U.N.C.L.E.’s connection to The Prize (1963)

Poster for The Prize (1963)

Poster for The Prize (1963)

This week, Turner Classic Movies televised a series of spy films, including The Prize (1963). The movie, released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, had a number of connections to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Some of this stemmed from how U.N.C.L.E. was also produced at MGM. In any case, here’s a partial list of U.N.C.L.E. ties to The Prize.

Crew: These names show up on just about every production either produced by MGM or made at MGM in the 1960s: George W. Davis (co-art director), Henry Grace (co-set decorator) and Franklin Milton (sound or recording supervisor). Another name that shows up in many MGM-related productions is William Tuttle, who headed MGM’s makeup department.

(Totally as an aside: Grace resembled Dwight Eisenhower. As a result, he played the Allied supreme commander in 1962’s The Longest Day.)

The Prize also includes a score by Jerry Goldsmith. At this point, Goldsmith was transitioning from a television composer to a movie composer. Despite that, Goldsmith scored the pilot episode for U.N.C.L.E. as well as two additional episodes.

Speculation: The Spy Commander has long wondered if Goldsmith, in his early 1960s work, was influenced by Bernard Herrman. Both Herrmann and Goldsmith did work at CBS during this period. In his score for The Prize, there are bits of Goldsmith’s score that evokes Herrmann (this also applies to Goldsmith’s score for 1964’s In Harm’s Way).

Cast: The Prize (which, essentially is a star vehicle for Paul Newman) includes a number of cast members who would later appear in U.N.C.L.E. Among them:

Leo G. Carroll: Played U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly. In the Prize, he plays a small, but key, role as a Swedish count who helps administer the Nobel Prizes.

John Banner: Most famous for playing Sgt. Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes, the character actor also played one of a group of scientists trying to take over the world in The Neptune Affair in U.N.C.L.E.’s first season. In The Prize, he plays a newscaster during the movie’s title sequence.

Teru Shimada: In U.N.C.L.E., he plays the head of an Asian country who’s the target of an assassination plot in Season Two’s Part Two, Alexander the Greater Affair. In The Prize, he’s another newscaster in the title sequence. Shimada also played Mr. Osato in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

Kevin McCarthy: He played the villain in the U.N.C.L.E. Season Two episode The Moonglow Affair (which was also the pilot for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.). In The Prize, he plays a Nobel Prize winner.

Ben Wright: The character actor was in two U.N.C.L.E. episodes (The Deadly Games Affair and The Girls of Nazarone Affair). In The Prize, he plays a reporter who asks question of Andrew Craig (Paul Newman’s character) at a press conference.

Noel Drayton: Played a physician who conducts an autopsy on a seal in U.N.C.L.E.’s The Finny Foot Affair. In The Prize, he plays a policeman trying to verify what seems to be a wild story from Newman’s character.


Irving Wallace: The Prize is based on a novel by Wallace, who also had written some episodes of Have Gun — Will Travel, which was co-created by Sam Rolfe, who developed U.N.C.L.E. Wallace’s nephew was Danny Biederman, a first-generation U.N.C.L.E. fan who (with Robert Short) attempted to produce an U.N.C.L.E. movie in the late 1970s-early 1980s.


Our updated Bond 24 accuracy list

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Thanks to Sam Mendes, the accuracy of some additional Bond 24 reports can be evaluated.

Bond 24 and Bond 25 originally were to comprise a two-part story but the plan was jettisoned: The DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD site said in October 2012 that Bond 24 and Bond 25 were to be a two-movie story arc.

Then, BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL WROTE in February 2013 the plan was deep sixed and they’d be stand alone movies.

Mendes, in his April 10 interview on the PBS Charlie Rose show confirmed pretty much all of this. The move away from the two-part approach was part of the reason why the Skyfall director agreed to come back for Bond 24, he told the host starting around the 18:00 mark of the show.

Unfortunately, Mendes was in the middle of explaining that when Rose interrupted him with a question and no more was said on the subject. Check

What follows is text of a previous post with appropriate updating.

John Logan hired to write Bond 24: reported by the U.K. Daily Mail on OCT. 25, 2012.

John Logan hired to write both Bond 24 *and* Bond 25: Reported by the Deadline Hollywood Web site on OCT. 26, 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED? Barbara Broccoli in an interview on the Crave Online Web site published NOV. 12, 2012 denied it.

Congratulations on signing John Logan for two more scripts.

Barbara Broccoli: Well, we are working on another film in the future but we actually haven’t announced that we’re going to do two. We don’t know what we’re going to be doing.

Oh, so what was the news that he had a two-story arc?

Barbara Broccoli: That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.

However, the same week, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said on a conference call with investors that Logan had been hired to write the next two Bond films. Check.

Sam Mendes, after saying he wouldn’t direct Bond 24, is considering doing just that: reported by Deadline Hollywood in a story on May 28, 2013.

WHAT HAPPENED. Mendes, in an interview on the Stage News Web site published June 12, 2013 confirms that’s happening.

Mendes, whose Bond debut as director of Skyfall last year turned out to the most commercially successful of all the 007 films, grossing more than £100 million at the domestic UK box office alone and over $1 billion globally, added that he is in discussions to direct the next Bond film.

“But nothing is going to be determined until Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [now previewing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane] has opened,” he said. “I’m literally here from 8.30am to midnight every day, and it occupies every inch of my attention. So we’ll make decisions about that once Charlie has opened.”

Mendes ended up signing on for the project and an announcement of that, along with a fall 2015 release date for Bond 24 was announced last year. Check.

The Daily Mail was the first to report (also in a 2012 story linked above) that the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were departing the Bond film series. The writers confirmed that development with on Collider.com. Check.

All of this is a reminder that news about Bond 24 is likely to leak out before any official announcements, similar to WHAT HAPPENED WITH SKYFALL. The trick — as stated before — will be to figure which reports are on target (despite denials) and which aren’t.

ITN calls Bond 23 `cancelled’

ITN, on its Web site, has a video dated July 4 that refers to Bond 23 as being “cancelled,” saying it may be “several years” before another 007 movie hits the screen. “It’s goodbye, Mr. Bond, as time has been called on the latest installment of the 007 series,” it begins.

You can view the video by CLICKING HERE.

(July 10 modification of this post) OR: ITN uploaded the video on YouTube, so we can embed it below:

A few caveats:

ITN doesn’t cite how it learned this. The report just says “the money situation” at MGM (which isn’t named, just referred to as “the studio”) hasn’t improved so “the plug has been pulled indefinitely.”

ITN doesn’t cite a July 2 report in the U.K. newspaper Daily Mirror that kicked off this latest round of media reports saying the Bond 23 delay announced in April had become more serious. The Daily Mirror cited a “glum insider” it didn’t name. Thus, by implication, ITN is passing this off as their own reporting while not being very transparent about the details.

Finally, ITN presents no evidence it actually sought either MGM or Eon Productions out for comment before sending out the video.

In short, fans convinced this is all tabloid rubbish (as some are doing on message boads of 007 fan Web sites), probably won’t be convinced otherwise by this.

UPDATE: The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. is now getting into the act. In an entry in the newspaper’s FILM BLOG, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, the Guardian provides pros and cons whether the 007 film series should even continue or not.

The start of that blog entry writes of Bond 23 being cancelled as a given while providing no hard information:

Bond 23 – the Sam Mendes Bond, the Peter Morgan Bond, the Bond that was going to right all the wrongs of Quantum of Solace – is no more. Although its status had been set to “indefinitely delayed” since April, the continuing financial mess at MGM means that the film has now been cancelled altogether. It also means that we’re back in a situation where the next 007 movie could feasibly be several years away.

We’ll give a shoutout to “danslittlefinger,” who posted the link on the MI6 fan Web site message board.

Bond 23: Trying to read a crystal ball

With so little hard data on Bond 23, what’s a 007 fan to do? Check the news for a sign — any sign — what may happen.

Sam Mendes, the would-be director of Bond 23 is splitting up with wife Kate Winslet. One obvious conclusion: that must mean there’s no chance that Winslet will be cast as the lead female character in Bond 23. Of course, neither Mendes nor Eon Productions has actually said that Mendes will be Bond 23’s director. So this talk may be way premature. But it’s natural.

What’s going on with the bidding for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.? Oh yeah, the second round of bids are due on Friday, March 19. Given that MGM controls half of the Bond franchise, it would seem that not much can happen until MGM’s fate is settled. But who really knows? It’s not like either MGM or Eon has actually said very much. Given the serious situation with MGM, that’s understandable but doesn’t make it easy for outsiders to figure out what’s happening.

On a related note, will the MGM auction process really settle anything? Maybe, maybe not.

Would-be 007 director Mendes’s latest production opens

There’s still no real news on the Bond 23 front. However, Sam Mendes, mentioned prominently as the leading contender to direct the next 007 film, has seen his production of Shakespeare’s Prospero open in New York.

The New York Times has a review of the play, which opened Feb. 25. Here are some excerpts:

There is no such thing as a definitive Shakespeare interpretation, but the role of Prospero is often played by actors of a natural grandiloquence, bringing a plummy vocalism and an imposing authority — and sometimes imposing celebrity — to bear on this role, the exiled Duke of Milan with benevolent magic at his disposal.

Mr. (Stephen) Dillane’s approach, scaled to suit this starkly designed, concentrated production directed by Sam Mendes, is more astringent and less rhetorically lush. (One benefit of concentration: the play is performed in about two and a quarter hours, without an intermission.)

You can read the entire review by CLICKING HERE.

MGM takes legal action against UK refrigeration company


Wondering if the company services delicatessens in stainless steel…

The billionaire who may buy a piece of 007

Bloomberg.com has a report about a billionaire who buy a piece of Agent 007. The story by Ronald Grover and Michael White begins thusly:

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) — Billionaire Len Blavatnik is among the second-round suitors for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., distributor of the James Bond movies, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Time Warner Inc., Liberty Media Corp. and Elliott Management Corp., working with Hollywood financier Ryan Kavanaugh, also are in the bidding, according to people close to the process who sought anonymity because discussions are private. They declined to discuss amounts proposed in the non-binding first round.

Advancing to the second round gives suitors access to more detailed information before making a formal bid for the Los Angeles-based studio, which owns a 4,100-film library and is exploring a sale after failing to make payments on $3.7 billion of debt. Last week, lenders extended a moratorium on interest payments to March 31, allowing more time for negotiations.

Who is this chap? The Bloomberg story has some additonal details:

Blavatnik’s bid marks an effort by the Ukrainian-born industrialist to expand in the U.S. Blavatnik, a U.S. citizen, is chairman of New York-based Access Industries Holdings LLC, which owns a stake in Top Up TV, a U.K. pay television service, and in 2008 acquired control of the U.K. arm of actor/director Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions Inc., the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph reported at the time.

A spokesman for Blavatnik declined to comment, as did Susie Arons, an outside spokeswoman for MGM. Ed Adler, with New York- based Time Warner, and Courtnee Ulrich of Liberty Media also wouldn’t comment.

All of this, course, may directly affect the future of James Bond movies because MGM owns half the franchise. To read the entire article just CLICK HERE.

More about MGM’s worsening finances

Bloomberg.com has a story today (Jan. 21) providing more details about the deteriorating finances at MGM, which controls half of the James Bond franchise. The story by Kristen Haunss and Sarah Rabil starts thusly:

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.’s $3.7 billion term loan has fallen about 5 cents on the dollar this month, according to people familiar with the market, as analysts said the Los Angeles film studio may fetch less than expected.

MGM’s term loan traded at about 60.75 cents on the dollar yesterday in New York, said the people, who declined to be identified because the trades are private. It traded at 65.25 cents on Jan. 4, one person said.

The story quotes an Matthew Harrigan, a Denver-based analyst with Wunderlich Securities as estimating MGM is worth $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion. Bloomberg says MGM’s creditors were hoping for at least $2 billion when the studio put itself up for sale.

To read the entire story, JUST CLICK HERE.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal, on its Web site, has an update about MGM bidding that begins:

The first round of bids for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer turned out a shade better than expected, but the offers aren’t close to covering the $3.7 billion that is owed to lenders.

Bids ranged between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, according to people with knowledge of the situation, and MGM has begun to explore how it could stage a streamlined “prepackaged” bankruptcy as part of the auction.

The story can be found by CLICKING RIGHT HERE. Be warned, the WSJ is a mostly pay site. You can see a short free preview but you have to subscribe to access the whole thing.

New York Times: MGM may be worth 20% of what it was in 2004

The New York Times ran a story about how movie studios are worth a lot less to their conglomerate owners than they used to be. One of the prime examples was MGM, the studio that controls half the James Bond franchise. An excerpt about the current bidding for MGM:

Time Warner, Lionsgate Entertainment and smaller private companies showed interest, but signaled offers of less than $2 billion — and perhaps as low as half that — for a company that was bought in 2004 for about $5 billion. So, if bids were in the $1 billion range, that’d be 20 percent of what the studio went for six years when billionaire Kirk Kerkorian sold it to a group that included Comcast and Sony.

The Times’ story, written by Michael Ciepley and Brooks Barnes has this omnious note:

Two people involved with the bidding, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of restrictions on the discussion of the process, said they believed virtually all of the final bids would require a bankruptcy filing that would allow any new owner to proceed without the old obligations.

In this case, the story notes provides these details about the old obligations:

MGM pays about $300 million a year in interest on a $3.7 billion loan and faces $1 billion in payments in June 2011. The rest of the loan is due the next year. MGM also has a $250 million line of credit that matures in April.

One again, the reason 007 fans care is MGM is Eon Productions’ partner in the Bond franchise. All of this is why 007’s future remains precarious at the moment.

To read the entire New York Times story, JUST CLICK HERE.

Wall Street Journal interviews Sam Mendes

The Wall Street Journal, in its weekend edition, has an interview in Q-and-A format with director Sam Mendes, the would-be director of Bond 23. There’s not much 007 material.

Is it true that you are directing the next James Bond film?

It’s only speculation and, you know, at the moment there isn’t even a studio to make the James Bond movie, because MGM is for sale.

Of course, the fact that Mendes’ own publicist confirmed the director had been in discussions (with nothing finalized) may mean it’s stronger than just speculation.

Most of the Journal interview concerns a Shakespeare play Mendes is directing. To read the entire story, you can CLICK HERE.