George M. Lehr, key U.N.C.L.E. lieutenant, dies

The shadow of George M. Lehr, who at the time had the title of assistant to the producer, as part of a main title sequence during the first season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

George M. Lehr, a key lieutenant in the production of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., has died, according to family members and fans of the show posting on social media. He was 87.

Lehr’s initial title on U.N.C.L.E. was assistant to producer. In the capacity, he was a jack of all trades.

Lehr was, “for all intents and purposes, the third member of the (Norman) Felton-(Sam) Rolfe team,” Jon Heitland wrote in his 1987 book about U.N.C.L.E. “He undertook a myriad of duties on the show, including all postproduction work.”

That covers quite a bit of ground, from film editing to music scoring. That meant that Lehr touched a lot of bases with accomplished professionals.

U.N.C.L.E. was produced at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where John Dunning (1916-1991), who won an Oscar for Ben-Hur, was the supervising editor. Franklin Milton (1907-1985), another Ben-Hur Oscar winner, was the recording supervisor.

Lehr even appeared on-screen, in a fashion. Starting with the eighth episode, The Double Affair, the main titles began with the shadow of an attacker inside U.N.C.L.E. headquarters who fires a gun at Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn). This would last through the end of the first season. Lehr provided that shadow.

During the second half of the show’s second season, Lehr got a promotion to associate producer (which meant a bigger credit in the end titles), a recognition of his contributions. For the 1966-67 season, he held the same title at The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (sharing it with Max Hodge).

After that series was canceled following its only season, he rejoined Man’s crew for its final campaign for the 1967-68 season, again with the title of associate producer. Lehr was around for the entire development of U.N.C.L.E.

“(H)e also helped to create the…”whip pan” by inserting blurred images between scenes,” Cynthia W. Walker wrote in Work/Text Investigating The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The “whip pan” was used as a transition and a key part of the show’s look.

George M. Lehr’s title card (shared with Irv Pearlberg) in a fourth-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Lehr’s silhouette from U.N.C.L.E.’s first season has surfaced on the cover of the Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. mini-series published by DC Comics. The silhouette is altered slightly to make it appear that of an U.N.C.L.E. agent.

Post-U.N.C.L.E., Lehr worked on series includes Bracken’s World (a drama about a movie studio), Police Woman and Masquerade. The latter, created by Glen Larson, combined elements of U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible.

Lehr also attended The Golden Anniversary Affair, a 2014 fan gathering in Southern California to mark U.N.C.L.E.’s 50th anniversary.

On a more personal note, Lehr sent me this 2011 note via Facebook (it was a direct message). He had seen my website, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide.

“Reading your site, I now recall you as the individual who established one of the original internet sites. After all these years still amazed there are UNCLE fans out there almost as old as Norman (Felton) and I are. I would guess that’s probably because fans like you are still out there “beating the bushes”! And we are all grateful.”

UPDATE (March 17): An obituary listing for George Lehr is online. You can view it by CLICKING HERE.

Actor Rod Taylor dies

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

Rod Taylor from the main titles of Masquerade.

Rod Taylor, who often had leading man parts in 1960s and ’70s films and dabbled in spy roles, has died at 84, according to an obituary in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The Australian-born Taylor actually had a varied career, including the lead role in 1960’s The Time Machine and Hitchcock’s The Birds as well as his voiceover work in 101 Dalmatians.

But spy-related entertainment was also part of his resume.

He played Boysie Oakes in 1965’s The Liquidator, based on a novel by John Gardner, who’d later write James Bond continuation novels.

In 1983, Taylor played mysterious spymaster Lavender in Masquerade, a Glen Larson-created series. In each episode, Lavender would recruit a team of “innocents” to take on the KGB and other menances. For helping out, each participant in a mission would be paid one year’s salary. The show didn’t catch on and lasted only 13 episodes on ABC.

In later years, Taylor took on character roles. His last role was Winston Churchill in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds.

Glen A. Larson’s forays into spy television

It Takes a Thief Logo

Glen A. Larson, a prolific writer-producer of U.S. television shows, died Nov. 14, according to AN OBITUARY IN THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Obits for the 77-year-old Larson, centered on how he created shows such as Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica and The Fall Guy. But he also dabbled in the spy genre.

One of Larson’s first major credits was first as associate producer, then producer of It Takes a Thief, the 1968-70 spy series starring Robert Wagner. Thief was one of the last entries in the 1960s spy craze on U.S. television. Wagner played a thief employed by a U.S. intelligence agency to steal secrets from enemies of the U.S. government. Larson ended up writing 17 of the 66 episodes, according to HIS IMDB.COM ENTRY.

In 1983, Larson created another spy series, the short-lived Masquerade, which ran only 13 episodes on ABC. The show concerned U.S. spymaster Lavender (Rod Taylor) and was a cross between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible.

In Masquerade, the KGB knows U.S. spies all too well, so Lavender recruits teams of “innocents” (a major U.N.C.L.E. element) promising them a year’s salary of their day jobs, to assist intelligence operations. Each episode included a briefing sequence, where Lavender gave the audience only a glimpse of what was to happen (similar to M:I). Larson even employed William Read Woodfield, one of the major M:I writers, to work on Masquerade.

The Fall Guy, which also aired on ABC from 1981 to 1986, featured Lee Majors as stuntman Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter to make ends meet.

The second-season premier, Bail and Bond, has Colt working as a stuntman on a James Bond-like movie filming in Brazil. It includes some music that sounds as close as you can get to The James Bond Theme without paying royalties.

At one point, Colt “borrows” some wardrobe from the movie to do a bounty hunting job. His sidekick (Douglas Barr) remarks, “That last scene with Roger won’t exactly come off if he has to play it in his underwear.” Presumably, that’s a veiled reference to Roger Moore, the incumbent film Bond at the time time.

If that wasn’t enough, the guest stars for the episode included Martine Beswicke, who played secondary female roles in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, and character Sid Haig, who was a gangster in Diamonds Are Forever (“I got a bruddah!”)

Here’s a version of Bail and Bond on YouTube. Warning: it’s “time compressed” (meaning it’s been sped up to reduce the running time).

1983: ABC attempts a TV spy revival

The year 1983 was a big year for spy entertainment. Two James Bond moves, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again came out, prompting an outburst of Bondmania.

ABC, looking to cash in, gave the goahead to a new series, Masquerade, in which spymaster Lavender (Rod Taylor) recruits people who’ve never done intelligence work to perform missions.

Series creator Glen A. Larson drew upon two ’60s spy shows. The episodes were often constructed like Mission: Impossible, where the audience would get intriguing glimpses of the plan but not the entire blueprint until the end of the story. William Read Woodfield, one of the ace writers of M:I ended up contributing scripts for the show. And The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had already used the “innocent” idea where ordinary people (in effect a surrogate for the audience) were recruited to assist the heroes.

Masquerade was short lived. But if you want to get a sense of the show, here’s the start of the pilot, where KGB bad guy Oliver Reed is knocking off U.S. agents, prompting Lavender to begin Operation: Masquerade. Note: the director of the pilot was Peter H. Hunt, NOT the same Peter Hunt who directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and a major figure in the early 007 films.