U.N.C.L.E. script: Getting the series started Part I

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair.

Having sold Solo (now-renamed The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) as a series, it was now up to executive producer Norman Felton to get the series underway.

In place as day-to-day producer was Sam Rolfe, who wrote the series proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo” as well as the pilot script and its expanded movie version To Trap a Spy.

The critical first post-pilot script would be penned by Harold Jack Bloom. Rolfe and Bloom co-wrote the 1953 western film The Naked Spur. They were nominated for an Oscar for their efforts on that movie.

Bloom would also be the first writer employed on the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. He’d receive an “additional story material” credit for the 007 movie.

The copy the blog has of the script is dated May 27, 1964, just a few days before filming would begin on June 1, with Richard Donner directing. Some pages are dated as late as June 4, after filming had begun.

FADE IN:
INT. FARMHOUSE NIGHT
Just inside the door JILL DENNISON, nineteen, eyes closed dreamily, is wrapped in the arms of TOMMY BLAIR, twenty-seven, a uniformed non-com in the Air Force. But then her defenses become alerted to his rising passion.

JILL
Tommy…?

He stops, moving his head back to meet her eyes. A heavy sigh seems to restore his self-control.

TOMMY
Tomorrow night?

She nods. He gives up and grins. This wins him a final peck before he exits.

However, after the final “peck,” things are about to take a bad turn for Tommy. He drives off on a motorcycle.

ANOTHER ANGLE
As Tommy comes out of the turn, he reacts to something he sees ahead, o.s.

SUBJECTIVE FROM HIS POV

CAMERA MOVES ALONG ROAD APPROACHING the silhouette of a man who stands in the center of the road. The cycle’s headlights stop short of the man’s legs.

REVERSE

Tommy has stopped. Bends forward to raise his headlight.

HIS POV

The light picks up Solo standing in the road, his gun held, assembled for automatic fire. He holds his free hand up in a gesture of “halt”. ZOOM INTO CLOSE.

INTERCUT
Tommy reacts. His boyishness is gone now, replaced by an ugly intent. He kicks the motorcycle into full speed and it jerks forward. Solo FIRES. The shots go through the cycle’s plastic windshield behind which Tommy is crouched. Solo somersaults at the last moment to avoid the swerving machine. The cycle swerves past, skidding over on one side to dig its own halt.

The scene in the final version wasn’t quite as dramatic (Robert Vaughn’s Solo didn’t somersault) but it’s pretty much what Bloom wrote.

Solo inspects the body. He also sees that the dead man was carrying scuba diving equipment. The stage directions state that Solo holsters his gun. That would be difficult with all the attachments of what would become known as the U.N.C.L.E. Special. “A final look at Tommy, then MOVE INTO CLOSE OF SOLO.”

In the next scene, Solo poses as the dead man’s brother. He acts outraged when the local authorities have no clues who killed him. The only lead Solo has is Jill, the young woman that Tommy was with just before Solo killed him.

As the agent leaves, he passes “an elderly SCRUBWOMAN” who radios the information to someone named “Hod.” She indicates no harm should come to the stranger yet.

Solo then visits Jill. They’re being observed by “AUNT MARTHA, a hawk-faced spinster in her mid-forties.” She is “doing needlepoint with quick, angry thrusts.” Jill, meanwhile, is telling Solo that she and Tommy “weren’t in love or anything.” It quickly becomes clear Aunt Martha wasn’t happy with Jill dating Tommy.

During the conversation, there’s another visitor: “CLINT SPINNER, a tall, raw-boned man in his early fifties.” It turns out Spinner’s father was a “sharecropper” in the area. He’s purchased land nearby after being a successful oil man. Spinner has dug a deep well to benefit his new farm.

The scene becomes a way for writer Bloom to provide information to the audience. A secret U.S. Army base has built in the area. Spinner says the base houses the SX-9 “catapult plane” which in “case of war” can be hurled “into the air going better’n three thousand miles an hour.”

“They make such a big deal about military secrets,” Solo responds. “I bet everyone around here knows what you just told me.”

“They know what I know,” Spinner says. “We was all right here when they built it.”

As the scene concludes, Solo asks Jill about why Tommy would have scuba gear. The question surprises Jill. Tommy said he couldn’t swim.

It turns out the entire scene has been observed at a distance by three people in scuba outfits including “an exotic Spanish woman.” The other two are men who hold “strange looking rifles.” One begins to aim his weapon but the woman “gently” pushes the barrel of the rifle down.

Solo then returns to New York and U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. He confers with Alexander Waverly. It turns out Tommy was really Eric Freedlander, a saboteur. Solo had been on his trail. Freedlander slipped away in Berlin but then showed up in Iowa, the site of the secret base. There was a real Tommy Blair but he is missing.

What follows is a briefing scene which provides more details for the audience. We’re told more about the plane and its capabilities. In the middle of the briefing, Waverly is told that the authorities in Iowa have released a statement they’ve found the murderer of Thomas Blair.

They react.

WAVERLY (looking at Solo as he answers)
Isn’t that interesting…?

TO BE CONTINUED

2 Responses

  1. If a viewer saw this episode for the first time (without knowing too much about the MFU, as we do) [ IMO ] it would hold their attention. It was one of the less gimmicky episodes. Straight forward villain versus sleuth/hero (creating good suspense). Was an effective episode to be filmed in black and white (shadowy, mysterious, somber). The “innocent” (a bit whimsical) was maybe a bit over-the-top innocent. But a necessary counterpoint to the darker side of the story. Think about what a job it was to take a concept from a writer’s mind (including intention and effect) and create something so substantial that would make sense to (and better yet, would entertain) complete strangers! And how many moving parts it took in between to make all that happen!

  2. […] main exception to that was the second episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Iowa-Scuba Affair. The show’s day-to-day producer was Sam Rolfe, who all but created U.N.C.L.E. and had been […]

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