U.N.C.L.E. fanfic: Adventures of George and Quentin

1998 fanzine with the first, and only (thankfully), installment of The Adventures of George and Quentin

Director Quentin Tarantino is a fan of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In the 1990s, he talked about directing an U.N.C.L.E. film with himself as Illya Kuryakin and George Clooney as Napoleon Solo.

This week, I found out he’s apparently a (silent) member of an U.N.C.L.E. page on Facebook. That caused me to recall a one-time fanfiction series, The Adventures of George and Quentin.

Of course, I wrote it. So naturally I’d remember it.

It was a Mad magazine-like takeoff. It was written after 1997’s Batman and Robin, where Clooney got a lot of flak for his portrayal of Batman. Also, the takeoff imagined a Pulp Fiction version of Kuryakin.

All of this was filler for a fanzine with more conventional U.N.C.L.E. stories. The format was to rewrite, in script form, original U.N.C.L.E. scripts with the George and Quentin team.

Here’s one example:

THE ADVENTURES OF GEORGE AND QUENTIN IN THE DEADLY GAMES AFFAIR

INT. NIGHT. STAMP SHOP

STAMP EXERT (holds tweezers)
It is a desecration!

SOLO
Uh, is that bad?

STAMP EXPERT
Would you wipe the smile off the Mona Lisa?

ANGELIQUE (Uma Thurman)
Well, hotcakees, I guess we’re back to square one.
(pins flower on SOLO)

ANGELIQUE
Maybe I’ll see ya around.

ANGELIQUE leaves. In comes ILLYA who has been observing this scene from the window of the front door.

ILLYA
Why is that b**** so f****** happy? Who got killed?

SOLO
(bobs head, smiles)
Aw lay off, Illya. Everything is OK.

CUT to another angle where we see the flower has gotten ILLYA’s attention.

CUT to extreme close up of the flower. There is a deadly spider on it.

CUT BACK to the original shot. ILLYA swats the spider off the flower and then stomps on it.

CUT to close up of ILLYA’s foot stomping the spider. The camera lens is stained.

CUT back to the original shot.

ILLYA
G****** it. Napoleon! Can’t you keep your f****** fly zipped?

STAMP EXPERT
You mean that beautiful woman just tried to kill him?

ILLYA
Do you have s*** for brains? Of course she tried to f****** kill him!

SOLO
You know Shakespeare, my friend?

STAMP EXPERT
No.

SOLO
(smiles, bobs head)
Oh. Well never mind then.

There were four others of these, with George and Quentin versions of The Shark Affair, The Foxes and Hounds Affair, The Mad, MAD Tea Party Affair and The Project Strigas Affair.

Dean Hargrove talks about U.N.C.L.E.

Dean Hargrove

Writer-producer Dean Hargrove gave a March interview to the Writers Guild Foundation. A chunk of it concerned The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 1964-68 series where he was one of the main writers.

Here are some of the U.N.C.L.E.-related comments made by Hargrove, 80, during the interview.

First-season producer Sam Rolfe: “Sam Rolfe…was a superior writer and a brilliant guy to devise formats for television shows. Sam was a tough cookie. Writers were going through this show like rabbits on the run. We sort of hit it off.”

Hargrove becomes staff writer in Season Two: Rolfe departed after the first season. Hargrove wrote two Season One scripts and was hired on for Season Two.

“I sort of had a handle on the show so it came easy to me… It was considered I had the Holy Grail. I was the one who knew the show. Nobody else really kind of understood it.

“People would turn to me and ask me should it be like this or like that. I’m saying, ‘Try that, I really don’t know.’ I just knew I had a facility for writing that show. And from a career standpoint, it’s like somebody turned on the lights.

“The show I thought was a bit of a hula hoop because it wasn’t based solidly on character, you know, it was based on style and other superficial things which were very entertaining. I loved the show and really loved working on it.”

David McCallum and Robert Vaughn in The Never-Never Affair, the first U.N.C.L.E. episode written by Dean Hargrove.

Executive Producer Norman Felton: “Norman was a very nice man and a character at the same time. He was always afraid of having to pay people money. This was one of his quirks. He didn’t like giving people raises.

“At one point, because he was getting more and more successful, he moved down into a little office…when he had a big office up in the Thalberg Building (at MGM). That way, he felt people would be less entitled to come down and ask him for raises.

“He drove an old Chevrolet. The studio asked if would he please let them give him a new car because it’s embarrassing a guy who’s producing all these shows is driving this old car.

Producer turnover on U.N.C.L.E.: Three different men filled the producer’s chair in Season Two. “I don’t think it helped the show. I don’t think any of the guys who came on really had a good handle on the show…I don’t think the producers had a good handle on the material….I thought one producer in particular didn’t understand the show at all.”

Hargrove declined to name that producer. During the second season, David Victor, Mort Abrams and Boris Ingster served as producers. Ingster returned for Season Three. He was replaced in Season Four by Anthony Spinner, who brought a more serious approach.

U.N.C.L.E.’s legacy: “I don’t think there’s a real legacy. I don’t think you can point to shows on television and say this is the spiritual grandchild of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

The U.N.C.L.E. portion of the interview starts after the 35:00 mark of this first part.

Part two begins with U.N.C.L.E. and that lasts about 20 minutes.

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.

Jerry Goldsmith, an appreciation

Jerry Goldsmith, circa mid-1960s

Feb. 10 is the 90th anniversary of the birth of composer Jerry Goldsmith. July will mark the 15th anniversary of his death at age 75.

Things just haven’t been the same since this remarkable talent left us.

Goldsmith had a long career. But he had a particularly big impact during the spy-fi mania of the 1960s.

Goldsmith was involved in the genre before its popularity surged. He acted as what we would now call a music supervisor for the 1954 broadcast of CBS’s adaptation of Casino Royale. He selected music from the CBS music library to be played as underscore during the live broadcast.

Almost a decade later, producer Norman Felton enticed Goldsmith to score the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (titled Solo at the time). Goldsmith had worked for Felton on the latter’s Dr. Kildare series.

Goldsmith turned in not only a memorable theme but a top-notch score for the pilot. The thing is, he’d later tell journalist Jon Burlingame that he felt U.N.C.L.E. was “silly.” But you couldn’t tell it by the work the composer performed.

The composer also made a huge contribution to the two Derek Flint movies of the 1960s starring James Coburn (Our Man Flint and In Like Flint). Watching today, it looks like the movies had a budget only marginally higher than TV shows of the era. But Goldsmith’s music coupled with Coburn’s performance elevated the proceedings immensely.

Jerry Goldsmiths title card for Tora! Tora! Tora!

Goldsmith also got to be an actor (briefly) in the 1965 war film In Harm’s Way. Naturally, he played a musician during an early sequence depicting a party for U.S. Navy officers on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

One of Goldsmith’s most famous television themes was for Barnaby Jones, the 1973-80 Quinn Martin series with Buddy Ebsen as an aging private eye. Goldsmith told Burlingame for an interview for the Archive of American Television he disliked the pilot and wanted to get out of it.

But you couldn’t tell it by the quality of work Goldsmith provided. One of Goldsmith’s best compositions for that pilot accompanied Ebsen just walking down to the street to the office of his murdered son. Goldsmith’s theme is playing as we watch Jones walking. It was a classic technique, getting the audience to associate the theme with the character. Simple, yet memorable to those who watched it.

Goldsmith was nominated for almost 20 Oscars. His one win was for The Omen.  He was nominated for films such as Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, Hoosiers and L.A. Confidential. Goldsmith displayed consistent excellence that was easy to take for granted.

The blog gave a favorable review to the 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Still, it would have been better if director Guy Ritchie had permitted a full version of Goldsmith’s U.N.C.L.E. theme instead of a few notes.

Regardless, Goldsmith retains his fans. One example is a Facebook page, The Cult of Jerry. His enormous contributions to television and film remain, long after he passed away.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The well-meaning villain

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) during a dramatic moment with Solo in The Shark Affair.

The Shark Affair, the fourth episode broadcast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., would feature a different antagonist — well meaning but in the end one who had to be stopped.

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) is convinced the world will soon go up in atomic war. He is kidnapping people of various talents from ships. He disables and sinks the ships while sending the rest of the passengers on their way in lifeboats. Shark’s ship is a sort of modern day Noah’s Ark.

The episode was written by Alvin Sapinsley (1921-2002), a veteran with credits going back to 1949. The Shark Affair would be his only U.N.C.L.E. script.

Sapinsley would later be a key writer on the original Hawaii Five-O series, where his contributions included the only three-part story. He also wrote Sherlock Holmes in New York, with Roger Moore as Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Dr. Watson.

Saplinsley’s script, dated June 22, 1964, is very close to the final episode. A ship in his script is called the Woonsocket. It would be changed to the Whippett for broadcast.

At the end of the episode, Captain Shark’s real name is revealed as Arthur Englander Courtney. It would be changed to Arthur Farnley Selwyn. Those changes are noted on the page after the title page. But the original names are used in the script itself.

Normally, U.N.C.L.E. writers didn’t specify act titles. Those were usually added in post-production. But Sapinsley’s script has “chapter” titles.

All match the final broadcast version except for Act I (or Chapter One as specified in the script). Saplinsley’s original is “Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax.” It would be shortened to “Of Shoelaces and Ships” in the broadcast version.

U.N.C.L.E. has been drawn into the affair after a series of ships, from various nations, have been sunk and a handful of passengers abducted. One is a librarian, Harry Barnman.

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya (David McCallum) interview his wife, Elsa (Sue Ane Langdon), “a warm, earthy girl in her late twenties.” Later, she receives airline and ship tickets and bolts her New York apartment.

Mr. Waverly, the agents’ superior, decided to strand the agents on a raft in the path of the ship the librarian’s wife is on. But they end up being intercepted by Captain Shark’s vessel instead. Regardless, the agents are where they want to be.

An ‘Urbane’ Villain

Curiously, the script doesn’t provide much in the way of description for Captain Shark. He is “urbane, spotless, commanding” in an opening scene where he commandeers a ship.

Guest star Robert Culp, who turned 34 in August 1964, would have his hair streaked gray at the temples to make him look older. It’s not until the end that the audience is told Captain Shark/Selwyn commanded a ship in World War II, which would probably make the character a decade or so older than the actor.

After being brought aboard Shark’s ship, Solo and Illya encounter Harry Barnman, described as “a mild-mannered man of thirty.” The part would be cast with actor Herbert Anderson,, 47 at the time of production. Harry acts as “Leo the Explainer,” a character who explains things to the heroes as well as the audience.

Solo and Illya prove careless at a key moment and Shark discovers they’re with U.N.C.L.E. The captain decides to give Solo a taste of discipline. It’s here where Sapinsley’s script goes into more detail than audiences would see. Shark delivers a line about how he and Solo will get along nicely once Solo receives his discipline.

He gestures toward the deck. Immediately each of the two sailors holding Solo places a foot across his ankles, then jerk his arms forward, dropping him to the deck. They drop him into a sitting position and shift their feet to pinion him into the attitude of a crucifix, face down towards the deck. (NOTE: This is the old slave-whipping position: each man holding a wrist, one foot planted in the victim’s armpit, the other braced between his neck and shoulder.) As Shark snakes out his whip, the two sailors lie back flat against the deck, pulling Solo’s arms taut. Illya steps forward, his eyes glittering.

ILLYA
Do not do this.

SOLO (to Illya)
It’s just a spanking, Illya. Don’t make a fuss.

 

Later, Shark gives Solo a tour. They go to the ship’s library where Harry Barnman is at work. There are no books. Everything is on microfilm.

“The stored wisdom of man’s brain — from Plato’s Republic to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams,” Shark says. “When we create the new world we’ll have this for a foundation.”

Gravitas

Nevertheless, you can’t keep good agents down. Solo and Illya are seemingly out of options. The passengers, freed from their everyday responsibilities, mostly are contented. But Solo decides to search for explosives to sink the ship, which will force everyone to abandon the vessel.

The plan works. The explosion goes off in the middle of a big party on the ship. As the ship is ready to go down, it sets up a chance for some moralizing by both Solo and Shark. (An early example of how Solo, co-created by Ian Fleming, has more of a moral core than Fleming’s James Bond.)

SOLO (moving forward)
Room for one more, Captain
(no answer)
I want to help you.

SHARK
Help me? You’re like all the others — the leaders, the parliaments, the senates and houses of government! When you see something that’s good and useful, you must step in and destroy it. I tried to create a safe harbor —

SOLO (interrupting)
There is no safe harbor, not here, not anywhere. The only safety lies in agreements between people. Now I want you to come with me.

SHARK
No, my friend. Yours is a world I don’t believe in. Perhaps only the optimists, like yourself, can go on living in it. I don’t know which of us is the right one…or which is the strong one. I only know that I must sail this dream to wherever it takes me.

SOLO
It’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare. Abandon it.

SHARK
I can’t!
(stiffens, lifts gun)
I will stay with my ship.

Solo hesitates, but the ship begins to list dangerously. Finally, as the smoke almost obscures Shark from this view, he realizes saving the man is impossible — the Captain’s dream has disintegrated and he wishes to perish with it. Solo starts away, but hesitates as:

SHARK
You’ll see! They’ll destroy your world! Soon! A few months. At most three or four…
(muttering)
Three…four…

SOLO (softly)
…Shut the door…

To be clear, this episode is escapist entertainment. But the Sapinsley-scripted scene provides it more gravitas even at this early point in the series than audiences were used to. At this point in a 1960s Eon-produced James Bond film, Sean Connery’s Bond would be impatient to make out with the female lead ahead of the end titles.

At the end of the Act IV, Mr. and Mrs. Barnman are back in their New York apartment. Mrs. Barnman (who loves to cook) has whipped up a large dinner while Mr. Barnman (who can’t keep up with his wife’s cooking) gets to take an evening off while Solo and Illya (the latter always enjoying a large appetite) get ready to chow down.

Not Quite the End

However, that’s not where the script ends. The Shark Affair was among the early U.N.C.L.E. scripts that included never-filmed introductions that break the fourth wall, as detailed in THIS POST.

Sapinsley also wrote an unused epilogue with Solo again breaking the fourth wall to show previews of the next episode. To be hones, had it been filmed it probably would have ruined the mood of the episode’s ending.

FADE IN:
EXT.-LIFE RAFT-SOLO

It is bright and clear now. Solo in foreground looking into CAMERA. In b.g. we see the girl.

SOLO
Well — too bad about Captain Shark — but as Mother always said — “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
(beat)
Let’s see what kind of trouble we have for our next adventure —

SERIES OF SHORT SCENES FROM SHOW TO COME

BACK TO SOLO

He picks up oars, saying:

SOLO
Well — I guess it’s time to shove off — I’ve got a two thousand mile row back to headquarters — Tired, lonesome — and thirsty — but it’s all in the day of the life of a dedicated U.N.C.L.E. agent —-

The POP of a cork makes Solo react slightly. HOLD on his reaction, then he shrugs it off and begins to row again. CAMERA MOVES PAST Solo and we see the girl with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. She pours the wine — MOVE IN on her face as she gives the CAMERA a big wink.

FADE OUT.

THE END

James Frawley, an appreciation

Peter Falk in a surrealistic moment in the Columbo episode Murder, a Self Portrait, directed by James Frawley.

James Frawley (1936-2019) was never a star but was a working actor. When he switched to directing, he found his true calling.

Frawley appeared in some Spy-fi. Hhe wasn’t the main villain but usually a secondary one. But he made an impact, nevertheless.

One example was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Guioco Piano Affair, written by Alan Caillou and directed by Richard Donner. Frawley plays a South American police lieutenant who has been assigned to assist agent Napoleon Solo.

Frawley’s character pulls a double cross because he has been bribed by the villains. But the policeman doesn’t realize he himself has been double crossed. Solo (Robert Vaughn) overcomes Frawley’s character and gets both men to safety.

Nevertheless, Frawley’s character tries to double cross Solo *a second time.* Solo, this time  is more than ready. He whistles and the military of the unnamed South American nation take the conspirators into custody. It’s a very satisfying ending.

“You see,” Solo says. “I didn’t trust you.”

As a director, Frawley had an even bigger impact. He worked on comedy series, including The Monkees, where he helmed 28 episodes and won an Emmy. Yet, Frawley could direct drama.

One of his best dramatic efforts came with the Columbo episode Murder, a Self Portrait.

Famous artist Max Barsini (Patrick Bauchau) lives with his second wife and a model. They’re next door to Barsini’s first wife. The artist kills his first wife because he’s still afraid, years after the fact, he’ll spill the beans on a killing he did.

The late first wife had a relationship with a psychologist. While under his care, the former Mrs. Barsini described reoccurring dreams. As staged by Frawley, Max is in the middle of painting Lt. Columbo while the audience can hear a recording of the murder victim describing the dreams.

The dream sequences were filmed in black-and-white, adding to the surrealism. In the end, the recordings provide Columbo with the clues he needs to crack the case.

Frawley as a director was late coming to Columbo. He worked on the show during the 1976-77 season (the final NBC season) and the first year Columbo was on ABC (1989). But he still made his mark.

In the 21st century, Frawley isn’t that well known. But for those who saw his work as an actor and director, he’ll be remembered.

Happy New Year 2019 from The Spy Command

Our annual greeting

It’s the end of another year. Here’s hoping for a great 2019 for readers of The Spy Command.

And, as Napoleon Solo reminds everyone, be sure to party responsibly this New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year, everyone.