Leslie H. Martinson, versatile director, dies at 101

Cover to the Fathom soundtrack

Cover to the Fathom soundtrack

Leslie H. Martinson, a versatile director who mostly worked in television, has died at 101, according to an obituary published by The New York Times.

Martinson’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 108 directing credits, from 1953 through 1989. Besides TV, he also directed some movies, including the 1966 Batman feature based on the Adam West television show and 1963’s PT 109, with Cliff Robertson playing John F. Kennedy as a U.S. Naval officer in World War II.

Naturally, with a resume that long, Martinson dabbled in spy entertainment.

Another one of his movie credits was 1967’s Fathom, Raquel Welch’s entry into the 1960s spy craze. It also featured a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and main titles designed by Maurice Binder, and prominently feature the movie’s star.

What’s more, Martinson directed nine episodes of the original Mission: Impossible series. Those episodes ran during the show’s later seasons.

The director worked at various studios. He was in demand at Warner Bros. in the late 1950s and early ’60s, directing episodes of the studio’s detective (77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside 6) and western (Maverick, Lawman, Cheyenne) series.

In the latter category, Martinson directed a particularly amusing Maverick installment, Gun-Shy,  which was a parody of the hugely popular CBS western Gunsmoke.

In Gun-Shy, Bret Maverick (James Garner) keeps running afoul of Marshal Mort Dooley. Maverick is repeatedly thrown out of town by Dooley. But Bret, trying to find buried riches, keeps coming back. Writer Marion Hargrove even threw in a joke referencing another CBS western, Have Gun-Will Travel.

Eventually, Bret has to face off against Dooley in a gunfight. But Maverick outsmarts the marshal by staying just outside the range of the lawman’s pistol. Martinson staged the sequence as a send-up of the opening of Gunsmoke where Marshal Matt Dillon faced off against a gunfighter.

Steven Hill, original M:I star, dies at 94

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set, with Steven Hill, left, as Dan Briggs.

Steven Hill, the first star of Mission: Impossible, has died at 94, according to an obituary in The New York Times.

Hill enjoyed a long acting career, including a 10-year stint on Law And Order as D.A. Adam Schiff.

For fans of the spy genre, Hill’s one season as Dan Briggs, team leader of the Impossible Missions Force, is a huge “what if?”

As noted in The Times’ obituary, Hill did not work late on Fridays (standard operating procedure at the time on most series) in observance of the Jewish sabbath. It’s also discussed in detail in Patrick J. White’s 1991 book on the series.

Mission: Impossible had the longest run, seven seasons, of the 1960s spy shows in the U.S. But Hill would only be around for the first.

The audience knew little of Briggs. In the pilot episode, written by Bruce Geller, we’re told he had been away from the IMF for some period. In another episode, we see Briggs was a friend of a high school principal. Mobsters kidnap the principal’s daughter to try to get leverage on Briggs.

The IMF leader could be quietly ruthless. For example, there’s the end of the episode Operation: Rogosh. The IMF has pulled a con on an enemy agent, who is driven away by officials of his government. Barney Collier muses (Greg Morris) muses, “I’m sorry we had to let a man like Rogosh live.”

“We didn’t,” Briggs replies.

As time went on, Hill’s Briggs got less screen time. One beneficiary was Martin Landau, whose Rollin Hand character took on more importance. The other was Peter Graves, hired to replace Hill, starting with the second season.

One can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Hill’s Briggs lasted the whole series. Regardless, Hill is being remembered as an excellent actor for other roles.

Paul Greengrass says Broccoli talked to him about 007

Paul Greengrass

Paul Greengrass

In what should be a surprise to absolutely nobody, three-time Bourne film director Paul Greengrass says he was approached by Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli about directing a James Bond film, according to the LONDON EVENING STANDARD.

Greengrass has directed three Bourne films, including the newest, Jason Bourne, due out later this month. Here’s what he had to say on the matter.

When asked if he would consider taking on the project during an interview on Radio 4, Greengrass said:

“Honesty and truly no. I mean I know (Bond producer) Barbara Broccoli and we’ve discussed it.

“It’s a bit like your football team, you can’t… I’m a Bourne man, I like Bourne.

(snip)

“Speaking personally as a filmmaker I think encoded in Bond are a series of values about Britain, about the world, about masculinity, about power, about the empire that I don’t share,” he said.

“Quite the reverse. Whereas in Bourne I think encoded is much more scepticism. There’s an us and a them and Bourne is an us, whereas Bond is working for them.

Since at least the fall of 2005, it has been written that the Bond franchise was being affected by the success of Bourne films in the 2000s. The New York Times reported in October 2005 that the Bourne series was one factor in recasting the 007 role with Daniel Craig.

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony, executives said, the model was Jason Bourne, the character Matt Damon successfully incarnated in two gritty spy movies for Universal Pictures, “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

After that story came out, another Bourne film, The Bourne Ultimatum, came out in 2007. The most Bourne-like 007 film, Quantum of Solace, was released in the fall of 2008. That film’s crew included a Bourne veteran, Dan Bradley as second unit director.

It should be noted that the Bourne folks don’t seem to be big 007 fans. Besides Greengrass, Bourne star Matt Damon has frequently criticized the Bond character.

A recent example occurred ahead of the newest Bourne film. Here’s what the 45-year-old actor told GQ Australia.

“I like Bourne better than Bond. Bourne has today’s values; Bond has the values of the 1960s. Daniel’s (Daniel Craig) Bond has upgraded him and brought him more into the present, but, classically, that character is a misogynist who likes swilling martinis and killing people and not giving a shit….And Bourne would obviously win in a fight.”

Over the past week, some Bond fans we know have been really annoyed about Damon’s recent remarks. But those comments are consistent (almost word-for-word) for what he said about 007 in the 2000s.

Here’s food for thought. Actors say all sorts of things while promoting their movies. What bears closer watching is how the trustees of the Bond franchise react.

For a time, Eon hired screenwriter Peter Morgan, who didn’t seem like he cared for 007, to write what would become Skyfall. Now, Paul Greengrass has verified Eon was interested in his services, even though he makes clear he’s not a “Bond guy.”

Eon shouldn’t necessarily hire fans. After all, hiring a non-fan could lead to a new perspective. But should they hire, or seek to recruit, people who don’t care for Bond?

Who knows? Something to think about.

UK voters disregard Craig, 007 producers on Brexit vote

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

UK voters weren’t swayed by 007 (both the actor playing him and the producers employing him).

Britain voted Thursday to depart the European Union. Daniel Craig, who played James Bond for four movies, and Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were among celebrities and movie producers who had publicly urged voters to stay in the EU.

The Thursday vote is “a historic decision sure to reshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West,” Steven Erlanger wrote in a story in The New York Times.

Craig had been among celebrities, including former soccer star David Beckham, who came out in support of the UK staying in the EU. Other celebrities, such as actor Michael Caine and author Frederick Forsyth, urged the UK depart the EU.

Broccoli and Wilson were among about 20 movie producers who said the UK’s membership in the EU had provided funds to help the nation’s movie industry.

The vote is a huge story with worldwide implications. The 007 angle is only a small part of the story. Still, in this case, the 007 contingent didn’t convice the UK electorate.

 

Yikes! Even the NYT gets into 007 sweepstakes stories

Tom Hiddleston's expression here is close to our reaction to the NYT story

Tom Hiddleston’s expression here is close to our reaction to the NYT story

Say it isn’t so, Gray Lady.

The New York Times, considered one of the best newspapers, if not the best newspaper, in the world couldn’t resist doing a James Bond story based on the activities of U.K. bookies who don’t actually know what’s going on.

Over the past few days, British bookmaker Coral stopped taking bets on who the next James Bond will be. That’s because there were a surge of bets in favor of British actor Tom Hiddleston.

The surge, in turn, occurred because of U.K. tabloid stories that Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall and SPECTRE director Sam Mendes had a late-night dinner recently with the 35-year-old actor.

This is what bookies do. They adjust odds based on bets. And if there are too many bets for one candidate, they stop making bets because they won’t make money.

Various U.K. tabloids have written up the Coral action. So has the BBC.  But The Times evidently felt it was now a matter for its attention.

The Times doesn’t actually bring any reporting to the issue. The story mostly cites other outlets. You know,  the way, blogs like ours (that are way, way down the media food chain), do.

Imagine the reaction when there’s actual news to report.

David Bowie dies and his 007 footnote

David Bowie

David Bowie

Musician David Bowie, who had a stellar career with a minor 007 footnote, has died at 69, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES.

The news was released early Monday. Bowie’s appeal was so wide, something like the Mike & Mike sports talk show on ESPN Radio devoted several minutes to it, interrupting recaps and commentary about professional football games and other sports.

Meanwhile, in London, ACCORDING TO THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, “some models honored David Bowie by sporting glittery makeup, while some had written ‘Bowie’ across their open palms.”

Bowie branched off from music to appear in movies and on television, including once singing a duet of “The Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby.

Here’s an excerpt from the obituary in The Times:

Mr. Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His music was always a mutable blend: rock, cabaret, jazz and what he called “plastic soul,” but it was suffused with genuine soul. He also captured the drama and longing of everyday life, enough to give him No. 1 pop hits like “Let’s Dance.”

His 007 footnote was being offered, and declining, the role of Max Zorin in A View To a Kill. Grace Jones, who played May Day in the 1985 James Bond film, remembered it this way in A 2015 YAHOO! MOVIES STORY.

According to Jones, David Bowie didn’t want take the part of the main baddie because he feared a stuntman would get more screen time than he would. The production then asked Mick Jagger “because they definitely wanted this to be a rock ’n’ roll MTV Bond.” Eventually the role went to Christopher Walken, whose on-screen appearance remained very Bowie-esque notes Jones: “lean, mean, blond, and suavely narcissistic.”

UPDATE: Slate.com has posted THIS ARTICLE with more details about how Bowie was courted to be the villain in A View To A Kill.

Mendes: 007 had to thread needle between Bourne, Marvel

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, had to thread a needle between Jason Bourne and movies from Marvel Studios on the other, Sam Mendes said earlier this month in New York.

“It’s very tricky… to walk the knife edge between, you know, Bourne on the one hand, which is brilliant, especially when done by (director) Paul Greengrass, and Marvel on the other,” Mendes said during an appearance at TimesTalk, part of events held by The New York Times, which sells tickets for people to attend.

“Bond is in this very narrow…you’re threading the needle,” Mendes added. “You only have so many tools you can use.”

The director of SPECTRE and Skyfall also acknowledged specific homages in SPECTRE to earlier Bond movies (Live And Let Die in the pre-titles sequence) and From Russia With Love (train fight between Bond and Hinx on the train).

“But sometimes people see a snow sequence and say, ‘Ah, The Spy Who Loved Me.’ No, it’s just a snow sequence.”

You can view other comments from Mendes and Craig on this video below, which the Times uploaded to YouTube. Note: the closed captioning has a few mistakes, including “marble” for Marvel.