Dean Hargrove talks about U.N.C.L.E.

Dean Hargrove

Writer-producer Dean Hargrove gave a March interview to the Writers Guild Foundation. A chunk of it concerned The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 1964-68 series where he was one of the main writers.

Here are some of the U.N.C.L.E.-related comments made by Hargrove, 80, during the interview.

First-season producer Sam Rolfe: “Sam Rolfe…was a superior writer and a brilliant guy to devise formats for television shows. Sam was a tough cookie. Writers were going through this show like rabbits on the run. We sort of hit it off.”

Hargrove becomes staff writer in Season Two: Rolfe departed after the first season. Hargrove wrote two Season One scripts and was hired on for Season Two.

“I sort of had a handle on the show so it came easy to me… It was considered I had the Holy Grail. I was the one who knew the show. Nobody else really kind of understood it.

“People would turn to me and ask me should it be like this or like that. I’m saying, ‘Try that, I really don’t know.’ I just knew I had a facility for writing that show. And from a career standpoint, it’s like somebody turned on the lights.

“The show I thought was a bit of a hula hoop because it wasn’t based solidly on character, you know, it was based on style and other superficial things which were very entertaining. I loved the show and really loved working on it.”

David McCallum and Robert Vaughn in The Never-Never Affair, the first U.N.C.L.E. episode written by Dean Hargrove.

Executive Producer Norman Felton: “Norman was a very nice man and a character at the same time. He was always afraid of having to pay people money. This was one of his quirks. He didn’t like giving people raises.

“At one point, because he was getting more and more successful, he moved down into a little office…when he had a big office up in the Thalberg Building (at MGM). That way, he felt people would be less entitled to come down and ask him for raises.

“He drove an old Chevrolet. The studio asked if would he please let them give him a new car because it’s embarrassing a guy who’s producing all these shows is driving this old car.

Producer turnover on U.N.C.L.E.: Three different men filled the producer’s chair in Season Two. “I don’t think it helped the show. I don’t think any of the guys who came on really had a good handle on the show…I don’t think the producers had a good handle on the material….I thought one producer in particular didn’t understand the show at all.”

Hargrove declined to name that producer. During the second season, David Victor, Mort Abrams and Boris Ingster served as producers. Ingster returned for Season Three. He was replaced in Season Four by Anthony Spinner, who brought a more serious approach.

U.N.C.L.E.’s legacy: “I don’t think there’s a real legacy. I don’t think you can point to shows on television and say this is the spiritual grandchild of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

The U.N.C.L.E. portion of the interview starts after the 35:00 mark of this first part.

Part two begins with U.N.C.L.E. and that lasts about 20 minutes.

One Response

  1. I think these kinds of interviews are fascinating! Thank you so much for posting something on the MFU!

    For what it’s worth I posted my retrospective on our website at this link:
    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/channel-finbot/part_1_of_4_test_only_not_for_viewing/

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