Television writer Henry Sharp dies at 106

Henry Sharp title card from a fourth-season episode of The Wild Wild West

Television writer Henry Sharp, whose credits included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died Jan. 9 at 106, according to a Twitter post by the Writers Guild West.

Sharp’s entry on IMDB.com lists credits across various genres going back to the late 1950s. Many of his initial credits were for situation comedies, including The Donna Reed Show and McHale’s Navy.

The writer shifted to spy-fi in the mid 1960s as the spy genre became popular. Sharp was brought in to rewrite a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Neptune Affair, about a group of scientists trying to start World War III. Sharp shared the teleplay credit with John W. Bloch, who plotted the story.

Sharp’s biggest mark was on The Wild Wild West, which mixed cowboys and espionage.

Sharp wrote four first-season episodes. Early in the second season, he was brought aboard as story editor (formal title: story consultant), where he helped supervise and revise scripts. He had a total of 10 writing credits on the series.

One of his best was early in the second season, The Night of the Golden Cobra, which featured Boris Karloff as the guest adversary for Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin).

Here’s the tweet announcing Sharp’s death:

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U.N.C.L.E. script: Getting the series started Part I

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair.

Having sold Solo (now-renamed The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) as a series, it was now up to executive producer Norman Felton to get the series underway.

In place as day-to-day producer was Sam Rolfe, who wrote the series proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo” as well as the pilot script and its expanded movie version To Trap a Spy.

The critical first post-pilot script would be penned by Harold Jack Bloom. Rolfe and Bloom co-wrote the 1953 western film The Naked Spur. They were nominated for an Oscar for their efforts on that movie.

Bloom would also be the first writer employed on the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. He’d receive an “additional story material” credit for the 007 movie.

The copy the blog has of the script is dated May 27, 1964, just a few days before filming would begin on June 1, with Richard Donner directing. Some pages are dated as late as June 4, after filming had begun.

FADE IN:
INT. FARMHOUSE NIGHT
Just inside the door JILL DENNISON, nineteen, eyes closed dreamily, is wrapped in the arms of TOMMY BLAIR, twenty-seven, a uniformed non-com in the Air Force. But then her defenses become alerted to his rising passion.

JILL
Tommy…?

He stops, moving his head back to meet her eyes. A heavy sigh seems to restore his self-control.

TOMMY
Tomorrow night?

She nods. He gives up and grins. This wins him a final peck before he exits.

However, after the final “peck,” things are about to take a bad turn for Tommy. He drives off on a motorcycle.

ANOTHER ANGLE
As Tommy comes out of the turn, he reacts to something he sees ahead, o.s.

SUBJECTIVE FROM HIS POV

CAMERA MOVES ALONG ROAD APPROACHING the silhouette of a man who stands in the center of the road. The cycle’s headlights stop short of the man’s legs.

REVERSE

Tommy has stopped. Bends forward to raise his headlight.

HIS POV

The light picks up Solo standing in the road, his gun held, assembled for automatic fire. He holds his free hand up in a gesture of “halt”. ZOOM INTO CLOSE.

INTERCUT
Tommy reacts. His boyishness is gone now, replaced by an ugly intent. He kicks the motorcycle into full speed and it jerks forward. Solo FIRES. The shots go through the cycle’s plastic windshield behind which Tommy is crouched. Solo somersaults at the last moment to avoid the swerving machine. The cycle swerves past, skidding over on one side to dig its own halt.

The scene in the final version wasn’t quite as dramatic (Robert Vaughn’s Solo didn’t somersault) but it’s pretty much what Bloom wrote.

Solo inspects the body. He also sees that the dead man was carrying scuba diving equipment. The stage directions state that Solo holsters his gun. That would be difficult with all the attachments of what would become known as the U.N.C.L.E. Special. “A final look at Tommy, then MOVE INTO CLOSE OF SOLO.”

In the next scene, Solo poses as the dead man’s brother. He acts outraged when the local authorities have no clues who killed him. The only lead Solo has is Jill, the young woman that Tommy was with just before Solo killed him.

As the agent leaves, he passes “an elderly SCRUBWOMAN” who radios the information to someone named “Hod.” She indicates no harm should come to the stranger yet.

Solo then visits Jill. They’re being observed by “AUNT MARTHA, a hawk-faced spinster in her mid-forties.” She is “doing needlepoint with quick, angry thrusts.” Jill, meanwhile, is telling Solo that she and Tommy “weren’t in love or anything.” It quickly becomes clear Aunt Martha wasn’t happy with Jill dating Tommy.

During the conversation, there’s another visitor: “CLINT SPINNER, a tall, raw-boned man in his early fifties.” It turns out Spinner’s father was a “sharecropper” in the area. He’s purchased land nearby after being a successful oil man. Spinner has dug a deep well to benefit his new farm.

The scene becomes a way for writer Bloom to provide information to the audience. A secret U.S. Army base has built in the area. Spinner says the base houses the SX-9 “catapult plane” which in “case of war” can be hurled “into the air going better’n three thousand miles an hour.”

“They make such a big deal about military secrets,” Solo responds. “I bet everyone around here knows what you just told me.”

“They know what I know,” Spinner says. “We was all right here when they built it.”

As the scene concludes, Solo asks Jill about why Tommy would have scuba gear. The question surprises Jill. Tommy said he couldn’t swim.

It turns out the entire scene has been observed at a distance by three people in scuba outfits including “an exotic Spanish woman.” The other two are men who hold “strange looking rifles.” One begins to aim his weapon but the woman “gently” pushes the barrel of the rifle down.

Solo then returns to New York and U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. He confers with Alexander Waverly. It turns out Tommy was really Eric Freedlander, a saboteur. Solo had been on his trail. Freedlander slipped away in Berlin but then showed up in Iowa, the site of the secret base. There was a real Tommy Blair but he is missing.

What follows is a briefing scene which provides more details for the audience. We’re told more about the plane and its capabilities. In the middle of the briefing, Waverly is told that the authorities in Iowa have released a statement they’ve found the murderer of Thomas Blair.

They react.

WAVERLY (looking at Solo as he answers)
Isn’t that interesting…?

TO BE CONTINUED

Michele Carey dies at 75

Michele Carey in an episode of The Wild Wild West

Michele Carey, an actress active from the 1960s into the 1980s, has died at 75, according to an announcement on her Facebook page.

Carey died on Nov. 21. The announcement described her death as a ” sudden and unexpected passing.”

One of her most prominent roles was in the Howard Hawks-directed western El Dorado, starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum.

She played Josephine “Joey” MacDonald, a tomboy-like character. She shoots Wayne’s Cole Thornton early in the film. While the wound isn’t fatal, it causes plot complications because Thornton becomes impaired later in the story.

Carey was active in spy-related television shows. Among them: a small role on The Double Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the only two-part story of the series; as well as episodes of It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible and Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

The actress was also the voice of Effie the computer in the short-lived 1979 series A Man Called Sloane starring Robert Conrad.

While not a spy story, Carey also was a guest star in a 1969 episode of The FBI titled Tug-Of-War. One of her co-stars was Barry Nelson, the first actor to play James Bond. The episode was plotted by Anthony Spinner, who was the fourth-season producer of U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E.: Sam Rolfe’s Solo is ready for filming Part II

Title card for the Solo series pilot

When Sam Rolfe wrote up a series proposal titled Ian Fleming’s Solo, the concepts of the villainous organization Thrush and the “innocents” who would interact with U.N.C.L.E. agents were teased. In his 103-page script, Rolfe would flesh out both.

Thrush is so vast that the prominent Vulcan Chemicals company, headed by Andrew Vulcan, is part of Thrush. Solo remarks that Vulcan’s company is “the third largest plastics company in the country.” Allison, his superior, says it’s “the eastern seaboard cover of Thrush.”

Clearly, the stakes are enormous.

There is a silent reaction from Solo. Allison pushes the file across his desk. Solo takes it and looks at the photo stapled to the outer cover.

INSERT – THE FILE – PHOTO OF VULCAN

The photo shows a man in his mid thirties…

ALLISON’S VOICE
A few months ago we discovered that the president of the firm, Mr. Andrew Vulcan himself, is an officer of Thrush.

Lancer, another U.N.C.L.E. agent had gone undercover as an employee for Vulcan’s company. He tried to communicate with Allison but was cut cut off and is presumed dead.

That precipitated the raid on U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in New York at the beginning of the script. All U.N.C.L.E. knows is there will be some kind of assassination attempt planned for the three leaders of a newly independent African nation who are guests of Vulcan.

Solo gets a second, more detailed, briefing from a “young attractive woman (MARGARET OBERON)” who has been designated as Channel D and assigned to Solo on a “twenty-four hour until mission complete basis.” In the series, Channel D would simply be a communications channel, rather than an individual.

Oberon provides more details about Andrew Vulcan and his company as well as the contingent from Western Guiana (renamed Western Natumba when filmed). The three men led the guerilla war that led to their nation’s independence. They are led by Ashumen, the premier of the country.

The innocent of the script comes up because Andrew Vulcan once had a girlfriend in college.

Illya visits Solo at his apartment with a yearbook from Ruttenberg College. As typed in the script, it’s from 1942. The copy of the script the blog has shows that’s crossed out and 1949 substituted instead.

The agents also have a clipping from the college newspaper which has a picture of a young Vulcan with “his arm around a pretty young girl (ELAINE MAY BENDER).”

Solo says since college that Vulcan “has wrapped himself in a protective cocoon. No friends, no women that mean anything to him.” As a result, he opts to see if Elaine, now a married housewife, can be enlisted to help — to try to get through Vulcan’s cocoon.

Fritz Weaver’s title card for the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Solo meets the now Elaine May Donaldson at her home. Her reverend has arranged an introduction but he’s nervous. He did it under duress from his bishop. Nevertheless, after initially refusing, Elaine agrees to help.

Thus, Rolfe establishes one of the aspects that would make U.N.C.L.E. different than other 1960s spy shows. In this case, there’s a firm reason why Solo seeks her help. In the series, over 105 episodes, there wouldn’t always be such strong connections. More often, innocents would stumble into the middle of the action. Still, Solo (and later Illya) would need to watch out for the welfare of the innocents as well as trying to accomplish their assignments.

What follows is a bit of spy vs. spy. Vulcan and the other Thrush operatives know who Solo is. At one point, Solo radios into Channel D.

SOLO
Thrush has me spotted. Also…it’s possible…correction probable that a member of the Western Guiana delegation is with Thrush.

The agent averts one attempt on his life when one of Vulcan’s engineers booby traps Solo’s car.

Meanwhile, Elaine does get through Vulcan’s protective cocoon — sometimes more successfully than she imagined. U.N.C.L.E. has established a cover story for Elaine (she’s supposed to be the widow of a Oklahoma oilman). For a time, Elaine has doubts whether Vulcan is really part of Thrush.

Despite that, Solo convinces Elaine to ask Vulcan to show her the industrialist’s plastics plant. The delegation from the African nation is scheduled to visit the facility the next day.

Solo investigates the plant while Elaine and Vulcan are walking the grounds. He’s eventually discovered. Solo is in peril and appears about to be captured when Elaine makes her choice and helps him get away momentarily.

The pair sees a car and intend to use it to leave the grounds. However, Ashumen, the African premier, is in the car. He turns out to be the member of the delegation who’s part of Thrush. Solo and Elaine are captured at the end of Act III.

Things aren’t looking good at the beginning of Act IV. “Solo’s wrists are encase in manacles linked together by a foot long chain,” according to the stage directions. Vulcan is more than displeased with Elaine.

He has dropped all pretenses. He starts a backhanded slap at Elaine. Solo quickly steps in the way, taking the blow across his own shoulder. Solo clasps his wrists and swings back, the loose swinging chain lashing across Vulcan’s face.

As filmed, Solo would simply punch Vulcan before he could strike Elaine.

A dire moment for Elaine (Patricia Crowley) and Solo (Robert Vaughn).

Vulcan and Ashumen plan to stage an “accident” during a demonstration of a reactor at the plant used to make new plastics. The other two leaders of the African nation will die and become martyrs. Ashumen will “rule in their names” — and provide Thrush with diplomatic immunity and other benefits of nationhood. Solo and Elaine will be killed by steam and their bodies will be found after the explosion.

Solo and Elaine have other ideas. The U.N.C.L.E. agent figures a way out of the fix they’re in.

He foils the assassination attempt while Vulcan and Ashumen die in the explosion instead. The script is a bit more elaborate than what was filmed. For example, the script has Solo donning an asbestos suit before going to the reactor. In the final version, he didn’t bother and is still in his tuxedo.

The script also has Nobuk, one of the surviving African leaders, telling his colleague, Conuellen, “You and I…we must continue in his name. His dreams were the dreams of our people. For him, we must go on. We must build.” This wouldn’t be part of the final product. Conuellen would renamed Soumarin in the final version.

The next evening, Solo and Elaine fly back to her home. She’s ready to disembark while Solo will fly on to New York.

She leans forward and kisses him on the cheek. Then she hurries down the aisle towards the exit. For a moment Solo stands rubbing his cheek perhaps ruefully, a lonely figure.

Not necessarily for long. A flight attendant, seeing Solo sitting by himself, asks if there’s anything she can do for him.

“…for we FREEZE FRAME…”

The last line has been delivered in the earnest manner of the young stewardess, trying hard to do her job. Solo turns to the stewardess and beckons for her to lean down towards him.

SOLO
Well…as a matter of fact….

But that is all we hear for we FREEZE FRAME and THE CAMERA MOVES IN TO HOLD ON A CLOSEUP of Solo and the stewardess as we:

FADE OUT.

The script is missing one thing — Solo’s first name. He is only called “Solo” or “Mr. Solo” during the story. In the end titles of the pilot shown to NBC executives, it simply reads, “Starring Robert Vaughn as Solo.”

However, the Napoleon Solo name devised by Ian Fleming would return. This would occur after Sam Rolfe was enlisted to write additional scenes to make Solo into the film To Trap a Spy.

Also, there was the matter of some revised scenes before the show, now called The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would air on NBC in September 1964. An important part would be recast, necessitating the change.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. script: A change in direction

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya (David McCallum) at the climax of The Deadly Quest Affair

The fourth season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would take a serious turn compared with the campy third season. The new tone was reflected in one of the fourth season’s early scripts.

The Deadly Quest Affair was written in May 1967. Some pages of the script by Robert E. Thompson are dated as early as May 2. Other pages are dated May 16, with some pages revised on June 5. However, the episode wouldn’t be seen until Oct. 30, the eighth episode actually broadcast.

Thompson had written one first-season episode, The Green Opal Affair. The new day-to-day producer, Anthony Spinner, sought to bring back as many first-season scribes as possible. Spinner, in fact, was one of them, penning The Secret Sceptre Affair.

The copy of the script the blog has is pretty close to the episode as aired. But, as often is the case, there are some interesting differences.

Originally, the villain was named Viktor Karnak. Spinner or someone else involved with the production may have felt the name was too close to the Johnny Carson character Carnac the Magnificent. He’d be renamed Karmak. Most of the pages of the script the blog retain the Karnak name.

Karnak/Karmak had tangled with U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) two years before. It had appeared the villain perished (we’re told the agents had only recovered bones and a few remains). However, Karnak/Karmak really hadn’t died and is back to get even.

In the script, the villain is described thusly: “His blond haiar is cropped short. His eeyes, though masked now by dark glasses are a startling blue. Only a single scar gashed across one cheek mars the harsh, cold symetry of his features. He seems to project a vaguely Baltic loo. His accent is vaguely reminiscent of a foreigner’s overly precise Oxonian.”

The production team ended up casting brown-haired actor Darren McGavin in role, though he’d be made up with a scar.

In the pre-titles sequence, Illya is in the hospital, recovering from a concussion from a recent assignment. Solo is visiting and is “in black tie.” As filmed, he’d be wearing a suit, rather than a tuxedo. Two henchmen of Karnak/Karmak kidnap Illya after Solo departs.

The script has a scene not in the episode where KarnakKarmak asks, “The…message has been delivered?” The henchman dubbed “Steel Rims” in the script answers, “Exactly at nine o’clock.”

At U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters, bossman Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) has called Solo in. The U.N.C.L.E. chief informs Solo that Karnak/Karmak is alive. The script describes how the villain has delivered his message.

There is a shrouded, box-like object in f.g. Waverly and Solo stand in front of it. Waverly reaches out and raises the covering on the unseen side of the shrouded object. We are aware of a very slight reaction of surprise from Solo.

It turns out to be a myna bird. “Solo…Solo: Twelve o’clock at twelve…or Illya die.”

Eventually, Solo figures out, without informing his boss, that Karnak/Karmak is hiding out in a 10-block section of Manhattan that’s been condemned for re-development. We get a variation on the plot of The Most Dangerous Game, with Karnak/Karmak hunting Solo.

Before the hunt begins, Solo meets up with the episode’s “innocent,” Shiela (Marlyn Mason), a “starving artist” who’s the daughter of a rich man. Now, she has to accompany Solo during the hunt. The only weapons Solo has are a hammer and chisel Shiela used to make sculptures.

The hunt begins at midnight. Solo has to find Illya by 6 a.m. or he dies. The Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent is in a tight spot. He’s in a gas chamber that will dispense cyanide gas at the appointed hour.

Toward the end, Karnak/Karmak corners Solo and Shiela. He sics his pet cheetah Bruno (who’d be called Ying in the episode) on Solo. As described, it’s not much of an encounter

A claw rips the chisel from Solo’s hand. He twists free of the animal…retrieves the chisel…turns back in time to meet another lunge from the cheetah — striking home this time with the chisel.

The scene was staged more elaborately by director Alf Kjellin. Of course, there was no way a live cheetah was going to get close to Robert Vaughn. So we have shots of the actor wrestling with a fake cheetah. Still, the scene comes across more dramatically than what was on the page.

During the fight, Shiela followed Karnak/Karmak to Illya and the gas chamber. The villain momentarily get the drop on the U.N.C.L.E. agents. With help from Shiela, the agents get the upper hand.

Karnak/Karmak “hurtles helplessly into the gas chamber — but with his hands flailing wildly, trying vainly to catch hold of something to steady himself. In his instinctive frenzy, what he grabs hold of is the door to the chamber — dragging it shut after him as he falls into the chamber.”

Of course, it’s now 6 a.m. and the poison gas fills the chamber.

At the end, we’re back at the hospital, Illya is in black tie and Solo (him arm chewed on by the cheetah) is a patient. “Illya waves  jauntily and leaves” while a nurse tries taking Solo’s temperature.

There was more drama behind the scenes than was contained in the script. Composer Gerald Fried had emerged as the show’s go-to composer during the second and third seasons. He did a score for this episode but it was rejected, apparently because it didn’t match the more serious tone that Spinner was implementing. (This became known following the release of original U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.)

First-season music composed by Jerry Goldsmith (who also wrote the U.N.C.L.E. theme) was re-recorded for use in fourth season episodes. This episode would mostly use that music, although some music by Richard Shores, the primary composer this season, would be used at the end of Act I. The credit for this episode was just, “Music by Jerry Goldsmith.”

Fried, however, got a second chance. He composed a score for The Test Tube Killer Affair that very much matched the more-serious tone of the fourth season. It would be Fried’s final work for the series, although he’d be back for the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Less obvious ways of celebrating Global James Bond Day

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Friday is Global James Bond Day, the event that was invented six years ago for the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Dr. No.

There are obvious ways to mark the day, namely watch a Bond film or films, read a James Bond novel, etc.

What follows are some less obvious ways. They involve offerings available on home video with significant 007 connections.

–Watch selected episodes of Hawaii Five-O (1968-80): Series star Jack Lord was the original Felix Leiter in Dr. No. So any episode begins with that. But these episodes have additional Bond ties.

The Year of the Horse (11th season). George Lazenby, a decade removed from his only performance as Bond, gets “special guest star” billing. He’s actually the secondary villain. His character also is considerably scruffier than Bond. But, hey, it’s a pretty major tie to the Bond series. The episode was filmed in Singapore.

Deep Cover (10th season). Maud Adams made her Five-O appearance inbetween her two 007 films, The Man With The Golden Gun and Octopussy. Here, she’s the leader of a spy ring that’s up to no good. She’s quite convincing ordering people to die.

George Lazenby in Hawaii Five-O’s The Year of the Horse.

My Friend, the Enemy (10th season). Luciana Paluzzi plays an Italian journalist who complicates things for McGarrett (Lord) in a kidnapping case involving international intrigue. This wasn’t the first time Paluzzi was paired with Lord. They acted together more than a decade earlier in an episode of 12 O’Clock High.

Episodes with Soon-Tek Oh. The late actor was in eight episodes, including the pilot. Recommended would be The Jinn Who Clears the Way (fifth season). It’s one of the Wo Fat episodes and his character is a “young Maoist” who’s being manipulated by Wo Fat. It also has a shock ending.

–Watch selected episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The 1964-68 series also has performers who’d play major Bond roles before their 007 appearances.

To Trap a Spy/The Four-Steps Affair. Luciana Paluzzi figures in here. She plays Angela, an operative for Thrush who can be pretty cold blooded.

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy.

To Trap a Spy is an expanded version of the show’s pilot released as a movie. Paluzzi and star Robert Vaughn filmed additional footage after production of the pilot was completed. The thing is, Angela is a dry run for Paluzzi. The character is extremely similar to Fiona, the SPECTRE assassin she’d play in Thunderball.

The Four-Steps Affair is a first-season episode. It takes extra footage used to lengthen the running times of the first two U.N.C.L.E. movies (The Spy With My Face was the other) and combined it with with new material to make a television episode. Obvious difference: Angela sleeps with Solo (Vaughn) in Trap a Spy but doesn’t in The Four-Steps Affair.

The Five Daughters Affair/The Karate Killers (third season). The Five Daughters Affair was a two-part story that was expanded into a feature film for the international market.

At the start, a fleet of mini-helicopters attack Solo and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). This was made after You Only Live Twice but before the 1967 007 film (which included mini-copter Little Nellie) arrived in theaters.

What’s more, the cast includes Telly Savalas and Curt Jurgens in supporting roles. Neither is a villain, though (as they would be in Bond films). The villain is played by Herbert Lom.

Meanwhile, I am aware of episodes of the Roger Moore version of The Saint with David Hedison and Lois Maxwell. I just don’t own copies. The Hedison episode has an especially cute ending.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m. New York time): I got “mansplained” that Danger Man/Secret Agent has Bond actors in it also. Besides the actors this reader named (Bernard Lee and Desmond Llewelyn), there’s also Earl Cameron. Also, John Glen edited a number of episodes.

You could also extend that to The Prisoner, the other major Patrick McGoohan series. Guy Doleman, who played Count Lippe in Thunderball, was Number Two in the episode titled Arrival.

And while we’re at it, I could also mention Donald Pleasance was in Part II of Hawaii Five-O’s The Ninety-Second War. He’s a German scientist who began working for the U.S. with the end of World War II who’s being blackmailed by Wo Fat.

I could also add The Avengers (Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, many character actors and crew members) and various Gerry Anderson shows (Derek Meddings special effects, Shane Rimmer), but I’m not. These are blog posts, not books.

Historian notes U.N.C.L.E., NxNW anniversaries

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Historian Michael Beschloss used his Twitter feed to note two spy-entertainment landmarks: The first telecast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the end of production on North by Northwest.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted on Sept. 22, 1964 on NBC. The show had been in development for almost two years.

Producer Norman Felton, invited to discuss doing a TV series based on Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book, instead pitched an adventure show.

The network said it’d commit to a series without a pilot episode if Felton could get Ian Fleming on board. The two had discussions in October 1962 in New York. In June 1963, Fleming dropped out because of pressure by 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Despite Fleming’s departure, the project continued, although a pilot would have to be made before NBC committed to a series. Writer Sam Rolfe did the heavy lifting on scripting the pilot and would be the day-to-day producer on the show’s first season. The series paired Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (the character name being one of Fleming’s surviving contributions) and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Ernest Lehman, would set the style for a lot of 1960s spy entertainment. It balanced drama and humor as Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill would dodge spies, with a climax on Mount Rushmore. The film ended production in September 1958 and would be released in 1959.

Here are Beschloss’s tweets:

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UPDATE (9:30 p.m. New York time): Beschloss was busy with other 1960s TV shows, including Get Smart.