1996: Five-O fans meet (almost all of) the original cast

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title of the original series.

In 1996, fans of the original Hawaii Five-O series had a chance to meet with almost all of the main cast members of the series at a fan convention.

The event took place in two locations: The first half in the Los Angeles area, the second in Honolulu.

James MacArthur, Gilbert Kauhi (stage name, Zulu) and Kam Fong, the supporting actors in the 1968-80 show, were there. Jack Lord, who starred as lawman Steve McGarrett (six years after playing Felix Leiter in Dr. No), was still alive but had retired to private life.

I attended the Los Angeles part of the event. Among the things that happened there:

On the first day of the gathering, MacArthur, Zulu and Kam Fong just hung around with fans, engaging in casual conversation. It was very low-key and informal.

-MacArthur, asked why he left the show after 11 seasons, said he simply had done enough. He described telling the powers that be about the decision and that he didn’t want to make a big deal of it.

–Zulu was asked why he left the show. He replied that he and Jack Lord never got along all that well. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Zulu said he tried at the start of one season (I suspect season three but he didn’t specify) he tried to get off to a new start with the series star.

Zulu’s title card during the first four seasons of Hawaii Five-O.

“Hey Jack, you’re looking great!” But Lord walked off. Zulu said he was confused. Then he was told the actor had gotten a facelift during the series hiatus.

Zulu told another anecdote in which the Five-O team apprehended a suspect. According to him, Lord felt Zulu was little slow. On the next take, according to this anecdote, Zulu zoom around the others. “OK, McGarrett! I’ve got him.” In this telling, the Big Kahuna wasn’t happy.

After, some time elapsed, a late-arriving fan again asked Zulu why he left the show. For a moment, I felt bad after hearing the stories he told earlier. But Zulu didn’t miss a beat. He grinned and repeated his “Lord taketh away” line.

–MacArthur, commenting to Zulu, said the Hawaiian actor was burning the candle at both ends in those days. Zulu did his Five-O work during the day and did a night club act in the eventing.

–Rose Freeman, widow of Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, told attendees that Jack Lord was cast only days before filming of the pilot began. Initially, American actor Robert Brown (not to be confused with the British actor Robert Brown, who played M in four 007 films) had been cast.

–Fans watched episodes shown with a film projector. At one point , Zulu was there watching with the fans. One episode shown had his replacement, Al Harrington. Zulu did a mock boo. Another one of the episodes shown was Bored, She Hung Herself, an episode that was shown only once on CBS and hasn’t been seen since, in either syndication or home video. The story behind that is a little complicated. 

–I let myself get outbid for a copy of the 1967 first draft of Leonard Freeman’s pilot script for a charity auction. I scanned it and committed to memory what I could. There was no Danno and McGarrett was the only Caucasian of the Five-O characters.

–A friend of Five-O theme composer Morton Stevens showed up. He had heard about the event and wanted to check it out.

–On the final day in LA, many of the fans were preparing to head to Hawaii for the rest of the event. I prepared to head home. As I was leaving the hotel to head to LAX, I ran into Zulu at the door.

“I just want to thank you for being here,” he said.

Obviously, he would have said it to any other fan. But it was a great moment for me, nevertheless.

“No, thank you,” I replied.

Bond 25 to film in Canada in March, ex-crew member says

Bond 25 is scheduled to film in Canada in March, a former 007 film crew member told a German-language Swiss newspaper, Berner Zeitung.

The story primarily was a feature story about Stefan Zürcher, 73, who first was involved with the 007 film series with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Deep in the story, however, there was this quote (translated via Google) from Zürcher when asked if might work on Bond 25:

“Recently, a director has finally been found, and shooting in Canada is scheduled for next March.”

He also added: “I do not want to spend too many inches of my remaining life in an ice desert. ”

Last month, Eon Productions announced Cary Joji Fukunaga would direct Bond 25 and that production would begin March 4.

There’s no way to tell how accurate this all is. Clearly, Zürcher’s comment was more of an aside. We’ll see how it goes.

THR: Annapurna’s ills may affect Bond 25 U.S. distribution

Annapurna logo

Financial problems at Annapurna Pictures may affect the U.S. distribution of Bond 25, The Hollywood Reporter said as part of a broader look at the company.

As things currently stand, a joint venture between Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will release Bond 25 in the U.S. in February 2020 while Universal will distribute the movie in international markets.

Bond 25 is “the jewel in the crown” for the Annapurna-MGM joint venture, wrote THR’s Kim Masters. “If Annapurna falters, that film is likely to be released by Universal, which is handling overseas distribution. (MGM might also make a play to distribute domestically itself.)”

The joint venture was set up last year. It distributes movies for each partner. Movies that originate with Annapurna carry that brand. Movies generated by MGM, such as Bond 25, carry MGM’s Leo the Lion logo.

The THR story mostly is about cutbacks in film production at Annapurna, headed by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

“(T)he company’s operations now are being reviewed by an executive (with experience in business, but not in Hollywood) dispatched by Ellison’s father,” Masters wrote.

The story quotes a person with knowledge of the situation that it didn’t identify as saying this about Annapurna: “Larry respects money and wants it to be run in a more responsible way.”

Annapurna has exited some movies it commissioned, including a project about the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

“We are simply recalibrating so that our creative decisions are fully aligned with our business goals,” Annapurna said in a statement to THR.

Historic CBS Television City on verge of being sold

The historic CBS Television City complex is on the verge of being sold, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The likely buyer is Hackman Capital Partners, according to the newspaper, citing people familiar with the negotiations it didn’t identify. The property may be valued at $700 million the Times said.

CBS originally acquired the complex in 1950 and it became its West Coast production hub starting in 1952.

Barry Nelson in 1954’s Casino Royale

One of the early shows produced at Television City was Climax!, a series of live dramas beginning in 1954. The third Climax! broadcast was an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, the year after the first James Bond novel was published. It featured Barry Nelson as an American Bond.

Admittedly, that’s one of the more obscure Television City productions.

“Television City has played an important role in CBS history and American pop culture as home to many legendary TV shows,” the Times noted in its latest story. “It is where entertainers such as Jack Benny, Judy Garland and the cast of ‘All in the Family’ performed.”

CBS has moved most of its West Coast entertainment operations to CBS Studio Center, with the network renting out Television City to programs not owned by CBS. The Times said if the deal with Hackman is finalized, “CBS is expected to continue to operate the 25-acre studio as a tenant for a period of time.”

Neither CBS nor Hackman commented to the newspaper for its story.

Jack Whittingham’s daughter publishes a Thunderball book

Cover to The Thunderball Story

Sylvan Whittingham Mason, daughter of screenwriter Jack Whittingham, has published a book about her father’s work on what would become Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

The book, which is available on Amazon, is titled The Thunderball Story: The Untold History of the First James Bond Screenplay. Here’s the description on Amazon:

“The story is the most fascinating and controversial in the entire history of James Bond. It began way back in 1958 when maverick Irish producer, Kevin McClory collaborated with 007 creator Ian Fleming and screenwriter, Jack Whittingham on a screenplay that was eventually entitled ‘THUNDERBALL’.” (Robert Sellers – “The Battle for Bond”) Jack Whittingham’s daughter, Sylvan – one of the few people left alive still alive from that time – provides an unique and personal insight into the untold history of the very first James Bond screenplay.

Jack Whittingham (1910-1972) doesn’t get as much attention as the other players in the Thunderball saga. Kevin McClory took on Ian Fleming in court and eventually received the film rights to the novel. An attribution would be added to the book that it was based on a story by McClory, Whittingham and Fleming.

McClory cut a deal with Eon Productions and Thunderball became the fourth film in the Eon series. McClory in the 1970s battled Eon in court as well amid attempts to make a new film based on the novel. Eventually, Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake, was released in 1983.

Some collectors have a copy of an early 1960 draft by Whittingham for McClory. At that point the title was Longitude 78 West. In that script, the villains, led by Largo, belong to the Mafia. Other scripts would be written before the McClory project ran aground. Fleming would use the work as the basis for his Thunderball novel and the legal fights began after it was published. Writer Robert Sellers’s book The Battle for Bond covered that history. (You can CLICK HERE to view a 2015 interview the blog did with Sellers.)

The Thunderball Story is priced at 16.99 British pounds. For more information, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE OCT. 27: The original Amazon description was changed from saying Sylvan Whittingham Mason was “the only person still alive from that time” to saying she was “one of the few people left alive still alive from that time.” So the post has been edited today, Oct. 27, to reflect that. See a comment from another Whittingham below.

Fan sites post videos about Laz at the Spy Museum

On Oct. 5, Global James Bond Day, there was a James Bond-related event at the International Spy Museum in Washington. The headliner was George Lazenby, 79, who played 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Proprietors of James Bond fan sites have now posted videos about the event.

Here’s the video posted by the James Bond Experience. There’s a short introduction followed by Lazenby talking to the audience.

Also posting a video was Being James Bond’s Joseph Darlington. It’s a summary of the event and a an exhibit about Bond villains that will close at the end of the year.

Discussion of the event begins around the 15:45 mark. The video below is set up to begin then when you click on it. However, you may want to check the preceding segment. Darlington presents his wish list of five things he’d like to see in Bond 25 and future 007 films.

Bond 25: An Annapurna primer

Annapurna logo

This week, various entertainment-news outlets (including Variety, The Wrap and The Hollywood Reporter among others) carried stories about turmoil at Annapurna Pictures.

The company is tied to Bond 25. So 007 fans are wondering if something may be up on that front. What follows is a primer.

What is Annapurna? It originally was a production company involved with films such as Zero Dark Thirty. It was founded by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

In 2017, Annpurna branched into distribution. Its first distributed movie was Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city. The film bombed at the box officce.

How is it tied to Bond 25? Also in 2017, Annapurna formed a distribution joint venture with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The joint venture distributes films for each of the partners. Movies generated by MGM would carry that brand. Movies generated by Annapurna would carry that brand.

In May, it was announced the MGM-Annapurna joint venture would distribute Bond 25 (an MGM-generated project) in the United States while Universal would distribute the movie internationally.

Why the concern? Annapurna abruptly has dropped a number of film projects, including a movie based about the late former Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

Annapurna “has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars of losses over the years due to some significant box office losses,” according to a Variety story (linked above) by Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly. The scribes write that Larry Ellison is exterting control to attempt to make Annapurna profitable.

Could this imperil Bond 25? No. Annapurna is one of three players (itself, MGM and Universal). The Bond 25 deal is expected to help Annpurna, because it’ll get a distribution fee, according to Variety. The entertainment site also says Universal is a likely candidate to take over U.S. distribution if necessary.