By David Flynn
Following on from the Cold War of the 1950s, spy dramas, both in cinema and television, were very popular, especially following the first James Bond film, ‘Dr. No’ in 1962.
The feeling of war and mistrust was in the air, and the Vietnam war was at its height in 1964, when the television series, ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ premiered.
Bond creator, Ian Fleming had a hand in the creation of the television spy series after producer Norman Felton asked for his advice. Fleming suggested the secret agent character Napoleon Solo, and after the pilot episode, producers beefed up the character of Russian agent, Illya Kurvakin.
Robert Vaughn, who played Solo, had in 1959 been nominated for an Oscar for his role in the movie ‘The Young Philadelphians’. David McCallum, who played Kurvakin, had recently starred in the movie, ‘The Great Escape’.
The opening scene of a typical show in the first season was set outside a tailor’s shop in New York. Two young agents walked through the entrance, and behind the façade of the tailor’s shop was the headquarters of U.N.C.L.E. – an organisation for maintaining political and social order throughout the world.
The agents, Solo and Kurvakin introduced themselves, along with their chief, Alexander Waverly, who sent them on various missions. U.N.C.L.E. stood for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. opened on a Monday in September 1964 on the NBC network in America, against the sci-fi drama ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ on CBS and long running gameshow, ‘I’ve Got a Secret’ and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ on ABC.