Authorities arrest suspect in killing of Barry Crane

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Federal and Los Angeles authorities have arrested a suspect in the 1985 murder of Barry Crane, a veteran TV director and producer, The Hollywood Reporter said.

An excerpt from the story:

Federal and local authorities on Thursday arrested a man they believe brutally killed TV producer Barry Crane back in 1985, Los Angeles police confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Edwin Hiatt, now 52, was taken into custody in North Carolina by the FBI Fugitive Task Force after detectives with LAPD said they identified him as Crane’s killer through DNA evidence.

Crane earned a reputation as Mission: Impossible’s “human computer,” capable of quickly breaking down complex scripts into filming schedules.

“To make it simple, he was a walking computer,” the late Stanley Kallis, one of M:I’s producers, told author Patrick J. White in 1991’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “He had perfect recall and could juggle in his mind eighty facts at any moment.”

Crane’s title on that series was associate producer. He also was associate producer on Mannix. Both series were overseen by executive producer Bruce Geller. Crane became producer for the final season of Mission: Impossible.

After M:I wrapped production, Crane worked primarily as a TV director. Throughout this period, Crane was a noted player of Bridge. Before his tenure on M:I and Mannix, Crane was a production manager at series such as Burke’s Law made at Four Star Productions.

UPDATE (May 10): The New York Times published a story with additional details. Among other things, “Mr. Hiatt’s DNA matched cigarette butts recovered from the ashtray of Mr. Crane’s stolen car,” The Times said, citing court documents.

Barry Crane title card for an episode of Mannix

Allan Balter: Gone too soon

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon, co-written by Allan Balter

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

Writer-producer Allan Balter (1925-1981) died before his time because his physical heart wasn’t up to the task of powering his talent.

Balter co-wrote (with Robert Mintz) one of the most memorable episodes of the original Outer Limits series, The Hundred Days of the Dragon. An Asian nation hostile to the United States assassinates a candidate for president and substitutes its own double. The story mixed science fiction with espionage.

He also co-wrote (with William Read Woodfield) some of the best episodes of Mission: Impossible. That partnership would last for years, beginning during the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (where Balter was associate producer) and extending to the early 1970s with the television version of Shaft.

The Woodfield-Balter duo made an impact early in the first season of M:I and were brought on full-time with the title of script consultants. That continued into the show’s second season. When Barbara Bain won her second Emmy for playing M:I’s Cinnamon Carter, she mentioned the scribes in her acceptance speech.

Woodfield and Balter were elevated to producers with the show’s third season after Joseph Gantman departed the series.

It would not be a happy time. The new producers clashed with Bruce Geller, M:I’s creator and executive producer.

Woodfield told Patrick White, author of The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier that Geller went after Balter hard.

“He’d know which acts were Balter’s because they’d come in on different paper from different typewriters,” Woodfield told White.

“He’d go to Balter and say, ‘What are these words? I don’t understand these words.’ Balter would say, ‘Well, I understand them, Bruce.’ Balter was a nebbisher guy with a very weak heart which ultimately killed him.”

After Balter’s partnership with Woodfield ended, he worked as a producer at Universal’s television operation, including serving as executive producer of some episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man and a pair Captain America TV movies.

In 1978, he married Lana Wood, who played Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. Balter died in September 1981 at the age of 56.

Joseph Gantman, early M:I producer, dies

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Joseph Gantman, the day-to-day producer for the first two seasons of Mission: Impossible, died Dec. 26 at 95, according to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Gantman came aboard Mission after the pilot was produced. Series creator Bruce Geller supervised the show, but it was up to Gantman to get things going, including securing a scripts that could be filmed. He would end up winning two Emmys for his work on the show.

Those two seasons featured stories such as Operation: Rogosh. The IMF tricks an “unbreakable” Soviet Bloc operative into thinking it’s three years later so he’ll give up where he’s planted germ cultures that will poison the drinking water supply of Los Angeles.

Gantman departed after the end of Mission’s second season. His successors, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, had written many of the best stories of the first two seasons. The pair bolted after disagreements with Bruce Geller — an indication that Gantman’s work wouldn’t be easy to duplicate. The series would gain a reputation for chewing up producers.

Before Mission, Gantmen worked on the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with with the title of “production assistant.”

During the 1964-65 season, Gantman was associate producer for 16 of the 32 episodes of the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when that Irwin Allen-produced shows emphasized espionage over monsters.

Later, during the 1968-69 season, he was producer for five episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O, including three of the first five telecast by CBS (excluding the pilot, which aired as a TV movie).

William Read Woodfield: Photographer, magician, writer

William Read Woodfield title card for a Columbo episode, Colmubo And The Murder of a Rock Star, which he also wrote.

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

It’s said that writers inevitably bring their life experiences into their work.

In the case of William Read Woodfield, he brought varied life experiences into his: Magician, photographer as well as accomplished scribe.

In a 2001 obituary, Variety described his work in photography.

Born and reared in San Francisco, Woodfield carved his photo niche during the 1950s and ’60s with published works being exhibited alongside Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton. His most famous series of photographs were made May 23, 1962, when Marilyn Monroe performed her famous nude swimming scene on the 20th Century Fox lot for the uncompleted feature “Something’s Got to Give.” The photos made the covers of magazines worldwide and proved to be Monroe’s last hurrah as she was fired from the picture shortly thereafter and died 10 weeks later.

The obituary added this:

“A magician since childhood, Woodfield founded the magazine Magicana and employed his knowledge of magic on ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Columbo’ and ‘Sea Hunt.'”

Frank Sinatra as photographed by William Read Woodfield.

As a writer for television, Woodfield, by himself or in collaboration with Allan Balter, specialized in intricate plots. The Woodfield-Balter team was formed during the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Woodfield wrote for the series and Balter was an associate producer.

The Woodfield-Balter duo perhaps gained their greatest fame writing for Mission: Impossible. Barbara Bain, when accepting her second (of three) Emmys for the show, cited the Woodfield-Balter scripts as one reason why the show was popular.

In Mission’s third season, the duo were promoted to producers. But they ran afoul of creator/executive producer Bruce Geller. They departed early that season, but not before writing a two-part story.

The team stayed together into the 1970s, including producing a TV adaptation of Shaft for the 1973-74 season. After that, they went their separate ways.

In the late 1980s, when Universal revived Columbo (this time broadcast on ABC), the premiere story, Columbo Goes to the Guillotine, was written by Woodfield. The plot included a magician (Anthony Zerbe) who sought to debunk a man, Elliott Blake (Anthony Edwards), posing as a psychic who is pulling a con on the CIA.

However, it turns out the magician and the phony psychic have a secret past. Blake kills the magician. That brings Columbo in the case. One of the highlights of the episode is the magician’s funeral, where Woodfield brings his magician into full play.

Woodield died Nov. 24, 2001, at the age of 73.

Martin Landau, M:I’s disguise artist, dies

Martin Landau as Rollin Hand in an IMF dossier photo

Martin Landau, who gained fame as Mission: Impossible disguise expert Rollin Hand, has died at 89, the TMZ website said.

Landau died Saturday at the UCLA Medical Center “after a short hospitalization where he suffered unexpected complications,” TMZ said.

Landau enjoyed a long career that began in the early 1950s. It included a number of espionage-related stories, including portraying Leonard, a henchman in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed North by Northwest (1959); a Cold War themed episode of The Twilight Zone; and playing Thrush operative Count Zark in The Bat Cave Affair, a second-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But he was most famous for Mission: Impossible, where he appeared during the show’s first three seasons.

M:I producer Bruce Geller wrote the part of Rollin Hand (originally named Martin Land) in his pilot script especially for Landau. Landau didn’t want to sign a series deal. Geller wanted the actor for the pilot badly enough he proceeded anyway.

It would be a decision that would have a major impact on the series.

Initially, the idea was Rollin would only appear occasionally. However, series star Steven Hill, for religious reasons, insisted on leaving work at sundown on Friday.

Count Zark (Martin Landau) menaces Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) in The Bat Cave Affair

As a result, scripts were revised to de-emphasize Hill’s Dan Briggs and to keep bringing back Rollin. Throughout the first season, Landau was listed as either a guest star or making a “special guest appearance.”

After the first season, Hill was fired, with Peter Graves replacing him as a new Impossible Missions Force mastermind, Jim Phelps. Landau was now joint star with Graves.

However, Landau would only agree to do one season at a time. This gave him enormous leverage in his contract negotiations.

After three seasons, Paramount executives wanted to cap costs on Mission: Impossible. The studio had tough negotiations with Landau.

According to Patrick J. White’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier, Paramount offered a small raise (to $7,000 an episode from $6,500 in the third season) while the actor wanted $11,000 per episode for the fourth season and $12,500 for season five.

Meanwhile, according to the book, Peter Graves had a clause in his contract that nobody else on the show could be paid more than he was. A raise for Landau also meant a raise for Graves.

Eventually, Landau departed, replaced by Leonard Nimoy as a new disguise expert, Paris. That led to Barbara Bain, Landau’s real-life spouse, exiting the series as well.

Landau and Bain years later starred in Space: 1999, a syndicated Gerry Anderson science fiction series that ran two seasons. The couple divorced in 1993.

Landau eventually secured three nominations for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, with one win for 1994’s Ed Wood as Bela Lugosi. His turn as Count Zark in The Bat Cave Affair decades earlier (where he spoke with the same Lugosi accent) was a sort of warm up.

Neverthless, Landau retained his association as Rollin Hand. In 2014, the MeTV cable channel produced promos for M:I with Landau urging viewers to “watch me on Me…MeTV,” while it was running the series as part of a Sunday night block of spy shows.

Bruce Geller: M:I’s renaissance man

Bruce Geller “cameo” as an IMF operative not selected for a mission by Briggs (Steven Hill).

A sixth Mission: Impossible film is in production. There’s plenty of publicity concerning star-producer Tom Cruise, actor Henry Cavill (who has joined the cast of this installment) and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie.

What you won’t find much is mention without whom none of it would be impossible, M:I creator Bruce Geller.

Geller died almost four decades ago in a crash of a twin-engine aircraft. It was a sudden end for someone who had brought two popular series to the air (M:I and Mannix) that ran a combined 15 years on CBS. He was a renaissance man capable of writing, producing, directing and song writing.

Geller, according to The New York Times account of his death, graduated from Yale in 1952, majoring in psychology, sociology and economics. His father, Abraham Geller, was a judge. However, Geller didn’t pursue a law career. (He did end up portraying his father in a 1975 TV movie, Fear on Trial.)

Instead, Geller became a writer of various television series, including Westerns such as Have Gun-Will Travel, The Westerner and The Rifleman. Along the way, he also wrote the lyrics and book for some plays.

By the mid-1960s, Geller was also a producer at Desilu. His brainchild was M:I, whose pilot involved the theft of atomic bombs from a Caribbean dictator unfriendly to the United States.

The pilot was budget at $440,346 with a 13-day shooting schedule, according to Patrick J. White’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. It came in at $575,744, with 19 days of filming. While series episodes would be more modestly budgeted, it was a preview that M:I was not going to be an easy show to make.

CBS picked up M:I for the 1966-67 season. A year later, the network did the same for Mannix, featuring Mike Connors as a private investigator.

Geller didn’t create the character. Richard Levinson and William Link pitched the concept of a rugged, no-nonsense Joe Mannix coping with the corporate culture of investigative company Intertect.

Geller threw out a Levinson-Link story and wrote his own pilot script. Levinson and Link would be credited as creating the series, with Geller getting a “developed by” credit.

Mannix would be the last Desilu series. During its first season. Lucille Ball sold the company and it would become part of Paramount.

Eventually, that meant trouble for Geller. Paramount wanted to control costs and it eventually barred Geller from the studio lot. He’d continue to be credited as executive producer of both M:I and Mannix but without real input.

The producer moved over to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he made a police drama, Bronk, that only lasted one season on CBS (1975-76). Geller also produced and directed a movie with James Coburn about pickpockets, 1973’s Harry In Your Pocket.

Today, Geller is almost a footnote when it comes to the M:I film series, which began in 1996. He does get a credit (“Based on the Television Series Created by Bruce Geller”). But the films are more of a star vehicle for Tom Cruise, including spectacular stunts Cruise does himself.

There’s no way to know what Geller’s reaction would be. And, because he was only 47 when he died, there’s no way to know what Geller may have accomplished had it not been for the 1978 plane crash.

Regardless, Geller crammed a lot of living into his 47 years. At the end of the video below, you can see him collect his Emmy for the Mission: Impossible pilot script.

Stanley Kallis, M:I and Five-O producer, dies at 88

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Stanley Kallis, a veteran television producer whose credits included stints on Mission: Impossible and Hawaii Five-O, has died at 88, according to Variety.

Kallis had producing credits going back to the late 1950s, according to his IMDB.com entry.

Kallis joined M:I early in its third season. Producers William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter abruptly departed following clashes with creator-executive producer Bruce Geller. Kallis had joined Paramount as a producer following a job at CBS. Geller hired him to get M:I back on track.

The series was a grind on the producers responsible for day-to-day production. Kallis was no exception. “It was like riding a tiger by the tail,” Kallis told author Patrick J. White for his 1991 book The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “The damn thing whacked me.”

Neverthless, Kallis, helped by his new hire, script consultant Paul Playdon, righted the ship. Kallis remained producer into the fourth season. During the time Kallis was producer, M:I had two two part episodes (The Bunker and The Controllers) and the show’s only three-part story (The Falcon).

Kallais handed off the M:I job to Bruce Lansbury, who had previously been producer of The Wild Wild West.

Kallis departed to be supervising producer of Hawaii Five-O’s third season, one of the best for that show. Kallis would oversee the production of three Wo Fat episodes and a pair of two-part stories.

The producer remained busy on other projects for years, including the series Police Story and the mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors. He was also a producer on Columbo when the character was revived on ABC in the late 1980s.