Somewhere in an alternative universe…

…this James Bond-ish adventure was an actual film, not just a “movie within a movie” as in 1978’s Hooper. And, in that alternate universe, you could be sure that egotist director Roger Deal would seek enhanced billing.

“Make me look good, Sonny.”

Warner Bros. Presents
A film by ROGER DEAL  A Max Berns production

ADAM WEST in THE SPY WHO LAUGHED AT DANGER

Screenplay by Cordwainer Bird and Roger Deal  Story by Cordwainer Bird

Produced by Max Berns

Directed by ROGER DEAL

(c) MCMLXVIII Warner Bros. A Warner Communications Company

William Self: Fox TV to the rescue

William Self title card on an episode of Batman, produced by 20th Century Fox’s television unit

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

In the early 1960s, things were not looking good at 20th Century Fox.

The 1963 film Cleopatra, while popular with audiences. It sold 67.2 million tickets in the U.S. and Canada. That was more than Goldfinger’s 66.3 million.

But Cleopatra was so expensive, it had no chance of recouping its costs. The studio was going to need a bailout.

The bailout came from its television division, headed by executive William Self, a former actor.

Self’s TV unit took an inventory of the properties Fox held and began developing television versions.

As a result, in the fall of 1964, Fox came out with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the studio’s 1961 film produced by Irwin Allen); Peyton Place, based on a 1956 novel, made into a 1957 Fox film; and 12 O’Clock High, based on a 1948 novel and made into a 1949 Fox movie.

All three were part of ABC’s 1964-65 schedule. Also, Fox produced Daniel Boone for NBC that same season.

Soon after, Self’s Fox TV unit was the home of other Allen shows as well as the 1966-68 Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The latter got off to a rocky start as test audiences were confused by the campy approach.

Self’s tenure at Fox lasted into the early 1970s. He became a producer (something he had done before joining Fox), whose credits included 1976’s The Shootist, the final John Wayne film.

Self died in 2010 at the age of 89.

Vaughn, Moore, Landau in Emmy In Memoriam

Robert Vaughn in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Robert Vaughn (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Roger Moore (The Saint) and Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible) were among those included in the In Memoriam segment of the Emmy broadcast Sunday night on CBS.

Also included were Mike Connors of Mannix and Adam West of the 1966-68 Batman series. With the latter. a short clip from the show’s pilot played, with Batman doing the “Batusi” dance.

The Emmy version of In Memoriam seemed more weighted to performers compared with the Oscars telecast on ABC, which included publicists. However, some behind-the-camera professionals were included in the Emmy In Memoriam, including producer Stanley Kallis, who worked on Mission: Impossible, among other shows.

Vaughn, who had an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Connors were not included in the Oscars In Memoriam segement earlier this year.

Others included were Mary Tyler Moore (the segment ended with her) and cartoon voice June Foray.

UPDATE (Sept. 18): You can view the In Memoriam segment for yourself.

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.

Adam West dies at 88

Adam West and Burt Ward in a publicity still for Batman

Adam West, star of the 1966-68 Batman television series, has died at 88, according to an obituary published by The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor died Friday after a short battle with leukeimia, the Reporter said, citing a family spokesperson.

Batman debuted Jan. 12, 1966. The show originally was to have come out in the fall of 1966. However, ABC’s fall 1965 schedule produced low ratings and Batman’s development was accelerated. The half-hour show aired twice a week.

Executive producer William Dozier opted for a “camp” approach, having trouble taking the original comic book source material seriously.

Writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., used a 1960s comic story, “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler,” as the basis for his pilot script.

Semple delivered a story in which West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman took everything very, very seriously amid the writer’s jokes. Batman, though, didn’t have a laugh track.

Batman didn’t test well ahead of its premiere. “It was a disaster,” William Self, then the head of 20th Century Fox Television, said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. The test did not include the comic book-style effects (POW! ZAP!) nor the narration that Dozier himself would provide.

Self said that on the night of Batman’s debut he got a call on his unlisted home telephone number. “Is it supposed to be funny?” Self quoted the caller as saying. When Self said yes, the caller replied, “Then we loved it.”

Batman was a hit. West and Burt Ward, who played Dick Grayson/Robin, were suddenly big stars. A feature film with West and Ward was put into production and its came out in the summer of 1966.

The show’s impact was so powerful that other adventure shows, such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the science fiction shows of Irwin Allen, adopted a much lighter tone.

Batman, though, flamed out. By the fall of 1967, it was cut back to one night a week. The show was done by the spring of 1968.

Adam West, in the meantime, had difficulty finding work having been typecast. He declined to appear as Batman in a 1974 public service announcement promoting equal pay for women. Dick Gautier took West’s place, mimicking West’s delivery as Batman.

Also, sometime after Batman, West received some consideration to play James Bond, according to the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever.

The closest West would get to that came in 1978 movie Hooper. He plays the star, apparently himself, of a James Bond-style movie. His character is named Adam and he even is referred to as “Mr. West” at one point.

The story concerned Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds), an aging stuntman dealing with pompous “auteur” director Roger Deal (Robert Klein).

Eventually, West’s career did pick back up in character roles. He also did voice over working, including playing Batman in some cartoons.

West discussed that aspect of his career in an interview for the Archive of American Television.

Van Williams dies at 82

Van Williams and Bruce Lee in The Green Horney

Van Williams and Bruce Lee in The Green Hornet

Van Williams, the nominal star of the 1966-67 television version of The Green Hornet, died late last month, according to an obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

Williams played Britt Reid, the editor and publisher of The Daily Sentinel who battled crime as the masked Green Hornet. Reid had to dodge both hoods and the police, who believed the Hornet was a racketeer.

The district attorney, Frank Scanlon (Walter Brooke) was in on the masquerade. Meanwhile, Sentinel reporter Mike Axford (Lloyd Gough) was determined the Hornet be captured.

The show, however, became a platform for Bruce Lee, who played the Hornet’s assistant, Kato. Lee’s skill in martial arts was a highlight of the series. For youngsters in the audience, Lee’s Kato upstaged Williams’ Green Hornet. Lee (1940-1973) would become a star before his sudden death.

The show, based on a radio series, was an attempt by producer William Dozier to extend his success with masked characters after the debut of Batman in January 1966. Dozier even provided the narration in the show’s main titles, using his “Desmond Doomsday” voice he utilized in Batman.

Dozier’s Batman series also featured a two-part story in 1967 where the Green Hornet traveled to Gotham City, running afoul of Batman. Earlier in that same season, Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and Dick Grayson were briefly depicted watching The Green Hornet on television. In a different episode, the Green Hornet and Kato opened a window and talking to Batman and Robin, who were climbing up a building. Robin (Burt Ward) commented about the strange outfits worn by The Green Hornet and Kato.

Earlier in his career, Williams played private detective Kenny Madison, first on Bourbon Street Beat (1959-60) and then Surfside 6 (1960-62). two Warner Bros. series that aired on ABC.

About that Batman ’66-U.N.C.L.E. comics crossover

Batman 66-UNCLE

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Batman television series, which coincides with the second issue of DC Comics crossover of Batman ’66 (a comic book version of the Adam West/Burt Ward series) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The TV series debuted on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13, 1966. It was an instant hit, and its style affected other shows, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as producers sought to emulate what made Batman so popular (even if it was for a short time).

The first issue of the comic book came out in December. On social media, we’ve seen some fans of the original U.N.C.L.E. series decry the new comic book and the Batman TV show.

Some original U.N.C.L.E. fans say Batman contributed to U.N.C.L.E.’s eventual demise. That overlooks how nobody forced the U.N.C.L.E. creative team to adopt a similar tone as the Batman show.

Other U.N.C.L.E. fans have complained the Solo and Kuryakin characters in the comic book don’t closely resemble the Robert vaughn and David McCallum versions from the original 1964-68 television series.

According to THIS REVIEW the second issue of the comic book, there were “legal reasons” why exact likenesses of Vaughn and McCallum couldn’t be used.

Regardless, despite the disappointing box office of 2015’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the international spy organization is hanging in there at the start of 2016.

For what it’s worth, the first issue of the comic book evoked scenes from U.N.C.L.E. episodes and it’s apparent the creative team of the comic book has done research into the U.N.C.L.E. series.