Fun facts about Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi (and others)

We mentioned before how NBC’s Thriller series included early performances by Bond women Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi. It turns out that deep in a commentary track on one of the DVDs, there’s some amusing trivia related to the 007 actresses.

This particular commentary track, rather than comment on an episode, is a re-enactment of a 1997 interview with Douglas Benton (1925-2000), who was the show’s associate producer and who went on to a long career producing various TV shows. The part of his father is played by Benton’s son, Daniel, who reads his father’s words.

Andress’s starring turn in “La Strega” was directed by Ida Lupino, with Alejandro Rey as the male lead. Benton quoted Lupino thusly: “Oh golly, it’s such a pleasure to come on the set and find out your leading man is more beautiful than the leading lady.” Benton quotes Lupino as changing her mind. “I’m happy with the way they look, it’s a shame, though, that neither one can act a lick. Alejandro couldn’t even understand English and Ursula was speaking German.”

On Paluzzi, who starred in “Flowers of Evil,” Benton said, “She was fun. She didn’t take acting terribly seriously. Her mother was one of Mussolini’s mistresses and Luciana had grown up in the upper reaches of Fasicist society.”

While this has nothing to do with 007, we couldn’t resist including Benton observations about William Shatner (“Bill was a terrible ham. Directors complained that he over-acted all the time.”) and Mary Tyler Moore (“I thought she was a brat. I was on the stage one day when somebody asked her to do something and she said, ‘I don’t have to do this. My husband Grant Tinker is the vice president of NBC.’…That was a request from the network that we find her a job.”)

Finally, Benton said of Robert Vaughn, the future Napoleon Solo, who also appeared in Thriller: “Robert Vaughn was the same guy I first met him on GE Theater and later on the U.N.C.L.E. show. He was a joy to work with. He is so much more intelligent than the average actor, that it was like dealing with a university professor…There’s no mystique in acting for Robert. He’s certainly no method operator. He’s just a very brainy guy who should be teaching history at one of the Ivy League universities. That is if he couldn’t make five times as much money as an actor.”

One of Benton’s many credits was being producer of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. It was he who came up with the idea of offering Karloff the role of Mother Muffin, the elderly woman leader of a band of assassins. The writer of The Mother Muffin Affair had described the character as “Boris Karloff in drag.”

“I looked at the damn thing and said well, why don’t we get Boris?” Benton said. “I knew him and I knew he’d be amused by this.” The answer Benton received from the actor: “When and where?”