U.N.C.L.E.’s end: A footnote

On Twitter, @Stingray_travel posted an old trade advertisement from MGM Television pitching The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for syndication to local television stations.

The show was canceled by NBC midway during the 1967-68 season. “How can a network series like the Man From U.N.C.L.E. become available for local station programming in mid season?” the ad reads.

MGM suggested national ratings underestimated the show’s appeal in metro areas. The ad presents a chart MGM said showed U.N.C.L.E. was in first or second place in 15 of 22 markets in October 1967.

“So someone goofed on the national scene,” the ad reads. “So now you can make it big on the local scene with U.N.C.L.E. — still the original, still the swingest show of its kind.”

As it turned out, U.N.C.L.E. was not a huge hit in syndication. Certainly not like the original Star Trek, where that science fiction show took on a whole new life in syndication and won over new fans.

An interesting part of the ad is its tagline. “128 hours of high-spying adventure. Call your MGM Television man and say U.N.C.L.E.”

U.N.C.L.E. actually generated 134 hours — 105 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and 29 for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Not all episodes were being made available. One third-season Man episode, scripted by Harlan Ellison, generated a lawsuit, causing the episode to be withheld from syndication distribution for years.

Some episodes that were re-edited into movies may also have been withheld at this point. Eventually, all TV episodes and all movie versions would become available. In some cases, there are major continuity differences. In The Four-Steps Affair, Australian U.N.C.L.E. agent Kitt Kittridge (Donald Harron) survives, but he is killed by a Napoleon Solo impostor in The Spy With My Face film.

A look at some directors of the spy craze

In the 1960s, spies became a big thing and that provided a lot of work for directors, both in movies and television.

Today, in the 21st century, some of these directors aren’t remembered very much. Occasionally, a spy craze director would go to bigger things. Here is a look at some of them.

(John Brahm, right, with Burgess Meredith on the set of an episode of The Twilight Zone

John Brahm (1893-1982): The German-born Brahm had directing credits going back to the 1930s. He was mostly working in television by the 1950s and directed series across various genres. He directed 12 episodes of The Twilight Zone, including one of the best, Time Enough at Last, starring Burgess Meredith.

When the spy craze hit, producers needed directors who could work quickly while maintaining quality. Brahm ended up directing eight episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and six episodes of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Both were made by Norman Felton’s Arena Productions. Brahm also directed 14 episodes of Arena’s Dr. Kildare series. Separately, Brahm helmed a number of episodes of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Henry Levin (1909-1980): The New Jersey-born Levin’s career went from the 1940s to 1980. Like other journeymen directors, his movies covered various genres. One of his more prestigious films was 1959’s Journey to the Center of the Earth with Pat Boone and James Mason.

With the spy craze, Levin would be employed for three spy movies all made in short order: Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (produced by Dino De Laurentiis) and Murderers’ Row and The Ambushers (both produced by Irving Allen, former partner to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli). All three movies were released by Columbia, now part of Sony.

Richard Donner (1930-2021): Donner was a spy craze director who eventually became an A-list director in Hollywood.

Donner today is best remembered for Superman (1978), the first movie featuring Christopher Reeve as the title character, as well as the Lethal Weapon series of films.

But, in the 1960s, Donner was busy doing spy-related episodes of TV shows. He directed four early episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., three episodes of The Wild Wild West and two episodes of spy parody Get Smart. Donner also directed an espionage-related episode of The Twilight Zone, The Jeopardy Room, with Martin Landau and John van Dreelen.

Arthur Weingarten, TV writer-producer, dies

Robert Vaughn and Leo G. Carroll in a moment from The Thrush Roulette Affair, written by Arthur Weingarten

Arthur Weingarten, a writer or producer on various U.S. television series in the 1960s into the 1990s, has died at 86.

His death was noted on the In Memoriam page of the Writers Guild of America West website.

Weingarten wrote for both The Man and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, The Green Hornet, Honey West and The Name of the Game.

He also worked on different Quinn Martin shows, including Dan August (writer), The FBI (executive story consultant in the final season) and The Manhunter (producer).

On The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Weingarten penned The Carpathian Caper Affair. That episode was typical of the show’s campy style. Carpathian Caper included a giant toaster death trap.

Yet, on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Weingarten wrote The Thrush Roulette Affair which was in line with the darker tone of that series’ final season. The episode included a brainwashed Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) trying to kill fellow agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn).

The producer of Man’s final season was Anthony Spinner. He’d hire Weingarten to work on QM’s Dan August and The FBI.

A look at some Ed Asner non-Lou Grant roles

Edward Asner’s title card for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Double-O-Nothing Affair

Actor Edward Asner has died at age 91. He, understandably, is receiving acclaim for a long career including playing Lou Grant on two series (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a comedy, and Lou Grant, a drama).

What follows are some of his acting credits of interest to the blog:

The Double-O-Nothing Affair, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: Asner played a Thrush chieftain whose headquarters is based at a used-car dealership. It’s an outlandish concept, but Dean Hargrove’s script makes it work. The story also makes April Dancer (Stefanie Powers) and Mark Slate (Noel Harrison) look like smart, competent agents. That wasn’t always the case with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. spinoff. Asner, as usual, makes a great villain.

The Night of the Amnesiac, The Wild Wild West: Secret Service agent James West (Robert Conrad) loses his memory just as Asner’s villain gets his way out of prison. The villain’s gang has been taken over by his brother. The brothers hate each other but Asner’s character gets the advantage. Asner complains how killing family members makes him depressed.

Hawaii Five-O/Five-0 (original and reboot): Asner played villain August March in both versions of the series. He was a highlight in both.

The FBI: Asner played a kidnapper in two episodes. In The Tormentors (season one), Asner is more stable of the kidnappers who have seized a young man (Kurt Russell) who is the son of an aging rich man (Lew Ayres). Asner’s character is done in by his sickly and disturbed partner (Wayne Rogers). In The Dynasty (third season), Asner and his nephew (Martin Sheen) have kidnapped a man who runs a family business. Asner’s character is nasty and not well educated. His idea of reading is looking at Superboy comic books. In The Attorney (fourth season), Asner plays a sympathetic character, a working-class stiff whose daughter (Dawn Wells) is involved with a Cosa Nostra crime boss.

House on Greenapple Road: This TV movie was made by Quinn Martin, the producer of The FBI. Asner was part of a stellar cast (Janet Leigh, Christopher George Peter Mark Richman, Lynda Day George, Keenan Wynn, Walter Pidgeon, Joanne Linville and others) about a murder investigation with many twists. Asner plays a county sheriff, hungry for publicity and an overall louse. The TV movie was made in 1968 but not shown until 1970. It led to QM’s Dan August series.

A guide to references in Tarantino’s new film

Post for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

These aren’t plot spoilers but the spoiler adverse should avoid.

The Quentin Tarantino-directed Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood opens this weekend. Trailers and TV spots for the film promised references to 1960s entertainment. It delivers.

Here’s a guide to some of the references that may be of interest to readers of the blog.

The Wrecking Crew: Margot Robbie, playing Sharon Tate, goes to a movie theater to watch the fourth Matt Helm film starring Dean Martin. She’s depicted as gauging how the audience reactions.

As a result, for most of the sequence, you have the fictional Tate watching the real Sharon Tate opposite Martin and Nancy Kwan. At one point, a fight scene between Tate and Kwan is juxtaposed with scenes of  of Robbie’s Tate training with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh).

Burt Reynolds in The FBI episode All the Streets Are Silent. Leonardo DiCaprio replaces Reynolds in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The FBI: Actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman/gofer Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) goes to Dalton’s house to watch the actor’s appearance in The FBI in an episode titled All the Streets Are Silent.

It’s an actual episode of the series. Except shots with Burt Reynolds, playing the episode’s lead villain, are replaced with DeCaprio as Dalton. “This is my big FBI moment,” Dalton says just before the freeze frame at the end of the pre-titles sequence where the villain’s name is on the screen.

All the Streets Are Silent was a 1965 episode. But the film is set in 1969. So the title card for the episode’s name is altered so it’s consistent with the series for the 1968-69 season.

Mannix: At one point, Booth goes home to his own trailer and watches an episode of the private eye drama. The title sequence does match the titles for the 1968-69 season.

The arrangement of Lalo schifrin’s theme uses strings instead of a piano (which began in the third season and lasted the rest of the series.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: The two shows are mentioned in passing by a character played by Al Pacino. Girl went off the air in 1967 while Man’s final episode was in January 1968.

The Wild Wild West: The show isn’t mentioned by name, but Al Pacino also references “Bob Conrad and his tight pants.”

The Green Hornet: There’s a flashback scene depicting Cliff Booth getting into a fight with Bruce Lee on the set of the 1966-67 series.

Have Gun-Will Travel: Underscore from the 1957-63 Western is used with a fictional Western series where Dalton had been a big star. Details of specific music is cited in the end titles.

Batman: The theme music for the 1966-68 series shows up in the end titles, along with audio from what sounds like a radio ad featuring Adam West and Burt Ward.

These are just a fraction of movie and TV references in the film. There are other trailers, posters and billboards shown throughout the movie.

UPDATE (July 26): Matthew Chernov advises via Twitter that there also is music from Thunderball in the end titles of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

“It’s a cue from Thunderball,” Chernov wrote in response to a tweet from me. “I saw both movies virtually back to back and it’s definitely part of a climactic action track.”

Chernov conducted a question and answer session with Luciana Paluzzi on July 17 at the Tarantino-owned New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. The actress attended a showing of Thunderball at the theater.

Chernov also wrote a July 23 article for the James Bond Radio website about Pauluzzi’s appearance.

(July 29): Reader Matthew Bradford, in a comment on The Spy Command’s page on Facebook, advises the Thunderball music was part of the Batman radio spot cited above.

(July 30): Reader Delmo Waters Jr. identifies the Mannix episode as “Death in a Minor Key,” original air date Feb. 8, 1969. Guest stars include two future Bond film actors: Yahphet Kotto and Anthony Zerbe.

Luciana Paluzzi attends Thunderball screening

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

Luciana Paluzzi, who played femme fatale Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, attended a screening of the fourth James Bond film and took some questions.

The film was shown at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, owned by writer-director Quentin Tarantino.

Today I moderated a surprise Q&A at the @newbeverly with THUNDERBALL star Luciana Paluzzi after watching a gorgeous Technicolor print of the film,” writer Matthew Chernov said on Twitter.

“It was a packed house, and Ms. Paluzzi wept in happiness because this was the first time her grandchildren saw her on the big screen.”

The theater is showing five 1960s James Bond films this month, with each showing at 2 p.m. local time on Wednesdays. Thunderball, starring Sean Connery and released in late 1965, came out at the peak of 1960s spymania.

Paluzzi, 82, also made appearances on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and Hawaii Five-O during her career.

Here is Chernov’s tweet:

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Noah Keen, character actor, dies at 98

Noah Keen, right, with James Gregory and Jack Lord in the pilot to Hawaii Five-O

Noah Keen, a veteran character actor whose career ran from the late 1950s into the 2000s, died last month at 98, according to a Los Angeles Times obituary.

Keen’s parts included a doctor who programs Steve McGarrett to impart false information under an unusual torture in the pilot to Hawaii Five-O. As a result, Chinese spy Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) takes the false information with him back to his government.

When Keen’s character meets McGarrett (Jack Lord), he reads from a dossier that indicates the lawman, during his days in the military was “an organizational misfit,” received some presidential citations and “flies by the seat of his pants.”

His other TV series credits included Have Gun-Will Travel, The FBI, The Twilight Zone, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, It Takes a Thief and Mission: Impossible. The final credit listed in his IMDB.COM ENTRY was a 2006 episode of The Sopranos.

U.N.C.L.E. car to be part of ‘Dream Machines’ exhibit

Robert Vaughn with the U.N.C.L.E. car in a third-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Piranha U.N.C.L.E. car will be part of an exhibit titled Hollywood Dream Machines at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

The car is owned by Robert Short, who has a variety of special and visual effects credits in film and television. He announced the news in a post on Facebook on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Inner Circle page. That’s a fan page where he’s the administrator.

The car with gull-wing doors was a prototype built by AMT Corp. in Phoenix, according to an online history of the vehicle. It debuted during the 1966-67 season on both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

By this time, the Aston Martin DB5 that appeared in Goldfinger had inspired other “spy cars.” The AMT Piranha was supposed to have various weapons and defensive systems, but few episodes really showed them off.

The Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit opens during the first weekend of May.

George M. Lehr, key U.N.C.L.E. lieutenant, dies

The shadow of George M. Lehr, who at the time had the title of assistant to the producer, as part of a main title sequence during the first season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

George M. Lehr, a key lieutenant in the production of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., has died, according to family members and fans of the show posting on social media. He was 87.

Lehr’s initial title on U.N.C.L.E. was assistant to producer. In the capacity, he was a jack of all trades.

Lehr was, “for all intents and purposes, the third member of the (Norman) Felton-(Sam) Rolfe team,” Jon Heitland wrote in his 1987 book about U.N.C.L.E. “He undertook a myriad of duties on the show, including all postproduction work.”

That covers quite a bit of ground, from film editing to music scoring. That meant that Lehr touched a lot of bases with accomplished professionals.

U.N.C.L.E. was produced at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where John Dunning (1916-1991), who won an Oscar for Ben-Hur, was the supervising editor. Franklin Milton (1907-1985), another Ben-Hur Oscar winner, was the recording supervisor.

Lehr even appeared on-screen, in a fashion. Starting with the eighth episode, The Double Affair, the main titles began with the shadow of an attacker inside U.N.C.L.E. headquarters who fires a gun at Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn). This would last through the end of the first season. Lehr provided that shadow.

During the second half of the show’s second season, Lehr got a promotion to associate producer (which meant a bigger credit in the end titles), a recognition of his contributions. For the 1966-67 season, he held the same title at The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (sharing it with Max Hodge).

After that series was canceled following its only season, he rejoined Man’s crew for its final campaign for the 1967-68 season, again with the title of associate producer. Lehr was around for the entire development of U.N.C.L.E.

“(H)e also helped to create the…”whip pan” by inserting blurred images between scenes,” Cynthia W. Walker wrote in Work/Text Investigating The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The “whip pan” was used as a transition and a key part of the show’s look.

George M. Lehr’s title card (shared with Irv Pearlberg) in a fourth-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Lehr’s silhouette from U.N.C.L.E.’s first season has surfaced on the cover of the Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. mini-series published by DC Comics. The silhouette is altered slightly to make it appear that of an U.N.C.L.E. agent.

Post-U.N.C.L.E., Lehr worked on series includes Bracken’s World (a drama about a movie studio), Police Woman and Masquerade. The latter, created by Glen Larson, combined elements of U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible.

Lehr also attended The Golden Anniversary Affair, a 2014 fan gathering in Southern California to mark U.N.C.L.E.’s 50th anniversary.

On a more personal note, Lehr sent me this 2011 note via Facebook (it was a direct message). He had seen my website, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide.

“Reading your site, I now recall you as the individual who established one of the original internet sites. After all these years still amazed there are UNCLE fans out there almost as old as Norman (Felton) and I are. I would guess that’s probably because fans like you are still out there “beating the bushes”! And we are all grateful.”

UPDATE (March 17): An obituary listing for George Lehr is online. You can view it by CLICKING HERE.

Happy 100th birthday, Richard Shores

Richard Shores (1917-2001)

Richard Shores (1917-2001)

Today, May 9, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Richard Shores.

Shores isn’t well known among the general public. He was a busy composer for television shows, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (he was the primary composer for that show’s final season), The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-O, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke  and Perry Mason, among others.

Journalist and movie-television music expert Jon Burlingame described Shores’ work in a 2004 interview after producing an U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack.

“I have become a huge Richard Shores fan as a direct result of this project,” Burlingame said, referring to the U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack. “As for U.N.C.L.E., he was the right man at the right time. He had the right sensibility for fourth-season shows (serious but sometimes jazzy).”

With spy and spy-related shows of the 1960s, Shores had an impact. Besides U.N.C.L.E., he scored 23 episodes of Five-O, from 1969 to 1974, 14 episodes of The Wild Wild West and one episode of It Takes a Thief.

Often, his scores were somber and dramatic. However, he was not a one-trick pony.

He scored an offbeat 1966 episode of Gunsmoke titled Sweet Billy, Singer of Songs. It was a mostly comedic outing of the normally serious show, involving a number of relatives of Festus (Ken Curtis) descending upon Dodge City.

Richard Shores title card for an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Richard Shores title card for an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Shores’ music was appropriately light and unlike the composer’s usual fare.

With The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (1966-67), Shores’ music was better than episodes he scored such as The Prisoner of Zalamar Affair and The Montori Device Affair.

For the fourth season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68), Shores’ music meshed with the more serious direction that producer Anthony Spinner decided to take the series.

The first episode of the season, The Summit-Five Affair, was drastically different than the show’s campy third season offerings. Gerald Fried, who scored more U.N.C.L.E. episodes than any other episodes, apparently was influenced. His single fourth-season offering in The Test Tube Killer Affair, sounds similar to Shores’ style.