A few thoughts about the 1960 spy craze

The 1960s was the era of the spy craze. But some folks will argue that point with you.

Some James Bond fans will say everything other than Bond are only “knockoffs.”

Meanwhile, some fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (on social media) argue that was actually “the U.N.C.L.E. Craze” with Get Smart, I Spy, and The Wild Wild West following.

A few facts:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. originally was pitched as “James Bond for television.”

Television producer Norman Felton and Ian Fleming co-created the character Napoleon Solo on October 29-31,1962 during their meetings in New York City.

The Wild Wild West was pitched as “spies and cowboys.”

Get Smart originated as a mix of Bond and Inspector Clouseau.

The success of Bond created a market for an “anti-Bond.” John Le Carre (real name David Cornwell) benefited. Still, Le Carre and his prominent fans said Bond wasn’t up to Le Carre’s standards.

Danger Man (Secret Agent in the U.S.) and The Avengers came out before 1962’s Dr. No. Yet both British TV shows were influenced by the Bond films.

The 1960s spy craze was a high point for the genre. But, even to this day, there’s a lot of grumbling going on.

12 Responses

  1. I still believe james bond started the spy craze, theres no historical mentioning of the era. Without ian flemings james bond.

  2. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry visited the UNCLE set to gather ideas for Get Smart, so there’s a direct connection between the two.

  3. Brooks, as I understand it, had the idea for the shoe phone, while Henry had the idea for the Cone of Silence.

  4. Rhetorical question: why is the spy craze space being fought over? Wasn’t there enough to go around 😀

  5. Regardless of the inspirations, it was, without a doubt “The Spy Craze” of the ’60s.

  6. Reminds me of when Jon Burlingame mentioned in his THE MUSIC OF JAMES BOND that John Barry influenced all the spy music that came after him. While there is some truth to that, he forgot that Danger Man preceded Dr.No by two years or so, and that music was by Edwin “Ted” Astley, who was pretty influential in his own right.

  7. Okay. since you’re looking for a serious opinion. Two sides to consider. Credit to Wiki: re the genre itself going back to the 19th and 20th centuries. Link below verifying that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spy_fiction ]]

    The question being asked here is: who popularized the Spy Theme Format. And created the kind of “universe” that makes it work! Through which property was it commercialized as escapist entertainment.

    Answer: naturally it was James Bond, the most well-known and memorable of the experiences. Plot, setting, personality, music, imagination. Delivered as a fully loaded premise. Others were followers, derivatives, imitations and variations. Also fun, in their own right. Wishing more of them lasted longer. But give credit to Bond, which has!

  8. What about I Spy? Interestingly it apparently remains the only network TV show to ever attempt to film all its exterior scenes in the actual foreign locations being portrayed.

  9. That’s true, and what an expense! Never caught it in syndication though. Quality production, good directors. Culp helped with the writing. 3 Seasons/ 82 episodes. More background here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Spy_(1965_TV_series)

  10. In the decade after seeing Dr. No 1st run, I read literally hundreds of spy novels, by dozens of authors, going all the way back to John Buchan, Manning Coles, Eric Ambler & Jean Bruce (when I could find English translations0. Bond didn’t make me a “Bond fan”. The work made me an “espionage fan”. The quality was all over the place, but several writers were of Fleming’s caliber: John le Carré, Len Deighton, Adam Hall, Peter O’Donnell, Donald Hamilton (the only Yank in my top, top list), John Gardner (when he was putting out Boysie Oakes novels), James Mitchell/James Munro (I slightly preferred the John Craig books) and, a bit later, Brian Freemantle (Charlie M.). A level down, but still quite good, were James Leasor’s Dr. Jason Love series & the 5 tightly plotted Joaquin Hawks books, by Bill S. Ballinger. Even today, we have Mick Herron and Charles Cumming and others who I avidly read and watch. (The Slow Horses series on AppleTV was a hoot. It’s the only reason why I subscribed.

  11. Cinemobile I Spy location shooting. https://ispy65.tripod.com/id161.htm

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