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The Man From Uncle.

The 1960s were in full swing when a new generation of TV viewers was introduced to the gadget-packed world of The Man From Uncle.

The world of Uncle was chock-full of bimbos, baddies, biochemists and brilliant inventors who invariably got kidnapped.

The whole Man From Uncle idea, with its slick agents and baffling plots was dreamed up in 1962, by US producer Norman Felton.

Flush with success from his Dr Kildare series, he approached James Bond writer Ian Fleming with his concept about a spy series loosely based on North by North West (starring Cary Grant as an innocent caught up in espionage).

Fleming came up with the broad outline of the series and the name of Napoleon Solo, the lead agent in the series, but had to pull out because of contractual difficulties linked to the successful Bond movies.

Creator, writer and producer Sam Rolfe took over and the pilot, The Vulcan Affair, was broadcast on NBC on September 22, 1964.

In the series that followed, English-born actor Leo G Carroll, who survived being shot in World War I, starred as the crusty Alexander Waverley, the head (number one) of Uncle, the United Network Command for Law Enforcement.

Uncle was based underneath Del Florio's tailor shop in New York, which was an elaborate false entrance for the global law and order network which was not tied to any one government.

The United Nations complained because it was getting applications from people who wanted to be 'spy agents', but by then Uncle was on the lips of TV-watching children across the world.

The sworn enemy of Uncle was Thrush (the acronym was never defined but many think it was The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirable and the Subjugation of Humanity) whose Mafia-style agents were noted bad shots.

The suave Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and his Russian sidekick Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were sent across the world to glamorous locations on various adventures by Mr Waverley, forming the basis of successful one-hour episodes which ran from 1964 to 1968.

Gadgets were everywhere from the 'Uncle Special' (a modified German Mauser pistol with a stock, silencer and extending barrel) to the eye-catching guns used by Thrush agents (modelled on the M-1 carbine but with enormous sights for dramatic effect).

The cigarette case communicators used by Solo and Kuryakin were particularly popular and the call sign 'Open Channel D' was almost as universally known as Star Trek's 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

Solo was unmarried and an arch-womaniser while Kuryakin was thought to be married.

When interviewing an older woman attacked by her dog in The Bow-Wow Affair she flirted and asked if he was married.

His reply, paraphrasing Andrew Marvell's 17th century poem To His Coy Mistress, 'Had I but world enough and time...' was taken as a yes.

Solo was thought to be from a well-off family, his grandfather being an admiral while Kuryakin was said to have been from Kiev and was trained by Uncle (in the class of '56).

McCallum was Scottish born and his parents were both in the London Philharmonic, his father a violinist and his mother a cellist. He appeared in the movie The Great Escape and has had various TV roles since The Man From Uncle and now lives in America with his wife and family.

Robert Vaughn, whose parents were both actors, could have been a delinquent if he had not become an actor.

His parents divorced when he was young but his looks helped him make it in the film world.

He lives in Connecticut with his wife Linda.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 25, 2004
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