Lawrence Montaigne, busy character actor, dies

Lawrence Montaigne (1931-2017)

Lawrence Montaigne, a character actor frequently seen on television in the 1960s and ’70s, has died at 86.

His death was announced on Facebook by his daughter, Jessica. The startrek.com website published an obituary.

Montaigne may be best known for the 1967 Star Trek episode Amok Time. He played Stonn, the Vulcan boyfriend of T’Pring (Arlene Martel), who is betrothed to Spock (Leonard Nimoy).

It’s one of the best-remembered episodes of the 1966-69 series in part because it includes a fight between Spock and Captain Kirk (William Shatner), which is heightened by a Gerald Fried score. Years later, the Jim Carrey movie The Cable guy did a parody, including Fried’s music.

Montaigne also was in the cast of an earlier Star Tre episode, Balance of Terror, in a different role.

The actor was more than Star Trek. He was in the large cast of the 1963 movie The Great Escape. Montaigne also appeared in many spy and detective shows, usually as a villain.

Lawrence Montaigne in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Among them: two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; two episodes of Mission: Impossible; one episode of I Spy; one episode of Blue Light, the World War II spy series with Robert Goulet; one episode of Hawaii Five-O; one episode of It Takes a Thief; and eight episodes of The FBI.

Montaigne’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 69 acting credits.

Robert H. Justman: In the nexus of Star Trek, M:I, Superman

robert-h-justman-title-card

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

This month is the 50th anniversary of both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. One man links both. Not to mention The Adventures of Superman.

That man would be Robert H. Justman (1926-2008).

Justman was associate producer for the pilots of Star Trek (specifically, the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before) and Mission: Impossible.

At the time, Desilu was a sleepy studio. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were divorced in 1960. Desi was handled creative efforts. Lucy was the no-nonsense head of business affairs. After the divorce, Lucy bought out Desi.

Over time, Desi’s absence had an effect. As older Desilu shows ran their course, the studio wasn’t able to replace them. By the mid-1960s, Desilu mostly rented out its studios to other production companies.

In early 1966, however, Desilu was getting its mojo back. It pitched two expensive series (for their time), Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, to television networks. Both sold.

Robert Justman suddenly was in demand. Both Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Mission: Impossible creator Bruce Geller wanted Justman to work on their series. Roddenberry won out.

Earlier in his career, Justman worked on a show featuring another major character. He had been an assistant director on The Adventures of Superman, the 1950s series with George Reeves as Superman. He held the same post with The Outer Limits in the early 1960s.

Today, Justman is known mostly for Star Trek. Roddenberry made him part of his team when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987.

Still, over a long career, Justman worked in a variety of genres, including a Philip Marlowe series and a TV version of The Thin Man. He was producer of Search, a spy-like series on NBC during the 1972-73 season.

Gene L. Coon: More than just Star Trek

Poster for The Killers, a pre-Star Trek credit for Gene L. Coon

Poster for The Killers (1964), a pre-Star Trek credit for Gene L. Coon

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

For the purposes of this post, we’re stretching the definition of “unsung.” Gene L. Coon was a major figure for the original Star Trek series (where he was producer for part of the first and second seasons) and he’s mostly remembered for that.

However, the writer-producer performed work in other genres. That included 1960s spy shows, serving as a producer for some episodes of The Wild Wild West and It Takes a Thief. He also wrote episodes of war dramas and westerns.

Coon also did the script for the 1964 version of The Killers, with a cast headed by Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Ronald Reagan. The crew included composer John Williams.

The Killers was intended by Universal to be a made-for-television movie. What producer-director Don Siegel delivered was deemed to be too violent for the small screen. So The Killers got a theatrical release instead.

Coon had a reputation as a hard worker. He had an admirer in director Ralph Senensky. Here’s what Senensky said about Coon in a reply to a post about an episode of The Wild Wild West titled The Night of the Druid’s Blood:

I think Gene Coon is one of the unsung heroes of television. Both on this series and later on STAR TREK his work (and he was a rewriting machine) set a standard that elevated both series to levels that were seldom reached after his departure.

Coon produced only six episodes of The Wild Wild West near the end of that show’s first season (1965-66). The following television season, he joined Star Trek as producer, working under creator-executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Coon’s main task was to secure and produce a steady stream of scripts.

Coon’s major contributions included the Klingons and co-writing Space Seed, the episode that introduced Ricardo Montalban’s Khan character. Khan would be brought back twice (once with Montalban and once with Benedict Cumberbatch) as villains in Star Trek movies.

Put another way, Coon’s contributions had an impact on Trek productions long after he first made them.

The writer-producer continued into Trek’s second season but departed. He ended up at Universal’s television operation. However, he did some moonlighting, writing some Trek scripts under the pen name Lee Cronin.

One of them, Spock’s Brain, in which Spock’s brain is taken from him, still generates groans from Trek fans decades later. Well, everyone has an off day and the writing conditions (doing it on the side while working full-time at Universal) weren’t ideal.

Gene L. Coon died of cancer on July 8, 1973, just 49 years old. His final writing credit was for an episode of The Streets of San Francisco titled Death and the Favored Few. That show aired in March 1974.

Stephen Kandel: Have genre, will write

Stephen Kandel from an interview about The Magician television series.

Stephen Kandel from an interview about The Magician television series.

Another in an occasional series about unsung figures of television.

Stephen Kandel, now 89, was the kind of television who could take on multiple genres and do it well.

Science fiction? He wrote the two Star Trek episodes featuring Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel), one of Captain Kirk’s more unusual adversaries.

Espionage? His list of credits included I Spy, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief and A Man Called Sloane.

Crime dramas? Hawaii Five-O and Mannix, among too many to list here. His work included a Cannon-Barnaby Jones crossover, The Deadly Conspiracy, a 1975 two-part story airing as an episode of each series.

Not to mention the occasional Western, drama, super hero series (Batman and Wonder Woman) and some shows that don’t easily fit categories (The Magician, MacGyver).

Writer Harlan Ellison in 1970 referred to Kandel as “one of the more lunatic scriveners in Clown Town.” In a column reprinted in The Other Glass Teat, Ellison wrote that Kandel was assigned to write an episode of a drama called The Young Lawyers that was to introduce a new WASP character.

According to Ellison, ABC opted to tone down socially conscious stories among other changes. Kandel wasn’t a fan of the changes. He initially named the new WASP character “Christian White.”

“It went through three drafts before anyone got hip to Steve’s sword in the spleen,” Ellison wrote.

Other in-joke humor by Kandel that did make it to television screens.

One was a 1973 episode of Mannix, Sing a Song of Murder. Kandel named a hit man Anthony Spinner. Kandel had earlier worked for Spinner on the QM series Dan August.

Presumably Spinner didn’t mind. Kandel ended up working for Spinner on Cannon.

Another bit was Kandel’s script for A Man Called Sloane episode titled The Seduction Squad. Robert Culp played a Blofeld-like criminal, except he carried around a small dog instead of a cat.

Kandel wrapped up his television career with MacGyver. Today, somewhere in the world, there may be an episode of some series written by Kandel being shown.

 

Leonard Nimoy dies at 83, dabbled in spy entertainment

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock on Star Trek but who also dabbled in spy entertainment, has died today at 83, according to an obituary in THE NEW YORK TIMES.

A brief excerpt:

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week

Nimoy’s greatest fame was as Spock. He first played the role in an unsold 1964 pilot starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike. A second pilot, with William Shatner as Capt. James Kirk, did sell and a series aired on NBC for three seasons. Much later, Star Trek was revived for theatrical movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation, a syndicated series set decades after the original. Nimoy’s Spock showed up at one time or another in some of the films and the later series.

Still, he appeared in spy shows as well. He and Shatner were in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Project Strigas Affair. Shatner was an “innocent” recruited by Napoleon Solo as part of a complicated plot. Nimoy was a secondary villain.

Nimoy also replaced Martin Landau on Mission: Impossible for that show’s fourth and fifth seasons. Nimoy played Paris, a magician and master of disguise. Executives at Paramount forced out Landau, who never signed a long-term contact and who had previously won salary raises in negotiations.

Landau was was popular as disguise expert Rollin Hand and the departure also cost M:I of the services of his then-wife, Barbara Bain. As a result, Nimoy came aboard as the show’s ratings slipped. He left before the series changed to a format where the Impossible Missions Force battled only organized crime in the final two seasons.

UPDATE: Leonard Nimoy was active on Twitter. This is his last Tweet:

UPDATE II (7 p.m.): MeTV, the U.S. cable channel of classic television shows, is showing a lot of episodes of shows where Nimoy was the guest star. On Sunday at 10 p.m., it will show The Project Strigas Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., followed by one of Nimoy’s appearances on Mission: Impossible (“The Hostage) at 11 p.m., followed by an episode of Get Smart (The Dead Spy Scrawls) with Nimoy. For more details, CLICK HERE.

Character actress Arlene Martel dies at 78

Robert Vaughn and Arlene Martel in a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Robert Vaughn and Arlene Martel in a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Arlene Martel, a busy character actress, including 1960s spy shows, has died at 78.

Her death was disclosed on THE FACEBOOK PAGE for These Are The Voyages, a three-volume book about the original Star Trek series. The author, Marc Cushman, was a friend of Martel’s, according to TREKNEWS.NET, a Star Trek site.

Martel is primarily known for Star Trek as T’Pring, a Vulcan woman Spock is supposed to marry before complications arise in the episode “Amok Time.” That connection, along with her other television work, made her a regular at collectibles shows where fans meet and get autographs from fans.

But Martel also showed up on 1960s spy shows, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as a Rome-based operative who assists Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in a first-season episode, “The King of Knaves Affair.” She also made appearances on It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible and The Wild Wild West.

The actress made guest appearances in series covering various genres, including police/detective dramas (Columbo, Mannix); comedies (including several episodes of Hogan’s Heroes); and science fiction (playing opposite Robert Culp in the Harlan Ellison-scripted “Demon With a Glass Hand” on the original Outer Limits series).

UPDATE (Aug. 14): To view a more detailed obituary in The Hollywood Reporter, CLICK HERE.

REVIEW: The Green Girl (2014)

Susan Oliver in The Cage, the first Star Trek pilot

Susan Oliver in The Cage, the first Star Trek pilot

Note: The reviewer contributed $35 when the makers of The Green Girl sought $10,000 in donations to complete the documentary.

The Green Girl, a documentary directed by George Pappy, is a kind of valentine to a prolific actress. But it’s a valentine that doesn’t pass over the complicated life of Susan Oliver, who frequently played leading guest star parts of television but never had a big movie career.

Oliver led a remarkable life. In one shot, the documentary has the headline of a newspaper clip about how Oliver was appearing as a guest star in three series the same week at a time there were only three U.S. television networks. Oliver was also an accomplished pilot, attempting a flight to Moscow in a small plane (the Soviets wouldn’t let her into the country). She was also, by the 1980s, directing television episodes at a time there were few women directors.

The actress also had a complicated relationship with her mother. She never married or had childen (though at one point she was seriously dating pitcher Sandy Koufax). She also made crippling mistakes, including breaking a Warner Bros. contract to do a play, something that likely prevented her movie career from taking off.

The title comes from the first Star Trek pilot in 1964, The Cage, where at one point she takes the form of an Orion slave girl, who is supposed to be irresistible to human men. The unsold pilot was re-used in the later revamped Star Trek series, when a series of transmissions from a mysterious planet — ordered off limits by the federation — showing what happened more than a decade earlier. An image of Oliver in her green makeup was used at times in the end titles of Star Trek, making it one of the series’ most iconic images.

Susan Oliver and David McCallum in The Bow-Wow Affair

Susan Oliver and David McCallum in The Bow-Wow Affair


Oliver, of course, was much more than that and the documentary covers far more ground. Fans of 1960s spy entertainment, even if they don’t remember her name, saw her in shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy and The Wild Wild West. She could play a slightly ditzy but very appealing heroine (The Bow-Wow Affair in the first season of U.N.C.L.E,, the first episode where David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin is the primary focus) and later a scheming, manipulative junkie (an early first-season episode of The FBI).

For baby boomers, the documentary includes faces from their youth such as Lee Meriwether, David Hedison, Roy Thinnes and Gary Conway. Oliver’s busiest period as an actor was when television paid decently but hardly guaranteed you’d get rich. Oliver later suffered economic problems after her peak earning power had passed. For fans of television of the period, The Green Girl is an interesting peek behind the curtain of show business.

The Green Girl has had some limited theatrical showings and can be purchased on DVD.

Oliver died of cancer in 1990, only 58. Many of the baby boomers who’d recognize her are around that age now. The documentary is 96 minutes but maintains a good pace. It’s a reminder that talent, no matter how plentiful, isn’t always enough. Grade: A.