Bill Dana dies; he had connections to Get Smart

Three Szathmary brothers: Al, Bill (Dana) and Irving in a photo that ran on the Film Music Society website.

Bill Dana, best known as the character Jose Jimenez, has died at 92, according to an obituary published by The Washington Post.

Dana, born William Szathmary, had connections to Get Smart.

The Bill Dana Show, a 1963-65 sitcom with Dana as Jose Jimenez, included Don Adams as a hotel detective, Bryon Glick.

The character of Glick, essentially, was a warm up for Adams playing Maxwell Smart in Get Smart.

The 1965-70 spy spoof originally was developed for ABC with Tom Poston in mind as Maxwell Smart. ABC took a pass. But NBC, which had Adams under contract, took a flier. The Smart character was tweaked to incorporate Adams comedy bits such as “Would you believe…?”

What’s more Dan’s brother, Irvin Szathmary (1907-83) composed the music for the series, including its distinctive theme.

In 1980, a theatrical movie version of Get Smart, The Nude Bomb, was produced. Bill Dana was one of the writers.

Bill Dana also was a guest star in a third-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He was one of the relatively rare male innocents.

Here’s a clip from The Bill Dana Show in which Adams’ warmup to Maxwell Smart is nearly complete.

In an interview for the Archive of American Television, Dana described the origin of Jose Jimenez.

UPDATE (7 p.m.): Reader Stuart Basinger reminds the blog that Bill Dana appeared as Agent Quigley in a fifth-season Get Smart episode titled Ice Station Siegfried.

A few Bond 25-related questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 hasn’t been in the news lately. We have no news to offer, but we do have some questions.

Has Purity gone into production yet? That’s the 20-episode series for Showtime where Daniel Craig is a star and an executive producer.

It’s still listed as being in “pre-production” on the actor’s IMDB.COM PAGE.

If that’s the case (and IMDB.com has occasional accuracy issues) then it’s going to be a while before Craig would be available to play James Bond again.

To film 20 episodes could easily take six months (that’s a little more than a week of filming per episode). And we’re almost to the mid-point of 2017.

UPDATE (June 21): Reader Bond on the Box points to a May 23 Variety story about the Becoming Bond television show about George Lazenby as providing a sign that Purity is in production. It quotes a “a gaffer on Craig’s new Showtime series ‘Purity’” about Craig.

How’s that Bond 25 writing going? In March, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to develop a Bond 25 story.

That was never officially verified. However, Bamigboye had a number of scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven correct. So that March story caught the attention of a lot of fans.

More than three months have passed. Do they have a first draft? (Color this blog skeptical.) Maybe a treatment? Or are all involved still throwing out ideas to see which ones stick?

How’s that search for a Bond 25 distributor going? In April, The New York Times reported five studios were trying to cut a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to distribute Bond 25.

The five: Sony Pictures (which has released the last four 007 films),  Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and upstart Annapurna. The latter is a movie production company that’s about to release its first film, Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city, in August.

Since then? No word.

For now, there have been reminders of the Bond franchise’s proud past, including last month’s death of Roger Moore and this month’s 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice. The future remains to be seen.

Batman & Robin, a reappraisal

Batman & Robin promotional art

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Batman & Robin, the most disliked Batman movie.

In some ways, it’s the closest you’ll find to a big-budget movie version of an Adam West-Burt Ward Batman television series.

From 1989 to 1997, Batman was one of Warner Bros.’s main movie franchises. Yet, things were askew.

When Batman & Robin came out in June 1997, there had been three separate actors (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney) playing Batman/Bruce Wayne over consecutive films.

The film series, over four installments, had chewed up and spit out multiple Batman villains (the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and Bane). The tone had diverged from dark to campy with two directors (Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher).

With Batman & Robin, the transformation was complete. The film even had sound effects similar to Hanna-Barbera cartoons (for example around the 46:25 mark during a big fight scene).

Like the Batman TV show, Batman & Robin depicts its namesake heroes utilizing Bat-gadgets in the nick of time such as Bat-ice skates hidden in the boots of Batman and Robin (Clooney and Chris O’Donnell).

With the 20th anniversary, director Schumacher has apologized for the movie. In recent years, Clooney has said he ruined the Batman film franchise.

After Batman & Robin, eight years would pass until Warner Bros. launched a new Batman project with the first of three Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films.

Still, there are some interesting moments in the 1997 movie. There’s a family theme (which is about as subtle as a heart attack).

Clooney’s best scenes are as Bruce Wayne interacting with Alfred (Michael Gough, in the fourth, and final, appearance as the character). The family theme carries over to Bruce’s relationship with Dick Grayson as well as Alfred’s relationship with his niece (Alicia Silverstone), this movie’s version of Batgirl.

Just to be clear, Batman & Robin is not a good movie. Still, with the recent death of actor Adam West, comparisons between West’s 1966-68 series and this film are obvious.

Armie Hammer gives an update on U.N.C.L.E. sequel effort

Armie Hammer in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Armie Hammer, in an interview with the Uproxx website, included an update about efforts to try to get a Man From U.N.C.L.E. sequel off the ground.

Previously, the actor told the /Film website he had convinced Lionel Wigram, co-writer and co-producer of the 2015 movie, to start work on a script for a sequel.

In the Uproxx story, Hammer was asked about comments from U.N.C.L.E. director Guy Ritchie that he didn’t know much about it. This excerpt picks up from there with Hammer asking the interviewer a question. Interviewer comments are in boldface.

 

Was this before King Arthur premiere or after the King Arthur premiere?

Before.

Okay, because he came into town for the premiere and we all had dinner: Guy, Lionel, myself, and Lynn Harris, who was one of the executives on the movie. And we all had dinner together and that’s when I told them. I was like, “So, guys.” So, yes, it is completely conceivable that he didn’t know. After you interviewed him, probably about a week after that, sat down and was like, “So here’s the deal. We’re doing this.”

He seemed very happy people were discovering it.

Yeah, people bring it up quite a bit and it just makes me really happy for Guy and it makes me really happy for Lionel and for Henry and for myself. You know, we put a lot of work into it and we really enjoyed making it, so the fact that people enjoyed watching it is a lot of fun. And if people enjoyed watching enough to sort of warrant making another one, I would be there. You know, I loved working with those guys. I loved working on that project. I’d love to do another one.

Again, the odds would seem to be against an U.N.C.L.E. sequel. The 2015 movie generated less than $110 million in global box office.

Then again, at times, the odds were against the original movie being made. It had been in development at Warner Bros. for more than 20 years.

Wonder Woman 2d weekend bests other DC movies

Wonder Woman poster

Wonder Woman, during its second weekend in the U.S., outperformed two 2016 Warner Bros./DC movies.

Wonder Woman’s U.S.-Canada box office totaled $58.2 million for the June 9-11 weekend, according to the Box Office Mojo website. That was a 43 percent decline compared with its opening weekend. That’s a smaller dropoff compared with most films.

By comparison, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a second weekend of $51.3 million (a 69 percent plunge from opening weekend). Suicide Squad’s second weekend totaled $43.5 million (a 67 percent drop).

Both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad opened better than Wonder Woman. But bad reviews and word of mouth contributed to their fast declines at the box office.

By contrast, Wonder Woman received a lot of rave reviews. In March, there were estimates it would have a $65 million opening weekend. It came in at $103.3 million.

As a result, Warner Bros. received a lift as it competes with Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. The question is whether the good mojo will carry over to Justice League, set to be released in November.

 

“The pace is killing!” (Evidently)

Over the weekend, an oddity came to our attention.

A trailer for The Spy in the Green Hat, one of the movies re-edited from episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. showed up online. Except the trailer mistakenly gives the title as The Man in the Green Hat.

What’s more, the man doing the voice over work was the same guy who voiced many U.S. trailers for James Bond movies.

It gets stranger. Around the 1:20 mark of the U.N.C.L.E. trailer the announcer proclaims, “The pace is killing!” You can take a look for yourself.

Flash forward a few years to 1974 and the trailer for The Man With The Golden Gun, the second 007 film starring Roger Moore.

Once more, the same announcer proclaims, “The pace is killing!” In this case, it’s at the 1:11 mark.


Evidently so. The burden of being a secret agent, I suppose.

The 1978 movie that foretold the future of 007 films

Burt Reynolds and the cast of Hooper in the film’s final scene

On occasion, movies actually predict the future. One such example is 1978’s Hooper.

The film concerns an aging stunt man, Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) working on a James Bond-like movie being directed by a pompous, “auteur” director, Roger Deal (Robert Klein).

The star of the fictional film is Adam, played by Adam West. Apparently West is playing himself. At one point, he is also referred to as “Mr. West.”

Flash forward a couple of decades or so, and James Bond films are being directed by “auteur” style directors such as Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

Now, if you’ve ever read the credits of any movie or TV show, there’s boilerplate how any resemblance between the characters and real people living or dead is strictly coincidental. That language is intended to avoid lawsuits.

Coincidence or not, some of Hooper’s principals (Reynolds, co-star Brian Keith and director Hal Needham) worked on Nickelodeon, a 1976 film directed and co-written by “auteur” director Peter Bogdanovich, concerning the early years of the movie business.

In Hooper, at one point, Roger Deal says how movies are “pieces of time.” By coincidence, that’s a catch phrase associated with Bogdanovich.

As the story in Hooper unfolds, Sonny — who is one stunt gone wrong from being paralyzed — comes up with one last, great stunt for the Bond-like film.

Roger Deal (Robert Klein) being a jerk while Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) and Max Berns (John Marley) are on the sidelines.

Roger Deal is interested and sends out his lackey assistant director (Alfie Wise) to talk down Sonny’s asking price. After Sonny takes the assistant director on a hair-raising drive around the studio, the stuntman gets his asking price.

A subplot in the movie is how veteran producer Max Berns (John Marley) is really powerless. The “auteur” director, once production has started, holds all the cards.

In the end, despite the risks, Sonny pulls off the stunt, capping his stuntman career. Sonny also punches out Roger Deal just before the end titles.

Life rarely is as tidy as movies. Nevertheless, Hooper provided a preview of what would happen in real life.