Robert Day, Avengers and QM director, dies

Caesar’s Wife, a fourth-season episode of The FBI, directed by Robert Day. Spymaster Russell Johnson (left) is about to beat up Harrison Ford.

Robert Day, whose long career included directing episodes of The Avengers and Quinn Marin television shows, died on March 17 at the age of 94, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The British-born Day helmed six episodes of The Avengers, including From Venus With Love and Mission…Highly Improbable.

Relocating to the United States, Day was frequently employed by QM Productions, including nine episodes of The FBI, two episodes of The Invaders, Barnaby Jones and The Streets of San Francisco. He also directed a TV movies for QM, 1970’s House on Greenapple Road, which launched the Dan August TV series.

Day’s work on The FBI, included a notable fourth-season episode, Caesar’s Wife, in which a Soviet spymaster played by Russell Johnson beats up a character played by the then-unknown Harrison Ford.

Day was married to actress Dorothy Provine from 1969 until she died in 2010. Her spy-related credits included a two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

Day was also the brother of Ernest Day (1927-2006). The younger Day was a second unit director of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie, as well as directing two episodes of The New Avengers.

The Other Spies and their longevity that 007s can only envy

Never rile up fans of “The Other Spies.”

A Bond website, Dalton Was Best, got a lot of publicity for declaring that Daniel Craig is now the second-longest serving Bond. The methodology was starting with the time an actor was cast as Bond through the time his replacement was announced.

The Avengers Tv Show on Twitter, using those rules came up with some calculations of spy actors who have much more longevity than any Bond actor.

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Patrick Macnee is 37 years because he began in 1961 as Steed and wasn’t re-cast until Ralph Fiennes in the 1998 Avengers feature film. Peter Graves is 29 years because he debuted as Jim Phelps in 1967 and wasn’t replaced until Jon Voight in the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie. Tom Cruise is at 20 years and counting (21 this fall) because he was the star of the Mission: Impossible movie series that started with the 1996 film.

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Two more worth mentioning: Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. They were signed in 1963 (when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot was shot) and weren’t replaced as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin until 2013 when the U.N.C.L.E. film began production. That’s an even 50 years.

But Harry Palmer hasn’t been recast since Michael Caine’s debut in 1965. (He did three theatrical films in the 1960s and two made-for-television ones in the 1990s). By the recasting rule, Caine, in theory, is still on the clock, with his 52nd anniversary later this year.

I doubt these calculations will go viral the way the Daniel Craig one did. Still, you never know what you can stir up.

UPDATE (7:35 p.m. ET): Well, this post stirred up at least a little hornet’s nest.

The Avengers Tv Show received tweets asking about Jim West, Maxwell Smart, John Drake and The Prisoner. This was never intended to be a comprehensive ranking, more like poking fun at the original blog post (and reaction by the British media that made it go viral).

Separately, reader Matthew Bradford ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE notes another Len Deighton-based production featured a character that may have really been Palmer under a different name. Actually, the explanation is more detailed than that, but Matthew says you can make the case the Palmer role was re-cast, or at the very least the issue deserves an asterisk.

UPDATE II (7:45 p.m. ET): Earlier today a friend e-mailed and raised these questions about the early Bond actor longevity rankings that started all this.

“Do they count the fact of when these guys were NOT under contract?

“Connery after THUNDERBALL?

“Roger after SPY and each film thereafter?

“Dalton until 1994?

Pierce signed for DAYLIGHTS and then released?”

Batman ’66 to feature team up with (TV) Avengers

DC Comics illustration evoking one version of The Avengers' main titles.

DC Comics illustration evoking one version of The Avengers’ main titles.

DC Comics’ Batman ’66, based on the Adam West television show, will feature a team up with the British TV version of The Avengers, DC announced April 15.

The official title of the mini series is “Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel.” While The Avengers television series started in 1961, it didn’t reach American audiences until a few years later. Meanwhile, in 1963, Marvel Comics started its The Avengers title.

The mini series “will feature Batman and Robin coming face-to-face for the first time with the other (and English) dynamic duo John Steed and Mrs. Peel – characters from the hit ’60s British TV series The Avengers starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg,” according to DC’s press release.

Here’s DC’s plot summary.

As Bruce Wayne shows the beautiful head of a UK electronics company the sights of Gotham, they are interrupted by the felonious feline Catwoman! Unwilling to leave Miss Michaela Gough unprotected, Bruce resigns himself to the fact that Batman cannot save the day. But some new players have arrived in town – though even as the lovely, catsuit-clad Mrs. Peel and her comrade John Steed take control of the situation, nefarious plots continue apace!

As an aside, character actor Michael Gough (1916-2011) played Alfred the Butler in four Batman movies from 1989 to 1997. He also appeared in two episodes of The Avengers, including The Cybernauts.

DC last year canceled the regular Batman ’66 title. It is being replaced with a series of mini-series. The first, still underway, is a crossover with The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Avengers crossover story will become available digitally on June 8 (99 cents for a download) while the print version is scheduled to go on sale on July 6 for $3.99. The digital version is broken up into 12, bi-weekly installments while the print version consists of six monthly issues.

 

Patrick Macnee, an appreciation

Patrick Macnee's image in an end titles to an episode of The Avengers

Patrick Macnee’s image in a titles sequence of an episode of The Avengers

Patrick Macnee had a career that last decades. His acting credits in his IMDB.COM ENTRY begin in 1938 and run through 2003.

During that span, he didn’t get the role that defined his career — John Steed on The Avengers — until he was 39.

Even then, it took a while for The Avengers to become a worldwide phenomenon. Macnee’s Steed was the one consistent element in a show that changed cast members often.

It’s easy to see why. John Steed didn’t just know the right wines. He knew which end of the vineyard where the grapes had been grown. Steed could handle himself but — as the epitome of the English gentleman — he could adeptly out think his foes as well as out fight them.

It was all outrageous, of course. Steed and his various colleagues encountered robots, mad scientists, Soviet agents and all sorts of dangers. All were dispatched with a sense of style and elegance.

After that show ran its course, he seemed to transition effortlessly to an in-demand character actor. The captain of a cruise ship on Columbo. An alien menace on Battlestar Galactica. Dr. Watson in the made-for-TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York.

All done with style, seemingly without effort. It seemed like he’d go on forever. He couldn’t, of course. He died today at 93.

Anytime it seems like a performance was effortless, chances are it wasn’t. To keep getting acting gigs is tough. However, watching Macnee it’s understandable why casting directors would keep turning to him.

Even with lesser material, he established a presence. For example, the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had an uneven script. Yet Macnee shined as new U.N.C.L.E. chief Sir John Raleigh. When performing great material — such an Avengers script by Brian Clemens or Philip Levene — Macnee made it even more special.

Part of it was his distinctive voice. In the 1990s, when documentaries were made about James Bond movies for home video releases, he was a natural to narrate them. (He didn’t narrate Inside A View to a Kill, presumably because he was in the cast of the 1985 007 movie.)

On social media today, fans all over the world expressed sadness. That’s very understandable. Macnee was so good, for so long, it was easy to take him for granted. Nobody is doing so today.

Patrick Macnee dies at 93, BBC says

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Macnee, debonair actor best known for playing John Steed on The Avengers, died today at 93, according to the BBC, WHICH CITED MACNEE’S SON RUPERT.

There was also a statement ON THE ACTOR’S WEBSITE that said Macnee “died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California…with his family at his bedside.”

Macnee enjoyed a long career, playing dozens of characters. Still, The Avengers and his character of John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, became Macnee’s career trademark. The show first went into production in 1961. Its greatest popularity came when he was paired with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

The actor saw two of his co-stars — Honor Blackman and Rigg — leave the series to take the lead female role in James Bond movies (Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Another Majesty’s actress, Joanna Lumley, was Macnee’s co-star in a 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Macnee finally got his turn at a Bond movie, A View to a Kill, in 1985, playing an ally of Bond (Roger Moore) who is killed by henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee, years earlier, had played Dr. Watson to Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in a made-for-television movie. Macnee also made a properly dignified chief of U.N.C.L.E. in 1983’s The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: For the second time this month (Christopher Lee’s death was the other), Roger Moore bids adieu to a colleague:

Brian Clemens, mastermind of The Avengers, dies

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Brian Clemens, a mastermind of the television series The Avengers, has died, according to an obituary on the INQUISITR WEBSITE.

Clemens, born in 1931, had a lengthy career as a writer and producer. But he is perhaps best known for his work on The Avengers (1961-69) and The New Avengers (1976-77).

In a 2008 U.K. television interview, Clemens said The Avengers “had a curious logic all its own.” Ideas that might work elsewhere could work on The Avengers, he said. “The Avengers had unwritten rules” which were “in my head,” Clemens said.

Of suave John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, Clemens said in 2008: “He is the manipulator of the all the girls he’s ever been associated with. He gets them into situations for his own benefit.”

Eon Productions, maker of the James Bond film series, used The Avengers as a farm club. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers, was signed to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. After bringing aboard Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, the series even made a joke about Mrs. Gale sending Steed a card from Fort Knox.

Rigg, of course, ended up playing Tracy, Bond’s doomed bride, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Macnee finally made his 007 appearance in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Going the other way, Joanna Lumley, who had a small part in Majesty’s, was the female lead in The New Avengers.

Here’s the 2008 interview with Clemens:

The Secret Service principals compare movie to old-style 007

UPDATE (July 26): A reader who was at the presentation tells us that a Colin Firth quote below was transcribed incorrectly by Screen Rant. Quote has been changed to reflect that.

Some of the people behind the new Kingsman: The Secret Service compared the upcoming film to 1960s James Bond movies and other spy entertainment of that decade, according to the entertainment website SCREEN RANT.

The movie got promoted at the San Diego comic book convention. The film is based on a 2012 comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

Millar made light of more recent Bond films with Daniel Craig in discussing Kingsman. “James Bond cries in the shower now in these movies but [star Colin Firth] gets to do cool stuff – like firing these gadgets and all this stuff. I think he got the best gig in the end.”

Firth kept his comparisons to the 1960s. He was quoted thusly by Screen Rant (with corrections included): “I enjoyed this kind of thing growing up in the ’60s and the character of the spy movie has its roots in the ’60s. It’s the Man from Uncle U.N.C.L.E., it’s the Harry Donner Palmer films, it’s John Speed’s Steed’s Avengers, and those early Bond films. It’s the guy in the suit who seems slick and cool and capable but very contained but you cross him at your peril.”

The Matthew Vaughn-directed film is due out this fall in February.