Super Spy Sunday — Honey West …a female “agent” breaking barriers on the small screen and in between the pages!
Welcome to our first edition of Super Spy Sunday. This week we are going to delve into the “gentler” sex’s contribution to the spy genre. Proving that females are more than a pair of killer legs in a skirt and “deadlier than the male”. One does not have to look far. Take nature and the animal kingdom…black widow spiders, praying mantis and bees- males seem to good for one thing and it’s not a massage. So that being said we look at a specific decade: the ’60s and over the weeks to come several women in particular.
The 1960’s was a time for change and two iconic box-office superstars were going to make a difference. Both stunning ladies on and off the screen. One well established, while the other just making a name for herself. Both smart and intelligent. Battling against stereo types and the given thought at the time that women were great at screaming when being chased, not able to think on there feet, crying at the thought of pain.
ABC’S promo for the premiere of -
Part 1- Honey West (1965)-Anne Francis- the series and the star proving smart and sexy can go together…
Click below — to get you in the mood and feel for the series. A real treat..the soundtrack to the series… a great massage for the senses and I highly suggest you listen as you read along…
- A CD was released featuring a remastered soundtrack — out of print , and if you can find it I advise you grab it.. recently spotted for around $40.00 ..is worth it.
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Above: the reprint of the first Honey West novel with a promo tag for Burke’s Law
Honey West was a female detective TV show originally based on a series of novels written by husband and wife team(Forrest & Gloria) under the name G.G. Fickling. The G.G. stood for his wife Gloria Gautraud. Now even though she will say she barely contributed anything. The truth is that she provided Forrest with Honey’s fashion sense and what a women’s point of view is, her intuition.
Above- one of the more lurid covers in the series.
For your reading pleasure- check out this link for hard copy and digital editions of the sexiest private eye …
Girl on the Loose: A Honey West Mystery
Girl on the Loose: A Honey West Mystery - Kindle edition by Fickling, G. G.. Download it once and read it on your…
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Even in literature she was one of the first female private eyes. The first novel published in 1957 and running through the ’60s. A total of 11 in all…
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- trivia- more recently some of her comic adventures a la Moonstone Publishing was brought to life as an audible. Done with a full cast and more in line with a vintage radio program. Sound effects included. Rounding out the experience is a credible cast in the voice department.
Above: cover art for Honey West # 7 from Moonstone Books.
- Check your local comic book shops for these more recent (but still to be considered back issues…) Honey West comics -scripted/written by Vertigo writer Elaine Lee and illustrated by Ronn Sutton. Illustrated books by Trina Robbins/Silvestre Szilagyi
- When in the Orlando area stop BAMF Comics & Coffee in Maitland. A Comics Coffee Community
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Above: you know you have made it when you have caricatures created of you …
Below: how about that for high speed car chases-this show had some amazing stunts and that is real.. not on a set.
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Honey the TV series aired on ABC Friday nights at 10:00 pm ET. Honey was spun off of Burkes Law from an episode that received rave reviews and then made it’s debut in the Fall of 1965. That episode “Who Killed the Jackpot?’ earned her the nickname the “privateyeful”. Even though she was a private detective the series offered up stories dealing with killer robots, a man who would be “Robin Hood” played perfectly by Ed “cookie” Byrnes (77 Sunset Strip). international drug rings.
And like shows( Peter Gunn, Hawaiian Eye, of that era it had to have a killer soundtrack/score Honey West had a jazzy title theme featuring trumpets and horns and a fun lounge/bachelour pad score with some very smooth sax notes accompany the end titles. The sound was unique and captured the flavor of the ’60s and ultra lounge mixed with jazz. The music written by Joseph Mullendore and supervised by Alfred Perry. Thanks to these two fellas and an incredible gathering of musicians the audience was treated to some wonderfully smooth and exciting ear candy.
Dressed to the hilt in stylish outfits-gowns,pants suits and flashy dresses. Many episodes saw Anne wearing clothes designed by Nolan Miller and John Ericson( Sam- Honey’s partner) walking around in Botany 500 suits when the occasion called for.
Below: notice the form fitting outfit… model after the Avengers…
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Above: Anne Francis looking glamerous and sexy…
Honey West was a martial arts expert and drove an exotic car, a Cobra. Had pet ocelot named Bruce and was owner/operator of a hip private eye concern that she inherited from her late father and along with that came Sam Colt-an ex-Marine. He became her partner “in crime”. He was the more level headed one who was always reminding Honey to loop the police in on the more serious cases like when murder was involved. And speaking of heads .. I don’t how many times throughout the run of the series that Sam takes a blow to the noggin and usually resulting in him being laid out cold…Sam drove a highly sophisticated surveillance vehicle disguised as TV repair van. In addition to this Honey and Sam made use of some really cool gadgets including 2 way radios, garter- belt gas mask, tear gas earing’s and an exploding compact.
Above: promos/clips for Honey West — keep an eye open on the last clip(approx 2:55 mins in)for a very young Maureen McCormick(pre — The Brady Bunch).
The show featured a plethora of guest stars some who would later go on to later individual success in film and TV, even Dick Clark of American Bandstand, Maureen McCormick (Brady Bunch) and Wayne Rogers(Mash) and Michael Ansara.
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Above: the board game by Ideal
Honey West proved popular enough to spawn an action figure, comic book adapation by Gold Key, soundtrack lp, a game plus new novels produced after the series initial run. Moonstone Books even rebooted the character with newly commissioned novels in the 90’s and early 2000's.
Below: the Honey West action figure by Gilbert Toys- note on the front cover to the box the descriptive words TV Private Eyeful.
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Honey West was played to perfection by Anne Francis who up to this point was already an extraordinary movie actress. Well known for her character Altaria in the big screen via 1951’s superb sci-fi flick-Forbidden Planet and co-starring The Blackboard Jungle. So why not make the jump to the small screen. She made many guest appearances in other TV series thru the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Kung Fu, My Three Sons, Matlock, The Golden Girls and Riptide to name a few. Besides Honey West in the 60’s on the big screen she could be seen as Jerry Lewis’ wife in Hook, Line and Sinker accompanied by the very funny Terry Thomas and a really entertaining caper film filled lots of intrigue and international locales- Impasse (1969) this time sharing the billing with Burt Reynolds and Aldo Ray. In her later years she became an author publishing her autobiography in 1982-Voices From Home and 2005 TV Guide ranked Anne as one of the “50 Sexiest Stars of All Time” -#18 on the list. Anne passed away in 2011 from a battle with cancer at age 80.
Below: Anne Francis publicity still for Forbideen Planet
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John Ericson in his early days appeared in plays including Broadway…first Broadway appearance- starred in the first production of Stalag 17…got his start in NY at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He shared classes with Grace Kelly(To Catch A Thief), Jack Palance (Batman ‘89)and Don(Mr Warmth)Rickles.
John made several films in rapid fire order in the 50’s and among them was Bad Day at Black Rock 1955 (starring Spencer Tracy & directed by John Sturges) playing brother to Anne Francis. This gave them an already established chemistry that was evident in Honey West. The game play and banter exchanged between them really elevated the series and made it fun and entertaining. John made a couple international cult films in the 60’s — one a Euro Spy flick entitled Operation Atlantis.
Post Honey West and his one venture in the Euro Spy genre Ericson appeared in a handful of films. One of the most memorable happened to be one of Disney’s top musical fantasies. It also is an all time favorite of mine & a Drive-In memory- 1971’s *Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Later in that decade came 1977's Crash. Loaded with lots of spooky atmosphere and character actors, Jose Ferrer, John Carradine and Reggie Nalder.
- Bedknobs-Loaded with some brilliant matte work and practical effects from Peter Ellenshaw. Plus one of the breeziest and most whimsical fun since Mary Poppins. This is a kids delight.
- ** Crash — Charles Band of Full Moon Features- production house and streaming service. Directed his first time out what would become a cult classic and a rarely seen film.
- Last appearance, Crash the TV series and no relation to the 1977 film listed above.
John retired from acting in 2008. Sad to say he passed away this past May at age.
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Above: publicity shot to promote Honey West with Anne and John.
Behind the scenes of Honey West was loaded with mega talented writers and producers. Some of which would carve a name for themselves in the annuals of Television history and see their work extend for a couple of decades. One of these talented people was producer Aaron Spelling who had that touch of gold. To his credit …Charlie’s Angels(1976–81), Love Boat(1977–86), Dynasty(1981–89) and Charmed( 1998–2006).
1) TV Land when making its inaugural run choose Honey West as one of its anchor shows.
2) Aaron Spelling holds the record as the most prolific Television writer and producer.
3) Honey West was cancelled after one season- the network-ABC at the time thought it would less expensive to import a series from the United Kingdom even though Honey West had a following and was well received critically. So Honey was gone and in came The Avengers with Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) and Jon Steed (Patrick Macnee). One wonders what would have happened if Honey had not been cancelled…
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The best news of all is that Honey West is available & remastered on DVD from VCI(see link below). Every episode in one collection plus a photo gallery for the series and a separate one featuring Anne Francis. But that is not all. VCI has gone to a lot of work to help create a nostalgic trip down memory lane by providing vintage commercials/PSAs that aired during the run of the show including bumpers for Honey West and promotional ads for the series with the actual stars either in character or as themselves-even plugging other shows airing on ABC. All have been cleaned up and fine tuned. The quality is even better than when first aired.
Link to VCI Entertainment
Above: Honey West -full episode a prime example of the series the quirkiness and the glamour of Anne Francis and keep an eye out for some of the cool gadgets.
In real life women spies have been kicking butt as early as the civil war at least in a documented fashion. one Elizabeth Van Lew communicated what would turn out to some of the best intelligence information to the Union Army. She relied upon her skills of listening and her freed slaves from her own plantation. So she was really deep undercover at a risk of her very life. Ever since then thru various wars and skirmishes it has not been just a “man” thing. I thought it pertinent to bring this information about female’s real life endeavors to light because we are talking a couple of hundred years plus in reality. Not true in the cinema and the small screen-celluloid life took a lot longer to be accepting that girls can do just as well if not better in serving their country and agency or fellow “man”. Especially when it came time to kick butt and place their lives in jeopardy vs the on-screen image that purveyed the female of the species as only capable of screaming, wincing and looking helpless.
I want to say only that I hope you seek out this amazing TV series and the novel adventures as well via (Amazon/Thrift.com/Ebay/Barnes and Noble) or your local bookstore. Ahead of its time with 2 actors who are so fun to watch that you don’t care if the stories are a little full of fantasy. Honey West was designed to be pure escapism and for that one hour a week in a decade that would prove to be a highly challenging one for not only our country but the world when it came to dealing with an arms race, Vietnam War, civil unrest and trying to express one’s self — it would become a place to go to get it away from it all.
This Doc saying the next time your down by the water and 2 bikini clad females slowly emerge from the water brandishing harpoon guns I think it is safe to say that they are not there for the house keeping positions you just ran ads for. And if ever there was a time to test those new PF Flyers of yours this might be it…so “goodnight Mrs Calabash where ever you are…”
Tune in Next Week or issue in this case — part 2 of the female of the species on Super Spy Sunday an ongoing series with the likes of Raquel Welch and Fathom…Diana Rigg — The Avengers and more….
Here’s a sneak peek of whats to come: