How the U.N.C.L.E. movie changes character backgrounds

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

A little more than a week before its debut, the official website of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie provides a few details about the new backgrounds of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

SOLO’S BACKGROUND now is this:

This top American CIA Special Agent honed his unique skill set dealing stolen art and antiquities on the black market after WWII. It took four nations to catch the super-suave Solo. But instead of serving time, he’s now servicing the CIA.

KURYAKIN’S BACKGROUND now is this:

A dedicated Russian KGB agent, he was the youngest to join its Special Forces and among its best in three years. Despite his heightened abilities and single-minded focus, this generally stoic operative has a volatile side.

There’s also THIS BIO for Gaby Teller, the “innocent” of the film:

Daughter of a vanished German rocket scientist, this whip-smart East Berlin auto mechanic becomes part of the KGB and CIA’s joint efforts to prevent world catastrophe, as their key to infiltrating the international criminal organization holding her father and stopping their plans to proliferate nuclear weapons.

And there’s THIS BIO of the villain of the piece:

A lethal combo of brains, beauty and calculated ambition, Victoria rose from humble beginnings to marry the playboy heir to the Vinciguerra Shipping Company. While her husband is out playing tycoon and making the racing circuit, she’s running his Rome-based empire. A nasty piece of business all around.

Finally, here’s the DESCRIPTION OF THE NEW WAVERLY:

Debonair and unassuming at first glance, Waverly ultimately reveals himself as a significant power broker in the spy business with more than a few things to teach Solo and Kuryakin.

Of those descriptions, the one for Waverly may be the least changed from the original 1964-68 series, despite the fact the part is played by Hugh Grant (who turned 53 during filming of the movie) while the original was played by Leo G. Carroll, who was in his 70s during the series.

5 U.N.C.L.E. TV stories new fans should see before the movie

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure since its last broadcast on Jan. 15, 1968. Yet, seemingly against long odds, a big-screen version comes out on Aug. 14.

There are a lot of new fans — particularly those who are fans of actors Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer — who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to catch the original show. With that in mind, here are five U.N.C.L.E. stories from the 1964-68 series that may enhance the experience of new fans ahead of the film.

These aren’t necessarily the very best episodes. But some have elements in common with the movie. Also, this list is intended to include examples from all four seasons of the show. Stories told over two episodes are listed as a single entry here.

The Quadripartite Affair/The Giuoco Piano Affair: These two episodes were filmed together but presented as separate, but related episodes.

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Quadripartite was the third episode broadcast. It’s also the first episode where Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) function as a team. There’s plenty of good “bits of business” for both characters.

The story involves a power-hungry woman, Gervaise Ravel (Anne Francis), whose lover, Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen), is one of the world’s richest men and who’s more than willing to finance her plans. That’s not unlike the new film, where Elizabeth Debicki, is the lead villain.

Giuoco Piano (the seventh episode broadcast) is even better than Quadripartite, showing how manipulative Solo can be. The title comes from a chess gambit that symbolizes Solo’s plan. If James Bond is the blunt instrument, this story demonstrates how Solo is the sharp operator.

Both episodes were written by Alan Caillou, who did intelligence work for the British in World War II. Think an Ian Fleming, who actually went out into the field. Caillou’s two scripts helped define the Kuryakin character. Sam Rolfe, who wrote the pilot, envisioned Kuryakin as a large, massive man. Caillou provided McCallum with the material so the actor could make Illya his own.

Also, the two episodes were directed by Richard Donner, who’d become an A-list film director in the 1970s.

The Never-Never Affair: Through the first season, the show tried to find the right balance of drama and humor. Never-Never, aired late in the season, became the model for future episodes.

"I can't believe everything that's going on, Illya."

Solo and Illya during the theater shootout in The Never-Never Affair

In the story, Solo feels sorry for U.N.C.L.E. translator Mandy Stevenson (Barbara Feldon), who yearns for an adventure. He sends her to get pipe tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), while telling her she’s acting as a courier. However, she accidentally is given a valuable microdot covered by the villainous organization, Thrush.

The episode includes a memorable set piece, where a Thrush assassin is firing through a movie theater screen at Solo and Kuryakin, who are having to deal with other Thrush operatives. A high percentage of the jokes work, and writer Dean Hargrove would become one of the main scribes of the series. It was the second episode of show helmed by Joseph Sargent, one of the best directors on the series.

The Foxes and Hounds Affair: A breezy episode that aired early in the show’s second season. The new movie’s tone is supposed to be similar to the second season and Foxes and Hounds is one of the season’s better entries.

U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush are both after a mind-reading machine. That’s pretty fantastic, but no more so than what can be seen in a Marvel Studios film of the 21st century. Both Solo and Kuryakin get chances to shine. We also see that Waverly is perfectly capable of being cold blooded. On top of everything else, Vincent Price is a very good villain who has to watch his back for attacks from a rival in Thrush (Patricia Medina).

The Concrete Overcoat Affair: This two-part episode was edited into a movie for international audiences called The Spy in the Green Hat. Thrush has another ambitious plan that U.N.C.L.E. is trying to foil. But some retired gangsters end up becoming involved and act as a wild card.

This ran during the third season, when the drama-humor balance got out of whack in favor of humor. This Joseph Sargent-directed story reins that in to an extent. There’s also a good scene early in Part II where Solo wants to go save Kuryakin but Waverly disapproves. The U.N.C.L.E. chief relents, but only reluctantly. It’s an unusual moment of drama in a season where that was in short supply.

The Test Tube Killer Affair: In the fourth season, new producer Anthony Spinner wanted to dial the humor way back. This episode, early in the season, is one of the better entries produced by Spinner.

Christopher Jones, center, one of Thrush's "test tube" killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Christopher Jones, center, as Greg Martin, in The Test Tube Killer Affair.

Thrush’s Dr. Stoller (Paul Lukas) has been raising young men from childhood to be the perfect killing machines, able to turn their emotions on and off as needed. Stoller’s prize pupil, Greg Martin (Christopher Jones), has been chosen to blow up a dam in Greece. It’s strictly an exercise and the dam has no strategic importance but many will die if Martin succeeds.

Meanwhile, the young killer is highly intelligent — intelligent enough where it appears Solo and Kuryakin may have met their match. The episode has a less-than-happy ending, something not common on the show.

TCM schedules To Trap a Spy for June 13

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

Turner Classics Movie has scheduled a prime time showing ON JUNE 13 at 10:15 p.m. New York time of To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot episode.

The production has an unusual history.

The U.N.C.L.E. pilot was filmed in color. During production in late 1963, there was an internal debate within the production team whether U.N.C.L.E. agent Solo’s first name should be Napoleon. (Academic Cynthia W. Walker has written about this subject IN HER BOOK ABOUT THE SERIES.)

In the actual pilot, originally titled Solo, Robert Vaughn’s character is only called Solo. In the pilot, as originally filmed, the end titles said, “Starring Robert Vaughn as Solo.”

According to a timeline researched and compiled by Craig Henderson, additional footage was filmed March 31 through April 2, 1964, to turn the pilot into a feature film. The footage includes Luciana Paluzzi playing a femme fatale named Angela. Her character is very similar to the Fiona Volpe character she’d play a year later in Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

In that footage, Solo introduces himself to Angela as “Napoleon Solo.” Evidently, by the spring of 1964, the internal debate about the agent’s name had been settled in favor of the moniker bestowed upon him by Ian Fleming, the creator of 007.

In the end, Solo becomes a series, but under the title The Man From U.N.C.L.E. To Trap a Spy initially is shown in international markets, but with U.N.C.L.E.’s popularity, it is shown in the United States in 1966 as part of a double feature with The Spy With My Face, another movie based on an U.N.C.L.E. episode with additional footage.

U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, Norman Felton, was nothing if not thrifty. A tamer version of the Luciana Paluzzi footage shows up in a first-season episode that aired in the spring of 1965 called The Four-Steps Affair. It also includes some of the extra footage used in The Spy With My Face.

Another curiosity: in To Trap a Spy, the name of the villainous organization is changed from “Thrush” to “Wasp.” If you watch closely, you can see the actors saying “Thrush” with “Wasp” on the audio track. To Trap a Spy also includes the original U.N.C.L.E. boss, Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison. With the pilot, scenes were reshot with Leo G. Carroll playing Mr. Waverly, Solo’s new superior.

Regardless, To Trap a Spy is the first “official” U.N.C.L.E. movie. TCM has shown the film previously, but usually nowhere near prime-time.

1966: The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.’s (reverse) Skyfall preview

Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison in a Girl From U.N.C.L.E. publicity still

Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison in a Girl From U.N.C.L.E. publicity still

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., a one-season spinoff of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., is known for being a frothy, overly cute take on the spy genre. But it has one thing else: a preview, in reverse, of Skyfall’s pre-credits sequence.

GFU: In the pre-credits sequence of The Lethal Eagle Affair, the 11th of 29 Girl episodes, lead character April Dancer (Stefanie Powers) is in peril, tied atop a car. Her sidekick, Mark Slate (Noel Harrison), is keeping her under observation. Slate is in constant communication with U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll).

Skyfall: In the pre-credits sequence, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is fighting an assassin atop a train. His sidekick, agene Eve (Naomie Harris) has frantically driven ahead and stops, keeping 007 under observation. Eve is in constant communication with MI6 chief M (Judi Dench).

GFU: An eagle is released by the bad guys and is descending rapidly toward April Dancer. Slate has the eagle in his gun sights and asks Waverly for permission to fire.

Skyfall: Eve has Bond and the assassin in her sights but doesn’t have a clean shot.

GFU: Waverly refuses Slate’s request to open fire. “You are there to observe,” Waverly says. He comes across as a bit cold blooded, which is the intent.

Skyfall: M tells Eve to blast away. “Take the bloody shot!” She comes across as a bit cold blooded, which is the intent.

The television episode is still a much lighter outing compared to the 2012 James Bond film and doesn’t have much else in common. But it’s still amusing to watch the U.N.C.L.E. episode play out compared to the Skyfall pre-credits sequence.

February 2013 post: 1968: I SPY PREVIEWS SKYFALL’S CLIMAX.

Spring 1964: U.N.C.L.E. gets a new chief

Leo G. Carroll's title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

Leo G. Carroll’s title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

With less than a month before regular series production began, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had some tweaks, both major and minor.

Superficially, star Robert Vaughn changed his hairstyle, switching his part and going for more of a “dry look” compared to the pilot that would air as the first episode.

More substantively, U.N.C.L.E. would have a new chief: Leo G. Carroll, a mainstay of several Alfred Hitchcock films, was cast as Alexander Waverly, replacing Will Kuluva’s Mr. Allison.

Carroll was three decades older than Kuluva. He had two basic on-screen personas: kind and bumbling (the 1955 comedy We’re No Angels or the Topper television series) or cold and calculating (“The Professor” in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest).

Occasionally, he got to a character where he displayed *both* personas (such as THIS EPISODE of the Boris Karloff Thriller anthology series where his character’s seeming bumbling masked his true persona).

Here’s an entry from Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE:

Monday, May 18, 1964

(Executive Producer Norman) Felton officially informs NBC that (Rober) Vaughn and (David) McCallum will remain to play running characters but Will Kuluva has been dropped. The new chief at U.N.C.L.E. will be played by Leo G. Carroll, and the character’s name has changed from Allison to Alexander Waverly.

Arguably, Carroll’s Waverly is an extension of his “Professor” character. Waverly is calculating and, as the series went on, showed he was more than willing to sacrifice his operatives if necessary. In one second-season episode (The Foxes and Hounds Affair), Waverly drops Solo (just returning from a vacation) into the middle of a complicated assignment where the ace agent’s life is in danger.

The official casting of the new U.N.C.L.E. chief came less than two weeks before series production began on June 1. The first draft for The Double Affair, which would be the eighth episode broadcast, still refers to Allison as the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

As the first season unfolded, the production team would seek to expand Carroll’s role. Waverly would be given a cousin who bore an uncanny resemblance (The Bow-Wow Affair) and would occasionally demonstrate he had once been a pretty mean operative himself (knocking out a lackey in The Deadly Decoy Affair).

The on-camera team was now complete. The question now was whether the show would work — or even survive.

A modest proposal for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Introduction used in episodes 2-7 of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Introduction used in early U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

Not that director Guy Ritchie would ask this blog’s opinion, but here’s a modest proposal for a way to end his movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

A caveat: this suggestion presupposes that Ritchie’s movie won’t be really, really dark and have Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) or Illya Kuraykin (Armie Hammer) killed off with the villains winning.

In many movies today, there isn’t a proper main titles. Instead, everything comes at the end. Also, Ritchie’s film, co-written by the director and writer-producer Lionel Wigram, has an “origin of U.N.C.L.E.” plot line. Therefore, why not adapt the introduction used in early episodes of the 1964-68 series to get viewers familiar with the characters and format?

Specifically, an announcer begins, “In New York City…on a street in the East Forties…there’s an ordinary tailor shop. Or is it ordinary?” Stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum go through the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Eventually, Solo and Kuryakin (and boss Alexander Waverly, played by Leo G. Carroll), break the fourth wall and explain what U.N.C.L.E. is.

In the movie, viewers will have seen the U.S. and Soviet Union join forces, in the person of Cavill’s Solo and Hammer’s Kurykin, to (presumably) defeat a larger menace. Your could have the screen go dark for a second, then come up again with the now permanent allies re-enacting the Vaughn-McCallum opening (along with Hugh Grant as the new Waverly), followed by Jerry Goldsmith’s theme and the credits. It would hint of adventures to come (particularly if the movie is a financial success).

Anyway, just something to thing about. Here’s how the original opening worked, the last time it was used in The Giuoco Piano Affair, the seventh episode broadcast on NBC.

U.N.C.L.E. movie to start filming Sept. 9, Warner Bros. says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

Warner Bros. said today that a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will begin on Monday, Sept. 9. The primary bit of news: Hugh Grant will play U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly, the role originated by Leo G. Carroll in the 1964-68 series.

An excerpt of THE PRESS RELEASE:

BURBANK, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Principal photography will begin on September 9 on Warner Bros. Pictures’ “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” The film is the first to be made under filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s and producer Lionel Wigram’s new production shingle, Ritchie/Wigram Productions, which has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Having successfully re-imagined the classic detective Sherlock Holmes in two hit films, the pair now bring their fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series by bringing super spies Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin to the big screen.

Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) as Illya Kuryakin, alongside stars Alicia Vikander (“Anna Karenina”), Elizabeth Debicki (“The Great Gatsby”), Jared Harris (“Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”), and Hugh Grant (“Cloud Atlas”) as Waverly.
(snip)
Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

The screenplay is written by Ritchie and Wigram, who also serve as producers. John Davis (“Chronicle”) and Steve Clark-Hall (“RocknRolla,” the “Sherlock Holmes” films) are also producing. David Dobkin is executive producer.

Grant, who turns 53 on Sept. 9, is more than 20 years younger than Carroll was when the series started production. The pilot episode originally had an U.N.C.L.E. chief named Mr. Allison played by Will Kuluva. Executive producer Norman Felton opted to recast and rename the role. For the broadcast version of the pilot, Carroll re-filmed a series originally done by Kuluva. The movie version of the pilot, To Trap a Spy, uses the Kuluva footage.

Besides specifying that Grant has the Waverly role is that Jared Harris, who played Professor Moriarty in one of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films is also in the cast.

A number of crew members were also listed, including director of photography John Mathieson and editor James Herbert. Not mentioned is who will be the movie’s composer.

Also, the press release confirms that this is will be an “origin” story. In the original series, a few hints of the background of Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Kuryakin (David McCallum) were provided but not many.

More questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Gradually, details are emerging about the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that’s scheduled to start filming next month. But there are still plenty of unanswered questions about director Guy Ritchie’s project. Here are a few.

Who will be playing some key roles? The leads have been cast, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer playing Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the U.N.C.L.E. operatives played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the 1964-68 television series. Three other actors, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Hugh Grant, are slated for other roles.

There’s still no word on who will play Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. leader played by Leo G. Carroll in the series. If a primary villain has been cast, it hasn’t been announced. Perhaps there will be some answers as filming begins.

Who will be the composer? Key crew members have emerged, according to the movie’s IMDB.COM ENTRY. John Mathieson, who has photographed films such as Gladiator, The Phantom of the Opera and X-Men: First Class, is listed as director of photography. James Herbert, who edited both of Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes movies, will perform the same task here.

Still no word on a composer. Hans Zimmer worked on Ritchie’s Holmes films and has composed music for various action movies. Thus, Zimmer would seem to be a candidates. But he’s already scheduled to do other 2014 films, according to his IMDB.com entry. Michael Giacchino and David Arnold, the five-time 007 composer, would seem to be among suitable choices. Giacchino also has a busy plate with films scheduled to be released next year.

The U.N.C.L.E. Special

The U.N.C.L.E. Special

Will there be new versions of key U.N.C.L.E. props? The U.N.C.L.E. Special, a handgun with attachments, was one of the distinctive props on the original show. The Special is even the subject of a Web site, THEUNCLEGUN.COM. Also, the U.N.C.L.E. agents used communicators initially disguised as a pack of cigarettes, later as a pen.

Presumably, Ritchie & Co. will want their own versions of such key props. The movie is to be a period piece so it’ll be interesting to see if revamped U.N.C.L.E. Specials and communicators will be based on what was available in the 1960s.

Will there be a new U.N.C.L.E. logo? Again, assuming Ritchie & Co. want their own look, a revised U.N.C.L.E. insignia would be a possibility. The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had its own insignia when it came out in 1983.

Is it going to be any good? That’s the biggest question of all.

11 questions about a Tom Cruise U.N.C.L.E. movie

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Warner Bros. is in early talks about Tom Cruise starring in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., according to the Deadline: Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter Web sites. But there’s been no studio confirmation. That’s understandable if they’re in negotiations.

Still, the development raises a number of questions in our mind. So, in honor of the No. 11 badge Napoleon Solo wore at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, here are 11 of them.

1. Would Cruise play Napoleon Solo? No idea. Neither Deadline nor The Hollywood Reporter provided that information in their stories this week. When Cruise started his Mission: Impossible movies in 1996, he didn’t play a character from the original show. He played a new character, Ethan Hunt. The first movie turned Jim Phelps, the character played by Peter Graves in the original television series, into a villain.

2. He wouldn’t do that again, would he? Who knows? With Mission: Impossible, Cruise also doubled as producer. The current project is being headed up by Guy Ritchie, assigned by Warner Bros. after Steven Soderbergh bowed out of a possible U.N.C.L.E. movie in late 2011. Pulling the same trick twice, might seem tacky. Then again, Cruise might play a new character even if they don’t make Solo a villain.

3. If Cruise does play Solo, who plays Illya Kuryakin? That depends on the answer to question 1. It also depends on how big a role Kuryakin (if the character does appear) has in the movie.

4. How are long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans taking this? From our sampling, not that well, Earlier this week, we checked out the hashtag #manfromuncle on Twitter and the more vocal fans were quite annoyed, with at least one freely using swear words.

5. What are some of the fan complaints? A recurring one is that Cruise, 50, is too old. Robert Vaughn was 30 when he began filming the series pilot and celebrated his 31st birthday while the pilot was in production. Vaughn was 50 when The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie aired in April 1983, which featured an aging Solo who returns to action 15 years after leaving the international intelligence agency.

6. Is that reaction surprising? No. Fans had the same complaint when George Clooney, born a year earlier than Cruise, was first mentioned as Soderbergh’s preferred choice for Solo. Same complaint, different actor.

7. What does this week’s news tell you about this possible movie? It indicates that Warner Bros. believes U.N.C.L.E. won’t work without a big name star. Some properties work with a relative unknown. The 1978 version of Superman was a hit with unknown Christopher Reeve in the title role, though Warners hedged its bet by having Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. The 2002 Spider-Man movie had Tobey Maguire in the title role. But Superman and Spider-Man have been continuously published for decades and the public is more aware of them than U.N.C.L.E.

8. Let’s say Cruise does play Solo, Solo stays a hero and Cruise does a good job. Would there be any fan issues then? Not initially, but it does raise the question whether you can build a multi-movie franchise with an actor in his 50s — unless, of course, he’s really playing Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief played by Leo G. Carroll in the original show. But that wouldn’t seem likely.

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo


9. Is there a bright side to this week’s news? Yes. For a day or so, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a hot topic on the Internet. On Yahoo, it was the number one topic after the two stories hit and other entertainment Web sites weighed in. The show went off the air in January 1968 and there has been no official U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 television movie. Suddenly, U.N.C.L.E. was a hot topic again, at least for a bit.

10. What are the odds of this becoming reality? For now, the odds are against it but only because studios release fewer movies than they did even a decade ago. Until filming begins, nothing is certain.

11. What’s your opinion? We’re trying not to think about it until there’s something to think about. There was a LONG SOAP OPERA when Soderbergh’s project was underway and we posted a lot about it. This time out (this post notwithstanding), we’d prefer to hold back until things are more certain.

11 U.N.C.L.E. facts for fans of Mad Men

Thanks to a clip shown on the most recent episode, fans of AMC’s Mad Men series have either discovered or re-discovered The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So here are 11 U.N.C.L.E. facts for fans of the show. Why 11? Check out reason No. 1:

1. Napoleon Solo, the title character of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. wore badge 11 while at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Fellow agent Illya Kuryakin’s badge number was 2 and Alexander Waverly, Number One of Section One, apparently first among equals of U.N.C.L.E.’s five regional headquarters, wore the No. 1 badge.

2. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was involved with U.N.C.L.E. for a short time. He contributed the character names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer. Under pressure from 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, he bailed out of the project and signed away any rights for one British pound.

3. U.N.C.L.E. has no “created by” credit but Sam Rolfe received a “developed by” credit. He wrote the pilot script and produced the first season of Man (including The Hong Kong Shilling Affiar, the episode shown on the Aug. 22 episode of Mad Men).

4. While Rolfe created Illya Kuryakin, Number Two of Section Two (Operations and Enforcement, where Solo was Number One of Section Two), the character was refined, and perhaps even defined, by writer Alan Caillou (1914-2006), who wrote seven Man episodes including the first with significant Illya time (The Quadripartite Affair), the first Illya-centric episode (The Bow-Wow Affair) and two episodes where he also appeared as an actor (The Terbuf Affair and The Tigers Are Coming Affair) He bailed out during the second season, a loss for the series.

5. Man was threatened with cancellation in its first season. It initially aired on NBC Tuesday nights and couldn’t overcome Red Skelton’s variety show on CBS. Midway through the first season, it got moved to Monday nights (which incuded the episode seen on Mad Men) and ratings improved. It also helped that Goldfinger, which had its U.S. premier in the U.S. in December 1964, boosted the market for spy-related entertainment.

6. NBC was keen for a spinoff featuring an U.N.C.L.E. woman agent even if Man stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were hostile to it. Thus, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. was born, running just one season, 1966-67.

7. Man’s best season for ratings was its second campaign, the 1965-66 season, when it aired at 10 p.m. Fridays on NBC>

8. NBC twice pre-empted Man to show specials (The Incredible World of James Bond and Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond) promoting the James Bond movies Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. That’s ironic, because Broccoli and Saltzman had previously sued to try to prevent Man from ever going on the air, claiming that the dashing Napoleon Solo would be mistaken for the gangster Mr. Solo, who got killed by Oddjob in the film version of Goldfinger.

9. The papers of Man executive producer Norman Felton (b. 1913) and veteran Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) are both stored at the University of Iowa.

10. Man, a little more than three years after its debut, was canceled, with its last episode appearing in January 1968. The very next week, on Jan. 22, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in debuted featuring Leo G. Carroll, in character as U.N.C.L.E. boss Mr. Waverly.

11. There have been various attempts at an U.N.C.L.E. revival: a 1977 project featuring a Sam Rolfe script that was never filmed; an early 1980s project intended as a feature film in which Bond production designer Ken Adam was interested in doing the sets; and a 2005 (or so) project where the producer involved was found by a jury of being guilty of fraud.

The only revival project to actually be produced, to date, was a 1983 television movie called The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair, which aired on CBS but didn’t result in a new series. The cast included George Lazenby, the one-time 007, as “JB,” a British spy who comes to the aid of Napoleon Solo in Las Vegas.

To look at various other ties between U.N.C.L.E. and 007, just CLICK HERE, in which you’ll see a photograph of a famous actor who just celebrated his 80th birthday and another Scotsman who was seen on the Mad Men episode.

To see many, many stills from The Hong Shilling Affair episode shonw on Mad Men, you can CLICK HERE.