1964: Robert Towne channels 007 for U.N.C.L.E.

Richardo Montalban and Robert Vaughn in The Dove Affair

Richardo Montalban and Robert Vaughn in The Dove Affair

October is the 50th anniversary of From Russia With Love, the second James Bond movie. About a year after it came out, a future Oscar winning screenwriter would channel the film for an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Robert Towne would go on to win an Oscar for his script for 1974’s Chinatown. A decade earlier, he was among the writers to pen first-season scripts for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a show that had been pitched as “James Bond for television.”

Towne perhaps took that idea a bit literally. His sole U.N.C.L.E. credit, The Dove Affair
, featured an extended sequence on a train going through the Balkans, a very similar setting to From Russia With Love.

U.N.C.L.E. agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) faces a complicated situation. His mission is to smuggle out a medal in the shape of a dove that has tiny engraved names of agents of Thrush, the villainous organization that opposes U.N.C.L.E. Satine (Richardo Montalban) is the top intelligent agent of a Balkan nation where Thrush is trying to seize control. Satine is a genuine patriot but he’s willing to kill Solo if it furthers his country’s interests.

Much of the episode’s second half evokes the mood of From Russia With Love. The TV show, though, isn’t as compelling when it comes to a short fight scene with Solo and Satine compared to a fight between James Bond (Sean Connery) and SPECTRE killer Red Grant (Robert Shaw). Part of it stems from the limitations of 1960s television in depicting violence. Some of it probably stems from tight TV production schedules.

Overall, though, the similarities are telling. With The Dove Affair, there is the additional complication of “the innocent” character, in this case, a school teacher (June Lockhart), who’s escorting a group of U.S. high school students around Europe.

To read a more detailed review of The Dove Affair, CLICK HERE and scroll down to episode 12. For long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans, this is old hat. But with a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. now being filmed and starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, there are new fans who are checking out the original series.

Hank Simms, extraordinary announcer, dies

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

Hank Simms, an announcer best known for the words “a Quinn Martin production!”, died last month at the age of 90, according to THIS OBITUARY But he did lots of other announcing work, including movie trailers and the Oscars television broadcast.

Simms first work for QM was The FBI in 1965. He went on to be the announcer for other QM hit shows including Barnaby Jones, Cannon and The Streets of San Francisco not to mention less successful series such as Dan August, Caribe and Banyon.

Simms also did “bumpers” for Mannix, as in, “Mannix…brought to you by…” followed by the name of a sponsor.

Simms worked the microphone at the Oscars, including when John Stears got his Oscar for Thunderball (explaining that Ivan Tors was picking it up in Stears’ place) and when Roger Moore and many viewers were surprised when Marlon Brando declined his Oscar for best actor.

His work could also be heard in trailers including movies edited from episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. such as TO TRAP A SPY and ONE SPY TOO MANY as well as THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, the Doris Day spy comedy, and POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, the final Frank Capra film.

The announcer’s voice was so distinctive when the makers of the 1982 comedy Police Squad! decided to do a QM-style opening, there was only one man for the job:

Rest in peace, Mr. Simms.

UPDATE: Here is the very first Hank Simms announcing job for Quinn Martin:

UPDATE II (Oct. 13): The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences put up an obituary for Hank Simms on its Web site on OCT. 2.

William A. Graham, first director on The FBI, dies

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

William A. Graham, who directed six of the first 11 episodes of The FBI, including the pilot and first broadcast episode, has died, according to obituaries at the Los Angeles Times, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

The various obituaries referenced other Graham credits including the final Elvis Presley movie, Change of Habit, and episodes of The X-Files.

In 1965, producer Quinn Martin tapped Graham to helm the pilot for The FBI (which was the fourth broadcast episode) and the first episode to be shown on ABC. Graham had a variety of television directing credits, according to his his IMDB.com entry.

David Picker discloses some 007 tidbits

David Picker

David Picker


David V. Picker, the former United Artists executive, provides some interesting behind-the-scenes 007 background in his memoir about his long film career.

Among them: Robert Shaw’s name surfaced in the earliest stages of casting Bond; Dr. No really cost $1.35 million, not the $1.1 million it had been budgeted for; and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman started clamoring to renegotiate their deal with UA shortly after From Russia With Love was released.

That’s all part of the James Bond chapter in MUSTS, MAYBES AND NEVERS.

“Much has been written about Bond,” Picker writes. “Until now, no one has written in detail exactly what happened, how it happened and why it happened for one simple reason: they weren’t there.” The Bond series “would not have happened had it not been for this author’s belief in their potential.”

Picker, 82, was in his early 30s and head of production for UA when it negotiated a deal with Broccoli and Saltzman in 1961. He was the only one on the UA side who had read the Ian Fleming novels. The Bond chapter in the memoir expands on comments he has made in documentaries such as Inside Dr. No and Everything Or Nothing.

Picker doesn’t provide much in the way of details about Shaw, who played Red Grant in From Russia With Love, as a potential Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman were conducting the search and UA gave the producers a lot of a leeway. UA didn’t see anything in detail until Sean Connery was presented, according to Picker’s account.

The former executive has more to say about the budget. Columbia Pictures, which had released a number of Broccoli’s U.K.-produced films in the ’50s, wasn’t enthusiastic but was willing to provide a budget of $300,000 to $400,000, according to Picker. UA agreed to the $1.1 million.

Just before the start of filming on Dr. No, the final budget from Broccoli and Saltzman was for $250,000 more. “In today’s world that may not seem like a lot of money, but then it was a very big deal,” Picker writes. The author describes some subterfuge, enlisting the help of his uncle, Arnold Picker, one of the UA partners, to get the higher budget implemented.

As the series succeeded, Broccoli and Saltzman wanted their deals re-done. UA, however, wasn’t aware of Connery’s growing unhappiness until You Only Live Twice. “United Artists relied on our producers to deal with problems on their films.”

Picker describes how he took the lead at UA to get Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever, a film he credits with saving the franchise.

Picker does make one factual error in the chapter, listing Guy Hamilton as the director of From Russia With Love, instead of Terence Young. That aside, the chapter is an interesting read. The UA side of the Bond story often doesn’t get told and Picker’s viewpoint is worth checking out.

You can CLICK HERE to check out the memoir on Amazon.com

UPDATE: Non-007 reasons to read Picker’s memoir: anecdotes about how Stanley Kramer’s first cut of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was 4:01 and the director vowed not to cut one frame; the backstory behind the movies The Beatles made for UA; how UA passed on movies such as The Graduate and American Graffiti. And much, much more.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s `Easter eggs’

Napoleon Solo, past and present

Napoleon Solo, past and present

As filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie continued this week in Italy, it seems as if the film has “Easter eggs” for fans of the original 1964-68 series.

The term “Easter Eggs” could be heard this summer when Warner Bros.’s Man of Steel, which starred Henry Cavill, came out. There were references to other DC Comics characters, such as a Wayne Enterprises sign on a satellite or refernces to references to Lexcorp, the conglomerate run by Lex Luthor. The idea is provide fans of the source material a little something extra while (the studio hopes) providing a movie that appeals to a broader audience.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie may be doing something similar.

Cavill, who’s playing the Napoleon Solo role originated by Robert Vaughn, was photographed in a black outfit, including a black jacket, apparently as part of a sequence where U.N.C.L.E.’s ace sneaking about. The black jacket, shirt and pants looks similar to outfits Vaughn wore in episodes of the series such as The Quadripartite Affair and The Dippy Blonde Affair.

Cavill's Solo, complete with pinkie ring

Cavill’s Solo, complete with pinkie ring

Earlier in the week, Cavill was photographed in a suit and wearing a pinkie ring. Such as ring was also a trademark of the original Solo. Now, Cavill has been photographed with a pinkie ring at other times, as can seen on the home page of the DAILYCAVILL.COM fan Web site. So it may just be coincidence.

On the other hand, Armie Hammer, who plays Illya Kuryakin, the role originated by David McCallum, has been seen seen in a turtleneck, which was one of the trademarks of McCullum/Kuryakin.

Even assuming all of these are intentional “Easter eggs,” that doesn’t mean director Guy Ritchie won’t put his own spin on the material. The guess here is he will, and in ways that remain to be seen.

What’s more, Man of Steel, despite its “Easter eggs,” made some major adjustments to the Superman mythos, including the Clark Kent-Lois Lane relationship and having the hero take the life of villain General Zod whereupon the comic book Superman once took a vow to never kill. The repercussions of the latter is supposed to be explored in the Superman-Batman film that Cavill will film in 2014.

As for the U.N.C.L.E. movie, one request. No clogs for Solo as an “Easter egg,” please.

David Picker, key UA executive, publishes memoir

Picker: Diamonds Are Forever saved the franchise

Picker: Diamonds Are Forever saved the franchise


David Picker, a United Artists executive who helped get the James Bond film franchise off the ground, has come out with a memoir, MUSTS, MAYBES AND NEVERS.

Picker, 82, provided a detailed description to THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE and its editor in chief, Nikki Finke. Here’s an excerpt concerning the 007 series. It begins with how Picker pushed 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to bring Sean Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever:

It’s a book about movies that I was actually part of – from getting Sean Connery to come back and do one more James Bond film and save the franchise…

(snip)

James Bond – briefly: Why did it take years (seven books worth) before James Bond came to the screen? Couldn’t any intelligent studio production executive see that Bond was a franchise waiting to happen? The answer is complex. Sometimes everything has to fall in place…

…Bud Ornstein, the head of UA London production called and said that Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were coming to New York and they wanted to meet with Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin, Arnold Picker and me. I set up the date. Harry, Cubby and Harry’s lawyer, Irving Moskowitz, sat in Arthur Krim’s office with Bob Benjamin, Arnold Picker and me. I usually sat to the left of Arthur’s desk, often with one of my long legs propped on the corner of the desk so I could tilt my chair back. Cubby was the first to speak. “We own the rights to James Bond. Are you interested?”

My leg came down and my chair hit the ground with a thud. And 007 began his screen life.

Picker was one of the biggest backers of the Bond series in the UA executive offices. His description about the book’s contents to Finke is much longer and mentions various films. You can read it BY CLICKING HERE

You can order the book from Amazon BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE (Sept. 28): On Amazon.com, the book’s preview includes the table of contents and part of the index. There’s a chapter devoted to the 007 series and different aspects of the movies are referenced in the index. Non-Bond topics in the book include studios operating as part of larger conglomerates, including flak United Artists executives got from Transamerica Corp. Picker also discusses successful movies he let get away. Finally, Picker discusses people he worked with such as diverse as the Beatles, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kramer.

MI6 Confidential looks at From Russia With Love’s 50th

From Russia With Love's poster

From Russia With Love’s poster

MI6 Confidential magazine’s 22nd issue looks at the 50th anniversary of From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film.

Here’s a listing of some of the articles from the publication’s WEB SITE:

–The Unkillable James Bond 007
–Putting The Phosphorus on the Bosphorus
–Honey Trap – Alluring Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana
–Close Quarters – Filming The Claustrophobic Train Fight
–Authority On Espionage – Fleming Draws on Real Life Scenarios
–You Are Requested At Once – Recreating a Crippling Chess Move
–It Never Pays To Linger On The Past

The magazine costs 7 euros, $11 or 8.5 British pounds, plus shipping and handling depending on where you live. For more information about ordering, CLICK HERE.

Earlier posts:
HMSS WEBLOG’S SERIES ON FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

Why William Boyd isn’t the best salesman for Solo

William Boyd

William Boyd

This week, author William Boyd makes his 007 debut when the James Bond novel Solo comes out in the U.K. The problem is Boyd isn’t necessarily the best salesman for his own product.

This week, a series of brief Boyd monologues were uploaded to YouTube. In THE FIRST VIDEO he acts as if he had unearthed a startling secret about the literary James Bond.

I suspect there are aspects of Bond people aren’t aware of. Of course the Bond aficionados, the Bond fans will know. The casual readers of Bond will not know some of the things I’ve put in the novel…For example, Bond’s Scottishness. Bond is not English — he’s half Scottish, half Swiss.

Of course, Solo is coming out less than a year after 2012’s Skyfall (worldwide ticket sales: $1.11 BILLION), which made a HUGE deal about exploring Bond’s roots, including the fact he was raised in Scotland, where the climatic sequence takes place. The movie was about as subtle about 007’s Scottish heritage as a heart attack.

Nor was Skyfall the first time. The 1965 television special The Incredible World of James Bond devoted a short segment to Bond’s origins in Scotland, based on the 1964 novel You Only Live Twice. While the bulk of the movies haven’t explored the topic, the fact that Bond has a Scottish heritage doesn’t represent the deepest research into the literary 007. Anybody who has read, say, The James Bond Bedside Companion by Raymond Benson is already up to speed on the topic.

Last spring, of course, Boyd boasted why Solo was such a good title for a Bond novel while seemingly unaware that Fleming had used Solo not once, but twice: as a character in Goldfinger and as the name for the lead character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

It may yet turn out that Boyd’s 007 novel is a good addition to the literary canon. But Boyd doesn’t do himself any favors in promoting the new novel. Some of his major talking points don’t withstand the slightest examination.

EARLIER POSTS:
OPEN CHANNEL D: WILLIAM BOYD’S FLEMING RESEARCH GAP

WILLIAM BOYD’S NEW 007 NOVEL TO BE TITLED, IRONICALLY, SOLO

U.N.C.L.E. movie shifts to Italy; 2nd unit gets busy

U.N.C.L.E. movie action

U.N.C.L.E. movie action in photo on Henry Cavill News site

Filming on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie has shifted to Italy. It appears the second, or action, unit is getting in some work.

Throughout the past few days, fan sites including Henry Cavill News and Henry Cavill.Org plus the Henry Cavill Fanpage and its U.N.C.L.E. movie Facebook page and @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter have provided various updates about the film. Henry Cavill News had THIS POST. Here’s an excerpt:

La Repubblica is reporting that filming has begun on The Man from UNCLE in Italy. So far it seems it’s the second unit doing all of the work. Apparently they are shooting at Castel dell ‘Ovo, which we told you more about in this post. The newspaper says the castle has been off limits throughout the day, but only in the areas occupied by the crew.

They are reportedly filming an action scene that we had heard about before, in which a group of special forces conducts a raid of the fortress, battling it out with gunmen there to protect the mysterious criminal who is hiding inside. Guy Ritchie was spotted earlier in the day, enjoying a day off with his family. And Armie Hammer’s wife shared this great picture of their family, including their cute dog as they explored Pompeii.

On Twitter there were photos such as THIS ONE and THIS ONE of the area where the movie is being filmed.

The $75 million Warner Bros. film so far hasn’t had a big public profile. That may come later. The movie will wrap up production by the end of the year so that Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo, can start work on a Superman-Batman film in early 2014. Cavill has the role originated by Robert Vaughn in the 1964-68 television series. Armie Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin, the role originally played by David McCallum.

UPDATE: The DAILYCAVILL.COM site has a post. Here’s an excerpt:

THE LOCATION – In the film, the Castel dell ‘Ovo become the Castle of Baia, part of Bacoli where they will hold most of the filming. The set, in fact, will move to the beach of Villa Ferretti in Bacoli, building sites Fiart Bay, moored at Pier Caligula and the fishmongers of Pozzuoli where you will run tomorrow. Other locations will be Rome and England. [ Campaniasuweb ]

UPDATE (Sept. 25): Here’s a video of the area it Italy where filming is occurring this week:

Peter Lamont working on a book about his film career

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont, whose 007 art department career ran from Goldfinger through Casino Royale, is working on a book, according to THE WEB SITE OF TOMAHAWK PRESS.

The book is to be called The Man With The Golden Eye. Here’s the description:

The legendary Academy Award winning production designer Peter Lamont is finally opening up his archive for Tomahawk Press in a new book, co-written with Max Pemberton. Lamont designed 18 Bond films, and many of James Cameron’s films, including Titanic. Lamont’s iconic work provided the classy look for these films, and his contribution cannot be overstated.

In addition to being one of the world’s foremost production designers, Lamont is an extraordinary raconteur -– his stories providing new perspectives on the both the Bond franchise and James Cameron’s work. We cannot express how excited we are about publishing what we know will be an extremely important and beautifully designed book.

At this point, there aren’t further details but the publisher promises more as time unfolds.

Lamont, 83, worked on every 007 film of the Eon Production series from Goldfinger in 1964 (as a draftsman) to 2006’s Casino Royale, as production designer, with one exception. He skipped 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies to work as production designer for the James Cameron-directed Titanic.

Lamont scored an Oscar for that film and was also nominated for 1986’s Aliens and 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. On the latter, he worked as art director under legendary 007 production designer Ken Adam. After Adam left the Bond series for good following 1979’s Moonraker, producer Albert R. Broccoli promoted Lamont to production designer for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.

For Lamont, the Bond series also was family business. His brother Michael Lamont and son Neil Lamont held art department posts on the Bond films.