Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Late Great Larry Storch

Chances are good that Larry Storch will always be remembered best as Phineas J. Whoopee on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales and Corporal Randolph Agarn on F Troop, but he appeared in a large number of other shows. He provided voices for both theatrical animated shorts and animated TV shows. He appeared in such movies as Sex and the Single Girl (1964), The Great Race (1965), and S.O.B. (1981). On top of this he even appeared on Broadway. Sadly, Larry Storch died yesterday, July 8 2022, at the age of 99.

Larry Storch was born on January 8 1923 and grew up in the Bronx. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School where one of his classmates was Don Adams. They remained friends their entire lives. He and Peter Marshall also met when they were only teenagers. He was already a skilled impressionist by the time he was in high school and he was only 17 years old when he appeared at the Paramount Theatre in New York on the same bill as Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee. During World War II he served in the United States Navy on the USS Proteus.

Following the war, Mr. Storch wrote for the radio show The Kraft Music Hall. He did an impressive impression of Frank Morgan, then host of the show and was even asked to substitute for Mr. Morgan when he was ill. After he met bandleader Phil Harris in Palm Springs, Lucille Ball hired Larry Storch to open for her husband Desi Arnaz at Ciro’s on the Sunset Strip. The gig led to Larry Storch's work on television. He made his television debut on Toast of the Town (later renamed The Ed Sullivan Show) in 1949 and later appeared on The Saturday Night Revue with Jack Carter in 1950. He hosted Cavalcade of Stars from 1951 to 1952. In 1953 he appeared on his own show, The Larry Storch Show in 1953. In the Fifties he also appeared on such variety shows, talk shows, and game shows as This is Show Business, I've Got a SecretThe Colgate Comedy Hour, The Perry Como Show, The NBC Comedy Hour, Stage Show, The Arthur Murray Dance Party, The Steve Allen Show, The Big Record, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and Tonight Starring Jack Paar. He guest starred on the shows The Phil Silvers Show and Hennessey. He appeared in the movies The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951), Stalag 17 (1953), Gun Fever (1958), The Last Blitzkrieg (1959), and Who Was That Lady? (1960), in which he reprised his role from the Broadway play. He made his debut on Broadway in 1956 in The Littlest Revue. In 1958 he appeared in Who Was That Lady I Saw You With?.

It was in 1965 that Larry Storch began playing Corporal Randolph Agarn, the bumbling, emotional business partner and sidekick of the scheming, double dealing Sgt. Sylvester O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker) on F Troop. He was the voice of Koko The Clown in a the series of Out of the Inkwell shorts produced for television in 1962. He had a recurring role as the drunk Charlie on Car 54, Where Are You?. He was also the voice of Phineas J. Whoopee on the Saturday morning cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. Later in the Sixties he starred on the sitcom The Queen and I and provided the voices of Drac, Ghoulihand, and Ratso on Sabrina and the Groovy Ghoulies. He guest starred on the shows The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Greatest Show on Earth, Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Baileys of Balboa, Gilligan's Island, Vacation Playhouse, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, I Dream of Jeannie, The Mothers-in-Law, Garrison's Gorillas, Get Smart, He & She, That Girl, Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C., The Flying Nun, The Name of the Game, My World and Welcome to It, and The Debbie Reynolds Show. He appeared on such variety shows, talk shows, and game shows as Tonight Starring Jack Paar, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine, That Was the Week That Was, That Regis Philbin Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Milton Berle Show, The Andy Williams Show, Everybody's Talking, The Hollywood Squares, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Operation Entertainment, The Jerry Lewis Show, It Takes Two, House Party, and The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour.

In the Sixties Larry Storch also provided voices for various Depatie-Freleng theatrical animated shorts, including the Commissioner in their series of "The Inspector" shorts among other voices. Later in the decade he voiced Cool Cat, Colonel Rimfire, Merlin the Magic Mouse, and other voices for Warner Bros. theatrical animated shorts. He appeared in the movies 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), Wild and Wonderful (1963), Wild and Wonderful (1964), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Bus Riley's Back in Town (1965), The Great Race (1965), A Very Special Favor (1965), That Funny Feeling (1965), The Great Bank Robbery (1969), and The Monitors (1969).

In the Seventies Larry Storch continued as the voice of Ratso on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He provided voices for the animated TV shows The Brady Kids. He was one of the leads on the live action Saturday morning show The Ghost Busters and had a recurring role on The Doris Day Show. Larry Storch was a regular on Chevrolet Presents the Golddiggers. He guest starred on the shows The Persuaders!; Alias Smith and Jones; All in the Family; Temperatures Rising; Tenafly; Emergency!; Love, American Style; Mannix; Kolchak the Night Stalker; Columbo; Police Story; McCloud; Switch; Phyllis; CPO Sharkey; Rosetti and Ryan; The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams; The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries; The Love Boat; The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo; B.A.D. Cats; Phyl & Mikhy; CHiPs; and Fantasy Island. He appeared on such variety shows, game shows, and talk shows as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Candid Camera, The Dave Frost Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Jerry Reed When You're Hot You're Hot Hour, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and Dinah!. He was a guest voice on the Saturday morning cartoons The New Scooby-Doo Movies and The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. He appeared in the movies Airport 1975 (1974), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), Record City (1977), and Without Warning (1980). He provided voices for the animated films Journey Back to Oz (1972), Treasure Island (1973), and Oliver Twist (1974).

In the Eighties he provided voices for the Saturday morning cartoons Foofur and Garfield and Friends. He was the voice of General Halftrack on the TV special Beetle Bailey. He guest starred on the shows Aloha Paradise; Fantasy Island; Harper Valley P.T.A.; Trapper John, M.D.; Small & Frye; The Fall Guy; Knight Rider; Adventures Beyond Belief; and Out of This World. He appeared in the movies S.O.B. (1981), Fake-Out (1982), Sweet Sixteen (1983), A Fine Mess (1986), and Medium Rare (1987). He appeared on Broadway in a revival of Porgy & Bess and a revival of Arsenic and Old Lace.

In the Nineties Larry Storch guest starred as himself on the TV show Married...With Children. He guest starred on Land's End and Days of Our Lives. He appeared in the movies I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore (1992) and Il silenzio dei prosciutti (1994). He appeared on Broadway in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun. In the Naughts he appeared in the TV movie The Funkhousers and guest starred on the show Medium Rare. His last films were Funny Valentine (2005) and Bittersweet Place (2005).

In his long career Larry Storch was a regular on TV shows, provided voices for both animated theatrical shorts and Saturday morning cartoons, and acted in both movies on Broadway. Starting out as a comedian and impressionist, he proved to be a versatile actor. Indeed, his two best known parts couldn't be more different. As Corporal Agarn on F Troop he was not terribly bright, overly emotional, and often very easily frustrated. As Mr. Whoope on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales he was "the Man With All the Answers," who educated Tennessee (Don Adams) and Chumley (Bradley Bolke) on everything from music to physics. What is more, on F Troop he played Corporal Agarn's various relatives, including his Canadian cousin  Lucky Pierre and his Russian cousin Dmitri Agarnoff. Larry Storch had the remarkable ability to create memorable characters even when he had limited screen time. In the Columbo episode "Negative Reaction," he played the uptight, by-the-book driving instructor Mr. Weekly who finds fault with Lt. Columbo's driving. In the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "An Out for Oscar," he plays the timid bank employee of the title, who finds out his wife Eva (Linda Christian) is unfaithful. He was Texas Jack in The Great Race, an overly aggressive and greatly feared, if not particularly competent, outlaw. Larry Storch played the Swami in S.O.B. a parody of spiritual gurus. On the Saturday morning live action TV series he played Eddie Spencer, a more honest version of Corporal Agarn, overly emotional and not terribly bright. Of course, he provided voices for a wide variety of cartoon characters from The Joker on The New Scooby-Doo Movies to Koko the Clown.

In addition to being an enormous talent, Larry Storch was also known as a truly sweet man who appreciated his fans. He was well known for his kindness to those fans lucky enough to meet him. He was one of those celebrities one never heard an unkind word about, one of those celebrities that people came away from meeting with smiles and warm hearts. Part of the announcement of Larry Storch's death on his official Facebook page reads, "Please remember he loved each and every one of you and wouldn't want you to cry over his passing." It is safe to say his fans loved him back.

Friday, July 8, 2022

The Late Great James Caan

Legendary actor James Caan, who starred in such movies as The Godfather (1972), Rollerball (1975), Thief (1981), and Misery (1990) died on July 6 2022 at the age of 82.

James Caan was born on March 26 1940 in New York City. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Germany. His father was a butcher and meat dealer. He grew up in Sunnyside, Queens. He attended Michigan State University and later Hofstra University. Despite not graduating from college, it was his years in college that fuelled his interest in acting. He studied acting at The Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City.

James Caan made his television debut in 1961 in an episode of The Naked City. In the Sixties he guest starred on such shows as Play of the Week, Route 66, Alcoa Premiere, The Untouchables, The Nurses, Wide Country, Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, Death Valley Days, Combat!, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Breaking Point, Channing, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Wagon Train, The F.B.I., and Get Smart. He made his television debut in 1963 in a bit part in Irma la Douce. In the Sixties he appeared in the movies Lady in a Cage (1964), The Glory Guys (1965), Red Line 7000 (1965), El Dorado (1966), Countdown (1967), Games (1967), Submarine X-1 (1968), Journey to Shiloh (1968), The Rain People (1969), Rabbit Run (1970).

In 1972 James Caan appeared in his breakout role as Sonny in The Godfather. This would led to lead roles in several notable movies during the Seventies, including Cinederella Liberty (1973), Rollerball (1975) and A Bridge Too Far (1977). He also appeared in the movies T. R. Baskin (1971), Slither (1973), The Gambler (1974), Freebie and Bean (1974), The Godfather Part II (1974), Gone with the West (1974), Funny Lady (1975), The Killer Elite (1975), Silent Movie (1976), Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976), Un autre homme, une autre chance (1977), Comes a Horseman (1978), 1941 (1979), Chapter Two (1979), and Hide in Plain Sight (1980). On television he starred in the TV movie Brian's Song and guest starred on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

In the Eighties he appeared in the movies Thief (1981), Les uns et les autres (1981), Kiss Me Goodbye (1982), Gardens of Stone (1987), Alien Nation (1988), Dick Tracy (1990), and Misery (1990).

In the Nineties James Caan appeared in the movies The Dark Backward (1991), For the Boys (1991), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), The Program (1993), Flesh and Bone (1993), A Boy Called Hate (1995), North Star (1996), Bottle Rocket (1996), Eraser (1996), Bulletproof (1996), This is My Father (1998), Mickey Blue Eyes (1999), The Yards (2000), Luckytown (2000), and The Way of the Gun (2000). In the Nineties he guest starred on the television show NewsRadio. He played Phillip Marlowe in the HBO TV movies Poodle Springs.

In the Naughts James Caan starred on the television series Las Vegas, on which he played Ed Deline, President of Operations at the fictional Montecito casino. He also guest starred as Ed Deline on the TV show Crossing Jordan. He guest starred on the animated series The Simpsons, Family Guy, and The Annoying Orange. He appeared in such TV movies as Lathe of Heaven (2002), Blood Crime, The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie, and Wisegal. He appeared in the movies Viva Las Nowhere (2001), In the Shadows (2001), Night at the Golden Eagle (2001), This Thing of Ours (2002), City of Ghosts (2002), Dogville (2003), Jericho Mansions (2003), Elf (2003), Santa's Slay (2005), Get Smart (2008), New York, I Love You (2008), Middle Men (2009), Mercy (2009), and Henry's Crime (2010). He was the voice of Tim Lockwood in the animated movie Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs (2009).

In the Teens James Caan was a regular on the TV shows Magic City and Back in the Game. He guest starred on the show Hawaii Five-0. He appeared in the TV movies Wuthering High and JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. He appeared in the movies Detachment (2011), Small Apartments (2012), That's My Boy (2012), For the Love of Money (2012), Blood Ties (2013), The Outsider (2014), A Fighting Man (2014), Preggoland (2014), The Throwaways (2015), Sicilian Vampire (2015), The Good Neighbour (2016), Good Enough (2016), JL Ranch (2016), The Red Maple Leaf (2016), Holy Lands (2017), Undercover Grandpa (2017), Con Man (2018), and Out of the Blue (2018). He provided voices for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) and the English version of Kaguya-hime no monogatari (2013). He appeared in the episode "House of Louis" on The Pack Podcast.

James Caan was an incredibly talented actor. He may always be best remembered as the temperamental Sonny in The Godfather, but he played a wide variety of other roles. He played the somewhat naive Mississippi  in El Dorado. In the TV movie Brian's Song he played Brian Piccolo, the Chicago Bears player who develops cancer. In Cinderella Liberty he played the lonely sailor John Baggs Jr. He was the stalwart Houston rollerball team captain in Rollerball and Frank, the jewel thief of the title in Thief. James Caan was best known for his "tough guy" roles, but he was quite adept at comedy, as shown by his appearances in such films as Slither, Freebie and the Bean, and Elf. James Caan was a great talent capable of playing a diverse number of roles.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Late Great Joe Turkel

Joe Turkel, the character actor who played Lloyd the bartender in The Shining (1980) and Dr. Eldon Tyrrell in Blade Runner (1982), died on June 27 2022 at the age of 94.

Joe Turkel was born on June 15 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Polish immigrants. Joe Turkel joined the merchant marine in 1944. In 1946 he joined the United States Army. After his service he returned to New York City where he studied acting. In 1947 he went to Hollywood to pursue a career in film. He made his movie debut in City Across the River in 1949. Over the final years of the Forties he would appear in such films as Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949), Sword in the Desert (1949), Angels in Disguise (1949), Lucky Losers (1950), Federal Man (1950), Triple Trouble (1950), and Southside 1-1000 (1950).

In the Fifties he appeared in the films Halls of Montezuma (1951), Fixed Bayonets! (1951), Starlift (1951), Down Among the Sheltering Plains (1951), The Glass Wall (1953), A Slight Case of Larcency (1953), Man Crazy (1953), Duffy of San Quentin (1954), Gypsy Colt (1954), Return from the Sea (1954), The Human Jungle (1954), The Bamboo Prison (1954), Cell 2455, Death Row (1955), Mad at the World (1955), The Naked Street (1955), Lucy Gallant (1955), Inside Detroit (1956), The Killing (1956), The Proud and the Profane (1956), Friendly Persuasion (1956), The Shadow on the Window (1957), Hellcats of the Navy (1957), The Midnight Story (1957), Beau James (1957), Jeanne Engels (1957), House of Numbers (1957), Paths of Glory (1957), The Beast of Budapest (1958), The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), The Case Against Brooklyn (1958), Verboten! (1959), Warlock (1959), Here Come the Jets (1959), The Purple Gang (1959), Visit to a Small Planet (1990), The Boy and the Pirates (1960), and Tormented (1960). He made his television debut in 1952 in an episode of Boston Blackie. He guest starred on such shows as Dangerous Assignment, The Unexpected, I'm the Law, General Electric Theatre, Four Star Playhouse, I Led 3 Lives, Damon Runyon Theatre, Public Defender, The Lone Ranger, Crossroads, Highway Patrol, TV Reader's Digest, Navy Log, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Broken Arrow, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Code 3, The Californians, The Loretta Young Show, Tombstone Territory, Sky King, Dr. Christian, Official Detective, Boots and Saddles, The Silence Service, Jefferson Drum, Dragnet, Tales of the Texas Rangers, Rescue 8, Frontier Doctor, Mackenzie's Raiders, The David Niven Show, The Texan, Tightrope, The Lineup, Bat Masterson, and U.S,. Marshal.

In the Sixties Joe Turkel appeared in the films Portrait of a Mobster (1961), The Yellow Canary (1963), Johnny Cool (1963), The Carpetbaggers (1964), Village of the Giants (1965), King Rat (1965), The Sand Pebbles (1966), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), The Devil's 8 (1969), and The Animals (1970). He guest starred on the TV shows One Step Beyond, The Detectives, Two Faces West, The Asphalt Jungle, The Aquanauts, Lock Up, Tallahassee 7000, The Roaring 20's, The Dick Powell Show, Wagon Train, The Law and Mr. Jones, Ripcord, The Untouchables, East Side/West Side, Combat!, Ben Casey, Convoy, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Andy Griffith Show, The Felony Squad, The Rat Patrol, Bonanza, Ironside, Judd for the Defense, Land of the Giants, and Adam-12.

In the Seventies Joe Turkel appeared in the movies Wild in the Sky (1972), Six-Hundred & Sixty Six (1972), Cycle Psycho (1973), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), The Hindenburg (1975), The Commitment (1976), Which Way is Up? (1977), and The Shining (1980). He guest starred on the shows The Chicago Teddy Bears,Cade's County, S.W.A.T., Police Story, Kojak, and Fantasy Island.

In the Eighties Mr. Turkel appeared in Blade Runner (1982) and Dark Side of the Moon (1992). He guest starred on the shows Tales of the Darkside and Miami Vice.

Joe Turkel retired from acting following Blade Runner and wrote unproduced screenplays. He also wrote an unpublished memoir, The Miseries of Success.

Joe Turkel was an incredible actor. In many of his films he only appears for a few minutes at most, yet he always left an indelible impression on viewers. As Lloyd in The Shining, he only appears briefly, yet the character remains memorable. In Blade Runner Dr. Tyrrell is not on screen for long, but is one of the movie's most unforgettable characters. Over the years, Joe Turkel appeared in a large numbers of roles, as well as a large variety of roles. He was comfortable with comedy, guest starring as bank robber Fred in the Andy Griffith Show episode "Otis the Deputy." He played gangsters on The Untouchable, yet he was a district attorney on Ironside and the sheriff in the cult film Village of the Giants. Regardless of what role he played, Joe Turkel always gave a good performance. He will likely always be remembered for The Shining and Blade Runner, but he played so many other roles.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

"You're Dead" by Norma Tanega

I am guessing most of my readers are not familiar with Norma Tanega. She was a folk and folk rock singer who worked extensively with Dusty Springfield. Her only major hit was "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog," which went to no. 22 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart in 1966.Today I suspect she may be best known for her song "You're Dead," which is used as the theme for the TV show What We Do in the Shadows. Since I am a bit under the weather today, I thought I would share it with you as I don't feel up to a longer post.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Mary Mara Passes On

Mary Mara, who played Loretta Sweet on ER and Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges, died on June 26 2022 at the age of 61, She drowned while swimming in the St. Lawrence River in Cape Vincent, New York.

Mary Mara was born on September 21 1960 in Syracuse, New York. Her father, Roger Mara,  was the director of special events for the New York State Fair. She attended Corcoran High School in Syracuse. She attended  San Francisco State University and later the Yale School of Drama. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from Yale.

Mary Mara made her television debut in the TV movie The Preppie Murder in 1989. During the Nineties she had the recurring role of Loretta Sweet on ER. She later had the recurring role of Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges. She guest starred on Philly Heat, Hope & Gloria, Dellaventura, The Visitor, NYPD Blue, Ally McBeal, Farscape, G vs E, Law & Order, Profiler, and Rude Awakening. She was a guest voice on the animated shows Spicy City and Poker Night. She made her film debut in Blue Steel in 1990. In the Nineties she appeared in the movies The Hard Way (1991), True Colors (1991), Out of the Rain (1991), Mr. Saturday Night (1992), Love Potion no. 9 (1992), Graham (1992), Just Looking  (1995), Bound (1996), and A Civil Action (1998).

In the Naughts, Mary Mara had brief recurring roles on the shows The Handler, Star Trek: Enterprise and Dexter. She guest starred on the shows That's Life, The Practice, Gideon's Crossing, Judging Amy, The Huntress, Becker, The West Wing, Third Watch, Boston Public, Philly, Crossing Jordan, The Guardian, North Shore, Without a Trace, 7th Heaven, Joan of Arcadia, Monk, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Nip/Tuck, Bones, Lost, Saving Grace, and Lie to Me. She appeared in the movies Lloyd (2001), K-PAX (2001), Em & Me (2004), Undoing (2006), Swedish Auto (2006), Gridiron Gang (2006), and Prom Night (2008).

In the Teens Miss Mara had a recurring role on the TV show Ray Donovan. She guest starred on the shows Shameless, Criminal Minds, Secrets and Lies, and Doubt. She was a guest voice on the animated series Pet Pals. She appeared in the movies Paradise, Fl (2015), The Sphere and the Labyrinth (2015), and Break Even (2020).

Mary Mara was a very fine actress. This is demonstrated by her role as Loretta Sweet on ER. Loretta was a prostitute who occasionally came to the emergency room to be treated. She also had children. Eventually she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Miss Mara played Loretta with a poignancy that makes the character more memorable than some of the regulars on the shows. Of course, she also played Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges, a character far removed from Loretta. Bryn was a tough, but fair cop who was often called upon to go undercover. Over the years Mary Mara played a wide variety of roles, from a police informant to social workers to alien beings. What is more, she was convincing in all of these roles.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy 4th of July 2022

I want to wish my fellow Americans a happy 4th of July! Here at A Shroud of Thoughts it is my custom to post vintage pinups every 4th of July. Without further ado, here is this year's batch.

First up is Shirley Jones with a really big rocket!

Fireworks aren't enough for Jane Adams! She has to set off a cannon.

Maggie Pierce is lighting off several firecrackers!

Jayne Mansfield and some really big firecrackers!

Cyd Charisse with a lot of fireworks!

And it wouldn't be the 4th of July without Ann Miller!

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Diana Rigg in The Assassination Bureau (1969)

(This blog post is part of the Other Than Bond Girl Blogathon hosted by Realweedgiemidget Reviews)

Chances are good that Dame Diana Rigg will always be best remembered as Emma Peel on the classic television show The Avengers. Of course, she will also be remembered as Countess Tracy di Vicenzo in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). While both The Avengers and On Her Majesty's Secret Service are well remembered, one of Dame Diana Rigg's best movies is nearly forgotten. The Assassination Bureau (1969).

The Assassination Bureau stars Diana Rigg as Sonya Winter, a suffragette and journalist who uncovers the Assassination Bureau, Ltd., a secret organization that has existed for centuries and is in the business of murder for hire. Sonya takes a novel approach to putting an end to the Assassination Bureau. Quite simply, her boss, Lord Bostwick (Telly Savalas) gives Sonya £20,000 to hire the Bureau to assassinate their own chairman, Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). As it turns out, the Assassination Bureau will only kill those who are truly worthy of death, such as criminals and tyrants. As many of the Assassination Bureau's members have taken to killing for money, Dragomiloff accepts Sonya's assignment and throws down the gauntlet for the other board members of the Bureau to try to kill him.  Of course, as might be expected, things are not quite as they seem.

The Assassination Bureau was based on the unfinished novella The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. by Jack London. Jack London had bought the idea for the novella from Sinclair Lewis in 1910. Jack London wrote 20,000 words before he finally gave up on the novella because he could not think of a way to properly end it. Jack London died in 1916, so The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. remained unfinished for decades. Eventually mystery writer Robert L. Fish completed The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. based on both the unfinished manuscript left behind by Jack London and an outline of an ending for the novella created by Jack London's wife Charmian not long before her death in 1955. The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. was then finally published in 1963. Given President John F. Kennedy was assassinated not long after the novella came out, it proved to be a source of some controversy.

It was in 1966 that it was announced that director Basil Dearden and producer/screenwriter Michael Relph were making a film based on The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. for United Artists. Basil Dearden and Michael Relph had already made several films together, including The Bells Go Down (1943), The Blue Lamp (1950), Sapphire (1959), and many others. Mr .Dearden had even directed "The Hearse Driver" segment of the classic Dead of Night (1945).  While Jack London's novella The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. was rather serious, the movie Messrs. Dearden and Relph had in mind would be an adventure comedy.

Michael Relph had in mind an English lead when he wrote the screenplay, but unfortunately United Artists insisted that Burt Lancaster be cast in the lead role. Michael Relph ended up revising the script to fit with the casting of Burt Lancaster, none of which pleased Mr. Lancaster. Burt Lancaster then left the project. Michael Relph attracted the interest of Rex Harrison as the lead in The Assassination Bureau, but United Artists had absolutely no interest in Mr. Harrison. Ultimately, United Artists lost interest in The Assassination Bureau. This not mean that the project was dead. Basil Dearden and Michael Relph took The Assassination Bureau to Paramount Pictures.

Ultimately, Michael Relph got the British leading man he had wanted to begin with. Oliver Reed had already established his name as a film actor, having appeared in several Hammer productions, as well as the films The System (1964), The Jokers (1967), and I'll Never Forget Wat 'isname (1967). Of course, the female lead was none other than Diana Rigg. Diana Rigg had already become an outright phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic in the classic spy TV series The Avengers. Later, in 1969, she would play Tracy, the one woman to win James Bond's heart, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1968). Curiously, Telly Savalas, one of the few non-British actors in the cast of The Assassination Bureau, would play the villain Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

While The Assassination Bureau was based on Jack London's The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., the movie differs from the book a good deal. The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. is a very serious work, with some rather deep philosophical underpinnings. In contrast, the movie The Assassination Bureau is a light hearted comedy adventure. Furthermore, while The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. is set in the United States, The Assassination Bureau is set in Europe during the Edwardian Era prior to World War I.

Filming on The Assassination Bureau began in April 1968. It was shot on location throughout Europe, including scenes taking place in London, Switzerland, Paris, Venice, Vienna, and Czechoslovakia. Paramount poured a good deal of money into The Assassination Bureau, in the hope that its stars and production value would translate well at the box office.

The Assassination Bureau received a trade show release in March 1969 and went into wide release in April 1969. For the most part reviews were positive. The review in The Guardian referred to The Assassination Bureau as "elegant, quite witty, engaging" and complimented both Basil Dearden's direction and Michael Relph's screenplay. John Russell Taylor of The Times described it as "a killingly funny film." The film did receive some negative reviews as well. The critic at the Daily Express was particularly vicious with regards to the movie, stating that he "didn't like the beginning or the middle, but I loved the end--simply because it meant the ordeal was over." The Assassination Bureau would receive some recognition by various awards. The Assassination Bureau was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best English Language Foreign Film and Diana Rigg was nominated for the Laurel for Female New Face.

In the United Kingdom The Assassination Bureau did modestly well at the box office in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, it did little business in the all important market of the United States. I think it could be possible that the film's title, The Assassination Bureau, could have been unappealing to Americans, the previous year (1968) having seen the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It could also be the case that in 1969 The Assassination Bureau was already something of an anachronism. In the mid-Sixties such period piece pastiches as The Great Race (1965), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), and The Wrong Box (1966) were popular. At the same time, spy spoofs from Our Man Flint (1966) to The Silencers (1966) met with success. By 1969, both the period piece pastiches and particularly spy spoofs were no longer quite as fashionable. Since The Assassination Bureau was bit of a period piece pastiche and bit of a spy spoof, it should probably be no surprise that it was met with indifference in the United States.

That The Assassination Bureau had less than stellar box office numbers in the United States is disappointing in retrospect. Quite simply, The Assassination Bureau is a highly enjoyable film. Oliver Reed is remarkable as the chairman of the Assassination Bureau who comes to question the organization's morality. Diana Rigg does a great job as Sonya, who shares both Emma Peel and Tracy Bond's independence, but is different enough that she is not a carbon copy of those characters. The script has no shortage of laughs and no shortage of excitement either. And it must be pointed out that, even in the Sixties, there weren't many movies with a climax aboard a Zeppelin. The Assassination Bureau may not be one of Diana Rigg's best remembered movies, but there is every reason it should be.