Thrilling Cities, the series?

Ian Fleming's Thrilling Cities book

Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book

Actor Michael Weatherly’s production company is trying to turn Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book into a television, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story is mostly about Weatherly’s impending departure from the popular NCIS television series and Thrilling Cities only gets a passing reference.

“In the meantime, however, Weatherly said he’s busier than ever with his production company, Solar Drive Productions, which is working on turning the book Thrilling Cities, from James Bond author Ian Fleming, into a possible series,” the story by THR’s Kate Stanhope reads.

Thrilling Cities was a non-fiction book by Fleming. It was based on a series of stories he did for The Sunday Times about important cities around the world.

“Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer’s eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Naples, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas,” according to a summary on the Ian Fleming Publications website.

Fleming’s short story 007 in New York was included in the U.S. edition of Thrilling Cities. The author had a harsh opinion about New York City and the short story was a bonus for American readers.

In 1962, there was an attempt to turn Thrilling Cities into a television series. The result, ended up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

Craig Henderson’s 1962 page for his U.N.C.L.E. Timeline website notes that producer Norman Felton was asked to read galleys of the upcoming Fleming book concerning whether it could be made into a TV show.

At a meeting, “Felton rejects the possibility of developing a TV series from Thrilling Cities — but he’s inspired to ad lib an idea about a mysterious man who travels the world on sensitive secret missions,” according to Henderson’s website.

That was the genesis of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Fleming himself was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until mid-1963 before withdrawing under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Also of note, one of Weatherly’s co-stars on NCIS is David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin on U.N.C.L.E. Irony abounds.

 

Norman Hudis, busy spy TV writer, dies at 93

Norman Hudis

Norman Hudis

Norman Hudis, who penned episodes of various spy and spy-related television shows, has died at 93, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

In his native England, Hudis is remembered as the writer of the first six “Carry On” comedy films that began in 1958.

Hudis was very busy with spy-related entertainment. He wrote episodes of The Saint and Danger Man. He moved to the United States, where he wrote episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (including its final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, released outside the U.S. as the film How to Steal the World), The Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, The FBI and Search, among others.

According to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. timeline website, producer Norman Felton in 1971 responded to an NBC suggestion that U.N.C.L.E. be revived as a TV movie by saying Hudis would be a good writer for such a project. Nothing came of the suggestion.

UPDATE: According to Hudis’ IMDB.COM ENTRY his writing credits included the following.

The Saint: The Imprudent Politician, The Frightened Inn-Keeper, The Checkered Flag, The Persistent Parasites

Danger Man/Secret Agent: Koroshi, Shinda Shima

The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Tottering Tontine

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Yo-Ho-Ho And a Bottle of Rum Affair, The Five Daughters Affairs Parts I and II (released as The Karate Killers overseas), The “J” for Judas Affair, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Parts I and II (released as How to Steal the World overseas).

Hawaii Five-O: The Big Kahuna

The FBI: The Inside Man

It Takes a Thief: Nice Girls Marry Stockbrokers, To Sing a Song of Murder, Beyond a Treasonable Doubt

Search: The Clayton Lewis Document, Suffer My Child

 

New U.N.C.L.E. book coming out in 2015

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

A new book about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series is due out next year.

“Solo and Illya: The Secret History of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Craig Henderson is to be published by Bear Manor Publishers, according to the Facebook page of THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AFFAIR, the two-day event held in the Los Angeles area last month in connection with the show’s 50th anniversary.

Henderson created the File Forty fanzine in 1970, according to a Jon Burlingame response to the post. Henderson also assisted Burlingame when the latter produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.

“He’s uncovered a lot of information about the show no one else has,” Burlingame wrote.

Finally, Henderson produced A CENTURY OF U.N.C.L.E., which details how the worlds of U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond intersected for more than a century, beginning with the birth of Ian Fleming in 1908 until the death of U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton in 2012. It’s a resource this blog has cited numerous times.

1964: Broccoli and Saltzman try to derail U.N.C.L.E.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

By early 1964, post production was underway on the pilot for Solo. On Jan. 7, composer Jerry Goldsmith recorded his score, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline. But things would shortly get bumpy for Norman Felton’s production.

Toward the end of January, The New York Times ran an article about spy-oriented pilots, including Solo. In early February, Albert R. Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, which made the 007 films, had had enough. Here’s how the Henderson website describes it:

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 1964
Cubby Broccoli telephones Sam Kaplan of Ashley-Steiner, telling Kaplan he intends to sue Arena, Felton and all others connected with Solo for violating Broccoli’s and Saltzman’s rights to the James Bond stories, referring specifically to the Jan. 26 New York Times story.

Ian Fleming hadn’t been involved with Solo since June of the previous year. The author signed away his rights under pressure from Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the other co-head of Eon. The name Napoleon Solo had been one of his few contributions to make it to the final product of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot..

Still, it appears Broccoli couldn’t stand U.N.C.L.E. In his later years, in ill health, Broccoli worked on an autobiography that wouldn’t be published until after his death. Here’s how he described U.N.C.L.E.:

MGM came in with The Man From UNCLE, which was a straight steal from Fleming’s use of acronyms like SMERSH and SPECTRE.

When The Snow Melts, the autobiography of Cubby Broccoli with Donald Zec, 1998, page 199

Of course, Smersh wasn’t an acronym and Fleming was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until June 1963. Nothing had been stolen from Fleming (though he signed away his rights for a mere one British pound). Also, it was pretty easy to tell Napoleon Solo, suave U.N.C.L.E. agent apart from Mafia boss Solo in Fleming’s Goldfinger novel and Eon movie.

None of that mattered. Again, an excerpt from the Henderson website:

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1964
New York law firm for Saltzman and Broccoli sends cease-and-desist letter to Felton, MGM, NBC and Ashley-Steiner demanding immediate end to use of Fleming’s name in connection with planned Solo series — and end to all use of name and character “Solo,” “Napoleon Solo” and “Mr. Solo,” claiming theft of the “Mr. Solo” character in Goldfinger, which Eon is currently filming.

By April, the two sides agree Solo won’t be the title but the Napoleon Solo name is retained for the television series. NBC picks up the series to debut the following fall.

In May, the new series title ends up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. By that time, first drafts of series scripts have been written. The first draft for an episode to be called The Double Affair refers to the villainous organization as MAGGOT. The name is later changed to Thrush, which had been the choice of Felton and Sam Rolfe, the writer of the pilot, all along.

U.N.C.L.E. is now on its way to becoming reality. But more changes await before the cameras roll on the early episodes of the show.

CRAIG HENDERSON’S U.N.C.L.E. BOND TIMELINE FOR 1964

Earlier posts:

JUNE 1963: IAN FLEMING SIGNS AWAY HIS U.N.C.L.E. RIGHTS

MAY 1963: IAN FLEMING CRIES U.N.C.L.E.

Fall 1963: Norman Felton casts his Solo

The Solo that William Boyd forgot

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Producer Norman Felton had to make a decision: Who would be cast as Napoleon Solo, the character he co-created with Ian Fleming?

The task may not have been difficult as finding a Solo for a 21st century movie version of the show (finally cast with Henry Cavill). But it wasn’t a slam dunk, either.

According to Jon Heitland’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. book, Felton for a time considered a friend, Harry Guardino, for the part.

Also in the running was actor Robert Brown, who five years later would briefly be cast as Hawaii Five-O’s Steve McGarrett until the part was re-cast with Jack Lord. Also, according to the Heitland book, Felton decided to offer the role to Robert Culp, but the actor wasn’t available.

Felton ended up going with an actor already in his employ: Robert Vaughn, 30, who was the second lead in The Lieutenant, a drama about U.S. Marine Corps officers. Felton was the show’s executive producer, with Gene Roddenberry as the creator-producer.

“I was looking for someone who would give the character a certain visual sense of sophistication,” Felton told Heitland in an interview for the 1986 book.

Vaughn, in 2007, recalled the deal being done quickly:

Other work on the project proceeded. Sam Rolfe turned in his second-draft script and Don Medford was hired to direct on Oct. 9, 1963, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline.

By November, the rest of the cast was in place. David McCallum would play the small part (in the pilot script) of Illya Kuryakin, a Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent, and Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

Production was scheduled to begin on Nov. 20. It would be shut down for four days because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy two days later.

In the coming months, two men named Broccoli and Saltzman would present another challenge.

Earlier posts:

July 1963: U.N.C.L.E. presses on without Fleming

June 1963: Ian Fleming signs away his U.N.C.L.E. rights

July 1963: U.N.C.L.E. presses on without Fleming

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s logo from a second-season episode

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s logo from a 2nd-season episode

With Ian Fleming out of the picture, producer Norman Felton continued to press on with his TV spy project that would eventually become The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

NBC was still interested, but Felton would have to make a pilot episode. NBC had been willing for dispense with a pilot had it been able to promote the show as being created by the James Bond author.

Sam Rolfe, who had been working on the project since March, continued writing a detailed outline for the show. It had gone from a five-page memo in May to a 40-page presentation in early July, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE.

Rolfe elaborated on the character of Napoleon Solo and devised new characters, including Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief, and a Russian agent, Illya Kuryakin. Author Jon Heitland, in his 1986 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book, wrote that Rolfe reworked ideas from a series he had proposed called The Dragons and St. George.

Felton hired Rolfe to write the script for the pilot in August and the first draft was submitted in mid-September, according to Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. Timeline. A second draft would be completed in October and Don Medford, who had credits extending back to 1951, was hired to direct.

The question now was who Felton would cast to bring Napoleon Solo to life.

JANUARY 2013 POST: DON MEDFORD, VERSATILE TV DIRECTOR, DIES

JUNE 2013 POST: JUNE 1963: IAN FLEMING SIGNS AWAY HIS U.N.C.L.E. RIGHTS

June 1963: Ian Fleming signs away his U.N.C.L.E. rights

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

On JUNE 26, 1963, Ian Fleming, under pressure from Bond film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, finally signed away all of his rights related to the television show that would become The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The one-paragraph letter reads in part:

Mr Norman Felton
M-G-M Studios,
Culver City, California

Dear Norman:

This will serve as my assignment to you of all my rights and interest in any material written or contributed by me in connection an original television series featuring a character named Napoleon Solo. I assign to you all rights of every kind of the use of this character and material.

(snip)

The material and character is original and I am free to grant to you the rights assigned in this letter. I hereby acknowledge receipt of the sum of One Pound…in consideration of this assignment.

Very truly yours,

IAN FLEMING

Norman Felton, who was producing the show, knew by the end of May that Fleming was exiting the project. The letter was a mere formality. Still, from this point forward, Felton and writer-producer Sam Rolfe would shoulder the creative burden of turning the concept into a television show.

Rolfe would turn in his first draft of the script on Sept. 16, according to Craig Henderson’s For Your Eyes Only Web site. Filming of the pilot, directed by Don Medford, would begin in November.

MARCH 1 POST: MARCH 1963: IAN FLEMING CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

MAY 2 POST: MAY 1963: IAN FLEMING CRIES U.N.C.L.E.