Morley Safer’s 007 moment

Morley Safer, the long-time 60 Minutes correspondent, died on Thursday only days after CBS announced his retirement.

Safer covered the Vietnam War for CBS and came aboard 60 Minutes in 1970, two years after the broadcast began. During that stretch, he managed a James Bond moment.

In the 1970s, he did a story about the Orient Express, including how it had seen better days. You can catch a few shots of it in The Associated Press video obituary below, starting around the 20-second mark.

At one point, the story showed the train changing engines, with the new engine having the number 007 on its front.

That led to a brief sequence edited to make it appear as if Safer was listening in on the From Russia With Love fight between James Bond (Sean Connery) and Red Grant (Robert Shaw).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that clip, but the AP obit below is worth a watch. It runs 1:17. Meanwhile, while living as a bachelor in London in the 1960s while working for CBS, he bought a Bentley with his poker winnings, according to Sunday’s 60 Minutes telecast about Safer’s career.

UPDATE (10:25 p.m.): If you CLICK HERE, you may be able to view the 1977 story about the Orient Express. The video seems to be freezing up after a commercial is shown. The story was titled “Last Train to Istanbul.”

 

Richard Markowitz’s wild wild TV scoring career

A sampling of Richard Markowitz's title cards.

A sampling of Richard Markowitz’s title cards.

Another in a series about unsung heroes of television.

Composer Richard Markowitz, over more than three decades, produced one of the most memorable television themes and contributed to many series.

Yet, more than 20 years after his death, Markowitz is far from a household name. With each passing year, Markowitz passes further into obscurity, save for those few (led by writer Jon Burlingame) who follow the careers of television composers.

Markowitz’s primary legacy is the theme to The Wild Wild West. The composer scored the pilot to the 1965-69 series’ pilot. Originally, CBS hired Dimitri Tiomkin (who earlier wrote the theme song to the network’s Rawhide series) to write the show’s theme song.

According to a Markowitz audio interview that’s an extra on the season one set of The Wild Wild West, producer Michael Garrison didn’t want the Tiomkin theme (which Markowitz described as a ballad). Markowitz, according to this account, was a last-minute hire. Markowitz, in the interview, says he was paid considerably less than Tiomkin.

Regardless, Markowitz came up with a classic theme. During the run of the show, Markowitz only received a credit (“Music Composed and Conducted by”) for episodes he scored. (According to his IMDB.COM ENTRY, that was 29 of the show’s 104 episodes). He wasn’t credited for the theme.  Thus, when other composers did scores for the show, there was no mention of Markowitz.

It wasn’t until 1979’s The Wild Wild West Revisited TV movie that Markowitz an on-screen credit for his greatest creation. The theme showed up in a scene in the 1999 Wild Wild West theatrical movie, but the composer yet again didn’t get an on-screen credit.

Also, according to that same audio interview, Markowitz had clashes with Morton Stevens, who took charge of CBS’s West Coast music operation in the spring of 1965. That contributed to Markowitz not being around when the show concluded with the 1968-69 season.

Despite that, Markowitz had too much talent for other television productions to ignore.

Quinn Martin’s QM Productions hired him frequently (including 16 original scores for The FBI, an episode of The Invaders and some episodes of The Streets of San Frnacisco). He scored nine episodes of Mission: Impossible, including the show’s only three-part story. Universal’s TV operation was another frequent employer, including 71 episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

Markowitz died on Dec. 6, 1994 at the age of 68.

50th anniversary of The Wild Wild West’s best episode

End title images for The Night of the Murderous Spring

End title images for The Night of the Murderous Spring

April 15 is the 50th anniversary of what may be the best episode of The Wild Wild West, The Night of the Murderous Spring. If not the series’ best outing, it’s in the conversation.

It was the next-to-last episode of West’s first season and the fourth to feature Michael Dunn as Dr. Loveless.

The episode, written by John Kneubuhl (creator of Dr. Loveless) and directed by Richard Donner, removed all of the limits from the villain’s initial encounters with U.S. Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin).

Loveless is determined to kill humanity to restore Earth’s ecological balance. The villain has come up with a chemical, when mixed with water, will spur men to hallucinate and go into a murderous rage.

Loveless’ first test subject is James West himself. The Secret Service agent imagines he kills his partner.

That’s just the start. Loveless conducts another test where his lackeys kill each other. Loveless does so simply to demonstrate to West and Gordon he means business.

As an aside, one of Loveless’ thugs is played by Leonard Falk, the real life father of Robert Conrad.

This was not Loveless’ final appearance on the show. But it was arguably the most memorable. The only significance weakness was the episode didn’t have an original score, forcing music supervisor Morton Stevens to dip into the music library of CBS. Among the music used is the original Dr. Loveless theme, composed by Robert Drasnin, who scored the first Loveless episode of the series.

 

1965: Jim West’s first encounter with Dr. Loveless

James West (Robert Conrad) has his first encounter with Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn)

James West (Robert Conrad) has his first encounter with Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn)

Two recent birthdays spurred us to check out the first encounter between James West and Dr. Loveless in The Wild Wild West.

Robert Conrad, who played the intrepid Secret Service Man, celebrated his 81st birthday on March 1. Leslie Parrish, a busy actress in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, also celebrated her 81st on March 13.

Both were in the third episode of The Wild Wild West, The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth, the first story to feature mad scientist Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn).

CBS apparently realized the episode was out of the ordinary. The network moved up Wizard so it would be one of the first stories aired (it was broadcast on Oct. 1, 1965).

The John Kneubuhl script gave Dunn a lot to do. His Loveless barely is holding onto his sanity. Yet, Loveless clearly is brilliant. In the second half of the story. West is shown some of Loveless’ prototypes for inventions including television, penicillin (mere “bread mold,” as Loveless tells West), automobiles and airplanes.

The James Bond influence on the show also is in evidence.

At this point, Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) is more like Q rather than West’s full partner. Artemus has built a horse-drawn coach that is the equivalent of 007’s Aston Martin, even including an ejector seat.

However the coach, similar to the DB5 in Goldfinger, only provides the hero a momentary respite from those who threaten him.

What’s more, the episode provides a preview of an actor who’d show up in the Bond films more than a decade later — Richard Kiel, who plays Voltaire, the main henchman for Loveless. The 5-foot-8 Conrad eventually vanquishes the 7-foot-2 Kiel.

The episode made an impression on the production team and the network. Loveless would return for nine more episodes, including three more in the first season.

 

Jason Bourne ad debuts during Super Bowl

The new Bourne movie now has a title, simply Jason Bourne, and a 30-second ad aired during CBS’ telecast of the Super Bowl.

The ad didn’t reveal much, mostly showing Matt Damon in action as Bourne. Tommy Lee Jones wonders “why would he come back now?”

The movie, due out July 29, is the fifth Bourne film released by Universal and the fourth with Damon. The most recent entry in the series, 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, featured Jeremy Renner as another character, Aaron Cross.

Damon’s three previous movies were made from 2002 through 2007. Jason Bourne was directed by Paul Greengrass, who helmed Damon’s last two Bourne films, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Scott Mendelson, a writer at Forbes.com, has A COMMENTARY, where he speculates whether Jason Bourne will acknowledge the events of The Bourne Legacy. Meanwhile, you can watch the ad below.

P.F. Sloan, co-writer of ‘Secret Agent Man,’ dies

P.F. Sloan, co-writer of the song “Secret Agent Man,” has died at age 70, the LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTED IN AN OBITUARY.

“Secret Agent Man” was an anthem for the 1960s spy craze. The song accompanied the main titles of Secret Agent on CBS, the U.S. version of the British television series Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan.

Sloan and Steve Barri wrote “Secret Agent Man,” which was performed by Johnny Rivers. The song long outlived the U.S. run of the show.

In 2000, when the UPN network (which later was aborbed into a merger that resulted in the CW network) had a spyish TV series called Secret Agent Man, the Sloan-Barri song naturally figured into the main titles.

The Times’ obituary emphasized Sloan’s writing of another song of the era, “Eve of Destruction.” Here’s an excerpt:

By the time he was 16, Sloan was a professional songwriter. But even churning out pop hits for big labels with co-writer Steve Barri failed to make him feel like anything but an outsider.

His hits, with Barri, included the Turtles’ “You Baby,” the Grass Roots’ “Where Were You When I Needed You?” and many others.

Then “Eve of Destruction” happened.

“It was the night P.F. Sloan was born,” he wrote.

“I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be Elvis. I wanted to be Ricky. I wanted to be Bobby and Tony and Frankie… But P.F. Sloan? He wanted honesty and truth.”

Anyway, there have been many performances of “Secret Agent Man.” Here’s one, with Johnny Rivers introduced by Judy Garland.

Hawaii Five-0 reboot gets renewed for 6th season

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

The rebooted Hawaii Five-0 series, which has done occasional homages to James Bond movies, was renewed by CBS for a sixth season, according to A STORY ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD website.

The show has had episodes that evoked the 2012 007 film Die Another Day as well as one 2012 story that appeared to have homages to You Only Live Twice and Licence to Kill.

The original Hawaii Five-O (with a capital O instead of a 0) ran for 12 seasons, debuting in the fall of 1968 and finishing its run in the spring of 1980. With the renewal by CBS, the rebooted series is guaranteed to last at least half as long.

The highlight of the fifth season, which had its last episode on May 8, was the demise of the rebooted Wo Fat. Wo Fat 2.0 was a revamped version of the arch enemy of the original show, who appeared in the 1968 pilot and was featured in the final 1980 episode.

Wo Fat 2.0 in addition to being a mastermind (like the original Wo Fat) also did his own dirty work. Also, Wo Fat 2.0 had a personal motive for striking back against Steve McGarrett 2.0.

Anyway, Peter M. Lenkov, the co-executive producer, co-developer of the series, took to Twitter to celebrate:

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