The man who hired Goldsmith, Williams and others

Stanley Wilson’s title card (along with others) on a first-season episode of Universal’s The Name of the Game

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

The blog’s post this week about the television factory run by MCA Corp.’s Revue Studios (later Universal Television) didn’t have room to get into some details. This post is aimed at remedying that.

One of Revue-Universal’s stalwarts was Stanley Wilson, who ran the music department.

In that capacity, he hired composers who had to work under tight deadlines. Wilson hired some of the best, some of whom would become major film composers.

One of Wilson’s hires was Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004). Goldsmith already had credits at CBS. But the network let him go.

Stanley Wilson’s title card (along with others) on an episode of Thriller, whose composers included Jerry Goldsmith.

Wilson wisely assigned him jobs at Revue-Universal. Some of Goldsmith’s best television work was on the studio’s 1960-62 anthology series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff. For a 2010 home video release, extras included permitting viewers to listen to Goldsmith’s music only for episodes he scored.

Wilson (whose title was either “musical supervisor” or “music supervisor”) also brought on John Williams to work on the 1960-62 series Checkmate, a detective series created by Eric Ambler. It was one of the earliest credits for Williams. Williams was also hired by Wilson to work on the anthology show Kraft Suspense Theater.

Other notable Wilson hires included Morton Stevens, beginning with an episode of The General Electric Theater. The episode starred Sammy Davis Jr. Stevens worked for Davis as his arranger.

Wilson hired Stevens for the Davis episode of The GE Theater. That began a career switch for Stevens of scoring television shows. That included scoring the pilot for Hawaii Five-O and devising its iconic theme. Stevens also was a major composer on Thriller.

Other Wilson hires included Quincy Jones for the pilot of Ironside (resulting in the creation of another well-known theme) and Dave Grusin on a number of Universal projects. They included the 1968 television movie Prescription: Murder that introduced Lt. Columbo to television audiences.

Jon Burlingame, a journalist who has written extensively about television and film music, had a 2012 article in Variety when Universal named a street on its Southern California lot in honor of Wilson.

“Stanley Wilson Avenue connects Main Street with James Stewart Avenue on the Universal lot, not far from the now-demolished Stage 10 where its namesake conducted literally thousands of hours of music by young composers who would go on to become the biggest names in Hollywood film music,” Burlingame wrote.

On his blog, Burlingame wrote an additional tribute. “Wilson is an unsung hero in the film/TV music business.”

Wilson died in 1970 at the age of 54.

Mary Tyler Moore’s noir beginnings, role as TV mogul

Mary Tyler Moore's unusual title card for an episode of the Thriller TV series

Mary Tyler Moore’s unusual title card for Man of Mystery, an episode of the Thriller TV series

Mary Tyler Moore died Jan. 25 at the 80, The New York Times and numerous media outlets reported. Quite understandably, the obituaries focused on how she, in the words of the Times, “helped define a new vision of American womanhood” with The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1960s and ’70s.

That’s because a woman wearing pants (as her Laura Petrie did in Van Dyke) or being an independent career woman (as her Mary Richards was on her namesake show) were considered big deals at the time.

The purpose of this post is to highlight other parts of her lengthy career: Her start on black-and-white TV and her later role as television mogul.

Her early credits included Sam, the woman answering service during the third season of Richard Diamond, Private Eye. She also made the rounds in guest appearances on other detective shows of the era such as 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat and Checkmate. This was a time that television was almost entirely filmed in black and white.

The actress also appeared in two episodes of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology show, Thriller. She was more prominent in her second appearance, Man of Mystery. That episode ran during the 1961-62 season, which coincided with the first season of The Dick Van Dyke Show. CLICK HERE for a review at a Thriller fan website.

Moore, in 1969, formed MTM Enterprises with her then-husband Grant Tinker. MTM produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show but it would quickly expand.

Initially it stayed with situation comedies (including Mary Tyler Moore Show spinoffs) but branched out into drama and other formats. Its hour-long shows included the medical drama St. Elsewhere and Remington Steele. The latter made Pierce Brosnan a star in the United States and put him in position to take the role of James Bond.

MTM would change ownership a number of times before eventually dissolving in the late 1990s. But it left a significant mark on U.S. television.

Tinker and Moore divorced in 1981. Tinker died in November at age 90.

 

Morton Stevens: Obscure composer, famous tune

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

The name Morton Stevens is barely known by the general public. Yet his signature piece of work — the theme to Hawaii Five-O (or Five-0 as it’s spelled for the revival series that began in 2010) — is almost universally recognized.

In the 1950s, Stevens worked for Sammy Davis Jr. as his music arranger. Then, in 1960, Davis had the chance to perform a dramatic role in The Patsy, an episode of The General Electric Theater, an anthology series.

According to television and film music historian Jon Burlingame (in an audio commentary for the DVD set for the Thriller anthology show hosted by Boris Karloff), Davis wanted Stevens to score the episode. Stevens got the assignment and made a career switch.

Stevens quickly began scoring a variety of genres, including Westerns, crime dramas and horror (the aforementioned Thriller series). And then there were his espionage-show efforts.

Stevens was the first composer to follow Jerry Goldsmith with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In fact, the very first piece of U.N.C.L.E. music — a few seconds accompanying the U.N.C.L.E. global logo at the start of The Vulcan Affair, first broadcast on Sept. 22, 1964 — was composed by Stevens.

When Goldsmith did the pilot, the show was to be titled Solo. When the show began production of series episodes, the name was changed to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. With that change, the globe logo was devised and it would be shown at the very start of each episode.

Stevens’ “insignia” U.N.C.L.E. music (as it’s known) led off the first 14 episodes of the show. Stevens also did the first new arrangement of Goldsmith’s theme, which first appeared with the 15th episode, The Deadly Decoy Affair. It would be used for almost all of the second half of the second season.

In all, Stevens did four original U.N.C.L.E. scores but his music was frequently re-used in first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes without an original score. Often, these “stock scores” paired Goldsmith music (composed for three episodes) with that of Stevens. Their styles melded well.

In April of 1965, Stevens became the head of CBS’ West Coast music operation involved with the network’s in-house productions. As a result, he assigned other composers on CBS productions while taking on some jobs himself.

In that capacity, he scored the 1968 pilot for Hawaii Five-O. In that production, Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) locked horns with Chinese spy Wo Fat (Khigh Dheigh), giving the crime drama a spy twist from the start.

In the first season of the show, Stevens was only credited for an episode’s score (“Music by”) or, on some episodes for “music supervision.”

However, if another composer was credited for an episode, Stevens didn’t get a mention. That was consistent with CBS policy at the time, which denied theme credits for many series, including Gunsmoke, which ran on the the network for 20 years.

A Morton Stevens title card for a first-season episode of Hawaii Five-O

A Morton Stevens title card for a first-season episode of Hawaii Five-O

Early in the show’s second season, Stevens did get a “theme by” credit for episodes where he didn’t provide the score. (When Stevens did provide an original score, he still got a “music by” credit.).

Eventually, the theme had to be turned into a song. Appropriately, Sammy Davis Jr. performed it.

Still, despite how famous the theme became — decades later, it’s regularly performed by marching bands — fame eluded Stevens.

Stevens never moved in a major way into scoring movies unlike contemporaries of his such as John Williams (who, ironically, received the job of scoring the 1969 Steve McQueen film The Reivers from Stevens when CBS was releasing films, according to the Burlingame Thriller commentary track) and Lalo Schifrin.

Stevens died in 1991. His Five-O theme outlived him, however. When the 2010 version of the show debuted, its pilot originally had a “rock music” arrangement that made the rounds on social media before the new show’s debut.

It wasn’t received well. The new series quickly commissioned a more traditional sounding version, which debuted at the 2010 San Diego Comic Book Con. Some of the musicians who performed the theme had worked on the original 1968-80 series.

While Stevens gets a credit on the current series, unfortunately it’s during the end titles. Stevens’ credit flashes by so quickly, you can’t really see it. Regardless, his legacy continues.

 

Fun facts about Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi (and others)

We mentioned before how NBC’s Thriller series included early performances by Bond women Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi. It turns out that deep in a commentary track on one of the DVDs, there’s some amusing trivia related to the 007 actresses.

This particular commentary track, rather than comment on an episode, is a re-enactment of a 1997 interview with Douglas Benton (1925-2000), who was the show’s associate producer and who went on to a long career producing various TV shows. The part of his father is played by Benton’s son, Daniel, who reads his father’s words.

Andress’s starring turn in “La Strega” was directed by Ida Lupino, with Alejandro Rey as the male lead. Benton quoted Lupino thusly: “Oh golly, it’s such a pleasure to come on the set and find out your leading man is more beautiful than the leading lady.” Benton quotes Lupino as changing her mind. “I’m happy with the way they look, it’s a shame, though, that neither one can act a lick. Alejandro couldn’t even understand English and Ursula was speaking German.”

On Paluzzi, who starred in “Flowers of Evil,” Benton said, “She was fun. She didn’t take acting terribly seriously. Her mother was one of Mussolini’s mistresses and Luciana had grown up in the upper reaches of Fasicist society.”

While this has nothing to do with 007, we couldn’t resist including Benton observations about William Shatner (“Bill was a terrible ham. Directors complained that he over-acted all the time.”) and Mary Tyler Moore (“I thought she was a brat. I was on the stage one day when somebody asked her to do something and she said, ‘I don’t have to do this. My husband Grant Tinker is the vice president of NBC.’…That was a request from the network that we find her a job.”)

Finally, Benton said of Robert Vaughn, the future Napoleon Solo, who also appeared in Thriller: “Robert Vaughn was the same guy I first met him on GE Theater and later on the U.N.C.L.E. show. He was a joy to work with. He is so much more intelligent than the average actor, that it was like dealing with a university professor…There’s no mystique in acting for Robert. He’s certainly no method operator. He’s just a very brainy guy who should be teaching history at one of the Ivy League universities. That is if he couldn’t make five times as much money as an actor.”

One of Benton’s many credits was being producer of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. It was he who came up with the idea of offering Karloff the role of Mother Muffin, the elderly woman leader of a band of assassins. The writer of The Mother Muffin Affair had described the character as “Boris Karloff in drag.”

“I looked at the damn thing and said well, why don’t we get Boris?” Benton said. “I knew him and I knew he’d be amused by this.” The answer Benton received from the actor: “When and where?”

U.N.C.L.E. before there was U.N.C.L.E.

An international agency, with agents of various nationalities, works mostly in secret to capture the most ingenious and dangerous menaces. That could be part of a promo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which ran from 1964 to 1968. But it was also the premise of an unsold 1962 pilot, The Specialists.

The show ran as the final episode of NBC’s Thriller anthology series. The audience is never told the group’s name. It has operatives in North America, the U.K. and the European continent. We also see one agent who’s Pakastani, so it may agents in Asia as well. The episode follows agents led by Peter Duncan (Lin McCarthy) who are trying to break a criminal group operating in Europe and North America.

There are elements of spy shows that would populate the airwaves a few years later. Duncan notes that two of his men were killed by police, who thought they were gangsters. “They knew the risks,” Duncan’s Washington-based boss replies. Duncan and his men only work through the police when it’s necessary.

There are significant differences, also. Duncan is a family man, unlike James Bond-influenced characters such as Napoleon Solo and James West. Duncan’s wife thinks he’s a lawyer. In terms of style, The Specialists comes across more like an updated Untouchables (Duncan and his men all wear hats, similar to Elliott Ness & Co.) than the ’60s spy shows.

Still, there are a few connections to those same ’60s spy programs. The show was scripted by John Kneubuhl, one of the most important writers for The Wild, Wild West (he created Dr. Loveless and wrote five of the 10 Loveless episodes for that series). And future U.N.C.L.E. writer Alan Caillou has a small role as a British police superintendent who cooperates with Duncan’s group. There isn’t an original music score, but The Specialists uses music that Jerry Goldsmtih and Morton Stevens composed for earlier Thriller episodes. Goldsmith would do U.N.C.L.E.’s theme and he and Stevens both did first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

An alternate theory to the origin of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme

Could The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme have its makings more than two years before the show debuted? Maybe.

Standard history: U.N.C.L.E. producer Norman Felton hired Jerry Goldsmith, who had already composed the theory for Felton’s Dr. Kildare series, to score the U.N.C.L.E. pilot. Possible revision: It might have been more complicated.

The anthology series Thriller, featured a number of scores by Goldsmith and Morton Stevens, both the same age (each was born in 1929) and good friends. What’s more, film and television music historian Jon Burlingame has written that Stevens, when doing the theme for the 1970s series Police Woman, simply inverted (e.g. wrote backwards) Goldsmith’s theme for 1965’s Our Man Flint.

If Burlingame is correct, it’s possible Stevens got a little payback from Goldsmith. Stevens scored a 1962 Thriller episode, Flowers of Evil, which featured a theme that ran throughout the episode and was repeated in the end titles. That theme starts out with the same four notes as Goldsmith’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme while deviating after that. Flowers of Evil is a gothic murder tale starring Luciana Paluzzi and Kevin Hagen, who, by coincidence, would be guest stars on U.N.C.L.E.

All of this may be coincidence. By all accounts, Goldsmith and Stevens remained friends. When Goldsmith started doing concerts in the 1980s of his TV and film music, he hired Stevens to do the arrangements of Goldsmith’s television themes, including U.N.C.L.E. (source: Burlingame on a Thriller commentary track). Still, any U.N.C.L.E. fan should take the time to check out Stevens’s mini-overture for the end titles of Flowers of Evil.

It should be noted that Stevens scored four first-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episodes and also did the arrangement of the U.N.C.L.E. theme used in the second half of the show’s first season. He also did both versions of the short five-second music at the start of each first-season episode when viewers would see the U.N.C.L.E. logo at the start of the show.

UPDATE: Further research indicates that Morton Stevens first composed this piece of Thriller music for an earlier episode called Waxworks, where it ran during the pre-credits sequence. It was then re-tracked in other Thriller episodes in addition to Flowers of Evil. They include The Storm and A Wig for Miss Devore, which both used it for the end titles as well as throughout those episodes.

Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi meet Boris Karloff

Even the most dedicated 007 fan probably won’t spend $100 or so just to catch two of the most famous Bond women of the 1960s as guest stars on a TV series. Still, if said 007 fans are considering buying a DVD box sets for other reasons of the 1960-62 horror/crime anthology series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff, they can also watch Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi starring in separate episodes.

Andress was the lead in La Strega, playing a young 19th Century woman whose grandmother is, well, a witch. She’s trying to separate herself from granny, who’s having none of it. The episode originally aired on Jan. 15, 1962, early in the production of Dr. No. So it was probably filmed in late 1961. The episode was written by Alan Caillou, who penned early, influentical episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and directed by Ida Lupino.

Paluzzi starred in Flowers of Evil, which was originally broadcast almost two months later. We haven’t had a chance to check it out fully, but murder is definitely part of the proceedings.

Karloff, besides hosting, also acted in a handful of Thriller episodes though not either of these. The complete series was originally priced at around $150 but has been marked down to just under $100.

As we said, it’s not a Bond collector’s item, but 007 fans who have other reasons to purchase (for Karloff, for the fine scores by Jerry Goldsmtih and Morton Stevens, for adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard among others), they may want to give it a look.

UPDATE: The video’s not that good, but here’s the start of La Strega: