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[sticky post] Man from UNCLE Masterpost

Since most of my activity here nowadays seems to be me writing Man from UNCLE meta or fic on every topic under the sun, I figured it was time to make a proper masterpost of everything I've posted here or to various comms.

Most of these links go to LJ, though there are a few at the end to odds and ends I've posted to tumblr too.

Fic and fic recsCollapse )

Resources - subtitle files, episode credits and official production materialsCollapse )

Meta and analysisCollapse )

Photoshoots and picspamCollapse )

Book reviewsCollapse )

Misc extras from tumblrCollapse )
So, I posted new UNCLE fic!

Title: To earn your wings
Characters: Heather McNabb, Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin
Rating: PG
Word Count: 7041
Heather McNabb's career as an airline hostess comes to an end in much the usual manner: she meets a man.

Two men, really, though not at once, and she wouldn't know it until later—but that's getting ahead of the story.)

Which you could just go and read, but the story behind this particular story really is a story in it's on right – one that starts with a fanfic charity auction and ends with me spending a ridiculous number of months researching the history of airline flight attendants. It's all on my tumblr, but now that I'm getting around to cross-posting the story on LJ, an abbreviated version seemed called for.

The BackstoryCollapse )

All the cool stuff I got the excuse to read while writing this thingCollapse )


So I made this post about all the old news articles I'd tracked down about the early UNCLE girls – mostly just to say, damn, these nearly-forgotten bit characters actually got a lot of press back in the day, and here's a rough timeline to back that up. But when I came back to update it with some new links (turns out the archive I was using keeps adding new material), I'd slightly overrun the post limit (the post isn't that long, the table just takes a lot of css, which evidently counts). So, here's a new post for the updated table.

Links marked with a ▼ are shortcuts to where I've reproduced those articles in the other post. All other links go direct to the newspaper.com article page (though you'll only be able to see a thumbnail and OCR text without an account) – or you can just hover over the link to see a quote.

Links are organised by date – to put things in context, I've included a list of what episodes were in production and what was airing as all this news came out. Coloured text identifies each actress named and each episode they appeared in.

For example, you can see that news about Grace Lee's casting started coming out about the same time as they were shooting her first (and only) episode, whereas news about Leigh Chapman didn't start to appear until her first episode was about to air. Less than a month after the first news items (I can find) which mention Grace Lee's hiring for a continuing role, press releases were already starting to appear with Linda Ho's name taking the place of hers. Photos of Vaughn with both Lee and Heatherly nonetheless continued appearing in the press long after Lee had been replaced by Linda Ho, and often continued to carry captions suggesting both girls still had 'continuing roles' in the series. Occasional photos of Heatherly went right on appearing even after she, too, was gone, and Leigh Chapman seemed to have taken her place (a few such references even turned up in later years). Editors often didn't bother to check whether the captions supplied with the publicity photos were still accurate.

Basically, you could get a really skewed idea of who was still appearing in the show if you believed everything you read. The original UNCLE girls seriously were promoted a lot more widely than you might think.

Table under the cutCollapse )


The Man from UNCLE novels: An Analysis

So, I've been poking through the library of old licensed fiction from the old Man from UNCLE paperback series and magazine. A few are good, but most (as general fan consensus seems to agree) fail to capture the spirit of the series in any particularly convincing way, or are just not that well written, or (and frequently) both. It's a matter of record that few of the authors were fans (some, one rather suspects, had probably hardly seen the show at all), and were usually working from little more than a few pages of development notes – and it shows, not least thanks to how many seemed determined to pad their word counts by incorporating as much of those notes as possible. The result is a bizarre little series of highly variable tone and quality, existing in its own little parallel continuity, in which writers often referenced their own previous stories, and occasionally referenced one another's, but remained largely ignorant of almost anything that had ever happened in the show. In fact, about the most fascinating thing about it (at least to me) is just how fixated some of those authors were on sharing as much of those original development notes as possible.

The following analysis comes courtesy of my recent acquisition of the entire series in digital format, plus some handy epub-library software. Pick a few key phrases out of the original MGM bios and development notes, and the number of hits that come up in a library-wide search tells one hell of a story – or perhaps more accurately, exposes just how little effort so many authors put into telling a story which would be original. That which was original was frequently an obvious mistake. I’m not honestly sure whether anyone but me is ever going to want to read this many words worth of analysis of who-lifted-what-from-where and who-fucked-what-up, but I am seriously far too fascinated by the train-wreck of error and plagiarism that is some of these novels not to get my thoughts down in full. Possibly you might prefer to skip to the sections on recurring original characters and the conclusion for some of the more interesting parts. If you’re looking for my reviews of those stories I’ve so far read in full, here’s that link.

The AuthorsCollapse )

Describing UNCLECollapse )

The Sections of UNCLECollapse )

On THRUSHCollapse )

The Actual Men from UNCLECollapse )

Crossovers with The Girl from UNCLECollapse )

The Support Staff of UNCLECollapse )

The Miscellaneous Recurring Characters (and Themes) of UNCLECollapse )

What wasn’t in the notesCollapse )

Some Conclusions Collapse )
Intrigued by the section on the various tie-in novels in C.W. Walker's book Work/Text: Investigating The Man from UNCLE (which goes into the subject in quite a bit more detail than Heitland's earlier book on the series), I had a bit of a poke around the web to see whether any were available online. What I discovered, largely by accident, is that more or less the entire collection of novels and magazine stories and those from the Girl from UNCLE series can indeed be found in text format on the web. Some can be found transcribed by fans here, while others will require you to be willing to poke through assorted variously dodgey-looking download sites to acquire (seriously, though I have done my best to check, I cannot 100% guarantee I have not picked up a load of nasty malware in the process of finding all these, which is one of the reasons I'm reluctant to link to some of my sources. That said, if anyone would like me to send them the complete batch, drop me a line).

Many of these books can still be got second hand on ebay and other various sites around the web nowadays, though as the physical books are long out of print and the authors never received royalties from them as it was, it's hard to feel too terrible about the minor case of piracy required to snag the full collection. More importantly, having them in digital format makes the collection searchable, not to mention easily cross-referencable, and wow, is there some telling stuff in the keyword and key-phrase usage in these things (or at least if you're of the kind of mindset that finds those sorts of statistics interesting to begin with, which it goes without saying I am). But I’ll get to that in another post.

For now, I wanted to make some notes on the ones I’ve read enough of to have formed an opinion, and write something about my general impressions of the series. But because this is inevitably going to involve me rambling a lot, the short version is that about the only ones I might go as far as reccing were those by McDaniels, and perhaps the one by Fredric Davies. Neither are what I'd call must-reads, but I did have some fun with both. For general reference, the Fans from UNCLE website also has a brief review of all the novels, though less to say about the magazines.

Some vital statisticsCollapse )

And some more general analysis, because I never can resist the urge to write an essay or twoCollapse )

The Copenhagen Affair – John OramCollapse )

The Vampire Affair – David McDanielsCollapse )

The Mad Scientist Affair / The Power Cube Affair – John T. PhillifentCollapse )

The Invisibility Affair / The Mind Twisters Affair – Thomas StrattonCollapse )

The Splintered Sunglasses Affair – Peter LeslieCollapse )

The Assassination Affair – J. Hunter HollyCollapse )

The Cross of Gold Affair – Fredric DaviesCollapse )

The Howling Teenagers Affair – Dennis Lynds Collapse )

The Beauty and Beast Affair – Harry WhittingtonCollapse )

The Deadly Dark Affair – John Jakes Collapse )

The Pillars of Salt Affair – Bill PronziniCollapse )


Back during my very first viewing of UNCLE's first season, I made an off-hand joke after watching (and, I must say, thoroughly enjoying) the infamous Bow Wow Affair about Illya "having to maintain his team's mandatory heterosexuality quota in Napoleon's absence". If you've read A Unified Theory of UNCLE (and if you haven't, you probably ought to do that before reading the notes below) you already have an inkling how far that idea snowballed.

Inspiration for the rest of the story came from various sources, split between other details that amused me about this show and numerous tidbits of real history. Actually, writing this fic became my excuse to read up on a whole wealth of interesting queer history and espionage-related subjects which I knew about only in passing going in. Since only a minority of all that was ever going to make it into the fic in any form, I'm taking this excuse to share a bit more about the real history I got to read up on, and plus plenty of links to more.

History notes - queer, de-classified, or otherwiseCollapse )

UNCLE canon notesCollapse )

And, finally, a word or two on the subject of Illya's PhDCollapse )


Poking through the old slashfic archives for The Man from UNCLE, one soon notes that where other fandoms have hooker AUs, MfU has the popular Illya Kuryakin: Gay KGB Honey Trap fanon backstory. Like so many old 90’s slash tropes, this one seems to have waned in popularity in today’s (at least theoretically) more culturally sensitive times, which may be no great loss. But the big surprise for me, when reading up on history of espionage for a quite unrelated fic idea, came in discovering just how much historical support there was for this particular sensationalist take on the inner workings of the KGB (let alone all the other Cold War era queer-espionage-shenanigans I'd wind up discovering along the way).

Under the cut: Gay sexpionage, the Cambridge Spy Ring, wild conspiracy theories about the ‘Homosexual International’, the UK secret services’ century-long love-hate relationship with gay spies, and a long and shameful legacy of persecutionCollapse )

Further readingCollapse )

One more Leigh Chapman article

Had to stick this last one in a separate post, as the post below was getting close to the limit. Not wholly a bad thing — it's the longest article in the set by a wide margin, so it doesn't hurt to separate it out.

Kannapolis Girl Writes Movies — And Acts Too
July 4, 1965
The Daily Independent from Kannapolis, North Carolina · Page 2

Read more...Collapse )
Just when I thought I was done with the girls-from-UNCLE, I discovered the archive of newspapers.com. They don't let you see whole articles without a subscription, but with a little creativity it's not too hard to find pages with partial OCR text, which covers more than enough to give you the gist (if not the full text) of many an article. The auto-text isn't perfect — a search for articles featuring 'David McCallum' will get you a good crop of results, but there's no way to know how many you've missed where his name has been misread as 'MCCALLL;M' or 'MwOellm' or whatever else, and the archive doesn't cover every issue of every paper in US history by any means. But even if you assume whatever you find easily is just the tip of the iceberg, it's still a veritable goldmine of historical data.

For example, limit the dates to 1964-65 and feed in the names of May Heatherly and Grace Lee, and it soon becomes apparently that those first two oft-forgotten UNCLE girls didn't just appear in the early promotion for the show, they were major features. In fact, they were such major features that I've had to split my full, chronological list of who-appeared-where into a second post, but for the basic rundown and a few key articles, keep reading.

Robert Vaughn is still the star, of course, but any number of articles have more to say about Lee and Heatherly than they do about McCallum or Carroll, and were far more likely to print a picture of them. Some don't even mention Vaughn or UNCLE as more than an afterthought. At least one article features no more than a passing mention of anything relating to the show, but still finds space for a large photo Vaughn flanked by both those lovely ladies. Heatherly in particular was the favourite — not only was she a gorgeous young actress whose career might be just taking off, recently returned to the States from Spain, but she'd reportedly spent some of those years in Spain studying to be a bullfighter, only to have to give it up on discovering that women weren't actually allowed in the ring. Her casting in UNCLE didn't need to be more than a convenient excuse; May Heatherly was already a story in her own right.

No matter how long I spent looking for references to her, I went on stumbling onto still more quite by accident, while looking for something else altogether, such as the one that appears next to a blurb primarily about Anne Francis' role in Giuoco Piano (Heatherly herself doesn't appear at all in that episode, though she is in Quadripartite). Indeed, photos of her assuring us that she had a "continuing role" in the series continued to appear long after the last of her episodes had aired. One even turns up in Press and Sun-Bulletin from Binghamton, New York next to an article about The Indian Affairs Affair as late as 1966. (Another paper misidentifies an actress as Grace Lee in a promotional shot from the end of 1965.)

Read more...Collapse )

News ArticlesCollapse )


The most famous girl from UNCLE is, of course, April Dancer, who starred in her own spin-off series, and many will at least remember Lisa Rogers, Waverly's assistant from the final season. But UNCLE was never short of female staff in a variety of lesser-known roles, some of whom would become the longest recurring characters in the show. Though they may not have made the opening credits, characters like Heather, Sarah and Wanda shared more than enough screentime to deserve a little recognition of their own.

But as anyone who's ever paid much attention to the guest cast would realise, the producers of The Man from UNCLE weren't all that sold on the importance of consistency, or even above taking the name "Mark Slate" from a 40-something American and giving it to a 20-something Brit. The supporting cast got this particularly bad. Mr. Del Floria, the only comparable male role, was played by four different actors over his six credited appearances (and at least a couple more over his uncredited ones), "Sarah" by three different actresses, and "Wanda" by seven – one of whom also played Sarah, just for maximum confusion. Producers would often cast whoever happened to be available at the time, while others would apparently drop a recurring actress so their girlfriend could have the role instead. After several attempts to make sense of it all via IMDB I eventually put together an honest-to-god spreadsheet just to get my head around it all. Instead, this turned out to be only the beginning.

Still, even between clashing schedules, unpredictable production changes, and more than their share of casting couch bullshit, some of these actresses still had a chance to leave a mark on the show – and the more I read up on them, the more interesting they turn out to be. Not much seems to have been written about either the characters or the actresses behind them – the section on them in John Heitland's otherwise fairly comprehensive book, for example, was riddled with errors and miserably brief. What started for me as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to make sense of just how many "Wandas" there really were gradually grew into a major piece of detective work and several thousand words worth of essay on half a dozen different characters. The result is probably going to be of most interest to trivia junkies and fic writers looking to flesh out their supporting casts, but if ever you find yourself in need of a (relatively) definitive resource on the female support staff of UNCLE, well, here you go.

The complete article is now more than long enough to require sub-headings. Links below cover all the most significant recurring roles, plus a handful of others who only showed up once who also stuck in my memory for one reason or another.

Read more...Collapse )



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