20th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant

Paul Baack, co-founder of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, left, along with some doofus, circa 2013.

Next month is the 20th anniversary of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant fan website.

This blog, which debuted in 2008, was a spinoff of the site.

HMSS was founded by Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski in April 1997 as a James Bond “e-magazine.”

HMSS churned out issues that included contributions from Raymond Benson, the 007 novel continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

HMSS’ final issue was in the fall of 2011 and it went offline in 2014.

Still, for those of us (such as the Spy Commander) who contributed articles it was mostly an enjoyable time. In any creative endeavor, there are different points of views. But the end product was always worth it.

The highlight of every issue were the graphics that Paul Baack designed. If an article was OK, his graphics made it good. If the article was good, his graphics made it excellent. He always had exciting ideas to bring articles to life.

A personal note: I’ve always admired Paul’s energy and ideas. Not to belabor the point (and not to go into details), but he’s had health difficulties for a long time. I cannot personally imagine what he’s gone through.

So, with this post, the Spy Commander (figuratively) raises a glass to a special time. Those of us who contributed ot the site will never forget it.

George Smiley returns in new Le Carre novel

David Cornell, aka John Le Carre, circa 1964

George Smiley is returning in a new novel by John Le Carre, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTED.

The news service quoted Viking, Le Carre’s publisher, as saying the author’s new novel, A Legacy of Spies, will debut Sept. 5.

“According to the publisher, the novel tells of how Smiley and such peers as Peter Guillam receive new scrutiny about their Cold War years with British intelligence and face a younger generation that knows little about their history,” AP reported.

Smiley appeared in a number of Le Carre novels, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley’s People and, most recently, 1990’s The Secret Pilgrim. In some novels, he’s a primary character, in others a secondary one.

Smiley has been portrayed by several actors, including Alec Guiness and, most recently, Gary Oldman in a 2011 film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Our modest proposals for the Oscars telecast

Oscars logo

Oscars logo

“It’s just an awards show,” Oscars telecast host Jimmy Kimmel said (as quoted by Deadline: Hollywood and other outlets) about the annual telecast by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

He’s right. With that in mind, here are some modest proposals to make the telecast better. It’s just an awards show, not rocket science or God’s work.

Cut back the lame jokes: A little humor goes a long way. Did we need “mean tweets” (a bit from Kimmel’s ABC late night show)? Did we need the tour bus skit, a bit that went on for what seemed like a long time.

And do we need any skits once it hits 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone? By that point, the show had been going on for two-and-a-half hours. Yes, the show is being done in California where it’s three hours earlier. But people in the eastern time zone are starting to hit the sack (if they haven’t done so already) by 11 p.m. Time to cut to the chase and get the major awards made.

Maybe lengthen In Memoriam by a whole two minutes: It’s really hard to present all the major actors, directors, writers, etc. in less than three minutes. This year’s edition squeezed in 45 in 2:48.

If the segment were, say, five minutes, you’d still get fans upset about a favorite performer or director being left off. But the audience — it’s just an awards show, remember — really are invested emotionally. Maybe you should throw them a bone.

You remember the audience, don’t you academy? In case you forgot, they are the ones who buy the movie tickets and home video releases that keep your members employed.

With all of the montages and skits, this year’s telecast could easily have filled up five minutes for In Memoriam. If it had been five minutes, you might have been able to note, say, the passing of the director of Goldfinger, or the last surviving star of The Magnificent Seven.

Keep the envelopes with the winners organized: That’s a Mr. Obvious observation but on Monday morning the show — sorry, the “just an awards show” — was mostly being discussed for announcing the wrong Best Picture. Not the kind of publicity one wants, right PricewaterhouseCoopers?

Drop the claim that 1 billion people worldwide watch the Oscars: One, it’s not true. Two, it comes across as particularly silly with all the news accounts about the show’s declining ratings.

Ken Adam makes In Memoriam; Robert Vaughn doesn’t

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, production designer on seven James Bond movies, was included in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars telecast Sunday night.

Adam also designed the sets of 1964’s Dr. Strangelove and won Oscars for Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George.

Also referenced in the segment was film editor Jim Clark, whose credits included 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Not making the segment was actor Robert Vaughn. While best known for television’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vaughn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for 1959’s The Young Philadelphians. He was also the last survivor of the actors who played The Magnificent Seven in the 1960 film.

Also not making the segment was Guy Hamilton, director of four James Bond films, including Goldfinger.

UPDATE (Feb. 27): I re-watched the In Memoriam segment. There were about 45 people shown in 2:48.

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.