IT TAKES A THIEF EPISODE 2.13 – GUESS WHO’S COMING TO RIO (CLASSIC TV EPISODE)
Robert Wagner with Luiz Bonfá and Bola Sete (1969)
I would do this anyways but it sure is a bonus when people actually read these posts and it’s even better when people engage with me. When recently I profiled a book on bossa nova, one of my favourite readers, Betty, mentioned to me this episode of Robert Wagner‘s old series, It Takes a Thief. She said that on this particular episode, Wagner’s Alexander Mundy travels to Rio de Janeiro where he digs the sounds of two bossa nova legends in a night club. Not only was their music played but these two legends actually appear on screen. I have to admit, I was skeptical. But, all due respect to Miss Betty.
Sure enough, the thirteenth episode of the second season of It Takes a Thief was called “Guess Who’s Coming to Rio” and it aired on Tuesday night, January 7, 1969 from 8:30 to 9:30 on ABC. Airing opposite The Red Skelton Hour, The Liberace Show and Diahann Carroll’s Julia, it must have killed in its time slot. In this episode, Al is on vacation and he foolishly chooses Rio de Janeiro, apparently a hotbed of international intrigue. A Russian lass who has witnessed things that will get her killed is hoping to defect. The local security chief is fed up with his job and plans to go with her. Little does he know that his second-in-command is trying to kill him and take over his job. Two local hoodlums are also conniving – they have been paid to kill the Russian girl and soon join forces with the chief’s assistant. The SIA’s operative in Rio seems derelict in his duty as it’s up to Al Mundy to figure out how to get the girl out of town alive.
And Betty was bang-on right; at one point, Mundy says he is going to hear “two of my good friends”, Luiz Bonfá and Bola Sete, play in a club and there they are. They play three numbers and I’ll admit I can’t identify the first that’s being played when Mundy greets Luiz. I don’t think I’ve heard it before. Al goes in to use the phone and when he comes back out I’m pretty sure I hear them run down “Corcovado”, perhaps the most beautiful song ever written. Much later, Bola Sete steps out front and smiles while guest star Teri Garr dances appealingly. Scouring the internet for info on this episode, all I could find were two entries that list Bola Sete’s compositions and “It Takes a Thief Cues” appears, leading me to believe that is the title of this number and Bola was simply riffing and he knocked this tune out for the episode.
I was happy to notice that the cast is loaded with familiar faces, many who were players in Elvis World, in fact. Suave and handsome Alejandro Rey plays the second-in-command to the security chief. He appeared as a foil for King in 1963’s Fun in Acapulco but he may be best known for his stint on the thorn in Sally Fields’ side, The Flying Nun. The Argentinian died of lung cancer in ’87. Syrian Michael Ansara, the security chief, played Prince Dragna opposite Elvis in Harum Scarum (1965). The prolific actor played characters of many races through a 50-year career in Hollywood. Ansara was married to Barbara Eden for many years and made it to 91, dying from complications from Alzheimer’s in 2013. Teri Garr (billed here as “Terry”) plays an American party girl. A dancer in her youth, Garr can be seen – if you really look hard – dancing in nine Elvis movies. She’s perhaps most easily spotted in Roustabout (1964). She was also in Pajama Party (1964) and Head (1968). Big John Russell is the SIA’s point man in Rio. I spoke a bit about cowboy actor Russell in my review of the film noir Undertow (1949). He rounded out his long career in Clint’s Pale Rider (1985).
Sharp-eyed fans of classic films may detect a similarity between this episode and John Huston’s classic The Maltese Falcon (1941). Two characters here are obviously reminiscent of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre’s work in that film as Casper Gutman and Joel Cairo respectively. Unknown Aram Katcher (Lorre-like) was actually born in the former Constantinople but had a less-than-minor career in Hollywood. The Greenstreet type is Bruno VeSota, a Lithuanian out of Chicago. Another lifelong B movie actor, Bruno somehow got the chance to direct, helming such forgotten fare as The Brain Eaters (1958).
The closing credits of this episode list “Luiz Bonfá and the Bola Sete Trio” and I’ve scoured the internet and there is nothing out there to read about the appearance of these two legends on Wagner’s show. It’s a treat for us fans of bossa nova to find this nugget. We all need to thank my reader, Betty, for bringing this to light; this article is now likely the only info on the net about this episode. There is a terrible print of this episode on YouTube. Buddy presents it in “letterbox”, I guess, but the bottom half of the screen is cut off! Beggars can’t be choosers; of course, I could buy the DVDs. Click here to watch; it may be available in your country. But, y’know what happened? I searched YouTube for this episode, found it, watched it and took some frame grabs for this article. Less than two days later, the video has been blocked in my country by NBC Universal. It’s amazing that I saw it while I could. I commented on the vid at YouTube which may have sent up a red flare. YouTube is free, remember; if something on there catches your eye, watch it before it’s gone! But thanks again to Betty who shared with me (and in the comments below) the link to the video on Daily Motion. It’s a much better print. Check it out here.
Hi Gary: I’m so glad that you managed to watch/find the “It Takes A Thief” episode which featured Bonfa and Sete. I actually watched it on Dailymotion.com, and while it’s not a great copy at least you can watch it full screen. As of about 2 minutes ago, it can still be found on Dailymotion.com if anyone is interested in watching the episode.
As we previously discussed, I’m a huge fan of the bossa nova sound and this series, so the combination is pure magic for me. Thanks for taking the time to write a post about this episode of the series.
Thanks again to you, Betty! I cannot for the life of me find this episode on Daily Motion. I did look there previously and again just now. What did you search for there? I wonder if you have a link for us?
Hi Gary: funny, I haven’t had any issues finding this episode, along with many others, on Dailymotion.com. But I’m going to include the link to the episode here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6vdqdf. Let me know if you are successful in finding/watching this episode on dailymotion.com.
And again, thank you for taking the time to indulge my love of this genre of music and, of course, It Takes A Thief. I’m still working my way through Season 3, of 4.5 seasons, of Remington Steele, but have already decided that Magnum P.I. will be my next ‘nostalgia hit.’ For some reason, I seem to be attracted to tv series that were on in the 80’s:)
Betty, I clicked your link and there it is! Great to see the “whole” screen! Then I opened another tab, went to Daily Motion, and searched again for the episode – nothing! Really weird. I dunno what the heck. Anyways, I hear you on the shows from the 80s – I love them, too. They take me right back. I really get the same vibe from 70s shows in maybe a different way. I may go back in and edit my article and update it with better pictures from the Daily Motion video
Hi Gary: that is really weird re: the dailymotion.com site, as I haven’t experienced any of the issues you have when looking for a particular tv series. And yes, while at this moment I’m into tv series that were on in the 80s, I also love tv series of the mid-to-late 60s as well as the 70s. I appreciate a site like dailymotion.com because it lets me watch all kinds of tv series that I might not want to, or can’t, buy (e.g., Magnum P.I., RipTide, etc. Or even earlier series like Blue Coronet (with Frank Converse), The Man Who Knew Too Much (with Robert Lansing, Blue Light (with Robert Goulet), etc. Speaking of Robert Lansing, I loved him as Gary Seven, on an episode of Star Trek; and his co-star was Terri Garr. I know that it was positioned as a possible spin-off to a series with both those actors, but it never happened, which was always a big disappointment for me.
In fact, I’m also a huge fan of classic movies, and have hundreds of dvds to prove it! I don’t know if you’ve heard of a particular site that allows you to stream practically any movie and/or tv series out there. I go to it whenever I want to watch a particular movie, that I may not already have or don’t particularly want to buy, but feel like watching it at the moment. If you would like me to send you the name of that site, send me a message and I’ll pass it on.
Wow! I was doing good up to Riptide but then you threw some names at me I’ve never heard of! I’ve had to slow down my constant buying of DVDs and really ask myself — will I ever watch that one again? So, yeah, if I can watch them online, I like to and then I can decide to buy or not. Hard to find good places to stream classic films these days.
Gary: that’s exactly what I say, re: watching vs buying as I have so many dvds already. And yes, the tv series that I listed were originally shown in the mid-to-late 60s and I’ve tried to watch as many episodes as were available on youtube. I think that you might get a kick out of watching any/all of the series I listed, and if you do, let me know what you think.
I haven’t yet checked to see if any of them are available on dailymotion.com, but they might be. If so, I will definitely let you know.
Sounds good. Would love to send you a message, like you mentioned, by I don’t know how.
Hi Gary: for some reason I thought that you could access my email address, as I use it every time I post a comment, is that not the case?
I feel like that rings a bell but I’ve looked back at your comments and all that appears is your name.
Hi Gary: I guess my email address isn’t accessible, but never mind. I’m going back to the discussion we had a while ago, about there being a site where you can access movies and tv series for free. The site that I visit to watch classic movies and tv series is: ok.ru. I don’t sign in but just type in the name of the movie I want to watch; for example, if you wanted to watch “Viva Las Vegas” (I know that you’re a huge Elvis fan), you would, on Google, type in Viva Las Vegas ok.ru, and then a listing(s) of the movie would then come up. I just typed in the Viva Las Vegas ok.ru and there it was. I’m going to guess that you could watch any/all of his movies:)
II first read about this site from another blogger and was skeptical as to what I could actually watch on this site, but it turned out that I was wrong. It has turned out to be one the best things ever; it’s a gift that keeps on giving and I hope that I/others can continue to access movies and tv series on this site.
If you decide to try it, let me know what you think about the site as I’d love to hear your take on this ‘service.’
Betty, I love this site. I signed up and everything! They have virtually everything I’ve ever searched for. There’s only been a couple of titles I went looking for that they didn’t have there. And sometimes there are no English language versions but I would agree; it is a great site. I’ve yet to search for TV series there. I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!
Gary: It’s great site, right? I knew you’d love it as much as I do. I’m so glad that I was told about this site as it’s been a real life-saver in the sense that anytime I think of a particular movie I want to watch, I just go on over to the site and it’s there. And you’re right, there have been a handful of movies that I couldn’t find on the site, but that’s a small price to pay for having access to most of the movies that i love. I’ve already spent a number of hours catching up on movies that I haven’t seen in a while. And I’m also going to be ‘watching’ a lot of movies on the site this weekend.
By the way, I’m also a fellow Canuck who lives in Toronto:)
I always have to consider the legality of a site like that. But I can live with myself when I consider that many of these films are unavailable in any other format because of silly business or monetary reasons. The streaming services I do have access to simply don’t have what I want to watch. For example, the Watch TCM app? Not available in Canada. I never dreamed you be from Toronto! I grew up at Keele and Sheppard and now live about an hour north of that.
Gary: I just read your twitter post regarding the movie “Picnic”; you can watch it on the site I mentioned above. I also really like the movie and just watched a few minutes of it myself. I love Rosalind Russell in this movie; her character is a heart-breaker.
Russell’s character in this film infuriates me.
She’s a hard character to watch, as she can be a lot of work, but I get that her behaviour is propelled by her fear of loneliness. Although, I have to admit that the Arthur O’Connell character gets a lot of my sympathy during most of the movie, I have to say that I’m mostly cheering for Roz’s character to not end up being alone and lonely.
And while I am a huge Kim Novak fan, I wouldn’t characterize her role in this movie as being one of favourite. That would be, Bell, Book and Candle; I love that movie. I’m a huge fan of any movie set in New York City, which this is, and the cinematography is lovely. The cinematographer was James Wong Howe, my personal hero, and he did a terrific job of showing New York City at it’s loveliest. I could go on for hours about this movie, but I’ll stop now. And, in another life I would have wanted to be a cinematographer:)
Have you seen this movie, and if so, what do you think of it? And if not, run, don’t walk, and find a copy of it.
I used to own Bell, Book & Candle on VHS. Personally, I don’t care for films that deal with witchcraft. They’re just not for me. Kim I sometimes struggle with, too. Gorgeous but I’m still trying to figure out if she can act.
Regarding the legality of a site, I agree with your thinking, but these are stressful times and I feel justified in ‘accessing’ this particular site as it is bringing me a lot of happiness.
Wow, you grew up at Keele and Sheppard, while I grew up around the Kensington Market area and now live near the Yonge and York Mills area.