How the 1970s were tough on TV spies

Robert Conrad in a publicity still for A Man Called Sloane

After a boom for spy shows in the 1960s, things dried up in the 1970s. Nevertheless, there were various attempts to return to the espionage genre.

The Spy Command Feature Story Index, the blog’s sister site, has a new story, 1970s: Tough times for spy TV. It examines a combination of unmade projects, unsold pilots and short-lived series. It’s based on some recent posts in the blog.

Among the examples: An unmade TV movie for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and unsold pilots devised by the likes of Sam Rolfe (U.N.C.L.E.) and Brian Clemens (The Avengers).

1977: Sam Rolfe (sort of) revisits U.N.C.L.E.

Sam Rolfe dances with Jill Ireland in an early episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. while director Richard Donner hams it up.

Sam Rolfe was nothing if not persistent. In the 1970s, he re-worked his two greatest television triumphs. One, The Manhunter, took the concept of a bounty hunter, a la the western Have Gun-Will Travel, and set it during the Great Depression. It ran for one season.

With Engima, a pilot production, the writer-producer revisited the basic concept of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Enigma, like U.N.C.L.E., was a mysterious organization with a secret headquarters. Enigma’s base of operations was further out, an island in the Caribbean.

Enigma, like U.N.C.L.E., featured a dashing operative, in this case Andrew Icarus (Scott Hylands). He’s assisted by Mei San Gow (Soon-Tek Oh) and reports to Maurice Mockcastle (Guy Doleman). The supporting players were alumni of the James Bond film series (The Man With the Golden Gun and Thunderball respectively) and Doleman had been in other espionage productions.

Enigma, like U.N.C.L.E., also had a thing for triangles. U.NC.L.E.’s security badges were triangle shaped. Enigma’s headquarters made triangles a major part of the interior design.

Around this same time, Rolfe had also scripted a proposed TV movie that would have been a straight U.N.C.L.E. revival that would have been titled The Malthusian Affair. That project was commissioned by producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, veteran writer-producers themselves but without U.N.C.L.E. experience. It was never produced.

With Enigma, Rolfe also wore the producer’s hat as well as writing. For director, he hired Michael O’Herlihy, who had been one of the leading directors of Hawaii Five-O but by this point had moved on. O’Herlihy also had directed one first-season episode of U.N.C.L.E. and would later direct The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair, an episode of The A-Team with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

Rolfe’s Enigma had one other thing with U.N.C.L.E. Like U.N.C.L.E.’s Napoleon Solo, Andrew Icarus recruits an “innocent” to help him accomplish his mission.

This curiosity has been posted to YouTube by the Museum of Classic Chicago Television. You can take a look for yourself. The video includes commercials.

You Only Live Twice’s mysterious credit redux

You Only Live Twice promotional art

Back in 2009, the blog wrote about writer Harold Jack Bloom, the first screenwriter hired for You Only Live Twice.

After all these years, Bloom remains a mysterious figure in the Bond film series. He was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for The Naked Spur, a 1953 Western film starring James Stewart. But books about the James Bond films gloss that over.

For example, the book Some Kind of Hero mentions Bloom wrote an episode of a television series produced by Harry Saltzman. That book says Bloom “took over writing chores” while retaining elements of a treatment written by Sydney Boehm, himself an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

How did Bloom get involved with Bond? He had a successful career. The Naked Spur put him on the map but he ended up mostly writing for television. He wrote scripts for westerns, crime dramas and medical dramas. However, he didn’t write a lot of spy stories.

The main exception to that was the second episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Iowa-Scuba Affair. The show’s day-to-day producer was Sam Rolfe, who all but created U.N.C.L.E. and had been Bloom’s collaborator on The Naked Spur.

The written history of You Only Live Twice is pretty sketchy. Bloom accompanied key production members to Japan. Then, for whatever reason, he was gone. In came Roald Dahl, an accomplished writer but who had little experience writing TV and film scripts.

Dahl was a pretty colorful character. In the 1960s, a BBC special about the making of You Only Live Twice featured Dahl prominently. Harold Jack Bloom? He was yesterday’s news.

Strictly a guess, but it seems likely Bloom got the job on the basis of his U.N.C.L.E. script. In the 21st century, it’s unlikely that Eon Productions would admit that. Albert R. Broccoli took shots at U.N.C.L.E. in his autobiography.

When legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Now and forever, Harold Jack Bloom will be a forgotten figure in the Bond film world.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part IV

Miki and Illya at the end of The Four-Steps Affair

There are a number of differences between Ian Fleming’s two spy heroes. James Bond plays card games like baccarat. Napoleon Solo likes to play chess.

That probably reflects the fact that Solo was developed by Sam Rolfe, who co-created Have Gun-Will Travel. That was a 1957-63 Western series whose hero, Paladin, could out-play chess grandmasters. Not to mention being able to quote poets, scholars, and philosophers.

Needless to say, Kaza at the end of Act III of The Four-Steps Affair has fallen into a trap sprung by Solo. The agent’s gun was loaded with blanks. Everything was a ruse to force Kaza to force his hand. And Solo’s gun has a homing device so U.N.C.L.E. can follow him.

Solo soon joins up with Australian U.N.C.L.E. agent Kitt Kittridge and a group of operatives who are ready to make an assault on the Thrush headquarters.

That’s a good thing because Thrush is getting ready to execute Miki, a 10-year-old boy who is the religious leader of a country in the Himalayas. Also on the execution list is Illya Kuryakin, Solo’s partner, and Kelly Brown, a young nurse looking after Miki.

The script depicts more tension between Kaza and Walchek (renamed Rudnick in the final broadcast version). In the script, Kaza complains about being shot accidentally while that isn’t specified in the broadcast version. Walchek, meanwhile, complains about being in a no-win situation no matter what he did.

Before IIlya, Miki and the nurse can be executed, Solo and the U.N.C.L.E. assault team arrive. Much of this sequence was used as extra footage for The Spy With My Face feature film.

During this sequence, Miki is confronted with how Kaza is a traitor. “So, my little friend; you learn even more about the ways of men,” Illya says.

Eventually, the U.N.C.L.E. agents prevail. Kaza and Walchek start to flee. Solo is ready to open fire at them. But he is interrupted by Miki, again showing more maturity than a 10-year-old would normally demonstrate. Miki notes the Thrush superiors of both men will know they have failed and neither can be headed toward any sort of sanctuary.

CLOSE SHOT OF SOLO
A unique situation: Napoleon Solo stands in open-mouthed astonishment, digesting the wisdom of the little sprout who confronts him, and whom he has not previously met. But he has obediently lowered his weapon.

(snip)
SOLO
Uh…ten years old?
ILLYA (to Solo; knowingly)
I don’t believe it either.

However, the script has something not present in the final episode.

CLOSE SHOT — MIKI’S FACE
He is grinning — just like a kid.

The next day, Miki is preparing to return to his home country. Miki reassures his nurse one last time. Solo wishes Miki well and then tells Kelly not to worry because the young leader will carry his burden “like the mature man he is.”

But there’s one last piece of business. Illya, sent on a mission by Miki, returns with some bubble gum. Miki, as mature as he is, still has some growing up to do.

WE WISH TO THANKS THE UNITED NETWORK COMMAND FOR LAW AND ENFORCEMENT WITHOUT WHOSE ASSISTANCE THIS POST WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part III

Things aren’t looking good for Solo and Waverly at the end of Act III of The Four-Steps Affair.

At the midway point of The Four-Steps Affair, neither Napoleon Solo nor Illya Kuryakin is in a good place.

Solo gets out of his fix first. Angela (Luciana Paluzzi) attempts to shove Solo into the line of fire of an assassin outside her house. The U.N.C.L.E. agent side steps Angela, leading her to hit by a burst of machine gun fire.

In the TV version, Angela survives while in To Trap a Spy, she’s done for. Solo manages to get away and back to safety at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters.

Solo then confers with Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief and Australian agent Kitt Kittridge, who was with Illya when the Russian picked up Miki, the religious leader of a remote Himalayan nation.

Kaza, Miki’s wounded guardian, emerges as the leading suspect who helped set up Miki for an ambush.

Solo confronts Kaza in his hospital room. The U.N.C.L.E. agent claims that Angela has talked (we are told she was unconscious but this wasn’t shown)..

Meanwhile, at a Thrush mansion, Illya, Miki and nurse Kelly Brown are imprisoned. The script has a scene not seen in the broadcast version of the episode.

Walchek (changed to Rudnick for the broadcast version) is in the library reading Crime and Punishment. When one of his men tries to interrupt, “Walchek holds up his hand for silence. After a short pause, he closes the book and shakes his head slightly at what he’s just read.”

In U.N.C.L.E., as a general rule, the villains were a well-read bunch.

Walchek and his subordindate analyze what has gone wrong this evening. Most of this exchange is absent from the final broadcast version. Walchek/Rudnick comes across as more of a threat than the final show.

Meanwhile, Illya is launching an escape attempt. It almost succeeds. Miki had a chance to get away on his own but decides to come back. This leads to one of the best exchanges in the episode.

ILLYA
Friends! You are responsible for an entire country. You must have no friends.

CLOSE SHOT OF MIKI
as he blinks at Illya’s tone and words. He has been told, and is disgesting, a practical truth.

Back at the hospital where Kaza is staying, the potentate admits he’s working with Thrush. This confession would not be part of the episode. Instead, on the show, he continues to claim his innocence.

Soon, Kaza grabs Solo’s handgun from his shoulder holster. He blasts both Solo and Waverly and makes his getaway.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part II

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Angela (Luciana Paluzzi) play some deadly cat-and-mouse games in The Four-Steps Affair

When Arena Productions decided to cook up a new episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. using extra footage from two of the theatrical film versions, the question is who would do it.

The final writing credit for The Four-Steps Affair (dubbed The Himalayan Affair in the script) listed Peter Allan Fields for the teleplay and Joseph Calvelli for the plot.

Calvelli had been associate producer during the first half of U.N.C.L.E.’s first season. He had also rewritten The Double Affair, which was the basis for the second U.N.C.L.E. movie, The Spy With My Face.

Based on the final writing credit, it appears Fields may have done the heavy lifting. Fields was a former lawyer for the Williams Morris Agency. He was hired to rewrite a script (The Fiddlesticks Affair). He proved to be fast, turning out four acts in four days, all of which was “shootable.” That probably explains how he was assigned The Four-Steps Affair.

In the new material, presumably penned by Fields, U.N.C.L.E. agents Illya Kuryakin and Kitt Kittridge pick up Miki, the 10-year-old boy who is the spiritual leader of Shanti, a country in the Himalayas. With him is Kaza, his guardian, and Kelly Brown, a nurse accompanying Miki after dental surgery.

Kaza is “a large, imposing man; a potentate in stature as well as name.” Kelly Brown is “about nineteen years old, very scrubbed-looking, and trying quite hard to live up to the student nurse’s uniform she wears.”

The U.N.C.L.E. agents lead the group from the safe house where they have been to a waiting station wagon. An ambush ensues. Kaza is wounded. Kittridge and Kuryakin return fire. Illya drives off with Miki and the nurse while Kittridge fights off the remaining Thrush operatives.

With Thrush temporarily subdued, Kittridge radios to headquarters that Kuryakin is on his way. He also arranges for Kaza who has only been wounded in the “fleshy part” of the shoulder to be transported to the hospital.

Inside the car, Miki, who acts quite mature for his age, is comforting the nurse.

MIKI (helpfully)
To release one’s emotions is quite therapeutic, Miss Brown.

ILLYA
Thereapeutic? How old are you, my friend?

MIKI
I am ten, Sir…in my present reincarnation.

Things, however, don’t go as planned. The car is spotted by a panel truck (in the televised version, it would be a Volkswagen minibus) which has a device that takes control of the car. Thrush now has abducted the group. The U.N.C.L.E. station wagon is guided and goes inside a large truck. Once secure, the truck drives off.

At this point, the script goes back to the (mostly) Sam Rolfe-scripted sequence where Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) encounters the deadly Angela.

Solo checks out the wreckage of a car driving by the missing (and by now dead) agent Dancer.

Solo is ordered to return to headquarters because Illya didn’t arrive on time. He begins to drive back. However, he soon realizes he’s not alone.

As “Solo drives, the scent of perfume reaches his nostrils,” according to the stage directions. “For a moment, he hesitates, ‘tasting’ the scent. He likes it, but not enough to stop being alert. His casualness is studied.”

Naturally, Angela is in the back seat. After a period of questioning and flirting, Angela tells Solo that Dancer is trying to contact him but his communications device can only receive but not send.

“Her voice has been extremely sincere,” the stage directions read. “Solo opens the door of his car for her.”

“I’ll have to find out…won’t I?” Solo says.

The script alternates between Illya and the Thrush prisoners and Solo and Angela.

With the former, nurse Kelly Brown is getting emotional. Apparently, she’s had relationship trouble and is getting anxious because of her present situation.

MIKI (to Illya — man to man as they stare uncomfortably at Kelly’s weeping)
They did not instruct me about such things at the Lamasery.

ILLYA (resignedly — indicating Kelly)
For men, there is no instruction on such things.

Meanwhile, Solo arrives at Angela’s house, still on guard for trouble. He flirts with Angela (in To Trap a Spy they end up having sex, but this is for television so it never goes beyond flirting). But then Solo discovers a label from from Dancer’s jacket in the fire place. Dancer had tried to burn it before he was killed.

Solo, of course, now knows Angela is with Thrush. She attempts to spring the same trap that did in Dancer. She tries to guide Solo to a large widow. An assassin outside the house waits to do in the U.N.C.L.E. agent.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part I

Luciana Paluzzi’s title card for The Four-Steps Affair

Television producer Norman Felton was many things. The list would include efficient and thrifty.

During the first year of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., extra scenes were filmed so two episodes, The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair, could be turned into films for the international market. The show would be so popular the resulting films, To Trap a Spy and and The Spy With My Face, were released in the U.S. as a double feature in 1966.

But what if even more use could be had from those extra scenes? Felton and his Arena Productions did just that, writing a new story to incorporate those scenes in an episode titled The Four-Steps Affair, airing on NBC on Feb. 22, 1965.

A script dated Dec. 30, 1964 has the original title, The Himalayan Affair. One of the villains for Thrush, the evil organization, is named Walchek, but the name would be changed later to Rudnick.

The script opens with a sequence copied from Sam Rolfe’s extra scenes for The Vulcan Affair/To Trap a Spy. An U.N.C.L.E. operative is on the run from Thrush agents trying to kill him. Here, he’s named Dancer. In Rolfe’s original, he was Lancer.

Regardless, the sequence plays out as Rolfe wrote it. Dancer seeks refuge at the home of Angela, a woman he knows. The stage directions describing Angela are the same.

ANGELA is an attractive girl, with short, cropped hair. She is wearing a negligee and carrying a hairbrush. Her eyes reflect surprise at encountering Dancer. Apparently she was in another part of the house when he entered. As Dancer spins around she sees the blood on his shirt and she gasps.

What Dancer is unaware of is that Angela works for Thrush. She double-crosses him and Dancer is killed amid machine-gun fire.

Perhaps the most significant change is that Dancer first manages to call Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), the chief of U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters, to deliver a vague warning. “The bird is on the wing.”

The part of Angela was cast with Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi. When this episode aired, Paluzzi was filming Thunderball, playing SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe. Both Angela and Fiona were femme fatales.

After Dancer’s death, we meet Walchek. In Rolfe’s original, he was simply referred to as the Leader. He is a “well-dressed man in his early forties, that part of him which isn’t nasty is just plain grim.” The new script adds having Walchek saying the late Dancer’s car will be “excellent bait” to trap other U.N.C.L.E. agents.

What follows is a new scene at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, setting up the plot for the television episode. A formerly violent country in the Himalayas has been tamed by Miki, a 10-year-old “boy lama” who has unified his nation. He is believed to be the reincarnation of “their ancient Supreme Lama.”

Miki has been in the U.S. for dental surgery but now appears to be the target for Thrush.

Illya Kuryakin and an Australian agent, Kitt Kittridge, are assigned to bring Miki and his group to safety. Waverly also wonders where Napoleon Solo is.

FLASH PAN TO:

EXT. BEHIND HOME — TWO SHOT NIGHT — NIGHT

of SOLO and an anonymous GRADE AA YOUNG LADY, as they recline in each other’s arms on a double chaise lounge.

Solo, however, has to answer a call on his communications device to go look for Dancer. This script has a bit that wouldn’t be in the episode.

Solo rises quickly, puts his radio away, leans over, KISSES Grade AA on the forehead, SALUTES, and MOVES OUT OF FRAME briskly, without explanation. She growls after him.

TO BE CONTINUED

Looking for a suit? Here’s an U.N.C.L.E. version for $735

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) wasn’t a big box office hit. But that hasn’t stopped the marketing of a suit based on the film.

Magnoli Clothiers is offering a three-piece suit based on the movie for $735. Here’s a description.

This retro three-piece suit features a three-button single-breasted jacket with cloth-covered buttons, three flapped pockets and a square-cut bottom. The six-button waistcoat has matching buttons and two welted pockets. The pleated trousers have angled side pockets and plain bottoms with no cuffs.

Shown in a premium wool blend, dark blue with double window-pane and hand-stitched detailing

Henry Cavill wore a variety of three-piece suits in the 2015 film. Cavill, a one-time contender to play James Bond, portrayed Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

Solo was the role originated by Robert Vaughn in the 1964-68 television series. The Solo character was created by television producer Norman Felton and James Bond author Ian Fleming. The bulk of the series was created by writer-producer Sam Rolfe.

When the U.N.C.L.E. movie came out, some who didn’t like the movie (done as a period piece set in 1963) commented about the costumes, including Solo’s suits.

High-end merchandise related to James Bond is old hat. Currently, you can buy a $6,000 backgammon set, a $3.5 million replica Aston Martin DB5 with gadgets (but not street legal so you can’t drive it on the open road) and another Aston Martin model for $700,007.

Also, clothier N. Peal has come out with a line of James Bond-related clothing such as sweaters.

h/t Robert Short of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — Inner Circle page on Facebook.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 55th anniversary

Familiar third-season publicity still for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Adapted and updated from a Sept. 22, 2014 post

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted 55 years ago today with the telecast of The Vulcan Affair on NBC.

The series had false starts. First Ian Fleming was a participant, then after several months he wasn’t, bowing out to pressure from Bond movie producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Then there was threatened legal action from Eon Productions stemming from the show’s original title, Solo.

In turn, the series got a new title and the legal problems went away. The makers of Goldfinger did make one change in their film. A gangster named Solo died the most spectacular death among hoodlums invited to Goldfginer’s Kentucky stud farm, a change from earlier drafts and from Fleming’s original novel. (Adrian Turner’s 1998 book on Goldfinger details the changes in the movie’s script.)

Rough Start

Nor did U.N.C.L.E. get off to an easy start. Airing on Tuesday nights, it was up against The Red Skeleton Show on CBS, which nearly led to cancellation before a mid-season switch to Monday nights.

But the audience discovered the series, eventually ensuring a renewal for a second season for 1965-66, which would be its highest-rated campaign.

Executive Producer Norman Felton (1913-2012) faced other challenges.

His developer-producer Sam Rolfe (1924-1993) departed after the first season and things weren’t quite the same, certainly not as consistent.

Various other producers — David Victor, Boris Ingster and Anthony Spinner among them — put their own stamp on the show with varying degrees of success. Major contributions were made by writers such as Alan Caillou (who arguably shaped the Illya Kuryakin character), Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields.

Time Takes Its Toll

Few of the creative personnel are still with us. In the five years since the show’s 50th anniversary, time has taken its toll. Frequent U.N.C.L.E. director Joseph Sargent died in December 2014, three months after the anniversary. Star Robert Vaughn died in 2016. Fred Koenekamp, who work as director of photography on U.N.C.L.E. got him movie jobs, passed away in 2017. Peter Allan Fields died earlier this year at 84.

Dean Hargrove

There are still survivors. David McCallum just celebrated his 86th birthday. Dean Hargrove, 81, in a long interview in March with the Writer’s Guild Foundation provided some insights into the show. He acknowledged it put him on the map, setting up a long and successful career as a TV writer-producer.

The franchise is in limbo. A 2015 movie based on the series wasn’t a financial success. There was talk of trying to get a sequel going but there’s no sign much is happening.

Hargrove, in the interview this year, said studio Warner Bros. may have simply waited too long to do a movie version.

All of that is a story for another day. For now, happy anniversary, U.N.C.L.E.

Dean Hargrove talks about U.N.C.L.E.

Dean Hargrove

Writer-producer Dean Hargrove gave a March interview to the Writers Guild Foundation. A chunk of it concerned The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 1964-68 series where he was one of the main writers.

Here are some of the U.N.C.L.E.-related comments made by Hargrove, 80, during the interview.

First-season producer Sam Rolfe: “Sam Rolfe…was a superior writer and a brilliant guy to devise formats for television shows. Sam was a tough cookie. Writers were going through this show like rabbits on the run. We sort of hit it off.”

Hargrove becomes staff writer in Season Two: Rolfe departed after the first season. Hargrove wrote two Season One scripts and was hired on for Season Two.

“I sort of had a handle on the show so it came easy to me… It was considered I had the Holy Grail. I was the one who knew the show. Nobody else really kind of understood it.

“People would turn to me and ask me should it be like this or like that. I’m saying, ‘Try that, I really don’t know.’ I just knew I had a facility for writing that show. And from a career standpoint, it’s like somebody turned on the lights.

“The show I thought was a bit of a hula hoop because it wasn’t based solidly on character, you know, it was based on style and other superficial things which were very entertaining. I loved the show and really loved working on it.”

David McCallum and Robert Vaughn in The Never-Never Affair, the first U.N.C.L.E. episode written by Dean Hargrove.

Executive Producer Norman Felton: “Norman was a very nice man and a character at the same time. He was always afraid of having to pay people money. This was one of his quirks. He didn’t like giving people raises.

“At one point, because he was getting more and more successful, he moved down into a little office…when he had a big office up in the Thalberg Building (at MGM). That way, he felt people would be less entitled to come down and ask him for raises.

“He drove an old Chevrolet. The studio asked if would he please let them give him a new car because it’s embarrassing a guy who’s producing all these shows is driving this old car.

Producer turnover on U.N.C.L.E.: Three different men filled the producer’s chair in Season Two. “I don’t think it helped the show. I don’t think any of the guys who came on really had a good handle on the show…I don’t think the producers had a good handle on the material….I thought one producer in particular didn’t understand the show at all.”

Hargrove declined to name that producer. During the second season, David Victor, Mort Abrams and Boris Ingster served as producers. Ingster returned for Season Three. He was replaced in Season Four by Anthony Spinner, who brought a more serious approach.

U.N.C.L.E.’s legacy: “I don’t think there’s a real legacy. I don’t think you can point to shows on television and say this is the spiritual grandchild of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

The U.N.C.L.E. portion of the interview starts after the 35:00 mark of this first part.

Part two begins with U.N.C.L.E. and that lasts about 20 minutes.