Anthony Spinner: In-demand writer-producer

Anthony Spinner’s title card for Survival, the final episode of The FBI

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

Anthony Spinner, if anything else, didn’t lack for work as a writer and producer of television series.

His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 20 producer credits and writer credits for more than 30 shows over decades.

Quinn Martin, the head of QM Productions, had an up-and-down relationship with Spinner. But Martin often turned to Spinner. As The FBI ended a nine-year run (with Spinner its producer for the final season), Martin immediately switched Spinner to produce Cannon.

At one point in the 1970s, Martin had Spinner produce two series at the same time — Cannon and Caribe, a kind of mix of Hawaii Five-O and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Caribe was a Miami-based police unit (Five-O) with jurisdiction throughout the Caribbean (multi-nation, similar to U.N.C.L.E.).

Still, Spinner had jobs beyond QM. Most notably, he took over as producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in what would be its final season (1967-68). The episodes he produced took on a much more serious tone compared with the show’s campy third season.

Among U.N.C.L.E. fans, Spinner draws a mixed reaction. For some, his episodes represent a revival. For others, those episodes are too humorless compared with the show’s first season.

Spinner was also story consultant and later producer of Search, a one-season series on NBC (1972-73).

Search concerned a private organization, but the show had elements of spy shows of the 1960s. Operatives played by Hugh O’Brian, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosa took on cases while being monitored by monitored by crabby Cameron (Burgess Meredith).

Spinner also was the subject of an in-joke on Mannix. Writer Stephen Kandel, who had worked for Spinner on the QM series Dan August, named a hit man after Spinner.

The two would work together again on Cannon. One of their highlights: Spinner and Kandel worked together to rescue Cannon scripts during a fire at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, according to the book Quinn Martin, Producer by Jonathan Etter.

1 million page views later

Today, Aug. 1, The Spy Command reached 1 million page views. Sounds like a big number but it’s actually pretty modest for the internet. But it’s not bad for a blog with a niche audience.

The blog’s best day for views was Nov. 15, 2013. That’s when it published a post with the press release that Danjaq LLC (parent of Eon Productions) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had reached an agreement with the Kevin McClory estate.

The deal brought all rights that had been held by McClory into the Danjaq-MGM fold “thus bringing to an amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years,” according to the statement. Thus, the Eon 007 series could again use Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE without fear of legal action.

That, however, was not the most viewed post in the history of blog. That honor goes to a post quoting Guy Ritchie that his first choice for Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was Brad Pitt.

Who’d have thought? Perhaps more surprises lay ahead.

June Foray, cartoon voice, dies at 99

Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle, one of the many characters voiced by June Foray

June Foray, a cartoon voice for decades, has died at 99, according to an obituary posted by Variety.

Her many credits include Rocky and Bullwinkle, where she voiced Rocky the Flying Squirrel and villain Natasha Fatale.

She was also a voice on Warner Bros. cartoons for characters such as Granny and Witch Hazel. Foray eventually got on-screen credits on those cartoons.

Foray also did “bumpers” for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. telling viewers the show would be return after station identification and to stay tuned for previews of the next week’s episode. One of her bumper recordings was included in a home video release of the series. And she was the voice of Talking Tina, a killer doll in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

June Foray (1917-2017)

“She was, of course, the premier female voice talent of her era,” Mark Evanier, a television and comic book writer wrote of Foray on his blog.

“I don’t know who the runner-up was but whoever it was, she was in a distant second in terms of hours logged voicing cartoons and commercials, dubbing movies, doing narration, appearing on radio shows and records…even providing the voice for talking dolls,” Evanier wrote.

The writer called Foray “a talented workaholic who for decades, drove into Hollywood every weekday early in the morning and went from recording session to recording session until well after dark.”

Foray died less than two months short of what would have been her 100th birthday.

UPDATE: Here’s an excerpt of an interview June Foray did for the Archive of American Television.

1967: Spy TV star debates a conservative icon

Robert Vaughn, right, with Richardo Montalban in the first-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Dove Affair

July 8 is the 50th anniversary of when Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., debated William F. Buckley Jr. about the Vietnam war on the program Firing Line.

Buckley, the founder and publisher of National Review, took on debate partners over more than 30 years on Firing Line.

Firing Line’s format was polite but intense. In 1967, the Vietnam War was raging and it was an intense time.

Vaughn was one of the most prominent actors who opposed the war.

Vaughn, decades later, in an interview for the Archive of American Television, described his preparation for the debate.

The actor said he “spent a month in a monastery reading everything Buckley had ever written in his life, including term papers at Yale. So I walked in as the young challenger against the old champ.”

The Firing Line taping occurred during a day off during filming of the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode The Thrush Roulette Affair (July 5-7 and 10-12, according to Jon Heitland’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. book).

The Hoover Institution, a conservative think thank has posted the Buckley Vaughn encounter. It lasts more than 48 minutes. It’s considerably more polite than a debate, a year later, between Buckley and author Gore Vidal on ABC.

You can view the Buckley-Vaughn video below. There’s a judge, C. Dickerman Williams.

At the end, Williams says, “We’ve had a conflict between a hawk and a dove…Whose feathers were the more ruffled? The hawk’s or the dove’s? I must leave that to you to decide, As chairman, I can’t make a decision myself, I regret to say.”

(Corrected to remove reference to PBS. Firing Line wasn’t shown on PBS until the early 1970s.)

 

Fred Koenekamp, director of photography, dies

Fred Koenekamp

Fred J. Koenekamp, an Oscar winning director of photography, has died, according to an announcement on Facebook by cinematographer Roy H. Wagner. He was 94.

Koenekamp received an Oscar for his work on 1974’s The Towering Inferno. He was also nominated for photographing Patton and Islands in the Stream.

He graduated to feature films after his work on television. That included 90 of 105 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Koenekamp was twice nominated for an Emmy for his U.N.C.L.E. photography.

Koenekamp was the son of cinematographer Hans F. Koenekamp (1891-1992). The elder Koenekamp began his career at the Mack Sennett Keystone Studio early in the 20th century, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Fred Koenekamp got his start at RKO as a film loader, according to a biography on the Turner Classic Movies website. He worked his way up to camera operator on movies such as 1955’s Kismet and 1957’s Raintree County.

By 1963, he became director of photography, working on the MGM television series The Lieutenant. The show was created and produced by Gene Roddenberry, with Norman Felton as executive producer.

Fred Koenekamp title card from a fourth-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Lieutenant only lasted the 1963-64. Felton hired Koenekamp for his new series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The series pilot had been photographed by Joseph Biroc. Koenekamp and Biroc would both work on The Towering Inferno and shared the Oscar for that movie.

Koenekamp would remain on U.N.C.L.E. until part way through the show’s fourth, and final, season. However, Koenekamp would have one final U.N.C.L.E. credit when he photographed the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Koenekamp also subbed as director of photography for two episodes of the Mission: Impossible television series.

The cinematographer’s career extended into the 1990s, according to the IMDB.COM ENTRY. He was among the U.N.C.L.E. crew members who appeared at The Golden Anniversary Affair, a 2014 event in Los Angeles celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary.

UPDATE (6:30 p.m.): Variety has posted a short obituary that states Koenekamp died on May 31. A memorial service has been scheduled for June 17, Variety said.

53 years ago today…

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair, as photographed by Fred Koenekamp.

…production began on The Iowa-Scuba Affair, the first regular series episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The pilot, The Vulcan Affair, had been filmed in late 1963.)

On June 1, 1964, even the earliest U.N.C.L.E. fans didn’t knew what awaited them in a few months. For the crew, it was another job.

What a crew it was.

The director, Richard Donner, would eventually become a big-time film director. The writer was Harold Jack Bloom. He shared an Academy Award nomination with episode producer Sam Rolfe on the screenplay of The Naked Spur, a 1953 western starring James Stewart.

The director of photography was Fred Koenekamp, who’d later photograph Patton. The composer for the episode was Morton Stevens.

While he’d never become famous, Stevens was a few years away from composing the theme for Hawaii Five-O, one of the best-know television themes.

When the cameras rolled, star Robert Vaughn, as Napoleon Solo, would be in almost every scene. David McCallum, signed to play Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin, wasn’t even in the episode. But McCallum would make his presence known shortly.

“Without whom, etc.”

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

It was 109 years ago today that Ian Fleming was born.

Without him, James Bond novels wouldn’t have come to be. That would have freed up a slot for President John F. Kennedy’s list of his top 10 favorite books. Who knows what book would have benefited from being on that early 1960s list?

Also, James Bond movies wouldn’t have come to be. That’s 24 movies in the official series (and counting) plus two others.

Neither would have The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which originated when producer Norman Felton was approached about whether he’d like to a series based on Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book.

The author’s involvement (from October 1962 to June 1963) with U.N.C.L.E. spurred NBC to put the show in development. By the time Fleming exited (under pressure from Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman), enough work had occurred for NBC to keep developing the series. One of Fleming’s ideas (that Napoleon Solo liked cooking) ended up in the 2015 movie version of the show.

For that matter, pretty much the entire 1960s spy mania (Matt Helm movies, Flint movies, I Spy, The Wild Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible) probably doesn’t happen because Bond generated a market for such entertainment.

Happy birthday, Ian Fleming.