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.

U.N.C.L.E. sequel being written, /Film says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Armie Hammer is quoted by the /Film website as saying a sequel for the 2015 Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is being written despite the film’s tepid box office.

According to the website, Hammer said he contacted Lionel Wigram, the co-producer and co-scripter of the 2015 movie.

“I was like, ‘Dude, what’s the deal? I get asked about this shit all the time. Can you just write a sequel?’” Hammer is quote as saying.

“He was like, ‘You know what? Yeah, fuck it, I’ll do it. Sure, I’ll write a sequel.’ I was like, ‘If you write one, I’m sure we can get one made,’ so who knows? Today is the first day I’ve actually told anyone that story.”

Two caveats: 1) Studios and production offices are littered with scripts that were never made into films. 2) Wigram, in this telling, doesn’t exactly sound like it’s his top priority.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s global box office was less than $110 million. During its opening weekend in the U.S., it came in No. 3, behind Straigh Outta Compton and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. The latter debuted two weeks earlier than U.N.C.L.E.

Wigram’s collaborator in writing the film was director Guy Ritchie. The duo’s latest project is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which has had three separate release dates but is currently scheduled to come out May 12. That movie also is being scored by Daniel Pemberton, who did the music for the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The 2015 project was an “origin” story and dispensed with familiar U.N.C.L.E. tropes such as a secret headquarters. It had Hammer as Illya Kuryakin and Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo. Cavill currently is working on Mission: Impossible 6.

UPDATE (April 17): The Collider website also chatted with Armie Hammer. That story had slightly different quotes from the actor. “I actually recently talked to Lionel Wigram… and I was like, ‘Dude if you don’t start writing this script I’m gonna show up at your house and cut all of the tires of all of your cars, I swear to God.’”

So, in this telling, Wigram replied (according to Hammer), “You know what? Fuck it. I’m just gonna do it, I’ll probably start writing it.”

Henry Cavill joins M:I 6 cast, Deadline says

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill is joining the cast of Mission: Impossible 6, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Few details are available. The entertainment news website linked to an Instagram exchange between MI:6 director Christopher McQuarrie and Cavill, which is how the announcement was made.

There’s a certain irony to this. The fifth installment of the Tom Cruise M:I series, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, was a major factor why The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie with Cavill as Napoleon Solo flopped.

M:I Rogue Nation originally was scheduled for Christmas 2015. But Paramount moved it up to late July of that year. U.N.C.L.E. came out two weeks later. But M:I helped suck the oxygen, and interest, for spy entertainment.

There’s another irony. Tom Cruise was approached to play Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. movie. But he bowed out, in favor of doing Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. That left the role open for Cavill.

McQuarrie scripted and directed Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

M:I 6 is scheduled to be released in late July 2018.

 

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.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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?”