1978: 007 wins 000 Oscars

James Bond has an odd history with the Oscars. The film series got two Oscar nods early in its history, then went decades with no wins.

The 1978 Oscars show, for movies made in 1977, was somewhat frustrating from a Bond fan perspective. The Spy Who Loved Me had been nominated for three awards: art direction, song and score. It walked away with….zero.

A big problem (from the Bond perspective) was that Spy was up against Star Wars in two categories. Star Wars was new and fresh and had wowed theatergoers the previous year.

Specifically, Spy’s Ken Adam-designed sets would be compared with the futuristic Star Wars sets. Another science fiction movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was also nominated.

Score one for Star Wars. One of the winners was production designer John Barry (1935-1979), not to be confused with composer John Barry (Prendergast).

Marvin Hamlisch’s Spy score was up against the Star Wars score by John Williams. However, Williams was nominated twice — he also got a nomination for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Maybe, just maybe, Williams would split the vote and Hamlisch could sneak in.

Nope. Williams got it for Star Wars. One of the presenters was Henry Mancini. Early in his career, Williams was one of the musicians who recorded Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme in 1958.

The song category was probably Spy’s best hope. Nobody Does It Better had been very popular. Maybe it could salvage the night for 007. It was not to be. It lost to You Light Up My Life.

This wasn’t the first time a Bond song lost. Live And Let Die had done failed to win four years earlier,  with the prize going to The Way We Were (with Hamlisch doing the music.) And classic songs by John Barry (Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever hadn’t even been nominated.

Noble failure: The Richard Boone Show

Logo for The Richard Boone Show

On occasion, television shows attempt to punch above their weight. They may not succeed, but they deserve a salute for the effort.

That applies to The Richard Boone Show, which ran for one season (1963-64).

Boone (1917-1981) was at his height of popularity in the early 1960s.

He had starred for six seasons as Paladin in Have Gun — Will Travel. With the end of that popular Western, Boone pretty much could write his own ticket.

The actor was not a typical star. He had quirky tastes. What he wanted to do was the television equivalent of a theater company performing different plays each week.

Boone had a receptive audience in Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. The duo supervised popular game and panel shows such as What’s My Line?, Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth. But they also wanted to break out of the genre.

In that regard, the Goodson-Todman track record was mixed. They produced a Philip Marlowe series that lasted one season. They also produced The Rebel, a Western series that ran for two series today best remembered for a Johnny Cash title song.

Goodson-Todman was determined to turn The Richard Boone Show into a prestige series.

As producer, Goodson and Todman hired Buck Houghton, the producer of the first three seasons of The Twilight Zone. Clifford Odets was brought on as story supervisor, to line up scripts for the new anthology show. Odets, unfortunately, died in August 1963 during production of the series.

For the “company of players,” the regulars included the likes of Harry Morgan, Robert Blake, Jeanette Nolan, Ford Rainey, Lloyd Bocher, Laura Devon, Warren Stevens and other familiar faces on early 1960s television.

Many of the episodes starred Boone, but not all. When Boone wasn’t the lead player, he would portray a secondary character. Meanwhile, the cast had plenty of opportunities to display their acting abilities.

In many ways, the “company of players” was like an actual theater company with the actors playing around with makeup, include bald caps, fake mustaches, putty noses, wigs and such.

In terms of music, the production team hired Henry Mancini to come up with a theme while episodes were scored by composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Fred Steiner and Lalo Schifrin.

Today, in the 21st century, it’s easy to image an undertaking like The Richard Boone Show being televised on Netfilix or Hulu as an original series (depending on the headliner). But, during the 1963-64 series, the series ran for a year before disappearing.

In a commercial sense, the show was a failure. Artistically, it was a noble failure. What follows is the unusual opening and end titles of the show.

 

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.

Salute to Maurice Binder’s non-007 work

The late Maurice Binder is closely associated with the world of James Bond, starting with his gunbarrel logo that began Dr. No to the main titles of 14 007 movies. But Binder did many creative main titles for other films that ought not be overlooked.

Binder did some interesting collaborations with composer Henry Mancini. For example, there was 1963’s Charade:

A few years later, producer-director Stanley Donen again tapped Binder and Mancini for Arabesque:

Finally, there was The Tamarind Seed, one of the few movies directed by Blake Edwards that didn’t have a score by Mancini. Instead, John Barry was hired, with Binder doing the main titles. By coincidence, a number of 007 alumni (director of photography Freddie Young and art director Harry Pottle) also worked on the movie. It began like this:

A Peter Gunn influenced by Maurice Binder?

In 1967, Peter Gunn got the big-screen treatment. Gunn came out six years after the 1958-61 series ended. Craig Stevens even reprised the role, even though all the supporting characters were recast.

Being a movie meant a longer version of the famous Peter Gunn Theme by Henry Mancini. But the main titles may have also been influenced by the main titles that Maurice Binder was doing for the James Bond movies that included a combination of images of women and animation.

Take a look for yourself.

UPDATE: Richard Kuhn, the title designer of Gunn, also did the titles of a 1966 movie based on a television show: