Happy birthday (No. 96!) Norman Felton, the real Man From U.N.C.L.E.

We just wanted to wish Mr. Norman Felton a happy 96th birthday. It was Felton, looking for a change of pace from producing TV dramas, who spearheaded the project that would become The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Felton had a notion about a character he dubbed Edgar Solo, who seemed ordinary but worked for a special agency. Felton hoped to entice Ian Fleming into the project. But the author didn’t want to offend Eon Productions, which was beginning to crank out James Bond movies. Nevertheless, Fleming contributed a few ideas, including renaming the hero Napoleon Solo.

While it would be writer/producer Sam Rolfe who’d bring everything to life, it was Felton who oversaw The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for all four of its seasons, 105 episodes and eight theatrical movies developed from episodes.

Back in 2002, HMSS wrote about how Felton’s papers (along with those of 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum) are stored at the University of Iowa.

And, below, are the end titles of The Giuoco Piano Affair, a first-season episode. In the final shot, that’s Mr. Felton looking over a chessboard at a party scene. Once again, happy birthday, Mr. F.

The Silencers preview of For Your Eyes Only’s ad campaign

One of the most famous James Bond movie posters was For Your Eyes Only, the 1981 Roger Moore 007 movie, where we see, in the foreground, a woman’s legs rather prominently. If you’ve forgotten, well, just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

Fifteen years earlier, The Silencers, Dean Martin’s first screen outing as Matt Helm debuted. One version of the poster looks somewhat similar. If you CLICK HERE, you get a PDF file. Go down to Page 4 and you’ll see some art that looks awfully similar to the poster for For Your Eyes Only.

UPDATE (July 2013): The link to the pressbook of The Silencers doesn’t work anymore. However, if you CLICK HERE, you’ll see an image of a poster from The Silencers with the meme that For Your Eyes Only would use 15 years later.

More about 007’s alcohol intake

After recovering from our hangover re-reading James Bond’s impressive drinking in Goldfinger, we had to go back over some our old copies of Ian Fleming novels.

For example, there’s the first page of Thunderball:

He had a hangover, a bad one, with an aching head and stiff joints…The one drink too many signals itself unmistakably. His final whisky and sode and in the luxurious flat in Park Lane had been no different than the ten preceding ones, but it had done down reluctantly and had left a bitter taste and an ugly sensation of surfeit.

ELEVEN whisky and sodas? We hope he didn’t try driving home.

Anyway, let’s go a few novels ahead and look at the first chapter of You Only Live Twice. He’s with Tiger Tanaka, head of Japan’s secret service, and some women companions. The two men are having a contest of sorts. Bond remarks:

“All right, Tiger. But first, more sake! And not in these ridiculous thimbles. I’ve drunk five flasks of the stuff and its effect is about the same as one double martini.”

Yeah, just one double martini. What a wuss that Tanaka was.

How much booze did 007 consume, anyway?

Short answer: a lot. Slightly longer answer: an impressive amount. One of our favorite examples from the literary Bond:

Golfinger: Ian Fleming’s seventh 007 begins with James Bond in the Miami airport “with two double bourbons inside him” and nursing a third. Bond is rather moody, thinking about life and death, in particular how quickly death can arrive. Then, Bond’s flight to New York is delayed until the next day.

Bond had forgotten his drink. He picked it up, and, tilting his head back, swallowed the bourbon to the last drop.

(Goldfinger, page 11, Macmillan Company edition)

OK, that’s three double bourbons. Now, Bond has decided to get drunk. (We hope he’s not planning on renting a car around this time.) Then, he runs into Junius Du Pont (not one of the chemical Du Ponts), who had been a gambler the secret agent encountered in Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale.

Du Pont suggests they share a drink. Bond orders another bourbon on the rocks. Since Bond has to stay the night, Du Pont suggests they go out to dinner. After arriving, Du Pont suggests a cocktail “to start.” Bond orders a vodka Martini and Du Pont likes the idea and orders one himself. When the drinks arrive, Du Pont instructs that another two more be brought in TEN minutes.

When dinner arrives, the men consume pink champagne along with crabs for dinner.

The champagne seemed to have the faintest scent of strawberries. It was ice cold. After each helping of crab, the champagne cleared the palate for the next.

(Goldfinger, page 19, Macmillan edition)

There’s probably more here, but we’re getting hungover just re-reading this.

Preposterous elements of Quantum of Solace

quantum-of-solace-international-posterThe media review website, Television Without Pity , is home to some of the snarkiest writing on the web, and is always an entertaining read. Staffer Zach Oat recently took a look at the Quantum of Solace DVD, in an effort to catalog some of the more… goofy… elements of the 22nd James Bond movie.

Oat writes that “while many thought [QOS] was more Bourne then Bond, you have to admit that the movie had a heaping helping of Bond-level ridiculousness.” He goes on to list various silly things/events that caught his attention, but may have slipped past yours (as they did ours). They’re all time-stamped for your convenience. Here’s a sample:

35:55 – This CIA guy Felix Leiter is working with has a ginormous mustache. Seriously, it’s huge! Is this how the world sees America? Or just the CIA?

His article, QUANTUM OF SOLACE: BOND’S MOST PREPOSTEROUS MOMENTS, will bring a shock of amused recognition to even the sharpest-eyed 007 watcher. Even better, it’ll give you a good reason to watch it yet again. Fire up your DVD player and grab your remote! (After you read his article, of course.)

TCM starts promos for 007/Connery movies

TCM has started running a promo for “star of the month” Sean Connery in May. As you might expect, it relies heavily on Connery appearances in his six James Bond movies filmed for Eon Productions.

Throughout the promo, TCM uses the dots from the main titles of Dr. No superimposed over clips from that movies, the five other Connery/Eon/007 movies as well as clips from non-Bond Connery films such as The Hill and The Wind And The Lion. The promo also uses a piece of music that evokes The James Bond Theme but is different enough that TCM won’t have to pay any royalties to Monty Norman.

In all, TCM will have 15 Connery movies, starting Friday, May 1, with Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Tribute to Cubby Broccoli on FelixLeiter.com

Over at FelixLeiter.com, there’s a tribute to 007 producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. It quotes extensively from various books about Bond, including Broccoli’s autobiography. If you want to take a look just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

I Spy now on YouTube

YouTube recently cut a deal with Hollywood studios that is enabling complete episodes of some old TV shows to be on YouTube. One of the shows is I Spy, the groundbreaking 1965-1968 series that featured white and black agents paired together. It also helped make a star of Bill Cosby.

So far, only five episodes of the first season are on YouTube. Also, YouTube appears to have decided to not permit the episodes to be embedded on Web site. In any event, the episodes available (and we’re linking them via their titles) are as follows:

So Long Patrick Henry: Agents Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) are to present defected athlete Leroy Browne (Ivan Dixon) a chance to regain his U.S. citizenship. Written by Culp, this was the first episode broadcast but it’s not the pilot. Directed by Leo Penn, son father of actor Sean. Composer Earle Hagen actually incorporates The James Bond Theme (rather effectively) in the epilogue.

A Cup of Kindness: Russ Conley, Kelly’s old teacher in spy school, shows up in Hong Kong and gives Kelly and Scott an envelope. The contents, once decoded, are instructions saying Conley’s a double agent and has to be killed. Written by series creators Morton Fine and David Friedkin, with Friedkin playing Conley.

Carry Me Back to Old Tsing-Tao . A Chinese criminal wants to return to his home on Taiwan (called Formosa here). The U.S. will permit him to do so IF he makes good on $1 million in back taxes. The problem: the criminal has three badass sons-in-law (Bernard Fox, David Sheiner and Michael Conrad) who want the money for themselves.

Chrysanthemum . Composer Hagen incorporates a tune he originally wrote in the 1940s and which he’d revive in the 1980s for a Mike Hammer series starring Stacy Keach.

Dragon’s Teeth. Kelly runs into an old flame while on assignment. Don’t be surprised if it turns out badly.

Bond 23: 2010? (Unlikely) 2011? 2012?

It’s looking like there will be at least a three-year gap between 007 movies. It wouldn’t surprise us if it’s four.

Last month, the Yorkshire Post published AN INTERVIEW with Eon Productions Ltd. bossman Michael G. Wilson. (We’ll also give a tip of the cap to the Commander Bond site that did AN ARTICLE where we learned about the Yorkshire Post piece.)

This is the Wilson quote that caught our eye:

“At the moment the third Daniel Craig movie is not even a glimmer in its mother’s eye. Filming Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace back to back took a lot out of time and energy so at the moment we are all just recharging our batteries.”

To maintain an ever-other-year pace in the past, the Eon team was at least starting to develop a script around the same time a Bond movie was being released. That would seem to indicate 2010 is out of the question, or getting that way fast.

The comment about how exhausting making Bond movies on a two-year schedule raises the question about a 2011 release. Wilson made similar comments about 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. An exerpt from ONE SUCH INTERVIEW.

What plans does Wilson have for the next film? “We don’t have any ideas at this point,” he says, contemplating the rounds of publicity still ahead of him. “It just seems that this one’s been particularly hard.”

Time off for good behavior seems to be where Wilson is these days. The next Bond outing is officially slated for 2002 – that’s an extra year off. What’s clear is that there is a desire to break free of the two-year production cycle that has lead to two scripts that haven’t lived up to expectations. The year off gives everyone time to recharge their batteries and come back with a Bond film everyone will be happy with.

That extra year off resulted in 2002’s Die Another Day. After that film, the earliest talk was of a 2005 release date, eventually getting pushed back to 2006. Admittedly there was a lot going on in that period over at Eon, including the 2004 death of Dana Broccoli, mother of both Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and the decision to recast Bond once more, with Daniel Craig replacing Pierce Brosnan.

Still, we can’t help but wonder if Eon has been running on fumes for much of this decade. Finally getting the rights to Casino Royale seemed to have recharged Eon. But that’s the past. And, assuming Eon’s policy of not using continuation novels (and avoiding paying the Fleming estate even a token second payment) holds, Eon has to start anew on a script. Plus, we can’t help but wonder if Eon will let Bond 23 slide till 2012, and tie it in with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No.

Whatever the reason, it seems safe to say the era two-year intervals for Bond movies may be at an end.

UPDATE: It would seem half siblings Wilson and Broccoli aren’t too tired (or have recharged their batteries enough) to do two non-Bond films, which would be the first since for the company since the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana.

The duo want to do both a non-Bond spy film and a re-make of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The latter is also based on an Ian Fleming novel, this one aimed at children. The 1968 original technically isn’t an Eon movie even though it was produced by Albert R. Broccoli. Broccoli formed a different company to make Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For that matter, Broccoli’s then-partner, Harry Saltzman, made non-Bond movies outside the Eon fold.

In any case, it seems clear Wilson and Barbara Broccoli want to spread their wings beyond 007. We’re reminded they spent a year developing a movie based on Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. That went nowhere but the duo seem to want to prove something. Barbara Broccoli previously was executive producer of Crime of the Century, a made-for-cable-TV movie about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case.

Now we’re wondering if Bond 23 can make a 2012 release date…

Ian Fleming’s fascination with bowties

Ian Fleming, besides being the creator of James Bond, also had a thing for bowties.

Fleming (1908-1964) was photographed more than once sporting a bowtie. Once he finally had a deal to sell the film rights to 007, he felt bowties ought to be part of the proceedings. For example, he wrote in a memo to producer Albert R. Broccoli, that:

M should wear a dark blue bowtie with white spots.

(from When the Snow Melts: An autobiography of Cubby Broccoli: With Donald Zec, the contents of which can be viewed RIGHT HERE)

Broccoli and then-partner Harry Saltzman may have listened. In the first four 007 007 movies they produced (1962-1965), M (played by Bernard Lee) wore a bowtie.

A short while later, television producer Norman Felton (b. 1913) approached Fleming about a project. Felton, in meetings in New York City with Fleming, had trouble getting the author to focus. Eventually, Fleming scrawled some ideas on Western Union telegraph blanks. One suggested that secret agent Napoleon Solo (Felton’s original idea was the agent be called Edgar Solo) wear a polka-dotted bowtie. The eventual result was the TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. where Solo pretty much only wore a bowtie when he donned a tuxedo.

It could be there was something about the era that Fleming was born. Afterall, To Tell The Truth host Bud Collyer, born the same year as Fleming, was also known for wearing a bowtie.