Alan Caillou inteview, Starlog, March 1998

(Alan Caillou joined the British Army at the outbreak of WWII in 1939. Since he spoke Arabic, he was immediately sent to the Western Desert. He joined the Intelligence Corps and spent 1941 and 1942 operating behind enemy lines in Libya and Tunisia. Captured by the Italians in January 1943, he was court-martialed on espionage charges and sentenced to die by firing squad. He appealed on technical grounds and escaped in March. He was recaptured by the Germans five days (120 miles) later in the Libyan Desert, then escaped again in September, reaching the British lines at Salerno two months later. He spent the rest of the war with guerillas in Yugoslavia, as an intelligence officer.)

Starlog: How did you get the job of writing for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?

AC: In those days when there was a new show, the producers called all the agents and said, “Send your writers ’round.” My agent, Rebecca Halsey, called me and said, “Alan, there’s a new show you might like called Man from U.N.C.L.E. You better go around and take a look at it. So I took a look at it and it was very interesting, straightforward, sensible, solid drama. I liked it very much and I told Reece, “I want to work for them.” I wrote a script and it was accepted and played. According to the official Man from U.N.C.L.E. Book, I was one of three writers who stopped it from being cancelled in the first year. The others were Dean Hargrove and Peter Alan Fields. The book says we were the ones who changed the whole setup completely.

Starlog: And you would agree that you and the others did that?

AC: I remember that Norman Felton, the producer, called me in and said, “We want to change this, Alan. It’s not working. See what you can do with it.” I said, “We’ve got to have more tongue-in-cheek. It has to be funny.” Norman said, “Well, try. See how it works.” And that’s what we did. But then, in the course of time, it went to another producer and then a second time to somebody who should have been shot dead. Instead of tongue-in-cheek humor, he wanted belly laughs, he wanted farce, like musical comedy farce. He destroyed it completely. That’s when I stopped writing for it.

Then there was also The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., which was a dead loss. I did one play for Girl from U.N.C.L.E., but I didn’t like doing it; I hated what I had written, I hated what they did with it. That’s when I stopped writing altogether for U.N.C.L.E. and it disappeared off the face of the earth. And that was a shame because U.N.C.L.E. was a wonderful show. It started off so dreadfully severe – real danger and no fun and games at all. Once we started putting some dry “digs” in there, a little bit of dry humor here and there, it perked the show up enormously. I like to think of that as my forte, I want to make fun of everything. I wish Man from U.N.C.L.E. could have run forever.

Starlog: When you were an actor on U.N.C.L.E., how did you enjoy that set?

AC: Oh, I liked playing that very much because everything was done so carefully and so well. It’s good for an actor to know he’s working with people who know what they hell they’re doing. The worst thing in the world is when people *don’t.* I got to know David McCallum more than Bob Vaughn – Vaughn always seemed to me a little aloof. I liked his work and I thought he knew exactly what he was doing, and so did David, of course. David and I got on well because we both came from the same neck of the woods in England.

Starlog: Would you visit the set on an episode you had written but weren’t in?

AC: Only infrequently; writers were always considered a nuisance there. Bud I did have the pleasure of meeting Anne Francis (star of the Caillou-written episodes “The Quadripartite Affair” and “The Giuoco Piano Affair), whom I had always greatly admired as an actress. I found her to be a very nice lady indeed. I saw those two episodes again recently and I thought the script of “Quadripartite Affair” was not very good; I couldn’t for the life of me discover what the hell was going on. But the bandit was played by an actor I had always admired, Roger Carmel. I seem to remember suggesting him for the part – not that I often had much say in the casting. However, I greatly enjoyed “Giuoco Piano Affair,” which I had always thought was one of my best scripts ever. But the greatest pleasure was seeing again “The Bow Wow Affair,” [an episode about trained killer dogs] which brought back many fond memories. Almost all of the dog stuff was for real. Once I heard they were using the Dobies I had written into the script, I turned up on the set, uninvited, four or five times, because of my enormous affection for Dobermans. Perhaps I should mention at this point that many years ago – “many” is right, we’re talking 1935 – I was a cop in the Palestine Police, and owned a Triple International Champion Dobie named Cleopatra. I was also a member of an outfit called the Institute of Canine Psychology, which dealt largely with the training of guard dogs and their handlers, much needed in those days of early Arab intefadas, and I somehow became their Dobie specialist. My job was training guard dogs and dog handlers. And separating fighting dogs whenever necessary.

But back to “Bow Wow.” I objected strongly – that’s why they hate us writers on the sets – to the use of pepper as a deterrent on the dogs at the episode’s end. I told McCallum, “There’s a much better way, both for the script and for you. Go to the dogs, show them your empty hands, crouch down and tell them, ‘I’m Dog People, I love you both.’” David said to the dog handler, ‘You think we could get a couple of cocker spaniels in there?” But I wanted to show him. I said to the handler, ‘Do me a favor, say nothing,’ and when he nodded, naturally interested, I went to the dogs and did what I had to do. In less than a minute, one of them was already licking my face. The handler was shocked. Recovering, he said, a little sourly, “One word from me, he would have torn your throat out.” And he was probably right.