Happy 100th, Earl Cameron

Earl Cameron

Today, Aug. 8, is the 100th birthday of actor Earl Cameron, whose many credits included Pinder in Thunderball.

Pinder was “our man here” in Nassau, as James Bond (Sean Connery) referred to him while introducing the operative to CIA agent Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter).

Among other things, Cameron’s Pinder arranged for a power blackout at the estate of SPECTRE villain Emilo Largo so Bond could do some snooping there.

Cameron also appeared in a number of episodes of Danger Man/Secret Agent in different roles.

His IMDB.COM entry lists more than 90 acting credits from the early 1950s to as recently as 2013. One of his most recent credits included a part in 2010’s Inception.

Thanks to reader @Osric_ on Twitter for the heads up.

Jim Steranko: 1960s spy fan

Jim Steranko provides a Sean Connery/007 cameo in Strange Tales No. 164 (1967)

Not that it’s a terrible surprise but writer-artist Jim Steranko, who had a legendary run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1960s, was a big fan of 1960s spy entertainment.

His S.H.I.E.L.D. stories included a weapons master named Boothroyd. He also had the Sean Connery version of James Bond make a one-panel cameo in Strange Tales No. 164 in 1967.

Anyway, Steranko takes questions from fans (or “henchmen”) each Sunday night on Twitter.

The Spy Commander couldn’t resist. So I asked if he had seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. during the period.

The answer? Well, judge for yourself:

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I needed to look it up. The Hunter was a 1952 series where, according to IMDB.COM, Bart Adams used the cover of an international businessman to battle Communist spies. Barry Nelson was the first actor to play James Bond in the 1954 CBS television production of Casino Royale.

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

 

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.

Secret Agent Radio: all spies, all the time

John Barry

John Barry

For those who can’t get enough spy soundtrack music, there is now SECRET AGENT RADIO, an Internet “radio station.”

It’s part of the AccuRadio Web site, which provides music offerings of various types.

Secret Agent Radio covers a lot of ground, including soundtracks from Bond films, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, The Prisoner, Danger Man/Secret Agent. It can also veer into related genres, including music from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn soundtrack.

There’s also Open Channel D, which, despite its name, isn’t exclusively U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks and plays some of the same other selections as Secret Agent Radio. Finally, there’s Channel 007, which specializes in 007 sountracks, featuring music by John Barry and other composers. Based on a sampling, it’s currently playing selections from Thomas Newman’s Skyfall soundtrack fairly often.

There are occasional commercials, but the interruptions don’t seem to occur that often, certainly less often than a commercial radio station.

Happy Thanksgiving from the HMSS Weblog

It’s a crazy world out there, so it’s good to have a holiday to remind you that there are things to be thankful for. For Bond fans, production of a new film, Skyfall, is underway. That’s something that wasn’t assured at this time last year. Most 007 fans we know, even though who don’t care for the current direction of the movies, will be in theaters next year when Skyfall hits theaters.

For fans of other spy entertainment, there are also reasons to be thankful. Even ones that were turned into bad movies. Or others where the hero was turned into a villain. Or other shows where studio executives fumble and dither around on whether to do a movie.

What’s to be thankful for? You can see the original series for all of these examples, not to mention still more others we haven’t brought up. No matter how new versions may get messed up, the originals are still around.

And, at HMSS, we’re thankful we have readers who care (or at least look at) what we have to say. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Lt. Columbo’s encounters with spies

Peter Falk passed away last month and obituaries SUCH AS THIS ONE IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES documented his varied career while noting he was most famous for playing Lt. Columbo, who wore a rumpled raincoat but had a sharp mind. We thought we’d take some time out to detail a couple of enounters the character had with spies.

In “Identity Crisis,” in 1975 from Columbo’s fifth season on NBC, the murderer Columbo pursues is Nelson Brenner. The CIA operative is played by Patrick McGoohan, who seems to channel his John Drake and Number Six personas. McGoohan, who also directed the episode, was back for his second turn as a murderer on the show. McGoohan even works in his “Be seeing you!” line from The Prisoner.

The script, by Bill Driskill, is pretty complex. The murder victim (Leslie Nielsen) is another agent. There’s a non-existent operative named Steinmetz and….well, you get the idea.

Brenner has a cover identity as a business consultant. At one point, the CIA director (David White) pays a visit on Columbo, telling him to can his investigation in the interest of national security. Columbo, of course, doesn’t give up that easily but knows it’ll be even trickier to bring in Brenner.

The CIA shows up in a more indirect role in “Columbo Goes to the Guillotine,” the first Columbo to air on ABC when the show was revived in 1989. Elliott Blake (Anthony Andrews) is trying to convince the agency he’s a genuine psychic who can be of aid in intelligence work. The CIA hires a magician, Max Dyson (Anthony Zerbe), who has also exposed other psychics as frauds, to test Blake’s abilities.

The two men, however, have met before. They were in a prison in Uganda years earlier. They meet the night before the test and rig it in Blake’s favor. Afterward, Dyson says he agreed because of what the two mean to each other while in prison. Blake, though, knows that Dyson sold him out to get out of that prison. He kills Dyson, making it appear the magician was killed in an accident involving a guillotine trick.

Columbo engages in his usual cat-and-mouse games with Blake. Meanwhile, the CIA’s Mr. Harrow (Alan Fudge) is convinced Blake is the real thing. The agency is ready to whisk Blake away with a new identity. Columbo, armed with a court order, prevents that. He duplicates the Dyson-Blake test, ending the CIA’s interest in Blake.

The episode was written by William Read Woodfield (a writer on the original Mission: Impossible series and a magician himself) and directed by Leo Penn. It ends with Columbo taking a big chance to make his case against Blake: