Spy versus Spy
If you are of a certain age ( ahem!) and fondly remember the arrival of Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin onto your unsuspecting TV screen, you have come to the right place.
Born in September 1964, The Man from U.N.C.L.E brought glamour, intrigue and suspense to high school kids ( and their parents) who weren’t yet old enough to sample Mr Bond’s adventures. With an imminent release of Guy Ritchie’s big screen version of the TV series, it is perhaps time to reminisce on the wonders of U.N.C.L.E – the great writing, the popular lead actors, the brilliant gadgets and the merchandising of toys it spawned. It may have descended into kitsch and camp and lose its way a bit in the third season, but it still is held dearly by many and has a dedicated cult following.
Here, for your delectation are Fifty fascinating facts about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Well, I will present the fifty facts and it will be you, dear reader, who decides whether they are fascinating or not.
1.Ian Fleming’s Solo
The creator of the ‘other’ famous spy series is also the originator of the premise that birthed The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
To put things in context, The world’s most popular spy arrived onto the silver screen in October 1962, with the immortal words ‘Bond, James Bond’ in Dr No. American Television at that time was full of Medical shows, Westerns and Police shows. Producer Norman Felton from Arena Productions was keen to see a new genre of spy thrillers on TV.
To this end, he approached Ian Fleming to suggest ideas and to write a series. Fleming proposed a spy with several similarities to Bond and named him Napoleon Solo. He also suggested that the spy will have a boss whose secretary would be of similar ilk as Miss Moneypenny. He called her April Dancer. The series was to be named Ian Fleming’s Solo.
Sadly Fleming’s association was cut short swiftly by the Bond film producers Broccoli and Saltzman who were concerned about the Flemings involvement with a TV series and the inevitable similarities to Bond. The use of Fleming’s name was also advised to be dropped.
The name Napoleon Solo however, remains as Fleming’s legacy. As does the name April Dancer, who went on to become The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
2. North by Northwest
The key influence for Felton’s vision was not, in fact, James Bond. It was rather the Hitchcock masterpiece, North by Northwest. Felton brought in showrunner, writer and producer Sam Rolfe to launch the series. Rolfe established several of the series’ key factors – the concept of a global organisation with international agents, the interplay between the two main leads, the unique gadgets and the thrilling plot twists. sadly Rolfe left after the first – considered by many the best- season.
The premise of an innocent caught in an intrigue, the world of spies that co-exist all around us and the suggestion that we may be caught up unawares in the sinister shenanigans were all inspired by the film North by Northwest. This became the central conceit of the the series- the introduction of an ‘innocent’ who gets swept up in international intrigue and remained a constant throughout all the seasons.
3.Colour vs Black & White
The pilot episode was shot in colour as well as black and white. The rather short sighted ( colour blind?) NBC decided not to give the go ahead for a colour broadcast and the first season ended up being broadcast in Black and White.
The film versions of some of the first season episodes ( put together for a theatrical release) were thankfully in colour. It would have certainly been glorious to see all of the first season in colour as many fans agree that it contained some of the best episodes of the series.
The worldwide spy network with international agents was envisioned by Sam Rolfe. He decided to leave the acronym unexplained initially but was forced to come up with an expanded explanation as the United Nations objected to the name U.N.C.L.E. Several fans mistook U.N.C.L.E for one of the many UN organisations – some went as far as visiting the UN offices in New York and demanding to see the U.N.C.L.E. HQ in the basement. The UN even received several job applications to join the U.N.C.L.E.
Rolfe came up with the name United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. He mentions the organisation in the end credits as a bit of an in-joke :
“We wish to thank the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, without whose assistance this program would not have been possible.”
5.WASP vs THRUSH
Every self respecting spy network needs a suitable villainous global enemy . Bond has his SMERSH and SPECTRE. Sam Rolfe, who wrote the first season originally called the global villains THRUSH. As there was concern from MGM’s legal department that this was too similar to SMERSH it was then changed to WASP.
The TV show Stingray has an organisation called WASP – World Aquanaut Security Patrol – so the name was changed back to THRUSH when the series was first broadcast.
The series never mentions in its entire run what THRUSH stands for, so it was left to David McDaniels, one of the writers of the paperback tie-ins to come up with a solution.
He expands THRUSH as “The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity” in the book ‘The Dagger Affair’. Apparently when he impressed producer Norman Felton with this clever coinage.
6. How Mr Allison became Mr Waverly
One may be alarmed to know that an NBC executive who saw the pilot told Felton and Rolfe to ‘sack the guy whose name begins with a ‘K”.
He meant agent Kuryakin ( whose role was perhaps marginal in the pilot) as he didn’t feel the audience will connect with a Russian agent at the height of the Cold War.
Fortunately for McCallum ( and the millions of fangirls) Felton assumed that the exec meant the actor Will Kuluva who played Solo’s boss Mr Allison in the pilot. He was promptly replaced. Leo G Carroll stepped into the role now called Mr Waverly. This was the version broadcast when the series debuted. Carroll enjoyed a long and enduring role in the series.
Will Kuluva still appeared in the theatrical release of the feature length version of the pilot ‘The Vulcan Affair’ called ‘ To Trap a Spy’.
7.Leo G Carroll
Leo G Carroll was in his seventies when he took on the role of Mr Waverly. He was a Hitchcock regular, having acted in six of his films Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), The Paradine Case (1947),Strangers on a Train (1951), and North by Northwest (1959).
Interestingly, he played the shadowy spymaster called ‘The Professor’ in North by Northwest, not unlike Mr Waverly’s character. Carroll was the only man to appear in more Hitchcock films (6) than any other actor ( apart from Hitchcock himself in his celebrated cameos).
Carroll also played Mr Waverly in the short lived off shoot series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E, earning the honour of one of the few actors who has played the same role in two TV series.
The actress who has appeared in most Hitchcock films is Clare Greet ( 7 films) , just in case you are a curious quizzer.
New York born Robert Vaughn had been popping up in various minor roles on American TV and Film throughout the fifties and early sixties. In 1959 he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his role in The Young Philadelphians. He also had a role as gunman Lee, one of the eponymous characters in The Magnificent Seven.
It was Vaughn’s role in the short lived TV series The Lieutenant that led to his eventual casting as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Norman Felton, who was the co-producer of the former show (with Gene Rodenberry, who went on to create Star Trek) , noticed Vaughn and felt he would be a right fit for the role of Solo.
Debonair and suave Vaughn made the role of Solo his own and became a sex symbol to rival Bond. A role that carved his later career.
9. Hair today, Gone tomorrow
Robert Vaughn’s hairstyle was a far more severe slick back in the pilot episode. It then changed to a less severe, debonair quiff in the later episodes. McCallum however stayed on with his floppy blond locks that soon became something the teenagers swooned over.
Even what was essentially a convenience statement- apparently McCallum preferred to turtle necks under his suits rather than shirts due to the ease of pulling them on and off. The dark turtleneck became a style sensation and a ‘Ilya special’.
10. Doctor Vaughn
A lifelong Democrat, Robert Vaughn is also a journalism major. He did his master’s degree in Theatre. Throughout his TV and film career, Vaughn continued to study further, eventually earning himself a PhD.
Vaughn’s accomplished thesis, ‘Only victims: a Study of Show business blacklisting’ has been published. The Man from U.N.C.L.E is not just an international spy but an accomplished academic too.
11. David McCallum
Glasgow born Scot David McCallum had acted in various minor roles before getting a character role in the film The Great Escape. When he was cast as Illya Kuryakin his role was meant to be a minor one to last a few episodes. Such was the fan reaction to his floppy blonde haircut, his enigmatic character and his chemistry with Vaughn, the producers made him a co-lead.
At the height of the TV series McCallum received more fan mail than any other MGM star and wherever he went there was a Beatles-style mania with screaming girls mobbing him. He became an unlikely sex symbol and teen magazines everywhere carried his image.
12. Ilya Mania
While Vaughn was no stranger to female attention, it was David McCallum who attracted much of the fan frenzy. Perhaps it was his enigmatic character Illya, of whom little is known, that was the main draw. His introverted and quiet demeanour, his focused determination and scientific mind must have sparked something in the feminine psyche. Not to mention his dark polonecks, lean physique and floppy blond hair.
Most teen magazines carried Ilya on their cover. There was even a pirate radio hit, sung by sixties pop star Alma Coogan called Love ya, Illya, I kid you not.
13. Portrait of an artist
At the height of U.N.C.L.E fever, a teen magazine called Lady Penelope offered as a competition prize, an oil painting of Illya Kuryakin. The magazine Lady Penelope Featured The Man from U.N.C.L.E comic strip by artist Ron Embleton. The portrait for the comp was painted by Ron for a lucky winner.
McCallum has enjoyed a resurgence of fame as chief medical examiner Dr Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard in the CBS TV Series NCIS since 2003. In one episode, a character asks another what ‘Ducky looked like when he was younger’ to which the latter replies ‘ Illya Kuryakin’.
Into his Eighties, McCallum continues enjoy acting and has recently had his contract renewed for the CBS show.
14. Badge Numbers
The Badge number worn by Mr Waverly is No: 1 and Illya Kuryakin is No:2 – however Solo wears a No: 11 badge. There are rumours that this was because Vaughn thought he was head of section 2 ( Operations and Enforcement) and picked what he thought were the Roman Numerals for 2. I am not sure if this has any truth behind it especially as writer/producer Sam Rolfe was such a stickler for detail – it couldn’t be just happenstance.
There were 105 episodes in all over the four seasons of the original show. The show was cancelled in the middle of its 4th season after 16 episodes.
Season One: 29 (B/W)
Season Two: 30 (Col)
Season Three: 30 (Col)
Season Four: 16 (Col)
16. The Return
A two hour TV movie called Return of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair was broadcast as a CBS Tuesday Night Movie on April 5, 1983. Vaughn and McCallum reprised their most famous roles for this return.
Late Leo G Carroll’s Mr Waverly was replaced by a very British Sir John Raleigh played by Patrick Macnee who had himself enjoyed TV fame in The Avengers.
The film enjoyed moderate success.
17. Agent ‘JB’
The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E wore its James Bond references blatantly. Not only was the script reminiscent of a Bond film, it also featured a mysterious benefactor called ‘JB’ who helps Solo and a Ballerina flee from the villains.
The character JB was played by none other than the Australian actor and one time Bond in On her Majesty’s secret service, George Lazenby.
19. Opening Credits
For the first few episodes of Season One, we had an elaborate opening sequence featuring the agents entering their secret headquarters in New York city and one by one speaking to the camera and introducing themselves, culminating in Mr Waverly’s intro.
Subsequently the opening sequence was changed to the ‘silhouette of a man behind the glass’ scene from ‘The Vulcan Affair’. A shot shatters the glass and we see the Napoleon Solo emerge from the shadows.
From the second season this was changed to a short introductory scene preceded by the U.N.C.L.E logo and this remained the opening for the rest of the series.
20. U.n.c.l.e Headquarters
The fictional U.N.C.L.E Headquarters is situated in New York city in close proximity to the actual United Nations HQ near the lower East 40s. Many fans visited the UN HQ during the shows heyday and demanded to see the UNCLE HQ if possible, without realising that the series was filmed in California on MGM backlot.
The HQ is written as hiding behind a facade of Brownstone apartments and containing four levels : one ground level, two higher levels with Mr Waverley’s Office at the top floor and a basement level. The entrance to field agents is through the Del Floria tailor and dry cleaner shop as seen in the opening credits above. There are also entrances from a public car park at one and and the Masque Club at another.
It is also perhaps the most poorly guarded secret as right from the opening episode it is seen to be infiltrated by Thrush agents and other undesirables!
The Del Floria secret entrance also appears in Rome in the King of Knaves affair– leading to speculation that the Del Floria entrance may be shared by U.N.C.L.E HQs around the world.
21. U.N.C.L.E Training School
The U.N.C.L.E survival school is on a secret tropical island away from the prying eyes of civilisation. It can only be reached by sea and does not lie along the normal shipping lanes. In the ‘Survival School Affair’ Ilya visits the island where the facility is run by a Colonel James Cutter.
On arrival to the island Ilya fondly says ‘ The old alma mater’ and later on in the episode he says he is from the class of ’56.
22. Agent Life span
Field agents are ‘forcibly’ retired at the age of 40. They tend to have 10-15 good years in the field and then may be ‘promoted’ to a desk job. Those who leave and are considered a security risks may have memory blocks inserted in their minds so as not to reveal any U.N.C.L.E secrets. This is called being ‘de-trained’.
However, in The Moonglow affair that introduces the Girl from U.N.C.L.E – this rule is fudged as the fellow agent Mark Slate is well over his 40s. When Gilr the series launched the character was recast as a younger agent.
23. The U.N.C.L.E ‘Special’
Just like how Bond had his Walther PPK The U.N.C.L.E creators wanted their agents to have distinctive weaponry. The pilot was shot using various generic automatic pistols such as a Luger and other 0.45 guns. When the series was commissioned, the producers felt a distinctive looking gun will do much for merchandising. Initially, a man called Reuben Klamer from Toylab studios had a go at converting a German 7.65 Mauser pistol with various attachments to create the U.N.C.L.E look. When the replica arrived in set, the Mauser apparently looked overwhelmed by its attachments, jammed constantly and photographed poorly.
The series propmasters Bob Murdock and Arnold Goode ended up borrowing several Walther P38 pistols from a nearby set where they were shooting a series called Combat. They eventually modified the Walther P38 as the ‘U.N.C.L.E special’.
When fully assembled the Walther P-38 consisted of a scope, a telescoping shoulder stock, an extended magazine (16 rounds instead of the normal eight), and a barrel extension that included an integral sound and flash suppressor.
24. A Special EMMY
For creating the UNCLE special and the various unusual props for the series, Bob Murdock, Arnold Goode, and their assistant, Bill Graham, were nominated for a special Emmy in 1966.
In an unusual twist, investigators from the Treasury department visited the set and fined MGM $2,000 for manufacturing automatic weapons without a license!
The Producers hired Stanley Weston who was already involved in merchandising for GI Joe. Apart from Disney, toy licensing was in its infancy in the 60’s. Weston linked up with Ideal Toy company who were delighted to work with the series and produce replica guns and props.
The Solo gun and subsequently the Ilya gun became many a kid’s dream Christmas present along with the cigarette case communicator, THRUSH rifle and many other props from the series. To this day they remain highly collectable.
There was constant pressure from the Ideal to the series producers to feature a fully assembled gun as much visibly as possible in the episodes to boost sales. They neednt have worried, the toys sold in their millions.
26. Theatrical Releases
To capture the quickly rising fan base and capitalise on the success of the series, several of the U.N.C.L.E episodes were expanded into theatrical releases. Initially they were released abroad in places like HongKong, Japan and Europe and subsequently in USA.
Unwary fans of the series didn’t always realise that the theatrical releases were just slightly expanded and sometimes reshot versions of the TV episodes and some were angry at paying extra to watch something they had already seen.
The original pilot ‘ The Vulcan Affair’ was shot in colour but broadcast on TV in black and white. It was then released theatrically as ‘ To Trap a spy’ with some additional footage featuring Luciana Paluzzi for added glamour.
All the theatrical releases and the episodes they were constituted from are listed below.
29. International Fame
The Man from U.N.C.L.E enjoyed international fame even before the TV series was broadcast in those territories due to the theatrical releases of the films. The concept enjoyed exposure all over Europe and Asia and the merchandising helped a lot.
Judging from the buzz around the social networks and fan sites, it still seems to enjoy cult status with many fans holding the series fondly in their memory.
30. Capsule B
In case they are ever caught by an enemy all agents carry Capsule B at the tip of their pen communicator. This induces temporary amnesia for 72 hours so they cannot reveal any information in case they are interrogated.
31. Bridge of Lions
The ‘Bridge of Lions affair’ which was also released theatrically as ‘One of our spies is missing’ is based on a 1963 novel by Henry Slesar called ‘Bridge of Lions’. This is one of the only series story line to be based on a pre-existing book.
Slesar was a prolific writer who was popular with Alfred Hitchcock and has written several teleplays for the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ based on his own short stories. He has also written for Twilight Zone and Batman among others.
He incidentally won the Edgar award for the best first novel in 1960 for The Grey Flannel Shroud.
32. The Texan, The Chess Player, The Writer and the Inebriate Affair
Fans hold the ‘Giuoco Piano Affair’ ( pronounced zhwocko, in case you are wondering – I did) with a particular fondness. In this episode the ‘innocent’ Marion Raven played by Jill Ireland has a 24 hour party going on in her apartment ( much like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffanys).
As we enter the apartment we encounter the various guests- a Texan oil baron, a Chess Player, a Writer and a drunk. The Texan was played by writer/producer Sam Rolfe. The Chess player was producer and creator Norman Felton. The Writer was Associate Producer Joseph Cavalli and the drunk was none other than Director Richard Donner who later went to much success directing Superman and the Lethal Weapon series.
33. Jill Ireland
Actress Jill Ireland was married to David McCallum in real life at the start of the series. She appeared in 5 episodes playing various characters.
The episodes include:
“The Giuoco Piano Affair”, “The Quadripartite Affair”, “The Tigers are Coming Affair”, “The Five Daughters Affair” (a two-parter).
The couple at split by 1967 and the one can tell from the final episode as they rarely have a scene together. Poor McCallum had introduced Jill Ireland to his friend Charles Bronson and she left McCallum for Bronson soon afterwards.
34. More Waverley trivia
Mr Waverley smokes a special blend of Isle of Dogs No. 22 pipe tobacco. We learn of this in the episode Never Never Affair.
Various Mr Waverley’s relatives appear throughout the series: His brother in law Prof. Hemingway in Mad Mad Tea Party, His niece Maude in Alexander the Greater Affair and his cousin Lester Baldwin ( played also by Leo G Carroll) along with his daughter Alice Baldwin in the Bow wow affair.
35. Felton and Rodenberry
Producer Norman Felton’s Arena Productions also made a series called The Lieutenant. It was co-written and co-produced by none other than a pre Star Trek Gene Rodenberry for NBC.
The title character is Second Lieutenant William Tiberius Rice played by Gary Lockwood. The series also starred Robert Vaughn who played Captain Raymond Rambridge, Rice’s company commander.
Note that Rodenberry re-used the middle name ‘Tiberius’ for his more famous character James T Kirk.
36. Kirk and Spock in U.N.C.L.E
Fans of Star Trek will rejoice at the fact that Kirk and Spock appear together in the first season episode ‘Project Strigas Affair’. William Shatner plays Donfield ‘ the innocent’ and the late Leonard Nimoy plays Vladek ‘the villains henchman’ in that episode. Although they do not share a lot of screen time together, the episode is memorable for the first appearance of the two together.
Little would they have known what iconic characters they would go on to portray when they filmed that TV show. Ricardo Montalban who played guest roles twice in U.N.C.L.E ( see below) also went on to be the iconic Trek villain, Khan.
37. Future Male Stars
It wasn’t just Shatner and Nimoy but several of the series’ other guest stars also attained fame as leads in their own TV shows in later years. The table below lists some of them who went on to cult success as leads in their own series.
The distinctive U.N.C.L.E car with its gull-wing design was built in partnership with a company called AMT through a man called Gene Whitfield. The original U.N.C.L.E. car was to be based on a Dodge Charger but it was decided a completely new car would be used.
Winfield proposed a limited production car AMT was promoting, the “Piranha.” NBC liked the idea, because the car would be provided at no cost as AMT would pay for its construction in exchange for the rights to produce and sell the model kit of the car. The Piranha cost $30-40,00 to build.
The frame of the Piranha was made of fiberglass with a steel cage housing suspensions. It had a rear-mounted Corvair engine. The body panels were made of thermo-plastic, and featured gullwing doors. The vehicle had many mock features, including flame throwers, machine guns, rocket lauchers, laser beams, a radar screen, parachute, and other hidden interior devices.
39. Motor Trouble
While the toy version was a great success the prototype used in the show was plagued with breakdowns. Vaughn and McCallum also complained about the trouble they had getting in and out of the vehicle.
So much so, that the show hardly ever featured the car – it only appeared in a few episodes “The Five Daughters Affair,” “The Take Me to Your Leader Affair,” “The Man from THRUSH Affair,” “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair,” “The Test Tube Killer Affair,” and in the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. series, “The UFO Affair”.
40. The Cigarette Case communicator
The original communicator the field agents used was disguised a cigarette case. This was used mainly in first season but needed the agent to hook it up to a telephone line and some such. The producers were also mindful of the ever increasing younger audience and were wary of promoting smoking. So half way through the second season arrived the more modern pen-comunicator.
41. ‘Open Channel D’
The memorable Pen Communicator allowed U.N.C.L.E. agents to instantly reach headquarters and each other. All they had to do was to remove the pen’s end piece, flip it around and reconnect it, to expose the gold microphone grid.
They will then pull up the hidden antenna, and say those memorable words “Open Channel D”.
42. The Girl from U.N.C.L.E
A spinoff series ‘The Girl from U.N.C.L.E’ was envisioned when The Man from U.N.C.L.E was at the peak of popularity. A crossover episode was planned to introduce the character April Dancer and a male agent called Mark Slate. In the ‘Moonglow affair’ broadcast as a special The Man from U.N.C.L.E episode, former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley played April Dancer and an older Mark Slate played by actor Norman Fell. In this pilot Fell played a father figure ‘breaking in’ a younger April Dancer as field agent.
When the series was commissioned, the producers had a rethink and cast Stephanie Powers As April Dancer and the younger British actor Noel Harrison ( son of Rex Harrison) as Mark Slate to cash in on the younger audiences.
Sadly the quality of the series was less than stellar and it lasted just a season before it was cancelled. That didn’t stop the full merchandising bandwagon to roll on- magazines, comics, toys and paperbacks followed.
43. U.n.c.l.e Novels
There were altogether 23 novels published by ACE in the US and 16 of them were reprinted in UK – the entire series is listed below.
One of the best selling novels of the series was No:4 The Dagger Affair. It was written by author David McDaniels. ACE books editor Terry Carr loved this novel and as it also sold well commissioned McDaniels to write 6 more U.N.C.L.E novels.
- The Dagger Affair (#4 in the series) (1966)
- The Vampire Affair (#6) (1966)
- The Monster Wheel Affair (#8) (1967)
- The Rainbow Affair (#13) (1967)
- The Utopia Affair (#15) (1968)
- The Hollow Crown Affair (#17) (1969)
- The Final Affair (unpublished)
The last McDaniels book The Final Affair is something of a legend in fan circles as apparently he ties up all the loose ends and completes the series. Sadly as he was slow in meeting deadlines, by the time the completed manuscript arrived , the TV series had been put to rest. It remains unpublished.
McDaniels also wrote the The Rainbow Affair which features unnamed cameos by The Saint, Miss Marple, John Steed, Emma Peel, Willie Garvin, Tommy Hambledon, Neddie Seagoon, Father Brown, a retired Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Fu Manchu!
US# UK# Title Author (The ---- Affair) (a) 1 1 Thousand Coffins Michael Avallone (1965) 2 2 Doomsday Harry Whittington 3 3 Copenhagen John Oram (b) 4 6 Dagger David McDaniel 5 8 Mad Scientist John T. Phillifent 6 9 Vampire David McDaniel 7 7 Radioactive Camel Peter Leslie (1966) 8 12 Monster Wheel David McDaniel (1967) 9 10 Diving Dames Peter Leslie 10 Assassination J. Hunter Holly (c) 11 Invisibility "Thomas Stratton" 12 Mind Twisters "Thomas Stratton" (d) 13 Rainbow David McDaniel (e) 14 Cross of Gold "Fredric Davies" 15 Utopia David McDaniel 16 14 Splintered Sunglasses Peter Leslie 17 Hollow Crown David McDaniel 18 16 Unfair Fare Peter Leslie 19 15 Power Cube John T. Phillifent 20 13 Corfu John T. Phillifent 21 11 Thinking Machine Joel Bernard (1967) 22 4 Stone Cold Dead in the Market John Oram 23 5 Finger in the Sky Peter Leslie
44. The Sirens from U.N.C.L.E
All the sultry sixties sirens who appeared in the series are in the compilation video below. There are many memorable appearances. While keeping in line with the times, there are plenty of sultry blondes and the women are mostly helpless characters waiting to be rescued. However, there are are a fair few female agents, physicists and biochemists as well as femme fatales which could be considered quite pioneering writing for the sixties.
46. The ‘A’ Team connection
Robert Vaughn went on to star as General Hunt Stockwell in the other cult hit The A Team. It perhaps proved irresistible to do a nudge-wink U.N.C.L.E tribute.
In an episode of A Team titled ‘The Say U.N.C.L.E. affair’ Stockwell meets an old mate of his – a Russian spy Ivan Tregorin. This role was played by David McCallum much to the delight of the fans.
47. Popular Culture
The Man from U.N.C.L.E was such a hit in its heyday that it was considered the in-thing to reference it. Various TV shows affectionately parodied the show.
A Dick Van Dyke show episode is called ‘The Man from My Uncle’ and spoofs the storyline.
There is a Tom and Jerry episode called ‘ The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R’.
In an episode of the sitcom ‘Please don’t eat the Daisies’ the twins who are U.N.C.L.E fans are convinced their dad is a secret agent working for the organisation. They watch their father enter a tailor shop not dissimilar to Del Floria’s and decide to follow him. Much to their ( and the viewers) shock as the Dad exits the shop he is stopped for a match by a man, who is none other than Illya Kuryakin. In the same episode The family is visited by a ‘Government Man’ who is asked by the Dad to convince the kids that he is not a secret agent. The man is Napoleon Solo much to the shock of the kids.
Marvel Comic’s creator Stan Lee cites the Man From U.N.C.L.E. as the inspiration for his Marvel Universe spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D.
48. Musical Tributes
As we saw above, Alma Cogan paid a tribute to the show in her single “Love Ya Illya,” in 1966 under the name “Angela and the Fans”.
An Argentinian Funk duo who took the name Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas .
In the 1980s, the group Cleaners From Venus penned ‘Illya Kuryakin Looked at Me’ later covered by The Jennifers. The English 2 Tone band The Specials made an instrumental song called ‘Napoleon Solo’.
49.The Theme Tune
The catchy theme tune for the series was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The theme music underwent subtle variations throughout the seasons to reflect the musical mood of the period. The Studio also released original music albums of the music from the series: Original Music From The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and More Music From The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
50. The 2015 Film
Written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, the forthcoming film casting went through a veritable hit-list of Hollywood male leads ( George Clooney, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Pine, Russell Crowe etc.)
British actor Henry Cavill ( Man of Steel) stars as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer ( The Lone Ranger) stars as Ilya Kuryakin. Hugh Grant stars as Mr Waverly. Alicia Vikander ( Ex-Machina) and Jared Haris ( Sherlock Holmes) also star.
Taking its cue from the hit series, the plot is set in early 1960s when agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organisation that seeks to produce a nuclear arsenal.Their only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist. The scientist is the key to infiltrating the criminal organisation.
In a race against time ( would we have it any other way?) the agents battle to stop a worldwide nuclear catastrophe, while clad in fashionable 60s clothes and looking retro-cool, of course.
Hope this leads to a resurgence of U.N.C.L.E fans, re-runs of the original show and the world can go U.N.C.L.E mad again…