Live And Let Die’s 40th: the post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted 40 years ago this year, would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began. They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint television series. Older than Connery, Moore would eventually employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for the Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die


Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect. Sheriff J.W. Pepper, up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

But Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could possibly continue without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965′s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many HMSS editors CRITICIZED THE MOVIE AND ITS STAR in a survey several years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

FEBRUARY 2012 POST: LIVE AND LET DIE, A REAPPRAISAL

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME PROFILES THE NEW JAMES BOND

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME CALLS 007 A `RACIST PIG’

Some 007 Oscar statistics

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At about 8:30 a.m. New York time, James Bond fans will find out if Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film, scores any Oscar nominations. Ahead of that event, here are some 007 Oscar statistics:

WINS: 2 Goldfinger’s sound man Norman Wanstall won an Oscar for his efforts in 1965 and special effects wizard John Stars, received an Oscar in 1966.

If you CLICK HERE, you can see Wantall get his Oscar from Angie Dickinson. If you CLICK HERE, you can see Ivan Tors, whose production company worked on Thunderball’s underwater sequences, picking up the award for Stears.

MOST NOMINATIONS: 3 (The Spy Who Loved Me) Ken Adam, Peter Lamont and Hugh Schaife were nominated for art direction and set decoration. Marvin Hamlisch was nominated for best score; and Hamisch (music) and Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics) were nominated for best song. None scored a win. Adam got two Oscars and Lamont received one for other movies.

MOST MEMORABLE 007 OSCAR NIGHT: 1982 For Your Eyes Only was nominated for best song and Sheena Easton performed it as part of an elaborate 007 song-and-dance number. It didn’t win but Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, given to a producer for his or her body of work. The veteran producer gave a gracious speech that included acknowledgments for former partners Irving Allen and Harry Saltzman, even though Broccoli had his share of differences of opinion with them over the years.

The 1982 Oscars show was also the last time Bond (formally at least) was part of the ceremony. Since then, contributors to the film series, such as John Barry, Tom Mankiewicz and Joseph Wiseman, have shown up in the “In Memorium” segments that pay tribute to those who’ve died since the preceding Oscar broadcast.

We know that will change with this year’s broadcast, which will have a James Bond tribute. Fans will soon find out whether the evening will include Skyfall being in the mix for Oscars.

The tribute, depending how elaborate it is, and Skyfall breaking the long Oscar drought for Agent 007, could make 2013 the most memorable 007 Oscar night.

Live And Let Die, a reappraisal

We decided, after quite some time, to rewatch Live And Die. It was the debut of Roger Moore as James Bond but, in some ways, it’s more of a milestone than that. For some people, including Skyfall director Sam Mendes, it was the point of entry for a second generation of Bond fans to get addicted.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider Mendes’s own words at the Nov. 3 news conference Eon Productions held: “I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me.” Mendes was born in 1965, too late to catch the first wave of Bond films. For people of that age, their first 007 contact was the Roger Moore Bond of the early 1970s.

Given that, we thought we’d give it another view. First reaction: the Roger Moore 007 didn’t have the swagger, or seem to present the danger element, the way Sean Connery did. At times (mostly when 007 is dealing with African American gangster types early in the film), he’s like Lt. Columbo Bond, trying to lull his adversaries into complacency.

“Waste him?” Bond asks Solitaire (Jane Seymour) after Mr. Big orders his execution. “Is that a good thing?” Shortly thereafter, he’s forced from a door outside into a wall. “Thank you,” Bond says politely.

Later, when the odds have evened up a bit, Moore/Bond comes across as unflappable, rather than having the swagger of Connery/Bond. When he’s told that “Mrs. Bond” has already checked into his bungalow in San Monique, 007 registers concern for a second then cooly says, “Incurable romantic, Mrs. Bond.”

Live And Let Die definitely continues the trend begun in 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s farewell to the Eon Productions-made film series. Both films were directed by Guy Hamilton, with the final Diamonds script by Tom Mankiewicz (rewriting Richard Maibaum’s earlier drafts) and Mankiewicz working solo on Live And Let Die.

The humor in sequences such as the signature boat chase is even more over the top. Diamonds had some clueless law enforcement officers. Live And Let Die exceeds that with Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), a tabacco-chewing redneck (and clearly racist) sheriff. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, indicates he didn’t want humor to be at the expense of the African American villains, thus he invented other characters to be the butt of jokes. Also, the death of Live And Let Die’s villain, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), is on the same level as a Tex Avery-directed cartoon.

The movie is also dated in that it was influenced by so-called “Blaxploitation” films (Shaft, Super Fly) of the early 1970s. That bothers some first-generation fans, who feel that Bond led the way in the ’60s. Then again, when Bond was rebooted with 2006′s Casino Royale and its sequel, 2008′s Quantum of Solace, they were influenced by Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. That doesn’t bother supporters of those films.

Still, the boat chase is amazing, no computer generated special effects (which, of course, didn’t exist then), just real men using their brains guts and tricks such as hidden ramps. So is the stunt by crocodile farm owner Ross Kananga (Mankiewicz’s inspiration for the villain’s name), doubling Roger Moore, he really did risk death five times before finally successful running over the backs of alligators to safety.

Composer George Martin tends to get overlooked because the title song by Paul and Linda McCartney was so popular. After six consecutive John Barry scores, it was up to Martin to provide the film’s background music. Martin didn’t write the Live And Let Die song but was vital to its preparation and selling it to Eon. So, perhaps because he had a vested interest, he weaves the title song throughout the film very effectively while working within the Barry/Bond music templates. If that sounds easy, we suspect it wasn’t.

Finally, upon this viewing, Yaphet Kotto’s performance struck us as interesting. For the film’s first half, he’s dour and doesn’t say much. After it’s revealed he’s both Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big, he suddenly begins having fun with the role. He explains Kananga’s plot of flooding the U.S. with free heroin to drive out criminal competitors. “Man or woman, black or white, I don’t discriminate.” He then says once the plan is implemented, and the number of addicts has doubled, he’ll start charging for the heroin, leaving “myself and the phone company as the only going monopolies in this nation for years to come.”

A Live And Let Die fan


Live And Let Die isn’t a perfect film by any means. (It was mostly panned in a SURVEY OF HMSS EDITORS SOME YEARS BACK.) But you can see how it appealed to a new generation of fans. Sam Mendes doesn’t exactly have a reputation for directing light movies, so we suspect Skyfall won’t resemble Live And Let Die. But it is interesting, at least on some level, that he cites Live And Let Die as an influence.

Finally, it should be noted that Live And Let Die was the first 007 film to have a higher worldwide gross than 1965′s Thunderball, $161.8 million to $141.2 million Its U.S. box office, though, was below Diamonds Are Forever.

In sum, Live And Let Die is a movie that’s going to divide Bond fans. The first-generation fans throw their arms up in the air while, for the second generation, it’s a landmark to explain how they became interested in 007.

UPDATE: 007 Magazine e-mailed us that is has a back issue concerning Live And Let Die. So if you CLICK HERE you’ll see a selection of back issues of 007 Magazine Archive Files, and find the issue devoted to Live And Let Die.

Diamonds Are Forever’s 40th anniversary: a star returns


Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and the United Artists studio wanted the seventh film in the James Bond series to emulate Goldfinger. Bring back Ken Adam to design the sets? Check. Have John Barry do the music and have a title song performed by Shirley Bassey? Check. Hire Goldfinger’s director Guy Hamilton to come back? Check.And the most expensive step, offer Sean Connery so much he couldn’t refuse to reprise the role of 007? Check.

It wasn’t that simple, of course. Making Diamonds Are Forever, which premiered 40 years ago this month, wasn’t as easy as taking the direct route from point A to point B.

Broccoli and Saltzman signed American actor John Gavin to play Bond. In their minds, Bond was bigger than any one actor. It was UA, and executive David Picker, who wanted Connery back. And since UA paid the bills, that’s what happened. The financial package included $1.25 million (huge for those days), hefty overtime pay if the movie exceeded its shooting schedule and financing for other Connery film projects.

Saltzman, again being prickly about music matters, didn’t like the title song that Barry wrote with Don Black. The volatile producer wanted to kill the song but cooler heads, particularly Broccoli’s, prevailed.

The script also wasn’t as simple as devising “another Goldfinger.” The 1956 Ian Fleming novel didn’t have a larger-than-life Goldfinger style villain. Richard Maibaum took a literal approach to the idea of “another Goldfinger” with his initial draft, making the villain Auric Goldfinger’s twin brother. Eventually, Broccoli and Saltzman wanted another writer to revamp the material. Broccoli decided the hook should be based on a dream he had of discovering that his old friend, reclusive industrialist Howard Hughes, had been replaced by someone else.

Enter American writer Tom Mankiewicz, devising a story where villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld has taken over the business empire of the Hughes-like Willard Whyte. Mankiewicz shared the screenplay credit with Maibaum in the final film.

Under Mankiewicz, the script took a lighter tone. You can CLICK HERE for a more detailed examination of Mankiewicz’s “revised first draft,” which featured an actual final confrontation between Bond and Blofeld, something that wasn’t filmed. Mankiewicz’s early drafts also had more material from Fleming’s novel that also didn’t make the final cut.

The movie isn’t ranked that highly in survey of HMSS editors, with grades ranging from a high of B to a low of D-Plus, and one of our staff saying it was the start of the “Dark Ages” of the series. Connery, though, generally gets a pass, even though he proclaimed during filming it had the best script in the Bond series up to that time.

Decades later, it’s not unheard of to hear a conversation something like this:

BOND FAN No. 1: I think Diamonds Are Forever is where it started getting goofy, don’t you agree?

BOND FAN No. 2: Yeah, but it’s got Connery!

In any case, the movie was a success financially, earning $116 million at the box office worldwide, more than either 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or 1967′s You Only Live Twice. But it fell short of Goldfinger’s almost $125 million or Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

It was also the end of an era, the last time Connery would work for Broccoli or Saltzman; when he next donned 007′s shoulder holster more than a decade later, Connery would be starring in a Bond production in competition with the Eon Production series. In any case, Diamonds did well enough to ensure that James Bond would return.

Oscar update III: John Barry leads off “In Memoriam”

John Barry, the 11-time 007 composer who established the musical sound of James Bond movies (and won five Oscars for four non-Bond movies), was the first person included in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars telecast. But there were a number of others included that contributed to 007 and other spy related entertainment.

They included: Alan Hume, director of photography on three Bond movies in the 1980s; Irvin Kershner, director of the 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again, who is probably best known for directing 1980′s The Empire Strikes Back; Tom Mankiewicz, credited as a screenwriter on three 1970s 007 films and an uncredited writer on two others.

Also included were Robert Culp, the star of television’s I Spy; Anne Francis, the star of television’s Honey West; and Leslie Nielsen, who made a late-career switch to comedy that included a 007 parody, Spy Hard. All three did extensive film work in movies and television.

Who will make the Oscars “In Memoriam” segment?

You’d think John Barry (5-time Oscar winner, 11-time 007 composer) would be a lock. What about James MacArthur, Robert Culp, Leslie Nielsen? Peter Graves? The latter were known mostly for their work on television but did a number of films. What about one-time 007 screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, part of a prominent Hollywood clan that includes Herman Mankiewicz and Joseph L. Mankiewicz? We’ll be watching.

A look at Tom Mankiewicz’s impact on 007 films

Tom Mankiewicz, a screenwriter who helped shaped film versions of James Bond and Superman, died over the weekend. Mankiewicz, 68, tends to generate widely varying fan reaction among followers of 007. To some, he contributed witty dialogue that enlivened the films he worked on. To others, he was one of the main reasons the Bond films entered a “Dark Age.”

CommanderBond put up THIS STORY ON AUG. 1 while the MI6 Web site ran THIS LONG OBIT ON AUG. 2. We won’t try to duplicate those efforts but we do want to note Mankiewicz did have a big impact. He was credited on three Bond movies: Diamonds Are Forever (taking over from Richard Maibaum, with both getting credit), Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun (where Mankiewicz started and Maibaum took over). And he did uncredited work on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

First things first. Actors, including Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Clifton James are seen complimenting Mankiewicz’s dialogue in documenaries about the 007 films scripted by the writer. Here’s a sample from Diamonds:

Then again, Mankiewicz (presumbly reflecting the wishes of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman) tended to push Bond in a more comic direction. James’s J.W. Pepper is one of the main examples of that in Live And Let Die:

And Dr. Kananga’s demise in the same movie was probably the least dignified for a Bond villain:

Still, one doubts actor Yaphet Kotto complained too much. He got one of the better villain speeches earlier in the film where he said how his plans to give out free heroin samples to addicts would be “leaving me and the telephone companies as the only growing monopolies in this country for years to come.”

Regardless of which side of the fence, a fan falls on, Mankiewicz’s commentary track on Live And Let Die is interesting and provides insight to the screenwriting process. Mankiewicz definitely had a major impact on the series. Here is in a Writers Guild video discussing his overall career:

HMSS nominations for underrated 007 moments

What we’re about to discuss aren’t necessarily the *best* James Bond film moments but they may be the most *underrated.* So let’s get right into it:

Most underrated score by somebody not named John Barry: John Barry composed the score for half of Eon Productions Ltd.’s 22 007 movies. He also worked on Dr. No, helping to arrange The James Bond Theme composed by Monty Norman. Barry has earned a special status in the 007 film canon. But what of the other composers in the series?

It’s a hard call. By sheer volume, David Arnold gets notice (the only non-Barry composer to do more than one 007 film). But George Martin, composer of the score for Live And Let Die gets the nod here. Martin, producer of the albums of the Beatles, helped Paul McCartney sell his title song to Eon. And Martin made use of the song by Paul and Linda Martney in his score. It may not be the best non-Barry 007 score, but Martin’s score is a major plus for Roger Moore’s 007 debut.

Most underrated voice dubbing: Robert Rietty dubbed Adolfo Celi’s Largo in Thunderball, Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and (sort of) Ernst Stavro Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only. Monica Van der Zyl dubbed Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder in Dr. No, and possibly other roles.

However, Shayne Rimmer may get the nod, dubbing a doomed CIA agent in the pre-credits sequence of Live And Let Die. That’s because Rimmer (who had appeared on-screen twice before LALD and would do so again in The Spy Who Love Me is perhaps the least obvious dubbing job.

Most underrated screenwriter not named Richard Maibuam: Maibuam worked on 13 Bond films as a writer. Often his work would get re-written by others but the fact that producer Albert R. Broccoli repeatedly turned to Maibuam indicates the U.S.-born writer (1909-1991) had a special status.

So who earns the most underrated screenwriter title? The Neal Purvis-
Robert Wade duo is a distant second to Maibuam at four films. Tom Mankiewicz has three 007 writing credits (though he may have contributed to two other films on an uncredited basis) and Bruce Feirstein has three Bond film writing credits. Roald Dahl was an accomplished writer but his one Bond screenplay, You Only Live Twice, is a writing equivalent of painting by the numbers.

For the moment, we’ll give the nod (and this is very tentative) to Mankiewicz. His commentary on the DVD of Live And Let Die provides a clinic on how to write a screenplay (you may disagree with his choices but he explains how the choices were made; plus he’s an entertining presecen on DVD documentaries).

Your mileage may vary.

Willard Whyte, aka Jimmy Dean, passes away at 81

Singer Jimmy Dean died on June 13 at the age 81.The Associated Press obiturary for Dean said he passed away at home.

The AP obit goes into detail about Dean’s singing career and business savvy. And there’s this reference:

Dean became a headliner at venues like Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl and became the first country star to play on the Las Vegas strip. He was the first guest host on ”The Tonight Show,” and also was an actor with parts in television and the movies, including the role of James Bond’s ally Willard Whyte in the 1971 film ”Diamonds Are Forever.”

Dean’s role was the result of producer Albert R. Broccoli having a dream that his old friend, reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes, had been replaced but nobody knew about it. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, taking over after a first draft by Richard Maibaum, built his script around the idea, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld having taken over the busines empire of Mankiewicz’s Willard Whyte character (aided by Bert Saxby, an aide to Whyte). But it was Dean who brought the character to life, which led to one of the highlights in the film:

The Man With the Golden Gun’s 35th anniversary

There have been so many 007-related anniversaries this year, it’s almost tempting to overlook the 35th anniversary this month of The Man With the Golden Gun. Our parent HMSS site, for example, doesn’t rate the film very highly.

But it would be a mistake to ignore the milestone, if only because it would be the finale for some significant contributors to the Bond movie franchise.

Foremost among them was Harry Saltzman, who had been Albert R. Broccoli’s partner from Dr. No through Golden Gun. By many accounts, Saltzman’s presence was limited on Golden Gun as by this point the two were more or less taking turns producing Bond films. Still, according to the documentary Inside The Man With the Golden Gun, Saltzman managed to order some unneeded elephant shoes for an elephant stampede sequence that evidently was in the script at one point but never filmed.

Also exiting the series with this entry were director of photography Ted Moore, who had worked on seven of the first nine films in the series; director Guy Hamilton, who a decade earlier had directed Goldfinger (and who would work for a time on pre-production of The Spy Who Loved Me before dropping out); and special-effects wizard John Stears. It was also the last 007 writing credit for Tom Mankiewicz, although he did some uncredited work on the next two films of the series, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

Besides, it’s a Bond movie and a lot of fans will still go back to watch it from time to time. Here’s the film’s gunbarrel sequence and the main titles where some of the 007 creative team took their final bows:

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