On 007’s 50th, will Harry Saltzman be the forgotten man?

This week, the official 007.com Web site added some new features, including this greeting from Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions:

At the 0:22 mark, Wilson says, “Cubby Broccoli made Dr. No, the first Bond film, in 1962.” Albert R. Broccoli did indeed produce the film with his then-partner Harry Saltzman. Now, Wilson is Broccoli’s stepson and our guess is this isn’t an intention dig at Saltzman, who exited the series in 1975 and died in 1994. It is, after all, a 45-second video, not a definitive history. But it may be a sign that in 2012, the year of the cinema Bond’s 50th anniverary, Saltzman may end up being overlooked.

When Saltzman’s name comes up today, the image is of a cranky, volatile man who almost axed the classic Goldfinger title song, ordered elephant shoes for a movie (The Man With the Golden Gun) that didn’t have any elephants in it, etc., etc. At least one film historian, Adrian Turner, took a different view in his 1998 book, Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“To begin with, Saltzman took the responsibility for the scripts” of the early 007 films, Turner wrote. “Having worked with John Osborne, it’s clear he thought that Richard Maibaum — Broccoli’s man — was little more than a hack.” Obviously, that’s hardly a unanimous opinion of Maibaum. Still, Maibaum is quoted on page 100 in author James Chapman’s 2000 book Licence to Thrill as saying that Saltzman did bring in U.K. screenwriter Paul Dehn to do the later drafts of Goldfinger (the notes section of the book says the quote is from page 285 of a book called Backstory.)

We only bring this up to show that Saltzman’s contributions extended beyond being an eccentric crank. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership wasn’t an easy one. Eventually, the pair largely alternated producing the films while both were listed as producers. Saltzman primarily responsible for Live And Let Die (though Broccoli did visit the set in Louisiana and posed for a photograph with Saltzman and star Roger Moore) while The Man With the Golden Gun was Broccoli’s picture.

The Broccoli-Wilson clan, now headed by Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, has supervised the 007 series since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody is suggesting that Cubby Broccoli wasn’t a master showman, who deserves a lot of credit for launching Bond on the screen. Still, it would be a shame if Saltzman ends up being the forgotten man as fans look back on a half century of 007 films.

Also, here’s a shoutout to Dell Deaton, who blogs about James Bond watches. A tweet of his got us to thinking about all this.

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4 Responses

  1. Sorry I missed this real-time.

    As you know now, my concerns here aren’t limited to Harry Saltzman; Ian Fleming has not only been all-but ignored in chalking up yet another decade of Bond now, but actively disparaged in the wake of Skyfall.

    At best, Mr Saltzman has become the Leon Trotsky as official 007 legacy evolves. At worst, a manic clown: Someone who always had to be reigned in, covered for, and tolerated with smile through gritted teeth.

    I don’t think one even has to go as far as pieces presenting an overtly alternative point of view to see that this is wrong.

    Evidence of Mr Saltzman’s invaluable contributions show through in details across a variety of historical perspectives. I’m thinking Roger Moore’s James Bond Diary (re Live and Let Die) for example.

    Respecting your generous allowance that the first 007.com video for 2012 is “not a definitive history,” I still wouldn’t let ‘em off the hook that easy. As someone who actually owns an Encyclopedia Britannica set in print, there are some basics that are always necessary to include, regardless of how abbreviate the cite may be.

    Can you imagine an entry on US Presidents that didn’t mention George Washington?

    Further to the concern I’ll infer from your article here, also note that “When the Snow Melts” has been renamed 2012: “The Autobiography of Cubby Broccoli: The Man Who Brought James Bond 007 to the Screen.”

    Singular “Man.”

    No way.

  2. as the first child of harry saltzman i have been amazed and dismayed at how both of us have been ‘axed’ from the record…merry saltzman

  3. [...] there have been two of these, one in December with Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions (where he said his stepfather, Albert R. Broccoli, “made Dr. No,” ignoring quite a few people who contributed mightily to the first 007 [...]

  4. [...] However, history is written by the winners. Saltzman sold out his interest in Eon in 1975 because he got into financial trouble. And the Broccoli-Salztman partnership was not an easy one. [...]

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