5 September 2006 | Cheyenne-Bodie
The great Robert Lansing gambles on this ambitious new series after being fired from "Twelve O'Clock High"
Quinn Martin fired Robert Lansing from "Twelve O'Clock High" for being difficult to work with and not showing enough respect. (Press releases at the time wrongly attributed the firing to ABC's wanting a younger lead.) Lansing never worked for Quinn Martin again.
Lansing used the year after he was fired to find another series for the 1966-67 season. He first made a western pilot called "The Long Hunt of April Savage", about a man searching for the people who murdered his family. That pilot was created by Sam Rolfe ("Have Gun, Will Travel", "The Man From UNCLE") and was produced by Gene Roddenberry ("Star Trek"). Rip Torn and Bruce Dern guest starred. It was filmed on location near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
When "The Long Hunt of April Savage" didn't sell, Lansing signed on for this show about a spy who impersonates his murdered double. The double was a flamboyant millionaire business tycoon with a very beautiful wife, who he was cheating on. Lovely, cultivated Dana Wynter ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers") played the wife who goes along with the deception for reasons of her own. Eventually she falls in love with the impersonator, who turns out to be a better man than her real husband was. (Hazel Court could also have been interesting in the role of the wife.)
Van Williams ("Bourbon Street Beat", "Surfside Six") said he auditioned for the lead in this show, but the producers felt he was too young. However 20th Century Fox liked the audition so well that he got "The Green Hornet", which was on the same year.
"The Man Who Never Was" was filmed entirely on location in Europe, which gave it an interesting look-but also must have been very expensive. Talented John Newland ("One Step Beyond") was the producer and directed all but one of the episodes. (Lansing's first Hollywood guest star role had been on "One Step Beyond").
Dana Wynter had guest starred twice with Lansing on "Twelve O'Clock High".
Robert Lansing and Dana Wynter made an attractive, appealing couple. You could see why Lansing might have chosen to stake his career on this show: 1) the premise was intriguing (if far fetched) 2) a hero with a "pretend" wife offered interesting dramatic opportunities 3) no other show was being filmed on location in Europe 4) the role was extremely challenging-a complex action hero with a secret 5) producer John Newland was a man of taste and 6) his co-star was a beautiful, talented actress (and a former movie star).
Robert Lansing was excellent in the show. He was convincing in every department of an exceedingly demanding role. But the dice came up snake eyes. I think the biggest problem was the 30-minute length.
Robert Lansing might have been shrewder to pick another spy series that was casting while he was looking for a new show: "Mission Impossible". Lansing would have been fine as Dan Briggs, the role played by Steven Hill. Or Lansing might even have been good as Captain James Kirk, a role also being cast at the time by Gene Roddenberry.
"The Man Who Never Was" was Robert Lansing's third series lead, and it turned out to be his last. Lansing was one of the finest 60's series leads, in the same class as David Janssen, Patrick McGoohan, Ben Gazzara, Rod Taylor and William Shatner. Quinn Martin told TV Guide that Lansing turned down the lead in "The Fugitive" (although its hard to believe).
Lansing should have tried a fourth series as soon as "The Man Who Never Was" was canceled. Shows Lansing might have been interesting on include "Judd for the Defense", "The Outsider" (in the Darren McGavin PI role), "Mannix", "Hawaii 5-0" or "The Protectors" segment of "The Bold Ones" in the Leslie Nielsen chief of police role. Instead, Lansing ultimately chose to pretty much stay away from TV and focus on stage work, where he received some superb reviews.
Five years after "The Man Who Never Was", Robert Lansing and Dana Wynter guest starred on a "Marcus Welby" episode that was directed by John Newland.