About that Dr. No vibe for No Time to Die

Rami Malek in the No Time to Die trailer

There are fan questions whether Rami Malek is playing a rebooted version of Dr. No in No Time to Die. But how did that get started?

Well, back on April 25, Malek appeared on Good Morning America. He was asked if he had a favorite James Bond film.

“I liked Dr. No quite a bit,” Malek replied.

Later in the day, CBS posted an online story that originally said Malek would play Dr. No. However, that reference was deleted and this added to the end of the story: “Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that it is unclear which James Bond villain Malek will be playing.”

Regardless, the idea remained in the background, even after Malek’s character name was revealed to be Safin.

This week, the No Time to Die trailer debuted, providing a first look of Malek in character. The trailer did little to put the Dr. No vibe to rest. For example, Joe Darlington of Being James Bond noted this similarity.

Dr. No: BOND (Sean Connery): Our asylums are full of people who think they’re Napoleon — or God.

No Time to Die trailer: BOND (Daniel Craig): History isn’t kind to men who play God.

However, Malek, during an interview seemed to want to wind back the Dr. No angle. He said he watched previous Bond films but “it was not as if I was going back o play an exact character. I was not playing  Dr. No again.”

You can see it below, starting around the 7:23 mark.

Normally, that would be that.

Except, during production of Skyfall, Naomie Harris denied she was playing Moneypenny while Daniel Craig and Barbara Broccoli in a joint interview denied Ben Whishaw was playing Q (even though Whishaw’ agent had let the cat out of the bag). Also, during production of SPECTRE, Christoph Waltz denied he was paying Blofeld.

As a result, maybe Malek means it. But, based on recent history, maybe he doesn’t.

We’ll see.

GoldenEye, Saltzman’s son show up on 60 Minutes

GoldenEye’s poster

A clip from GoldenEye plus an appearance by the son of Eon Productions co-founder Harry Saltzman were part of a 60 Minutes story about Monaco. The story originally aired this spring has was recent rerun.

Naturally, the GoldenEye clip is from the casino sequence where Pierce Brosnan’s Bond shows up to gamble. It was this scene where he got to utter his version of the line, “The name’s Bond, James Bond.”

Steven Saltzman is a Monaco resident and was one of those interviewed by Anderson Cooper, the correspondent for the segment on the CBS News program. (Cooper’s main job is for CNN, but he contributes to 60 Minutes.)

Monaco was carved out of the coast of France and, as the story notes, is very small. It’s less than 1 square mile. Only the Vatican is smaller. Monaco doesn’t impose an income tax, helping to draw the rich as residents.

Steven Saltzman has a job helping wealthy foreigners move to Monaco, according to the story. His father and the James Bond connection is briefly referenced. Harry Saltzman’s first name, however, isn’t mentioned.

Steven Saltzman does a sales job for Monaco in the story.

“Monaco is utopia,” the younger Saltzman says. “It’s a country with no sovereign debt where a hundred different nationalities live together protected, in peace, by a planet-loving prince.”

Just don’t move in unless you have many millions of dollars. As 60 Minutes points out, there are more luxury shops than grocery stores. It was appropriate that 60 Minutes sent Anderson Cooper, whose mother was Gloria Vanderbilt. He had a chance to rub shoulders with people with his wealth or greater.

Footnote: Steven Saltzman was interviewed in the late 1990s for documentaries about a number of Bond films. They were included as extras on home video releases. He also has A TWITTER ACCOUNT. However, don’t expect to pick up any 007 tidbits.

CBS agrees to sell Television City complex

CBS agreed to sell its historic Television City complex to Los Angeles-based real estate developer Hackman Capital Partners for $750 million, it was announced Monday.

The property has been the home site for CBS television shows going back to the 1950s, including the 1954 CBS telecast of Casino Royale.

CBS shows currently based at Television City, including The Late, Late Show, The Price Is Right and The Young and the Restless soap opera, will continue to be produced at the site for “at least” the next five years, according to the announcement.

The announcement confirmed an October story in the Los Angeles Times,

The Casino Royale telecast was part of a series titled Climax!, which adapted various novels as one-hour live TV shows. Television City became CBS’s main production hub in 1952.

1996: Five-O fans meet (almost all of) the original cast

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title of the original series.

In 1996, fans of the original Hawaii Five-O series had a chance to meet with almost all of the main cast members of the series at a fan convention.

The event took place in two locations: The first half in the Los Angeles area, the second in Honolulu.

James MacArthur, Gilbert Kauhi (stage name, Zulu) and Kam Fong, the supporting actors in the 1968-80 show, were there. Jack Lord, who starred as lawman Steve McGarrett (six years after playing Felix Leiter in Dr. No), was still alive but had retired to private life.

I attended the Los Angeles part of the event. Among the things that happened there:

On the first day of the gathering, MacArthur, Zulu and Kam Fong just hung around with fans, engaging in casual conversation. It was very low-key and informal.

-MacArthur, asked why he left the show after 11 seasons, said he simply had done enough. He described telling the powers that be about the decision and that he didn’t want to make a big deal of it.

–Zulu was asked why he left the show. He replied that he and Jack Lord never got along all that well. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Zulu said he tried at the start of one season (I suspect season three but he didn’t specify) he tried to get off to a new start with the series star.

Zulu’s title card during the first four seasons of Hawaii Five-O.

“Hey Jack, you’re looking great!” But Lord walked off. Zulu said he was confused. Then he was told the actor had gotten a facelift during the series hiatus.

Zulu told another anecdote in which the Five-O team apprehended a suspect. According to him, Lord felt Zulu was little slow. On the next take, according to this anecdote, Zulu zoom around the others. “OK, McGarrett! I’ve got him.” In this telling, the Big Kahuna wasn’t happy.

After, some time elapsed, a late-arriving fan again asked Zulu why he left the show. For a moment, I felt bad after hearing the stories he told earlier. But Zulu didn’t miss a beat. He grinned and repeated his “Lord taketh away” line.

–MacArthur, commenting to Zulu, said the Hawaiian actor was burning the candle at both ends in those days. Zulu did his Five-O work during the day and did a night club act in the eventing.

–Rose Freeman, widow of Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, told attendees that Jack Lord was cast only days before filming of the pilot began. Initially, American actor Robert Brown (not to be confused with the British actor Robert Brown, who played M in four 007 films) had been cast.

–Fans watched episodes shown with a film projector. At one point , Zulu was there watching with the fans. One episode shown had his replacement, Al Harrington. Zulu did a mock boo. Another one of the episodes shown was Bored, She Hung Herself, an episode that was shown only once on CBS and hasn’t been seen since, in either syndication or home video. The story behind that is a little complicated. 

–I let myself get outbid for a copy of the 1967 first draft of Leonard Freeman’s pilot script for a charity auction. I scanned it and committed to memory what I could. There was no Danno and McGarrett was the only Caucasian of the Five-O characters.

–A friend of Five-O theme composer Morton Stevens showed up. He had heard about the event and wanted to check it out.

–On the final day in LA, many of the fans were preparing to head to Hawaii for the rest of the event. I prepared to head home. As I was leaving the hotel to head to LAX, I ran into Zulu at the door.

“I just want to thank you for being here,” he said.

Obviously, he would have said it to any other fan. But it was a great moment for me, nevertheless.

“No, thank you,” I replied.

Historic CBS Television City on verge of being sold

The historic CBS Television City complex is on the verge of being sold, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The likely buyer is Hackman Capital Partners, according to the newspaper, citing people familiar with the negotiations it didn’t identify. The property may be valued at $700 million the Times said.

CBS originally acquired the complex in 1950 and it became its West Coast production hub starting in 1952.

Barry Nelson in 1954’s Casino Royale

One of the early shows produced at Television City was Climax!, a series of live dramas beginning in 1954. The third Climax! broadcast was an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, the year after the first James Bond novel was published. It featured Barry Nelson as an American Bond.

Admittedly, that’s one of the more obscure Television City productions.

“Television City has played an important role in CBS history and American pop culture as home to many legendary TV shows,” the Times noted in its latest story. “It is where entertainers such as Jack Benny, Judy Garland and the cast of ‘All in the Family’ performed.”

CBS has moved most of its West Coast entertainment operations to CBS Studio Center, with the network renting out Television City to programs not owned by CBS. The Times said if the deal with Hackman is finalized, “CBS is expected to continue to operate the 25-acre studio as a tenant for a period of time.”

Neither CBS nor Hackman commented to the newspaper for its story.

Hawaii Five-O’s 50th anniversary: Cop show with a spy twist

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Adapted and updated from a 2013 post.

Fifty years ago this month, Hawaii Five-O debuted. While a cop show, it had an element of international intrigue from the start.

The two-hour television movie version version of the pilot, which first aired on CBS on SEPT. 20, 1968, concerned a plot where Red Chinese intelligence operative Wo Fat was torturing U.S. intelligence agents in the Pacific Rim and obtaining important information.

Steve McGarrett, the no-nonsense head of state police unit Hawaii Five-O is drawn to the case because the latest victim was a friend of his. The lawman, a former U.S. Naval intelligence officer, isn’t one to back down from official pressure to lay off.

The pilot immediately grabbed the attention of viewers. A short pre-titles sequence shows Wo Fat using a sensory deprivation chamber for the torture. That’s followed by a 90-second main title featuring a stirring theme by Morton Stevens.

The composer initially thought about re-using the theme he wrote for an unsold pilot, CALL TO DANGER. His wife, Annie Stevens, strongly advised against the move, according to a 2010 STORY IN THE HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER. As a result, Stevens created one of the greatest themes in television history.

The series was conceived by veteran television producer Leonard Freeman, who wrote the pilot. Freeman’s 1967 first draft had a team led by McGarrett, with a mid-20s Hawaiian sidekick, Kono Kalakaua, a third, heavy-set detective and Chin Ho Kelly, who was the Honolulu Police Department’s liaison with Five-O. In the final version of the story, the sidekick became the Caucasian Danny Williams; the Kono name was given to the heavier-set character; and Chin Ho was made a full-fledged member of Five-O.

Freeman & Co. were preparing to film the pilot with American actor Robert Brown as McGarrett. Rose Freeman, widow of the Five-O creator, told a 1996 fan convention in Los Angeles that CBS objected to the casting and, just five days before filming was to start, Brown was replaced with Jack Lord, the first screen incarnation of Felix Leiter in Dr. No. Brown ended up starring in another 1968 series, Here Come the Brides.

Perry Lafferty, a former CBS executive, told the story a bit differently in an interview for the Archive of American Television. His version, though, still had Jack Lord as a last-minute casting.

The pilot had Tim O’Kelly as Danny. When the series was picked up, Freeman recast the part with James MacArthur, who a small, but notable role in Hang ‘Em High, a Clint Eastwood Western film that Freeman had produced.

The international espionage aspect of Five-O remained throughout the show’s 12-year run, though less so in the later seasons. Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, made a NUMBER OF RETURN APPEARANCES, including the 1980 series finale. As the U.S. and China began to normalize diplomatic relations, Wo Fat became an independent menace. In the ninth-season opener, Wo Fat attempts to take over the Chinese government.

George Lazenby in a 1979 episode of Hawaii Five-O

Five-O matched wits with a number of other spies played by the likes of Theodore Bikel (who had tried out for Goldfinger), Maud Adams and Soon Tek-Oh. George Lazenby, the second screen James Bond, played a secondary villain in a 1979 episode filmed on location in Singapore.

Five-O wasn’t always an easy show to work on. Freeman died in early 1974, after the sixth season completed production. Zulu (real name Gilbert Kauhi), who played Kono left after the fourth season; he told fans at the 1996 convention about problems he had with Jack Lord. His replacement, Al Harrington as another detective, departed in the seventh season.

Nevertheless, Five-O had a long run. When it left the air, Five-O was the longest-running crime drama, a status it held until Law and Order, the 1990-2010 series.

Lord’s Steve McGarrett emerged as one of the most recognizable television characters. In 2007, 27 years after the final Five-O episode, THE NEW YORK TIMES’S OPINION PAGES summed up Five-O’s appeal.

“Evil makes McGarrett angry, but when he speaks, his voice is startlingly gentle, exuding a quiet control that a beleaguered generation of parents surely wished they had when facing the forces of social decay,” reads the commentary by Lawrence Downes.

The writer ends his piece describing what it might be like if McGarrett was president. He dispatches Kono and Chin to stop illegal immigration and tells Danny that he wants undocumented workers “legalized. Tell Congress to send me a bill. I want it tough, and I want it fair. And I want it on my desk Monday morning.”

In 2010, CBS introduced a new version of the show, with a slightly different spelling (Hawaii Five-0, with a digit instead of a capital O as in the original), a younger McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and a Danny with more attitude (Scott Caan).

The current series is in its ninth season. For the 50th anniversary of the original show, it will feature a remake of Cocoon, the 1968 pilot. The remake is scheduled to be telecast on Sept. 28.

The 2010s Five-0 has other significant differences than the original. In the eighth season, the McLaughlin and Caan versions of McGarrett and Danny decided to go into the restaurant business on the side. I can’t imagine Leonard Freeman would have approved.

On the other hand, the producers were smart enough to keep the Morton Stevens theme music. Now, as in 1968, it’s still a highlight.

50th anniversary of the best TV theme

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Apapted and updated from a 2013 post.

Sept. 20 is the 50th anniversary of, arguably, the best television theme of all time: Hawaii Five-O by composer Morton Stevens.

The Five-O theme is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. People who’ve never watched an episode recognize it when just a few notes are played.

Over the decades, it’s been used in commercials and been played by marching bands. Yet, the vast majority of those who’ve heard it probably couldn’t name the man who wrote it.

In the 1960s, the likes of Stevens, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin were busy doing scores for television. Of that quartet, three became big-time film composers. Stevens didn’t.

In the spring of 1965, CBS hired Stevens to supervise its West Coast music operation. It was in that capacity that Stevens scored the Hawaii Five-O pilot. But Stevens couldn’t do every job himself. Thus, he hired Williams to score 1969’s The Reivers, which CBS released under the Cinema Center Films label. The Steve McQueen movie helped Williams transition from TV to films.

Stevens died in 1991, at the age of 62, of cancer. His lasting music achievement was the original 1968-80 Five-O series. Not only did he write the theme, he created the music template for the series.

Stevens delivered episode scores for 11 of the 12 seasons. The Five-O theme was often used by Stevens and other composers in the background music. It showed up as an action riff. It would also be slowed way down for reflective moments in a story.

This decade, Stevens got attention for his other work. The DVD set for the 1960-62 Thriller anthology series with Boris Karloff featured a number of episodes where viewers can isolate the scores of Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith.

A Morton Stevens title card (for music supervision, not for his theme) for a first-season episode of Hawaii Five-O

Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, did a commentary track about each composer. He discussed Stevens’ work in detail.

In 2016, the blog did a post about Stevens as part of its “unsung figures of television” series.

Stevens’ work on Hawaii Five-O represents a paradox. It’s a famous TV theme. Million of people know it. Yet he’s relatively obscure. Stevens had a successful career. Yet his contemporaries — such as Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams — achieved more fame than he did.

Regardless, the Five-O theme is a crowning achievement for Stevens. Watching a Hawaii Five-O theme is akin to viewing a James Bond film scored by John Barry. In both cases, the composers established a music template that thrills viewers decades later.