Peter Allan Fields, U.N.C.L.E. writer, dies

Movie poster for The Spy in the Green Hat, movie version of The Concrete Overcoat Affair, scripted by Peter Allan Fields

Peter Allan Fields, one of the key writers of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. whose career also extended to The Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek, has died, according to the Gizmodo website.

He was 84, according to his Wikipedia entry.

Fields had worked at the William Morris Agency. He switched careers to television writing.

Midway during The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s first season, he was assigned to write an U.N.C.L.E. script.

In the documentary that was part of a 2007 DVD release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., star Robert Vaughn said Fields simply didn’t know how long it was supposed to take to write a script for a one-hour TV show. As a result, Vaughn said, Fields turned out a “shootable” script in four days, writing one act a day.

His first U.N.C.L.E. credit was The Fiddlesticks Affair. It was the second episode after NBC switched the show to Mondays during its first season (1964-65).

The story evoked Mission: Impossible (which wouldn’t debut until the fall of 1966) where agents Solo (Vaughn) and Kuryakin (David McCallum) plot to blow up a key treasury of the villainous organization Thrush. The episode even was scored by Lalo Schifrin, who’d later do the classic M:I theme.

From that point through the show’s third season, Fields was a major U.N.C.L.E. contributor. Fields also became a friend of Vaughn’s.

Fields’ final writing credit for U.NC.L.E. was the two-part The Concrete Overcoat Affair, which was re-edited into the movie The Spy in the Green Hat for international audiences.

Fields turned out scripts for various shows, including The FBI, McCloud, and The Six Million Dollar Man. He was also one of the story editors for A Man Called Sloan, a 1979 series from QM Productions that contained elements from U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond movies.

The Gizmodo obituary emphasized Fields’ contributions to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Fields; death was referenced by Ira Steven Behr, a producer for that series.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Tarantino’s theater to show an Irving Allen double feature

Dean Martin’s title card for The Wrecking Crew, titles designed by Wayne Fitzgerald.

Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema has scheduled a double feature of movies produced by Irving Allen — The Wrecking Crew and Hammerhead.

Allen (1905-1987) was the partner of Albert R. Broccoli. But the partnership ended in part because Broccoli wanted to make movies based on Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels while Allen was cool to the idea.

Once the 007 film series took off, Allen looked to get in the game.

The Wrecking Crew was the last of four Matt Helm films starring Dean Martin. To entice Martin, Allen made him a partner in the enterprise. That meant Martin, who got a percentage of the action, got paid more for 1966’s The Silencers than Sean Connery got for Thunderball.

The Wrecking Crew also is referenced in Tarantino’s upcoming movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywwod. The cast includes Margo Robbie as actress Sharon Tate. A recent trailer for the movie shows Robbie’s Tate going to see herself in The Wrecking Crew.

Hammerhead was based on a novel by James Mayo (real name Stephen Coulter), whose books featured a hero named Charles Hood. Vince Edwards played Hood in Hammerhead. One of the screenwriters was Herbert Baker, who had worked on three Matt Helm movies for Allen.

The Wrecking Crew and Hammerhead are scheduled to be shown June 12 and 13, according to the New Beverly’s website. The theater is showing a new 35mm print of The Wrecking Crew.

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.

Five-O writer tells anecdotes about the series

Jerome Coopersmith’s title card for Nine Dragons, a ninth-season episode of Hawaii Five-O

Jerome Coopersmith, a writer on the original Hawaii Five-O series, chatted recently with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about his time on the 1968-80 show.

Coopersmith, 93, wrote or helped write 32 episodes, including three featuring arch-villain Wo Fat.

According to the story, Coopersmith wrote his scripts at his home on Long Island. He would then take them to the CBS mailroom in New York City and they’d be flown overnight to Los Angeles.

Five-O had production offices in both Hollywood and Hawaii. Coopersmith also flew to Los Angeles for meetings with producers.

He was busiest on the series during the fourth through eighth seasons. He departed after penning the first two episodes of the ninth season.

Some of the highlights in the article include:

Ideas for scripts: “Some were suggested by the producers, but for the most part, the ideas came from reading the newspapers,” Coopersmith told the newspaper.

“A fabulous variety of crimes are committed every day,” the scribe added. “All I had to do was figure out how to transplant them to Hawaii, and how to make the criminals smarter than they are in real life so that it would take ‘Five-O’ an hour to catch up with them and not just five minutes. In real life most criminals are stupid.”

Local actors on Five-O: Creator-executive producer Leonard Freeman “wanted authentic Hawaiian faces on the ‘Five-O’ team,” Coopersmith told the Star-Advertiser. “That’s why he cast it that way.

“Besides his fondness for locals, there was another reason. When you cast Hollywood actors from the mainland you have to pay their travel and living expenses on Oahu, which strains the budget.”

While the article is of interest for fans of the original Five-O, some caveats are in order.

Coopersmith mis-remembers some details. He describes writing a 1975 episode titled Diary of a Gun. A cheap handgun keeps changing hands, with tragic events occurring.

“CBS was afraid of doing the show, but Len Freeman and (star) Jack Lord were strongly for it, and it was done,” Coopersmith told the newspaper. Problem: Freeman died in early 1974.

Coopersmith also tells anecdotes about Nine Dragons, a two-hour Wo Fat episode that led off the ninth season (1976-77). He mentions Bob Sweeney prominently.

Problem: Sweeney, whose title was supervising producer, worked on the show during the fourth through seventh seasons. He had departed Five-O long before Nine Dragons.

The Wrecking Crew figures into new Tarantino movie

The Wrecking Crew, the fourth and final Matt Helm film, figures into Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The cast includes Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate. The movie’s trailer includes a scene where Tate goes to a theater playing The Wrecking Crew. In the Helm film, Tate played a klutzy British agent who ends up teamed with Dean Martin’s Helm.

A fifth Helm movie, The Ravagers, was announced at the end of The Wrecking Crew. The plan was to have Sharon Tate return. However, she was among seven people murdered by the Charles Manson family in 1969. Eventually, The Ravagers was called off and the Helm series ended.

You can view the trailer below.

Working on a film set

Peter Hunt during an interview.

For the past week or so, there have been numerous stories about supposedly grim feelings on the Bond 25 set.

The thing is, given how unnatural it is to work on a movie, it’s surprising there aren’t even more accounts about unease on film sets.

With On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, first-time director Peter Hunt played mind games with first-time actor George Lazenby during the film’s critical ending scene.

“I would make him sit and wait and get a bit nervous,” Hunt said of Lazenby said in an interview for the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. “I wanted him to feel nervous and uptight.”

It’s not just Bond films, of course. Martin Landau, as part of a TCM video, talked about feeling insecure during filming of a scene in North by Northwest.

Landau talked about how director Alfred Hitchcock whispered direction to Cary Grant, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint. Landau approached Hitchcock whether he wanted the tell the actor anything.

“Martin, I’ll only tell you if I don’t like what you’re doing,” Landau quoted Hitchcock as saying while doing a Hitch impersonation.

Working on a film (for actors, anyway) involves waiting a long time while the director of photography and other crew members get things ready to film a scene. For actors, doing a play is more natural. But films pay better.

Bond 25 may, or may not, have had a lot of tension on the set so far. Regardless, making movies isn’t a 9-to-5 job. We won’t really know how it’s going until the finished product is ready for viewing.

Authorities arrest suspect in killing of Barry Crane

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Federal and Los Angeles authorities have arrested a suspect in the 1985 murder of Barry Crane, a veteran TV director and producer, The Hollywood Reporter said.

An excerpt from the story:

Federal and local authorities on Thursday arrested a man they believe brutally killed TV producer Barry Crane back in 1985, Los Angeles police confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Edwin Hiatt, now 52, was taken into custody in North Carolina by the FBI Fugitive Task Force after detectives with LAPD said they identified him as Crane’s killer through DNA evidence.

Crane earned a reputation as Mission: Impossible’s “human computer,” capable of quickly breaking down complex scripts into filming schedules.

“To make it simple, he was a walking computer,” the late Stanley Kallis, one of M:I’s producers, told author Patrick J. White in 1991’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “He had perfect recall and could juggle in his mind eighty facts at any moment.”

Crane’s title on that series was associate producer. He also was associate producer on Mannix. Both series were overseen by executive producer Bruce Geller. Crane became producer for the final season of Mission: Impossible.

After M:I wrapped production, Crane worked primarily as a TV director. Throughout this period, Crane was a noted player of Bridge. Before his tenure on M:I and Mannix, Crane was a production manager at series such as Burke’s Law made at Four Star Productions.

UPDATE (May 10): The New York Times published a story with additional details. Among other things, “Mr. Hiatt’s DNA matched cigarette butts recovered from the ashtray of Mr. Crane’s stolen car,” The Times said, citing court documents.

Barry Crane title card for an episode of Mannix