alicia Vikander. So this seems a good time to pose two more unanswered questions.

What’s the name of Alicia Vikander’s character? The Sept. 3 PRESS RELEASE doesn’t specify.

When Vikander was identified by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER in May as being in the film, the trade publication said she “will play a British agent who has a thing for cars. The character did not appear in the TV series nor the short-lived spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., and is a new creation.”

What if, by chance, that’s not correct? Remember the filming of Skyfall? Naomie Harris’s Eve wasn’t supposed to be Moneypenny — except she was.

Thinking out loud, what if Vikander is playing April Dancer, the lead character in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.? There’s no evidence of that, of course. And given how complicated rights can be, the April Dancer character might even be unavailable for director Guy Ritchie & Co. to use. Time will tell.

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode


Will the original U.N.C.L.E. insignia return? Over the past few days of filming in Italy, some shots of crew members have shown up on social media. In some cases, people are wearing security badges that appear to have the original U.N.C.L.E. insignia used in the main titles of the original 1964-68 series.

Even if it’s the original insignia (and in some cases it’s pretty small in the photos), that’s no guarantee it will show up in the movie. On the other hand, if it is used in the film, it would be another of the seeming homages to the original show.

UPDATE: The U.K. Daily Mail has A STORY WITH MORE PHOTOS of the filming in Rome.

The story has one noteable mistake. “Set at the height of the Cold War, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which stands for United Network Command for Law Enforcement), was originally a TV series created by Sam Rolfe, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.”

Robert Vaughn played Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill’s role) and David McCallum played Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer’s role). Neither actor created the show.

Norman Felton and Ian Fleming created the Solo character and Sam Rolfe devised the U.N.C.L.E. detail and created Kuryakin and other characters.

Of that trio, only Rolfe had an on-screen credit for the show’s concept: “Developed by” in the first season, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Developed by” for the rest of the series. Felton was the executive producer throughout the series, and was credited for that. Rolfe was also producer for the first season.

Also, the formal name is United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. The Daily Mail isn’t the first media outlet to drop the “and.”

Earlier posts:

RETURN OF THE ICONIC U.N.C.L.E. TURTLENECK?

HOW THE U.N.C.L.E. MOVIE WILL DIFFER FROM THE ORIGINAL SHOW

Henry Cavill fan sites publish first photos of new Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo photo that appeared on the HenryCavillfan.org site

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo in a photo that appeared on the HenryCavillfan.org site

The first photos of Henry Cavill as the new Napoleon Solo appeared on Sept. 19 on fan sites including HENRYCAVILL.ORG, HENRY CAVILL NEWS and the HENRY CAVILL FANPAGE on Facebook.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, that began filming earlier this month, was filming in London today under the direction of Guy Ritchie. That spurred London-based Twitter uses to post updates throughout the day. Twitter user @Laneyboggs2001 was closely monitoring and re-Tweeted throughout the day.

A few examples:

Marlii ♡‏@marliimarl_
Henry now standing about 35 m away from me. Looks to be cold, he’s jumping up and down, waiting for cameras to be set.

chloe froggatt‏@ChloeFroggatt
Just walked past Guy Ritchie filming a scene at the end of my road… ✌️

Mick the Brit‏@mickthebrit
New Man from uncle film being filmed in South London at the moment.
The villain must be really scary
I wonder if Guy Ritchie is directing?

Based on the photos that came out today, this appears to the “big, ballsy” version of the spy co-created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming.

Felton, the executive producer of the original 1964-68 television series said in a 1997 interview that he wanted more average looking leads for his new series, not “big, ballsy men.” That’s why he cast 5-foot-10 Robert Vaughn as Solo and 5-foot-8 David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

Then again, in the 21st century, leading men are more physically imposing than they were 50 years ago.

APRIL 2013 Wall Street Journal story: HOLLYWOOD’S NEW ARMS RACE

April 2013 HMSS Weblog post: THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE LONG AND THE SHORT AND THE TALL

U.N.C.L.E. movie has young Solo character

UNCLE logo 02

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now being filmed in the U.K. has a “Young Napoleon Solo” character to be played by an actor who looks similar to star Henry Cavill who’s playing Solo in the film.

Jonathan Nadav, 23, has been cast as the young Solo, according to CASTINGCALLPRO.COM, a Web site that tracks casting.

That raises a couple of the possibility of either flashback scenes or some kind of prologue with the young Solo.

The original 1964-68 show didn’t reveal a lot about Solo’s background. One piece of information was he served during the Korean War under the command of a Colonel Morgan, who he encountered again in the first-season episode The Secret Sceptre Affair.

Whether director Guy Ritchie is going to explore that angle remains to be seen.

Shoutout to LaneyBoggs2001 (who Tweeted the Castingcallpro link) and others.

Luca Calvani is U.N.C.L.E. movie villain, Deadline says

Luca Calvani

Luca Calvani

Luca Calvani will play the lead villain in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, the Deadline entertainment news site said IN A SHORT ITEM. Here’s an even briefer excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Luca Calvani, is set to play the lead villain role of Alexander in director Guy Ritchie‘s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at Warner Bros. (snip) The U.N.C.L.E. character is a wealthy Italian shipping heir who smuggled Nazi gold at end of WWII. Junior’s behind the sale of nuclear weapons.

What Deadline didn’t mention: Rip Torn played Alexander, a wealthy industrialist who idolized Alexander the Great in the two-part episode that led off the second season of the original 1964-68 series. In fact, the character’s real name was Baxter. He just decided to adopt the name of Alexander.

What’s more, the TV series villain wanted to take over the world and break each of the Ten Commandments in doing so. The Rip Torn version of Alexander perished at the end of Part II. The two-part story was penned by Dean Hargrove, one of the best writers on the original show.

Calvani wasn’t mentioned in THE WARNER BROS. RELEASE formally announcing the U.N.C.L.E. movie, which stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

The fact that director Ritchie and his producing partner/co-screenwriter Lionel Wigram is using the Alexander name suggests some degree of familiarity with the original source material. We’ll see.

For more information about the original Alexander, CLICK HERE and read the review for episodes 30 and 31. Also, the two-part episode was edited into the movie One Spy Too Many. Here’s the trailer:

UPDATE, You can CLICK HERE to see a story about Calvani’s casting from The Wrap entertainment news Web site.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie may have an echo of a TV episode

Solo doesn't realize it, but he's very close to Thrush's Dr. Egret

The opening scene of The Girls of Nazarone Affair.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now filming in the U.K. apparently has a sequence that has an echo of an episode of the 1964-68 television series.

The Extras Casting Web site has INFORMATION ABOUT THE MOVIE seeking extras who also have pre-1965 cars to appear as part of a sequence including “a memorable and iconic scene involving Grand Prix racing.”

The filming is to take place for four days starting Oct. 16 at the Goodwood Motor Circuit. Participating extras will receive 200 pounds a day but must be available for all four days.

As it turns out, the original show incorporated a Grand Prix race (a generic race, not the European-based Formula One series), for the next-to-last episode of the first season, The Girls of Nazarone Affair.

In the episode, which originally aired April 12, 1965, U.N.C.L.E. and the villainous organization Thrush are after a serum that greatly accelerates the healing process.

Thrush has gotten its hands on the serum and conducts a test, with women operatives firing automatic weapons into woman race car driver Nazarone. The latter survives and U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) must plot a way to get the formula back. Meanwhile, the Thrush forces are led by Dr. Egret, a woman master of disguise in her second, and final, appearance in the series.

In the show, Southern California doubles for the South of France. Nazarone, whose behavior grows increasingly erratic, drives her race car onto the “Le Grand Prix” race circuit with the U.N.C.L.E. operatives in pursuit. The driving sequences take place on isolated roads.

It sounds Guy Ritchie, director of the new U.N.C.L.E. movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, plans something more elaborate. The Nazarone episode of the television show included Sharon Tate in the cast.

Shoutouts to @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter and the Henry Cavill News and HenryCavill.org Web sites.

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