David Hedison dies at 92

David Hedison (1927-2019)

David Hedison, star of the original film version of The Fly, the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV series and a two-time Felix Leiter, has died at 92, according to various reports, including The Hollywood Reporter.

Hedison died last week and the news was released by a family spokeswoman, THR said.

Hedison’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 90 acting credits beginning in 1954 and extending into the 21st century.

The actor also was a friend of Roger Moore. “David phoned Roger regularly throughout his final illness in 2017 and was a great support.” according to a tweet from Moore’s official account on Twitter.

The two worked together in an episode of The Saint. They acted together again, with Hedison as Felix Leiter in Live And Let Die, Moore’s debut as James Bond. Hedison reprised the role opposite Timothy Dalton’s James Bond in Licence to Kill.

Hedison also had a relationship with producer Irwin Allen. The actor was in the cast of Allen’s 1960 version of The Lost World.

Allen wanted Hedison for the 1961 film version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea but the actor turned it down. Robert Sterling got the part instead. But Hedison signed on when Allen launched the 1964-68 television version.

The first season, shown in black and white, had a lot of espionage and international intrigue stories. As the series progressed, there were a lot of monster story lines.

After Voyage’s run concluded, Hedison didn’t lack for work, often getting guest star parts from producers Quinn Martin (The FBI, Cannon, The Manhunter and Barnaby Jones) and Aaron Spelling (The Love Boat, Dynasty, Fantasy Island).

Here’s the tweet from the Roger Moore account.

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Harlan Ellison, passionate writer, dies at 84

Title card to “The City on the Edge of Forever, the first-season Star Trek episode written by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison, a writer who was passionate about his work and was willing to fight for it, has died at 84, according to an obituary published by Variety.

Ellison was normally described as a science fiction writer. That was understandable. His output of science fiction was large and took the form of television stories, novels and short stories.

Ellison’s production included the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever.

In the episode, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock must travel back in time to Earth in the Great Depression and fix history. In doing so, Kirk has to let a woman he’s fall in love with (Joan Collins) die.

Ellison also penned episodes of the original Outer Limits series, including Demon With a Glass Hand starring Robert Culp. Culp’s Trent has no memory but must fight off attacks from mysterious enemies from the future.

However, Ellison could easily tackle other genres.

Cyborgs menace Solo and Illya in The Sort of Do It Yourself Dreadful Affair, written by Harlan Ellison

He penned two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. They were highlights of the show’s third season, where humor overwhelmed the proceedings. One of episodes, The Sort of Do It Yourself Dreadful Affair, added science fiction with cyborgs as part of the plot. The special effects were lacking (even by 1966 standards) but Ellison’s script was funny where it was supposed to be (not always the case with U.N.C.L.E.’s third season).

The writer also tackled the western series Cimarron Strip. Ellison’s twist was that Jack the Ripper, on the run from his murder spree in London, was stalking victims in 1888 Oklahoma. Making the episode even more memorable was a score by Bernard Herrmann.

Ellison also wrote essays about television. The books The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat collected such essays. The author was brutally honest and critical of U.S. television.

The writer was known for advocating strongly for his work, fighting (verbally) against changes by producers and story editors. The City on the Edge of Forever was revised so it wouldn’t bust Star Trek’s budget. Ellison was not happy.

When Ellison was really displeased, he took his name off the writing credit and substituted Cord Wainer Bird or Cordwainer Bird.

According to a review in The New York Review of Science Fiction concerning a book about Ellison’s career, the fighting got physical on one occasion. Ellison got into a fight with ABC executive Adrian Samish over a script for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

The book, A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, says as a result of the fight, a model of the Seaview submarine dropped onto Samish. The executive suffered a broken pelvis.

It was a story Ellison told himself, though the review raises some questions. “How did Harlan avoid an arrest for assault or at least a whopping big lawsuit, or did ABC just hush it all up and pay Samish’s medical costs? How did Harlan ever find work in the TV industry after that?”

If the story is true, the answer probably is Ellison’s enormous talent. On social media, there were tributes to Ellison. Here’s one from Jon Burlingame, an author and academic about film and television music:

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UPDATE (June 29): Harlan Ellison also did some uncredited rewrites of other U.N.C.L.E. episodes. The one I’ve always seen identified is The Virtue Affair in Season Two.

Anyway, according to movie industry professional Robert Short, who also runs an U.N.C.L.E. page on Facebook, Ellison also designed a special bow used by Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) in The Virtue Affair.

Here Illya demonstrates his prowess with the bow while a villain played by Frank Marth looks on.

UNCLE Illya bow Virtue Affair

 

 

Allan Balter: Gone too soon

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon, co-written by Allan Balter

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

Writer-producer Allan Balter (1925-1981) died before his time because his physical heart wasn’t up to the task of powering his talent.

Balter co-wrote (with Robert Mintz) one of the most memorable episodes of the original Outer Limits series, The Hundred Days of the Dragon. An Asian nation hostile to the United States assassinates a candidate for president and substitutes its own double. The story mixed science fiction with espionage.

He also co-wrote (with William Read Woodfield) some of the best episodes of Mission: Impossible. That partnership would last for years, beginning during the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (where Balter was associate producer) and extending to the early 1970s with the television version of Shaft.

The Woodfield-Balter duo made an impact early in the first season of M:I and were brought on full-time with the title of script consultants. That continued into the show’s second season. When Barbara Bain won her second Emmy for playing M:I’s Cinnamon Carter, she mentioned the scribes in her acceptance speech.

Woodfield and Balter were elevated to producers with the show’s third season after Joseph Gantman departed the series.

It would not be a happy time. The new producers clashed with Bruce Geller, M:I’s creator and executive producer.

Woodfield told Patrick White, author of The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier that Geller went after Balter hard.

“He’d know which acts were Balter’s because they’d come in on different paper from different typewriters,” Woodfield told White.

“He’d go to Balter and say, ‘What are these words? I don’t understand these words.’ Balter would say, ‘Well, I understand them, Bruce.’ Balter was a nebbisher guy with a very weak heart which ultimately killed him.”

After Balter’s partnership with Woodfield ended, he worked as a producer at Universal’s television operation, including serving as executive producer of some episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man and a pair Captain America TV movies.

In 1978, he married Lana Wood, who played Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. Balter died in September 1981 at the age of 56.

Joseph Gantman, early M:I producer, dies

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Joseph Gantman, the day-to-day producer for the first two seasons of Mission: Impossible, died Dec. 26 at 95, according to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Gantman came aboard Mission after the pilot was produced. Series creator Bruce Geller supervised the show, but it was up to Gantman to get things going, including securing a scripts that could be filmed. He would end up winning two Emmys for his work on the show.

Those two seasons featured stories such as Operation: Rogosh. The IMF tricks an “unbreakable” Soviet Bloc operative into thinking it’s three years later so he’ll give up where he’s planted germ cultures that will poison the drinking water supply of Los Angeles.

Gantman departed after the end of Mission’s second season. His successors, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, had written many of the best stories of the first two seasons. The pair bolted after disagreements with Bruce Geller — an indication that Gantman’s work wouldn’t be easy to duplicate. The series would gain a reputation for chewing up producers.

Before Mission, Gantmen worked on the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with with the title of “production assistant.”

During the 1964-65 season, Gantman was associate producer for 16 of the 32 episodes of the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when that Irwin Allen-produced shows emphasized espionage over monsters.

Later, during the 1968-69 season, he was producer for five episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O, including three of the first five telecast by CBS (excluding the pilot, which aired as a TV movie).

William Read Woodfield: Photographer, magician, writer

William Read Woodfield title card for a Columbo episode, Colmubo And The Murder of a Rock Star, which he also wrote.

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

It’s said that writers inevitably bring their life experiences into their work.

In the case of William Read Woodfield, he brought varied life experiences into his: Magician, photographer as well as accomplished scribe.

In a 2001 obituary, Variety described his work in photography.

Born and reared in San Francisco, Woodfield carved his photo niche during the 1950s and ’60s with published works being exhibited alongside Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton. His most famous series of photographs were made May 23, 1962, when Marilyn Monroe performed her famous nude swimming scene on the 20th Century Fox lot for the uncompleted feature “Something’s Got to Give.” The photos made the covers of magazines worldwide and proved to be Monroe’s last hurrah as she was fired from the picture shortly thereafter and died 10 weeks later.

The obituary added this:

“A magician since childhood, Woodfield founded the magazine Magicana and employed his knowledge of magic on ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Columbo’ and ‘Sea Hunt.'”

Frank Sinatra as photographed by William Read Woodfield.

As a writer for television, Woodfield, by himself or in collaboration with Allan Balter, specialized in intricate plots. The Woodfield-Balter team was formed during the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Woodfield wrote for the series and Balter was an associate producer.

The Woodfield-Balter duo perhaps gained their greatest fame writing for Mission: Impossible. Barbara Bain, when accepting her second (of three) Emmys for the show, cited the Woodfield-Balter scripts as one reason why the show was popular.

In Mission’s third season, the duo were promoted to producers. But they ran afoul of creator/executive producer Bruce Geller. They departed early that season, but not before writing a two-part story.

The team stayed together into the 1970s, including producing a TV adaptation of Shaft for the 1973-74 season. After that, they went their separate ways.

In the late 1980s, when Universal revived Columbo (this time broadcast on ABC), the premiere story, Columbo Goes to the Guillotine, was written by Woodfield. The plot included a magician (Anthony Zerbe) who sought to debunk a man, Elliott Blake (Anthony Edwards), posing as a psychic who is pulling a con on the CIA.

However, it turns out the magician and the phony psychic have a secret past. Blake kills the magician. That brings Columbo in the case. One of the highlights of the episode is the magician’s funeral, where Woodfield brings his magician into full play.

Woodield died Nov. 24, 2001, at the age of 73.

William Self: Fox TV to the rescue

William Self title card on an episode of Batman, produced by 20th Century Fox’s television unit

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

In the early 1960s, things were not looking good at 20th Century Fox.

The 1963 film Cleopatra, while popular with audiences. It sold 67.2 million tickets in the U.S. and Canada. That was more than Goldfinger’s 66.3 million.

But Cleopatra was so expensive, it had no chance of recouping its costs. The studio was going to need a bailout.

The bailout came from its television division, headed by executive William Self, a former actor.

Self’s TV unit took an inventory of the properties Fox held and began developing television versions.

As a result, in the fall of 1964, Fox came out with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the studio’s 1961 film produced by Irwin Allen); Peyton Place, based on a 1956 novel, made into a 1957 Fox film; and 12 O’Clock High, based on a 1948 novel and made into a 1949 Fox movie.

All three were part of ABC’s 1964-65 schedule. Also, Fox produced Daniel Boone for NBC that same season.

Soon after, Self’s Fox TV unit was the home of other Allen shows as well as the 1966-68 Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The latter got off to a rocky start as test audiences were confused by the campy approach.

Self’s tenure at Fox lasted into the early 1970s. He became a producer (something he had done before joining Fox), whose credits included 1976’s The Shootist, the final John Wayne film.

Self died in 2010 at the age of 89.

Joseph Gantman: On the ground floor

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

Joseph Gantman in the 1960s found himself on the ground floor of notable television shows.

His primary legacy was as the day-to-day producer for the first two seasons of Mission: Impossible.

Gantman came aboard after the pilot was produced. Series creator Bruce Geller supervised the show, but it was up to Gantman to get things going, including securing a steady stream of scripts that could be filmed. He would end up winning two Emmys for his efforts.

Those two seasons featured some of the show’s best stories, such as Operation: Rogosh (the IMF tricks an “unbreakable” Soviet Bloc operative into thinking it’s three years later so he’ll give up where he’s planted germ cultures that will poison the drinking water supply of Los Angeles).

Gantman was worn down by the time he left the series at the end of its second season. His successors, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, who wrote many of the best stories of the first two seasons, bolted after disagreements with Bruce Geller. That was an indication that Gantman’s work wouldn’t be easy to duplicate. M:I was tough on producers generally. Gantman’s tenure was almost a marathon by comparison.

Before Mission, Gantmen worked on the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with the vague tile of “production assistant,” but his title card in the television version featured his credit in the end titles on the screen by itself. Presumably, that was an indication he was a key contributor of the pilot.

During the 1964-65 season, Gantman was associate producer for 16 of the 32 episodes of the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when that Irwin Allen-produced shows emphasized espionage over monsters.

Later, during the 1968-69 season, he was producer for five episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O, including three of the first five telecast by CBS (excluding the pilot, which aired as a TV movie). Five-O’s initial campaign was rough (it was the first series actually filmed in Hawaii) and it chewed up producers.

Gantman isn’t remembered much today. U.N.C.L.E. is remembered, behind the camera, for the efforts of Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe. Voyage is seen as what launched Irwin Allen’s 1960s shows. M:I is recalled for Bruce Geller’s concept. The original Five-O is remembered for creator-executive Leonard Freeman, who guided the show for six of its 12 seasons before his death in early 1974.

Yet, Gantman was a key lieutenant, at one time or another (just one episode in U.N.C.L.E.’s case) on all of them. That’s why TV shows have title cards.