Sid Haig dies at 80

Sid Haig as the hood who had “a bruddah” in Diamonds Are Forever

Sid Haig, an actor who made it big in horror movies but also had his moments in spy-fi, died Sept. 21 at age 80, according to Yahoo Movies UK.

Haig starred in films such as House of 1000 Corpses,  The Devil’s Rejects and other films directed by Rob Zombie.

Before becoming a horror star, Haig was a busy character actor, including a lot of work on television. That included appearances in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible and Get Smart.

Haig also made an impression with a small role in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. He’s part of the “brain trust” (Felix Leiter’s words) of hoods waiting on Sean Connery’s Bond (posing as Peter Franks) to take the body of the real Franks to Slumber Inc.

On the way to the mortuary, there’s a brief exchange of dialogue where the leader of the group (Marc Lawrence asks, “The stiff, uh, deceased back there. Your brother, Mr. Franks?”

“Yes, it was,” Bond replies.

Haig’s character perks up. “I got a bruddah!”

“Small world,” Bond says.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 55th anniversary

Familiar third-season publicity still for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Adapted and updated from a Sept. 22, 2014 post

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted 55 years ago today with the telecast of The Vulcan Affair on NBC.

The series had false starts. First Ian Fleming was a participant, then after several months he wasn’t, bowing out to pressure from Bond movie producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Then there was threatened legal action from Eon Productions stemming from the show’s original title, Solo.

In turn, the series got a new title and the legal problems went away. The makers of Goldfinger did make one change in their film. A gangster named Solo died the most spectacular death among hoodlums invited to Goldfginer’s Kentucky stud farm, a change from earlier drafts and from Fleming’s original novel. (Adrian Turner’s 1998 book on Goldfinger details the changes in the movie’s script.)

Rough Start

Nor did U.N.C.L.E. get off to an easy start. Airing on Tuesday nights, it was up against The Red Skeleton Show on CBS, which nearly led to cancellation before a mid-season switch to Monday nights.

But the audience discovered the series, eventually ensuring a renewal for a second season for 1965-66, which would be its highest-rated campaign.

Executive Producer Norman Felton (1913-2012) faced other challenges.

His developer-producer Sam Rolfe (1924-1993) departed after the first season and things weren’t quite the same, certainly not as consistent.

Various other producers — David Victor, Boris Ingster and Anthony Spinner among them — put their own stamp on the show with varying degrees of success. Major contributions were made by writers such as Alan Caillou (who arguably shaped the Illya Kuryakin character), Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields.

Time Takes Its Toll

Few of the creative personnel are still with us. In the five years since the show’s 50th anniversary, time has taken its toll. Frequent U.N.C.L.E. director Joseph Sargent died in December 2014, three months after the anniversary. Star Robert Vaughn died in 2016. Fred Koenekamp, who work as director of photography on U.N.C.L.E. got him movie jobs, passed away in 2017. Peter Allan Fields died earlier this year at 84.

Dean Hargrove

There are still survivors. David McCallum just celebrated his 86th birthday. Dean Hargrove, 81, in a long interview in March with the Writer’s Guild Foundation provided some insights into the show. He acknowledged it put him on the map, setting up a long and successful career as a TV writer-producer.

The franchise is in limbo. A 2015 movie based on the series wasn’t a financial success. There was talk of trying to get a sequel going but there’s no sign much is happening.

Hargrove, in the interview this year, said studio Warner Bros. may have simply waited too long to do a movie version.

All of that is a story for another day. For now, happy anniversary, U.N.C.L.E.

Phyllis Newman dies at 86

Phyllis Newman in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Phyllis Newman, an actress whose long career included guest appearances on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West, has died at 86, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Her son, Adam Green, a theater critic for Vogue, announced the death in a Twitter post.

Newman won a Tony for the play Subways Are For Sleeping in 1962, beating out Barbra Streisand for the award, THR said.

She was married to Adolph Green, a playwright, screenwriter and lyricist, from 1960 until his death in 2002.

Newman’s spy TV appearances in the 1960s were on the light side. She played an Arab woman who becomes smitten with David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin in the second-season episode The Arabian Affair. This occurs while U.N.C.L.E. is investigating efforts by the villainous organization Thrush to develop a “vaporizer” that can dissolve objects and people.

Newman also played an American Indian princess in one of the Dr. Loveless episodes of The Wild Wild West, The Night of the Raven. In that episode, Loveless (Michael Dunn) shrinks James West (Robert Conrad) and Newman’s character to just a few inches tall.

Real people who existed in some fictional universes

Haphazard Stuff, who makes entertaining videos about James Bond and other entertainment subjects, came out with a video that caught my eye.

He discussed real people (Queen Elizabeth, Bob Hope, Anita Ekberg, among others) who have existed in our world as well as the fictional world of the cinematic James Bond.

That got me to thinking about real people who managed to co-exist in some of the blog’s other favorite fictional universes.

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68): This spy show had characters who were either based on, or parodies of, real-life people. But it takes a little looking to find real-life people.

The Cherry Blossom Affair, in the show’s second season, was set in Japan and it’s established that Japanese love baseball.

In Act IV, a Japanese official of Thrush is interrupted by an aide. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) inquires whether something is wrong.

“It appears that Sandy Koufax has just pitched another no hitter!” the excited Thrush official says.

This, of course, would be Sandy Koufax, who pitched for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. This episode first aired Nov. 19, 1965. Koufax pitched his fourth, and final, no-hitter on Sept. 9, 1965, a perfect game (no base runners allowed).

Earlier in the episode, the story’s innocent Cricket Okasada (France Nuyen) is depicted as having a side job dubbing U.S. TV shows into Japanese. She’s shown working on an episode of Dr. Kildare.

Like U.N.C.L.E., it was produced by Norman Felton’s Arena Productions. This would suggest Dr. Kildare star Richard Chamberlain also co-exists in the fictional U.N.C.L.E. universe.

In The Thor Affair, a third-season entry, Solo and Illya Kuryakin enlist the assistance of a schoolteacher as the story’s “innocent.” In the episode’s final scene, the initials RFK and LBJ are seen on a chalkboard at the teacher’s school room.

Thus, it would seem Robert F. Kennedy (then a U.S. senator from New York) and then-President Lyndon B. Johnson also existed in this fictional universe. Robert Vaughn was a friend of RFK’s and supported his 1968 run for president.

The FBI logo from the main titles.

The FBI (1965-74):  J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was instrumental in the series reaching TV screens. Hoover also was, sort of, a character on the show.

A number of episodes depicted FBI offices having photographs of Hoover.

Beyond that, the first-season episode The Defector Part I depicts Hoover as playing an off-screen role in the story.

The bureau is seeking the assistance of a cocky chess champion as part of an espionage case. The chess player comes out of Hoover’s office (we see the door with Hoover’s name and title). He acts similar to Moses having witnessed the burning bush and agrees to help out Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.).

In the second-season episode The Camel’s Nose, assistant director Arthur Ward tells a long-time friend about the story of the camel that first got his nose in the tent before eventually taking it over. “We almost lost the tent,” Ward says, referring to the bureau, but that Hoover got it back.

In real life, of course, Hoover’s record at the FBI was very controversial, including FBI wiretaps on civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. But the episode shows how Hoover was a presence on the show, even though he was never actually seen in person.

Hoover died in spring 1972, after production of the show’s seventh season. In the eighth season, the episode Edge of Desperation reflects the passing of the director.

Arthur Ward comes out of the Director’s office. The sign on the door now reads, “L. Patrick Gray, III, Acting Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Entrance.”

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Hawaii Five-O (1968-80): Some first-season episodes mention “Chief Dan.” Usually the context is Five-O is “working with” Chief Dan.

This is an apparent reference to Chief Dan Liu, who headed the Honolulu Police Department from Oct. 1, 1948 to June 30, 1969. Liu  had a cameo in the 1952 John Wayne film Big Jim McClain.

Eddie Sherman, a Honolulu newspaper columnist, appeared in a number of episodes, including one (Rest in Peace, Somebody) as himself.

McGarrett (Jack Lord) calls up Sherman. “Eddie Sherman, what’s your problem?” the newsman answers. Sherman agrees not to print a story about a mysterious message the lawman has received in his office.

In another episode, A Matter of Mutual Concern, McGarrett apprehends one crime boss who has just killed another. Just before his arrest, the surviving crime boss complains how his car’s speedometer goes to 120 mph, but he could never get the car to go faster than 90.

“Tell Ralph Nader!” McGarrett says. Evidently, the famed consumer advocate (and future presidential candidate) also co-exists in the Five-O Universe.

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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Rip Torn dies

Rip Torn’s title card in a trailer for One Spy Too Many, movie version of a two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Rip Torn, a quirky character actor, died today at 88, The Hollywood Reporter said, citing Torn’s publicist.

Torn was known for playing Artie the producer on The Larry Sanders Show. He also portrayed Zed in Men in Black. His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists almost 200 acting credits going back to 1956.

The actor also participated in 1960s spymania. Torn played Alexander, an industrialist who idealized Alexander the Great, in Alexander the Greater, a two-part story on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The story, with some additional scenes, was released as the film One Spy Too Many.

Alexander’s plot involves staging a coup in an unnamed Asian country. He intends to manipulate the coup’s leaders, in effect controlling the country. As part of Alexander’s plan, he will break each of the Ten Commandments. For example, he has imprisoned his parents as slave labor at a rock quarry in Greece. Alexander’s plot will be complete when he personally kills the leader of the Asian nation.

Alexander the Greater led off U.N.C.L.E.’s second season as the show was nearing the peak of its popularity. The trailer for the movie version is below.