An obscure 007-Hitchcock connection: Charles Bennett

This week, there was a dialogue among proprietors of 007 Web sites among connections between James Bond and director Alfred Hitchcock. Perhaps one of the most direct ties (behind the camera) is also the most obscure.

Writer Charles Bennett worked on 1940′s Foreign Correspondent starring Joel McCrea


One of the most cited examples was how North by Northwest’s crop-duster plane sequence inspired a scene in From Russia With Love where a helicopter dive bombs 007. The U.K. Daily Mail wrote up how Ian Fleming hoped Hitchcock would direct a Bond film before the Eon Productions series began production.

However, the most direct connection is the 1954 adaptation of Casino Royale that aired on CBS, starring American actor Barry Nelson. It was co-scripted by Charles Bennett (1899-1995). Bennett was a screenwriter on a number of Hitchock films, including The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936) and Foreign Correspondent (1940). Bennett also co-authored the story that was the basis of the 1934 and 1956 versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

By the 1950s and ’60s, a period that included the first Casino Royale adaptation, Bennett was mostly writing for television. His work also included one episode of The Wild, Wild West, “The Night of the Eccentrics,” that introduced Count Manzeppi, intended to be a recurring villain. Manzeppi, played by Victor Buono, would only return for one additional episode (which Bennett would not write). Still, the episode is rather quirky, and includes Richard Pryor as one of Manzeppi’s henchmen.

Happy Thanksgiving from the HMSS Weblog

It’s a crazy world out there, so it’s good to have a holiday to remind you that there are things to be thankful for. For Bond fans, production of a new film, Skyfall, is underway. That’s something that wasn’t assured at this time last year. Most 007 fans we know, even though who don’t care for the current direction of the movies, will be in theaters next year when Skyfall hits theaters.

For fans of other spy entertainment, there are also reasons to be thankful. Even ones that were turned into bad movies. Or others where the hero was turned into a villain. Or other shows where studio executives fumble and dither around on whether to do a movie.

What’s to be thankful for? You can see the original series for all of these examples, not to mention still more others we haven’t brought up. No matter how new versions may get messed up, the originals are still around.

And, at HMSS, we’re thankful we have readers who care (or at least look at) what we have to say. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Peter Yates, ‘Bullitt’ director, dies; had earlier directed Danger Man/Secret Agent

Peter Yates, best known as the director of 1968′s “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen, has passed away at age 81, according to an obituary at The Wrap Web site. Yates, though, had experience with spy stories, including episodes of the U.K. series “Danger Man,” shown in the U.S. as “Secret Agent.”

Bullitt is most famous for its car chase and a very good, understated performance by McQueen. Before getting a chance at that film, Yates helmed a number of episodes of Danger Man, with Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake. Here are some excerpts from one of the episodes he did. The episode was edited by John Glen, who directed five James Bond films in the 1980s.

Even earlier, in 1961, Yates was assistant director on “The Guns of Navarone,” set in World War II, a combination war/spy film. This clip includes the prologue (while excluding the narration) and the main titles with Dimitri Tiomkin’s magnificent theme music. That film also included photography by Oswald Morris, who finished up work as director of photogrpahy on The Man With The Golden Gun after Ted Moore fell ill.

Patrick McGoohan, RIP

Like many, we were fans of Patrick McGoohan, star of The Prisoner and Danger Man (known as Secret Agent in the U.S.). His persona was unique and he took chances that other stars of his era didn’t. Reportedly, he turned down the role of James Bond, that made Sean Connery a star. But you got the impression that McGoohan never looked back.

He was also a talented director (helming some memorable episodes of Columbo). Below is a collection of clips from The Prisoner, including the line that defined the character of Number Six:

And here’s some excerpts of a Danger Man/Secret Agent episode called “Say It With Flowers.” It was directed by Peter Yates and the film editor was future 007 director John Glen.

Danger Man, “Loyalty Always Pays,” conclusion

We conclude our serialization (via YouTube) of the Danger Man/Secret Agent episode “Loyalty Always Pays.” Here’s part 5:

And here’s part 6:

Danger Man, “Loyalty Always Pays,” part 4

John Drake continues his elaborate scheme:

Danger Man, “Loyalty Always Pays,” part 3

The adventure, directed by Peter Yates, continues:

Danger Man, “Loyalty Always Pays,” Part 2

Crafty British secret agent John Drake begins a complex plan to get his man in an episode of Danger Man. Take a look:

Let’s watch an episode of Danger Man!

Here’s Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake in Danger Man, known in the U.S. as Secret Agent. Bond fans will recognize Earl Cameron, playing the prime minister of a former British colony, as an assistant to 007 in Thunderball. This is the start to an episode titled “Loyalty Always Pays.”

Opening to an episode of Secret Agent/Danger Man!

You never know what you’ll find on the Internets. In this case, it’s the opening to an episode of Secret Agent, the U.S. name for the U.K. Danger Man series. Here you get to see the pre-credits sequence, the main title and a commercial for Westinghouse. As it turns out the episode was directed by Peter Yates, the future director of Bullitt and Breaking Away. Take a look:

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