An alternate theory to the origin of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme

Could The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme have its makings more than two years before the show debuted? Maybe.

Standard history: U.N.C.L.E. producer Norman Felton hired Jerry Goldsmith, who had already composed the theory for Felton’s Dr. Kildare series, to score the U.N.C.L.E. pilot. Possible revision: It might have been more complicated.

The anthology series Thriller, featured a number of scores by Goldsmith and Morton Stevens, both the same age (each was born in 1929) and good friends. What’s more, film and television music historian Jon Burlingame has written that Stevens, when doing the theme for the 1970s series Police Woman, simply inverted (e.g. wrote backwards) Goldsmith’s theme for 1965’s Our Man Flint.

If Burlingame is correct, it’s possible Stevens got a little payback from Goldsmith. Stevens scored a 1962 Thriller episode, Flowers of Evil, which featured a theme that ran throughout the episode and was repeated in the end titles. That theme starts out with the same four notes as Goldsmith’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme while deviating after that. Flowers of Evil is a gothic murder tale starring Luciana Paluzzi and Kevin Hagen, who, by coincidence, would be guest stars on U.N.C.L.E.

All of this may be coincidence. By all accounts, Goldsmith and Stevens remained friends. When Goldsmith started doing concerts in the 1980s of his TV and film music, he hired Stevens to do the arrangements of Goldsmith’s television themes, including U.N.C.L.E. (source: Burlingame on a Thriller commentary track). Still, any U.N.C.L.E. fan should take the time to check out Stevens’s mini-overture for the end titles of Flowers of Evil.

It should be noted that Stevens scored four first-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episodes and also did the arrangement of the U.N.C.L.E. theme used in the second half of the show’s first season. He also did both versions of the short five-second music at the start of each first-season episode when viewers would see the U.N.C.L.E. logo at the start of the show.

UPDATE: Further research indicates that Morton Stevens first composed this piece of Thriller music for an earlier episode called Waxworks, where it ran during the pre-credits sequence. It was then re-tracked in other Thriller episodes in addition to Flowers of Evil. They include The Storm and A Wig for Miss Devore, which both used it for the end titles as well as throughout those episodes.

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