Some Rod Taylor spy movies on TCM early Friday

Rod Taylor from the main titles of the Masquerade television series.

Friday, Aug. 18, is Rod Taylor day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. And some of Taylor’s spy movies will be part of the proceedings.

As an aside, TCM’s programming day starts at 6 a.m. New York time. The spy movies start early. Sorry for the late notice, but the Spy Commander just found out himself.

6 a.m.: 36 Hours, World War II espionage movie. Germans kidnap an American officer (James Garner). They make him think World War II is over to trick him out of information about the invasion of Europe. Taylor plays the German performing the deception. Based on a story by Roald Dahl.

8 a.m.: The Liquidator. Rod Taylor as John Gardner’s Boysie Oakes. Music by Lalo Schifrin and a title song performed by Shirley Bassey.

10 a.m.: The Glass Bottom Boat, a Doris Day comedy involving spies seeking secrets from a Tony Stark-like character played by Taylor. Cameo by Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo.

Leslie H. Martinson, versatile director, dies at 101

Cover to the Fathom soundtrack

Cover to the Fathom soundtrack

Leslie H. Martinson, a versatile director who mostly worked in television, has died at 101, according to an obituary published by The New York Times.

Martinson’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 108 directing credits, from 1953 through 1989. Besides TV, he also directed some movies, including the 1966 Batman feature based on the Adam West television show and 1963’s PT 109, with Cliff Robertson playing John F. Kennedy as a U.S. Naval officer in World War II.

Naturally, with a resume that long, Martinson dabbled in spy entertainment.

Another one of his movie credits was 1967’s Fathom, Raquel Welch’s entry into the 1960s spy craze. It also featured a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and main titles designed by Maurice Binder, and prominently feature the movie’s star.

What’s more, Martinson directed nine episodes of the original Mission: Impossible series. Those episodes ran during the show’s later seasons.

The director worked at various studios. He was in demand at Warner Bros. in the late 1950s and early ’60s, directing episodes of the studio’s detective (77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside 6) and western (Maverick, Lawman, Cheyenne) series.

In the latter category, Martinson directed a particularly amusing Maverick installment, Gun-Shy,  which was a parody of the hugely popular CBS western Gunsmoke.

In Gun-Shy, Bret Maverick (James Garner) keeps running afoul of Marshal Mort Dooley. Maverick is repeatedly thrown out of town by Dooley. But Bret, trying to find buried riches, keeps coming back. Writer Marion Hargrove even threw in a joke referencing another CBS western, Have Gun-Will Travel.

Eventually, Bret has to face off against Dooley in a gunfight. But Maverick outsmarts the marshal by staying just outside the range of the lawman’s pistol. Martinson staged the sequence as a send-up of the opening of Gunsmoke where Marshal Matt Dillon faced off against a gunfighter.

1964: Flint before there was Flint

Publicity still from The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Publicity still from The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Fifty-one years ago, James Coburn played a suave, womanizing character.

However, it wasn’t Derek Flint from Our Man Flint. That film wouldn’t be released until January 1966. Rather, it was a publicity still for The Americanization of Emily, which came out in 1964.

The ’64 movie was a light movie that took on heavy topics, thanks to screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. James Garner and Julie Andrews were the leads but Coburn made a big impression in a secondary role.

In the publicity still for the movie, Coburn evokes the Flint character he’d soon portray. Take a look for yourself.

James Garner dies at 86

James Garner

James Garner

James Garner, an actor at home playing drama, comedy or a combination of both, died July 19 at 86, according to AN ASSOCIATED PRESS OBITUARY on the Los Angeles Times website. (UPDATE: You can view The New York Times obit BY CLICKING HERE.)

The Oklahoma-born Garner was best known for the 1950s Western television series Maverick and the 1970s detective show The Rockford Files. Garner’s Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford preferred to outwit rather than outfight adversaries. But neither character was to be taken lightly and could handle themselves in a variety of situations.

In both series, Garner & Co. weren’t afraid to poke fun at their genres.

One Maverick episode, “Gun-Shy,” was a parody of Gunsmoke, as Marshal Mort Dooley keeps running Maverick out of town. A sixth-season Rockford Files, “Nice Guys Finish Dead,” has Rockford instructing would-be a private eye on the art of smiling and sucker punching opponent. Meanwhile, ace private investigator Lance White (Tom Selleck) is aghast, saying a proper detective begins a fight by saying, “Put up your dukes!”

In the end, Lance White corners the villain, says, “Put up your dukes!” and knocks him out with one punch.

Garner was popular enough in both roles he participated in revivals: a one-season series called Bret Maverick in the early 1980s and a series of Rockford Files television movies in the 1990s.

The actor had plenty of other work, with other highlights including The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Grand Prix (where he did much of his own racecar driving), Marlowe and Support Your Local Gunfighter.

Here’s an excerpt of a long interview Garner did about his career. It concerns the early days of The Rockford Files.

1975: ABC (with 007) and CBS (with Hawaii Five-O) try to knock off NBC’s The Rockford Files

September 1975 featured an interesting faceoff between the three U.S. commercial television networks. Both ABC and CBS wanted to try to knock off NBC’s Friday line-up, which was anchored by the private-eye show The Rockford Files.

ABC’s main programming for the evening was a new ABC Friday Night Movie. Most would be made-for-television movies. But not the debut. That honor would go to the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, which was being shown on television for the first time. ABC, as it typically did, made a number of trims, such as the joke told by comedian/diamond smuggler Shady Tree, that trying to find Willard Whyte “was like trying to find a virgin in a maternity ward.”

Over on CBS, the evening was comprised of a one-hour episode of M*A*S*H, which featured the introduction of Mike Farrell’s B.J. Hunnicut character, and a two-hour Hawaii Five-O story featuring another faceoff between Steve McGarrett and his arch-nemesis, international spy/bad guy Wo Fat.

It was quite an evening for lovers of adventure TV. CBS and ABC were unsuccessful, however. Rockford remained on the air (both it and Five-O had new episodes until 1980).

We’re reminded of this because, the 8th season of Five-O, which includes the Wo Fat episode called “Murder — Eyes Only,” came out this week and is available for sale. The set also features another spy-oriented story called Termionation With Extreme Prejudice,” which features the excellent character actor Dan O’Herlihy, directed by his brother, Michael O’Herlihy, one of the most frequent Five-O directors.