The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

1966 | United States

Inferior spin-off from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but notable for launching the TV career of Stefanie Powers (as well as introducing Rex Harrison's son, Noel), The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. was inspired by Peter O'Donnell's British comic strip heroine, Modesty Blaise

First published in the Evening Standard in 1963, Blaise was given the big screen treatment in 1966, the same year that Stefanie Powers took on the role of April Dancer, who came equipped with a bottomless handbag of specially designed weaponry. However, Powers was not the first actress to appear as U.N.C.L.E.'s leading female operative. That distinction fell to former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley (with veteran actor Norman Fell in the Harrison role) in a Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode entitled 'The Moonglow Affair'. 

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
Norman Fell and Mary Ann Mobley in 'The Moonglow Affair'

Continuity from the parent series was provided in the form of secret organisation chief Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll,) who would send Dancer and her sidekick Mark Slate (an agent transferred from U.N.C.L.E.'s London office) in pursuit of the evil T.H.R.U.S.H, and Napoleon Solo was apt to make the odd appearance. Stefanie Powers, (Stefania Zorfja Federkievicz), was born in Hollywood of Polish extraction and first won fame for herself in a 1962 film entitled Experiment in Terror (which starred Glenn Ford and Lee Remick). At school she was a member of the girls' swimming team and learned to speak Italian, Polish, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic. While testing for a role in West Side Story she was seen by a film talent scout and signed to make her first film appearance in Among the Thorns. (Later TV starring roles included Toni Danton in The Feather and Father Gang (1977) and Jennifer Hart in Hart to Hart (1979-1984). 

Noel Harrison had first drawn attention to himself as a singer on the TV show Tonight. An accomplished skier (he was a member of the British Olympic teams in 1952 and 1958) he later went on to have a top ten UK single with 'Windmills of your Mind' (1969). Leo G. Carroll starred in around half a dozen TV series'. "I've played a number of police officers, judges and schoolmasters during my career," he said in a 1966 interview, "but I've never had the chance really to engage in any form of cloak-and-dagger swashbuckling. Perhaps that's why this Waverly character fascinates me." 

The series was even more far-fetched than the one that spawned it and it's over-the-top silliness failed to make an impression with viewers. As a result both Dancer and Slate were decommissioned after one season. In the UK the series (while it lasted) was shown on alternate weeks in rotation with 'T.M.F.U.'

Published on December 19th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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