In the beginning: Ian Fleming’s Solo

Title page to proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo,” which would emerge as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In 1963, producer Norman Felton was attempting to launch a new adventure television series. In the fall of 1962, he had a few days of meetings with Ian Fleming. The James Bond author had provided some ideas, but little else.

Felton turned to writer-producer Sam Rolfe, who was working on Felton’s The Eleventh Hour dramatic series about psychiatrists. Rolfe had also co-created (and produced some episodes of) Have Gun-Will Travel, a popular 1957-63 Western series about a bounty hunter known only as Paladin.

It was clear to Felton that Fleming wasn’t going to be available for the heavy lifting of the new would-be series. So Rolfe turned out a 40-page series proposal (including a one-page diagram). Despite that, Fleming’s name would included and the proposal titled “Ian Fleming’s Solo.”

Teaser

The proposal begins with, in effect, a 12-page short story. A peddler goes into a tailor shop in the East Forties, “a few blocks from the United Nations cluster.”

The tailor shop is run by Giovanni. The peddler tosses a rain coat over a “battered old television.” The peddler takes out a toy “called a Robot Commando…battery operated….upon commands spoken into a microphone, it rumbles across the floor, its arms whipping in tight, mechanical circles as it flings small plastic balls into the air, its eyes whirling in dizzying spirals.”

The toy robots of Ian Fleming’s Solo would be used in season one’s The Double Affair

Giovanni watches the demonstration but isn’t interested in a purchase. The peddler packs up. Giovanni returns his attention to his pressing machine. But the peddler takes out a second toy robot before departing.

Once outside, the peddler takes out another microphone. Inside the tailor shop, Giovanni is hearing a woman’s voice through the television set. “Something is blocking the camera.”

Giovanni sees the peddler’s rain coat and moves toward the television set. However, one of the toy robots flings “small glass balls” which “break, relasing wisps of smoke around Giovanni. The result is instantaneous. He is unconscious before his body even touches the floor.”

The peddler re-enters, followed by five other men. A raid commences. The peddler finds a hidden button in the pressing machine. The invaders use a coat hook in one of the “shabby ‘try-on cubicles.” They gain entry to….what?

“On the far side of the wall is a small, modernistic, windowless office. A desk, with a desk plate inscribed ‘U.N.C.L.E.’, is occupied by by an attractive Young Woman who is frowning at a small TV viewer.” On the “viewer-picture” is the inside of the peddler’s coat.

The attackers overcome the woman before she can sound an alarm. The peddler remains in the tailor shop, now posing as Giovanni.

Ian Fleming notes, written on one of 11 telegram blanks, and given to Norman Felton

Eventually, the intruders are tripped up. They use identification badges, unaware they have to be deployed in a certain way without the alarm system going off. Two men, identified as the Leader, the other as an Accomplice make their way through the mysterious facility. The Accomplice is holding glass balls like the ones the toy robot used.

“The Accomplice’s hand is shattered by a spray of bullets, the glass balls splintering in the mangled fingers.” He’s overcome by the gas coming from the broken glass balls.

The Leader, though, presses forward and enters “a small inner reception office.” He’ll get no further as “four bullets tear through him.”

We’re introduced to “a tall, dark, well-dressed man” who “moves gracefully.” He steps over the body of the Leader and examines the Accomplice. At the same time, an “armed, Slavic-looking man runs down the corridor to stop at the doorway.”

They are soon addressed by a “pedantic looking, fifty-five year old man” who enters the office. He chides the dark man, whom he addresses as “Mr. Solo” about killing the Leader.

The men discuss how much information the intruders must have had to get this far into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. They must have had information from someone working inside U.N.C.L.E.’s Section Three — where there would be enough information to get here but not enough to totally avoid the alarm system.

However, we’re then told even the captured intruders died because they had ingested poison before the raid. They were dead men whether they succeeded or failed.

“But let us leave this story for a while. Later we’ll come back to it and tell you what happened after this opening,” this section of the presentation concludes.

U.N.C.L.E. Complex

The proposal describes buildings on the same block of Manhattan. They include a parking garage, four brownstones and a “fairly new, three-storied whitestone.”

Two stories of the latter are taken up by a restaurant called The Mask Club “which features fine food served by waitresses wearing masks (and little else) to to patrons who don masks (covering nostrils to brow) as they enter.” It’s an establishment that is “different, exclusive, expensive and frivolous.”

Sam Rolfe (with guest star Jill Ireland), making a cameo appearance in the first-season UNCLE episode The Giuoco Piano Affair. Rolfe would take over and do the heavy lifting on devising the series.

The third floor is “a sedate suite of offices, the entrance to which bears the engraved letters ‘U.N.C.L.E.'” The offices have “ordinary” people who handle mail and greet visitors.

All of the buildings involved are owned by U.N.C.L.E. Inside the walls of  brownstones is “one large building consisting of three floors of a modern, complex office building…There are no staircases in the building. Four elevators handle vertical traffic.” There is an underground channel leading to the East River.

U.N.C.L.E. we’re told “might stand for the United Nations Committee on Law and Enforcement…Certainly it is not far from the United Nations Building in Manhattan. And coincidence could not account for the fact that the personnel of the organization is peculiarly multi-national.”

Within headquarters, a red badge “will admit you to the ground floor which contains personnel and equipment for day in, day out routine operations.” Trying to get above the floor with a red badge will sound off alarms.

A blue badge permits entry to the ground and second floors. A white badge gains entry to the third floor which includes “the elite of this organization, the Enforcement Agents.”

U.N.C.L.E. Organization

The proposal presents an organizational chart.

Section I: Policy and Operations

Section II: Operations and Enforcement

Section III: Enforcement and Intelligence

Section IV: Intelligence and Communications

Section V: Communications and Security

Section VI: Security and Personnel

The enforcement agents enter through the Giovanni tailor shop, while other personnel take other entrances.

Characters

Miss Marsdian’s two favorite agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin

Napoleon Solo: The character named by Ian Fleming during his meetings with Norman Felton. He has an apartment that overlooks the East River. He has “a somewhat coppery kitchen (he cooks).” This was one of the ideas that Fleming contributed in his meetings with Felton.

“Solo has a love for the sea, possibly a hangover from his days of service with the Royal Canadian Navy (where he had served as the Commander of a Corvette).” Solo owns a “third foot sloop” kept on a marina on Long Island. The agent “rather tends to view all men as equals, unless their behavior (as opposed to their backgrounds) proves them otherwise.”

Solo also “fought in a war which was called a ‘Police Action.'” While attending a university, he majored in philosophy and minored in languages.

There is also this description:

He makes no high-blown moral statements about his work, nor his reasons for engaging in it. But you will sense (and other characters in the story may at times state it) that he can only work for a “cause” that is in the right…and he takes satisfaction in the destruction of evil.”

Mr. Allison: Allison (the pedantic man described earlier) is a member of Section I and “the only one ever seen or whose identity is even known.”

The only window in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in Allison’s office, which has a view of the East River and the U.N. Building. Allison “appears to be humorless. That’s not the case, but Allison doesn’t show it. Allison also doesn’t hesitate to send agents on missions that may end in their deaths.

Miss Marsdian: She guards the entrance to Allison’s office. She is “fat and fifty, running to the ‘motherly’ in her general appearance.” Marsdian also is “the only one at U.N.C.L.E. capable of showing genuine emotion at the fate of the Agents.”

Marsdian has two favorites among the agents. One is Solo. The other is…

Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin: Another Section II agent “of equal rank with Solo.” Kuryakin is “very much a loner. He does his job, but doesn’t discuss it. Like a machine that has been fashioned for a specific purpose … nothing seems to exist but the purpose.”

Kuryakin “is of Russian origin. It is wise for U.N.C.L.E. to draw agents from behind the iron curtain.” The agent “maintains an austere apartment in the same building as Solo.” Kuryakin has entrusted Solo with one secret — a hidden compartment under his bed filled with jazz records.

Miss Doris Franklyn: A Section II operative who has a cover as a struggling actress. “There is a question as to whether Doris would rather be an Actress than an agent.”

Ian Fleming sells off his interest in UNCLE.

U.N.C.L.E. Enemies

“Crime, by its large scale nature, is international in scope.” As a result, according to the proposal, the Mafia “and all its attendant ramifications are all basic material for assignments. But it will be treated in a bizarre and interesting manner.” The proposal also cites the example of a deposed Middle Eastern ruler who is forming an international crime empire.

But the recurring opponent is Thrush, a mysterious organization “shaped somewhat like a darker convolution of U.N.C.L.E. … a Dr. Moriarty and his friends would make a fair analogy.” The proposal says, “Thrush himself (and we will refer to him as if he were a single, male entity) is an unknown cipher.” Thrush may hire out or strike and his/its own depending on the situation.

Innocents

A key part of the series is that ordinary people get involved with the agents. The audience “will be made to identify with those caught up in the plots.” The proposal supplies various examples of innocents such as a school teacher, a housewife and a Siberian farmer.

Oh By The Way…

Felton sent a version of what Rolfe worked up to Ian Fleming, to gauge the author’s reaction and to see if he had any reactions or ideas. But Fleming would soon pull out of the project, selling his interest for a single British pound. U.N.C.L.E. would go on.

But Ian Fleming’s Solo (as this proposal was titled) had come to an end. However, concepts in the presentation would evolve.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The end (though they didn’t know it)

Solo and Illya have just gotten word they’ve been canceled by NBC.

The Seven Wonders of the World Affair was the two-part adventure that ended The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 1964-68 run. But, as originally written, it was a standard single-part episode.

Writer Norman Hudis’s original script was dated June 23, 1967. The basic plot matches the final product that would be broadcast by NBC on Jan. 8 and 15, 1968. However, the June 23 script is simpler.

In the original version, the villain was Kingsley, same as the broadcast version. In the first script, we’re not told much about Kingsley. He’s an independent operator and not part of Thrush, the villainous organization used for much of the series.

Kingsley has assembled experts in various fields. They will help him rule the world once he has used a gas that will make make the globe’s population peaceful.

Kingsley’s Eyes

Kingsley is “50-ish, superbly-preserved and well groomed.” At one point, the stage directions call for the camera to zoom into “VERY CLOSE SHOT KINGSLEY EYES: cold, penetrating, unblinking – windows to an insane mind.”

As story opens, Kingsley has assembled all but one of his experts. A scientist, David Garrow, is kidnapped while Solo and Illya simply watch. Kingsley receives word from one of his men the kidnapping has succeeded.

“Good,” Kingsley replies. “Just as I planned.”

Separately, Solo informs his superior, Alexander Waverly, that Garrow has “been taken.” Waverly is with his assistant, Lisa.

WAVERLY
Good. Just as I planned.

He does not say it with the elation just heard in Kingsley’s voice. He looks up with heavy anxiety at Lisa.

WAVERLY
And I pray I planned right —

Solo and Illya split up. Solo boards an U.N.C.L.E. plane to follow Garrow (who has a tracking device). Illya meets with Garrow’s wife and grown son to tell them how Garrow volunteered to help U.N.C.L.E. find the missing experts.

Similar to the final version, Solo’s plane is shot down in the Himalayas as it nears Kingsley’s installation. Unlike the broadcast version, the script actually calls for Solo to struggle with snow after he escapes the aircraft. As broadcast, the area around the base was “unusual” in that there was no snow.

Professor Who?

In this script, one of Kingsley’s experts is named Professor Dent (!). Yes, same as the character from the film Dr. No who (unsuccessfully) tried to kill James Bond.

Maybe Norman Hudis wasn’t aware of the legal wrangling between Eon Productions and U.N.C.L.E. over the Solo name when that intended as the title of the TV series. (Eon’s attorneys sent a cease and desist letter; the title got changed to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) Maybe it was a bit of a practical joke by Hudis. If so, I doubt executive producer Norman Felton would have found it funny. Regardless, the character would be renamed Erikson in the final version.

As in the broadcast version, Illya flies in another U.N.C.L.E. aircraft to the Himalayas with Steve Garrow as a stowaway. Solo’s communicator initially couldn’t broadcast after he was shot down. Eventually, Illya is able to reach Solo via their U.N.C.L.E. communicators. Waverly also is patched in. In the course of the conversation, Solo and Illya have this exchange:

SOLO
Steve Garrow? What’s he doing — ?

ILLYA (on Solo’s communicator)
Stowed away. Didn’t trust us to rescue the Professor.

SOLO
Can’t say I blame him: we’re not being particularly brilliant so far.

Waverly informs the agents that Solo had been shot down “inside an electronic anti-communication belt, some twenty miles in circumference.” The agents are told to infiltrate that area and find the kidnap victims.

Meanwhile, U.N.C.L.E. attempts to use “radio-particle long-distance bombardment” to penetrate the zone. This is deployed using an “IMPRESSIVE AND COMPLICATED ANTENNA” at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. However, the device is unsuccessful.

Solo Meets Kingsley

The agents (Solo by himself, Illya, accompanied by the younger Garrow), eventually succeed in reaching Kingsley’s base. Solo, though is captured. Afterward, he meets Kingsley.

The latter comes to the point. “My name is Kingsley. I am going to rule the world. And you wonder why you are still alive.”

“I’ve met several would-be world rulers: you all have one thing in common: you have to talk about it,” Solo says. “You won’t kill me, Mr. Kingsley, until I’m duly impressed by your plans.”

That doesn’t stop Kingsley. He tells Solo about his plan how the roles the various experts will have in its implementation.

KINGSLEY (unboastful)
I have overlooked nothing. There may be rebels. They will have to be dealt with.
(a beat)
Are you – ‘duly impressed —‘?

SOLO
By a world of soulless obedience – mindless conformity? No. It’s insane.

The agent gets a nasty surprise. He’s being escorted to his living quarters by Gen. Harmon, Kingsley’s security chief. Solo makes a pitch for how the various kidnapped experts could escape. However, Harmon tells Solo that he volunteered. Harmon then has Solo seized by guards to be shot.

Much of the rest of the script has Solo, Illya and Steve Garrow get in and out of peril. There’s a lot of description of all this, one reason why the script goes up to 74 pages. The general rule of thumb is that one page of script averages out to one minute of screen time. In the last 1960s, a one-hour television show’s running time would be about 50 minutes or so minus commercials.

U.N.C.L.E. Roughhouse

At one point, Hudis takes a short cut for a sequence that surely would have taken at least a minute or two screen time, if not longer. It’s an action sequence after Solo and Illya are back together and fighting Kingsley’s guards.

FIGHT
Typical “U.N.C.L.E.” roughhouse, during which Solo and Illya, outnumbered, are in danger of defeat and death several times. They eventually worst the Guards however and dive out the window together.

Despite the odds, the agents prevail. (They get their hands on some weapons, which is a big help.) They wreck much of the facility, including the area from which the gas will be launched.

Of the main characters, only General Harmon is killed. Kingsley, Professor Garrow and Steve Garrow all survive. Kingsley gets the last word with one undamaged portion of his base.

KINGSLEY
Nothing can save you now —

He is looking at and addressing:

KINGSLEY’S POV – THE WORLD MAP

By some freak of explosion blast, it has survived intact – like the minds of the millions who inhabit its continents.

We PULL BACK to show the ENTIRE SCENE: The map – Kingsley before it, gazing up at at his lost realm – Solo some distance behind him – Illya joining Solo, also to look at Kingsley – Garrow, Steve and Dent slowly re-entering.

In the fall of 1967, NBC canceled the series, meaning it would only last half of the 1967-68 season. The production team opted to expand this script into a two-parter and make it a feature film (How to Steal the World) for international markets.

Major Changes

Poster for How To Steal the World, movie version of The Seven Wonders of the World Affair

In doing so, things got more complicated. Kingsley was now an U.N.C.L.E. official based in Hong Kong who goes rogue. Having fought “the seemingly endless battle” against evil, Kingsley decides to use what’s called “docility gas” to make the world peaceful.

More characters were introduced as was Thrush. There was now a Mrs. Kingsley who, unknown to her husband, is having an affair with Webb, a Thrush operative. Kingsley also doesn’t know that Thrush is financing his plans so it can take over. There’s also a severe conflict within Thrush how to proceed.

Ironically, with all the changes, Gen. Harmon ends up surviving, although he he is subjected to the gas. In the Hudis original, the audience was told two guards were used as guinea pigs to test the gas. In the new version, the audience sees the general being gassed by accident and how he’s almost childlike as a result. Solo and Kurykin were to have been the test subjects, but some of Hudis’s “U.N.C.L.E. roughhouse” broke out.

Ultimately, Kingsley, Mrs. Kingsley, Webb and Professor Garrow all parish. What’s more, Solo’s meeting with Kingsley was expanded so the agent confronts all of the “seven wonders.” One line from the original script attributed to Garrow, where he calls Kingsley’s plan “a blasphemy” is voiced by Solo.

Mixed Reactions

Many original U.N.C.L.E. fans are critical of the final version because it’s padded out. For example, the recap at the start of Part II extends into the middle of Act I. I’ve argued previously that Solo’s confrontation with the “seven wonders” in Part II is one of Robert Vaughn’s best scenes of the series.

Still, there’s no denying the final version is uneven. One of the oddities is how Thrush has a “secret headquarters” at a meat packing plant.

In any case, there was sadness among original U.N.C.L.E. fans when The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Part II concluded. It was also the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

1960s meme: The irresistible hero

Publicity still for Dr. No that established James Bond was irresistible to women.

A recurring meme of 1960s entertainment — greatly aided by the James Bond film series — was the hero so irresistible to women they couldn’t keep away.

By the end of the decade, it was so prevalent, it came up on all sorts in places. What follows are some examples — both obvious and one not so obvious. (And no, it’s not a comprehensive list.)

Sean Connery as James Bond (of course): In his first scene in his first movie (Dr. No), the Connery Bond already has the attention of Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) while at a casino. She surprises him at his flat wearing nothing but his pajama top.

Over the course of Connery’s 1960s run, even small-part characters show their appreciation. In both Dr. No and Thunderball, women hotel clerks eye Bond as he walks away.

Film editor Peter Hunt, years later (for the “banned” Criterion commentaries), said Connery  “was really a very sexy man” and that the few stars of his appeal “virtually can walk into a room and f*** anybody.”

Certainly, that’s the way director Terence Young, followed by Guy Hamilton and Lewis Gilbert, staged it with Connery in the part. The success of the 007 films would soon be felt elsewhere.

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was pitched to network executives as “James Bond for television.” Ian Fleming, 007’s creator, was involved for a time, though not many of his ideas made it to the final product.

Vaughn’s Solo was the obvious Bondian figure (although the blog has argued before there are key differences, including Solo having more of a moral streak).

But McCallum’s Illya also proved irresistible to the oppose sex. That included two first-season episodes where the female lead (played by McCallum’s then-wife Jill Ireland) decides Illya is the U.N.C.L.E. agent for her.

Another first-season installment included Susan Oliver as a woman whose uncle has been killed by his pet dog as part of an extortion plot. The Oliver character asks Illya if he is present “to bodyguard me? Uh, should I say guard my body?” In the final scene, they’re walking arm in arm.

Robert Conrad as James West: The Wild Wild West was pitched to network executives as “James Bond and cowboys.” So CBS aired the adventures of James West and U.S. Secret Service partner Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin).

West drew the attention of women, especially those working for his opponents. In the first Dr. Loveless episode, West wins over Loveless’ female assistant (Leslie Parrish). She helps him escape, enabling the agent to stop Loveless’ plot.

The producers also took advantage of Conrad’s chiseled physique, so there are a number of episodes where West appears shirtless.

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett: In the first season of Hawaii Five-O, McGarrett, too, was intended to draw the attention of women. In the pilot, a graduate student (Nancy Kwan) falls for the lawman after being questioned about what she knows concerning the death of a U.S. intelligence agent.

Later in the first season, the girlfriends of two suspects in a complicated kidnapping case ogle McGarrett as he walks away. And in the two-parter Once Upon a Time, a woman medical quack (Joanne Linville) gets the hots for the Big Kahuna. So does a woman records clerk who helps McGarrett do research.

This sort of thing faded away in future seasons, although there would be occasional episodes where McGarrett became involved with a woman.

Robert Stack as Dan Farrell: At this point readers are wondering if this post has gone off the rails. But bear with us for a moment.

Dan Farrell (Robert Stack) busy researching a story for Crime magazine.

The Name of the Game was a 1968-71 series with three rotating leads: Stack, Tony Franciosa and Gene Barry. It concerned a magazine publishing empire run by Glenn Howard (Barry).

Stack’s Dan Farrell worked at Crime magazine. A first-season stack episode, Swingers Only, reflects how the irresistible hero meme could surface where you didn’t expect it.

A friend of Farrell’s (who’s also a staffer at Crime magazine) has been arrested for the murder of a young women he was having an affair with. Farrell looks into the situation. He has to check out Los Angeles’ “swingers” culture to do it.

The intrepid journalist shows up at a “swingers” pool party to talk to someone. The party is already getting out of control. A ping pong table is thrown into the pool.  A bikini-clad woman quickly gets out of the pool. “Hi! Do you belong to somebody?” She’s quickly disappointed when Farrell says he’s working. She still is making eyes at him as he walks away.

Later, Farrell visits another woman (Nancy Kovack) to follow up a lead. She grabs Farrell and begins making out with him. Farrell, though, keeps his cool. She’s lying to him and he knows it.

Eventually, Farrell gets into a bar fight following up another lead. Later, he solves the case (his friend didn’t do it) and writes a cover story for Crime. All in a day’s work.

Happy 85th birthday, David McCallum

David McCallum in a Man From U.N.C.L.E. publicity still, 1965

The blog wishes a happy 85th birthday to David McCallum. He’s had a long, very successful acting career. Still, for people of a certain age, he’ll always be known as the alter ego for U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin.

Regardless, happy birthday, Mr. McCallum, and many happy returns.

U.N.C.L.E. script: The show’s popularity surges Part I

Lobby card for One Spy Too Many, the movie edited from Alexander the Greater Affair

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had escaped cancellation in its first season. At the start of its second, the show’s popularity was surging.

Major changes were underway. Sam Rolfe, who had written the show’s pilot and produced its first season, had departed. Executive producer Norman Felton, who had co-created Napoleon Solo with Ian Fleming, moved over David Victor, producer of Felton’s Dr. Kildare series, to the same post at U.N.C..L.E.

Dean Hargrove, who had scripted two U.N.C.L.E. episodes late in the first season, was hired as “staff writer.” At least that’s how he described it in a 2007 interview that was part of an U.N.C.L.E. home video release.

Hargrove Takes Charge

Hargrove wrote a two-part story, Alexander the Greater Affair, early in pre-production for the second season. It would not be the first story filmed. But NBC would lead off the second season of U.N.C.L.E. with Alexander in September 1965.

NBC would air the two-parter only once After that, it’d be an MGM movie, One Spy Too Many. As it turned out, the TV version wouldn’t be seen (officially, anyway) until July 4, 2000, the final U.N.C.L.E. telecast on cable network TNT.

Hargrove’s script, though, has been available for years. I’ve had one since the 1990s. Re-reading it, you get the sense that U.N.C.L.E. was mostly a smooth-running machine by this point.

The script is pretty close to what NBC viewers saw in 1965. A few scenes are longer, but that’s not unusual. The script’s title page is dated June 14, 1965. Some pages are dated as early as June 1. Some pages are dated as late as July 1965.

We wish to thank the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement without whose assistance this blog post would not be possible.

The Ten Commandments

The plot concerns the mysterious industrialist Alexander (Rip Torn), whose real name is Baxter. Alexander is described in the script as “tall, intelligent-looking, enigmatic” and 32 years old. The part was cast with Rip Torn, 34 at the time the episode was broadcast.

Alexander intends to implement a coup at an unnamed Asian country. That will be part of his plan to eventually rule the world.

Alexander wants to do this with flair. He will have broken every one of the Ten Commandments by the time the coup takes effect.

The industrialist’s activities have come to the attention of U.N.C.L.E. after he has stolen “will gas” from the U.S. Army. One of Alexander’s companies was an Army supplier. So he was invited to a demonstration.

Alexander Waverly, the Number One of U.N.C.L.E.’s Section One gives Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) their respective assignments.

SOLO
Which leaves me with…

WAVERLY
Mr. Alexander. It’s most important to recover this gas, Mr. Solo, there was enough of it stole to cause considerable difficult if used improperly. Also, its composition is top secret.

(snip)

SOLO
I’ll find Mr. Aleander and if has the gas…
(wry smile)
I’ll ask him to return it.

Alexander’s primary lackey is Parviz, “a mustachioed Turk.” The part would be cast with character actor David Sheiner. He played an almost identical part in the I Spy episode Carry Me Back to Old Tsing Tao. His appearance and accent in both series is virtually identical.

However, when Sheiner was called back for extra scenes for One Spy Too Many, he’s wearing a bald cap. Sheiner also appeared in a later second-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Nowhere Affair. There, he’s wearing a hairpiece.

Meet Tracey

Along the way, Alexander’s ex-wife, Tracey (Dorothy Provine) shows up. She was rich when she married Alexander. She wants the million dollars she had Skipping ahead,

Tracey is the “innocent” for this story. However, I suspect this isn’t exactly what Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe had in mind when devising the show. Originally, the “innocent” was supposed to be a surrogate for the audience, someone who was “ordinary.” Tracey isn’t exactly “ordinary.” But, hey, that’s how things go.

Chess Game 

Skipping ahead, Solo and Illya crash a party Alexander is throwing. Alexander has already abducted Tracey, so she’s there also.

Solo has been investigating, but he’s getting some heat from Parviz. Thankfully (from Solo’s perspective), Alexander likes to play chess with human chess pieces (in this case the party guests). So Solo takes Alexander up on his challenge and avoids problems with Parviz.

The party is part of Alexander’s plans. Alexander explains it to Tracey.

ALEXANDER
The party that I’m holding this evening to honor Prince and Princess Phanong has a special significance. The Princess is an admirer of mine. Her husband, however, is an obsessively jealous man. He misinterprets the Princess’ appreciation for me.

TRACEY
Just how much does she appreciate you? If you don’t mind my asking.

ALEXANDER
(matter of fact)
She worships me. I allow it because I think it’s healthy for a young woman to have an idol.

Tracy knows better than to laugh, so she tries to appear very sincere.

The Princess is described as “a beautiful French girl in her middle twenties.” The part was cast with Donna Michelle, a one-time Playboy playmate. The prince was cast with veteran character actor James Hong.

Anyway, when we get to the chess game, there are some details that didn’t make the final version.

ALEXANDER
It’s a shame your husband was detained. A major disappointment.
(smiles)
Now when do you suppose he will arrive?

PRINCESS
(smiles knowingly)
The Prince received an emergency call to go and see his mother. I suspect she’ll keep keep him occupied for some time. They’re very close.

ALEXANDER
Well then, let’s begin the entertainment.

Solo prepares to play chess with Alexander. There’s another exchange that wouldn’t make the final version.

WOMAN – SOLO’S POV

A matronly woman standing on one of his square.

WOMAN (smiles)
I’m your queen.

RESUME – SOLO

SOLO (smiles wryly)
I’ll try very hard not to lose you.

The game unfolds. The script refers different diagrams that weren’t part of the script I have. After a few moves, Alexander makes a comment that doesn’t appear in the show.

ALEXANDER
I see. The Vienna gabmit. Rather pedestrian, Mr. Solo. Pawn takes pawn.

The script moves the game ahead. Solo sacrifices his Queen. “The matronly woman looks over at Solo, somewhat hurt,” according to the stage directions. But Solo puts Alexander into checkmate. Solo celebrates his win by dancing with the princess. What follows pretty much follows the final version.

“It’s lucky for you I’m a busy man,” Solo says while not drawing a revolver.

Suddenly, Solo is confronted by PRINCE PHANONG. The Prince slaps Solo.

PHANONG
I will kill any man who makes indecent advances to my wife. Let this be a warning to you.

The people around them are shocked. Even more so when Solo draws his revolver. (emphasis added.)

SOLO
It’s lucky for you I’m a busy man.

The problem: Solo never carried a revolver unless he relieved one off a thug. The U.N.C.L.E. Special was a semi-automatic pistol. The main version was based on the Walther P-38. Evidently, despite having written two U.N.C.L.E. episodes prior to this, Hargrove didn’t know much about firearms.

Later, Solo, Illya and Tracey check out a rock quarry owned by Alexander. They encounter his parents, Harry and Miriam Baxter, who are kept prisoners.

Middle-aged HARRY BAXTER, dressed in tattered evening clothes and middle-aged MIRIAM BAXTER, dressed in the ragged remains of a formal gown stand at the bottom of the pit. The Man holds a pick-axe in his hand, the woman lowers a wheelbarrow full of rocks to the ground as they look thi way. Their feet are chained.

The scene was only shown in the TV version. It would edited out of One Spy Too Many. In the TV version, David McCallum’s Illya has a line not in the script. “Let’s get those chains off!” It’s a great moment. Was it a last-minute revision in the script? Or a McCallum ad-lib? I don’t know.

Suffice to say, the U.N.C.L.E. agents rescue Alexander’s parents after a chase sequence. The agents also head to an ancient Greek temple where Alexander is running things.

Solo in a tight spot at the end of Part I.

Tables Are Turned

Solo gets to explain how he figured out the Ten Commandments angle and how this was all a trap. Nevertheless, Alexander gets the upper hand.

ALEXANDER
You see, Mr. Solo, you’ve only scratched the surface. I am breaking the universal law of morality — call them the Ten Commandments if you like — but for a special reason.

The script (as in the TV version) ends with a cliffhanger. Solo is tied up, a scimitar swinging ever closer to him. Illya and Tracey are tied together, held above a bottomless pit, with a candle burning the rope.

ANGLE – ILLYA AND TRACEY

TRACEY
Now what are we going to do?

ANGLE – SOLO AND THE SCIMTAR

The huge blade swings down, getting closer and close.

SOLO
The best we can.

FADE OUT

END OF PART i

Henry Cavil oddities ahead of Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Henry Cavill in 2013, during filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout is about to reach theaters. There are a number of oddities concerning the movie’s co-star, Henry Cavill, during the publicity build-up.

Unasked questions: No entertainment reporter (as far as the blog can tell) has asked Cavill an obvious question. The previous Mission: Impossible movie (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation) helped cause one of your previous movies, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., to crash at the box office. Do you find it ironic you worked on the next M:I film?

2015’s Rogue Nation originally was due to come out at Christmas 2015. But Paramount moved the fifth M:I film up five months to get out of the way of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As a result, Rogue Nation came out just two weeks before Cavill’s U.N.C.L.E. film. In the U.S., U.N.C.L.E. was No. 3 in its opening weekend, behind Straight Outta Compton and Rogue Nation (in its third weekend of release). The U.S. market didn’t appear interested in two spy movies the same weekend and Tom Cruise & Co. were still going strong.

It might be interesting to hear Cavill reflect on that. But it hasn’t occurred to interviewers.

But, hey, questions about Cavill playing James Bond! At least that appears to be the take Yahoo Movies UK took IN THIS STORY.

Of course, Cavill (in his early 20s) did a screen test for the role for Casino Royale before Daniel Craig (with the significant support of Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli) got the part. Since then, Cavill-Bond has been a case of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

And, after all, Craig is doing Bond 25, which doesn’t even start filming until December and won’t be out until fall 2019.

Cavill’s less-than-surprising answer: “I would love to do it of course. I think Bond would be a really fun role. It’s British, it’s cool. I think that now that I have my Mission: Impossible badge we can do real stunts and really amp it up as well…I don’t get to play a Brit very often. So yes, I would love the opportunity and if they were to ask I would say ‘yes.’”

What about an U.N.C.L.E. sequel? The 2015 U.N.C.L.E. film gets more critical love now than it did when it came out. But there have been absolutely no signs there is any real movement toward a sequel. A screenplay may have been written. But Hollywood is littered with scripts that were never filmed.

Still, that doesn’t stop the questions. Again, from the Yahoo Movies UK story:

“I don’t know when or if it will happen, I had enormous fun making that movie and it would be enormous fun playing Napoleon Solo again but I’m not too sure when that would be.”

Whatever, big guy.

1966: Dick Van Dyke takes on the spy craze

Title card for The Man From My Uncle

In the 1960s, many television shows did a take on the spy craze. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66), one of the most acclaimed U.S. situation comedies, was no exception.

Near the end of its run, CBS aired “The Man From My Uncle.” It has references to both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (near the peak of its popularity) and James Bond films. Amusingly, the episode doesn’t actually have spies.

Nevertheless, a nameless U.S. agency (resembling the FBI) asks Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) for the use of their house to conduct a surveillance in their New Rochelle, New York, neighborhood.

The lead agent is Harry Bond (Godfrey Cambridge). Given this is 1966, the significance of agent Bond’s name is obvious when Rob looks at the agent’s identification.

ROB: Bond? Harry Bond? Hey, you’ve got the same last name…

BOND: Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.

Something similar happens a few moments later when Laura meets the government man.

LAURA: Bond? Isn’t that the name of….

Rob stops her before things get too far.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Rob was the head writer for a leading variety television program. The Dick Van Dyke Show was an early sitcom which depicted its lead character at both home and at work.

As a result, in this story, Rob is nervous and excited that a government man is working out of his home. Rob’s anxiety around Harry Bond is the source of much of the humor of the episode.

Harry Bond’s quarry is a criminal who has a relative living in Rob’s neighborhood. Suffice to say, the feds eventually get their man despite Rob’s offers of assistance.

At the end of the episode, Rob speaks into what he thinks is his son’s walkie talkie.

ROB: Hello, Thrush? This is agent Triple-oh-nine. If you do not release our agents immediately, we will activate our atomic de-activator and blow up your tonsils. Do you read me there, Thrush?

BOND: This is Thrush.

ROB (embarrassed): Hi, Thrush.

BOND (bemused): We read you and will release all your agents if you just stop playing with our equipment.

ROB: Mr. Bond, I’m sorry. I thought this was my son’s.

BOND: That’s all right, Triple-oh-nine. We’ll be right in.

For those not familiar with U.N.C.L.E., Thrush was the villainous organization of that 1964-68 series.

Godfrey Cambridge’s title card for The Man From My Uncle

Trivia: The Man From My Uncle was written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson. While mostly known for writing comedy, the duo also wrote an episode of the hour-long drama I Spy that same season.

Sheldon Leonard was the executive producer of both The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy. Marshall and Belson later developed Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple into a television series.

Marshall (1934-2016) later became a director of such films as Pretty Woman and The Princess Dairies.

Godfrey Cambridge died in 1976 in the TV production Victory at Entebbe, where he was playing Ugandan president Idi Amin. He was replaced by Julius W. Harris, who had portrayed Tee Hee in Live And Let Die.

Meanwhile, you can view The Man From My Uncle below (at least as long as YouTube doesn’t yank it).