Richard Donner reflects on directing ’60s spy shows

Richard Donner directed more than his share of episodic television shows before hitting it big as a feature film director in 1976’s The Omen. That work included putting his imprint on 1960s spy shows.

In a 2006 Archive of American television interview, Donner discussed his work on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart. He also did some episodes of The Wild, Wild West. The segment where he talks about U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart occurs roughly during the 21:50 to 26:38 of this video:

A few notes: Donner’s memory is a tad faulty in places. He refers to David McCallum having been married to Jill St. John when he meant Jill Ireland. Still, that kind of thing is easy to overlook. With U.N.C.L.E., Donner had a big impact; he directed four of the series’ first 14 episodes including the first (The Quadripartite Affair) that included an expanded presence for McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin and one of the few episodes (The Terbuf Affair) that provided much in the way of backstory for Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo.

You can see part of the finished product here. That’s Jill Ireland with McCallum (except in the long shots); a brunette Anne Francis as the lead villain; future Emmy-awarding winning director (for The Monkees) James Frawley as a treacherous policeman; executive producer Norman Felton as an irate chess player at a party; and Donner himself as a drunk at the same party:

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