Karin Dor’s non-007 spy roles

Karin Dor’s death scene in Topaz

Actress Karin Dor died Nov. 6 at the age of 79.

Obituaries, such as the one published by The Hollywood Reporter, naturally led with her status as a “Bond Girl” in You Only Live Twice. She played Helga Brandt, a SPECTRE assassin who is executed by Blofeld when she fails to kill Sean Connery’s James Bond.

But that was not the German-born actress’ only brush with the spy genre.

Besides Twice, her most famous spy role was probably 1969’s Topaz, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She plays Juanita de Cordoba, who is involved in spying in early 1960s Cuba.

Her character is killed by Rico Para (John Vernon) when her activities have been discovered. Her death scene involved some typically Hitchockian camera work. In this case, the camera is pointing almost straight down.

Take a look below:

 

Dor also appeared on the small screen in spy-related roles.

She was a guest star on an episode of the Robert Wagner series It Takes a Thief, The Three Virgins of Rome. And she played the kidnap target of a Communist spy in a sixth-season episode of The FBI titled The Target.

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Disney may buy most of Fox? Hoo boy!

Walt Disney Co. logo

Walt Disney Co. has had talks to buy most of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio, CNBC reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

Here’s an excerpt:

21st Century Fox has been holding talks to sell most of the company to Walt Disney Co., leaving behind a media company tightly focused on news and sports, according to people familiar with the situation.

The talks have taken place over the last few weeks and there is no certainty they will lead to a deal. The two sides are not currently talking at this very moment, but given the on again, off again nature of the talks, they could be revisited.

According to the CNBC story, 21st Century Fox leader Rupert Murdoch would hold onto news and sports networks and sell off entertainment businesses.

While the situation is in flux, here are some potential effects:

–20th Century Fox currently has the contract to handle home video releases of James Bond movies.

–20th Century Fox has been among the studios sniffing around for a deal to distribute Bond 25.

–The Fox movie studio controls the rights to some Marvel characters, including the X-Men. Disney owns Marvel but Fox’s control of such key characters is a notable gap for Disney/Marvel.

Questions:

Would a Fox acquisition by Disney affect not only the Bond 25 distribution issue, but also home video? And, if a deal took place, would Disney get into the Bond 25 distribution hunt?

Would a Disney acquisition of most of Fox finally bring Disney full control of all (or almost all) Marvel characters in the movies?

Stayed tuned, as the saying goes.

An Avengers stage production may occur, Bamigboye says

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers television series.

A stage musical version of The Avengers may be in the offing, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamiboye said in a post on Twitter.

The project “in very early stages development 4 poss musical by #UniversalStageProductions,” Bamigboye wrote on Twitter.

(UPDATE, 7:20 a.m., New York time: Bamigboye now has a story online at the Daily Mail website. “A small team has been assembled to explore whether The Avengers could work under a West End proscenium,” he wrote.

Former 007 film composer David Arnold has been asked to work on the stage project as well as writer-director Sean Foley, Bamigboye reported.)

Bamigboye, this decade, has had a number of 007 film scoops proven correct, which is why the blog notes this.

The original Avengers television series ran from 1961 to 1969. There was also a revival, The New Avengers, that ran in the 1970s.

But there was also a 1971 stage play.

The Voices of East Angela website had a summary of the 1971 stage play.

Patrick Macnee, the star of the 1960s and ’70s TV versions, declined to participate. Instead, “experienced British TV actor Simon Oates was drafted in,” according to the website.

Voices of East Angela also reproduced posters of the play, directed by Leslie Phillips and written by Terence Feely and Brian Clemens. The latter worked as a writer and producer on the 1960s and ’70s TV shows.

“It seems the technically challenging stage show proved too challenging and the plot was verging on the pantomime featuring as it did invisible dolly birds (this was 1971 remember) and a giant computer brain,” according to Voices of East Angela.

“Numerous set changes and a multitude of set mishaps generated more unintended laughs than those written in to the script and following an initial run of ten nights in Birmingham the show was shipped down to the West End where it opened nine days later.

“Such were the poor reviews and numerous stage mishaps that it lasted a mere three weeks at the Prince of Wales theatre before it was unceremoniously hoisted off stage with a metaphorical shepherd’s crook.”

We’ll see what happens. In the U.S., fans of The Avengers television show are deeply annoyed how Marvel’s Avengers (featured in two movies so far, with two more scheduled for 2018 and 2019) have pre-empted the name.

The original Avengers comic book debuted in 1963, two years after The Avengers TV show premiered in the U.K. but before the series came to America.

Eon’s new spy movie gets a February 2019 release date

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Eon Productions’ new spy movie, The Rhythm Section, has been given a February 2019 release date by Paramount, The Wrap and other entertainment news sites reported.

The film, starring Blake Lively, will be released Feb. 22, 2019. The project was announced in July. It’s based on a novel by Mark Burnell.

“Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is on a path of self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash, a flight that she was meant to be on,” according to a plot summary released in July. “After discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible.”

The Rhythm Section is part of a growing portfolio of non-007 films by Eon. Its drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool had its premiere at the 2017 Telluride Film Festival.  It’s being released in December by Sony Pictures Classics, part of Sony Pictures.

Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. Currently, the movie has no distributor.

Paul Baack, extraordinary 007 fan, dies

Paul Baack (1957-2017 ) in 2013, wearing headphones to utilize his voice-activated software.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the James bond fan site Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, died today at 60.

Paul and Tom Zielinski began the site, intended as a James Bond “e-magazine,” in 1997. HMSS, according to the founders, was the equivalent of a “toy train” for them.

It was more, of course.

From 1997 until 2011, HMSS presented magazine-length articles about James Bond and related topics. Contributors included Raymond Benson, the 007 continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

Benson named a character after Paul in his 1999 Bond novel High Time to Kill.

Normally an obituary refers to its subject by his or her last name. But the Spy Commander, for this obit, will refer to him by his first name.

Paul, from the beginning, designed the HMSS pages. His graphics enhanced the articles. He had a way of prodding the authors to make their contributions just a little bit better. Paul would make suggestions to improve the articles.

Those suggestions came in the form of a gentle nudge, not a dictate. HMSS, after all, was a hobby — the toy train analogy — not life or death. Nevertheless, Paul’s instincts were excellent. He was right far more than he was wrong.

Paul Baack-designed promo for the fall 2011 issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, the e-magazine’s last issue.

Paul led a tough life. In 2003, he was paralyzed after being struck by a car. Despite that, he carried on. He utilized voice-activated software to do his HMSS work and follow his various other interests, which included doing artwork such as THIS and THIS and THIS.

This blog was, in fact, Paul’s idea. He wanted a way for HMSS to have a presence on the internet between “issues.” The Spy Commander was among the HMSS contributors.

Eventually, I took over the blog. But I was always aware he was reading. I was always glad to receive his feedback.

HMSS had a good run. It went offline in 2014.

“Bond and Holly” by Paul Baack

Paul was one of the most memorable people I ever met. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering he endured since 2003. But he endured it with warmth, and grace and humor.

James Bond fandom is richer for what Paul and Tom Zielinski started. This blog, obviously, would not exist without Paul’s encouragement.

After HMSS went offline, the blog published THIS POST about how it was now on its own. Paul posted this comment:

“‘Upward and onward’ indeed! Heartfelt thanks to you, Bill, for keeping the flame.”

Thanks to you Paul, for lighting the flame in the first place.

The man who hired Goldsmith, Williams and others

Stanley Wilson’s title card (along with others) on a first-season episode of Universal’s The Name of the Game

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

The blog’s post this week about the television factory run by MCA Corp.’s Revue Studios (later Universal Television) didn’t have room to get into some details. This post is aimed at remedying that.

One of Revue-Universal’s stalwarts was Stanley Wilson, who ran the music department.

In that capacity, he hired composers who had to work under tight deadlines. Wilson hired some of the best, some of whom would become major film composers.

One of Wilson’s hires was Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004). Goldsmith already had credits at CBS. But the network let him go.

Stanley Wilson’s title card (along with others) on an episode of Thriller, whose composers included Jerry Goldsmith.

Wilson wisely assigned him jobs at Revue-Universal. Some of Goldsmith’s best television work was on the studio’s 1960-62 anthology series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff. For a 2010 home video release, extras included permitting viewers to listen to Goldsmith’s music only for episodes he scored.

Wilson (whose title was either “musical supervisor” or “music supervisor”) also brought on John Williams to work on the 1960-62 series Checkmate, a detective series created by Eric Ambler. It was one of the earliest credits for Williams. Williams was also hired by Wilson to work on the anthology show Kraft Suspense Theater.

Other notable Wilson hires included Morton Stevens, beginning with an episode of The General Electric Theater. The episode starred Sammy Davis Jr. Stevens worked for Davis as his arranger.

Wilson hired Stevens for the Davis episode of The GE Theater. That began a career switch for Stevens of scoring television shows. That included scoring the pilot for Hawaii Five-O and devising its iconic theme. Stevens also was a major composer on Thriller.

Other Wilson hires included Quincy Jones for the pilot of Ironside (resulting in the creation of another well-known theme) and Dave Grusin on a number of Universal projects. They included the 1968 television movie Prescription: Murder that introduced Lt. Columbo to television audiences.

Jon Burlingame, a journalist who has written extensively about television and film music, had a 2012 article in Variety when Universal named a street on its Southern California lot in honor of Wilson.

“Stanley Wilson Avenue connects Main Street with James Stewart Avenue on the Universal lot, not far from the now-demolished Stage 10 where its namesake conducted literally thousands of hours of music by young composers who would go on to become the biggest names in Hollywood film music,” Burlingame wrote.

On his blog, Burlingame wrote an additional tribute. “Wilson is an unsung hero in the film/TV music business.”

Wilson died in 1970 at the age of 54.

Universal in the ’60s & ’70s: The Television Factory

 

Universal logo, circa 1960s

In the 1960s and ’70s, Universal’s television division was like a TV factory.

Its shows had a certain look, a certain sheen. Universal’s TV operation would help launch the careers of people such as director Steven Spielberg and writer-director Steven Bochco (who both worked on the same episode of Columbo).

Universal developed the concept of “the wheel,” where different shows rotated in the same time slow, or a series that had rotating leads. Examples: The NBC Mystery Movie (different rotating shows) and The Name of the Game (rotating leads).

Universal, of course, still produces television shows. It’s now part of Comcast as is NBC, where many Universal shows were telecast. But it’s not the same because, naturally, television has evolved. Still, it’s a worth a look back.

Origins: Music Corp. of America, or MCA, was a talent agency. But MCA saw the potential of television. It formed Revue in 1950 as a television production arm. It acquired the studio lot of Universal (then known as Universal-International) in 1958 and eventually acquired Universal itself.

Revue produced all sorts of shows: Westerns (Wagon Train and The Virginian), comedies (The Jack Benny Program, Leave It to Beaver, The Munsters), crime dramas (M Squad), and anthology shows such as Alfred Hitchock Presents (hosted by Hitch), Thriller (hosted by Boris Karloff) and The General Electric Theater (hosted by Ronald Reagan).

Eventually, all of its TV series were under the better-known Universal brand. The boss of MCA-Universal was Lew Wasserman, who became a major figure in Hollywood. Writers Richard Levinson and William Link, when devising the Mannix television series, came up with a character named Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella) who was modeled on Wasserman.

The Universal mogul apparently didn’t mind. After Campanella’s Wickersham character was written out after the first season of Mannix, the actor ended up as one of the leads on “The Lawyers” part of The Bold Ones, another Universal “wheel.”

Glory Days: Universal was a major supplier of shows for U.S. television. As early as 1964, it embraced the idea of made-for-television movies. Its first effort, The Killers, directed by Don Siegel, was deemed too violent and got a theatrical release.

In 1966, the concept debuted with Fame is the Name of the Game, starring Tony Franciosa as an investigative reporter for a magazine.

This would be the basis for The Name of the Game (1968-71), an early example of “the wheel.” Franciosa, Robert Stack and Gene Barry rotated as the leads of the series, which concerned the magazine empire headed by Glenn Howard (Barry).

A key figure at Universal television, who is not remembered much today, was Richard Irving (1917-1990), a producer-director. He oversaw a Universal Western series (Laredo), which aired on NBC from 1967 to 1967.

Irving also produced and directed the 1968 television movie Prescription: Murder, where TV audiences were first introduced to Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk). The same year, he produced and directed a TV movie with international intrigue titled Istanbul Express, starring Barry, Senta Berger and John Saxon.

Irving remained a booster of Columbo. He directed another TV movie with the detective, 1971’s Ransom for a Dead Man, which finally sold Columbo as a series.

The Universal TV operation cruised throughout the ’70s. In the early 1980s, it had another hit with Magnum: P.I. But things got tougher that decade. Universal excelled at one-hour dramas and TV movies at a time things were changing.

In 1990, MCA sold itself to Japan’s  Matsushita Electric. It would be bought and sold over the years before being acquired by Comcast.