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U.N.C.L.E. background and historydivider

by Kathleen Crighton

Originally published in Epi-Log Journal, issue 12, January 1994
Used with permision from author



U.N.C.L.E. was an international organization, and Solo and Kuryakin pursued bad guys in every corner of the world--New York, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Europe, South America, the Caribbean. Yet U.N.C.L.E. the television series rarely left the MGM back lot. A regular viewer of the show would probably have felt quite at home on the back lot, since the same sets were used over and over. The white-columned mansion facade with the circular drive out front appeared in more episodes than you could shake a shtick at--as everything from a Long Island girls' school in "The Her Master's Voice Affair" to a Louisiana plantation in "The Take Me to Your Leader Affair." The high brick wall with iron gates turned up often, too, in episodes as diverse as "The Bow-Wow Affair" and "The Seven Wonders of the World Affair." Whenever you saw that brick wall, you knew Solo and Kuryakin were either going to scale it or smash a car through those gates. The U.N.C.L.E. agents frequently drove down a long road with straight rows of trees on either side; it's featured in such episodes as "The Gurnius Affair." There was also a lake with a dock that made a nifty tropical setting in episodes from "The Green Opal Affair" to "The Tigers Are Coming Affair" to "The J for Judas Affair." The lake was always handy to stock with a couple of crocodiles or perhaps to toss a bomb into.

The occasions when the U.N.C.L.E. crew did location shooting were so rare that they're easy to spot. Scenes from the pilot of Andrew Vulcan's chemical plant were shot at a Lever Brothers facility in Los Angeles. The mountainous scenes in "The Quadripartite Affair" were shot in the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles. Some scenes from "The Neptune Affair" were shot at Santa Monica Beach. The Griffith Observatory stood in for a Swiss hideout for THRUSH in "The Double Affair." And the crossed arches over Robert Kingsley's secret utopian hideout in the final episode, "The Seven Wonders of the World Affair," were obviously shot at then-new Los Angeles International Airport.

It would be nice to think we could go to New York City and find Del Floria's Tailor Shop, Cleaning and Pressing, somewhere in the East Forties. Alas, wrong! It was part of the MGM back lot too. Sadly, it burned down even before the series ended, and stock shots of the exterior had to be inserted into the later episodes.

Even though U.N.C.L.E. the organization was headquartered there, not a single scene of U.N.C.L.E. the show was filmed in New York. In fact, the entire series was shot in Southern California.

Part I: Introduction
Part II: The Birth of U.N.C.L.E.
Part III: The U.N.C.L.E. Organization
Part IV: Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin and Alexander Waverly
Part V: Evolution of a Hit Series
Part VI: Guest Stars
Part VII: The U.N.C.L.E. Sets
Part VIII: The Four Seasons
Part IX: Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.