Dominic Frontiere, prolific TV composer, dies

Dominic Frontiere’s title card for Probe, the TV movie that resulted in the Search TV series.

Dominic Frontiere, a busy television composer for series such as 12 O’Clock High and The Invaders, has died at 86, according to a funeral notice in the Los Angeles Times.

Frontiere had a long association with television producer Leslie Stevens. The two were collaborators on the series Stoney Burke, The Outer Limits, the first season of The Name of the Game and Search. Frontiere was a production executive, as well as composer, for Stevens’ Daystar Productions.

After the end of The Outer Limits, Frontiere (along with other Daystar alumni) landed at QM Productions. Frontiere was the main composer for QM’s 12 O’Clock High. He also conducted music for other QM shows such as The FBI during its first two seasons.

While still at Daystar, Frontiere scored an unsold pilot titled The Unknown. That would be shown as an Outer Limits episode. Frontiere’s Unknown theme would be used as the theme for QM’s The Invaders.

Dominic Frontiere’s title card for an episode of The Name of the Game that was produced his long-time collaborator, Leslie Stevens.

Frontiere later worked on the 1977 mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors as well as the TV series such as The Rat Patrol, Vega$ and Matt Houston.

Frontiere also got into the legal trouble. He was married to Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams.

Dominic Frontiere ” pleaded guilty to charges that he willfully filed a false income tax return and lied to Internal Revenue Service investigators to cover up his role in scalping” tickets to the 1980 Super Bowl, according to a 1986 story by the Los Angeles Times. 

UPDATE (9:45 P.M.): Jon Burlingame has written a more detailed obituary for Frontiere in VARIETY. 

1963: The Outer Limits tackles espionage

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon

The Outer Limits is one of the leading examples of a cult television show. It only lasted a season and a half on ABC. In fact a revival on cable television lasted seven years (1995-2002), far longer than the orignal.

Yet, the first version, created by Leslie Stevens, remains fondly remembered. The anthology series emphasized science fiction, although the first season usually featured “the Bear,” the production crew’s nickname for a monster.

The show’s second episode, The Hundred Days of the Dragon, mixed espionage and science fiction, but with no “bear.”

An Asian nation hostile to U.S. interests has developed a serum that turns human tissue pliable for short period of time. The nation’s leader, Li-Chin Sung (Richard Loo) intends to make use of the scientific breakthrough.

One of the nation’s operatives has the same physical dimensions as William Lyons Selby (Sidney Blackmer), the leading American candidate for president who is almost certain to be elected. The operative has even had a finger removed because Selby lost a finger in a hunting accident.

The serum is injected into the operative. Once his skin becomes pliable, a mold of Selby’s face is pressed upon his face. The agent can now pass for the American candidate. Naturally, he’s already had voice training and can mimic Selby’s voice.

Later, in the United States, the agent assassinates Selby. He uses the serum on Selby and uses a mold to make him look like someone else. The agent again ingests the serum to make him look like Selby.

Selby’s double is elected president. Eventually, the new vice president, Ted Pearson (Philip Pine), suspects something is up. The double intends to replace other U.S. with doubles.

The episode was written by Allan Balter and Robert Mintz. Balter would form a partnership with William Read Woodfield and the pair would write key episodes during the first three episodes of Mission: Impossible.

When first broadcast on Sept. 23, 1963, viewers no doubt felt they had just watched some escapist television. Less than two months later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated for real, although no science fiction serum was involved.

Looking back, the main weakness of the episode is the ease the operative assassinates Selby. There should have been a lot more security around. Still, for its day, The Hundred Days of the Dragon is suspenseful and sells you on the science fiction involved.

Vice President Pearson gets revenge for the operative who assassinated Selby.

Vice President Pearson gets revenge for the killing of Selby.

At the end, the conspiracy has been broken. We see another apprehended agent who looks exactly like Vice President Pearson. U.S. officials also now have samples of the serum.

Pearson injects Selby’s double one more time with the serum. In an act of vengeance, Pearson disfigures the killer’s face.

However, Pearson’s vengeance only goes so far. A military aide tells the now-president a nuclear strike can be made immediately. Pearson declines, because it would only start a war with no victors.

One of the highlights of the episode was the score by Dominic Frontiere, composer for the first season and a production executive for the series. More than a half-century later, The Hundred Days of the Dragon remains a memorable entry for The Outer Limits.

Hugh O’Brian dies at 91

TV Guide cover with the stars of Search, Hugh O'Brian (lower right), Tony Franciosa, middle, and Doug McClure, top

TV Guide cover with the stars of Search, Hugh O’Brian (lower right), Tony Franciosa (middle), and Doug McClure (top).

Actor Hugh O’Brian died at age 91, according to an obituary posted by the Los Angeles Times.

O’Brian was best known for starring in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, a 1955-61 television series. But he also made a try at a spy-related show, Search, which ran on NBC during the 1972-73 season.

Search concerned a private organization, the World Securities Corp. Its operatives were equipped with the (then) latest high-tech gear, including miniature cameras that enabled operations chief Cameron (Burgess Meredith) to stay in contact constantly.

O’Brian starred in the two-hour TV movie pilot, titled Probe, as Hugh Lockwood, the top agent for World Securities. It was written and produced by Leslie Stevens, who had also created The Outer Limits television series.

When the now-titled Search went to series, the format was changed so the show rotated O’Brian, Tony Franciosa and Doug McClure as World Securities operatives. Meredith, as the cranky Cameron, was the one constant.

The initial day-to-day producer was Robert H. Justman, who had been associate producer on the original Star Trek series. Anthony Spinner, producer of the fourth season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was the story editor.

Justman departed before the end of the season and Spinner, who was a veteran at QM Productions, took command. Meanwhile the show’s roster of writers includes the likes of Norman Hudis, Irv Pearlberg and Richard Landau, who had all contributed to 1960s spy shows.

Search is available from Warner Archive. Here’s a preview clip of an episode featuring O’Brian.

Gone (and mostly forgotten): The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Over the weekend, on a Facebook group, there interesting give and take about a television series that doesn’t get much attention these days: The Name of the Game.

The 1968-71 series consisted of 90-minute episodes dealing with three major figures at a magazine publishing company: its proprietor, Glenn Howard (Gene Barry); a top reporter/writer, Jeff Dillon (Tony Franciosa); and Dan Farrell, an FBI agent turned journalist (Robert Stack). Universal dubbed this the “wheel,” with rotating leads. Susan St. James as Peggy Maxwell would end up assisting all three.

The “wheel” concept would become a staple at Universal with the NBC Mystery Movie in the 1970s.

There’s a bit of spy connection. During the series, there was an episode that revealed Glenn Howard worked for the OSS during World War II. The episode concerned accusations by a Washington politician that Howard used an OSS operation to obtain the funds he’d use to start his publishing empire.

Essentially, Glenn Howard was a younger, handsomer version of Henry Luce (1898-1967), who founded Time, Life, Fortune and Sports llustrated. Like Luce, Glenn Howard was an influential man and traveled the globe.

The series had its origins with Fame Is the Name of the Game, a 1966 TV movie starring Franciosa as Jeff Dillon.

That TV movie also included George Macready as Glenn Howard, Dillon’s boss. But when NBC decided on a series, either Universal, NBC, or both, decided they needed a better known actor. As a result, Gene Barry, who had already done at least two Universal TV movies by this point, got the nod.

The Name of the Game attempted to deal with contemporary issues: the environment, race relations, corruption.

Over time, the 90-minute format fell out of favor for television syndication. The preferred formats are either 30 or 60 minutes or two hours. As a result, The Name of the Game is not seen very much these days. The show ran 76 episodes — hardly a flop, but syndicators usually prefer at least 100 episodes.

Nevertheless, a number of talented people worked on the show. Among them was Steven Spielberg, who directed a third-season Glenn Howard episode about environmental dangers. That episode, LA 2017, has a Twilight Zone quality. Did Howard really travel into the future or what it just a dream?

Other crew members included Norman Lloyd (producer of some Franciosa episodes), Dean Hargrove (a writer-producer who worked on Glenn Howard episodes), Steven Bochco (who was story editor for the Robert Stack episodes the last two seasons) and Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits who produced the first-season Franciosa episodes.

The show also featured a snappy theme by Dave Grusin, seen below:

Search now available on home video

Search's main title logo

Search’s main title logo

Search, a spy-ish series that lasted only one season on NBC, is now available on home video in the U.S. through Warner Archive, Warner Bros.’s manufactured on demand arm.

The show ran during the 1972-73 season and featured the exploits of operatives of the World Securities Corp. Here’s an excerpt of the series description:

Hugh O’Brian, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosa rotate leads as elite high tech espionage operatives for Probe Division of World Securities Corporation in this spy-sensational SF-flavored actioner… Each agent, dubbed a “Probe”, is wired up for worldwide surveillance thanks to their Scanners (miniature video cams) and dental/ ear implants. Tracking their telemetry and giving real-time mission advice is the team of specialists gathered together at Probe Control under the direction of the brilliant, irascible V.C.R. Cameron (Burgess Meredith). O’Brian plays Lockwood, Probe One, ex-astronaut and lead agent, McClure plays CR Grover, Standby Probe, brilliant beachcomber goofball and Franciosa plays Nick Bianco, Omega Probe, street savvy ex-NYC cop tasked with organized crime capers.

The series was created by Leslie Stevens, who had created The Outer Limits. The pilot was a television movie called Probe, but either Warner Bros. (which made the series) or NBC decided Search was a more appealing name.

Members of the production team had previously worked on the original Star Trek series and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert H. Justman, who had been associate producer on Trek (and had worked on The Outer Limits as well) was producer of the first half of the series. Anthony Spinner, the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. producer was initially the story editor and took over as producer.

The price is $49.95 and you can find more information on ordering by CLICKING HERE.