James Bond and Brass Bancroft, separated at birth?

bond-reagan-comic

Dynamite Comics has been on a run publishing James Bond comic books of late. Dynamite announced its latest project, James Bond: Service to come out in May.

What caught the blog’s eye was the cover illustration (see above). In this version, Bond (particularly his hair style) seems to resemble former U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). But not Reagan as president. Rather more like Reagan as he appeared in the late 1930s or early ’40s.

Ronald Reagan's title card in a Brass Brancroft movie.

Ronald Reagan’s title card in a Brass Brancroft movie.

Reagan was an actor before turning to politics. One of his roles was that of U.S. Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft in four movies in 1939 and 1940: Secret Service of the Air, Code of the Secret Service, Smashing the Monkey Ring and Murder in the Air.

Perhaps it’s coincidence. Perhaps the blog’s eye is a little off kilter. Judge for yourself.

 

The Other Spies and their longevity that 007s can only envy

Never rile up fans of “The Other Spies.”

A Bond website, Dalton Was Best, got a lot of publicity for declaring that Daniel Craig is now the second-longest serving Bond. The methodology was starting with the time an actor was cast as Bond through the time his replacement was announced.

The Avengers Tv Show on Twitter, using those rules came up with some calculations of spy actors who have much more longevity than any Bond actor.

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Patrick Macnee is 37 years because he began in 1961 as Steed and wasn’t re-cast until Ralph Fiennes in the 1998 Avengers feature film. Peter Graves is 29 years because he debuted as Jim Phelps in 1967 and wasn’t replaced until Jon Voight in the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie. Tom Cruise is at 20 years and counting (21 this fall) because he was the star of the Mission: Impossible movie series that started with the 1996 film.

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Two more worth mentioning: Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. They were signed in 1963 (when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot was shot) and weren’t replaced as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin until 2013 when the U.N.C.L.E. film began production. That’s an even 50 years.

But Harry Palmer hasn’t been recast since Michael Caine’s debut in 1965. (He did three theatrical films in the 1960s and two made-for-television ones in the 1990s). By the recasting rule, Caine, in theory, is still on the clock, with his 52nd anniversary later this year.

I doubt these calculations will go viral the way the Daniel Craig one did. Still, you never know what you can stir up.

UPDATE (7:35 p.m. ET): Well, this post stirred up at least a little hornet’s nest.

The Avengers Tv Show received tweets asking about Jim West, Maxwell Smart, John Drake and The Prisoner. This was never intended to be a comprehensive ranking, more like poking fun at the original blog post (and reaction by the British media that made it go viral).

Separately, reader Matthew Bradford ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE notes another Len Deighton-based production featured a character that may have really been Palmer under a different name. Actually, the explanation is more detailed than that, but Matthew says you can make the case the Palmer role was re-cast, or at the very least the issue deserves an asterisk.

UPDATE II (7:45 p.m. ET): Earlier today a friend e-mailed and raised these questions about the early Bond actor longevity rankings that started all this.

“Do they count the fact of when these guys were NOT under contract?

“Connery after THUNDERBALL?

“Roger after SPY and each film thereafter?

“Dalton until 1994?

Pierce signed for DAYLIGHTS and then released?”

Bruce Lansbury, WWW and M:I producer, dies

Bruce Lansbury (left) with siblings Angela Lansbury and Edgar Lansbury

Bruce Lansbury (left) with siblings Angela Lansbury and Edgar Lansbury

Bruce Lansbury, a prolific television producer and executive, has died at 87, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The younger brother of actress Angela Lansbury made his own mark in the entertainment business.

His credits included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and his sister’s series, Murder, She Wrote. Bruce Lansbury was also a television executive at Paramount during the 1970s.

Lansbury came aboard as producer of The Wild Wild West part way through the show’s second season. He initially worked under executive producer Michael Garrison, the show’s creator.

However, Garrison died as the result of injuries from a fall in August 1966. Lansbury took command of the series, a mix of spy fi, sci fi and, on occasions, outright fantasy. He would stay for the rest of the show’s run.

Lanbury didn’t lack for things to do. He joined Mission: Impossible during that show’s fourth season. M:I was a series that chewed up producers under the best of circumstances.

By this time, M:I’s best ratings were behind it. Paramount wanted cost cuts and tensions ran high between the studio and executive producer Bruce Geller.

Lansbury was Paramount’s choice to take over as M:I producer, according to The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier by Patrick J. White. Part of the reason why Lansbury’s experience with The Wild Wild West.

During Lansbury’s reign, Peter Lupus as Willy, the Impossible Missions Force’s strongman, was phased out for a time. Lupus’ popularity forced the production team to change course.

Also, Paramount, after a series of disagreements with perfectionist Geller barred the M:I creator from the lot. Geller continued to collect fees and be credited as executive producer. But he was blocked from working on his own show.

Despite all that, Lansbury kept the M:I machinery going. He left the series during the sixth season, when Paramount promoted him to vice president of creative affairs.

Later in the 1970s. Lansbury returned to being a television producer, with credits extending into the 1990s.

Lansbury was born Jan. 12, 1930 in London. He was the twin brother of Edgar Lansbury, a theater producer.

Stanley Kallis, M:I and Five-O producer, dies at 88

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Stanley Kallis, a veteran television producer whose credits included stints on Mission: Impossible and Hawaii Five-O, has died at 88, according to Variety.

Kallis had producing credits going back to the late 1950s, according to his IMDB.com entry.

Kallis joined M:I early in its third season. Producers William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter abruptly departed following clashes with creator-executive producer Bruce Geller. Kallis had joined Paramount as a producer following a job at CBS. Geller hired him to get M:I back on track.

The series was a grind on the producers responsible for day-to-day production. Kallis was no exception. “It was like riding a tiger by the tail,” Kallis told author Patrick J. White for his 1991 book The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “The damn thing whacked me.”

Neverthless, Kallis, helped by his new hire, script consultant Paul Playdon, righted the ship. Kallis remained producer into the fourth season. During the time Kallis was producer, M:I had two two part episodes (The Bunker and The Controllers) and the show’s only three-part story (The Falcon).

Kallais handed off the M:I job to Bruce Lansbury, who had previously been producer of The Wild Wild West.

Kallis departed to be supervising producer of Hawaii Five-O’s third season, one of the best for that show. Kallis would oversee the production of three Wo Fat episodes and a pair of two-part stories.

The producer remained busy on other projects for years, including the series Police Story and the mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors. He was also a producer on Columbo when the character was revived on ABC in the late 1980s.

40th anniversay of the definitive Super Bowl film

Black Sunday poster

Black Sunday poster

Today is Super Bowl Sunday in the United States and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the definitive Super Bowl-related film, Black Sunday.

The John Frankenheimer-directed film was based on a Thomas Harris novel. The 1975 book was a hot property and Paramount snagged the film rights. It was Harris’ first novel and didn’t include Hannibal Lecter as a character.

The studio didn’t scrimp on the production. Besides hiring Frankheimer, the creative team, led by producer Robert Evans, included Ernest Lehman as one of three screenwriters and John Williams as composer. This would be Williams’ final score prior to the original Star Wars movie.

For the lead character, Evans & Co. cast Robert Shaw as an Israeli operative, Bruce Dern as a blimp pilot who becomes part of the terrorist plot and Marthe Keller as one of the terrorists.

The plot concerned Isrealis, working with American law enforcement officials clashing with Middle Eastern terrorists, who have targeted the Super Bowl, the championship game for the National Football League.

Harris’ novel used New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium (site of the 1975 Super Bowl) as a location. Frankheimer’s film utilized Miami’s Orange Bowl, site of the 1976 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.

The film crew worked as the game was 1976 played, with real life CBS announcers Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier making an appearance.

The movie came out in the spring of 1977. It generated a modest $15.8 million box office in the United States, according to Box Office Mojo.

Here’s the trailer of the movie:

Mannix vs. spies

Mike Connors in a first-season episode of Mannix, an iconic image used in the show's main titles.

Mike Connors in The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher, a first-season Mannix episode.

This week’s death of Mannix star Mike Connors spurred the blog to take a look at some spy-related episodes of the private eye drama.

Mannix mostly mixed it up with hoods and other crooks. But, on occasion, there were espionage-related stories.

The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher (first season): Intertect, the large detective agency Mannix works for in the first season, is hired by Germans representing a European industrial concern. They’re after a missing scientist.

Mannix doubts the motives of the agency’s clients — with good reason, it turns out. The reality is there are a group of Nazis from World War II and Nazi hunters. Mannix is in the middle and has to figure out who is who.

Deadfall (first season): A two-part story involving industrial espionage.

Vancom Industries is developing an advanced laser. It has hired Intertect to provide security. A Vancom lab technician is killed in an explosion caused by sabotage and the lead Intertect operative apparently has been killed in an auto accident.

Vancom rival Berwyn Electronics demonstrates its own version of the device. The laser only fires at a target spot and won’t fire if blocked from the target by a human being.

Mannix picks up the trail. The question is whether the Intertect operative was involved with the sabotage and who at Vacom participated in the theft of the system.

Meanwhile, Intertect chief Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella) is behaving erratically as the result of a medical prescription. Toward the end of Part I, Wickersham explodes in rage at Mannix and fights the detective viciously.

Mannix must not only solve the case but find out the reason for Wichersham’s behavior.

To the Swiftest, Death (second season): Mannix is participating in an amateur auto race. One of the race cars is involved in a fiery crash, apparently killing the driver. Mannix is hired to investigate the crash. But U.S. authorities are taking an unusual interest in the case.

Race Against Time (seventh season): The first two-part story since the first season of the series.

Mannix is recruited by the U.S. government. Mannix knows Victor Lucas, who is leading a resistance movement inside a repressive country.

Mannix recruits a famed heart surgeon (John Colicos) and smuggles him into the country. Mannix and the doctor meet up with members of the resistance movement. Before the doctor can perform the surgery, the pacemaker that Mannix brought with him has been smashed.

Mannix must now find another suitable pacemaker and find out who the traitor is within the resistance movement.

Bird of Prey (eighth season): Producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts acquired the rights to a Victor Canning novel as the basis of this two-part episode.

A case takes Mannix to another country. He becomes aware of a plot to kill the nation’s leader. In Part II, the plot succeeds and Mannix is framed as the assassin.

The detective now is on the run, trying to clear his name and bring the conspirators to justice. The two-part story also marks composer Lalo Schifrin’s final original score for the series.

Mike Connors, an appreciation

Sample of Mannix season two titles.

Sample of Mannix season two titles.

At the end of the pilot episode of Mannix, the namesake detective is troubled.

His client is elderly mobster Sam Dubrio (Lloyd Nolan), an absolute piece of human trash. Dubrio was the target of an extortion designed to look like a kidnapping. His (not biological) daughter was part of the plot.

Joe Mannix has figured out that Dubrio’s long-suffering and abused wife is part of the plot. As played by Mike Connors, the viewer can see in Mannix’s eyes he wouldn’t mind letting her go.

But Mannix can’t let it go. He gently, but firmly, calls out Mrs. Dubrio (Kim Hunter). Only now does the mobster realize how he’s been played.

It’s a very nice scene. Connors comes across very naturally. It’s a moody conclusion after memorable set pieces, including Mannix dodging a helicopter.

Connors, who died this week at 91, wasn’t a flashy actor. But audiences found him likable and more than just an action star. He made Mannix a popular show, which ran eight seasons on CBS.

The season one DVD set of Mannix has an interview and commentary track with Connors and his first-season co-star, Joseph Campanella. The latter played Lew Wickersham, head of the large private detective agency that employed Mannix.

The first season had an undercurrent of the individualist detective coping with the bureaucratic detective agency and its rules.

Campanella told Connors in the DVD extras that the star of a series sets the tone and on Mannix it was a relaxed one. He gave Connors all the credit.

Starting with the second season, Mannix was off on his own. According to Campanella, executive producer Bruce Geller told him that the audience’s interest was on Connors’ Mannix, (Campanella would return in a later season as a guest star in a different role.)

Thus, Mannix was now helped primarily by his secretary, Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher), the widow of a police officer. Fisher won an Emmy in the role and was nominated for three others.

Connors was athletic and had played college basketball at UCLA. He was already in his 40s when Mannix began production in 1967. But he was quite convincing. He needed to be. Mannix absorbed untold punishment from hoods (and even an occasional spy).

Connors was so convincing it actually seemed plausible in 1997, at the age of 71, he reprised the role of Mannix in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder.

The installment of the Dick Van Dyke crime mystery, written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, was a sequel to a 1973 Mannix episode. The original guest stars ( Pernell Roberts, Julie Adams and Beverly Garland) also returned.

Mannix wasn’t necessarily in his 70s like the actor who played him. But it was clearly an older Mannix. He was still as dogged as ever, in this case determined to make good a promise he made in the original 1973 episode. The actor sold the audience on every bit of the story.

Connors, of course, was more than Mannix. His IMDB.COM entry lists more than 100 acting credits between 1952 and 2007.

They include 1966’s Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die, a spy film set in Brazil that bears more than a little resemblance to 1979’s Moonraker. He also had other televisions series, including Tightrope and Today’s FBI.

Still, for many, Connors will also be linked to Mannix. That’s thanks to his characterization of the detective as well as Lalo Schifrin’s theme and the title design, often employing multiple images of Mannix in action.