The man behind the Oscars mic

Hank Simms (1923-2013) in a rare on-camera appearance on The Invaders (a QM series where Simms didn’t announce the titles)

This weekend will include the latest Oscars show. For the occasion, the blog is noting the show’s long-time announcer, Hank Simms (1923-2013).

Simms had a 15-year association with television producer Quinn Martin, acting as announcer from the first episode of The FBI through the final episode of Barnaby Jones.

But Simms had an even longer association with the Oscars, from the early 1960s into the early 1980s. With that in mind, here are some highlights, including some James Bond moments at the Oscars.

Opening of the 1961 Oscars telecast:

1966: John Stears wins the special effects Oscar for Thunderball. Stears isn’t present. Simms informs the audience that Ivan Tors (whose company produced the underwater sequences) is accepting the award for Stears.

1973: Roger Moore, the “new James Bond,” and Liv Ullmann are on hand to present the Best Actor Oscar. The winner is Marlon Brando for The Godfather. He’s not present. Simms tells the audience that Sacheen Littlefeather will accept. But the presenters, and the audience, are in for a surprise.

1982: At the opening of the 1982 Oscars telecast, Simms refers to Roger Moore as “perhaps the most handsome man alive.” The announcer informs the audience that the actor is presenting a special award.

1982: Here is that special award. Moore introduces Albert R. Broccoli getting a lifetime achievement for a movie producer. You don’t hear Simms in this clip. However, in the commercial break just before the clip, Simms had told the audience, “We’ll be back with some great James Bond action.”

1967: The U.N.C.L.E./Invaders connection

A first-season episode of The Invaders directed by Sutton Roley…

….and a fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode directed by Sutton Roley

The final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68) included a major change in tone. The show got a lot more serious after a campy third season.

The primary reason was a change in producers. In came Anthony Spinner, a veteran of some Quinn Martin series. His time at QM Productions up to that point included being associate producer for the first season of The Invaders.

Spinner had written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Secret Sceptre Affair. But he also wrote a number of episodes for Quinn Martin series such as 12 O’Clock High and The FBI.

QM Productions hired Spinner for the Invaders, where he was deputy to the day-to-day producer, Alan A. Armer.

The show was a departure for QM — it was a science fiction series about how architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) tries to convince humanity the Earth is being invaded by an alien race.

The Invaders was a mid-season replacement series that debuted in January 1967 on ABC. Spinner departed the show after the first half-season and he landed as the new day-to-day producer for U.N.C.L.E.

Spinner, along the way, hired some contributors from The Invaders. Among them were writers Don Brinkley, Robert Sherman and John W. Bloch. Bloch, like Spinner, had also worked on a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode. Sherman’s U.N.C.L.E.’s script was among those that went unproduced because the series was canceled at mid-season.

But perhaps the most significant contributor from The Invaders was director Sutton Roley (1922-2007).

Roley was known for filming shots from unusual angles. He helmed two episodes of the first season of The Invaders, including one titled The Innocent.

The aliens try to fool David Vincent about their intentions, claiming they really want to help mankind.

The episode includes a point-of-view shot where Vincent, having not been fooled, looks up at the aliens.

Roley would direct three episodes in U.N.C.L.E.’s Spinner-produced final season, including the two-part series finale, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. The director practically duplicates his shot from The Invaders as we see Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) look at people hovering over him.

For U.N.C.L.E., the changes brought by Spinner didn’t pan out. The show got clobbered in the ratings by Gunsmoke on CBS (a series which had been initially canceled but reprieved).

Nevertheless, a number of contributors to The Invaders had an impact on the tone for the final 16 episodes of The Man From U.N.C..E.

Footnote: The main guest star in The Innocent was Michael Rennie. He’d be the villain in the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Thrush Roulette Affair. Rennie would also return in the second season of The Invaders for the show’s only two-part story.

The Invaders CD set coming Oct. 17

Cover for The Invaders CD set

A two-disc CD set for The Invaders is coming out Oct. 17 from La-La Land Records.

It is the label’s second volume of soundtracks from television shows produced by Quinn Martin Productions.

It’s a limited edition release of up to 2,000 sets, according to an announcement on La-La Land’s Facebook page.

The show was perhaps the most unusual from QM and it only ran 43 episodes in 1967 and 1968.

The Invaders kind of flipped the format of QM’s The Fugitive. With The Fugitive, a lonely innocent man (David Janssen) is being pursued. With The Invaders, a lonely, determined man (Roy Thinnes) is pursuing invaders who want to take over the Earth. The show has a following that endured.

Some of the music, in fact, has an odd history of its own.

The initial composer for the series was Dominic Frontiere (1931-2017). Prior to The Invaders, Frontiere had been composer and production executive during the first season of The Outer Limits. That show was made by Daystar Productions and United Artists Television.

The producers of The Outer Limits made an unsold pilot for an anthology show called The Unknown. When the pilot failed to sell, it ran as an episode of The Outer Limits. A few years later, Frontiere took his theme for The Unknown and made it into the theme for The Invaders.

With the CD set, one disc is work by Frontiere with the second disc by other composers, including Richard Markowitz. He’s best known for his work on The Wild Wild West but worked a fair number of QM shows.

Meanwhile, below you can compare the titles of the unsold Unknown pilot and the titles of The Invaders. Besides the Frontiere music, each has a “ripping” visual. Thankfully, the “ripping” for The Invaders was silent.

La-La Land Records Introduces QM soundtrack

Cover to La-La Land’s QM soundtrack vol. 1

La-La Land Records is coming out with a soundtrack of Quinn Martin television series.

Volume 1: Cop and Detective Series starts shipping April 29.  It is priced at $24.98 and is limited to 2,000 units.

The soundtrack offers selections from four series: Barnaby Jones (1973-80), Most Wanted (1976-77), Cannon (1971-76) and Dan August (1970-71). It also includes the themes for The Manhunter (1974-75), Caribe (1975), and Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected (1977). The latter was an anthology show.

These were not the only crime dramas made by QM Productions. However, some QM shows were joint ventures. The FBI (1965-74), QM’s longest-running show, was a joint venture with Warner Bros. As a result, the latter controls that series and the show itself is sold through Warner Archive. Another QM show, Banyon, a private eye drama set in the 1930s, was also a joint venture with Warner Bros. In any event, rights to joint venture series become more complicated.

The four shows in the new soundtrack, on the other hand, weren’t joint ventures. (The TV movie pilot for Cannon originally was made “in association with the Columbia Broadcasting System,” but subsequent episodes were listed as “A QM Production” in the end titles.)

Here’s part of the description at the La-La Land Records website:

Remastered from original Quinn Martin Productions elements, this dynamic compilation showcases some of the finest television music of the 70s, from legendary composers at the top of their game. These exhilarating action/drama/mystery score tracks demonstrate the musical genius of such talents as Jerry Goldsmith, Bruce Broughton, Dave Grusin, Lalo Schifrin, John Parker, Duane Tatro, Nelson Riddle, Patrick Williams and David Shire.

Jerry Goldsmith composed the theme to Barnaby Jones, while Lalo Schifin did the theme for Most Wanted, Dave Grusin on Dan August and John Parker for Cannon. Goldsmith told TV and movie music historian Jon Burlingame (who is also producer of this new CD set) years later that he tried to get out of doing the pilot but relented. It ended up being one of Goldsmith’s most famous TV themes.

For information about ordering, CLICK HERE.

Dan August coming to DVD in December

The cast of Dan August (Burt Reynolds seated, while left to right, Ned Romero, Richard Anderson, Norman Fell and Ena Hartman) in a publicity still

Dan August, the Quinn Martin series that helped (albeit in an unusual way) Burt Reynolds become a star will be available on DVD in December, according to a listing at Visual Entertainment Inc.

The series only ran first run during the 1970-71 season on ABC. After it wasn’t picked up, Reynolds took a blooper reel with him on talk show appearances, according to the book Quinn Martin, Producer. Audiences discovered the star’s sense of humor, which gave his career momentum.

The police drama originated with a television movie, House on Greenapple Road. That starred Christopher George as the police detective.

When ABC wanted a series, Quinn Martin wanted George to reprise the role. But the actor made a pilot for another series, The Immortal, which was also on ABC’s schedule. George went with that, opening the door for Reynolds. (As it turns out Visual Entertainment also offers The Immortal.)

Anthony Spinner title card for an episode of Dan August

The day-to-day producer of Dan August was Anthony Spinner (b. 1930), who was the fourth-season producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He also worked on a number of QM shows as a writer or producer. Spinner pushed the QM envelope on Dan August, having story lines dealing with topical issues of the day.

The Visual Entertainment series says CBS ran the show. It did, but not first-run. CBS ran it during the summer of 1973, with Reynolds now a movie star.

For more information about Dan August, CLICK HERE. It’s available for pre-order and ships Dec. 7.

Charles Larson, prolific writer-producer

Charles Larson title card for The FBI episode “Slow March Up a Steep Hill.”

Another in a series about unsung figures of television

In the 21st century, top producers of TV shows are celebrated as “showrunners.” In the 20th century, such figures were anonymous to the general public.

Thus was the case with Charles Larson. He was the founding producer (i.e. the day-to-day producer) of The FBI, who probably should have credited as the series creator but the show never had a creator credit. He guided other series as well.

As a writer only, Larson worked on everything from the Clayton Moore-Jay Silverheels version of The Lone Ranger to the mini-series Centennial.

One of his fans was director Ralph Senensky, whose many credits included episodes of 12 O’Clock High and The FBI where Larson worked as associate producer and producer respectively.

Larson “was a fine writer who did an amazing amount of rewriting on scripts before and even during filming,” Senensky wrote about Larson.

Concerning an episode of 12 O’Clock High titled “The Trap,” Senensky wrote: ” The script I was given was a blatant melodrama of five people stranded in a cellar during a London air raid. Charles fleshed out the people and created a complex study of the conflict of class differences as five people faced the ugly horror of war.”

Senensky wrote that his favorite episode of The FBI was a second-season installment called “The Assassin.” The teleplay was credited to John McGreevy and the plot to Anthony Spinner. “I detected Charles’ fine handprints all over THE ASSASSIN, the best script I had yet been handed on THE FBI and eventually the best one of the series I would ever direct.”

On The FBI, Larson wrote and produced the fourth episode, “Slow March Up a Steel Hill.” It looks like it may have been the pilot.

There’s a lot of explanatory dialogue concerning how the wife of Inspector Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) was killed in an ambush meant for the FBI man. Erskine’s sidekick is determined to marry Erskine’s college-age daughter (!). And it’s established that Erskine was so stubborn, he sometimes got in trouble with his boss, assistant director Arthur Ward (Philip Abbott). The latter theme wouldn’t be used much after the first half of the first season.

Also, on The FBI, Larson had to deal with the real-life bureau, which had veto power over guest stars and scripts. “Charlie had a really difficult job,” production manager Howard Alston told author Jonathan Etter for the book Quinn Martin, Producer. “The first year he had to listen to all the FBI’s input, to all of the people who felt they knew more about how to do the show than he did.”

After departing The FBI after the fourth season, Larson produced other series, none of which was a big hit. He continued as a writer beyond that. One of his most memorable scripts was for the 1977 Hawaii Five-O episode The Bells Toll at Noon. There were three separate writing credits but Larson was listed as doing the final teleplay.

The story concerns a disturbed man (Rich Little) who kills people while re-enacting scenes from classic movies. Little, the famed impressionist, mimicked James Cagney and other movie stars. It was one of the highlights of the show’s ninth season.

Larson died in 2006 at the age of 83.

The Spy Command marks its 10th anniversary

Today marks the 10th anniversary of The Spy Command.

It has been a long journey. Initially, the blog was a spinoff of a website (Her Majesty’s Secret Servant) that’s no longer online.

It took a few months for the blog to find its own voice, its own point of view.

Yet it did. The blog’s main reason for being has been to apply some journalistic principles to a fan endeavor.

The blog is a hobby. But it also keeps track of what has been said and revisits whether that’s occurred.

Some James Bond fans don’t like that. They want to celebrate all things 007. If there have been inconsistencies, they don’t care.

That’s fine. There are plenty of sites on the internet.

But here, the basic idea is to keep track of what is happening now while providing context of how it compares with the past.

One example: What really happened with the script of Quantum of Solace? which examined various contradictory accounts of how the 22nd James Bond film came together.

In hindsight, a better title would have been “Whatever happened to Joshua Zetumer?”

Zetumer was the scribe who was doing rewrites during filming. His contributions were noted in stories published while the movie was in production. Examples include a story on the Rotten Tomatoes website as well as pieces on the MI6 James Bond website and the Commander Bond website.

However, Zetumer’s is a forgotten man these days. That’s because of  later stories quoting Daniel Craig how he and Quantum director Marc Forster rewrote the movie during production. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, I suppose.

Another example: A 2015 post, A SPECTRE reality check, noted how, in 2012, Eon said the SPECTRE organization was passe and that Quantum was much better than SPECTRE in the 21st century. All that changed, of course, once the rights to SPECTRE were secured from the Kevin McClory estate in 2013.

Finally, more recently, the blog documented (so far) the writing process of Bond 25 complete with various contradictions.

Paul Baack (1957-2017) and the Spy Commander in 2013.

Origins

The blog was the idea of Paul Baack (1957-2017), one of the co-founders of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. He wanted HMSS to have a presence in between issues of the “e-magazine,” which specialized in producing magazine-length stories on James Bond and related topics.

Paul informed HMSS contributors about the blog and said it was all of theirs.

I was the one who took him up on it.

Initially, I was skeptical. But, after a few posts, I got hooked. It was an outlet that quickly became one of my main hobbies.

Over time, I took it over. By 2009, I was the primary contributor. By 2011, the blog established its own voice separate from HMSS. By 2014, the blog was totally on its own after HMSS went offline. On Feb. 8, 2015, the blog took the new name, The Spy Command.

So much different. Yet so much the same.

Since its debut, there have been three James Bond films released (Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE); three Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films; and a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which I long thought would never happen).

Blog Highlights

The blog tries on occasion to get into the business side of the entertainment industry. One of my personal favorite series of posts was a three-part series about the involvement of Film Finances Inc. with Dr. No.

Film Finances supplies “completion” bonds to ensure movies can finish production. The company ended up taking control of Dr. No during post production.

It’s an episode that hasn’t been written much outside of a book Film Finances published about its work with Dr. No, which reproduced many documents. One example was a memo showing Dr. No fell a half-day behind schedule on its first day.

Photocopy of the title page of Richard Maibaum’s 1961 draft of Thunderball

Some other personal favorite posts include those about scripts for Bond movies. In some cases, like this 2015 post about You Only Live Twice, dealt with drafts similar to the final film with a few significant differences. Others, like this 2017 post about a Bond 17 treatment dealt with stories that never saw the light of day.

Perhaps the most enjoyable was an examination of three Thunderball scripts, including Jack Whittingham’s first draft in 1960 and Richard Maibaum’s first try in 1961.

On this 10th anniversary, my thoughts keep going back to Paul Baack, who died last year. Last month was what would have been his 61st birthday. He gave me the chance to contribute. After I had taken over, he always provided encouragement.

If there is an after life, I hope Paul is pleased with the result.

I’d also like to thank, one more time, J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet blog. The Rap Sheet had some kind words in 2009 about a series this blog did about Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. That, and other feedback, indicated there was interest in what this blog was doing.

Finally, two replies to posts were particularly satisfying.

In 2013, the blog had a post about how the current Hawaii Five-0 series was remaking an episode of the original series titled Hookman. The post noted how a CBS press release left off the names of the original writers, Glen Olson and Rod Baker. The post raised the question whether they’d get a credit.

Baker wrote a reply. “Thank you for pointing out that Glen Olson’s name and my name were left out of the CBS press release as the writers of the original Hawaii Five-0 ‘Hookman’ episode.. The Writer’s Guild contacted CBS today and that omission was corrected immediately.”

In July, the blog wrote about Adrian Samish, who had been an ABC executive and later one of producer Quinn Martin’s key lieutenants. It’s part of a series dubbed “unsung figures of television.”

The post got this reply: “There are two sides to every story… I am Adrian Samish’s granddaughter and it’s been nice to read some kinder comments about him, especially since he isn’t here to defend himself or tell his side of the story. Thank you for writing this.”

Well, enough sentiment. Bond 25 and other spy entertainment topics are present to be analyzed and written about.