March 16th, 2016

Section 10

Concerning Illya and his being Russian on the series....

From my book, Work/Text: Investigating the Man from U.N.C.L.E., currently available on amazon:
go here. I spoke to Norman Felton, Sam Rolfe, George Lehr and David McCallum on the topic. There's more but here's part of the answer.

From Chapter 5

Considering the political events of the time period (the Cuban Missile Crisis
had occurred just a year before), it appears rather daring to include a Russian as a
major protagonist. Felton remembered that he and Rolfe discussed the desirability
of having a sidekick who was other than North American. They talked about
someone British, French, and Polish and finally hit on Russian. Although Rolfe
feared that NBC would “never go for it” (N. Felton, personal communication,
October 2, 1995), he also thought such a character would give the series a “little
edge” (G. Lehr, personal communication, October 1, 1995). Rolfe told a UCLA
graduate student, Karen Vik Eustis (1983), that the choice of a Russian was more
for dramatic than political reasons, to create an unusual character with an aura of
mystery. Kuryakin would provide a contrast to Solo, whom Rolfe saw as “Cary
Grant . . . a man in a tuxedo” (p. 21).

In the prospectus (Rolfe, 1963b), as if anticipating objections, Rolfe spends
some time explaining the wisdom of and rationale for having U.N.C.L.E. draw
agents from behind the Iron Curtain. He points out times when Kuryakin might
be used (a situation in which the Soviet Union might be wrongly blamed) and
when he would not (a sensitive political situation involving a missile misfired).
Both passages discussing these incidents are crossed out and deleted from the final
draft. So, too, was Rolfe’s speculation that Illya may be a member of the NKVD,
the Russian Secret Police, a correction that was emphasized by a scribbled and
emphatically underlined, “No” (p. 15). Years later, Rolfe admitted that in the back
of his mind, he thought the agents’ first loyalty would be to their respective
nations. Although the agents might work together normally, they could also work
against each other if so ordered by their home services (Heitland, 1987a; also see
Magee, 1986b). This idea never surfaced in either the pilot or subsequent series.

Incidentally, the name Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, although authentically
Russian, is a peculiar spelling to say the least. Rolfe admitted misspelling the name
because he himself wasn’t “Russian enough” (Rolfe, 1992b). It appears to be a phonetic,
Americanized spelling of Ilya Nikolaievich Kurakin, or possibly Kirjakin (L.
White, personal communication, October 15–16, 1998, citing B. O. Unbegaun,
1972). Rolfe never said where he found the name, but perhaps it is no coincidence
that, like Napoleon, characters named Ilya and Kurakin (changed slightly to
Kuragin in the novel) appear in Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, War and Peace.

From chapter 10:

However, one can’t deny that ideology and organizational practices strongly
influenced many decisions made in the development and run of the series. For
example, short-sighted NBC executives objected to the inclusion of Illya
Kuryakin, and it was only through shrewd inter-organizational maneuvering by
Felton and Rolfe that the character was preserved. Although Illya was presented as
ethnically Russian, no amount of maneuvering could keep him unambiguously
Soviet as well. Certain code words were inserted in dialogue during the first season
to cue savvy viewers, but afterward Illya slowly became more and more
Americanized, as if later third season writers and producers couldn’t even imagine
a lead character as anything else. So, in the end, creativity and political boldness
were diluted by ideology, thus confirming what critical researchers often
maintain is too often the reality in the mass media.

Today it is . . .

. . . Lips Appreciation Day!

Lips are important for many reasons, but there are two main ones. Firstly, they allow us to form words and sounds in order to communicate verbally. Secondly, they allow us to communicate in a much more personal and non-verbal way. Lissing is one of the greatest things invented. From a mother kissing her child's booboo better, to lovers who kiss like their lives depended it, kissing is a wonderful way of expressing feeling.

I couldn't find any pictures which were suitably humorous, so instead I'll give you two men with very kissable lips. One for we Illya girls, and one for the Napoleon girls.