U.N.C.L.E. the Show
Background and History
Contributors Behind the Scene
The Return Movie
by Bill Koenig
Norman Felton (1913- ) enjoyed a long career as a television producer. He was primarily known for dramatic shows such as The Eleventh Hour and Dr. Kildare. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a departure for him into the realm of adventure television. He approached author Ian Fleming about developing a program in the early 1960s. After some twists and detours (not to mention Fleming dropping out early in the process), U.N.C.L.E. was the result. Post-U.N.C.L.E., Felton's credits included Hawkins, a drama featuring James Stewart as a cagey defense lawyer, and Executive Suite, a prime-time soap.
Sam Rolfe (1924-1993) created various television shows. His personal favorite was Have Gun--Will Travel, which ran from 1957 to 1963. Rolfe worked on the first two years of that program and came back to write an episode in the last season explaining the origin of the mysterious Paladin. Rolfe became involved in U.N.C.L.E. after Norman Felton needed a writer to get the project going after Fleming's departure. Rolfe would write the pilot script and serve as producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s first season. Post-U.N.C.L.E. projects include The Delphi Bureau and On Wings of Eagles, a four-hour mini-series based on the best selling book that featured Richard Crenna as Ross Perot.
Ian Fleming (1908-1964) created fiction's best-known spy, James Bond, with the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, being published in 1953. Almost a decade later, the author seemed initially intrigued about Norman Felton's idea of a weekly spy/adventure show. A few years earlier, he had attempted to create a television series for CBS, but the project never got to the pilot stage (some plot ideas were turned into Bond short stories in For Your Eyes Only). Fleming's involvement in U.N.C.L.E. didn't last long, with the author not wanting to upset Bond movie producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman (their first Bond movie came out in 1962). Fleming's main contribution is calling the lead character Napoleon. His also supplied the name of April Dancer (who would have been a Miss Moneypenney type in early notes) which was given later to the lead character in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.
Dean Hargrove received an Emmy nomination in his early 20s as a writer for a short-lived NBC series with Bob Newhart. He became a writer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. late in the first season, penning "The Never-Never Affair". Hargrove's biggest involvement was the second season and his efforts included writing the season-opening, two-part "The Alexander the Greater Affair". His scripts are marked by a delicate balance of adventure and humor and most of the time, he succeeded. After writing no episodes for The Man From U. N.C.L.E. in the third season (and one Girl From U.N.C.L.E. effort), he returned in the fourth season to write another two-part show, "The Prince of Darkness Affair", probably the most humor-laden script of a very serious season. He had another story ready to film when the series got canceled in the middle of the season. After U.N.C.L.E., he went to work at Universal's television section, working on shows like It Takes a Thief, The Name of the Game and Columbo. He scripted the second Columbo pilot, "Ransom for a Dead Man" (plotted by Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link), and was producer for the second, third and fourth seasons. More recently, he has worked out of Viacom, producing shows like Matlock, Jake and the Fatman and Diagnosis: Murder.
Alan Caillou (b. 1914, real name Alan Lyle-Smythe) was the writer probably most responsible for the development of the Illya Kuryakin character. While Sam Rolfe created Kuryakin, it was Caillou who fleshed the character out. Caillou originally wrote a two-part story that was later made as two separate, but related episodes, The Quadripartite Affair and The Giuoco Piano Affair. Quadripartite, the third episode aired, was the first to give Kuryakin much to do. This one episode establishes Illya as the strong, silent, but ultimately caring, type. Caillou went on to write several more episodes the first season, including The Bow-Wow Affair, the first episode where Kuryakin is the lead agent (Solo is nursing a sprained ankle and is available only for consulting and planning). Caillou reportedly liked David McCallum over Robert Vaughn, but also wrote The Terbuf Affair, which provides one of the few glimpses of Solo's background shown in the series. Caillou also appears before the cameras as a villain. In the second season, however, Caillou lost interest, only writing two episodes. His MFU farewell was The Tigers Are Coming Affair (with Caillou again acting). Caillou's own background perhaps explains his ability to spin adventure stories. According to his Internet Movie Data Base biography, Caillou was in the British Army, worked in military intelligence and operated behind enemy lines in Libya and Tunisia among other things. Caillou has written many novels in addition to his film and television work. Mr. Caillou passed away in 2006.
Joseph Sargent (b. 1925), a proflific UNCLE director during the first three seasons of the show, turned out some of the best episodes of the series. In the first season alone, he helmed The Project Strigas Affair, The Never-Never Affair and The Odd Man Affair, three fan favorites. Not surprisingly, he was tapped to oversee the series' first two-part story, Alexander the Greater Affair, used to kick off the second season, and The Moonglow Affair, which served as the pilot for The Girl From UNCLE. Sargent often shot from interesting angles, sometimes starting from the ceiling and gradually coming down (Never Never). Overall, he helmed 11 MFUs and one Girl From UNCLE episode. His UNCLE swan song was The Concrete Overcoat Affair, a two parter that was the highlight of Man's third season. Post-UNCLE, Sargent went back and forth between feature films and major made-for-TV movies. His feature films have been a mixed lot, going from the excellent MacArthur to the lousy Jaws 4. He seems to get better material to choose from on major made-for-TV movies and miniseries. For example, he earned an Emmy for The Marcus-Nelson Murders, a powerful telefilm written by Abby Mann that launched the Kojak series. More recently, he directed a 1998 TV mini-series, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment
Fred J. Koenekamp (b. 1922) -- Veteran director of photography, his work on UNCLE got him noticed and he graduated to feature films during the midst of Man's fourth season. Koenekamp joined the UNCLE crew with the start of production of season one (Joseph Biroc had photographed the pilot). Koenekamp gave the series a high-gloss look despite hectic shooting schedules. His post-UNCLE credits include Patton (which earned him an Academy Award nomination) and The Towering Inferno, for which he and Biroc shared the Oscar (Biroc shot the action sequences, while Koenekamp worked with the first unit).