In the beginning: Ian Fleming’s Solo

Title page to proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo,” which would emerge as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In 1963, producer Norman Felton was attempting to launch a new adventure television series. In the fall of 1962, he had a few days of meetings with Ian Fleming. The James Bond author had provided some ideas, but little else.

Felton turned to writer-producer Sam Rolfe, who was working on Felton’s The Eleventh Hour dramatic series about psychiatrists. Rolfe had also co-created (and produced some episodes of) Have Gun-Will Travel, a popular 1957-63 Western series about a bounty hunter known only as Paladin.

It was clear to Felton that Fleming wasn’t going to be available for the heavy lifting of the new would-be series. So Rolfe turned out a 40-page series proposal (including a one-page diagram). Despite that, Fleming’s name would included and the proposal titled “Ian Fleming’s Solo.”

Teaser

The proposal begins with, in effect, a 12-page short story. A peddler goes into a tailor shop in the East Forties, “a few blocks from the United Nations cluster.”

The tailor shop is run by Giovanni. The peddler tosses a rain coat over a “battered old television.” The peddler takes out a toy “called a Robot Commando…battery operated….upon commands spoken into a microphone, it rumbles across the floor, its arms whipping in tight, mechanical circles as it flings small plastic balls into the air, its eyes whirling in dizzying spirals.”

The toy robots of Ian Fleming’s Solo would be used in season one’s The Double Affair

Giovanni watches the demonstration but isn’t interested in a purchase. The peddler packs up. Giovanni returns his attention to his pressing machine. But the peddler takes out a second toy robot before departing.

Once outside, the peddler takes out another microphone. Inside the tailor shop, Giovanni is hearing a woman’s voice through the television set. “Something is blocking the camera.”

Giovanni sees the peddler’s rain coat and moves toward the television set. However, one of the toy robots flings “small glass balls” which “break, relasing wisps of smoke around Giovanni. The result is instantaneous. He is unconscious before his body even touches the floor.”

The peddler re-enters, followed by five other men. A raid commences. The peddler finds a hidden button in the pressing machine. The invaders use a coat hook in one of the “shabby ‘try-on cubicles.” They gain entry to….what?

“On the far side of the wall is a small, modernistic, windowless office. A desk, with a desk plate inscribed ‘U.N.C.L.E.’, is occupied by by an attractive Young Woman who is frowning at a small TV viewer.” On the “viewer-picture” is the inside of the peddler’s coat.

The attackers overcome the woman before she can sound an alarm. The peddler remains in the tailor shop, now posing as Giovanni.

Ian Fleming notes, written on one of 11 telegram blanks, and given to Norman Felton

Eventually, the intruders are tripped up. They use identification badges, unaware they have to be deployed in a certain way without the alarm system going off. Two men, identified as the Leader, the other as an Accomplice make their way through the mysterious facility. The Accomplice is holding glass balls like the ones the toy robot used.

“The Accomplice’s hand is shattered by a spray of bullets, the glass balls splintering in the mangled fingers.” He’s overcome by the gas coming from the broken glass balls.

The Leader, though, presses forward and enters “a small inner reception office.” He’ll get no further as “four bullets tear through him.”

We’re introduced to “a tall, dark, well-dressed man” who “moves gracefully.” He steps over the body of the Leader and examines the Accomplice. At the same time, an “armed, Slavic-looking man runs down the corridor to stop at the doorway.”

They are soon addressed by a “pedantic looking, fifty-five year old man” who enters the office. He chides the dark man, whom he addresses as “Mr. Solo” about killing the Leader.

The men discuss how much information the intruders must have had to get this far into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. They must have had information from someone working inside U.N.C.L.E.’s Section Three — where there would be enough information to get here but not enough to totally avoid the alarm system.

However, we’re then told even the captured intruders died because they had ingested poison before the raid. They were dead men whether they succeeded or failed.

“But let us leave this story for a while. Later we’ll come back to it and tell you what happened after this opening,” this section of the presentation concludes.

U.N.C.L.E. Complex

The proposal describes buildings on the same block of Manhattan. They include a parking garage, four brownstones and a “fairly new, three-storied whitestone.”

Two stories of the latter are taken up by a restaurant called The Mask Club “which features fine food served by waitresses wearing masks (and little else) to to patrons who don masks (covering nostrils to brow) as they enter.” It’s an establishment that is “different, exclusive, expensive and frivolous.”

Sam Rolfe (with guest star Jill Ireland), making a cameo appearance in the first-season UNCLE episode The Giuoco Piano Affair. Rolfe would take over and do the heavy lifting on devising the series.

The third floor is “a sedate suite of offices, the entrance to which bears the engraved letters ‘U.N.C.L.E.'” The offices have “ordinary” people who handle mail and greet visitors.

All of the buildings involved are owned by U.N.C.L.E. Inside the walls of  brownstones is “one large building consisting of three floors of a modern, complex office building…There are no staircases in the building. Four elevators handle vertical traffic.” There is an underground channel leading to the East River.

U.N.C.L.E. we’re told “might stand for the United Nations Committee on Law and Enforcement…Certainly it is not far from the United Nations Building in Manhattan. And coincidence could not account for the fact that the personnel of the organization is peculiarly multi-national.”

Within headquarters, a red badge “will admit you to the ground floor which contains personnel and equipment for day in, day out routine operations.” Trying to get above the floor with a red badge will sound off alarms.

A blue badge permits entry to the ground and second floors. A white badge gains entry to the third floor which includes “the elite of this organization, the Enforcement Agents.”

U.N.C.L.E. Organization

The proposal presents an organizational chart.

Section I: Policy and Operations

Section II: Operations and Enforcement

Section III: Enforcement and Intelligence

Section IV: Intelligence and Communications

Section V: Communications and Security

Section VI: Security and Personnel

The enforcement agents enter through the Giovanni tailor shop, while other personnel take other entrances.

Characters

Miss Marsdian’s two favorite agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin

Napoleon Solo: The character named by Ian Fleming during his meetings with Norman Felton. He has an apartment that overlooks the East River. He has “a somewhat coppery kitchen (he cooks).” This was one of the ideas that Fleming contributed in his meetings with Felton.

“Solo has a love for the sea, possibly a hangover from his days of service with the Royal Canadian Navy (where he had served as the Commander of a Corvette).” Solo owns a “third foot sloop” kept on a marina on Long Island. The agent “rather tends to view all men as equals, unless their behavior (as opposed to their backgrounds) proves them otherwise.”

Solo also “fought in a war which was called a ‘Police Action.'” While attending a university, he majored in philosophy and minored in languages.

There is also this description:

He makes no high-blown moral statements about his work, nor his reasons for engaging in it. But you will sense (and other characters in the story may at times state it) that he can only work for a “cause” that is in the right…and he takes satisfaction in the destruction of evil.”

Mr. Allison: Allison (the pedantic man described earlier) is a member of Section I and “the only one ever seen or whose identity is even known.”

The only window in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in Allison’s office, which has a view of the East River and the U.N. Building. Allison “appears to be humorless. That’s not the case, but Allison doesn’t show it. Allison also doesn’t hesitate to send agents on missions that may end in their deaths.

Miss Marsdian: She guards the entrance to Allison’s office. She is “fat and fifty, running to the ‘motherly’ in her general appearance.” Marsdian also is “the only one at U.N.C.L.E. capable of showing genuine emotion at the fate of the Agents.”

Marsdian has two favorites among the agents. One is Solo. The other is…

Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin: Another Section II agent “of equal rank with Solo.” Kuryakin is “very much a loner. He does his job, but doesn’t discuss it. Like a machine that has been fashioned for a specific purpose … nothing seems to exist but the purpose.”

Kuryakin “is of Russian origin. It is wise for U.N.C.L.E. to draw agents from behind the iron curtain.” The agent “maintains an austere apartment in the same building as Solo.” Kuryakin has entrusted Solo with one secret — a hidden compartment under his bed filled with jazz records.

Miss Doris Franklyn: A Section II operative who has a cover as a struggling actress. “There is a question as to whether Doris would rather be an Actress than an agent.”

Ian Fleming sells off his interest in UNCLE.

U.N.C.L.E. Enemies

“Crime, by its large scale nature, is international in scope.” As a result, according to the proposal, the Mafia “and all its attendant ramifications are all basic material for assignments. But it will be treated in a bizarre and interesting manner.” The proposal also cites the example of a deposed Middle Eastern ruler who is forming an international crime empire.

But the recurring opponent is Thrush, a mysterious organization “shaped somewhat like a darker convolution of U.N.C.L.E. … a Dr. Moriarty and his friends would make a fair analogy.” The proposal says, “Thrush himself (and we will refer to him as if he were a single, male entity) is an unknown cipher.” Thrush may hire out or strike and his/its own depending on the situation.

Innocents

A key part of the series is that ordinary people get involved with the agents. The audience “will be made to identify with those caught up in the plots.” The proposal supplies various examples of innocents such as a school teacher, a housewife and a Siberian farmer.

Oh By The Way…

Felton sent a version of what Rolfe worked up to Ian Fleming, to gauge the author’s reaction and to see if he had any reactions or ideas. But Fleming would soon pull out of the project, selling his interest for a single British pound. U.N.C.L.E. would go on.

But Ian Fleming’s Solo (as this proposal was titled) had come to an end. However, concepts in the presentation would evolve.

Dan August coming to DVD in December

The cast of Dan August (Burt Reynolds seated, while left to right, Ned Romero, Richard Anderson, Norman Fell and Ena Hartman) in a publicity still

Dan August, the Quinn Martin series that helped (albeit in an unusual way) Burt Reynolds become a story will be available on DVD in December, according to a listing at Visual Entertainment Inc.

The series only ran first run during the 1970-71 season on ABC. After it wasn’t picked up, Reynolds took a blooper reel with him on talk show appearances, according to the book Quinn Martin, Producer. Audiences discovered the star’s sense of humor, which gave his career momentum.

The police drama originated with a television movie, House on Greenapple Road. That starred Christopher George as the police detective.

When ABC wanted a series, Quinn Martin wanted George to reprise the role. But the actor made a pilot for another series, The Immortal, which was also on ABC’s schedule. George went with that, opening the door for Reynolds. (As it turns out Visual Entertainment also offers The Immortal.)

Anthony Spinner title card for an episode of Dan August

The day-to-day producer of Dan August was Anthony Spinner (b. 1930), who was the fourth-season producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He also worked on a number of QM shows as a writer or producer. Spinner pushed the QM envelope on Dan August, having story lines dealing with topical issues of the day.

The Visual Entertainment series says CBS ran the show. It did, but not first-run. CBS ran it during the summer of 1973, with Reynolds now a movie star.

For more information about Dan August, CLICK HERE. It’s available for pre-order and ships Dec. 7.

Stan Lee dies at 95

Stan Lee’s cameo in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War

Stan Lee, the long-time editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics who co-created many Marvel characters and was a master showman in promoting them, has died at 95, according to The Associated Press, which cited a family attorney.

Stanley Martin Lieber was hired while still in his teens at at Timely Comics, a forerunner company of Marvel, working for publisher Martin Goodman. Goodman’s wife was Lieber’s cousin.

The young Lieber wished to save his given name for more literary works. He wrote a text feature in a Captain America comic with the pen name Stan Lee. The alter ego would stick.

Lee became editor after Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the creators of Captain America, left the company in 1941. Aside from a stint in U.S. Army during World War II, he’d hold the job until 1972.

For much of Lee’s tenure, Timely/Marvel was overshadowed by DC Comics, which published the adventures of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Timely nearly went out of business in the 1950s. Its star characters, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch (an android who could catch on fire) and Cap were in publishing limbo.

Groot’s first appearance in Tales to Astonish in a story by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

By the late 1950s, the company published a handful of science fiction and monster titles. One of the characters created during this period, Groot, a monster made of wood, would eventually be revamped in Guardians of the Galaxy. The first Groot story was a modest one-shot in Tales to Astonish in 1959.

Comeback

Eventually, Marvel (as the company became known) began a comeback in 1961 with the first issue of the Fantastic Four.

Jack Kirby, now on his own from Joe Simon, had rejoined the fold. Kirby did the bulk of plotting for the stories he drew, with Lee providing the dialogue and captions. The Fantastic Four carried over themes from previous Kirby titles such as Challengers of the Unknown for DC.

Beginning with the FF, Marvel began to build momentum. The Hulk (another Lee-Kirby product) followed in 1962. So did Thor (Lee-Kirby) and Spider-Man (Lee and Steve Ditko).

The 1960s surge also enabled Marvel to bring back characters. The Fantastic Four included a new version of the Human Torch and the original returned in a 1966 FF annual. The FF also saw the return of the Sub-Mariner, starting in issue 4. Captain America was revived in issue 4 of The Avengers in 1964.

Stan Lee and his wife Joan make a cameo in a Daredevil comic written by Gerry Conway, drawn by Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer. (Joan Lee died in 2017.)

Both Kirby and Ditko did much of the plotting when it came to stories. Another key collaborator was Lee’s own brother, Larry Lieber. Lee’s sibling scripted the first outings of Thor and Iron Man from sketchy Lee plots.

Yet, Lee provided a common voice for the growing collection of Marvel characters. He had a way of making readers feel they were part of a club that “got it.” Marvel was less stuffy, less formal than DC. That included the use of catchphrases such as, “Excelsior!” Many fans felt they were on a first-name basis with Stan.

Stan Lee Becomes a Star

By the mid-1960s, Marvel was on a roll. The Marvel characters, especially Spider-Man, began to draw attention from a wider audience.

Stan Lee was now Marvel’s real-life star, giving interviews and making appearances.

Stan Lee on a 1971 episode of To Tell The Truth

Some of Lee’s collaborators didn’t like it. Wally Wood, who had revamped Daredevil, including a new design for his costume, left in 1965. Ditko, who demanded and received credit for his plotting, followed in 1966. Both eventually returned but didn’t work with Lee directly.

The biggest departure was Kirby. He exited Marvel after drawing (and probably doing most of the plotting for) 102 issues of Fantastic Four as well as many issues of Thor and Captain America.

Kirby, too, would come back to Marvel for a few years in the 1970s, but mostly wrote and drew his own comics. One exception was a 1978 Silver Surfer graphic novel that reunited the Lee-Kirby team.

Eventually, Lee became an executive, handing over the editing chores at Marvel to Roy Thomas, his one-time assistant.

A New Generation

A new generation of writers and artists carried on with the comics. One of them, writer Gerry Conway (b. 1952), had taken over writing Spider-Man in the early 1970s. He penned the story where Peter Parker’s long-time girlfriend Gwen Stacy was killed off.

Gwen Stacy “was  basically Stan fulfilling Stan’s own fantasy,” Conway told author Sean Howe in the 2012 book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. “I think Gwen was simply Stan replicating his wife.” (Joan Lee died in 2017 after almost 60 years of marriage to Stan Lee.)

The story was one of the most controversial Marvel had published up to that time. Conway’s basic plot was used in the 2014 movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

Meanwhile, Lee’s duties included trying to strike deals for TV and movie adaptions of Marvel characters.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965

For years, that produced a mixed bag. The most successful was a Hulk TV series produced by Universal and telecast by CBS starring Bill Bixby. One episode even had a cameo by Jack Kirby as a police artist.

Eventually, Lee had his own departure from Marvel. Still, Lee had a deal where, once Marvel characters finally reached movie screens, he’d make cameo appearances in the films. That was reinforced in 2008 when Marvel began producing its own films beginning with Iron Man.

Such film cameos mimicked Stan appearances in Marvel comics stories years earlier.

Mixed Legacy

Stan Lee has a mixed legacy. Fans of Kirby, Ditko and Wood feel those collaborators did the heavy lifting at Marvel.

In 2014, the Kirby family reached a legal settlement with Walt Disney Co, which had acquired Marvel. Since then, Kirby has received more prominent credits in Marvel Studios movies released by Disney.

Toward the end of his life, and after Joan Lee’s death, there were controversies involving Stan Lee’s personal life.

The Daily Beast published a March 10, 2018 story depicting Lee being victimized by various hangers on. It was titled, Picked Apart by Vultures’: The Last Days of Stan Lee. The Hollywood Reporter published an April 10, 2018 story with a similar theme. That article, titled Stan Lee Needs a Hero, also included details about allegations concerning Stan and Joan Lee being assaulted by their grown daughter, J.C.

On April 12, Lee denied hew as a victim of elder abuse in a video shared with TMZ. Lee granted an interview to The New York Times for an April 13, 2018 story. ““I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he told the newspaper. “Nobody has more freedom.”

However, the article included some troubling details. For example, it described how a number of paintings were no longer at his home. When Joan Lee was alive “she had so many paintings, all over,” Stan Lee told The Times. “Most of them have left now. My daughter took a lot of them, and a lot of them have gone elsewhere.” It wasn’t clear what “gone elsewhere” meant.

For fans of the 1960s Marvel comics, such articles were a difficult and painful read. That also applied to long-time comics professionals. Artist Neal Adams penned an “open letter” about Stan’s situation.

The situation stabilized. In October 2018, Lee gave an interview to The Daily Beast. He denied he had been abused by his daughter, who was present for the interview.

“There really isn’t that much drama,” the comic book legend told the website. “As far as I’m concerned, we have a wonderful life. I’m pretty damn lucky. I love my daughter, I’m hoping that she loves me, and I couldn’t ask for a better life. If only my wife was still with us. I don’t know what this is all about.”

Stan Lee, ever the showman.

Excelsior

How will Stan Lee be remembered?

In 2007, Jonathan Ross reported and hosted a documentary about Steve Ditko that included a Stan Lee interview. He presented his own appraisal about Stan Lee.

“Now, it would be easy to make Stan Lee out to make the villain of the piece but I can’t bring myself to do that, not least because it would be unfair,” Ross said.

“He co-created all of these characters,” Ross added. “He wrote some of the greatest Marvel comic books of all time. And the fact he takes the credit for doing so is absolutely right. I just wish he’d share it out with the guys he worked with a little more.”

Nevertheless, Lee was the face of Marvel for decades. From modest beginnings, to a movie juggernaut, Stan Lee was a huge presence in popular culture.

“Stan is right up there with Walt Disney as one of the great creators of not just one character, but a whole galaxy of characters that have become part of our lives,” George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, told The New York Times in its April 13, 2018 story.

“Right now, I think he’s probably bigger than Disney.”

Martin had a personal connection to the Stan Lee days at Marvel. He had a letter published in Fantastic Four No. 20 in 1963.

Excelsior, Stan.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The end (though they didn’t know it)

Solo and Illya have just gotten word they’ve been canceled by NBC.

The Seven Wonders of the World Affair was the two-part adventure that ended The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 1964-68 run. But, as originally written, it was a standard single-part episode.

Writer Norman Hudis’s original script was dated June 23, 1967. The basic plot matches the final product that would be broadcast by NBC on Jan. 8 and 15, 1968. However, the June 23 script is simpler.

In the original version, the villain was Kingsley, same as the broadcast version. In the first script, we’re not told much about Kingsley. He’s an independent operator and not part of Thrush, the villainous organization used for much of the series.

Kingsley has assembled experts in various fields. They will help him rule the world once he has used a gas that will make make the globe’s population peaceful.

Kingsley’s Eyes

Kingsley is “50-ish, superbly-preserved and well groomed.” At one point, the stage directions call for the camera to zoom into “VERY CLOSE SHOT KINGSLEY EYES: cold, penetrating, unblinking – windows to an insane mind.”

As story opens, Kingsley has assembled all but one of his experts. A scientist, David Garrow, is kidnapped while Solo and Illya simply watch. Kingsley receives word from one of his men the kidnapping has succeeded.

“Good,” Kingsley replies. “Just as I planned.”

Separately, Solo informs his superior, Alexander Waverly, that Garrow has “been taken.” Waverly is with his assistant, Lisa.

WAVERLY
Good. Just as I planned.

He does not say it with the elation just heard in Kingsley’s voice. He looks up with heavy anxiety at Lisa.

WAVERLY
And I pray I planned right —

Solo and Illya split up. Solo boards an U.N.C.L.E. plane to follow Garrow (who has a tracking device). Illya meets with Garrow’s wife and grown son to tell them how Garrow volunteered to help U.N.C.L.E. find the missing experts.

Similar to the final version, Solo’s plane is shot down in the Himalayas as it nears Kingsley’s installation. Unlike the broadcast version, the script actually calls for Solo to struggle with snow after he escapes the aircraft. As broadcast, the area around the base was “unusual” in that there was no snow.

Professor Who?

In this script, one of Kingsley’s experts is named Professor Dent (!). Yes, same as the character from the film Dr. No who (unsuccessfully) tried to kill James Bond.

Maybe Norman Hudis wasn’t aware of the legal wrangling between Eon Productions and U.N.C.L.E. over the Solo name when that intended as the title of the TV series. (Eon’s attorneys sent a cease and desist letter; the title got changed to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) Maybe it was a bit of a practical joke by Hudis. If so, I doubt executive producer Norman Felton would have found it funny. Regardless, the character would be renamed Erikson in the final version.

As in the broadcast version, Illya flies in another U.N.C.L.E. aircraft to the Himalayas with Steve Garrow as a stowaway. Solo’s communicator initially couldn’t broadcast after he was shot down. Eventually, Illya is able to reach Solo via their U.N.C.L.E. communicators. Waverly also is patched in. In the course of the conversation, Solo and Illya have this exchange:

SOLO
Steve Garrow? What’s he doing — ?

ILLYA (on Solo’s communicator)
Stowed away. Didn’t trust us to rescue the Professor.

SOLO
Can’t say I blame him: we’re not being particularly brilliant so far.

Waverly informs the agents that Solo had been shot down “inside an electronic anti-communication belt, some twenty miles in circumference.” The agents are told to infiltrate that area and find the kidnap victims.

Meanwhile, U.N.C.L.E. attempts to use “radio-particle long-distance bombardment” to penetrate the zone. This is deployed using an “IMPRESSIVE AND COMPLICATED ANTENNA” at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. However, the device is unsuccessful.

Solo Meets Kingsley

The agents (Solo by himself, Illya, accompanied by the younger Garrow), eventually succeed in reaching Kingsley’s base. Solo, though is captured. Afterward, he meets Kingsley.

The latter comes to the point. “My name is Kingsley. I am going to rule the world. And you wonder why you are still alive.”

“I’ve met several would-be world rulers: you all have one thing in common: you have to talk about it,” Solo says. “You won’t kill me, Mr. Kingsley, until I’m duly impressed by your plans.”

That doesn’t stop Kingsley. He tells Solo about his plan how the roles the various experts will have in its implementation.

KINGSLEY (unboastful)
I have overlooked nothing. There may be rebels. They will have to be dealt with.
(a beat)
Are you – ‘duly impressed —‘?

SOLO
By a world of soulless obedience – mindless conformity? No. It’s insane.

The agent gets a nasty surprise. He’s being escorted to his living quarters by Gen. Harmon, Kingsley’s security chief. Solo makes a pitch for how the various kidnapped experts could escape. However, Harmon tells Solo that he volunteered. Harmon then has Solo seized by guards to be shot.

Much of the rest of the script has Solo, Illya and Steve Garrow get in and out of peril. There’s a lot of description of all this, one reason why the script goes up to 74 pages. The general rule of thumb is that one page of script averages out to one minute of screen time. In the last 1960s, a one-hour television show’s running time would be about 50 minutes or so minus commercials.

U.N.C.L.E. Roughhouse

At one point, Hudis takes a short cut for a sequence that surely would have taken at least a minute or two screen time, if not longer. It’s an action sequence after Solo and Illya are back together and fighting Kingsley’s guards.

FIGHT
Typical “U.N.C.L.E.” roughhouse, during which Solo and Illya, outnumbered, are in danger of defeat and death several times. They eventually worst the Guards however and dive out the window together.

Despite the odds, the agents prevail. (They get their hands on some weapons, which is a big help.) They wreck much of the facility, including the area from which the gas will be launched.

Of the main characters, only General Harmon is killed. Kingsley, Professor Garrow and Steve Garrow all survive. Kingsley gets the last word with one undamaged portion of his base.

KINGSLEY
Nothing can save you now —

He is looking at and addressing:

KINGSLEY’S POV – THE WORLD MAP

By some freak of explosion blast, it has survived intact – like the minds of the millions who inhabit its continents.

We PULL BACK to show the ENTIRE SCENE: The map – Kingsley before it, gazing up at at his lost realm – Solo some distance behind him – Illya joining Solo, also to look at Kingsley – Garrow, Steve and Dent slowly re-entering.

In the fall of 1967, NBC canceled the series, meaning it would only last half of the 1967-68 season. The production team opted to expand this script into a two-parter and make it a feature film (How to Steal the World) for international markets.

Major Changes

Poster for How To Steal the World, movie version of The Seven Wonders of the World Affair

In doing so, things got more complicated. Kingsley was now an U.N.C.L.E. official based in Hong Kong who goes rogue. Having fought “the seemingly endless battle” against evil, Kingsley decides to use what’s called “docility gas” to make the world peaceful.

More characters were introduced as was Thrush. There was now a Mrs. Kingsley who, unknown to her husband, is having an affair with Webb, a Thrush operative. Kingsley also doesn’t know that Thrush is financing his plans so it can take over. There’s also a severe conflict within Thrush how to proceed.

Ironically, with all the changes, Gen. Harmon ends up surviving, although he he is subjected to the gas. In the Hudis original, the audience was told two guards were used as guinea pigs to test the gas. In the new version, the audience sees the general being gassed by accident and how he’s almost childlike as a result. Solo and Kurykin were to have been the test subjects, but some of Hudis’s “U.N.C.L.E. roughhouse” broke out.

Ultimately, Kingsley, Mrs. Kingsley, Webb and Professor Garrow all parish. What’s more, Solo’s meeting with Kingsley was expanded so the agent confronts all of the “seven wonders.” One line from the original script attributed to Garrow, where he calls Kingsley’s plan “a blasphemy” is voiced by Solo.

Mixed Reactions

Many original U.N.C.L.E. fans are critical of the final version because it’s padded out. For example, the recap at the start of Part II extends into the middle of Act I. I’ve argued previously that Solo’s confrontation with the “seven wonders” in Part II is one of Robert Vaughn’s best scenes of the series.

Still, there’s no denying the final version is uneven. One of the oddities is how Thrush has a “secret headquarters” at a meat packing plant.

In any case, there was sadness among original U.N.C.L.E. fans when The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Part II concluded. It was also the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

Jack Whittingham’s daughter talks about her father

Cover to The Thunderball Story

Sylvan Whittingham Mason, daughter of screenwriter Jack Whittingham, discused her father and her limited-edition book, The Thunderball Story in an interview with the blog.

Jack Whittingham (1910-1972) was hired to pen a script while Kevin McClory collaborated with 007 creator Ian Fleming to try to launch a James Bond film in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

That initial effort faltered, but was the heart of a 1960s court case that would have an impact on the cinematic 007 for decades.

McClory would gain the film rights to Fleming’s Thunderball novel, written by Fleming after the film project ended. McClory would work in partnership with Eon Productions for 1965’s Thunderball. He’d try to compete with Eon with projects based on his Thunderball film rights. One emerged (1983’s Never Say Never Again) while nothing came of other attempts.

The interview was conducted by email. Some of the answers were edited for length. Thanks to Shane Whaley of the Spybrary podcast and Facebook page for making introductions for the interview.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m. New York time: Readers of the blog have advised the book isn’t available in the United States.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m. New York time: Sylvan Whittingham Mason advises the book can be ordered in the U.S. CLICK HERE for the Kindle version.

SPY COMMAND: Just how did your father come to be involved in the late 1950s/very early 1960s film project?

SYLVAN WHITTINGHAM MASON: In 1959, My father was a writer for hire, having just left Ealing studios to go free-lance, where he had been been part of the Ealing team, and had been writing screenplays for 14 years. Kevin McClory was looking for an experienced screenwriter to work with Ian Fleming on a James Bond movie, and approached MCA agent, Bob Fenn who suggested my father.

SC: How did your father come to be the forgotten man of Thunderball?

SWM: My father was at the height of his career; he had a six bedroom house in a leafy Surrey stockbroker belt, and two children in private education.

However, sometime after proceeding with Kevin McClory as co-plaintiff against (Ian) Fleming and (Fleming friend Ivar) Bryce, and watching the case mushroom out of all proportion, he realised that Kevin, (who had Bobo Sigrist’s Hawker Siddeley fortune behind him should he fail,) had everything to gain but nothing to lose. My father, who had no one backing him, had nothing to gain and everything to lose as he had been paid for the original screenplay and had transferred his rights (of whatsoever nature) to Kevin.

He stepped down as co-plaintiff and became principal witness supporting Kevin completely for the remainder of the proceedings, thus reducing the risk of bearing the potentially enormous cost of a case that could be of no financial compensation to him should they lose.

His own case against Fleming for professional damages and false attribution, etc. was scuppered when Fleming’s final heart attack put an end to it.

SC: The Thunderball affair has been examined in detail, including The Battle for Bond by Robert Sellers. What will readers learn with this new book?

SWM: There are some new quotes and several photographs that have not been widely seen before, but most of the information, as you rightly say, came from ‘The Battle For Bond,’ in which the information for that book (regarding my father and Kevin,) originally came from me, as I hold a complete set of both plaintiff’s court case papers, and so was able to provide absolutely accurate source material to my esteemed friend Robert Sellers.

However, my aim with this small book was to present my father’s enormous contribution to the 007 phenomenon in a simple, concise way that, not just the serious James Bond aficionado who is happy to trawl through some 400 pages of small writing in ‘The Battle For Bond’ could enjoy, but for everybody who finds it hard to grasp this somewhat complex tale.

I have been asked so many times to explain what happened. I always start off by saying, “I’ll try and keep this as brief as I can.” Before I am half way through the story, eyes start to glaze over, and very few people actually “get” that Ian Fleming did not write the THUNDERBALL novel or the THUNDERBALL screenplay, and the character of Bond in his books was not the same character that appeared in the films, though he did bear the same name. One of my closest friends remarked recently after reading my book, “At last I see clearly exactly what happened!”
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SC: What would you say your father contributed to Thunderball?

SWM: My father contributed a screenplay that catapulted a popular set of seven well (but not brilliantly) written books with a rather stuffy Bond character who wore pin striped suits, carried an umbrella and drove a Bentley, and who was somewhat lacking in charm or charisma, into the raised eyebrow, charismatic, charming, suave, tongue in cheek, superstar character we know and love today.

Screenplay title card for Thunderball (1965) that references Jack Whittingham’s earlier script

His professionally written screenplay was the pivot between the books being turned down by all the film studios for being too misogynistic, violent and unbelievable, and a film project that had the top movie makers queuing up.

This very first screenplay was plagiarized on 105 pages in Fleming’s novel of Thunderball, and was the basis for that book and for the final screenplay that emerged from the book that was based on the first screenplay.

Without my father’s first screenplay, it is entirely possible that the film James Bond phenomenon as we know it today might never have taken off at all and would probably have never progressed further than the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.

Massive 007 photo archive goes online

Logo for the Thunderballs photo archive

Thunderballs, an archive of more than 13,000 James Bond film stills, has gone online.

@Thunderballs007 on Twitter has been posting various stills, for months ahead of the webite launch. The website went live today.

During the posting of stills on Twitter, the site has been gathering information, including details about behind-the-scenes stills.

“I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all the people who have contributed to the making of the THUNDERBALLS website over the course of the last year,” Thunderballs said in a Tweet today. “For all the bits of information, pictures contributed and time given it has been greatly appreciated. I couldn’t have done it alone.”

To check out the new website, CLICK HERE.

Jonny Quest movie project resurfaces

The cast of Jonny Quest

A live-action movie based on the Jonny Quest adventure cartoon has resurfaced, according to the entertainment news website The Wrap.

Chris McKay, director of The Lego Batman movie, will helm the Quest project, The Wrap said. The website said it got the information from “individuals with knowledge of the project.” The Hollywood Reporter said it confirmed the news.

Three years ago, there were reports that Robert Rodriguez would co-write and direct a live-action Quest film.

Jonny Quest debuted in 1964 on ABC. It was made by Hanna-Barbera and created by cartoonist Doug Wildey. The series featured realistically drawn characters (with the except of Jonny’s dog, Bandit), a departure for H-B. The original version only lasted one season, although there were revivals in the 1980s and 1990s.

Jonny Quest was the son of widower scientist Dr. Benton Quest. They were protected by U.S. government agent Race Bannon. The group took in Hadji, a native of India.

Quest was Hanna-Barbera’s answer to James Bond. Development began after producer Joseph Barbera saw Dr. No. Hanna-Barbera initially intended to adapt the radio program Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, but went with original characters instead.

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon brand was later absorbed by Warner Bros.’s animation unit. The movie, if it goes into production, would be released by Warner Bros.

In 2016, La-La Land Records released a soundtrack set of music from the 1964-65 season of Quest.