1965: U.N.C.L.E.’s star appears on a rival network

Red Skelton with Robert Vaughn, 1965

By the fall of 1965, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a big hit. In December 1965, star Robert Vaughn appeared as the guest star on CBS’s Red Skelton Hour, the variety show that almost killed U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E. debuted in September 1964 on NBC opposite Skelton’s CBS show. The spy show suffered in the ratings. NBC considered canceling U.N.C.L.E. Instead it changed the show’s time slot to Monday nights. That gave the series the boost it needed, plus a lift from Goldfinger boosting interest in spy entertainment.

A little over a year later, the Skelton show had Robert Vaughn on as a guest star. During a two-part skit, there were one-liners (perhaps ad libbed) where Skelton said Vaughn was plugging his own show.

After the skit, Vaughn appeared with Skelton. The U.N.C.L.E. star had a communicator (not the one that was seen on the series) so Skelton could call his wife. (See above.) At one point, Vaughn says into the device: “Illya get off the line, willya?”

Vaughn’s appearance was a sign of how spy shows had arrived as a thing. The Red Skelton Museum has been posting full episodes of the Skelton show to YouTube. Below is the Vaughn episode.

Unmade U.N.C.L.E. story emerges on eBay

Dean Hargrove

An unmade 1967 story treatment for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has emerged on eBay, with an asking price of $575.

The title is The Stolen Time Affair. It was written by Dean Hargrove (b. 1938), who was one of the main writers on the series. It was among a number of stories in the pipeline when U.N.C.L.E. was canceled in the middle of its fourth season.

Until now, the main thing known about The Stolen Time Affair was a short description on a list of unmade stories that appeared in a publication called The U.N.C.L.E. Files in the 1980s. “A provocative Thrushwoman threatens the use of a device that will stop clocks within a 10-mile area. Major cities of the world will be subject to chaos unless a blackmail sum is paid and collected” by U.N.C.L.E.

The treatment being sold is 25 pages. The seller provides photos of sample pages. The treatment breaks down events by acts (teaser, Act I, etc.). There’s no dialogue. The names of executive producer Norman Felton and producer Anthony Spinner are on the title page and it has a production number of 8461.

According to the seller’s description, the main character (presumably the provocative Thrushwoman) is named Alexis Nadir.

You Only Live Twice’s mysterious credit redux

You Only Live Twice promotional art

Back in 2009, the blog wrote about writer Harold Jack Bloom, the first screenwriter hired for You Only Live Twice.

After all these years, Bloom remains a mysterious figure in the Bond film series. He was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for The Naked Spur, a 1953 Western film starring James Stewart. But books about the James Bond films gloss that over.

For example, the book Some Kind of Hero mentions Bloom wrote an episode of a television series produced by Harry Saltzman. That book says Bloom “took over writing chores” while retaining elements of a treatment written by Sydney Boehm, himself an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

How did Bloom get involved with Bond? He had a successful career. The Naked Spur put him on the map but he ended up mostly writing for television. He wrote scripts for westerns, crime dramas and medical dramas. However, he didn’t write a lot of spy stories.

The main exception to that was the second episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Iowa-Scuba Affair. The show’s day-to-day producer was Sam Rolfe, who all but created U.N.C.L.E. and had been Bloom’s collaborator on The Naked Spur.

The written history of You Only Live Twice is pretty sketchy. Bloom accompanied key production members to Japan. Then, for whatever reason, he was gone. In came Roald Dahl, an accomplished writer but who had little experience writing TV and film scripts.

Dahl was a pretty colorful character. In the 1960s, a BBC special about the making of You Only Live Twice featured Dahl prominently. Harold Jack Bloom? He was yesterday’s news.

Strictly a guess, but it seems likely Bloom got the job on the basis of his U.N.C.L.E. script. In the 21st century, it’s unlikely that Eon Productions would admit that. Albert R. Broccoli took shots at U.N.C.L.E. in his autobiography.

When legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Now and forever, Harold Jack Bloom will be a forgotten figure in the Bond film world.

A modest proposal about U.N.C.L.E.’s future

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

The future of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., if it has one, needs to be different because of changes in the movie and television industry.

Traditional over-the-air networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) face increasing pressure and programs face tight windows to prove themselves or get canceled.

U.N.C.L.E.’s last try as a feature film in 2015 wasn’t a big hit. A sequel always was a long shot and with each passing year the odds get longer.

U.N.C.L.E.’s best chance at a revival may be as a series on streaming television. Marvel Studios is extending its universe of characters to series on Disney Plus. An initial effort, WandaVision, is getting a lot of attention, with outlets doing episode-by-episode recaps.

Corporate leaders such as those at Walt Disney Co. (Marvel’s parent company) and AT&T (parent company of Warner Bros.) are going all-in on streaming.

U.N.C.L.E. is a Warner Bros. property. So if U.N.C.L.E. went streaming it would be ticketed for AT&T’s HBO Max. In 2021, AT&T is using Warner Bros. films as a loss leader to drive traffic to HBO Max. The movies show up on the streaming service and theaters (those that are open) at the same time. The films stay on HBO Max for about a month.

Of course, where U.N.C.L.E. is concerned, things are never easy. If Warner Bros. is even interested, how do you cast about for a showrunner to oversee an HBO Max version of U.N.C.L.E.? Is there someone out there who can retain the core of U.N.C.L.E. while updating it for modern audiences?

U.N.C.L.E. had an overall optimistic center (agents of all nationalities, an American was paired with a Russian). The original series, though, in its fourth season showed that could be adapted to darker storylines.

Also, do you recast? Answer: Likely. The most recent movie was actually filmed in the fall of 2013. It’s hard to maintain momentum with actors audiences haven’t seen in the roles of Solo and Illya for years.

One of those actors, Armie Hammer, is fighting for his professional life because of controversy involving a sex scandal. Who knows if the other, Henry Cavill, is still interested. You get the impression he’s waiting around to see if he can be cast as James Bond in the future.

What’s more, if a showrunner was new to U.N.C.L.E. (a strong possibility if such a streaming show happened) that person would likely want to cast the leads. A fresh start makes sense.

The streaming route raises a lot of questions. But hoping for a sequel to the 2015-released film seems like a dead end. For U.N.C.L.E. to have a future, streaming may be the way to go.

Jack Turley, veteran TV writer, dies

A group of “test tube” killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode written by Jack Turley

Jack Turley, an American TV writer who was active for three decades, died last month at the age of 93, according to the Writers Guild website.

Turley wrote in various genres including westerns, crime dramas, and soap operas. He found work in spy television shows of the 1960s, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, and Blue Light, the latter a short-lived World War II spy drama starring Robert Goulet.

Turley wrote three U.N.C.L.E. episodes. One of his best-remembered stories was The Test Tube Killer Affair in the show’s fourth season.

The villainous organization Thrush has raised young killers from childhood. One of them, Greg Martin (Christopher Jones) is the prize pupil of the bunch. As a demonstration project, Martin is on a mission to blow up a dam in Greece and destroy a nearby village.

Turley also was often employed by QM Productions. Among the series he wrote for were The Fugitive, 12 O’Clock High, The FBI, and Dan August.

The writer’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 54 credits.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part IV

Miki and Illya at the end of The Four-Steps Affair

There are a number of differences between Ian Fleming’s two spy heroes. James Bond plays card games like baccarat. Napoleon Solo likes to play chess.

That probably reflects the fact that Solo was developed by Sam Rolfe, who co-created Have Gun-Will Travel. That was a 1957-63 Western series whose hero, Paladin, could out-play chess grandmasters. Not to mention being able to quote poets, scholars, and philosophers.

Needless to say, Kaza at the end of Act III of The Four-Steps Affair has fallen into a trap sprung by Solo. The agent’s gun was loaded with blanks. Everything was a ruse to force Kaza to force his hand. And Solo’s gun has a homing device so U.N.C.L.E. can follow him.

Solo soon joins up with Australian U.N.C.L.E. agent Kitt Kittridge and a group of operatives who are ready to make an assault on the Thrush headquarters.

That’s a good thing because Thrush is getting ready to execute Miki, a 10-year-old boy who is the religious leader of a country in the Himalayas. Also on the execution list is Illya Kuryakin, Solo’s partner, and Kelly Brown, a young nurse looking after Miki.

The script depicts more tension between Kaza and Walchek (renamed Rudnick in the final broadcast version). In the script, Kaza complains about being shot accidentally while that isn’t specified in the broadcast version. Walchek, meanwhile, complains about being in a no-win situation no matter what he did.

Before IIlya, Miki and the nurse can be executed, Solo and the U.N.C.L.E. assault team arrive. Much of this sequence was used as extra footage for The Spy With My Face feature film.

During this sequence, Miki is confronted with how Kaza is a traitor. “So, my little friend; you learn even more about the ways of men,” Illya says.

Eventually, the U.N.C.L.E. agents prevail. Kaza and Walchek start to flee. Solo is ready to open fire at them. But he is interrupted by Miki, again showing more maturity than a 10-year-old would normally demonstrate. Miki notes the Thrush superiors of both men will know they have failed and neither can be headed toward any sort of sanctuary.

CLOSE SHOT OF SOLO
A unique situation: Napoleon Solo stands in open-mouthed astonishment, digesting the wisdom of the little sprout who confronts him, and whom he has not previously met. But he has obediently lowered his weapon.

(snip)
SOLO
Uh…ten years old?
ILLYA (to Solo; knowingly)
I don’t believe it either.

However, the script has something not present in the final episode.

CLOSE SHOT — MIKI’S FACE
He is grinning — just like a kid.

The next day, Miki is preparing to return to his home country. Miki reassures his nurse one last time. Solo wishes Miki well and then tells Kelly not to worry because the young leader will carry his burden “like the mature man he is.”

But there’s one last piece of business. Illya, sent on a mission by Miki, returns with some bubble gum. Miki, as mature as he is, still has some growing up to do.

WE WISH TO THANKS THE UNITED NETWORK COMMAND FOR LAW AND ENFORCEMENT WITHOUT WHOSE ASSISTANCE THIS POST WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part III

Things aren’t looking good for Solo and Waverly at the end of Act III of The Four-Steps Affair.

At the midway point of The Four-Steps Affair, neither Napoleon Solo nor Illya Kuryakin is in a good place.

Solo gets out of his fix first. Angela (Luciana Paluzzi) attempts to shove Solo into the line of fire of an assassin outside her house. The U.N.C.L.E. agent side steps Angela, leading her to hit by a burst of machine gun fire.

In the TV version, Angela survives while in To Trap a Spy, she’s done for. Solo manages to get away and back to safety at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters.

Solo then confers with Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief and Australian agent Kitt Kittridge, who was with Illya when the Russian picked up Miki, the religious leader of a remote Himalayan nation.

Kaza, Miki’s wounded guardian, emerges as the leading suspect who helped set up Miki for an ambush.

Solo confronts Kaza in his hospital room. The U.N.C.L.E. agent claims that Angela has talked (we are told she was unconscious but this wasn’t shown)..

Meanwhile, at a Thrush mansion, Illya, Miki and nurse Kelly Brown are imprisoned. The script has a scene not seen in the broadcast version of the episode.

Walchek (changed to Rudnick for the broadcast version) is in the library reading Crime and Punishment. When one of his men tries to interrupt, “Walchek holds up his hand for silence. After a short pause, he closes the book and shakes his head slightly at what he’s just read.”

In U.N.C.L.E., as a general rule, the villains were a well-read bunch.

Walchek and his subordindate analyze what has gone wrong this evening. Most of this exchange is absent from the final broadcast version. Walchek/Rudnick comes across as more of a threat than the final show.

Meanwhile, Illya is launching an escape attempt. It almost succeeds. Miki had a chance to get away on his own but decides to come back. This leads to one of the best exchanges in the episode.

ILLYA
Friends! You are responsible for an entire country. You must have no friends.

CLOSE SHOT OF MIKI
as he blinks at Illya’s tone and words. He has been told, and is disgesting, a practical truth.

Back at the hospital where Kaza is staying, the potentate admits he’s working with Thrush. This confession would not be part of the episode. Instead, on the show, he continues to claim his innocence.

Soon, Kaza grabs Solo’s handgun from his shoulder holster. He blasts both Solo and Waverly and makes his getaway.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part II

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Angela (Luciana Paluzzi) play some deadly cat-and-mouse games in The Four-Steps Affair

When Arena Productions decided to cook up a new episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. using extra footage from two of the theatrical film versions, the question is who would do it.

The final writing credit for The Four-Steps Affair (dubbed The Himalayan Affair in the script) listed Peter Allan Fields for the teleplay and Joseph Calvelli for the plot.

Calvelli had been associate producer during the first half of U.N.C.L.E.’s first season. He had also rewritten The Double Affair, which was the basis for the second U.N.C.L.E. movie, The Spy With My Face.

Based on the final writing credit, it appears Fields may have done the heavy lifting. Fields was a former lawyer for the Williams Morris Agency. He was hired to rewrite a script (The Fiddlesticks Affair). He proved to be fast, turning out four acts in four days, all of which was “shootable.” That probably explains how he was assigned The Four-Steps Affair.

In the new material, presumably penned by Fields, U.N.C.L.E. agents Illya Kuryakin and Kitt Kittridge pick up Miki, the 10-year-old boy who is the spiritual leader of Shanti, a country in the Himalayas. With him is Kaza, his guardian, and Kelly Brown, a nurse accompanying Miki after dental surgery.

Kaza is “a large, imposing man; a potentate in stature as well as name.” Kelly Brown is “about nineteen years old, very scrubbed-looking, and trying quite hard to live up to the student nurse’s uniform she wears.”

The U.N.C.L.E. agents lead the group from the safe house where they have been to a waiting station wagon. An ambush ensues. Kaza is wounded. Kittridge and Kuryakin return fire. Illya drives off with Miki and the nurse while Kittridge fights off the remaining Thrush operatives.

With Thrush temporarily subdued, Kittridge radios to headquarters that Kuryakin is on his way. He also arranges for Kaza who has only been wounded in the “fleshy part” of the shoulder to be transported to the hospital.

Inside the car, Miki, who acts quite mature for his age, is comforting the nurse.

MIKI (helpfully)
To release one’s emotions is quite therapeutic, Miss Brown.

ILLYA
Thereapeutic? How old are you, my friend?

MIKI
I am ten, Sir…in my present reincarnation.

Things, however, don’t go as planned. The car is spotted by a panel truck (in the televised version, it would be a Volkswagen minibus) which has a device that takes control of the car. Thrush now has abducted the group. The U.N.C.L.E. station wagon is guided and goes inside a large truck. Once secure, the truck drives off.

At this point, the script goes back to the (mostly) Sam Rolfe-scripted sequence where Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) encounters the deadly Angela.

Solo checks out the wreckage of a car driving by the missing (and by now dead) agent Dancer.

Solo is ordered to return to headquarters because Illya didn’t arrive on time. He begins to drive back. However, he soon realizes he’s not alone.

As “Solo drives, the scent of perfume reaches his nostrils,” according to the stage directions. “For a moment, he hesitates, ‘tasting’ the scent. He likes it, but not enough to stop being alert. His casualness is studied.”

Naturally, Angela is in the back seat. After a period of questioning and flirting, Angela tells Solo that Dancer is trying to contact him but his communications device can only receive but not send.

“Her voice has been extremely sincere,” the stage directions read. “Solo opens the door of his car for her.”

“I’ll have to find out…won’t I?” Solo says.

The script alternates between Illya and the Thrush prisoners and Solo and Angela.

With the former, nurse Kelly Brown is getting emotional. Apparently, she’s had relationship trouble and is getting anxious because of her present situation.

MIKI (to Illya — man to man as they stare uncomfortably at Kelly’s weeping)
They did not instruct me about such things at the Lamasery.

ILLYA (resignedly — indicating Kelly)
For men, there is no instruction on such things.

Meanwhile, Solo arrives at Angela’s house, still on guard for trouble. He flirts with Angela (in To Trap a Spy they end up having sex, but this is for television so it never goes beyond flirting). But then Solo discovers a label from from Dancer’s jacket in the fire place. Dancer had tried to burn it before he was killed.

Solo, of course, now knows Angela is with Thrush. She attempts to spring the same trap that did in Dancer. She tries to guide Solo to a large widow. An assassin outside the house waits to do in the U.N.C.L.E. agent.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part I

Luciana Paluzzi’s title card for The Four-Steps Affair

Television producer Norman Felton was many things. The list would include efficient and thrifty.

During the first year of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., extra scenes were filmed so two episodes, The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair, could be turned into films for the international market. The show would be so popular the resulting films, To Trap a Spy and and The Spy With My Face, were released in the U.S. as a double feature in 1966.

But what if even more use could be had from those extra scenes? Felton and his Arena Productions did just that, writing a new story to incorporate those scenes in an episode titled The Four-Steps Affair, airing on NBC on Feb. 22, 1965.

A script dated Dec. 30, 1964 has the original title, The Himalayan Affair. One of the villains for Thrush, the evil organization, is named Walchek, but the name would be changed later to Rudnick.

The script opens with a sequence copied from Sam Rolfe’s extra scenes for The Vulcan Affair/To Trap a Spy. An U.N.C.L.E. operative is on the run from Thrush agents trying to kill him. Here, he’s named Dancer. In Rolfe’s original, he was Lancer.

Regardless, the sequence plays out as Rolfe wrote it. Dancer seeks refuge at the home of Angela, a woman he knows. The stage directions describing Angela are the same.

ANGELA is an attractive girl, with short, cropped hair. She is wearing a negligee and carrying a hairbrush. Her eyes reflect surprise at encountering Dancer. Apparently she was in another part of the house when he entered. As Dancer spins around she sees the blood on his shirt and she gasps.

What Dancer is unaware of is that Angela works for Thrush. She double-crosses him and Dancer is killed amid machine-gun fire.

Perhaps the most significant change is that Dancer first manages to call Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), the chief of U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters, to deliver a vague warning. “The bird is on the wing.”

The part of Angela was cast with Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi. When this episode aired, Paluzzi was filming Thunderball, playing SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe. Both Angela and Fiona were femme fatales.

After Dancer’s death, we meet Walchek. In Rolfe’s original, he was simply referred to as the Leader. He is a “well-dressed man in his early forties, that part of him which isn’t nasty is just plain grim.” The new script adds having Walchek saying the late Dancer’s car will be “excellent bait” to trap other U.N.C.L.E. agents.

What follows is a new scene at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, setting up the plot for the television episode. A formerly violent country in the Himalayas has been tamed by Miki, a 10-year-old “boy lama” who has unified his nation. He is believed to be the reincarnation of “their ancient Supreme Lama.”

Miki has been in the U.S. for dental surgery but now appears to be the target for Thrush.

Illya Kuryakin and an Australian agent, Kitt Kittridge, are assigned to bring Miki and his group to safety. Waverly also wonders where Napoleon Solo is.

FLASH PAN TO:

EXT. BEHIND HOME — TWO SHOT NIGHT — NIGHT

of SOLO and an anonymous GRADE AA YOUNG LADY, as they recline in each other’s arms on a double chaise lounge.

Solo, however, has to answer a call on his communications device to go look for Dancer. This script has a bit that wouldn’t be in the episode.

Solo rises quickly, puts his radio away, leans over, KISSES Grade AA on the forehead, SALUTES, and MOVES OUT OF FRAME briskly, without explanation. She growls after him.

TO BE CONTINUED

The nature of fandom

Daniel Craig as James Bond

The past few weeks have been rough for James Bond fans. They’ve witnessed the passing of key actors such as Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Michael Lonsdale.

All three had long careers that extended beyond James Bond films. But some Bond fans say something to the effect that they represent OUR Pussy Galore, OUR Tracy, OUR Drax.

However, fans of The Avengers TV series might counter something like, yes but that’s OUR Cathy Gale or OUR Emma Peel.

This extends beyond Bond fandom.

I’ve seen some fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. say having an American and a Russian as partners was BIG AND BOLD.

Meanwhile, fans of the original I Spy television series counter that having a White and a Black man as equal partners was a lot more controversial in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Undoubtedly, there are many other examples. Many fans, though, don’t want to examine all that. They are concerned with their fandom. No more, no less.

No criticism is intended in any of this. It’s the way of the world. It’s also the nature of fandom.