Phyllis Newman dies at 86

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 100th to a familiar, often villainous, face

Nehemiah Persoff in Mission: Impossible

Aug. 2 is the 100th birthday for Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor who excelled at playing villains.

Persoff, over a career lasting from the late 1940s to the early 2000s, played:

–A Blofeld-like villain in the 1961 John Wayne Western The Comancheros;

–A secondary Thrush villain out to kill his former mentor Mandor (Jack Lord) in The Master’s Touch Affair in the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.;

–Three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the show’s 1965 pilot;

–Two episodes of I Spy, three episodes of Mission: Impossible, an episode of It Takes a Thief, and seven episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Persoff could play heavies in comedies as well as dramas.

For example, Persoff played gangster Little Bonaparte in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. The mobster was hearing impaired, wearing hearing aids. Little Bonaparte has fellow gangster Spats Columbo (George Raft) and his men gunned down at a party, with the killer coming out of a large cake.

A lawman played by Pat O’Brien enters asking what happened.

“There was something in that cake that didn’t agree with them,” Little Bonaparte replies.

Henry Sharp, an appreciation

Henry Sharp’s title card for The Night of the Golden Cobra on The Wild Wild West

For people of a certain age, the 1960s were a special time for spy entertainment (aka spy-fi). You had plenty of options and many of them were available to television.

Writer Henry Sharp (1912-2019) was one of those who made that era possible.

Sharp’s parents emigrated to the United States in the 1900s, according a detailed biography at the website Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists. He was an artist and his work later appeared in “pulp” magazines, featuring adventure stories. Sharp ended up writing stories as well. Sharp also drew stories for comic books.

According to that biography, things took a turn.

By 1954 his brother, Philip Sharp, had become a successful writer on The Sid Caesar Show. Philip Sharp went on to write teleplays for The Phil Silvers Show in 1956. In 1958 Philip Sharp was writing The Real McCoy’s, and invited his brother to become a co-writer on that TV show. The two brothers again teamed up on scripts for The Gale Storm Show (1958), The Ann Southern Show (1959), and The Donna Reed Show (1959-1961).

In the 1960s, spy-fi became popular because of the James Bond novels and early 007 films. Ian Flemings more escapist works (Dr. No and Goldfinger) had pulp sensibilities. The early Bond movies adeptly balanced drama and humor.

Those trends would make Henry Sharp ideal to work on spy-fi television shows.

Sharp co-wrote a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Neptune Affair. The writer found his stride with The Wild Wild West.

That 1965-69 series mixed spies with cowboys. It employed what’s now known as “steam punk” (taking present technology and figuring out how it would have been done in the 19th century).

Sharp wrote 10 episodes of The Wild Wild West. For almost three seasons, he was the story consultant who met with writers and made revisions to scripts to keep the tone of the series consistent.

Scripts for The Wild Wild West credited to Sharp brilliantly balanced adventure plots with humor. One of his scripts made the Philosopher’s Stone (!) the McGuffin. Sharp’s credited scripts included one featuring Dr. Loveless (the series’ arch-villain) and one featuring Count Manzeppi (an attempt to create a second arch-villain).

Sharp was a major contributor to making the show work. In 1979 and 1980, CBS produced TV movies based on The Wild Wild West with original stars Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. But without Sharp, things weren’t quite the same.

A 1999 movie version, with Will Smith and Kevin Kline also lacked the feel of the original show. In many ways, The Wild Wild West was like catching lightning in a bottle. Henry Sharp was one of those who accomplished that.

Television writer Henry Sharp dies at 106

Henry Sharp title card from a fourth-season episode of The Wild Wild West

Television writer Henry Sharp, whose credits included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died Jan. 9 at 106, according to a Twitter post by the Writers Guild West.

Sharp’s entry on IMDB.com lists credits across various genres going back to the late 1950s. Many of his initial credits were for situation comedies, including The Donna Reed Show and McHale’s Navy.

The writer shifted to spy-fi in the mid 1960s as the spy genre became popular. Sharp was brought in to rewrite a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Neptune Affair, about a group of scientists trying to start World War III. Sharp shared the teleplay credit with John W. Bloch, who plotted the story.

Sharp’s biggest mark was on The Wild Wild West, which mixed cowboys and espionage.

Sharp wrote four first-season episodes. Early in the second season, he was brought aboard as story editor (formal title: story consultant), where he helped supervise and revise scripts. He had a total of 10 writing credits on the series.

One of his best was early in the second season, The Night of the Golden Cobra, which featured Boris Karloff as the guest adversary for Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin).

Here’s the tweet announcing Sharp’s death:

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Michele Carey dies at 75

Michele Carey in an episode of The Wild Wild West

Michele Carey, an actress active from the 1960s into the 1980s, has died at 75, according to an announcement on her Facebook page.

Carey died on Nov. 21. The announcement described her death as a ” sudden and unexpected passing.”

One of her most prominent roles was in the Howard Hawks-directed western El Dorado, starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum.

She played Josephine “Joey” MacDonald, a tomboy-like character. She shoots Wayne’s Cole Thornton early in the film. While the wound isn’t fatal, it causes plot complications because Thornton becomes impaired later in the story.

Carey was active in spy-related television shows. Among them: a small role on The Double Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the only two-part story of the series; as well as episodes of It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible and Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

The actress was also the voice of Effie the computer in the short-lived 1979 series A Man Called Sloane starring Robert Conrad.

While not a spy story, Carey also was a guest star in a 1969 episode of The FBI titled Tug-Of-War. One of her co-stars was Barry Nelson, the first actor to play James Bond. The episode was plotted by Anthony Spinner, who was the fourth-season producer of U.N.C.L.E.

Expanded TWINE soundtrack coming Nov. 27

Cover to the original soundtrack release of The World Is Not Enough

An expanded two-disc soundtrack to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough will be available Nov. 27, La-La Land Records announced on Twitter and Facebook.

La-La Land’s Facebook post has a track list. The first disc has almost 74 minutes of material, while the second dis has more than 67 minutes.

The World Is Not Enough was the second of five 007 scores composed by David Arnold. La-La Land previously released an expanded soundtrack for 2002’s Die Another Day, also featuring an Arnold score.

The company also has released limited-edition soundtracks for the Mission: Impossible television series, Jonny Quest and The Wild Wild West.

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.