Make your own free website on Tripod.com


United Network Command for Law and Enforcement

Popular 007 Spin-Off Created a Sensation...
Review by BEN BURGRAFF/IMDb

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' was a bona fide television phenomena when it first aired, in 1964. The brainchild of MGM producer Norman Felton, who was a fan of Ian Fleming's 'James Bond' novels, the missions (called "Affairs" in each week's episode title) of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.), would be set on an international scale, pitted against SPECTRE-like THRUSH, an organization composed of terrorists, gangsters, and megalomaniacs. In the original concept, a 'civilian' would be drawn into the intrigue, each week, to aid U.N.C.L.E. on a mission, and provide a link that viewers could relate to. "U.N.C.L.E." was escapist entertainment, geared to provide fantasy to a television audience becoming overwhelmed by Vietnam and the Cold War.

Felton sent his notes to Ian Fleming, asking the author for advice, and Fleming came up with 'Napoleon Solo', the last name 'lifted' from a gangster character from 'Goldfinger'. He offered a few other minor suggestions, and gave Felton his blessing on the endeavor. With a 'pedigree' like this, how could the series fail?

Veteran writer Sam Rolfe ("Have Gun, Will Travel") came on board to write the pilot script and co-produce the series, and an excellent cast was assembled. Oscar-nominee Robert Vaughn, 31, who'd worked with Felton on the series, 'The Lieutenant', was cast as Napoleon Solo, and young Scot actor David McCallum, 30, fresh from THE GREAT ESCAPE, played the supporting role of fellow agent Illya Kuryakin, a Russian (emphasizing the 'international', non-political nature of U.N.C.L.E.)...interestingly, NBC did not like McCallum in the pilot episode (they felt he lacked sex appeal!), and ordered him 'dropped', but Rolfe, who saw the actor's potential, took the network directive to 'fire the foreign character', and dropped Will Kuluva, a 47-year-old American character actor (with a foreign-sounding name), who'd portrayed U.N.C.L.E. boss, Alexander Waverly, in the pilot, instead. Then, in a casting coup, Rolfe brought in legendary British character actor Leo G. Carroll, who'd portrayed a spy chief in Alfred Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST, for the role. The 72-year-old actor raised some network concerns because of his age, but Rolfe made his scenes as easy as possible, and Carroll survived the entire series' run...even taking on additional work, in the spin-off 'The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.'...before passing away, a few days shy of his 80th birthday, in 1972.

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo.

David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

Shot in black and white for the first season, and featuring a marvelous 'bulletproof glass' opening sequence, with a majestic, John Barry-influenced theme (by Jerry Goldsmith), 'U.N.C.L.E.' debuted in 1964 as both FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER were in theaters, and soon became a hit...then reached unprecedented heights, when McCallum, with his 'Beatles'-like haircut, captured the attention of younger fans caught up with the 'British Invasion' of Rock music, and became an overnight sex symbol nationwide. McCallum's role was quickly 'beefed-up', and U.N.C.L.E.-mania had begun!

With a terrific mix of action, tongue-in-cheek humor, and what NBC would allow for sex, the first season offered many memorable moments, including the first appearance of future 'Star Trek' stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, together, in an episode (Shatner was the heroic 'civilian' called in to aid U.N.C.L.E., Nimoy was the villain's henchman).

"Mr. Waverly always liked you BEST!"

NBC was very pleased with their hit series, and Vaughn and McCallum were soon doing 'cameos' in other series, as well as promotions for the Peacock Network. One of the first 'primetime' series to be extensively marketed, a line of U.N.C.L.E. merchandise appeared, with paperback novels, dolls, toy guns, lunch boxes, comic books, model kits, cologne, clothing, and more filling store shelves. It was a heady time for everyone!

For the second season (1965-66), 'U.N.C.L.E.' was produced in color, and a 'guest' list of legendary stars lined up for appearances on the series, but despite high ratings, the overall quality of the show fluctuated, as Sam Rolfe left the series, and new 'line' producers lacked his skill in combining melodrama and humor. Just as the 'Bond' films peaked in popularity in 1965, with THUNDERBALL, then began to decline as the 'craze' subsided, the novelty of 'U.N.C.L.E.' began to wear off, and the new producers were more interested in emphasizing comedy and campiness, discarding, by season's end, any 'edge' the series first had.

By the third season (1966-67), with the intentionally outrageous "Batman" TV series supplanting "U.N.C.L.E." as the public's 'darling', campiness became the rule; an even sillier spin-off, 'The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.', starring young Stephanie Powers as Mod, "too cool" agent April Dancer, Rex Harrison's son, Noel, as her McCallum-esque partner, Mark Slate, and Leo G. Carroll (becoming one of the first actors to co-star in two series) as Mr. Waverly, flopped, barely making it through the season; and the writing was on the wall that the original series was on it's way out.

New producers made a last-ditch attempt to return the more dramatic elements to the series at the start of it's fourth season, in 1967, discarding the campiness, and, unfortunately, nearly all of the humor, as well, but the newly 'serious' 'U.N.C.L.E.' had lost it's audience, and the show was canceled in early 1968, replaced by 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In'.

The impact of 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' cannot be ignored. It paved the way for 'The Wild Wild West', 'I Spy', 'Get Smart', 'Mission Impossible', and all the other American 'spy' shows that followed in it's footsteps, opened the door for British spy series like 'The Avengers' and 'Danger Man' (known in the U.S. as 'Secret Agent') to be syndicated and win American fans, became a 'cult' favorite after cancellation that is still generating interest, to this day (with successful conventions, a popular 1983 'reunion' TV-movie, and a 'tongue-in-cheek' reteaming...as enemies...in a 1986 episode of 'The A-Team'...)

...A steady stream of fan mail continues to be sent to Vaughn and McCallum, over 40 years after the series' final episode aired, and there are continuing rumors of a new feature film version, in the planning stages...

And, as we fans will always remember, without the cooperation of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, none of this would be possible!


Robert Vaughn, post-U.N.C.L.E... The Academy Award-nominated actor has a Doctorate, and has enjoyed a distinguished career on television, stage and screen (despite credits in epics like BASEketball and Pootie Tang!) He currently stars in the BBC/AMC series, 'Hustle'.

David McCallum, post-U.N.C.L.E... The British actor has graduated from 'teen heartthrob' status to a long, rewarding career as a character actor in television and onstage, appearing in a revival of Amadeus on Broadway, and, currently, a long run on TV's popular 'Navy NCIS'.



My 2003 Caricature of 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'

My 2009 Caricature of 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'

My 2011 Portrait of 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' stars...

My Caricature of Robert Vaughn, after 'U.N.C.L.E.'...


We wish to thank the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement without whose assistance this webpage would not be possible.


This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.


The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
another proud member of the
U.N.C.L.E. ON THE WEB WEBRING
Previous 5 Sites | Next 5 Sites
Random Site | List Sites
Join Ring


My ART pages...
Introduction Page / Caricature Homepage / Caricature Gallery / My Credentials / The Roxy Collection / Famous Faces Gallery / My Art on Other Internet Sites / From the Artist's Studio / My 'Shooting Gallery' / Amazon.com: So You'd Like to...Draw Caricatures!

...and pages devoted to some of my OTHER interests, too!
My Personal Homepage / My Celebrity Photo Album / My Autographed Photo Collection / My TV and Movie Reviews for IMDb / My Amazon.com Reviews and Buying Guides / My Cat Page / My MIDI Collection / SUPERMAN, Then and Now / CHARMED! / Bond, JAMES BOND! / My JOHN WAYNE Tribute Page / My A-Team Mini-Site / My LOST WORLD Mini-Site / My CLASSIC Star Trek Mini-Site / My BUCK ROGERS in the 25th CENTURY Mini-Site / My FLASH GORDON Mini-Site / IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD / The SHARPE Saga / Myspace/BEN BURGRAFF / The Ronald Colman Saga

Best viewed with . Send e-mail to the Webmaster with questions or comments about this site.