Anthony Spinner, writer-producer for QM, U.N.C.L.E., dies

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Carol Lynley in The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II, produced by Anthony Spinner

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Carol Lynley in The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II, produced by Anthony Spinner and written by Dean Hargrove

Anthony Spinner, a writer-producer who worked on a number of series for QM Productions as well as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died in February at 89, according to the In Memoriam 2020 page of the Writer’s Guild West website.

Spinner’s work as a writer had a recurring theme of betrayal. A few examples:

–In The FBI episode The Tormentors, written by Spinner, kidnapper Logan Dupree (Wayne Rogers) brutally murders one of his confederates, John Brock (Edward Asner).

— In The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Secret Sceptre Affair, written by Spinner, Napoleon Solo is manipulated and betrayed by his commanding officer from the Korean War.

— In The FBI episode The Assassin, plotted by Spinner, an international assassin (William Windom) sets up an idealistic traitor (Tom Skeritt) to be killed as part of an assassination plot aimed at a bishop (Dean Jagger).

–In The Name of the Game episode The Perfect Image, plotted by Spinner, Howard Publications executive assistant Peggy Maxwell (Susan Saint James) has been manipulated by an old friend as part of a plot to discredit a reform mayor of Chicago.

Anthony Spinner’s title card for Survival, the final episode of The FBI

After writing for a number of QM Productions shows, Spinner was associate producer for the first season of The Invaders. QM’s only science fiction show had a paranoid feel as David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) battled invaders from another world who took human form to take over Earth.

Spinner’s next job was producing the fourth (and final) season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Spinner, in effect, tried to bring the “QM Gravitas” to U.N.C.L.E. following that show’s very campy third season.

The fourth-season debut, The Summit-Five Affair, showed how Spinner was taking the show in a different direction. In the episode, written by Robert E. Thompson, Solo (Robert Vaughn) undergoes torture — by another U.N.C.L.E. operative (Lloyd Bochner), determined to show that Solo is a traitor.

Summit-Five also featured a major double-cross, something that would occur in other Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

Not everyone involved appreciated the new direction. Veteran U.N.C.L.E. writer Dean Hargrove, in a 2007 interview for a DVD release, said Spinner came from “the Quinn Martin School of Melodrama.” He didn’t mean it as a compliment. In the interview, Hargrove described his disagreements with Spinner during production of the two-part story The Prince of Darkness Affair.

U.N.C.L.E. ran out of time and was canceled in mid-season. Spinner would return to QM Productions. His time there would have its ups and downs.

Anthony Spinner title card for an episode of Dan August

For example, Spinner produced the QM police drama Dan August (1970-71). Spinner pushed to have more topical scripts.

“Quinn said to me, ‘Are we doing propaganda here?,'” Spinner said in an interview with Jonathan Etter for the author’s Quinn Martin, Producer book. “I said, ‘Yeah, because I’m tired of diamond heists and kidnapped girls and all that stuff.'”

Regardless, boss Quinn Martin consistently utilized Spinner’s talents on multiple series.

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for The FBI's final season, produced by Anthony Spinner.

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for The FBI’s final season, produced by Anthony Spinner.

Spinner produced the final season of QM’s The FBI. Even before that show was canceled, Martin re-assigned Spinner to Cannon. Spinner finished work on The FBI on a Friday in 1974 and began work on Cannon the following Monday, according to the Quinn Martin, Producer book.

In 1975, Martin had Spinner producing two QM series simultaneously, Cannon and the short-lived Caribe. The latter was a cross between Hawaii Five-O (tropical climate) and U.N.C.L.E. (agency with multi-national jurisdiction).

Also, while working at QM, Spinner and his story editor, Stephen Kandel, rescued Cannon scripts during a large fire at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, the home base for Cannon, according to the Etter book.

His credits also included being producer of The Return of the Saint in the late 1970s, with Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar.

Spinner’s career extended into the 1990s with the TV movie The Lottery.

In 2009, Spinner sued ABC saying he actually created the television series Lost. Spinner in 1977 had written a pilot for the network titled Lost which he said contained ideas and concepts that ended up in the 2004-10 series. ABC won the case in court in 2011. a finding that was upheld on appeal in 2013.

3 Responses

  1. shelley novak mistress of disguise

  2. Why is there never a photo posted of this extraordinary guy?Anywhere???Can somebody post a few?

  3. I saw somebody on a Quinn Martin page on Facebook post a photo the person said was of Anthony Spinner, but I haven’t verified it. On an UNCLE page on Facebook, someone once posted a photo of themselves and Spinner but it’s not my photo. It is amazing, given his long career, there are so few photos available of the guy.

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