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Saturday, Jan. 7, 1961

The Avengers, starring Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel, a London physician whose fiancee has been murdered by drug smugglers, and Patrick Macnee as John Steed, a British secret agent who co-opts Dr. Keel as an amateur assistant, premieres at 10 p.m. on ITV in England.

Monday, Feb. 27, 1961

Sam Rolfe finishes pilot script for an adventure series titled “The Dragons and St. George” that goes unsold but contains many ideas he will incorporate into U.N.C.L.E.

Friday, March 17, 1961

Life magazine publishes a list of 10 favorite books of new U.S. President John F. Kennedy; From Russia, With Love is ninth on the list. Fleming’s novels enjoy a huge boost in prestige and popularity.

Tuesday, March 21, 1961

Kevin McClory files suit against Ian Fleming for copyright infringement after reading an advance copy of Thunderball, which Fleming based on the screenplay for “James Bond of the Secret Service.” At a hearing on March 24, London’s High Court rules that Thunderball can be released as planned without prejudicing McClory’s suit.

Monday, March 27, 1961

Thunderball, the ninth James Bond book, is published in England.

April 1961

Thunderball is published in America.

Wednesday, April 5, 1961

Danger Man premieres on CBS at 8:30 p.m., becoming the first 1960s spy show on American television. Preceding the release of the James Bond movies, it comes and goes with little notice, running only through Sept. 13 as a summer replacement for Steve McQueen’s series, Wanted Dead or Alive.

Wednesday, April 12, 1961

Ian Fleming suffers a major heart attack at weekly Sunday Times editorial board meeting. During his six-week stay in the hospital, he passes the time writing the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

May 1961

Harry Saltzman, his six-month option on James Bond nearing its end with no production deal made, is introduced by writer Wolf Mankowitz to another film producer, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, who has been interested for several years in adapting Bond to the screen. They form a partnership called Eon Productions to sell the Bond package to a studio.

June 1961

Norman Felton, in London to pitch MGM-TV product to the BBC, encounters BBC assistant controller of planning for television Joanna Spicer, pictured here, who asks accusingly why the leads in American series must always be tall and muscular, and why the heroes are always American and the villains from other countries. Unable to answer, Felton mentally files away her comments for future inspiration.

Wednesday, June 21, 1961

Saltzman and Broccoli get backing from United Artists to make six James Bond films. The current novel Thunderball is chosen as the first movie.

August 1961

Screenwriter Richard Maibaum turns in first draft of “Thunderball” script. United Artists rejects screenplay when it becomes clear that McClory-Fleming litigation will not be quickly settled. “Dr. No” becomes the first James Bond screen title.

Sunday, Sept. 17, 1961

Robert Vaughn appears in premiere episode of Follow the Sun, “A Rage for Justice,” ABC series featuring his future Lieutenant co-star Gary Lockwood.

Thursday, Sept. 28, 1961

Dr. Kildare, the first TV series produced by Felton’s Arena Productions for MGM, premieres on NBC. David Victor produces the series starring Richard Chamberlain as Kildare and Raymond Massey as Dr. Gillespie. MGM-TV also sells Cain’s Hundred, produced by Paul Monash, to NBC, and Father of the Bride, a sitcom based on the studio’s 1950 picture, to CBS.

October 1961

Saltzman and Broccoli choose little-known Scottish actor Sean Connery to play James Bond.

Sunday, Dec. 17, 1961

Robert Vaughn appears again on Follow the Sun in “The Far Side of Nowhere,” playing a different character in this episode.

Monday, Dec. 18, 1961

Robert Vaughn appears in “The Heckler” episode of 87th Precinct, police series co-starring Norman Fell.

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