Doug Redenius sells his 007 collection, Daily Journal says

Doug Redenius, a vice president with the Ian Fleming Foundation, has sold his large personal James Bond collection, The Daily Journal newspaper in Kankakee, Illinois, reports. He’ll also be moving from Illinois to Florida to manage a new museum whose contents will include his former 007 collection.

The newspaper ran two stories Sept. 17. It only runs a short preview on the free portion of its Web site. Here’s a portion OF THE SECOND ARTICLE:

Soon Redenius will be starting a new career in North Miami Beach, Fla., were he will be a manager of a new 15,000-square-foot museum devoted to the life and times of the fictional character.

While many people questioned Redenius’ emotional and financial commitment to Bond during the past 30 years, he was always confident it would pay off in the end.

The lead article A PORTION OF WHICH YOU CAN VIEW BY CLICKING HERE says a proposed 007 museum in Momence, Illinois, was not going to happen.

The free portions of both articles give you a flavor of what’s happening. There are links to the paper’s e-editon as a way to get the unabridged versions of the stories.

Meanwhile, here’s a directory of previous HMSS Weblog posts about Redenius. His personal collection is separate from the 007 film vehicles owned by the Ian Fleming Foundation.

Mission: Impossible’s 45th anniversary: a series disavowed

Sept. 17 is Mission: Impossible’s 45th anniversary. It comes at an odd time. The fourth movie in 15 years based on the series comes out later this year. But, for fans of the original, that’s not necessarily cause for celebration.

The Bruce Geller-created series, which ran from 1966 to 1973, was about a team, with its core members possessing a variety of skills: master planners, masters of disguise, femme fatales and an electronics whiz among them. When special talents were needed, the Impossible Missions Force could call upon doctors, actors, skilled drivers and the like.

With a group like that, they couldn’t be assigned just anything. In the pilot, IMF leader Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) is given a doozy of a task involving a couple of atomic bombs. He then selects team members to carry out his plan:

In case you’re wondering, the first picture that went to the “discard” pile was none other than Geller, the writer and producer of the pilot. He’d end up winning an Emmy for his script, the only writing credit he’d receive on the series.

M:I wasn’t an easy show to produce. It was expensive by the standards of its day. Initially the brass at Desilu, the studio where M:I was made, accepted that. After Paramount bought Desliu, executives weren’t always so understanding. Also, egos were involved. Writers William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, among the most prolific scribes of the early seasons, sometimes clashed with Geller, who had the title of executive producer after the pilot. The Woodfield-Balter duo were named producers in the third season but following another Geller fight left the show.

Earlier, during season one, there were other conflicts. Hill, an Orthodox Jew, insisted on leaving the set by sunset on Friday, a complicating factor for a series that required extra filming time. That led to Martin Landau, as disguise ace Rollin Hand, to get more screen time. He initially was to only appear at most occasionally. Hill was replaced for season two by Peter Graves as Phelps and Landau got second billing. Both Graves and Landau were big stars as a result.

Landau, though, ended up leaving after the third season. Landau had never signed a long-term contract. His deals were season by season, and he used that leverage to negotiate pay raises. Before the fourth season began, the cost-conscious regime at Paramount wasn’t as willing to open up the checkbook the way Desliu had. Starting with the fourth season, cast changes were more frequent. Barbara Bain, who won three Emmys on M:I, was also Mrs. Martin Landau and followed her husband out the door (despite having signed a series contract). She let the public know how she felt about it when she picked up her third Emmy for M:I:

By the sixth season, M:I had dropped its spy/espionsage theme plots and the IMF concentrated entirely on taking down “the Syndicate” in part because it was cheaper. Still it ran a full seven seasons and a revival, in which Jim Phelps comes out of retirement, ran for two more starting in 1988.

Yet, in many ways, the Tom Cruise movies that began in 1996 have eclipsed the original show. Those films are, well, all about superman Ethan Hunt (Cruise, of course), who seems to have all the skills while his Greek chorus of agents look on approvingly. The first Cruise movie even made Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) the villain.

It was as if the Secretary really had disadvowed any knowledge of the actions — not to mention the Emmy awards and the memories — of the original IMF. Pretty much the only things to make the jump to the Cruise movies was Lalo Schifrin’s theme music and a “based on the series created by” credit for Geller, who died in 1978 in a crash of a small plane.

Thus, fans of the original show have to content themselves with rewatching the series. All seven seasons are available on DVD. And on Nov. 29, the first season of the 1988 revival becomes available on DVD. And 45 years ago, it began like this:

John Calley, studio exec involved with 007 re-launch, dies

John Calley, a one-time Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive who was involved in getting 007 back on the screen, has died at 81, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Calley worked at MGM from 1993 to 1996, where his duties included being president of MGM’s United Artists brand. When he started, the James Bond film series was in hiatus and 007 film’s future was uncertain. Calley also, by various accounts, pressed for Eon Productions, which produces the Bond fils to recast Bond to Pierce Brosnan from Timothy Dalton. Calley’s name was prominent on the 1994 press release announcing Brosnan was taking over the role in GoldenEye.

According to a 2010 article in the Hollywood Reporter, Barbara Broccoli, co-boss at Eon, wasn’t a Calley fan. This excerpt quotes an unidentified person describing a meeting between Broccoli and Sony executives when that company’s Columbia Pictures was releasing 2008’s Quantum of Solace:

“Barbara said, ‘We generally like studio executives, but we don’t like assholes like John Calley,’ ” the source said.”

Calley also held executive positions at Warner Bros. and Sony, before retiring in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times obit.

The Avengers: a half century of John Steed & Co.

Better late than never, we felt we should note this was the 50th anniversary of The Avengers, in which the English gentleman agent John Steed and his various associates battled forces that threatened the U.K.

Actually, when the show began in January 1961, Patrick Macnee, who played Steed, had second billing and Steed wasn’t yet in gentleman agent mode. Receiving top billing was Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel. The show began with Keel’s financee being murdered. The mysterious Steed pops up and two proceed to avenge the death of the financee.

For the second season, Dr. Keel was gone and Macnee was now the clear star. Eventually, he’d partner with Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), who favored leather clothing and was skilled at judo. Blackman went off to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. Below, Cathy Gale tells Steed goodbye and the dialogue provides a hint of Blackman’s upcoming 007 role:

Diana Rigg took Blackman’s place as yet another “talented amateur,” Emma Peel. At this point, the U.S. television network ABC to import the U.K. series and the Steed-Peel combo clicked with American audiences. Also, the show apparently got a bigger budget. Production switched from videotape to film, freeing up the crew to shoot sequences outdoors and not just be confined to a studio. The original John Danworkth theme was discarded and a snappier theme, composed by Laurie Johnson, was recorded.

Macnee and Rigg had an appealing chemistry, helped along by scripts from the likes of Brian Clemens and Philip Levene. David McDaniel, who penned some of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. tie-in paperback novels worked Steed and Mrs. Peel into The Rainbow Affair, though the duo aren’t named.

However, after a couple of seasons, bigger things beckoned for Rigg. She, like her predecessor, would be the female lead in a James Bond movie, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Another replacement, Tara King (Linda Thorson) rounded out the original show.

It’s hard to keep a good agent down. Macnee’s Steed had a return engagement in the 1970s in The New Avengers, this time with two partners, Gareth Hunt’s Mike Gambit (to take over some of the rough stuff from Steed) and Joanna Lumley as Purdey. The show was overseen by Clemens and Albert Fennell, who had produced the last few seasons of the original show. Laurie Johnson returned, composing a new theme. The New Avengers was shown by CBS in the U.S. as part of The CBS Late Movie. The New Avengers only lasted two seasons, though Diana Rigg did make a cameo as Mrs. Peel.

The Avengers was also something of a farm team for Eon Productions. Besides Blackman and Rigg, various character actors from the show got cast in Bond movies, such as Philip Locke (Vargas in Thunderball), Julian Glover (Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only) and James Villiers (Bill Tanner in For Your Eyes Only). And members of The Avengers crew, such as director of photography Alan Hume and art director Harry Pottle would get hired to work on Bond movies. Thus, it was appropriate that Macnee finally be cast in a 007 film, 1985’s A View To a Kill.

Inevitably, The Avengers would be considered for a feature film. The result was the uneven 1998 namesake film with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman facing off against a villain played by Sean Connery. Macnee got a small voice-only cameo. Today, the original series remains fondly remembered while the film….well, the less said, the better.

Happy 50th, Mr. Steed. Here’s a look at the different main titles of The Avengers and The New Avengers:

Charles Dubin, Hawaii Five-O director, dies

Charles S. Dubin, one of the leading directors of the original Hawaii Five-O television series, has passed away at the age of 92.

Five-O was just one of Dubin’s many credits. The New York Times’s obituary, which you can read by BY CLICKING HERE, mostly discussed how he directed 44 episode of the 1972-83 series M*A*S*H. For our purposes, though, we wanted to note how he directed 25 episodes of the orignal Hawaii Five-O television series between 1968 and 1977. Five-O, a crime drama, frequently had espionage-themed episodes.

Dubin’s Five-O work inclued the show’s only three-part episode, V for Vashon, in which Steve McGarrett took down three generations of a Hawaii crime family and its sequel, The Case Against McGarrett. Dubin also directed one of the series’ Wo Fat episodes, “Presenting…in the Center Ring…Murder.” His final Five-O effort was to direct a script by Alvin Sapinsley, who penned the four Vashon episodes, called The Descent of the Torches.

Here’s the end of the first installment of the Vashon saga, which ran during Five-O’s fifth season:

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.’s 45th anniversary: a spinoff fails to take off

This week is the 45th anniversary for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Its failure to find an audience — it only lasted one season — is a reminder of what can happen when creators don’t especially believe in what they’re doing.

A spinoff of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., featurng a woman agent, was the idea of NBC. The wife of a network executive had even suggested a name for such an operative: Cookie Fortune. Norman Felton, the executive producer of The Man From From U.N.C.L.E., wasn’t keen on the notion. He counterproposed having two hour-long shows each week simply called U.N.C.L.E., where agents could be mixed and matched. NBC stood firm.

Girl’s pilot aired at a second-season episode of Man called The Moonglow Affair, scripted by Dean Hargrove. Hargrove passed on using Cookie Fortune as a name; he ended up going to Ian Fleming’s list of ideas for Man and used April Dancer (envisioned by Fleming as a Miss Moneypenny type character).

In Moonglow, Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) are incapacitated. April (Mary Ann Mobley) is assigned to take over the assignment, aided by a middle aged Mark Slate (Norman Fell). For the series, April was recast with Stefanie Powers and Slate was turned into a Brit in his 30s, with Noel Harrison in the role.

What happened next was a vicious cycle. By many accounts, Powers and Harrison couldn’t take the material seriously. Douglas Benton ordered scripts to take a lighter tone, figuring it would play to the strengths of Powers and Harrison. One of the crew was associate producer Max Hodge, who had written the first two Mr. Freeze stories on the 1966 Batman series.

Also, Felton & Co. weren’t comfortable having April actually fight guys (and absorb at least some punishment).
As a result, Slate’s Harrison had to take the beatings for two characters, making him look weaker. Meanwhile, ABC was importing episodes of the U.K.-produced The Avengers featuring Diana Rigg’s Mrs. Peel. April looked weak by comparison.

A light tone can work when 1) the jokes are funny and 2) the audience laughs with the hero. The problem with Girl is frequently the jokes weren’t funny and came at the expense of April Dancer and Mark Slate. Late in the season, Hargrove returned and wrote The Double-O-Nothing Affair. It was still light (Thrush villain Edward Asner’s base of operations is disguised as a used-car lot) but the jokes worked and April and Mark came across as capable and brave agents. Perhaps Hargrove had invested enough in the character of April Dancer to try to make it work.

Too little, too late. Girl was canceled in the spring of 1967 and an opportunity was lost. The show is now on DVD. Here’s a clip from what may be the worst episode of the series, The Paradise Lost Affair, in which the supposedly professionally trained April looks weak against villain Genghis Gomez VIII (Monte Landis). Warner Bros. uploaded this clip to YouTube to try to get people to buy the DVDs. Oops.

Hal David and his impact on the world of 007

Lyricist Hal David, who turned 90 earlier this year, will be the subject of a musical tribute Oct. 17 in Los Angeles. David enjoyed a prolific career and had an impact on the musical side of James Bond movies.

When it comes to Bond songs, John Barry’s music and lyrics from the likes of Don Black, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley understandably dominate the conversation because of classics such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever and You Only Live Twice.

But David actually worked on three 007 movies. Of course, the first of those three was the 1967 spoof Casino Royale. That movie wasn’t part of the film series from Eon Productions. It has a lot of flaws, is extremely uneven thanks to multiple directors and a gaggle of screenwriters. However, the Burt Bacharach score and songs by Bacharach and David were among the movie’s pluses.

David then worked on two films of the Eon series: 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1979’s Moonraker, both with John Barry as composer. David’s collaboration with Barry on We Have All the Time in the World produced one of the most memorable songs in the series, even if it wasn’t a commercial hit.

What follows are two segments from a 2006 television special about Bond songs that include David’s contributions to the musical world of 007. (For more information about the October event honoring David, JUST CLICK HERE.)

This first segment covers Casino Royale (in particular the song The Look of Love performed by Dusty Springfield) and Moonraker, the third of three Bond titles songs performed by Shirley Bassey:

This later segment describes how the song We Have All the Time in the World, performed by Louis Armstrong, came together.

Peter Morgan says his `big hook’ is part of Bond 23 script

Peter Morgan, the prestige screenwriter originally hired to write Bond 23, says the movie retains his “big hook,” according to an interview on the Digital Spy Web site.

An excerpt:

“I hear that an idea, the central idea, is still there but not one similar thing other than that. I think they’ve still kept the big hook, which I’m not going to tell you!” (Morgan) said.

Of course, this was the same Peter Morgan who declared in another interview that that James Bond is dated and didn’t sound like he particularly cared for the character.

Morgan dropped out after financial problems, would lead to a short stay in bankruptcy court, at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. forced Bond 23 to shut down for almost a year. When MGM and Eon put out a release early this year that Bond 23 was back on, it said the script would be written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, with no mention of Morgan.

How much of this is hype, how much is real is anybody’s guess. But, from our standpoint, the hiring of Morgan — whose previous work is lathered in politics — was very suspect. His involvement is part of a broader trend where Eon seems desperate for prestige, rather than concerned about putting out an entertaining movie.

U.N.C.L.E. movie still a go, Soderbergh says

The film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is still proceeding even after potential star George Clooney exited the project, director Steven Soderbergh said in an interview with the Moviefone Web site.

An excerpt of a Soderbergh answer (the interview was presented in a Q&A format:

Scott Burns wrote a great script and everybody wants to continue. I’m sure that’s a classic example of, “Well, if Clooney’s not doing it, then it must mean blah, blah, blah. I mean, he and Steven are friends, so the script must be really bad! Has Steven done one of these things where he’s gone off on a tangent and it’s too crazy?” All that sh*t. As often the case in these situations, the truth is a little more prosaic. It’s just a movie and it wasn’t a risk worth taking.

Regarding Clooney’s possible participation, Soderbergh also said the following:

To be honest, this was all predicated on him looking at the script and determining whether, physically, it was going to be a problem for him. He was very seriously injured on ‘Syriana.’ The guy had fluid leaking out of his spinal column. And from the beginning when we started talking about it, that was part of the discussion. Having been one of the producers on that movie and him being a friend, in addition to a colleague, I don’t want to be the guy responsible for him reinjuring himself.

And we got the script to him and he said, “Look, I’ve got real concerns about this.” From scene one, it’s the kind of stuff that he really needs to be careful about. And, believe me, it’s not… We want to make another movie together and that was frustrating – for both of us. But it just became clear that it’s just too risky.

To read, the entire interview, much of wish deals with his new movie, Contagion, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, the Digital Spy Web site has a post where U.N.C.L.E. screenwriter Burns says Clooney apologized for having to pull out of the movie.

Finally, one other note. We did a little snooping on our own. via the Register.com Web site. Warner Bros. registered themanfromuncle.com as a domain name back on Dec. 9, 2004 and it expires on Dec. 9, 2012. The record was last updated on July 26, 2011. Is that significant? Hard to tell.

Ian Fleming Responds to Concerned Fan Over the Death of 007 (1957)

Ian Fleming caused quite a stir in 1957 with the release of From Russia with Love, due in no small part to what seemed to be the death of James Bond at the novel’s close. In fact, so concerned were 007 fans that the author quickly amassed thousands of worried letters. Ever the storyteller, Fleming responded by way of charming letters similar to the one linked below.

HMSS found this to be particularly fascinating. Fleming writing as Sir James Molony? Genius!