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Earle Hagen on "I Spy"

learn the inside story
about the "I Spy" scores

Earle Hagen

on ethnic music in “i spy” - on schedules - on recording - on “i spy” vs. other tv series - on producer david friedkin - on “tatia” & its importance - on the warlord - on  “laya” - on “home to judgment”


The scene in “So Long Patrick Henry with the four of them in the boat had one of the best music cues in that show. I had a theme for Ivan Dixon that played straight through the montage of them in the boat, then in a night club with them dancing a samba, then into a bar with the four of them sitting around talking while a piano player played in the background. The theme went straight through and never changed tempo while the background continuously changed to the samba and then to the slow jazz piano  background.

Ivan Dixon & Cicely Tyson
in "So Long Patrick Henry"


"The Asian music was part of the ethnic music that I studied. Most eastern cultures have their own scales. The Thai scale is very different from the Vietnamese or Japanese scales. Once you are familiar with what makes a particular country tick, it`s not so hard to write in that style. I always chose to westernize the music for our audience. Some of the far eastern music sounds like someone stepping on a bag of cats.

"The burden of music is to heighten the emotional stakes. When I see a sequence like the forces battering on the door and visions of kids playing musical chairs, I'm going to jump all over it. Wait until you read how the fight in Laya, with the wild Greek clarinet was done. In the book, of course.

I wrote a special theme for each of the countries. When you're writing some ten hours of music a year, material is your life`s blood. The theme I used for Hong Kong, or Japan was presented in the opening of all the shows in that country. It was modified, re-arranged and re-orchestrated to suit the picture values being shown. Once we left that country, I would write a new one for the next locale. In the three seasons of the show, I probably wrote somewhere around twenty hours of music and Hugo Friedhofer wrote another ten. Anyone who didn't develop generic material for a burden like that would be a fool.

ALL scoring was recorded in L.A. Before the show started, at Sheldon Leonard's invitation, Lou (my wife of 58 years so far), and I were invited to go on a `round the world trip with the Leonard's scouting locations for the up coming series, I Spy. On that 52 day trip we traveled first class, stayed in first class accommodations and at every airport were met by a car, driver, and interpreter, who stayed with us as long as we were in the country. On that trip, I started collecting ethnic music of the countries we visited. In addition, When the company went on the road during the series, I had the assistant director collect ethnic records for me. The actual scoring sessions were down in Hollywood. Having written two text books on "Scoring For Films, " and "Advanced Techniques For Film Scoring," it was not unusual, when I couldn't duplicate the necessary sounds I needed, for me to combine the Royal Gagaku Orchestra of Japan with my orchestra in Hollywood. Such as the sword fight with Culp and the Japanese leader in "Tigers of Heaven." The wild clarinet track in "Laya" was a combination of my orchestra in Hollywood and a reel of ethnic music that I bought from a radio station on the island of Rhodes.

Of the sites we used, I had visited, Hong Kong, Japan, Rome, Italy, Spain and went with the company to Marrakech, Lisbon, Athens and the Greek Islands. Lou and I both went to Mexico (Acapulco) every time we could when the company was shooting there. I can't tell you how many times I followed a group of Mariachis around with a jug of Tequila in one hand and a battery operated tape recorder in the other.

I westernized all the music. That was our audience. I like to feel that I still retained the authenticity of the various countries we shot. I made deals to record local musicians, for instance in Greece where I recorded a wonderful group headed by a leading Bouzouki player and composer, George Zambetes. I hired his group to appear in two shows that were shot in the Greek Islands, one of which was Lotus Eater, I think. After the recording session, I caught a plane to England, Transferred to a plane to Chicago and then to L.A.! Long trip.


I received the scripts as soon as Sheldon OK'd them for production. We generally prepared thirteen scripts before the company left home. There were many shows where I had to provide visual music before the company hit the road. I spent a lot of time in Mexico with the company and went to Greece to prepare for four shows that had visual combos. After reading the script for "Laya," I wrote the song, long before the show was shot. I sent the song to New York and Gene Lees wrote the lyric. It was my job to provide, advise and prepare anything the company might need on the road, or at home. On one show, whose name I have forgotten (LORI)?, I pre-recorded Nancy Wilson and then went up to Las Vegas to cover the shoot. Along with four other series going at the same time, I SPY kept me off the streets. Aside from pre-preparation, I had two weeks to breakdown and write and record each show I received


Some of the shows of course stand out in memory: "Tatia," "Laya," "Home to Judgment," "Warlord," and one of my favorites, "Mainly On The Plains." "Mainly" had terrible problems with the dialogue recording in the garden sequences between Culp and Karloff. I covered it with music to fill the background which was full of noise. It served the purpose but unfortunately, the music wasn't heard very much.

Most people are not aware that I Spy was the first show in TV to use radio mikes. In 1964, radio mikes were primitive. They not only picked up the dialogue but all the ambient sounds within several hundred yards. The more the recordist reached for the dialogue the more street sounds, including cars and trucks going by, he brought into the dialogue track. In Hong Kong, the radio mikes would pick up rock and roll broadcast from Victoria Peak as well as radar sweep from the harbor. "Mainly" had good thematic material, some fun stuff and a sizeable score. One of my favorites.

with Boris Karloff in "Mainly on the Plains


I Spy was the first real challenge for me. I had been working on comedy shows for ten years with Sheldon. It never occurred to him that I might not be able to deliver that kind of product. But then, it never occurred to me either. It was a fun show for music. An adventure. Sheldon gave my full reign and we never looked back. That kind of show will never happen again in television.

I guess my favorite show for eight years was "The Andy Griffith Show." It covered the spectrum from warmth to complete zaniness. It also was easy to write. Worthwhile, when you are doing four or five different series a week. I had to run five shows a week, break them down, and decide where and when and why we were going to score them. Each show took a couple of hours to prepare before attempting to write. In addition, I had to conduct them. That was an additional three hour session several times a week. Then, I had to sit down and write them. I was busy.


Dave Friedkin and I worked together a lot. He was, along with Mort Fine, the post production producer in charge of finishing what Sheldon had shot on location. David was a graduate of Julliard, as a violin major, and we had a great rapport. Originally, he was an actor and while he only appeared in one show, he directed many, including “Tatia. “

David Friedkin

Mort Fine was on the road with the company in Marrakech and Casablanca; one of the trips I made. He acted in one of the Greek shows; I believe, "Lets Kill Karlovassi." Mort had a brief part in it and was found dead, hanging on the inside of a door on a boat. Mort Fine was a delightful character. He and I had a great time on that particular trip.


"The eleventh episode, “Tatia,” was made in Japan. In that story, Scotty, fearing Kelly will be killed by a beautiful woman he is dating, tries to prevent his friend from going out with her. The two men have a knockdown, drag-out fight; and Culp finally wins the short, but violent battle. Yet, realizing that Scotty has acted out of genuine concern, Kelly accepts his friend's advice. He sets a trap for the woman. In time, she is killed by the enemy forces for whom she spies. While the show was an outstanding episode, the real importance of it was the relationship developed between Culp and Cosby. It was to presage the rest of the “buddy cop” television shows to follow: “The Mod Squad,” “The Rookies,” and “Starsky and Hutch.” On the big screen, films like “Lethal Weapon,” and “Tango & Cash,” were cut from the same cloth.

Starting with that eleventh episode, the chemistry Sheldon hoped for between Culp and Cosby blossomed."

Laura Devon as "Tatia"


"As Marion Hargrove said, when he was through-he was through. I don't remember talking with Culp about "Warlord," but it`s been a long time and the memory grows dim. I didn't do my thing until the picture was edited and cut to a final version. About three weeks after that episode was completed. By the time sound effects and music (low men on the totem pole) got the picture, the company was working on their third show. I remember on viewing the show for the first time, I thought the blows on the door were effective and could be incorporated into the music. I also knew that if they weren't in a steady beat I could get the editor, Art Said, to cut them into a useable rhythmic pattern. This wasn't even considered until the picture was in final cut.

Robert Culp's vision of "The Warlord"

"What I remember most about "Warlord" was that it was a back breaker of a score to do and came at a time when we were stacked-up in production and just about run out of time. I didn't sluff it. But then. I never sluffed anything. I Spy, along with my other shows, gave me 16 hour workdays, seven days a week for forty weeks a year. In the twelve weeks off between seasons, if anyone mentioned music to me I would kill."


"My favorite score was an I SPY score, "Laya." I think it was because it involved a strong love story. I had a good theme for it which I turned into a song for the tag called, "Voice In The Wind." That along with a mix of underscoring and some technical tricks added up what I consider a really good job. Aside from the fact that I believe it was a sensitive score, I believe it did what it was supposed to do; it heightened the emotional stakes. You can read about it as well as a lot about I SPY in my new book."


"I had nothing in mind when I first ran "Home To Judgment." It was so stylized that I felt the normal I Spy approach would not work. When I looked at a new show to score, I would try to find a key scene that would help me determine the combination I would use. In Home To Judgment there were two. The first was the opening sequence which with the split for the main title ran over six minutes. The second was the scene where the killer with the blinding light comes to get them. I knew there was no way dramatically that my regular combo, a big dance band, plus percussion, would work for this picture. After thinking what I could use to heighten the dramatic stakes and carry me through the long chase, I called my contractor, Wally Popp, and told him I wanted to hire the following orchestra: two pianos, two harps, 4 basses, 4 French horns and 6 percussion. There was a long silence and Wally said, "Sure you Do." I had a hard time convincing him that that combo was what I really wanted. With a six minute plus opening with no dialogue and a tremendously tense killing sequence, the combination made exactly the sounds I heard in my head before I wrote them. Outside of reading advanced scripts for pre-recording issues, I never worked from scripts. The impression you get the first time you run a piece of film is often the most reliable. At least for me."

Will Geer & Robert Culp
in "Home to Judgment"

In 2002 Film Score Monthly released a CD of five Earle Hagen “I Spy” scores .  

Direct from the soundtracks of "So Long, Patrick Henry" -  "A Time of the Knife" - "Turkish Delight," - "The Warlord" -
"Mainly on the Plains" along with a 24-page booklet of liner notes and photos and foreword by Robert Culp

Buy it through Amazon

And Earle Hagen's hip sounds were not just heard as backing for drama and comedy.  He's also worked extensively in the recording industry


The BIGGEST “I Spy” News in Three Decades
Now available on DVD
ALL 82 Episodes of “I Spy”

I Spy Season 1

I Spy Season 2

I Spy Season 3

And Read the  book all about I Spy !