U.N.C.L.E.: Sam Rolfe’s Solo is ready for filming Part III

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy, the first U.N.C.L.E. movie.

The Solo pilot was filmed in late 1963. The only significant delay was the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. What started out as a light day (star Robert Vaughn’s 31st birthday) turned solemn and the production shut down for a few days.

Despite the conclusion of filming, writer Sam Rolfe wasn’t done. In early 1964, producer Norman Felton commissioned the scribe to write addditional scenes. Solo would be expanded into a feature film.

Initially, it would be distributed in international markets. But when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. became popular, the film version, To Trap a Spy, would get a U.S. release.

Rolfe turned it a number of pages dated Feb. 26, 1964, with some dated later.

The first scene involved U.N.C.L.E. agent Lancer. In the original pilot, U.N.C.L.E. official Allison tells Solo that Lancer had gotten a job at the company headed by Thrush official Andrew Vulcan. Lancer had tried to communicate information to Allison but was cut off.

In the new scene we’re introduced to Lancer “about forty-five years old, dressed in laborer’s clothing.” He’s driving a car that hits a post box with the address of 112 Old Post Road in Alexandria Virginia.

Lancer is wounded. “One hand is clutched against his side, blood staining through his fingers,” according to the stage directions. Another car is coming up from behind. “Lancer, frantic, scurries ahead.”

Lancer reaches a nearby house and calls out to Angela. She doesn’t answer. He reaches a fireplace where a small fire burns. He rips out the label from his jacket and puts in the fireplace. Lancer picks up a telephone.

LANCER (into phone, quickly)
Operator, get me Plaza 3-6098 in New York City.
(pause)
Yes, I’m calling from Arlington, Virginia
(pause)
Lancer here. Channel D inoperative. Direct report. When the premier of Western Natumba visits the plant, they’re going to assassinate…

He breaks off as there is a sharp silence that indicates the line has been cut. Lancer CLICKS the phone frantically.

Before Lancer can do anything else, Angela makes her appearance.

ANGELA is an attractive girl, with short, cropped hair. She is wearing a negligee and carrying a hairbrush. The feeling is that she has just come from a bath and was brushing out her hair when she encountered Lancer. Her eyes reflect surprise. As Lancer spins around she sees the blood on his shirt and she gasps.

Lancer tells Angela he didn’t want to involve her. Angela says they need to get Lancer to a doctor. However, Angela is really working for Thrush and lures Lancer to a window. “She shows no emotion as she watches Lancer,” according to the stage directions. Lancer opens the window and bright lights shine on him. That enables a gunman outside  to kill the operative.

Two men, including one identified as “the Leader” come into the room. He asks Angela if the dead agent had made contact before she could break the connection.

“Too bad,” the Leader replies. “We’ll have to make some immediate arrangements there.” This sequence now sets up the raid on U.N.C.L.E. headquarters that began the original Solo pilot.

Much later, after Solo has been assigned to investigate Andrew Vulcan, he’s driving his car when he smells perfume. “For a moment, he hesitates, ‘tasting’ the scent. He likes it, but not enough to stop being alert. His casualness is studied.”

Solo pulls the car over to the side of the road. He holds both a gun and a pack of cigarettes. Angela is in the back seat. Also, Solo is about to get his first name restored after it was stripped out of the Solo script.

SOLO
My name’s Napoleon Solo. I hope you don’t mind filters.

Angela tells Solo that Lancer is still alive but wounded. She claims that Lancer’s communicator can receive but not send.

“Her voice has been extremely sincere,” according to the state directions. “I’ll have to find out…won’t I?” Solo responds.

The couple go to Angela’s house. Solo is on guard, moving defensively.

ANGELA
You move beautifully. If this were a trap, you’d undoubtedly be able to kill me before you went down.

SOLO (smiles in return)
No question about it.

This cat and mouse game goes on for several pages. The banter includes claiming to have a nervous grandmother “back home in Topeka, Kansas. I’m afraid I inherited her genes.”

“Oh…are you from Kansas?” Angela asks.

“Of course,” Solo replies. “In’t everyone?”

This being a sequence intended for a movie, Solo and Angela make love. The banter continues afterward, but Solo hasn’t forgotten about Lancer. He finds the label to Lancer’s jacket in the fireplace. The conversation takes on a serious tone.

ANGELA (voice cooling in turn)
You weren’t rude just a short while ago. You gave much pleasure.

SOLO
And I enjoyed you in return. That makes us even. We don’t owe each other anything.

Just then, Lancer supposedly arrives outside. It’s actually his corpse popped up in position. Behind him is “SHOTGUN-MAN,” his weapon ready to fire.

Meanwhile, Solo (wisely) hesitates calling out to Lancer. The agent finally opens the window but swiftly moves to the side. The lights that helped get Lancer killed are activated. But with no one standing in front of the window, there isn’t any fire yet.

“Angela abruptly attempts to shove Solo back in front of the window…He spins away from her shove, as Angela now off-balance lands right in the line of fire…the Machine-Gun spray slams Angela’s body across the room,” according to the stage directions. ”

Solo fights his way out of the house and gets away. He chased by two thugs. But as Solo drives off, one of the thugs says he tampered with Solo’s car just in case. This sets up the scene in the Solo pilot where the agent’s car is booby trapped.

Luciana Paluzzi would be cast as Angela. To Trap a Spy would be, in effect, a dry run for her performance in 1965’s Thunderball as femme fatale Fiona Volpe.

Recasting a Major Part

There was one more writing task. Solo was picked up as a series by NBC. It would be renamed The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll and Robert Vaughn in a scene written in August 1964, a little more than a month before it’d be included in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. first broadcast.

Rolfe became the day-to-day producer for the show’s first season. Between the pilot and the start of series production, the production staff opted to fire actor Will Kuluva who played U.N.C.L.E. chief Allison. In his place was veteran actor Leo G. Carroll as Alexander Waverly.

This meant refilming scenes in the pilot, scheduled for broadcast on Sept. 22, 1964.

Thus, on pages dated August 18, 1964, came Waverly’s introduction. Immediately after Solo has killed the Leader of the Thrush attack on U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Waverly appears.

Waverly has come out of his office and is standing besides one of the posts in the room. He holds the folder with Vulcan’s picture on the cover.

WAVERLY
Quite right, Mr. Solo. Their idea was to prevent me from acting on some new information we’ve received.
(holds out folder)
Here…you may have the information, and Thrush can try to kill you for a while.

Waverly proceeds to tell both Solo and Illya about Andrew Vulcan and his place in Thrush. The name of Vulcan’s company has been changed to the United Global Chemical Corporation.

The mission is so urgent Waverly conducts the briefing in the same room with the body of the Leader of the Thrush raid on the floor. Meanwhile, the new pages don’t reference how the other members of the Thrush raiding party died after being poised by their own organization.

There is one more change. There is a brief scene where Illya gives Solo the college yearbook and says it was Waverly’s idea. Illya tells Solo about Andrew Vulcan having a girlfriend in college. That of course will be Elaine, the episode’s innocent.

It’s still a small role for Illya but he ends up taking a slightly bigger role helping Solo on the assignment. Illya would soon have a bigger presence.

U.N.C.L.E. was now on its way.

THE END

Luciana Paluzzi: Angela vs. Fiona

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy, the first U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Today, June 10, is the 80th birthday of Luciana Paluzzi. She’s perhaps best known for Thunderball.

But her character in the 1965 James Bond movie is more than a little similar to another femme fatale she played in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

How similar? Let’s take a look.

Quick explanation: Paluzzi did U.N.C.L.E. first. She and Robert Vaughn shot extra footage after production of the pilot so it could be a movie for international audiences. That extra footage (although some times a tamer version) was used in an episode called The Four-Steps Affair

To Trap a Spy/The Four-Steps Affair: Angela pretends to be the girlfriend of an U.N.C.L.E. agent (named Lancer in one version, Dancer in the other)

Thunderball: Fiona pretends to be the girlfriend/”social secretary” of a NATO pilot.

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela is really an operative of Thrush (called Wasp in To Trap a Spy, but it’s dubbed — the actors are saying “Thrush”).

Thunderball: Fiona is really an operative of SPECTRE.

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela sets up Lancer/Dancer to be killed by a machine gun.

Thunderball: Fiona sets up the pilot to be poisoned to death by an agent who has underwent plastic surgery to be the pilot’s double.

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela goes to bed with Napoleon Solo (To Trap a Spy only; in the Four-Steps Affair they just do a lot of heavy flirting.)

Thunderball: Fiona goes to bed with James Bond (Sean Connery).

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela tries to push Solo so he’ll be shot with a machine gun. He ducks and she gets shot instead. In To Trap a Spy, it’s pretty clear she’s dead. In The Four-Steps Affair, it’s stated she’s unconscious.

Thunderball: Bond is dancing with Fiona, turns so she is hit by a shot fired by a SPECTRE thug.

 

Happy 83rd birthday, Robert Vaughn

Today, Nov. 22, is actor Robert Vaughn’s 83rd birthday. The original Man from U.N.C.L.E. is still keeping busy with acting projects.

To note the occasion, here’s a scene from To Trap a Spy, the movie version of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot. This was part of additional footage shot after the pilot was filmed for the movie version. release. In turn, some of the To Trap a Spy additional footage (though not this specific scene) were edited into an episode of the series called The Four-Steps Affair.

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

Fact checking TCM’s To Trap a Spy presentation

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

TCM on July June 13 showed To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot during prime time, part of a evening featuring films with actor Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo.

The cable channel has showed the film before but usually in off hours. The 10:15 p.m. eastern time presentation meant it’d get an introduction from TCM host Robert Osborne, a one-time actor (he makes a brief appearance in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies) who has written extensively about movies for decades.

However, there were a few errors. Most of these are old hat to long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans. But with a new U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August, potential new fans may have watched. With that in mind here’s some fact checking.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was an immediate hit. No. It originally aired on NBC on Tuesday nights against The Red Skelton Show on CBS. U.N.C.L.E.’s ratings struggled, but rallied after a mid-season change to Monday nights. The show’s best season for ratings was the 1965-66 season when it aired at 10 p.m. eastern time on Fridays.

The show was “created by producer Norman Felton.” The situation is a bit more complicated. Felton definitely initiated the project. He consulted Ian Fleming, who contributed ideas but the one that stuck was naming an agent Napoleon Solo.

The vast bulk of U.N.C.L.E. was created by Sam Rolfe (who wrote the pilot and gets the “written by” credit on To Trap a Spy), including the character of Illya Kuryakin. The show had no creator credit and Rolfe had a “developed by” credit.

Felton’s “inspired idea.” Osborne said Felton always intended to turn some of the episodes into feature films released internationally (true). He then said the films were actually two episodes of the series edited together along with extra footage. (Not 100 percent true).

The first two movies, To Trap a Spy and The Spy With My Face, were based on first season single episodes: the pilot, The Vulcan Affair, and The Double Affair, with additional footage.

Starting with the second season, the show did two-part episodes that were edited, with some additional footage, into movies for the international market. That was the case for the rest of the series, including the two parter, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, that ended the series in January 1968.

Osborne also made it sound as if all of the first season were filmed in color, even though it was broadcast in black and white on NBC. Not true.

Both The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair were filmed in color, as was the extra film footage with each. The rest of the season, however, was filmed in black and white.

One oddity is the first season episode The Four-Steps Affair. Ever efficient, Felton took some of the extra footage from the first two U.N.C.L.E. movies (including Luciana Paluzzi in To Trap a Spy) and had a new story written to incorporate it. Sexy scenes for To Trap a Spy between Vaughn and Paluzzi were toned down for Four Steps.

Some of Four Steps is a black and white print from a color negative. The same applies to the broadcast versions of Vulcan and Double. But the new material for Four Steps was filmed in black and white, like most of the first season. There’s a slight change in contrast as the story goes back and forth between the two sources of footage.

Meanwhile, in Osborne’s closing remarks after the movie, he worked in a plug for the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August. TCM is owned by Time Warner, also the parent company of Warner Bros., the studio releasing the August film.

TCM schedules To Trap a Spy for June 13

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

Turner Classics Movie has scheduled a prime time showing ON JUNE 13 at 10:15 p.m. New York time of To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot episode.

The production has an unusual history.

The U.N.C.L.E. pilot was filmed in color. During production in late 1963, there was an internal debate within the production team whether U.N.C.L.E. agent Solo’s first name should be Napoleon. (Academic Cynthia W. Walker has written about this subject IN HER BOOK ABOUT THE SERIES.)

In the actual pilot, originally titled Solo, Robert Vaughn’s character is only called Solo. In the pilot, as originally filmed, the end titles said, “Starring Robert Vaughn as Solo.”

According to a timeline researched and compiled by Craig Henderson, additional footage was filmed March 31 through April 2, 1964, to turn the pilot into a feature film. The footage includes Luciana Paluzzi playing a femme fatale named Angela. Her character is very similar to the Fiona Volpe character she’d play a year later in Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

In that footage, Solo introduces himself to Angela as “Napoleon Solo.” Evidently, by the spring of 1964, the internal debate about the agent’s name had been settled in favor of the moniker bestowed upon him by Ian Fleming, the creator of 007.

In the end, Solo becomes a series, but under the title The Man From U.N.C.L.E. To Trap a Spy initially is shown in international markets, but with U.N.C.L.E.’s popularity, it is shown in the United States in 1966 as part of a double feature with The Spy With My Face, another movie based on an U.N.C.L.E. episode with additional footage.

U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, Norman Felton, was nothing if not thrifty. A tamer version of the Luciana Paluzzi footage shows up in a first-season episode that aired in the spring of 1965 called The Four-Steps Affair. It also includes some of the extra footage used in The Spy With My Face.

Another curiosity: in To Trap a Spy, the name of the villainous organization is changed from “Thrush” to “Wasp.” If you watch closely, you can see the actors saying “Thrush” with “Wasp” on the audio track. To Trap a Spy also includes the original U.N.C.L.E. boss, Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison. With the pilot, scenes were reshot with Leo G. Carroll playing Mr. Waverly, Solo’s new superior.

Regardless, To Trap a Spy is the first “official” U.N.C.L.E. movie. TCM has shown the film previously, but usually nowhere near prime-time.

Hank Simms, extraordinary announcer, dies

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

Hank Simms, an announcer best known for the words “a Quinn Martin production!”, died last month at the age of 90, according to THIS OBITUARY But he did lots of other announcing work, including movie trailers and the Oscars television broadcast.

Simms first work for QM was The FBI in 1965. He went on to be the announcer for other QM hit shows including Barnaby Jones, Cannon and The Streets of San Francisco not to mention less successful series such as Dan August, Caribe and Banyon.

Simms also did “bumpers” for Mannix, as in, “Mannix…brought to you by…” followed by the name of a sponsor.

Simms worked the microphone at the Oscars, including when John Stears got his Oscar for Thunderball (explaining that Ivan Tors was picking it up in Stears’ place) and when Roger Moore and many viewers were surprised when Marlon Brando declined his Oscar for best actor.

His work could also be heard in trailers including movies edited from episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. such as TO TRAP A SPY and ONE SPY TOO MANY as well as THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, the Doris Day spy comedy, and POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, the final Frank Capra film.

The announcer’s voice was so distinctive when the makers of the 1982 comedy Police Squad! decided to do a QM-style opening, there was only one man for the job:

Rest in peace, Mr. Simms.

UPDATE: Here is the very first Hank Simms announcing job for Quinn Martin:

UPDATE II (Oct. 13): The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences put up an obituary for Hank Simms on its Web site on OCT. 2.

The FBI’s homage to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

We were checking out the DVD release of The FBI’s second season and came across what had to be a clear homage to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as The FBI's Lewis Erskine


The FBI episode involved was the first of a two-part episode called “The Executioners,” in which guest stars Walter Pidgeon and Telly Savalas play a pair of mob bosses and aired in the spring of 1967. Anyway, here are the similarities to U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E.: U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters uses Del Floria’s Tailor Shop as a front. U.N.C.L.E. personnel go into a changing room, pull on a hook, which activates a hidden door that leads to the security entrance, where viewers would see Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) enter.

The FBI: La Cosa Nostra uses Milo’s clothing store in New York as a front. Mobsters go behind a changing screen that obscures a door. Once inside, they pull a hook, which activates a hidden door that leads to La Cosa Nostra’s hidden armory.

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in an U.N.C.L.E. publicity still.


Another similarity: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot, The Vulcan Affair, was directed by Don Medford, and later released as a movie, To Trap a Spy. The FBI episode was directed by Don Medford and later released as a movie, Cosa Nostra, Arch Enemy of the FBI (outside the U.S.).

Meanwhile the new DVD has three bonuses. 1) At the start of part I, we have the “bumper” where announcer Hank Simms says, “Next…The FBI…in color!” That has been stripped from other episodes after it went to syndication and color became commonplace. 2) In the main titles, we see the Ford Motor Co. logo. “The Ford Motor Company presents…The FBI, a Quinn Martin/Warner Bros. production!” That’s from the original broadcast version and has been stripped from other episodes after the show went into syndication. 3) At the very end, we see star Efrem Zimbalist Jr. tell us we’ve only seen the first half of the story and to tune in next week.

UPDATE (Feb. 22): We watched Part II on the DVD. It also has the Ford Motor Co. as part of the main titles. At the end (no spoilers): we see a brief sequence with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.: “Next week, The FBI will not be seen so the Ford Motor Co. can present an inspiring motor picture, The Robe, starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature.” Zimbalist assures viewers that The FBI will return in two weeks.

UPDATE (April 14): Warner Bros. uploaded a clip from Part I of The Executioners to YouTube showing the secret Cosa Nostra weapons drop. Decide for yourself whether Milo’s resembles U.N.C.L.E.’s Del Floria’s secret entrance.