U.N.C.L.E. movie changes Solo’s back story a bit

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

ShortList.com has published a feature story on actor Henry Cavill that indicates The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie changes Napoleon Solo’s back story a bit.

In the original 1964-68 series, Solo had served in Korea under a Col. Morgan and had joined U.N.C.L.E. by 1954. In THE SHORTLIST STORY, there’s this passage:

Cavill’s character in The Man From UNCLE is Napoleon Solo. Or, ‘the one played by Robert Vaughn’ for those of us who spent childhood Saturday teatimes being entertained by TV repeats – always featuring men in roll necks – from this strange, colourful decade our parents banged on about. Solo, a postwar art thief-turned-Cold War agent, is the dapper playboy – who Cavill describes as “an arsehole with a heart” – working alongside Soviet spying machine Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer in the film, David McCallum when it was on TV). It’s Solo’s look that inspired the shoot. Cavill likes this. (emphasis added)

In the movie’s trailer that went online last month, there was a passing reference to Solo being a thief. There may be additional Solo back story in the movie. There’s a young Napoleon Solo character in it, but no details have come out about that.

It was already known that the movie made one other major change: that U.N.C.L.E. didn’t exist in 1963 (the year the film is set), whereupon in the show it had been operating for some time.

Gone (and mostly forgotten): The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Over the weekend, on a Facebook group, there interesting give and take about a television series that doesn’t get much attention these days: The Name of the Game.

The 1968-71 series consisted of 90-minute episodes dealing with three major figures at a magazine publishing company: its proprietor, Glenn Howard (Gene Barry); a top reporter/writer, Jeff Dillon (Tony Franciosa); and Dan Farrell, an FBI agent turned journalist (Robert Stack). Universal dubbed this the “wheel,” with rotating leads. Susan St. James as Peggy Maxwell would end up assisting all three.

The “wheel” concept would become a staple at Universal with the NBC Mystery Movie in the 1970s.

There’s a bit of spy connection. During the series, there was an episode that revealed Glenn Howard worked for the OSS during World War II. The episode concerned accusations by a Washington politician that Howard used an OSS operation to obtain the funds he’d use to start his publishing empire.

Essentially, Glenn Howard was a younger, handsomer version of Henry Luce (1898-1967), who founded Time, Life, Fortune and Sports llustrated. Like Luce, Glenn Howard was an influential man and traveled the globe.

The series had its origins with Fame Is the Name of the Game, a 1966 TV movie starring Franciosa as Jeff Dillon.

That TV movie also included George Macready as Glenn Howard, Dillon’s boss. But when NBC decided on a series, either Universal, NBC, or both, decided they needed a better known actor. As a result, Gene Barry, who had already done at least two Universal TV movies by this point, got the nod.

The Name of the Game attempted to deal with contemporary issues: the environment, race relations, corruption.

Over time, the 90-minute format fell out of favor for television syndication. The preferred formats are either 30 or 60 minutes or two hours. As a result, The Name of the Game is not seen very much these days. The show ran 76 episodes — hardly a flop, but syndicators usually prefer at least 100 episodes.

Nevertheless, a number of talented people worked on the show. Among them was Steven Spielberg, who directed a third-season Glenn Howard episode about environmental dangers. That episode, LA 2017, has a Twilight Zone quality. Did Howard really travel into the future or what it just a dream?

Other crew members included Norman Lloyd (producer of some Franciosa episodes), Dean Hargrove (a writer-producer who worked on Glenn Howard episodes), Steven Bochco (who was story editor for the Robert Stack episodes the last two seasons) and Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits who produced the first-season Franciosa episodes.

The show also featured a snappy theme by Dave Grusin, seen below:

Director says M:I 5 wraps production

Director Christopher McQuarrie said on Twitter that Mission: Impossible 5 has completed production.

McQuarrie said he took a “12 hour vacation” before starting post-production on the movie starring and produced by Tom Cruise. Paramount moved up the film’s release date to July 31 from Dec. 25.

The tweets are below.

M:I 5’s director says title, trailer coming soon

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise


Christopher McQuarrie, director of the Tom Cruise movie Mission: Impossible 5, last week revealed a little detail in a Q&A session on Twitter.

McQuarrie said March 7 the movie’s actual title will be revealed soon. Also, he said, a first trailer is coming soon. No specific details, however.

The director also was also asked if the movie’s ending had to be reshot. “No. We had to prep it. Shooting it now.”

Paramount moved up the movie’s release date to July 31 from Dec. 25. THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER reported last month that the production had “shut down for a week or so in London because the film’s ending was deemed unsatisfactory.”

In response to one question, the director said: “we are constantly rewriting and have been since day one. Not unusual. Story was a reach.”

Anyway, here are some of the tweets by the director:

Happy birthday, Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

Here’s wishing a happy 80th birthday to Robert Conrad, the star of The Wild Wild West.

The show was sold as “James Bond and cowboys.” In reality, it was far more than that.

Set in the 1870s, The Wild Wild West was Jules Verne for television. The top agents of of the U.S. Secret Service, James West (Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) encountered foes including dwarf scientists (Michael Dunn’s Dr. Loveless Loveless), to 19th century cyborgs, to masterminds trying to overthrow the United States government (quite a few).

The Wild Wild West was the classic case of capturing lightning in a bottle. TV movie efforts in 1979 and 1980 as well as a theatrical move in 1999 CAME UP SHORT in recapturing the spirit of the original.

Despite that, The Wild Wild West is still fondly remembered a half century later, with Conrad’s Jim West a major reason. In 2013, the actor appeared in a salute to his career. While it covered many of Conrad’s television shows, The Wild Wild West took up a major part of the proceedings. The WWW segment begins roughly around the 15:00 mark. At around the 22:00 mark, applause begins from the audience.

Happy birthday, Mr. Conrad.

Leonard Nimoy dies at 83, dabbled in spy entertainment

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock on Star Trek but who also dabbled in spy entertainment, has died today at 83, according to an obituary in THE NEW YORK TIMES.

A brief excerpt:

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week

Nimoy’s greatest fame was as Spock. He first played the role in an unsold 1964 pilot starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike. A second pilot, with William Shatner as Capt. James Kirk, did sell and a series aired on NBC for three seasons. Much later, Star Trek was revived for theatrical movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation, a syndicated series set decades after the original. Nimoy’s Spock showed up at one time or another in some of the films and the later series.

Still, he appeared in spy shows as well. He and Shatner were in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Project Strigas Affair. Shatner was an “innocent” recruited by Napoleon Solo as part of a complicated plot. Nimoy was a secondary villain.

Nimoy also replaced Martin Landau on Mission: Impossible for that show’s fourth and fifth seasons. Nimoy played Paris, a magician and master of disguise. Executives at Paramount forced out Landau, who never signed a long-term contact and who had previously won salary raises in negotiations.

Landau was was popular as disguise expert Rollin Hand and the departure also cost M:I of the services of his then-wife, Barbara Bain. As a result, Nimoy came aboard as the show’s ratings slipped. He left before the series changed to a format where the Impossible Missions Force battled only organized crime in the final two seasons.

UPDATE: Leonard Nimoy was active on Twitter. This is his last Tweet:

UPDATE II (7 p.m.): MeTV, the U.S. cable channel of classic television shows, is showing a lot of episodes of shows where Nimoy was the guest star. On Sunday at 10 p.m., it will show The Project Strigas Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., followed by one of Nimoy’s appearances on Mission: Impossible (“The Hostage) at 11 p.m., followed by an episode of Get Smart (The Dead Spy Scrawls) with Nimoy. For more details, CLICK HERE.

Guy Ritchie tweets a behind-the-scenes U.N.C.L.E. still

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Director Guy Ritchie took to Twitter to post a behind-the-scenes photograph of himself and his stars during filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Based on the trailer released on Feb. 11, this was during filming of an early scene where Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) get into a fight after being assigned to work with one another.

Principal photography occurred early September to early December 2013, with some reshoots in 2014.

The movie debuts Aug. 14. Presumably, this still is part of the gearing up of social media marketing efforts. For a timeline about the events related to the film’s production, CLICK HERE.

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