James W. Gavin, ace pilot for TV and movies

James W. Gavin pilots a helicopter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

James W. Gavin pilots a helicopter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. on board.

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

James W. Gavin over a long career in television and movies mostly went unnoticed.

The pilot/second unit director/bit part player was a top helicopter pilot. His services were in demand for various TV serious as well as films such as Vanishing Point and The Towering Inferno.

Gavin got a bit of recognition in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever.

Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz told the anecdote of how Gavin had the presence of mind to get the cameras rolling when explosions were set off for what was supposed to be a rehearsal for the oil-rig sequence.

According to Mankiewicz, some of that footage ended up in the final version of Diamonds.

On occasion, Gavin got to be an actor. Not surprisingly, he played pilots, presumably because it was cheaper to film him reciting lines while he was flying. In some cases, he was billed as “Gavin James,” rather than by his real name.

Gavin was one of the go-to pilots for QM Productions, flying helicopters for the company’s various shows, including The FBI.

Gavin died in 2005 at the age of 70.

Jonny Quest score available from La-La Land Records

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

The score to the original 1964-65 Jonny Quest cartoon series is now AVAILABLE FROM LA-LA LAND RECORDS.

The series, created by cartoonist Doug Wildey, originally ran on prime-time on ABC. It was Hanna-Barbera’s first attempt at a realistic-looking presentation (well, except for Jonny’s pet dog, Bandit).

There were later revivals but for some fans, nothing tops the original.

Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:

La-La Land Records and Warner Bros. present the world premiere release of the original television score to the 1964-65 classic animated Hanna-Barbera adventure series JONNY QUEST, with music by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and Hoyt Curtin and musical direction by Hoyt Curtin and Ted Nichols. Requested by fans for decades, the thrilling and groundbreaking original music from one of the most beloved 60’s animated shows of all time finally makes its official debut with this deluxe, knockout 2-CD presentation.

Only 3,000 of the soundtrack sets will be sold and the price is $24.98. The set includes liner notes by Jon Burlingame and Jeff Bond. Burlingame has produced soundtracks to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible series.

Below is an excerpt from an online documentary about Jonny Quest that highlights Hoyt Curtin’s work.

A peek behind U.N.C.L.E.’s visual effects

RISE, a visual effects studio, has released a video showing some of its work on 2015’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The film opened in 1963 Berlin. RISE’s video shows how that era was recreated for the movie. Stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander mix with green screens and models.

In the sequence, CIA agent Napoleon Solo moves to get Gaby, daughter of a nuclear scientist, out of East Berlin, with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin.

The video RISE released shows how even a relatively modest production (U.N.C.L.E.’s production budget was a reported $75 million) utilizes visual effects. In this case, it’s trying to disguise that visual effects are even being used. RISE has also worked on Marvel Studios movies.

The video is embedded below. Thanks to Robert Short of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page on Facebook for the heads up.

RISE REEL – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. from RISE on Vimeo.

Timeless to include Ian Fleming-related episode

One of the new shows of the fall is Timeless, featuring a group of time travelers trying to stop a villain from changing history.

It turns out one of the episodes of the NBC series involves Ian Fleming in the days of World War II. Based on the promo below it looks like the author will be depicted as the alter ego of his creation, James Bond. (“James Bond just hit on Lucy!”)

Anyway take a look. Thanks to @Stingray on Twitter for the heads up.

UPDATE (Oct. 11): Well, the trailer for upcoming episodes got yanked. Anyway, the clip had included an actor playing Fleming who introduces himself, “Fleming, Ian Fleming.”

1960s U.N.C.L.E. novel cited in New Yorker commentary

David McDaniel's The Dagger Affair

David McDaniel’s The Dagger Affair

This blog doesn’t do politics. However, a political commentary in The New Yorker does utilize spy fiction to make its case about the U.S. presidential election. Specifically, it cites The Dagger Affair, one of the 1960s Ace paperback novels based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

The novel was written by David McDaniel, who came up with an origin for Thrush, the villainous organization opposed by U.N.C.L.E.

The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, while not referencing The Dagger Affair nor McDaniel by name, uses the novel’s plot to illustrate the commentary about the election.

Here’s the key excerpt, which is the first (long) paragraph of the essay.

Somewhere in a paperback novel from the nineteen-sixties inspired, or willed into existence, by the “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” television series, the brave men of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement find themselves actually sharing lunch with old enemies as they make a temporary alliance with the evil forces of THRUSH (the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity—really) in order to defeat an outsider dangerous to both. They have joined forces, despite a century of enmity and countless encounters involving rogue agents and femmes fatales, because together they recognize that both sides—indeed, mankind itself—are threatened by a mad nihilist. (If a twelve-year-old’s memory serves, the nihilist, a super-scientist, has built a machine that negates energy itself.) Everything else, they agree, comes second to this threat. They make a toast, and a truce, to coöperate until the nihilist is defeated.

It should be noted that McDaniel’s novel isn’t canon. In the 1964-68 series, Thrush was just Thrush. However, many U.N.C.L.E. fans have adopted McDaniel’s version. The writer linked Thrush to Professor Moriarty, arch-foe of Sherlock Holmes. But Thrush as an acronym exists only in the Ace paperbacks, not on the show.

The main point of The New Yorker article concerns the relationship between Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the Republican nominees for president and vice president. If you want to check it out, CLICK HERE.

Happy (belated) 99th birthday, June Foray

Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle, one of the many characters voiced by June Foray

Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle, one of the many characters voiced by June Foray

We would be remiss if we didn’t note that Sept. 18 was the 99th birthday of June Foray, the greatest living cartoon voice.

Her many credits include voicing Rocky, the Flying Squirrel, as well as Natasha Fatale. Natasha was half of the villainous pair of Boris and Natasha, who kept trying to do in Rocky and Bullwinkle the Moose in 1960s cartoons produced by Jay Ward. (Ward’s producing partner, Bill Scott (1920-85), was the voice of Bullwinkle.)

She was a voice on many Warner Bros. cartoons (Granny, Witch Hazel). It took a while but she eventually got an on-screen credit on the cartoons.

Of course, Foray also got voice over jobs on live-action programs. She did the “bumpers” on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. informing viewers the show would resume “after station identification.” She was the voice of Talking Tina, a creepy doll in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Writer Mark Evanier of The News From ME blog has a tribute you can read by CLICKING HERE.

Happy 83rd birthday, David McCallum

Sept. 19 is David McCallum’s 83rd birthday. Judging by a picture on his Facebook page, he has already celebrated the event.

Meanwhile, below, here once again is a publicity still from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., taken during production of The Girls of Nazarone Affair late in the show’s first season. Happy birthday, Mr. Callum.

David McCallum in a Man From U.N.C.L.E. publicity still