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.

Soon-Tek Oh, busy actor, dies

Soon-Tek Oh as an ill-fated secret agent in the Matt Helm film Murderers’ Row.

Soon-Tek Oh, a Korean-born actor whose career extended decades, died April 4, according to an obituary in Korea JoonAng Daily, an English language newspaper in South Korea.

The publication listed his age as 85. The Internet Movie Data Base listed his age as 74.

(UPDATE: Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have listed his age as 85.)

Korea JoonAng Daily said Oh graduated from  Yonsei University in 1959 with a degree in political science. He then went to the University of California-Los Angeles, where he ended up studying acting, the newspaper said.

The actor made his rounds in spy and international intrigue related movies and television series.

He played Lt. Hip in the second Roger Moore 007 film, The Man With The Golden Gun. Before that, he appeared in I Spy, the Matt Helm movie Murderers’ Row (an uncredited role as a Japanese secret agent who’s killed early in the film), It Takes a Thief, The Wild Wild West (a small role as the villain’s houseboy) and eight episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Lt. Hip assisted Moore’s Bond on a mission in Golden Gun. Often in Bond films, that’s the type of role that ends up being a “sacrificial lamb.” Oh’s Lt. Hip avoided that fate. The character also had two nieces whose martial arts skills helped Bond get out of a jam.

With Five-O, the actor was present at the beginning. In the pilot episode, he played a lab technician for villain Wo Fat, who has devised an unusual torture method involving a “cocoon.”

His parts got larger as the series progressed. Oh returned in a first-season Five-O episode, Face of the Dragon, He played a Chinese agent who is spreading Bubonic plague. Oh also portrayed a “young Maoist” who is being manipulated by Wo Fat as part of a plot in the fifth-season episode The Jinn Who Clears the Way.

The actor’s IMDB.COM entry lists 116 acting credits, extending from 1965 and running through 2006. He was also billed as Soon-Taik Oh (as he was in The Man With the Golden Gun) and Soon-Teck Oh.

Bradford Dillman dies at 87

Bradford Dillman in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Prince of Darkness Affair Part I

Bradford Dillman, a busy actor who often played villains, died this week at age 87, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Dillman’s career began in the 1950s. His work that decade included the 1959 film Compulsion, loosely based on the Leopold-Loeb murder case of the 1920s. He also appeared in movies such as The Way We Were, The Enforcer and Sudden Impact.

Dillman was kept busy on television. He was part of the informal group known as “the QM Players,” who frequently appeared on television shows produced by Quinn Martin.

For Dillman, that included multiple appearances on The FBI, Barnaby Jones (starting with that show’s pilot, as the man who kills Barnaby’s grown son) and Cannon. He also had appearances on short-lived QM shows such as Dan August and The Manhunter.

The actor was in demand elsewhere. He was the namesake character in the two-part The Prince of Darkness Affair on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which aired during that show’s fourth season. Dillman also made appearances on series such as Mission: Impossible,  The Wild Wild West and The Name of the Game.

Here are the opening and end titles of the Barnaby Jones pilot.