Joseph Gantman, early M:I producer, dies

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Joseph Gantman, the day-to-day producer for the first two seasons of Mission: Impossible, died Dec. 26 at 95, according to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Gantman came aboard Mission after the pilot was produced. Series creator Bruce Geller supervised the show, but it was up to Gantman to get things going, including securing a scripts that could be filmed. He would end up winning two Emmys for his work on the show.

Those two seasons featured stories such as Operation: Rogosh. The IMF tricks an “unbreakable” Soviet Bloc operative into thinking it’s three years later so he’ll give up where he’s planted germ cultures that will poison the drinking water supply of Los Angeles.

Gantman departed after the end of Mission’s second season. His successors, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, had written many of the best stories of the first two seasons. The pair bolted after disagreements with Bruce Geller — an indication that Gantman’s work wouldn’t be easy to duplicate. The series would gain a reputation for chewing up producers.

Before Mission, Gantmen worked on the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with with the title of “production assistant.”

During the 1964-65 season, Gantman was associate producer for 16 of the 32 episodes of the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when that Irwin Allen-produced shows emphasized espionage over monsters.

Later, during the 1968-69 season, he was producer for five episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O, including three of the first five telecast by CBS (excluding the pilot, which aired as a TV movie).

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Our favorite stock shots of 1960s, ’70s TV shows

Television shows from 1950s through the 1970s meant doing a lot. A typical season meant 39 episodes in the 1950s into the early ’60s, 30 or more into the mid-60s and 26 or so in the 1970s.

It also required working on a leaner budget than feature films. A show may have stories around the world, but you didn’t have the resources films did.

To stretch the budget, production companies utilized “stock shots,” taken from sources available to more or less everyone. In the 1960s and ’70s, it was common to see some of the same stock shots on different shows.

With that in mind, here are some of the blog’s favorite stock shots. Note: The episodes listed are not a comprehensive list. You may remember these from other series and episodes

Stock shot of airplane exploding during a missile test, used in The Man From UNCLE and Hawaii Five-O.

Airplane/helicopter exploding in mid-air: Based on the longest clip of it the blog has seen, this appears to be some kind of U.S. Defense Department film. An airplane (presumably radio-controlled) is shot down by a missile.

Said longest version appears in The Quadripartite Affair, the third episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. You actually see the missile launched and see it hit the airplane.

Examples: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Quadripartite Affair, The Love Affair (first season; supposedly the villain’s helicopter explodes after Solo has placed a bomb aboard), Part Two Alexander the Greater Affair (airplane exploding in mid-air).

Hawaii Five-O: Death Is a Company Policy (fifth season, supposedly a helicopter with syndicate killers is shot down by police, led by Steve McGarrett), Death Thy Name Is Sam (eighth season, villain John Colicos shoots down a helicopter piloted by undercover cop George Takei with a portable surface-to-air missile).

Frequently used stock shot of a landing aircraft

Aircraft about to land: One of the most common seen stock shots during the period was of the underside of a aircraft about to complete a landing.

It was used a number of times in Hawaii Five-O (the image at right is from the episode Three Dead Cows at Makapuu Part I), where characters were flying into Hawaii all the time.

I know it was used more frequently than that, but tracking them all down in daunting. The whole idea was to communicate movement to the audience. Sometimes, the lead character might be traveling somewhere and this shot would be used to demonstrate he or she had arrived.

Stock shot of exploding car.

Car Exploding on side of mountain: It costs money to blow up a car or truck. One way to save costs was using a stock shot of one going up in flames.

The image at right was used at least twice. In the first-season Mannix episode Deadfall Part I, an Intertect investigator (Dana Elcar) fakes his own death with his car exploding. Mannix (Mike Connors) investigates and finds out his Interect colleague was was involved in an industrial espionage operation involving a new laser.

The stock shot also was used in an episode of Ironside, Poole’s Paradise.

At the start of the series, the wheelchair-bound detective (Raymond Burr) rode in the back of a 1940 truck. Early in the third season, the truck had to be sacrificed (to throw a corrupt sheriff and his thug deputies off the trail). The stock shot was used to show that vehicle exploding.

The sleuth rode (and eventually drove) a more modern van for the rest of the series.

UPDATE: The exploding car shot also shows up in Nine Dragons, the first episode in Hawaii Five-O’s ninth season.

Arch-villain Wo Fat is at the University of Hawaii, posing as an academic who defected from China in the late 1940s. However, a university faculty member who knew the real academic confronts Wo Fat.

Bad move: Wo Fat has his goons kill the Hawaii faculty member. They put him in a Lincoln Continental, shove the car down a ravine and the car blows up.

Albert Heschong: Wizardry on a TV budget

Albert Heschong-designed set for the 1968 pilot of Hawaii Five-O

One in an occasional series of unsung figures of television.

Albert Heschong (1919-2001) labored for years in the art department at CBS, working on the network’s in-house productions.

During Heschong’s career, that meant designing sets on a more economical budget compared with motion pictures.

Heschong succeeded. He received on-screen credits for live television dramas (Playhouse 90), filmed dramas, Westerns (including Gunsmoke) and sitcoms.

On occasion, Heschong could stretch his budget to create some memorable sets.

One of his best efforts was for the pilot to the original Hawaii Five-O series. That pilot, in effect combined spy-fi with police drama.

Villain Wo Fat has a futuristic laboratory housed inside an oil tanker. Wo Fat has devised a form of torture. Victims are deprived of the use of their senses while suspended in a shallow pool.

The laboratory is the first thing viewers see in a short pre-titles sequence. Toward the end of the sequence, viewers see what happens (the victim mindlessly screams) when they finally are let loose.

Naturally, the climax of the pilot takes place in the same set when McGarrett (Jack Lord) undergoes the same torture. Unknown to Wo Fat, however, the lawman has been programmed to impart false information.

Albert Heschong’s title card for The Night of the Raven on The Wild Wild West

Heschong also frequently worked on The Wild Wild West. For that series, which combined spies with cowboys, imagination was a must for the art department. The series frequently depicted “modern day” technology in the 1870s.

A major highlight for Heschong was the second-season episode The Night of the Raven. Arch villain Dr. Loveless has succeeded in shrinking his nemesis James West. Thus, Heschong and his crew had to create  sets where the miniaturized West (Robert Conrad) is menaced by spiders and cats.

Heschong’s work on the series meant he’d be brought back for the 1979 TV movie The Wild Wild West Revisited. For that, he retained his art director title.

However with the 1980 TV movie More Wild Wild West, he got the spiffier title of production designer, which more accurately reflected his contributions. Heschong’s credit also appeared in the main titles instead of the main titles.

Heschong’s career extended from the early 1950s into the 1990s.

Richard Anderson, busy actor, dies at 91

Richard Anderson as a presidential candidate in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Richard Anderson, an actor who kept busy as a guest star or in supporting roles on television series, has died at 91, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

As a guest star, he appeared in series such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E,, Gunsmoke, The FBI, Hawaii Five-O and Columbo.

As a supporting player, Anderson was in such shows as The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman (both as their boss, Oscar Goldman); Dan August (as the police chief who supervised Burt Reynolds’ title character); and Perry Mason as Lt. Steve Drumm, who came aboard during that show’s final season following the death of Ray Collins, who portrayed Lt. Tragg.

Anderson’s career lasted more than 60 years. He was in such movies as Scaramouche (1952), Forbidden Planet (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957).

Anderson participated in a commentary track for an episode of Thriller, the 1960-62 anthology show hosted by Boris Karloff. He was asked about shifting to working on television and replied actors go where the work is.

While Anderson found plenty of it on television, he also received parts in movies such as Seven Days in May (1964) and Seconds (1966).

Hawaii Five-O: In the beginning

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

The recent news that Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are departing the Hawaii Five-0 remake that has aired since 2010 has created a stir.

Example: IndieWire posted a July 6 article about why the departures are “a huge problem” for the series that’s entering its eighth season.

As it turns out, the makeup of the Five-O (official spelling of the original show) is an issue goes back to the very beginning of the original series.

In 1996, the Spy Commander attended a Five-O convention in Los Angeles. One part of the event included an auction. One of the items up for auction was a photocopy of the first-draft script for the pilot episode written by creator Leonard Freeman.

The Spy Commander lost out in the auction, but had a chance to examine said script.

In that first version, the Five-O team only had one white member, Steve McGarrett (initially American actor Robert Brown, but replaced by Jack Lord days before filming). Five-O’s second-in-command was Kono Kalakaua, described as a Hawaiian in his mid-20s.

Another Five-O member was named Lee, who was described as a heavy-set Hawaiian. Rounding out the cast was Chin Ho, who worked for the Honolulu Police Department but was also a liaison with Five-O.

Between that script and filming of the pilot, Five-O got another white member, Danny “Danno” Williams (Tim O’Kelly in the pilot, James MacArthur in the series); the Lee character got the Kono name; and Chin Ho was made a full-fledged member of Five-O.

As an aside, arch villain Wo Fat was named after a restaurant in Honolulu. The character of Chin Ho Kelly was named after Chinn Ho, a successful Hawaiian businessman.

Hawaii Five-0 loses two stars

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0, the remake of the original Five-O series, is losing two of its stars in a pay dispute, Variety reported.

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are departing the series ahead of its eighth season, according to the entertainment website.

The two “had been seeking pay equality with stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series,” Variety said. “Kim and Park were believed to be making 10-15% less than O’Loughlin and Caan.”

The remake debuted in 2010. Park played Kono Kalkaua, who had been a man in the 1968-80 original show. Kim was a fitter, trimmer version of Chin Ho Kelly.

O’Loughlin and Caan are revamped versions of Steve McGarrett and Dan Williams from the original series. The characters were played by Jack Lord and James MacArthur in the 1968-80 show, although Tim O’Kelly played Williams in the 1968 pilot TV movie.

The remake series also has done new takes on other characters from the original, including turning villain Wo Fat, Gov. Paul Jameson and U.S. spymaster Jonathan Kaye. For the new series, Jameson and Kaye were made into women characters.

The new versions of Jameson and Kaye were revealed to be in cahoots with Wo Fat and were killed off. The new Wo Fat was killed off in the new show’s 100th episode.

(And yes, the official spelling of the original is Hawaii Five-O while the 2010 series is spelled Five-0.)

 

Dina Merrill dies at 93

Dina Merrill, center, with Jeffrey Hunter and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for the debut of The FBI.

Dina Merrill, an “actress and heiress to two fortunes,” has died at 93, according to an obituary posted by The New York Times.

Merrill was the daughter of Wall Street stockbroker E.F. Hutton and “cereal heiress” Marjorie Merriweather Post died Monday, according to The Times.

Her acting credits included the first episode of The FBI, where she played Jean Davis, a woman being stalked by a psychopath played by Jeffrey Hunter; The Controllers, a two-part Mission: Impossible story, where she played a woman operative in the show’s fourth season; an academic manipulated by Wo Fat in the 1976 Hawaii Five-O episode Nine Dragons; and Calamity Jan, the girlfriend of cowboy villain Shame (Cliff Robertson, her then-husband) during the final season of Batman.
An excerpt from the obituary:

 

As a child, born into the American aristocracy of money and high society, Ms. Merrill wished she could take the bus “like the other kids,” she said, instead of being driven to school by the family chauffeur. After she became a successful actress, she told Quest magazine, “It’s fascinating to lead someone else’s life for a while.”

Merrill also appeared on game shows, such as To Tell The Truth. Here is an example.