By popular demand: some video of Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon

In our recent post on the 45th anniversary of The Wild, Wild West, a reader expressed disappointment we didn’t feature Ross Martin as ace Secret Service Agent Artemus Gordon more.

Well, here’s a video we hope lessens the disappointment. It’s a series of promos of CBS western shows of the mid- to late-1960s. Starting at the 3:50 mark, you can see two Wild, Wild West videos. The first is a preview of coming attractions for The Night of the Amnesiac, a third-season episode featuring Edward Asner as a typical WWW villain who, in this case, plans on killing plenty of people for the sheer sadistic fun of it.

Following that is a minute-long promo for WWW’s second season. It includes footage of Arty in various disguises, one of the character’s specialties. The music is by the underrated Richard Shores and is taken from The Night of the Eccentrics, the second-season premier episode.

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part III: I Spy’s touch of reality

The television spy mania of September 1965 had a mostly escapist flavor. The primary nemesis of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was Thrush, a “band of renegades” out “to rule the world.” The Wild, Wild West’s pilot concerned a plot to take over much of the western United States and its third episode would introduce a dwarf mad scientist named Dr. Loveless who had ambitions far beyond that.

I Spy was different. U.S. agents Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) dealt with, well, Soviet and Chinese agents. In other words, it was a series grounded in the Cold War. It wasn’t exactly John Le Carre. We still got exotic locations (or at least exotic for most viewers in the mid-1960s). Like other spy shows of the era, it had its share of challenges to get on the air.

The series was created by writer-producers Morton Fine and David Friedkin. They would be denied a creators credit until the 1994 television movie I Spy Returns, which didn’t air until both men had died. They joined forces with executive producer Sheldon Leonard, who cranked out popular half-hour sitcoms for CBS such as The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Leonard was looking to expand his customer base (with NBC agreeing to air I Spy) and wanting to do something other than a sitcom.

Robert Culp, however, wasn’t pleased with the Fine-Friedkin scripted/Leonard-directed pilot. In a DVD commentary recorded many years after the series, Culp described locking himself away to work on his own scripts for the show, without knowledge of the producers. Before production began, he had four completed scripts. He took one of them to the producers who, while admitting it was quite good, said he couldn’t just drop off a complete script. Culp was told he’d have to do a “treatment,” or outline, before submitting another.

Culp went back worked up a treatment for the second of his already-completed scripts. The producers liked it and said to write it up. He dropped off a copy the same day. Realizing they’d been had, the Fine-Friedkin team asked just to see what Culp had.

NBC evidently agreed with Culp. The network wouldn’t air the pilot until midway through the 1965-66 season. For the first episode to be broadcast, NBC chose So Long Patrick Henry, one of the Culp-scripted episodes. Here’s the entire episode on YouTube.

I Spy was a landmark show because it featured a white man and a black man as equals while the civil rights movement was in full swing. It also helped make Bill Cosby a huge star. The premier episode can also be enjoyed for Culp’s script (including a bit of dark humor but is also politically incorrect toward Asians, it should be noted), the performances its guest stars. Composer Earle Hagen even managed to drop “The James Bond Theme” in the show’s epilogue. It’s easy to understand why NBC selected So Long Patrick Henry to kick off the series.

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part II: spies and cowboys

In the fall of the 1965, CBS wasn’t about to let rival network NBC gain a monpoly on spy-oriented entertainment. But the Tiffany Network’s choice was a little unusual: it opted to air a spy show set in 1870s America.

The result, of course, was The Wild Wild West. That wasn’t always the planned title. The version of the show’s pilot shown to network executives was just called The Wild West. At one point, CBS was keen on 6-foot-3 Rory Calhoun to play Secret Service agent James West but ended up casting the much-shorter Robert Conrad. The memorable animated main titles depicted a tall, lanky James West, who seemed to more closely resemble Calhoun.

Versatile character actor Ross Martin got the odd nod as fellow agent Artemus Gordon, a master of disguise who also dabbled in advanced science.

The show had a rocky first season, with no less than six men (Michael Garrison, Fred Freiberger, Collier Young, Philip Leacock, John Mantley and Gene L. Coon) getting either a producer or executive producer credit. Garrison produced the pilot (also taking the creator credit even though the pilot was written by Gilbert Ralston) and would retake command late in the first season. Garrison died during the second season, and Bruce Lansbury would see the show through the rest of its four-year run.

HMSS has written before how the original series captured lightning in a bottle, something was extremely difficult to do with 1980 and 1981 TV movie revivals and a 1999 theatrical move.

Anyway, here’s a 1965 CBS promo for the series. That includes music from Richard Markowitz, who composed the show’s catchy theme but would be denied a credit for it (Markowitz would only get credits for individual episodes he scored). It’s followed by the “boxes” of the original verison of the pilot leading into commercial breaks:

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part I: U.N.C.L.E.’s 2nd season premier

September is the 45th anniversary of television spy mania. With James Bond films helping to create a market for spy entertainment, U.S. television networks decided they needed to meet that demand. The Man From U.N.C.L.E., already on the air for a year, had a head start but faced its own challenges as well as new competitors.

To begin with, NBC shifted the show to Fridays from Mondays, plus moving it to 10 p.m. ET. Would the show’s viewers follow suit? Also, Sam Rolfe, who had written the show’s pilot and had been its first-season producer, had departed. Rolfe’s associate producers (Joseph Calvelli in the first half of season one, Robert Foshko in the second half) were also long gone.

Executive Producer Norman Felton initially brought over David Victor, producer of Felton’s Dr. Kildare series to U.N.C.L.E.’s producer chair. The production team also relied heavy on two writers, Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields, who had penned U.N.C.L.E. scripts during the second half of season one. As it turned out, Victor would be but one of three producers that season, but he would oversee production of the first several episodes.

NBC opted to begin season two with the show’s first two-part story, written by Hargrove and directed by Joseph Sargent, Alexander the Greater Affair (no “The” in the title). Felton’s Arena Productions would then re-edit the story into the movie One Spy Too Many. Hargrove’s story featured the mysterious industrialist Alexander, whose idol was Alexander the Great. Alexander also wanted to take over the world, starting with an unnamed Asian country and break each of the Ten Commandments as part of his plan.

The television version of the story was never rerun by NBC and was left out of the syndicated package MGM would offer later. A print was discovered in Atlanta in 1999 and would be shown by TNT on July 4, 2000. It has been available (including on DVD) ever since.

Here’s a clip from midway part one, where U.N.C.L.E.’s Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) plays Alexander (Rip Torn) in an unusual game of chess. Fellow agent Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) and Alexander’s ex-wife (Dorothy Provine) look on:

UPDATE: We originally embedded a clip from Part I, but the person who uploaded it took it down. So instead, here’s a sampling of the footage that was added to the movie version. Yvonne Craig showed up in One Spy Too Many as an U.N.C.L.E. woman Solo supposedly had scheduled a date with but can’t remember doing so:

1965: Time predicts big things for Robert Vaughn

In early 1965, Time magazine was expecting big things for Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a series that had been pitched to NBC executives as “James Bond for television.”

Bond is not hard to copy, however, and—given the mass audience of television—the actor who plays Solo may soon be even more celebrated than Sean Connery, who plays Bond in the movies. The U.N.C.L.E. man’s real name is Robert Vaughn. He is 32, and he is on his way to his first million. Impoverished a couple of years ago, he now has increasing herds of livestock and several gas wells.

Looking back, the statement seems more than a bit startling. But it shows how Connery was viewed at that point as a one-trick pony and not as an acclaimed actor he’d be viewed as later. It’s also a reminder that, at one time, U.N.C.L.E. was big. When this story was published by Time, ratings were starting to climb. The series had narrowly avoided being canceled in its initial season. It was moved from Tuesday to Monday nights in January 1965, a move that boosted viewership. The show was also helped by Bond’s growing popularity as Goldfinger became the first 007 mega-hit.

The Time piece made some other observations about actor Vaughn:

Off the screen, he is a swinging bachelor who drives around in a Lincoln Continental convertible, which he insists is not maroon in color but “black cherry.” The car has a telephone and a monaural tape machine; it will soon have two telephones, a TV set, a stereo tape recorder, an icemaking midget refrigerator and a walnut-paneled bar. He is a wine lover and a gourmet too.

But Robert Vaughn is different. He is well on his way toward his doctorate, in a remarkable department at the University of Southern California that bridges the fields of journalism, political science, drama, cinema, radio and television.

What did the actor say about the role he played, Napoleon Solo, and the series itself? Here’s what he told Time:

He makes no apologies for his now fatted life. “I don’t feel guilty,” he says. “I’ve knocked around for a lot of years, collected a lot of unemployment checks, and I worked very hard. I feel I have earned whatever I got.” The show? “I have nothing against it. In fact, it’s a rather good charade, and nobody is pretending that it is more than that. The show is all right, if you realize it is a massive put-on.”

Also, at this point, Time didn’t have much to say about David McCallum, whose portryal of Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin would generate popularity to rival Vaughn’s own. Here’s how Time described The Fiddlesticks Affair, the second episode to air in the Monday time slot:

And only last week, when Solo and his assistant Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were invading an underground vault, Solo was confronted with the need to avoid electrocution while crossing the “electroporous grating” of an “electrostatic floor.” Solo reached into his apparently bottomless pockets and came up with a self-inflating, full-sized rubber landing craft, which hissed and swelled into the perfect vessel on which to sail across the electroconvulsive sea.

To read the entire article, just CLICK HERE.