Oswald the Rabbit makes his (sort of) MCU debut

Oswald the Rabbit, created by Walt Disney, circa 1927

Oswald the Rabbit, a character created by Walt Disney before Mickey Mouse, made his sort-of Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

It takes a bit of explaining. Let’s just say Oswald is shown on a television screen being watched by the imaginary kids of Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. There’s a later scene where the kids are watching the 1930s Disney version of Snow White.

Oswald (also known as Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit) originally was created in 1927 for Universal.

For decades, Disney (the company) wanted to get the rights to Oswald back. In the 2000s, Disney and Universal negotiated a swap: Universal would grant Disney the rights to Oswald. Universal (whose properties include the U.S. network NBC) would gain the services of sportscaster Al Michaels so the latter could work on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. (Early in Michaels’ career, he had a bit part in an episode of Hawaii Five-O.)

Yes, a cartoon character was swapped for the services of a human being. You can CLICK HERE for an account of the trade.

That’s how big business operates. Michaels this past season finished up his Sunday Night Football contract.

Nehemiah Persoff, veteran character actor, dies

Nehemiah Persoff in Mission: Impossible

Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor who excelled at playing villains, has died at 102, according to Deadline: Hollywood and other outlets.

Persoff, over a career lasting from the late 1940s to almost 2000, played:

–A Blofeld-like villain in the 1961 John Wayne Western The Comancheros;

–A secondary Thrush villain out to kill his former mentor Mandor (Jack Lord) in The Master’s Touch Affair in the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.;

–Three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the show’s 1965 pilot;

–Two episodes of I Spy, three episodes of Mission: Impossible, an episode of It Takes a Thief, and seven episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Persoff could play heavies in comedies as well as dramas.

For example, Persoff played gangster Little Bonaparte in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. The mobster was hearing impaired, wearing hearing aids. Little Bonaparte has fellow gangster Spats Columbo (George Raft) and his men gunned down at a party, with the killer coming out of a large cake.

A lawman played by Pat O’Brien enters asking what happened.

“There was something in that cake that didn’t agree with them,” Little Bonaparte replies.

The actor was versatile and didn’t only portray villains.

In a 1975 episode of Columbo, he played a nightclub owner who is blackmailing a former Nazi (Jack Cassidy). Persoff’s character is killed by Cassidy’s magician character during the middle of his act.

In the final episode of Gunsmoke, he played an immigrant father who pressures his eldest son (Robert Urich) to fight him as a rite of passage.

Dr. No’s 60th-anniversary conclusion: Legacy

Adapted from a 2012 post.

In evaluating the legacy of Dr. No as it approaches its 60th anniversary, start with the obvious: There’s still a 007 film series to talk about.

James Bond isn’t the biggest entertainment property in the world the way it was in 1965. But its longevity is unique.

The time that has passed includes more than a decade of enforced hiatus (a troublesome 1975 financial split between Eon co-founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; a legal fight in the early 1990s between Broccoli and MGM; and MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy) disrupting production of the Bond movies.

Still, the Bond films soldier on. The 25th entry, No Time to Die, debuted in the fall of 2021.

The series turned actor Sean Connery into a major star. It made Roger Moore, known mostly as a television star, into a movie star. The same applies to Pierce Brosnan. It made Daniel Craig a star. Even George Lazenby (one movie) and Timothy Dalton (two) who had limited runs as 007 are identified with the series.

The films generated new fans of Ian Fleming’s hero to the point that the movie 007 long ago outsized the influence of his literary counterpart. Finally, the film 007 helped form an untold number of friendships among Bond fans who would have never met otherwise.

All of that began with a modestly budgeted film, without a big-name star, led by a director for hire, Terence Young, who’d be instrumental in developing the cinema version of Agent 007. Dr. No, filmed in Jamaica and at Pinewood Studios, made all that followed possible.

Fans may fuss and feud about which Bond they like best. This 007 film or that may be disparaged by some fans, praised by others. The series may get rebooted. Bond may get recast. The tone of the entries may vary greatly.

In the end, Bond continues. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can’t say that; The Avengers, the John Steed variety which debuted the year before Dr. No, can’t say that; Matt Helm can’t say that. Jason Bourne, which influenced recent 007 movies, hasn’t been heard from since a 2016 film.

Many of those responsible for Dr. No aren’t around to take the bows.

They include:

–Producers Broccoli and Saltzman

–Director Young

–Screenwriter Richard Maibaum

–Editor Peter Hunt

–Production designer Ken Adam

–United Artists studio executive Arthur Krim, who greenlighted the project

–David V. Picker, another key UA executive, who was a Bond booster

–Joseph Wiseman, who played the title charater, the first film Bond villain

–Jack Lord, the first, and some fans say still the best, screen Felix Leiter, who’d become a major television star on Hawaii Five-O

–Art director Syd Cain

–Composer John Barry who orchestrated Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme and who would later define 007 film music.

–Nikki van der Zyl, who dubbed Ursula Andress in Dr. No and would work on other Bond films.

–Finally, Sean Connery, who brought the film Bond to life, passed away in 2020 at the age of 90.

That’s too bad but that’s what happens with the passage of time. The final product, though remains. It’s all summed up with these words:

James Bond will return. (Even with the ending of No Time to Die.)

Al Harrington, Five-O stalwart, dies at 85

Al Harrington in a 1996 special on Hawaii television

Al Harrington, who was a regular cast member on the original Hawaii Five-O series, died Sept 21 after suffering a stroke, according to Legacy.com.

Harrington played detective Ben Kokua during the fifth through seventh seasons. Harrington was a local entertainer who was hired by Leonard Freeman, the creator and executive producer of the series. Harrington had played criminals in earlier Five-O seasons.

According to Memories of Hawaii, a special that ran on Hawaiian television in 1996, Harrington ran afoul of star Jack Lord.

“He felt I was maybe too tall…I was too something,” Harrington said on the special. The actor said Freeman was committed to his choice.

However, Freeman died in 1974. “Then after Leonard died, the writing was on the wall, that I wasn’t going to be there much longer,” Harrington said.

The actor continued as an entertainer. He was cast in a recurring part in the 2010 Hawaii Five-0 (the O became a 0).

Harrington was born in December 1935 in American Samoa. He played running back for Stanford University, where he graduated in 1958. Harrington also performed Polynesian dancing on the side.

Harrington appeared in an episode of To Tell the Truth. He and two impostors fooled the four-person panel. Harrington also performed a sword dance.

Tarantino takes a shot (?) at Jack Lord

Soundtrack cover for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino is out with a novelization of his 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. As a result, the writer-director has even more room to make comments about 1960s entertainment.

So far, I’m only a chapter into it and noticed a less-than-flattering reference to Jack Lord, the first screen Felix Leiter and the star of the original Hawaii Five-O (1968-80).

In Chapter One (“Call Me Marvin”), actor Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie) chats with agent Marvin Schwarz.

“Stewart Granger was the single biggest prick I ever worked with,” Dalton says. “And I’ve worked with Jack Lord!”

What brought this on? Lord (1920-98) had a reputation for (depending on your perspective) being a perfectionist or….more than that.

A 1983 Starlog interview with Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum revealed that Lord was wanted back to reprise the Leiter role for Goldfinger. Except, Lord wanted a big raise and better billing. Cec Linder got the job instead.

Also, there was this passage from a 1971 TV Guide article (text is available on Mike Quigley’s Hawaii Five-O page) that had quotes from Ben Wood, entertainment editor for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“My phone rang. It was the show’s press agent. He said that ‘management’ was ‘very upset’ over the piece. I had called Zulu and Kam Fong stars. They are not stars, I was told. Not even Jimmy MacArthur. They are all ‘featured players.’ There is only one star of Five-O, and that is Jack Lord. When I reported this conversation in print, a couple of CBS vice presidents (Perry Lafferty and Paul King) got into the act. ‘Management’ had said no such thing. They demanded a retraction, making it look as if I was guilty of inaccurate reporting. That was when we began to refer to ‘Jimmy MacArthur, Co-Star’.”

The original Five-O ended its run more than 40 year ago. But, occasionally, there are still references to Lord. In November 2020, the official George Lazenby Twitter feed suggested that the one-film Bond may have had an interesting experience.

Also in Chapter One, Rick Dalton also compliments director Paul Wendkos to Schwarz. Wendkos’ many credits include the 1968 Hawaii Five-O TV movie pilot.

A pair of O’Briens

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title; Liam O’Brien, brother of actor Edmond, was story consultant in the third season.

A major h/t to .@smilingcobra on Twitter. Sometimes you don’t get the connections. But it turns out actor Edmond O’Brien and his brother Liam O’Brien had connections to spy entertainment.

Edmond O’Brien (1915-85) had been a major player in movies such as White Heat, D.O.A., The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and Fantastic Voyage. He was also a villain in a second-season episode of Mission: Impossible titled The Counterfeiter.

In the 21st century, less well known is Liam O’Brien, who died in 1996. His Los Angeles Times obituary described him as “a poet and cartoonist and then worked as a labor organizer before turning to writing plays.”

For the 1970-71 season of Hawaii Five-O, Liam O’Brien got the title of “story consultant.” In those days, a story consultant might be an in-house writer or he or she may have arranged free-lance writers to do scripts.

During his one season on Five-O, Liam O’Brien didn’t get any writing credits. Many of the episodes were written (or re-written) by scribes Jerry Ludwig and Eric Bercovici, either by themselves or as a team.

Given O’Brien’s story consultant title, he may well have been involved in assigning scripts or conducting story meetings during that Five-O season.

Later in his career, Liam O’Brien worked on series such as Police Story and Miami Vice.

1977: Sam Rolfe (sort of) revisits U.N.C.L.E.

Sam Rolfe dances with Jill Ireland in an early episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. while director Richard Donner hams it up.

Sam Rolfe was nothing if not persistent. In the 1970s, he re-worked his two greatest television triumphs. One, The Manhunter, took the concept of a bounty hunter, a la the western Have Gun-Will Travel, and set it during the Great Depression. It ran for one season.

With Engima, a pilot production, the writer-producer revisited the basic concept of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Enigma, like U.N.C.L.E., was a mysterious organization with a secret headquarters. Enigma’s base of operations was further out, an island in the Caribbean.

Enigma, like U.N.C.L.E., featured a dashing operative, in this case Andrew Icarus (Scott Hylands). He’s assisted by Mei San Gow (Soon-Tek Oh) and reports to Maurice Mockcastle (Guy Doleman). The supporting players were alumni of the James Bond film series (The Man With the Golden Gun and Thunderball respectively) and Doleman had been in other espionage productions.

Enigma, like U.N.C.L.E., also had a thing for triangles. U.NC.L.E.’s security badges were triangle shaped. Enigma’s headquarters made triangles a major part of the interior design.

Around this same time, Rolfe had also scripted a proposed TV movie that would have been a straight U.N.C.L.E. revival that would have been titled The Malthusian Affair. That project was commissioned by producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, veteran writer-producers themselves but without U.N.C.L.E. experience. It was never produced.

With Enigma, Rolfe also wore the producer’s hat as well as writing. For director, he hired Michael O’Herlihy, who had been one of the leading directors of Hawaii Five-O but by this point had moved on. O’Herlihy also had directed one first-season episode of U.N.C.L.E. and would later direct The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair, an episode of The A-Team with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

Rolfe’s Enigma had one other thing with U.N.C.L.E. Like U.N.C.L.E.’s Napoleon Solo, Andrew Icarus recruits an “innocent” to help him accomplish his mission.

This curiosity has been posted to YouTube by the Museum of Classic Chicago Television. You can take a look for yourself. The video includes commercials.

Art Gilmore: Versatile announcer

Art Gilmore appearing on-camera in Dragnet

Another in an occasional series about unsung figures in television.

Trivia question: Name somebody who has ties to the very first James Bond production (1954’s CBS production of Casino Royale), Highway Patrol, Quinn Martin TV shows (the first one, The New Breed), Fred Astaire (a late 1950s TV special), Red Skelton, The Wild Wild West and Hawaii Five-O.

That person would be announcer Art Gilmore (1912-2010).

Gilmore began his announcing career in the 1930s and moved into television and movie trailers. Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Time obituary for Gilmore.

“He was one of an elite corps of radio and television announcers, a voice that everyone in America recognized because it was ubiquitous,” film critic and show business historian Leonard Maltin told The Times this week.

“For at least 20 years, if you listened to radio, watched TV or went to the movies, you couldn’t help but hear Art Gilmore’s voice,” said Maltin. “It wasn’t especially deep like some announcers, but it had authority, command and yet also a kind of friendliness. I think it was an all-American voice.”

Gilmore’s voice was the first viewers heard on the 1954 CBS live telecast of Casino Royale. “Live from Television City in Hollywood!”

The early years of television were heavily influenced by radio. On radio, an announcer introduced a show and often acted as a narrator.

Gilmore did a lot of work at CBS, including being the long-time announcer for Red Skelton’s variety show. His voice could often be heard on promos.

A YouTuber recreated a second-season promo for The Wild Wild West, which featured Gilmore’s voice and music by Richard Shores. Most of the visuals are based on the originals with a few tweaks.


In 1968, CBS televised a program-length promotion for its upcoming season. Here’s the segment for the upcoming Hawaii Five-O where Gilmore’s voice features prominently.

Finally, here’s a brief YouTube tribute to Gilmore, focusing on his work on Highway Patrol and Dragnet.

Laz goes down Five-O memory lane

George Lazenby in The Year of the Horse

Back on Nov. 19, George Lazenby briefly went down memory lane to revisit his turn as a “special guest star” in a 1979 episode of Hawaii Five-O.

The two-hour episode, The Year of the Horse, was filmed in Singapore. Lazenby tweeted out a publicity still of himself, Five-O star Jack Lord and Victoria Principal, another guest star in the episode.

Laz did not say much. He just opined that, “Victoria was great while Jack was something else.”

What was odd about the episode is that Lazenby and Lord had no scenes together. Thus viewers could not see the first screen Felix Leiter and the second film Bond.

However, by this time, Lord was the de facto executive producer of the show. So Laz probably had some interactions.

Here is the tweet.

About that 1997 unsold Five-O pilot

The original Hawaii Five-O ran for 12 years and a reboot ended this year after a 10-year run. In between is a mysterious 1997 unsold and never televised pilot for a revival.

Bits and pieces have shown up on YouTube (see embedded video above). But I finally had a chance to watch it. The pilot supposedly is awful and that’s why it has never had an official release.

I’m not sure about that. But it’s more like another 1980s/1990s cop-detective show that happens to be called Hawaii Five-O.

Background: CBS hired Stephen J. Cannell to write the pilot. Early in his career, he worked as a writer-producer at Universal, where his credits included co-creating and being a producer of The Rockford Files.

Cannell later started his own production company. The logo for that company showed Cannell furiously typing, then casually tossing a script page into the air.

Cannell was involved in producing such series as The Greatest American Hero, Riptide, Tenspeed and Brownshoe, Wiseguy, The A-Team and The Commish.

The writer-producer had no experience working on the original Five-O but presumably somebody was impressed with Cannell’s track record and he got the job. The title page for his Five-O script indicates he did the final scripting while it was co-plotted with Kim LeMasters.

Cannell originally wrote that Steve McGarrett was now governor while Dan Williams, aka Danno, was head of Five-O. In that original script, Gov. McGarrett is shot and Danno killed (!) by an assailant in a car that shows up in the middle of a public event. Cannell’s script also misspells McGarrett’s name as McGarret.

Story: In the filmed version, Danno (James MacArthur) is governor. It is stated he had succeeded McGarrett as head of Five-O prior to being elected governor. Danno’s successor at Five-O, Alex Bowland, is present and he is killed in the attack.

The public event was held to honor FBI agent Nick Wong (Russell Wong), who led efforts to rescue Danno’s daughter, who had been kidnapped. The bureau gave Wong a leave of absence for him to work with local law-enforcement officials.

Following the attack, Wong and Jimmy Xavier Berk (Gary Busey), who had been Bowland’s second in command, are appointed temporary co-chiefs of Five-O.

Jimmy getting the co-chief job is partly because former Five-O members Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong), Kono (Zulu) and Truck (Moe Keale) led lobbying efforts on behalf of Jimmy. It turns out they still have friends in Hawaiian state government.

Cannell now sets up an “Odd Couple” dynamic.

Wong is by-the-book, almost always wears a tie and gives orders ending in “and I want that 10 minutes ago!”

Jimmy, meanwhile, is a typical Cannell protagonist. He favors Hawaiian shirts follows his hunches, and isn’t afraid to break the rules.

Naturally, this duo will quarrel before, by show’s end, developing mutual respect.

Five-O’s lead suspect is Napoleon DeCastro, Hawaii’s current reigning crime boss. Five-O receives an anonymous recording fingering DeCastro and a subsequent search at the criminal’s home finds the murder weapon.

Of course, Jimmy’s gut tells him this is all too easy. (As an aside, it’s always too easy when the case appears to be solved in Act II.)

Without telling Wong, Jimmy has DeCastro freed from jail while Chin, Kono, Truck, Duke (Herman Wedemeyer) and retired lab man (!) Che Fong (Harry Endo) perform surveillance in old taxis.

Wong isn’t happy when he finds all this out. But the rigid lawman bends because Jimmy, despite being unorthodox, is capable and really does know what he’s doing.

Eventually, it turns out that a former KGB colonel is behind all this. He wants to frame DeCastro and take over Hawaiian crime himself. DeCastro had also just hired a woman tutor for his son. She, of course, is another former KGB operative who can mimic a flat, Midwestern accent.

The climax involves a big shootout. There is even a patented A-Team style car flip. The ex-KGB colonel and his men are taken into custody.

In the epilogue, Gov. Danno has recovered but will be on the mend for a while. The lieutenant governor appoints Wong the new permanent chief of Five-O. But Wong tells Jimmy privately they’ll continue as unofficial co-chiefs.

Problems: The biggest problem is that Chin Ho had been killed off at the end of the original show’s 10th season.

My guess is the other original Five-O cast members were fully aware of this. James MacArthur and Herman Wedemeyer were in that episode and Chin’s death was the major plot point. But, I suspect, there was no way they’d ruin a payday for Kam Fong.

Less jarring is when Che Fong says he’s “pulled the pin in ’68.” (“Geez, that’s almost 30 years ago,” Wong grumbles.) That sounds as if Che is saying that’s when he retired. Che also states this right after Duke says he retired six years earlier.

But 1968 was the year the original show began. Different actors played the part until Harry Endo took over. Che Fong made his last appearance in 1977.

Review: This is essentially a Stephen J. Cannell show that happens to be called Hawaii Five-O. You could take Jimmy Xavier Berk and put him in any other Cannell series and it’d work just as well.

Reinforcing that is the score. The version I saw had no credits but it sounds like Mike Post, who worked on a number of Cannell shows. But whoever worked on the music, there is a decent version of the Hawaii Five-O theme by Morton Stevens.

Cannell could produce snappy dialogue and does so here in spots.

It was nice to see the old Five-O gang get a final curtain call. If you view this as a Stephen J. Cannell program with Five-O cameos, it’s easier to watch.