53 years ago today…

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair, as photographed by Fred Koenekamp.

…production began on The Iowa-Scuba Affair, the first regular series episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The pilot, The Vulcan Affair, had been filmed in late 1963.)

On June 1, 1964, even the earliest U.N.C.L.E. fans didn’t knew what awaited them in a few months. For the crew, it was another job.

What a crew it was.

The director, Richard Donner, would eventually become a big-time film director. The writer was Harold Jack Bloom. He shared an Academy Award nomination with episode producer Sam Rolfe on the screenplay of The Naked Spur, a 1953 western starring James Stewart.

The director of photography was Fred Koenekamp, who’d later photograph Patton. The composer for the episode was Morton Stevens.

While he’d never become famous, Stevens was a few years away from composing the theme for Hawaii Five-O, one of the best-know television themes.

When the cameras rolled, star Robert Vaughn, as Napoleon Solo, would be in almost every scene. David McCallum, signed to play Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin, wasn’t even in the episode. But McCallum would make his presence known shortly.

6 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for profiling this show again! Especially for honoring the craft talent that went into it! (I knew it wasn’t my imagination!). What they did in B&W and various photography (angles) was outstanding. Also the lighting, the staging, the choreography. Those actors (particularly McCallum) performed incredible stunts (even though they had doubles, yes) but still took a lot of chances. In watching these shows in endless reruns (thanks to H&I, 4:00am) I’m particularly impressed by Leo G. Carroll’s acting, when (as a kid I ignored him). But he took what could’ve been a throw away role (compared to the Stars) and added plenty of nuances. I love how the running gag was about UNCLE’s penny pinching, and having to reimburse the agents all the time! You watch Carroll’s acting, how he emphasized dialogue, and connected with the actors, and it’s remarkable. His age actually enhanced his experience! Meaning, he very knew how to “manage” any scene in was in (wink)! Jon Heitland’s (behind the scenes) book is a must, for anyone possibly becoming interested in this show! And I encourage they do!!

  2. interesting Freudian slip…Robert Solo?

  3. Brilliant episode. Moves at a very quick pace, Solo is both ruthless and charming, the plot is enthralling and there’s lots of action. Everything is kept tight as a drum. If only the rest of the series (i.e. season 3) had more of this tone.

  4. I just started on Season III (yet again). And if you were already into the series, it kind of broadens the interplay between the characters! Which is what “real” fans enjoyed!! I used to think the Super-Colossal Affair was insane. And to the uninitiated, it would be. But UNCLE was never about “reality.” Just a make believe world of adventure and curiosity. So now I focus on how the actors delivered the storyline. And there’s plenty of interplay, and sarcasm in the script! You’d have to know Shelly Berman’s humor to appreciate his nuances too. Even though It’s a totally dumb premise to begin with (they can’t all be winners) it has kind of a funny plot twist at the end. So for real fans, we’d accept almost anything!! But I’m glad, if new viewers get “hooked” on the outstanding B&W first season! That’s where the magic was established in terms of craft. Just expect the series to take twists and turns! Nothing could be more depressing than Season IV (cut in half).

  5. I’ve always wondered what led Rolfe and his team to select this particular script to be first. I mean, I’m sure they had several in development at the time — they wouldn’t have started production without several scripts in the pipeline. Perhaps “Iowa Scuba” was the only one complete, or not undergoing severe revisions. In Mr. Heitland’s book, Dean Hargrove or Peter Allan Fields comments, I think, that Rolfe went through writers at a terrific rate trying to find ones who could provide material for the new show’s format and style. Rolfe must have been a challenge to work for, but once you gave him what he needed, you knew you’d really accomplished something.

    Rolfe’s previous series, “Have Gun — Will Travel,” was as different and original a TV Western as MfU was for TV adventure.

  6. The Iowa Scuba Affair plot was weak and the dialogue was unremarkable. So what catches my eye about that episode is the (intended) tension among all the characters! Every scene. Requiring the actors’ skill in portraying characters that didn’t have a lot of emotional rationale. Being only the second MFU episode, it needed to quickly make that connection between the hero and the audience. So it was filmed and sequenced in a very focused manner (mystery, action, suspense, good vs. evil, success). And for that purpose, the camera angles and lighting were outstanding!

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