Tuesday, August 25, 2009
A SPY BY ANY OTHER NAME : HOW THE UK'S DANGER MAN BECAME THE USA'S SECRET AGENT - ITC & CBS-TV - CIRCA 1964-1968
John Drake was James Bond on a budget. The resourceful Drake was the dashing, M-9, undercover operative whose daring exploits in espionage were at the center of the action in the 1960's British, cult series DANGER MAN.
Starring the debonair and provocative Patrick McGoohan as the ironic, intelligence agent who gave his all for Queen and County in each episode, DANGER MAN was created and produced by the versatile Ralph Smart for ITC,Sir Lew Grade's London-based, global,syndication service.
The series, which debuted in B&W and later transitioned to COLOR, reached the apex of its world-wide popularity between 1964 and 1968.
In the UK, the Dominion of Canada,Ireland and other outposts of the British Empire, the gritty series was branded as DANGER MAN. But, when CBS-TV bought the rights to broadcast the series in the USA and then decided to run it as an April, 1965 addition to the Saturday night schedule, network programmers wanted a more energetic and distinctive opening title sequence in hopes of attracting a young,American television audience.
The youth movement was in full force across the media landscape, and prime time viewers were fascinated by tales of espionage , thanks to shows like THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. on NBC-TV.CBS programmers had heard a rock and roll paean to super spies called SECRET AGENT MAN, sung by a young,southern rocker named Johnny Rivers.
CBS and ITC bought the domestic rights to the song. Next, a high camp, animated opening sequence, designed to match the driving pace of River's antic anthem was created.
Prolific composer, Edwin Astley's droll, harpsichord intro and HIGH WIRE ,his intricately tooled theme for DANGER MAN were moved behind the title sequence.
SECRET AGENT , which had been expanded from 30 to sixty minutes in length, was ready for it's American television debut. The sophisticated series was a summer hit. It made its way onto the Fall 1965, CBS-TV schedule, and ran until 1968. That's when McGoohan left the series to develop and star in another ITC/CBS-TV, cult hit, THE PRISONER.
Below are three clips that show , in broad stroke, the progress from DANGER MAN to SECRET AGENT.
First, an excerpt of DANGER MAN, circa 1964, with a simple, elegant opening sequence, followed by Edwin Astley's expressive and intense theme, HIGH WIRE. Enjoy!!!!
Next, here is an opening "tease", and new title sequence for the same episode as above , when the series appeared on CBS-TV in 1965 as SECRET AGENT. There's also a bonus, network commercial for Westinghouse ovens. Enjoy!!!!
Finally,Johnny Rivers in a solo performance of SECRET AGENT MAN on a syndicated, teen dance show, circa 1966, riding the crest of the song's popularity.Enjoy!!!