U.N.C.L.E.: Sam Rolfe’s Solo is ready for filming Part II

Title card for the Solo series pilot

When Sam Rolfe wrote up a series proposal titled Ian Fleming’s Solo, the concepts of the villainous organization Thrush and the “innocents” who would interact with U.N.C.L.E. agents were teased. In his 103-page script, Rolfe would flesh out both.

Thrush is so vast that the prominent Vulcan Chemicals company, headed by Andrew Vulcan, is part of Thrush. Solo remarks that Vulcan’s company is “the third largest plastics company in the country.” Allison, his superior, says it’s “the eastern seaboard cover of Thrush.”

Clearly, the stakes are enormous.

There is a silent reaction from Solo. Allison pushes the file across his desk. Solo takes it and looks at the photo stapled to the outer cover.

INSERT – THE FILE – PHOTO OF VULCAN

The photo shows a man in his mid thirties…

ALLISON’S VOICE
A few months ago we discovered that the president of the firm, Mr. Andrew Vulcan himself, is an officer of Thrush.

Lancer, another U.N.C.L.E. agent had gone undercover as an employee for Vulcan’s company. He tried to communicate with Allison but was cut cut off and is presumed dead.

That precipitated the raid on U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in New York at the beginning of the script. All U.N.C.L.E. knows is there will be some kind of assassination attempt planned for the three leaders of a newly independent African nation who are guests of Vulcan.

Solo gets a second, more detailed, briefing from a “young attractive woman (MARGARET OBERON)” who has been designated as Channel D and assigned to Solo on a “twenty-four hour until mission complete basis.” In the series, Channel D would simply be a communications channel, rather than an individual.

Oberon provides more details about Andrew Vulcan and his company as well as the contingent from Western Guiana (renamed Western Natumba when filmed). The three men led the guerilla war that led to their nation’s independence. They are led by Ashumen, the premier of the country.

The innocent of the script comes up because Andrew Vulcan once had a girlfriend in college.

Illya visits Solo at his apartment with a yearbook from Ruttenberg College. As typed in the script, it’s from 1942. The copy of the script the blog has shows that’s crossed out and 1949 substituted instead.

The agents also have a clipping from the college newspaper which has a picture of a young Vulcan with “his arm around a pretty young girl (ELAINE MAY BENDER).”

Solo says since college that Vulcan “has wrapped himself in a protective cocoon. No friends, no women that mean anything to him.” As a result, he opts to see if Elaine, now a married housewife, can be enlisted to help — to try to get through Vulcan’s cocoon.

Fritz Weaver’s title card for the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Solo meets the now Elaine May Donaldson at her home. Her reverand has arranged an introduction but he’s nervous. He did it under duress from his bishop. Nevertheless, after initially refusing, Elaine agrees to help.

Thus, Rolfe establishes one of the aspects that would make U.N.C.L.E. different than other 1960s spy shows. In this case, there’s a firm reason why Solo seeks her help. In the series, over 105 episodes, there wouldn’t always be such strong connections. More often, innocents would stumble into the middle of the action. Still, Solo (and later Illya) would need to watch out for the welfare of the innocents as well as trying to accomplish their assignments.

What follows is a bit of spy vs. spy. Vulcan and the other Thrush operatives know who Solo is. At one point, Solo radios into Channel D.

SOLO
Thrush has me spotted. Also…it’s possible…correction probable that a member of the Western Guiana delegation is with Thrush.

The agent averts one attempt on his life when one of Vulcan’s engineers booby traps Solo’s car.

Meanwhile, Elaine does get through Vulcan’s protective cocoon — sometimes more successfully than she imagined. U.N.C.L.E. has established a cover story for Elaine (she’s supposed to be the widow of a Oklahoma oilman). For a time, Elaine has doubts whether Vulcan is really part of Thrush.

Despite that, Solo convinces Elaine to ask Vulcan to show her the industrialist’s plastics plant. The delegation from the African nation is scheduled to visit the facility the next day.

Solo investigates the plant while Elaine and Vulcan are walking the grounds. He’s eventually discovered. Solo is in peril and appears about to be captured when Elaine makes her choice and helps him get away momentarily.

The pair sees a car and intend to use it to leave the grounds. However, Ashumen, the African premier, is in the car. He turns out to be the member of the delegation who’s part of Thrush. Solo and Elaine are captured at the end of Act III.

Things aren’t looking good at the beginning of Act IV. “Solo’s wrists are encase in manacles linked together by a foot long chain,” according to the stage directions. Vulcan is more than displeased with Elaine.

He has dropped all pretenses. He starts a backhanded slap at Elaine. Solo quickly steps in the way, taking the blow across his own shoulder. Solo clasps his wrists and swings back, the loose swinging chain lashing across Vulcan’s face.

As filmed, Solo would simply punch Vulcan before he could strike Elaine.

A dire moment for Elaine (Patricia Crowley) and Solo (Robert Vaughn).

Vulcan and Ashumen plan to stage an “accident” during a demonstration of a reactor at the plant used to make new plastics. The other two leaders of the African nation will die and become martyrs. Ashumen will “rule in their names” — and provide Thrush with diplomatic immunity and other benefits of nationhood. Solo and Elaine will be killed by steam and their bodies will be found after the explosion.

Solo and Elaine have other ideas. The U.N.C.L.E. agent figures a way out of the fix they’re in.

He foils the assassination attempt while Vulcan and Ashumen die in the explosion instead. The script is a bit more elaborate than what was filmed. For example, the script has Solo donning an asbestos suit before going to the reactor. In the final version, he didn’t bother and is still in his tuxedo.

The script also has Nobuk, one of the surviving African leaders, telling his colleague, “You and I…we must continue in his name. His dreams were the dreams of our people. For him, we must go on. We must build.” This wouldn’t be part of the final product.

The next evening, Solo and Elaine fly back to her home. She’s ready to disembark while Solo will fly on to New York.

She leans forward and kisses him on the cheek. Then she hurries down the aisle towards the exit. For a moment Solo stands rubbing his cheek perhaps ruefully, a lonely figure.

Not necessarily for long. A flight attendant, seeing Solo sitting by himself, asks if there’s anything she can do for him.

“…for we FREEZE FRAME…”

The last line has been delivered in the earnest manner of the young stewardess, trying hard to do her job. Solo turns to the stewardess and beckons for her to lean down towards him.

SOLO
Well…as a matter of fact….

But that is all we hear for we FREEZE FRAME and THE CAMERA MOVES IN TO HOLD ON A CLOSEUP of Solo and the stewardess as we:

FADE OUT.

The script is missing one thing — Solo’s first name. He is only called “Solo” or “Mr. Solo” during the story. In the end titles of the pilot shown to NBC executives, it simply reads, “Starring Robert Vaughn as Solo.”

However, the Napoleon Solo name devised by Ian Fleming would return. This would occur after Sam Rolfe was enlisted to write additional scenes to make Solo into the film To Trap a Spy.

Also, there was the matter of some revised scenes before the show, now called The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would air on NBC in September 1964. An important part would be recast, necessitating the change.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. script: Sam Rolfe’s Solo is ready for filming Part I

Title card for the Solo series pilot

With Ian Fleming long gone, a pilot would have to be made before Solo would become a series. So, Sam Rolfe used his Solo series presentation (originally titled Ian Fleming’s Solo) as the springboard for the script.

Rolfe’s script, dated Oct. 29, 1963, begins with a sequence based on a 12-page short story in the earlier work. The Thrush attack team is smaller (four operatives now). The tailor shop is now called Del Floria’s (replacing Giovanni in the presentation). But the general situation is the same.

A person only identified as ‘FIRST MAN” enters Del Floria’s, a shop in New York City. “The only occupant occupant of the shop is an old, wizened Italian tailor, DEL FLORIA,” according to the detailed stage directions. An “ancient television” is on a counter with a hand-written note. “No Touch — Broke!”

The First Man tosses his raincoat over the TV set. The man takes off his stained jacket and shows it to Del Floria. While the tailor inspects the jacket, the other man takes out a cigarette lighter, holding it near Del Floria’s face. “He abruptly flips the ‘striker’ on the lighter,” according to the stage directions. “There is a low hiss as a jet of grey mist spurts into Del Floria’s face.” The tailor is rendered unconscious.

Now, three more intruders enter the tailor shop. A changing cubicle operates as an opening into…what?

INT. RECEPTION ROOM – RECEPTIONIST – DAY

Reception is a gleaming, metallic room without windows. The room is Spartan in its simplicity. There are no decorations. The only furniture is a steel desk and chair in the center of the room, set to face one wall (the wall in which the door to the Tailor Shop is set.) The desk top itself contains a small TV viewer and a desk sign that reads “U.N.C.L.E.”

An Asian woman is at the desk (described here as “Oriental GIRL”) but she is overcome by the invaders before she can sound an alarm.

One of the intruders has replaced Del Floria at the pressing machine. One of the team is now at the receptionist’s desk. The Leader and one other move into the bowels of the mysterious complex.

The stage directions emphasize the unusual nature of the facility.

NOTE: THERE ARE NO WINDOWS ANYWHERE IN THIS BUILDING EXCEPT FOR ALLISON’S OFFICE. ALL AREAS ARE COMPLETELY ENCLOSED BY METALLIC WALLS AND CEILINGS. ALL LIGHTING IS IS ARTIFICIALLY INDUCED BY CONCEALED FIXTURES.

Things go well for the intruders until an alarm goes off. Despite this, the leader of the invading team manages to get deeper into the complex.

Solo stands behind a bullet-resistant screen while the leader of a Thrush invasion group opens fire.

REVERSE ANGLE – REAR OF WAITING ROOM – SOLO -DAY

A figure can seen, silhouetted against the rear of the office, standing before the closed door that leads to Allison’s office. The figure (SOLO) stands poised, hands hanging loosely at its side, one holding a gun (P-38).

INTERCUT – THE FIGHT

The Leader raises his gun and starts to fire. There is the soft “snapping” noise as the bullets spew forth. A series of striations appear before the figure of Solo, as if cracks like spider webs are renting the air before him, fragmenting his figure.

WHIRL IN ON SOLO to a CLOSEUP as he stands transfixed…the spiderweb of striations refracting light…

SUPERIMPOSE MAIN TITLE “S O L O” and –

FADE OUT.

At the start of Act I, the action resumes.

FADE IN:
INT. WAITING ROOM – FULL SHOT – SOLO – DAY

The spider webbed lines still hang in space,” the stage directions say. “The Leader’s face reflects shock and fear. He fires again. Abruptly the light in the room dims out and everything is blackness except for the light streaming in from the open doorway. The Leader spins around, looking for another opponent. Sensing movement behind him, the Leader turns and fires. There is a “sewing machine like” hum as the figure of Solo appears behind him, the P-38 (a semi-automatic pistol) unleashing a flood of bullets.

As filmed by director Don Medford, this sequence would be slightly different. For one thing, Solo (Robert Vaughn) fires a Luger pistol. However, the P-38 eventually would be the basis of the U.N.C.L.E. Special, a hand gun with attachments including a larger magazine enabling automatic fire as well as a sight.

Regardless, things proceed more or less as the version eventually broadcast by NBC. Solo inspects the body of the Leader. Illya arrives. The agents discuss what has happened.

Early Solo publicity still with (left to right) Will Kuluva as Allison, David McCallum as Illya and Robert Vaughn as Solo

This script, however, still has Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief referenced in the original series presentation. As in that work, Allison chides Solo for not taking the man alive. He then summons Solo for a briefing.

What follows is a scene that explains the U.N.C.L.E. security system and how the invaders had a lot of information about U.N.C.L.E. headquarters but lacked key data. Namely, the reception had chemicals on her fingers to activate the security badges. Without her doing so, the alarms still went off.

In the middle of the briefing, Illya brings in the surviving prisoners. Except — they don’t survive long. All are dead within moments.

“But they are dead!” Illya says. “But how?!!!”

In the filmed version, the sequence is slightly different. The prisoners are brought before Solo is briefed by Allison. But they end up just as dead. As in the earlier Ian Fleming’s Solo presentation, the audience is eventually told they had ingested a slow-acting poison that would kill them whether they succeeded or failed.

In both this script and the filmed version, Allison gives Solo his mission. An U.N.C.L.E. operative named Lancer had communicated with Allison that a the head of a newly independent African nation has been targeted for assassination by Thrush. The communication had been cut off before it was completed.

TO BE CONTINUED

In the beginning: Ian Fleming’s Solo

Title page to proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo,” which would emerge as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In 1963, producer Norman Felton was attempting to launch a new adventure television series. In the fall of 1962, he had a few days of meetings with Ian Fleming. The James Bond author had provided some ideas, but little else.

Felton turned to writer-producer Sam Rolfe, who was working on Felton’s The Eleventh Hour dramatic series about psychiatrists. Rolfe had also co-created (and produced some episodes of) Have Gun-Will Travel, a popular 1957-63 Western series about a bounty hunter known only as Paladin.

It was clear to Felton that Fleming wasn’t going to be available for the heavy lifting of the new would-be series. So Rolfe turned out a 40-page series proposal (including a one-page diagram). Despite that, Fleming’s name would included and the proposal titled “Ian Fleming’s Solo.”

Teaser

The proposal begins with, in effect, a 12-page short story. A peddler goes into a tailor shop in the East Forties, “a few blocks from the United Nations cluster.”

The tailor shop is run by Giovanni. The peddler tosses a rain coat over a “battered old television.” The peddler takes out a toy “called a Robot Commando…battery operated….upon commands spoken into a microphone, it rumbles across the floor, its arms whipping in tight, mechanical circles as it flings small plastic balls into the air, its eyes whirling in dizzying spirals.”

The toy robots of Ian Fleming’s Solo would be used in season one’s The Double Affair

Giovanni watches the demonstration but isn’t interested in a purchase. The peddler packs up. Giovanni returns his attention to his pressing machine. But the peddler takes out a second toy robot before departing.

Once outside, the peddler takes out another microphone. Inside the tailor shop, Giovanni is hearing a woman’s voice through the television set. “Something is blocking the camera.”

Giovanni sees the peddler’s rain coat and moves toward the television set. However, one of the toy robots flings “small glass balls” which “break, relasing wisps of smoke around Giovanni. The result is instantaneous. He is unconscious before his body even touches the floor.”

The peddler re-enters, followed by five other men. A raid commences. The peddler finds a hidden button in the pressing machine. The invaders use a coat hook in one of the “shabby ‘try-on cubicles.” They gain entry to….what?

“On the far side of the wall is a small, modernistic, windowless office. A desk, with a desk plate inscribed ‘U.N.C.L.E.’, is occupied by by an attractive Young Woman who is frowning at a small TV viewer.” On the “viewer-picture” is the inside of the peddler’s coat.

The attackers overcome the woman before she can sound an alarm. The peddler remains in the tailor shop, now posing as Giovanni.

Ian Fleming notes, written on one of 11 telegram blanks, and given to Norman Felton

Eventually, the intruders are tripped up. They use identification badges, unaware they have to be deployed in a certain way without the alarm system going off. Two men, identified as the Leader, the other as an Accomplice make their way through the mysterious facility. The Accomplice is holding glass balls like the ones the toy robot used.

“The Accomplice’s hand is shattered by a spray of bullets, the glass balls splintering in the mangled fingers.” He’s overcome by the gas coming from the broken glass balls.

The Leader, though, presses forward and enters “a small inner reception office.” He’ll get no further as “four bullets tear through him.”

We’re introduced to “a tall, dark, well-dressed man” who “moves gracefully.” He steps over the body of the Leader and examines the Accomplice. At the same time, an “armed, Slavic-looking man runs down the corridor to stop at the doorway.”

They are soon addressed by a “pedantic looking, fifty-five year old man” who enters the office. He chides the dark man, whom he addresses as “Mr. Solo” about killing the Leader.

The men discuss how much information the intruders must have had to get this far into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. They must have had information from someone working inside U.N.C.L.E.’s Section Three — where there would be enough information to get here but not enough to totally avoid the alarm system.

However, we’re then told even the captured intruders died because they had ingested poison before the raid. They were dead men whether they succeeded or failed.

“But let us leave this story for a while. Later we’ll come back to it and tell you what happened after this opening,” this section of the presentation concludes.

U.N.C.L.E. Complex

The proposal describes buildings on the same block of Manhattan. They include a parking garage, four brownstones and a “fairly new, three-storied whitestone.”

Two stories of the latter are taken up by a restaurant called The Mask Club “which features fine food served by waitresses wearing masks (and little else) to to patrons who don masks (covering nostrils to brow) as they enter.” It’s an establishment that is “different, exclusive, expensive and frivolous.”

Sam Rolfe (with guest star Jill Ireland), making a cameo appearance in the first-season UNCLE episode The Giuoco Piano Affair. Rolfe would take over and do the heavy lifting on devising the series.

The third floor is “a sedate suite of offices, the entrance to which bears the engraved letters ‘U.N.C.L.E.'” The offices have “ordinary” people who handle mail and greet visitors.

All of the buildings involved are owned by U.N.C.L.E. Inside the walls of  brownstones is “one large building consisting of three floors of a modern, complex office building…There are no staircases in the building. Four elevators handle vertical traffic.” There is an underground channel leading to the East River.

U.N.C.L.E. we’re told “might stand for the United Nations Committee on Law and Enforcement…Certainly it is not far from the United Nations Building in Manhattan. And coincidence could not account for the fact that the personnel of the organization is peculiarly multi-national.”

Within headquarters, a red badge “will admit you to the ground floor which contains personnel and equipment for day in, day out routine operations.” Trying to get above the floor with a red badge will sound off alarms.

A blue badge permits entry to the ground and second floors. A white badge gains entry to the third floor which includes “the elite of this organization, the Enforcement Agents.”

U.N.C.L.E. Organization

The proposal presents an organizational chart.

Section I: Policy and Operations

Section II: Operations and Enforcement

Section III: Enforcement and Intelligence

Section IV: Intelligence and Communications

Section V: Communications and Security

Section VI: Security and Personnel

The enforcement agents enter through the Giovanni tailor shop, while other personnel take other entrances.

Characters

Miss Marsdian’s two favorite agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin

Napoleon Solo: The character named by Ian Fleming during his meetings with Norman Felton. He has an apartment that overlooks the East River. He has “a somewhat coppery kitchen (he cooks).” This was one of the ideas that Fleming contributed in his meetings with Felton.

“Solo has a love for the sea, possibly a hangover from his days of service with the Royal Canadian Navy (where he had served as the Commander of a Corvette).” Solo owns a “third foot sloop” kept on a marina on Long Island. The agent “rather tends to view all men as equals, unless their behavior (as opposed to their backgrounds) proves them otherwise.”

Solo also “fought in a war which was called a ‘Police Action.'” While attending a university, he majored in philosophy and minored in languages.

There is also this description:

He makes no high-blown moral statements about his work, nor his reasons for engaging in it. But you will sense (and other characters in the story may at times state it) that he can only work for a “cause” that is in the right…and he takes satisfaction in the destruction of evil.”

Mr. Allison: Allison (the pedantic man described earlier) is a member of Section I and “the only one ever seen or whose identity is even known.”

The only window in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in Allison’s office, which has a view of the East River and the U.N. Building. Allison “appears to be humorless. That’s not the case, but Allison doesn’t show it. Allison also doesn’t hesitate to send agents on missions that may end in their deaths.

Miss Marsdian: She guards the entrance to Allison’s office. She is “fat and fifty, running to the ‘motherly’ in her general appearance.” Marsdian also is “the only one at U.N.C.L.E. capable of showing genuine emotion at the fate of the Agents.”

Marsdian has two favorites among the agents. One is Solo. The other is…

Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin: Another Section II agent “of equal rank with Solo.” Kuryakin is “very much a loner. He does his job, but doesn’t discuss it. Like a machine that has been fashioned for a specific purpose … nothing seems to exist but the purpose.”

Kuryakin “is of Russian origin. It is wise for U.N.C.L.E. to draw agents from behind the iron curtain.” The agent “maintains an austere apartment in the same building as Solo.” Kuryakin has entrusted Solo with one secret — a hidden compartment under his bed filled with jazz records.

Miss Doris Franklyn: A Section II operative who has a cover as a struggling actress. “There is a question as to whether Doris would rather be an Actress than an agent.”

Ian Fleming sells off his interest in UNCLE.

U.N.C.L.E. Enemies

“Crime, by its large scale nature, is international in scope.” As a result, according to the proposal, the Mafia “and all its attendant ramifications are all basic material for assignments. But it will be treated in a bizarre and interesting manner.” The proposal also cites the example of a deposed Middle Eastern ruler who is forming an international crime empire.

But the recurring opponent is Thrush, a mysterious organization “shaped somewhat like a darker convolution of U.N.C.L.E. … a Dr. Moriarty and his friends would make a fair analogy.” The proposal says, “Thrush himself (and we will refer to him as if he were a single, male entity) is an unknown cipher.” Thrush may hire out or strike and his/its own depending on the situation.

Innocents

A key part of the series is that ordinary people get involved with the agents. The audience “will be made to identify with those caught up in the plots.” The proposal supplies various examples of innocents such as a school teacher, a housewife and a Siberian farmer.

Oh By The Way…

Felton sent a version of what Rolfe worked up to Ian Fleming, to gauge the author’s reaction and to see if he had any reactions or ideas. But Fleming would soon pull out of the project, selling his interest for a single British pound. U.N.C.L.E. would go on.

But Ian Fleming’s Solo (as this proposal was titled) had come to an end. However, concepts in the presentation would evolve.

Historian notes U.N.C.L.E., NxNW anniversaries

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Historian Michael Beschloss used his Twitter feed to note two spy-entertainment landmarks: The first telecast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the end of production on North by Northwest.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted on Sept. 22, 1964 on NBC. The show had been in development for almost two years.

Producer Norman Felton, invited to discuss doing a TV series based on Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book, instead pitched an adventure show.

The network said it’d commit to a series without a pilot episode if Felton could get Ian Fleming on board. The two had discussions in October 1962 in New York. In June 1963, Fleming dropped out because of pressure by 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Despite Fleming’s departure, the project continued, although a pilot would have to be made before NBC committed to a series. Writer Sam Rolfe did the heavy lifting on scripting the pilot and would be the day-to-day producer on the show’s first season. The series paired Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (the character name being one of Fleming’s surviving contributions) and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Ernest Lehman, would set the style for a lot of 1960s spy entertainment. It balanced drama and humor as Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill would dodge spies, with a climax on Mount Rushmore. The film ended production in September 1958 and would be released in 1959.

Here are Beschloss’s tweets:

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UPDATE (9:30 p.m. New York time): Beschloss was busy with other 1960s TV shows, including Get Smart.

 

U.N.C.L.E. script: The show’s popularity surges Part I

Lobby card for One Spy Too Many, the movie edited from Alexander the Greater Affair

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had escaped cancellation in its first season. At the start of its second, the show’s popularity was surging.

Major changes were underway. Sam Rolfe, who had written the show’s pilot and produced its first season, had departed. Executive producer Norman Felton, who had co-created Napoleon Solo with Ian Fleming, moved over David Victor, producer of Felton’s Dr. Kildare series, to the same post at U.N.C..L.E.

Dean Hargrove, who had scripted two U.N.C.L.E. episodes late in the first season, was hired as “staff writer.” At least that’s how he described it in a 2007 interview that was part of an U.N.C.L.E. home video release.

Hargrove Takes Charge

Hargrove wrote a two-part story, Alexander the Greater Affair, early in pre-production for the second season. It would not be the first story filmed. But NBC would lead off the second season of U.N.C.L.E. with Alexander in September 1965.

NBC would air the two-parter only once After that, it’d be an MGM movie, One Spy Too Many. As it turned out, the TV version wouldn’t be seen (officially, anyway) until July 4, 2000, the final U.N.C.L.E. telecast on cable network TNT.

Hargrove’s script, though, has been available for years. I’ve had one since the 1990s. Re-reading it, you get the sense that U.N.C.L.E. was mostly a smooth-running machine by this point.

The script is pretty close to what NBC viewers saw in 1965. A few scenes are longer, but that’s not unusual. The script’s title page is dated June 14, 1965. Some pages are dated as early as June 1. Some pages are dated as late as July 1965.

We wish to thank the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement without whose assistance this blog post would not be possible.

The Ten Commandments

The plot concerns the mysterious industrialist Alexander (Rip Torn), whose real name is Baxter. Alexander is described in the script as “tall, intelligent-looking, enigmatic” and 32 years old. The part was cast with Rip Torn, 34 at the time the episode was broadcast.

Alexander intends to implement a coup at an unnamed Asian country. That will be part of his plan to eventually rule the world.

Alexander wants to do this with flair. He will have broken every one of the Ten Commandments by the time the coup takes effect.

The industrialist’s activities have come to the attention of U.N.C.L.E. after he has stolen “will gas” from the U.S. Army. One of Alexander’s companies was an Army supplier. So he was invited to a demonstration.

Alexander Waverly, the Number One of U.N.C.L.E.’s Section One gives Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) their respective assignments.

SOLO
Which leaves me with…

WAVERLY
Mr. Alexander. It’s most important to recover this gas, Mr. Solo, there was enough of it stole to cause considerable difficult if used improperly. Also, its composition is top secret.

(snip)

SOLO
I’ll find Mr. Aleander and if has the gas…
(wry smile)
I’ll ask him to return it.

Alexander’s primary lackey is Parviz, “a mustachioed Turk.” The part would be cast with character actor David Sheiner. He played an almost identical part in the I Spy episode Carry Me Back to Old Tsing Tao. His appearance and accent in both series is virtually identical.

However, when Sheiner was called back for extra scenes for One Spy Too Many, he’s wearing a bald cap. Sheiner also appeared in a later second-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Nowhere Affair. There, he’s wearing a hairpiece.

Meet Tracey

Along the way, Alexander’s ex-wife, Tracey (Dorothy Provine) shows up. She was rich when she married Alexander. She wants the million dollars she had Skipping ahead,

Tracey is the “innocent” for this story. However, I suspect this isn’t exactly what Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe had in mind when devising the show. Originally, the “innocent” was supposed to be a surrogate for the audience, someone who was “ordinary.” Tracey isn’t exactly “ordinary.” But, hey, that’s how things go.

Chess Game 

Skipping ahead, Solo and Illya crash a party Alexander is throwing. Alexander has already abducted Tracey, so she’s there also.

Solo has been investigating, but he’s getting some heat from Parviz. Thankfully (from Solo’s perspective), Alexander likes to play chess with human chess pieces (in this case the party guests). So Solo takes Alexander up on his challenge and avoids problems with Parviz.

The party is part of Alexander’s plans. Alexander explains it to Tracey.

ALEXANDER
The party that I’m holding this evening to honor Prince and Princess Phanong has a special significance. The Princess is an admirer of mine. Her husband, however, is an obsessively jealous man. He misinterprets the Princess’ appreciation for me.

TRACEY
Just how much does she appreciate you? If you don’t mind my asking.

ALEXANDER
(matter of fact)
She worships me. I allow it because I think it’s healthy for a young woman to have an idol.

Tracy knows better than to laugh, so she tries to appear very sincere.

The Princess is described as “a beautiful French girl in her middle twenties.” The part was cast with Donna Michelle, a one-time Playboy playmate. The prince was cast with veteran character actor James Hong.

Anyway, when we get to the chess game, there are some details that didn’t make the final version.

ALEXANDER
It’s a shame your husband was detained. A major disappointment.
(smiles)
Now when do you suppose he will arrive?

PRINCESS
(smiles knowingly)
The Prince received an emergency call to go and see his mother. I suspect she’ll keep keep him occupied for some time. They’re very close.

ALEXANDER
Well then, let’s begin the entertainment.

Solo prepares to play chess with Alexander. There’s another exchange that wouldn’t make the final version.

WOMAN – SOLO’S POV

A matronly woman standing on one of his square.

WOMAN (smiles)
I’m your queen.

RESUME – SOLO

SOLO (smiles wryly)
I’ll try very hard not to lose you.

The game unfolds. The script refers different diagrams that weren’t part of the script I have. After a few moves, Alexander makes a comment that doesn’t appear in the show.

ALEXANDER
I see. The Vienna gabmit. Rather pedestrian, Mr. Solo. Pawn takes pawn.

The script moves the game ahead. Solo sacrifices his Queen. “The matronly woman looks over at Solo, somewhat hurt,” according to the stage directions. But Solo puts Alexander into checkmate. Solo celebrates his win by dancing with the princess. What follows pretty much follows the final version.

“It’s lucky for you I’m a busy man,” Solo says while not drawing a revolver.

Suddenly, Solo is confronted by PRINCE PHANONG. The Prince slaps Solo.

PHANONG
I will kill any man who makes indecent advances to my wife. Let this be a warning to you.

The people around them are shocked. Even more so when Solo draws his revolver. (emphasis added.)

SOLO
It’s lucky for you I’m a busy man.

The problem: Solo never carried a revolver unless he relieved one off a thug. The U.N.C.L.E. Special was a semi-automatic pistol. The main version was based on the Walther P-38. Evidently, despite having written two U.N.C.L.E. episodes prior to this, Hargrove didn’t know much about firearms.

Later, Solo, Illya and Tracey check out a rock quarry owned by Alexander. They encounter his parents, Harry and Miriam Baxter, who are kept prisoners.

Middle-aged HARRY BAXTER, dressed in tattered evening clothes and middle-aged MIRIAM BAXTER, dressed in the ragged remains of a formal gown stand at the bottom of the pit. The Man holds a pick-axe in his hand, the woman lowers a wheelbarrow full of rocks to the ground as they look thi way. Their feet are chained.

The scene was only shown in the TV version. It would edited out of One Spy Too Many. In the TV version, David McCallum’s Illya has a line not in the script. “Let’s get those chains off!” It’s a great moment. Was it a last-minute revision in the script? Or a McCallum ad-lib? I don’t know.

Suffice to say, the U.N.C.L.E. agents rescue Alexander’s parents after a chase sequence. The agents also head to an ancient Greek temple where Alexander is running things.

Solo in a tight spot at the end of Part I.

Tables Are Turned

Solo gets to explain how he figured out the Ten Commandments angle and how this was all a trap. Nevertheless, Alexander gets the upper hand.

ALEXANDER
You see, Mr. Solo, you’ve only scratched the surface. I am breaking the universal law of morality — call them the Ten Commandments if you like — but for a special reason.

The script (as in the TV version) ends with a cliffhanger. Solo is tied up, a scimitar swinging ever closer to him. Illya and Tracey are tied together, held above a bottomless pit, with a candle burning the rope.

ANGLE – ILLYA AND TRACEY

TRACEY
Now what are we going to do?

ANGLE – SOLO AND THE SCIMTAR

The huge blade swings down, getting closer and close.

SOLO
The best we can.

FADE OUT

END OF PART i

Fleming and U.N.C.L.E.: More than a footnote

Ian Fleming

This weekend marked the 53rd anniversary of the death of 007 creator Ian Fleming.

Understandably, there were the usual observations of his passing. After all, without Fleming, we wouldn’t have James Bond movies or the 1960s spy craze.

After all these years, however, there’s an oddity. That is, Fleming’s connection to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television show.

U.N.C.L.E. originated because there was interest in turning Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book into some kind of television show.

That led to television producer (who concluded the book would not be the basis of a show) into doing a pitch for something different. In turn, that led to NBC saying it Fleming could be enticed into participating, it’d buy the series without a pilot being produced.

In turn, that led to meetings between Felton and Fleming in New York in October 1962. In turn, that led to Felton writing up ideas and Fleming (after days without much being accomplished) writing on 11 pages of Western Union telegram blanks. In turn, that led to Felton employing Sam Rolfe to concoct something that went beyond far beyond the initial Felton-Fleming ideas.

Eventually, Fleming exited the project (under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman), selling off his interest for 1 British pound.

Regardless, without Fleming, U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t exist given the history with Thrilling Cities. But some long-time (i.e. original) U.N.C.L.E. fans hesitate to acknowledge that. Felton and Rolfe did the heavy lifting — there’s no denying that at all. But Thrilling Cities was the catalyst.

Also, Fleming’s idea of naming the hero Napoleon Solo (Felton’s initial idea was Edgar Solo) was huge. The original idea was Solo would be an ordinary looking fellow. But a character named Napoleon Solo was not going to be your next door neighbor or the guy in the apartment down the hall.

At the same time, Bond movie fans don’t even consider it. And Ian Fleming Publications, run by Fleming’s heirs, don’t even mention U.N.C.L.E. in the IFP timeline of Fleming’s life. 

Fleming was connected to U.N.C.L.E. for less than eight months (late October 1962 to June 1963). Not an enormous amount of time but more than just a footnote.

It is what it is, as the saying going. The 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t give a credit to either Sam Rolfe or Ian Fleming, while Felton (who died in 2012) got an “executive consultant” credit. Ironically, one of Fleming’s 1962 ideas — of Solo being a good cook — was included in the film.

It would appear that U.N.C.L.E. will remain Fleming’s bastard child (figuratively, of course) now and forever.

53 years ago today…

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair, as photographed by Fred Koenekamp.

…production began on The Iowa-Scuba Affair, the first regular series episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The pilot, The Vulcan Affair, had been filmed in late 1963.)

On June 1, 1964, even the earliest U.N.C.L.E. fans didn’t knew what awaited them in a few months. For the crew, it was another job.

What a crew it was.

The director, Richard Donner, would eventually become a big-time film director. The writer was Harold Jack Bloom. He shared an Academy Award nomination with episode producer Sam Rolfe on the screenplay of The Naked Spur, a 1953 western starring James Stewart.

The director of photography was Fred Koenekamp, who’d later photograph Patton. The composer for the episode was Morton Stevens.

While he’d never become famous, Stevens was a few years away from composing the theme for Hawaii Five-O, one of the best-know television themes.

When the cameras rolled, star Robert Vaughn, as Napoleon Solo, would be in almost every scene. David McCallum, signed to play Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin, wasn’t even in the episode. But McCallum would make his presence known shortly.