Duns uncovers Joseph Heller’s work on Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

Writer Jeremy Duns, who in 2011 researched Casino Royale scripts by Ben Hecht, has produced another chapter in the saga of the Charles K. Feldman production — work that Catch 22 author Joseph Heller did for Feldman’s project.

Duns’ research about Heller is contained in an April 20 article in The Times of London.

Heller was approached by producer Feldman after Hecht died in 1964. Hecht’s work was more of a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel.

However, according to the article, Feldman wanted to go in a more extravagant direction after Hecht’s death. Heller, who worked with novelist George Mandel as a co-writer, came aboard during this phase of the project in early 1965.

In one version of the Heller material, according to Duns, the fugitive Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele “is removing the brains of leading scientists” and storing them.

A very similar idea would be included in a March 1966 episode of The Wild Wild West, The Night of the Druid’s Blood. The series was set in the 1870s but the villain of the episode has removed the brains of scientists who are still alive, albeit disembodied. That episode was scripted by Henry Sharp, one of the show’s leading writers who earlier in his career had written for pulp magazines.

The Heller-Mandel material also includes the villain’s base is in a dormant volcano. As noted by Duns, both Our Man Flint, with James Coburn, and 1967’s You Only Live Twice featured the same concept.

Despite such flourishes, Duns says the tone of the Heller material has “a real sense of menace and suspense.”

Duns found the Heller material in the Charles K. Feldman Collection at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Feldman’s family donated Casino Royale material in 1969 but the collection has been closed to the public until recently, according to Duns.

To read the much more detailed article, CLICK HERE. The article is behind a paywall. However, if you register for The Times’ site, you can see two free articles a month. The Times is offering a one-month free subscription plan. Duns also has his own summary of his research on his blog.

About that Thunderball jet pack

Sean Connery in an insert shot during the pre-titles sequence of Thunderball

For first-generation fans of the James Bond films, the pre-titles sequence of Thunderball is an enduring memory. A major reason was how Bond (Sean Connery) got away from thugs with a jet pack.

Bond fans who weren’t around then may not understand the excitement that the sequence generated. That’s understandable. You had to be there.

Still, here’s the broader context: By 1965, the Bond films had created a market for all sorts of spy entertainment. On television, the best of these entries had interesting characters and concepts: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (a series where Ian Fleming had been involved for a time), The Wild Wild West, I Spy and others.

In terms of movies, the Matt Helm and Derek Flint films were in production.

By the fall of 1965, spies were *everywhere*. How could Bond stay ahead?

That was the challenge for Thunderball, which began filming in early 1965.

Eon Productions decided to go bigger, giving the audience what they couldn’t get on TV or on other more modestly budgeted films.

With Thunderball, the jet pack was the perfect example. It was real. No special effects (example for the insert shots of Sean Connery supposedly piloting the jet pack).

Over the years, Eon Productions flirted with bringing the jet pack back. The first draft of Moonraker had Bond using a jet pack during the Venice sequence. The first draft of The World Is Not Enough had Bond using a jet pack instead of the “Q boat.”

The closest Eon got was a jet pack cameo for Die Another Day. We haven’t seen it since.

That’s probably how it should be. Thunderball was catching lightning in a bottle (there was a lot of that, circa 1965). It should remain there. But for those of us who witnessed it first run, we won’t forget it.

Meanwhile, this tweet embeds a video of a Lego version of the Thunderball jet pack sequence. Amazing work.

 

Robert Conrad, who mixed spies with cowboys, dies

James West (Robert Conrad) has his first encounter with Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn)

Robert Conrad, who made the concept of spies with cowboys work, has died at 84, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Conrad played U.S. Secret Service agent James T. West in The Wild Wild West, the 1965-69 series as well as two TV movie revivals in 1979 and 1980.

The concept originated with producer Michael Garrison. For a time, Rory Calhoun was a contender to play West. But Conrad emerged as the choice.

The Wild Wild West was steam punk (“genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology”) before the term was coined.

Conrad and Ross Martin, as West’s partner Artemus Gordon, made the concept work. The athletic Conrad looked like he really could fight a roomful of villains. Martin’s Gordon dabbled with inventions but could still hold his own during fights.

The intrepid agents encountered many menaces in 19th century, especially Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn), whose rage against the world knew no bounds.

Just another day at the office for Robert Conrad’s James West in The Night of the Eccentrics.

In the fourth Dr. Loveless episode (The Night of Murderous Spring), near the end of the show’s first season, one of Loveless’s mute goons was played Leonard Falk, Conrad’s real-life father.

Conrad already was a television star, having been in Hawaiian Eye, the 1959-63 series that was part of the family of Warner Bros. private eye shows on ABC. Still, James West was the actor’s defining role: a man of action and a ladies man.

The Wild West West wasn’t an easy series to make, with stunts that went wrong, including one where Conrad was seriously injured.

The Wild Wild West was canceled in 1969 amid concern about violence in television generally.

Conrad remained busy, including playing the leads in series such as The D.A., Assignment: Vienna and Black Sheep Squadron. In the fall of 1979, NBC aired A Man Called Sloane, starring Conrad, which a cross between The Wild Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It only lasted 12 episodes.

Conrad and Marin did get a chance to repeat their Wild Wild West roles in two TV movies, The Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West.

In January 2013, there was a tribute to Conrad with fans attending. It consisted of long video clips from his long career followed by a question and answer session.

The Wild Wild West was very much like catching lightning in a bottle, mixing fantasy, spies and, as noted above, steam punk.

Robert Conrad, along with Ross Martin, who died in 1981, made the concept work. Conrad’s passing closes the door on an era we won’t see again.

Marj Dusay dies at 83

Marj Dusay

Marj Dusay, a frequent guest star on U.S. television programs as well as appearing on soap operas, has died at 83, according to Soap Opera Digest.

Dusay appeared in such series as Hawaii Five-O, The Wild Wild West, The FBI, Mannix, Cannon, Barnaby Jones and Get Smart.

She also was in the cast of Spock’s Brain, an infamous episode of the original Star Trek series. The episode is widely seen as among the worst for the 1966-69 series. It was actually penned by one of its best writers, Gene L. Coon, under the pen name Lee Cronin.

In her prime-time roles, Dusay could play both sympathetic or villainous roles. In one of her Five-O appearances, Twenty-Four Karat Kill, she played an undercover federal agent who assists Steve McGarrett in a case. In The Wild Wild West episode The Night of the Kraken, she played the wife of a U.S. admiral who was really one of the villains, along with a character played by Ted Knight.

Dusay was born in Russell, Kansas, according to a biography on her official website. Her IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 90 acting credits.

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.