RE-POST: The 45th anniversary of the end of U.N.C.L.E.

Originally published Dec. 28. Re-posted for the actual anniversary.

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)


Jan. 15 marks the 45th anniversary of the end of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was also the beginning of the end for 1960s spymania.

Ratings for U.N.C.L.E. faltered badly in the fall of 1967, where it aired on Monday nights. It was up against Gunsmoke on CBS — a show that itself had been canceled briefly during the spring of ’67 but got a reprieve thanks to CBS chief William Paley. Instead of oblivion, Gunsmoke was moved from Saturday to Monday.

Earlier, Norman Felton, U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, decided some retooling was in order for the show’s fourth season. He brought in Anthony Spinner, who often wrote for Quinn Martin-produced shows, as producer.

Spinner had also written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode and summoned a couple of first-season writers, Jack Turley and Robert E. Thompson, to do some scripts. Also in the fold was Dean Hargrove, who supplied two first-season scripts but had his biggest impact in the second, when U.N.C.L.E. had its best ratings. Hargrove was off doing other things during the third season, although he did one of the best scripts for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. during 1966-67.

Hargrove, however, quickly learned the Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. was different. In a 2007 interview on the U.N.C.L.E. DVD set, Hargrove said Spinner was of “the Quinn Martin school of melodrama.” Spinner wanted a more serious take on the show compared with the previous season, which included a dancing ape. Hargrove, adept at weaving (relatively subtle) humor into his stories, chafed under Spinner. The producer instructed his writers that U.N.C.L.E. should be closer to James Bond than Get Smart.

The more serious take also extended to the show’s music, as documented in liner notes by journalist Jon Burlingame for U.N.C.L.E. soundstracks released between 2004 and 2007 and the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE.

Gerald Fried, the show’s most frequent composer, had a score rejected. Also jettisoned was a new Fried arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music. A more serious-sounding one was arranged by Robert Armbruster, the music director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Most of the fourth season’s scores would be composed by Richard Shores. Fried did one fourth-season score, which sounded similar to the more serious style of Shores.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, however, weren’t a match for a resurgent Matt Dillon on CBS. NBC canceled U.N.C.L.E. A final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, aired Jan. 8 and 15, 1968..

U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t be the first spy casualty. NBC canceled I Spy, with its last new episode appearing April 15, 1968. Within 18 months of U.N.C.L.E.’s demise, The Wild, Wild West was canceled by CBS (its final new episode aired aired April 4, 1969 although CBS did show fourth-season reruns in the summer of 1970) and the last episode of The Avengers was produced, appearing in the U.S. on April 21, 1969. NBC also canceled Get Smart after the 1968-69 season but CBS picked up the spy comedy for 1969-70. Mission: Impossible managed to stay on CBS until 1973 but abandoned spy storylines its last two seasons as the IMF opposed “the Syndicate.”

Nor were spy movies exempt. Dean Martin’s last Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew, debuted in U.S. theaters in late 1968. Despite a promise in the end titles that Helm would be back in The Ravagers, the film series was done. Even the James Bond series, the engine of the ’60s spy craze, was having a crisis in early 1968. Star Sean Connery was gone and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pondered their next move. James Bond would return but things weren’t quite the same.

45th anniversary of the end of U.N.C.L.E. (and ’60s spymania)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)


Jan. 15 marks the 45th anniversary of the end of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was also the beginning of the end for 1960s spymania.

Ratings for U.N.C.L.E. faltered badly in the fall of 1967, where it aired on Monday nights. It was up against Gunsmoke on CBS — a show that itself had been canceled briefly during the spring of ’67 but got a reprieve thanks to CBS chief William Paley. Instead of oblivion, Gunsmoke was moved from Saturday to Monday.

Earlier, Norman Felton, U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, decided some retooling was in order for the show’s fourth season. He brought in Anthony Spinner, who often wrote for Quinn Martin-produced shows, as producer.

Spinner had also written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode and summoned a couple of first-season writers, Jack Turley and Robert E. Thompson, to do some scripts. Also in the fold was Dean Hargrove, who supplied two first-season scripts but had his biggest impact in the second, when U.N.C.L.E. had its best ratings. Hargrove was off doing other things during the third season, although he did one of the best scripts for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. during 1966-67.

Hargrove, however, quickly learned the Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. was different. In a 2007 interview on the U.N.C.L.E. DVD set, Hargrove said Spinner was of “the Quinn Martin school of melodrama.” Spinner wanted a more serious take on the show compared with the previous season, which included a dancing ape. Hargrove, adept at weaving (relatively subtle) humor into his stories, chafed under Spinner. The producer instructed his writers that U.N.C.L.E. should be closer to James Bond than Get Smart.

The more serious take also extended to the show’s music, as documented in liner notes by journalist Jon Burlingame for U.N.C.L.E. soundstracks released between 2004 and 2007 and the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE.

Matt Dillon, right, and sidekick Festus got new life at U.N.C.L.E.'s expense.

Matt Dillon (James Arness), right, and sidekick Festus (Ken Curtis) got new life at U.N.C.L.E.’s expense.

Gerald Fried, the show’s most frequent composer, had a score rejected. Also jettisoned was a new Fried arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music. A more serious-sounding one was arranged by Robert Armbruster, the music director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Most of the fourth season’s scores would be composed by Richard Shores. Fried did one fourth-season score, which sounded similar to the more serious style of Shores.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, however, weren’t a match for a resurgent Matt Dillon on CBS. NBC canceled U.N.C.L.E. A final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, aired Jan. 8 and 15, 1968..

U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t be the first spy casualty. NBC canceled I Spy, with its last new episode appearing April 15, 1968. Within 18 months of U.N.C.L.E.’s demise, The Wild, Wild West was canceled by CBS (its final new episode aired aired April 4, 1969 although CBS did show fourth-season reruns in the summer of 1970) and the last episode of The Avengers was produced, appearing in the U.S. on April 21, 1969. NBC also canceled Get Smart after the 1968-69 season but CBS picked up the spy comedy for 1969-70. Mission: Impossible managed to stay on CBS until 1973 but abandoned spy storylines its last two seasons as the IMF opposed “the Syndicate.”

Nor were spy movies exempt. Dean Martin’s last Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew, debuted in U.S. theaters in late 1968. Despite a promise in the end titles that Helm would be back in The Ravagers, the film series was done. Even the James Bond series, the engine of the ’60s spy craze, was having a crisis in early 1968. Star Sean Connery was gone and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pondered their next move. James Bond would return but things weren’t quite the same.

Happy 65th birthday Cher

OK, you’re wondering why would a blog devoted to James Bond and other spy entertainment even pause to reference this. If you’re thinking that, you’ve obviously forgotten how Sonny and Cher were the guest stars in a 1967 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E..

The episode in question, The Hot Number Affair, was not one of the better episodes of that 1964-68 series. Still, it was memorable. It utilized a number of Sonny and Cher songs in the soundtrack. And Gerald Fried, the composer for the episode, used kazoos for the score.

The U.N.C.L.E. episode was a modest beginning for Cher’s acting career. Meanwhile, Fried, in an interview, described the kazoo score in an interview for the Archive of American Television. You can see a brief reference to it at the 6:25 mark of this video:

Danny Biederman’s spy fi collection

Danny Biederman has an impressive collection of spy fiction props, covering James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and much more. Biederman has uploaded a YouTube video of highlights of news reports when parts of his collection were displayed at the CIA and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

During clips of the movies and shows in question, there’s music from a Gerald Fried tune originally composed for U.N.C.L.E. and part of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Our Man Flint.

Take a look:

Almost 30 years ago, Biederman and Robert Short attempted to put together a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (CLICK HERE and scroll to the second entry). They had gotten Bond veteran production designer Ken Adam interested in the project but it was not to be. There’s also a clip of Robert Conrad wishing he had kept James West’s sleeve gun that’s part of Biederman’s collection.

Happy birthday No. 78, Robert Vaughn

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo (aka The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), turned 78 today. We wish Mr. V a happy birthday. Here’s a clip from Vaughn’s final performance as Solo, the television movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. It includes the original CBS intro and the main titles. The Jerry Goldsmith theme is there, in an arrangement by Gerald Fried, who scored the most episodes of the original series:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: variation on a theme

It’s a few days before The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 45th anniversary. So here’s are variations on a theme — namely the Jerry Goldsmith-composed theme.

There were five different versions of the opening theme (two in the first season), and four different end title versions. Here’s an first-season end title, using an edited version of Goldsmith’s original. The episode is The King of Knaves Affair, the last to feature an original Goldsmith score:

For season two, Lalo Schifrin did a new arrangement. Here it is from the end titles of Alexander the Greater Affair Part II:

By season three, Gerald Fried had become the lead composer for the show and he was given the chance to do his arrangement of the Goldsmith theme. This is from The Galtea Affair, which ran early that season.

For season 4, Fried did another new arrangement that was rejected. That version turned up in one of the U.N.C.L.E. CDs produced by TV and movie music expert Jon Burlingame. Instead, MGM music boss Robert Armbruster came up with a brassy arrangement that fit in with a more serious tone that occurred with season 4 episodes. The title of this episode was The “J” For Judas Affair:

UPDATE: We were remiss in not pointing out that Sept. 19 was David McCallum’s 76th birthday. So happy birthday, DMc.

UPDATE II: The Bish’s Beat blog reminded us of something we should have linked — namely, a 2004 HMSS interview with Jon Burlingame about the U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack CDs. Better late than never, you can view it by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

HMSS nominations for top composers for 1960s spy entertainment

In a previous post, we touched upon this subject. The more we thought about it, the more we thought we had an excuse to make another post. So, without further ado:

1) John Barry: arranger, The James Bond Theme, in Dr. No; composer, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Ipcress File, The Quller Memorandum.

Born in 1933, Barry (birth name John Barry Prendergast) helped shape the James Bond Theme and composed the score for five of the first six 007 movies. On top of that, he did the scores for two more serious 1960s spy movies. That’s an enormous legacy, no matter how you view it.

2) tie, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin. For Goldsmith: composer The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme, three episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (with those scores repeated in numerous first- and fourth-season episodes); composer, Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Our Man Flint, The Chairman.

For Schifrin: arranger of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme (second season), composer, Murderers Row, composer theme, Mission: Impossible plus several episodes of that series, composer, The President’s Analyst, The Liquidator.

To be honest, you could make the case for either composer. Goldsmith is no longer with us, but Schifrin (b. 1932) is still around. So we’ll make it a tie.

3. Gerald Fried: composer for numerous episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible. A sometimes overlooked artist, he also composed music for several episodes of the original Star Trek series including an episode when Kirk fought Spock, which Jim Carrey used in The Cable Guy.

4. Richard Markowitz: Who, you ask. Well he composed the theme for The Wild, Wild West and quite a few episodes during that series first two seasons.

5. Robert Drasnin: composed scores for episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Wild, Wild West, (including the “Dr. Loveless Theme”) and Mission: Impossible, he is perhaps the least know of the composers on this list. But he is far from the least talented.

6. Hugo Montenegro: arranger, two albums of music from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; composer, The Ambushers, The Wrecking Crew. Montenegro’s two U.N.C.L.E. albums have fans to this day. He also composed scores for two of the four Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin.