1965: U.N.C.L.E.’s star appears on a rival network

Red Skelton with Robert Vaughn, 1965

By the fall of 1965, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a big hit. In December 1965, star Robert Vaughn appeared as the guest star on CBS’s Red Skelton Hour, the variety show that almost killed U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E. debuted in September 1964 on NBC opposite Skelton’s CBS show. The spy show suffered in the ratings. NBC considered canceling U.N.C.L.E. Instead it changed the show’s time slot to Monday nights. That gave the series the boost it needed, plus a lift from Goldfinger boosting interest in spy entertainment.

A little over a year later, the Skelton show had Robert Vaughn on as a guest star. During a two-part skit, there were one-liners (perhaps ad libbed) where Skelton said Vaughn was plugging his own show.

After the skit, Vaughn appeared with Skelton. The U.N.C.L.E. star had a communicator (not the one that was seen on the series) so Skelton could call his wife. (See above.) At one point, Vaughn says into the device: “Illya get off the line, willya?”

Vaughn’s appearance was a sign of how spy shows had arrived as a thing. The Red Skelton Museum has been posting full episodes of the Skelton show to YouTube. Below is the Vaughn episode.

Frank Jacobs, ace Mad writer, dies

007, a “James Bomb” stage musical by Mort Drucker and Frank Jacobs, 1965

Frank Jacobs, a long-time writer for Mad magazine has died, the semi-dormant publication announced on Twitter.

One of Jacobs’ specialties was devising musical parodies. One of his best was published in 1965. “007” envisioned a James Bond (or “James Bomb”) stage musicial.

As written by Jacobs, all of the songs were sung to the tune of songs from the stage musical Oklahoma! Artist Mort Drucker provided a James Bomb drawn to resemble Sean Connery.

In the story, Bomb confronts ICECUBE, an organization that is dragging Great Britain to the North Pole. The leader of ICECUBE is revealed to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at Bomb for taking away all his book sales. Drucker drew Hammer to look like author Mickey Spillane.

Jacobs made his first sale to Mad in 1957, debuting with five pieces in the June issue, according to his biography in Wikipedia. Mad’s editors quickly requested more. Jacobs also wrote 13 paperback books under the Mad imprint.

Below is Mad’s announcement about the death of Jacobs.

1966: Nancy Sinatra’s first spy craze entry

Poster for The Last of the Secret Agents?

These days, Nancy Sinatra, from a spy craze perspective, is best remembered for performing the title song of the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

As it turns out, she had been at it for a while.

A year earlier, she performed the title song of the 1966 comedy The Last of the Secret Agents? She also appeared in the movie with a less than convincing French accent.

The Last of the Secret Agents? featured the then-popular comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. Allen’s hair was teased (or something) so it went out in all directions. Allen was buggy eyed. His catchphrase was, “Hello dere!” Rossi, by comparison was classically handsome. The team, obviously sought to create a visual contrast.

In the film, our heroes are recruited to assist a top secret intelligence agency. (Of course.)

Along the way, Nancy Sinatra performs the title song. But she also acts (I use that term advisedly) as a young French woman.

The crew included director Norman Abbott (who helmed a number of episodes of The Munsters TV series) and costume designer Edith Head (?!).

If you’re really interested, you can see a version of the movie below.

Before you go there, remember this: “Hello dere!”

Bond 25 questions: MGM’s silence edition

MGM’s revamped logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer held an investor call the other day. But the home studio to James Bond had almost nothing to say about its prized property.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What was the context of what MGM did have to say about No Time to Die?

Essentially listing it among various films either awaiting release or in production. Others included Respect, a “biopic” with Jennifer Hudson portraying Aretha Franklin and a sequel to a recent animated Addams Family movie.

MGM executives said its film slate, coupled with its TV business would mean good financial results in the second half of 2021 and going into 2022.

Is that all?

Pretty much.

What is up with that?

Strictly a guess: MGM is trying to project an image of a strong operation where everything is under control. In the past year there have been reports that MGM is seeking a buyer and that the studio explored licensing No Time to Die to streaming services before deciding not to proceed.

Some of the reports indicate that leaders of Danjaq/Eon weren’t initially informed of such discussions and weren’t happy.

From the perspective of a Bond fan, how useful are these investor calls?

Mixed at best. Occasionally, investors ask MGM executives about Bond film projects and if there are any ways MGM can get more out of the franchise. At times, that generates additional comments. But much of the time, MGM executives stick to talking points.

If there was any surprise about this week’s investor call, it’s MGM didn’t even do that. Just a quick mention that No Time to Die is in pipeline — something all Bond fans knew already.

Is there additional context to keep in mind?

No Time to Die’s costs are approaching $300 million. (The studio reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest costs for each month No Time to Die doesn’t come out.) MGM had been counting on a big theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic.

MGM reports year-end 2020 results, no NTTD news

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week reported its year-end 2020 results but had little to say about No Time to Die.

The company said it has 14 films either completed or in production (the often delayed No Time to Die among them) along with 47 television series “scheduled to deliver.”

Company executives said all this will lead to earnings growth later in 2021 and into 2022.

“It is safe to say that we have fully reinvigorated MGM ’s film business, focusing on a powerful combination of original, IP and proven franchises from the MGM library, all supplemented by a diverse array of films” from the company’s Orion brand, Chief Operating Officer Christ Brearton said in prepared remarks.

To read all of Brearton’s prepared comments, you can CLICK HERE.

An investor call to discuss results had a question and answer session. There was one question. It didn’t concern No Time to Die.

G. Gordon Liddy dies at 90

National Lampoon parody of G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P., as drawn by Dick Ayres

G. Gordon Liddy, one of the most colorful figures in the Watergate scandal that brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon, has died at 90, The New York Times reported.

Liddy “concocted the bungled burglary” that led to the scandal. Liddy worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein abbreviated that to CRP. But it was popularly abbreviated as C.R.E.E.P. The National Lampoon eventually published a comic book parody of G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P. Artist Dick Ayres did a cover that emulated a 1968 cover of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko

An excerpt from the obit by the Times:

As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.

Liddy was among the many Watergate figures who did prison time. He was sentenced to six to 20 years but only served 52 months.

Liddy defied the saying that crime does not pay.

The one-time felon wrote an autobiography published in 1980. It was turned into a 1982 made-for-TV movie starring Robert Conrad as Liddy. Liddy went on to host a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Naturally, Conrad was a guest on one installment. Anyone who listened could tell Liddy loved that Conrad had played him.

Liddy also wrote spy novels along the way, such as Out of Control. And he picked up about 20 acting credits, according to his IMDB.COM ENTRY.

The (small) checks are in the mail

Recently, The Bond Bulletin put out a survey for James Bond fans to fill out. On March 30, it put out the results.

The survey went over *a lot of territory*. One aspect concerned Bond fan content creators who fans actually followed.

The runaway leader was David Zaritsky who has a YouTube channel called The Bond Experience. (David has managed this despite having me as a guest for two episodes.)

David was followed by fellow YouTubers Calvin Dyson, and Joe Darlington. The MI6 James Bond website (which breaks a lot of Bond film news) No. 4, with James Bond Radio at No. 5.

The survey even collected information on write-in votes. Amazingly, The Spy Command came in at No. 2 among the write-ins (behind Bond Suits). You can see all the write-ins at the 1:01:45 mark of The Bond Bulletin’s video (embedded below)

This post is mostly intended as being as humorous (particularly given the headline). But there was one thing that caught my eye. About 95 percent respondents were male.

To be sure, such surveys aren’t scientific. In this case, the survey reflects the opinions of the most engaged, most intense Bond fans.

I know, even anecdotally, there are a lot of women Bond fans out there. Still it’s something to keep in mind.

Anyway, you can view the complete Bond Bulletin video concerning its survey results below. It runs a little over an hour.

About those 007 poster oddities

One of the Moonraker posters

I was listening to a new episode of James Bond & Friends (one where I don’t appear so this is not me stroking my own ego) and discussion moved to Moonraker posters.

The question was raised why some actors (Michael Lonsdale and Richard Kiel in this case) have their character names mentioned while others (Lois Chiles and Corinne Clery) did not.

The answer is: That’s often the result of negotiations between agents, studios and lawyers. Normally, every credit is subject to such review.

In fact, things get more complicated than that. For example, there’s A View To a Kill. Look at this poster:

A View to a Kill’s poster

Christopher Walken played the movie’s lead villain, Max Zorin. But “after the title,” Walken’s name was the fourth listed after Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones and Patrick Macnee. But Walken’s name, at least on many poster, was in a box.

Yet, when it came time to put together A View to a Kill’s end titles, Walken’s name suddenly was ranked No. 2 behind Roger Moore.

Years earlier, there was a preliminary poster for The Spy Who Loved Me. After the title, it had Curt Jurgens first while saying the movie was “introducing” Barbara Bach.

CLIP TO EMBIGGIN
A preliminary version of the poster for The Spy Who Loved Me

But in the final version, Barbara Bach got the No. 2 billing while Curt Jurgens came after (with “as Stromberg”). The poster also lost the “Assistant to the Producer Mike Wilson” credit. Wilson would be back on the Moonraker poster (with a new title, executive producer, and an expanded name, Michael G. Wilson.) He’s been on all the Eon-made Bond posters since as either executive producer, screenwriter or producer.

The version below of Spy’s poster may have been from a re-release given the “MGM/UA” studio credit.

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

UPDATE: Reader Gary J. Firuta passes along a couple of other poster credits tidbits.

With Goldfinger, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman alternated their “present” and “produced by” credits on the poster. Broccoli is listed first for “present” while Saltzman is first for “produced by.”

With You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery is the only member of cast referenced (“Sean Connery Is James Bond”).

Jessica Walter, versatile actress, dies at 80

Jessica Walter in Counter-Stroke, a third-season episode of The FBI

Jessica Walter, a versatile actress whose career spanned decades, has died at 80, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Early in her career, she was part of the “QM Players” actors who frequently appeared in television shows produced by Quinn Martin. That included six episodes of The FBI as well as installments of Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones.

Her many other credits included the 1966 film Grand Prix and 1971’s Play Misty for Me as well as episodes of TV series such as It Takes a Thief, McCloud, Ironside, Mannix, Mission: Impossible and Wonder Woman. Her 21st century credits included doing voice work for the Archer cartoon series.

Walter’s IMDB.COM entry has 161 acting credits. She won an Emmy award for Amy Prentiss, a short-lived series that was spun off from Ironside.

Brosnan joins DC film universe as Dr. Fate

The Justice Society of America, including Dr. Fate (gold helmet and blue costume) in 1940

One-time film James Bond Pierce Brosnan is joining Warner Bros.’s DC film universe as Dr. Fate, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Brosnan is joining the cast of Black Adam, a Warners/DC film starring Dwayne Johnson. Chances are a lot of the general public or Bond fans) may not be familiar with Dr. Fate.

The good doctor made his debut in 1940 in More Fun Comics No. 55. The sorcerer would soon be part of the new Justice Society of America.

The character was co-created by DC writer Gardner F. Fox, who would also write racy spy novels under a pen name. Besides Dr. Fate, Fox also had a had in creating the Justice Society (and the later Justice League), the original Flash and the original Hawkman.

It makes sense that Warner Bros. is bringing Dr. Fate into the movies. Marvel Studios has featured Dr. Strange, a sorcerer character created by Steve Ditko, into its movies.

UPDATE: Dwayne Johnson confirmed the Brosnan casting in a tweet: