007 makes Sports Illustrated (sort of)

Puns, quips and witticisms are part of the copy editor’s stock in trade. Witness the Nov. 30 issue of Sports Illustrated and its letters to the editor page.

One letter published concerned a story in Nov. 9 issue about the University of Iowa’s football team. The letter noted that the Hawkeyes weren’t “winning every game by 40. But the way they have won is more enjoyable for the fans. Each game has been like a James Bond film with a last-second flash of brilliance that saved the day.”

The headline for the letter, composed by an anonymous copy editor? From Iowa with Love. Given that Iowa was also the alma mater of veteran 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum (who afterall introduced the notion of Bond making quips), that’s probably appropriate.

James Bond’s influence on Jonny Quest

We came across an excellent documentary on The Adventures of Jonny Quest, the Hanna-Barbera prime time cartoon that debuted in September 1964. There’s a lot of fascinating behind-the-scenes information, including some James Bond ties to the series.

Producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera hired cartoonist Doug Wildey to spearhead the project. It was originally intended to be an adaptation of the radio show Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy but that was scrapped for an original series. One notion behind the show involved Barbera’s happening to view a certain gentleman agent with a license to kill, as evidenced in this clip starting around the 23-second mark:

The title character of Jonny Quest was the young son of a scientist cosntantly in peril. The show’s Bond surrogate was Roger T. “Race” Bannon, a U.S. agent assigned to protect the Quests. Here’s Race’s origins:

To see the entire documentary, you can CLICK HERE and get instructions how to download it. You can also CLICK OUT THIS BLOG for more Jonny Quest information, art and commentary.

You can also see the entire documentary on YouTube, where it’s divided into 27 parts. Here’s part one, and you should be able to navigate to the others. Again, it’s excellent and takes a critical look at events where it’s warranted:

The murky origins of the James Bond theme: a sequel

Eleven months ago, we posted about the murky origins of the James Bond Theme which included a link to a portion of a U.K. documentary.

The gist of the documentary was that while Monty Norman wrote the theme originally, John Barry contributed a great deal with the way he arranged and orchestrated it. And it should be noted that producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman would retain Barry, rather than Norman, to compose scores for future 007 films.

Last month, a YouTube poster called Blofeld39 weighed in with a video. It basically shows how various compositions, mostly by Barry, influenced what has become one of the most famous pieces of film music ever. Here it is:

OHMSS’s 40th anniversary Part I: The men who would be Bond

In a few short weeks it will be the 40th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film is a) one of the best, if not the best, James Bond movies; b) the “first major hiccup” in the Bond series (as TCM weekend host Ben Mankiewicz put it in introducing Diamonds Are Forever when that film was shown on TCM in May; c) the rare Bond film with an unhappy ending.

It’s such an important film to the Bond series, we figured it was worth the same treatment we gave to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. The best place to start is with the obvious: it was the first film in the official 007 film series not to star Sean Connery.

The reasons for that have been much written about, including Connery’s tiring of the role *and* feeling unappreciated and underpaid (particularly in comparison to the paychecks Dean Martin was getting for the Matt Helm film series). You can’t have a Bond movie without a Bond, so somebody had to be chosen.

Life magazine gave its readers a view of the five finalists in a collage of photographs taken by Loomis Dean.

The late Peter Hunt, the film’s director, described in the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service there were numerous potential Bonds tested. The Life photos gave a hint of that, including actor John Richardson performing a love scene. Also shown was a shot of actor Anthony Rogers’s screen test. Others under consideration were Hans De Vries, Robert Cambell and an Australian model named George Lazenby.

Life also showed actors auditioning for other roles including Agneta Eckemyr doing a screen test, apparently for the role of Tracy, 007’s doomed bride. In that photo Hunt can be seen in the lower right.

In the end, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman went with George Lazenby, the least experienced of the five 007 finalists. The move would have a major effect on the film.

MGM update: 007 main asset of interest to would-be buyers

As Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer management considers its options, it’s interesting to note how few assets MGM has right now except its half interest in the James Bond franchise.

For example, in this Nov. 20 story on Bloomberg.com there’s an interesting reference about 007:

MGM’s only new release this year, a remake of the 1980 film “Fame,” generated $41.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo, a researcher based in Sherman Oaks, California. A new James Bond film is in development and slated for release in 2011. According to Michael Wilson, the producer of the Bond films, there is currently no production scheduled for the film.

“MGM has done such a poor job of refreshing the library. It’s a wasting asset apart from the Bond franchise,” said Harrigan. The latter quote is from Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities, who told Bloomberg that MGM is worth $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion.

(To try to clarify: the film library owned by MGM is mostly the old United Artists film library plus films MGM has release the past decade or so. The Bond franchise was started under UA. The classic MGM film library — Gone With The Wind and other classic movies was acquired by Ted Turner in the 1980s and then acquired by Time Warner when it bought Turner’s business interests.)

Bottom line (as executives like to say): Bond will be a major part of whatever business deal occurs with shaky MGM.

As if to drive home that point, Bloomberg’s television arm used clips from Quantum of Solace this week as a teaser before a commercial to promote a story about MGM’s plight.

UPDATE: A Reuters story carried on the Commander Bond Web site says MGM is sending confidentiality agreements to 20 would-be buyers including Time Warner and News Corp.

The David Arnold-composed QOS theme — sung by Shirley Bassey!

Here’s a little pre-holiday treat:

For those who didn’t care all that much for Another Way to Die, the Jack White/Alicia Keys theme song to Quantum of Solace; for those David Arnold admirers who wish the Bond Film producers would let him compose the main theme songs; for those Shirley Bassey fans who would love to hear her perform yet another official James Bond theme song…

Feast your eyes on this:


No Good about Goodbye

Music by David Arnold. Lyrics by Don Black. Performed by Dame Shirley Bassey.

We like how elements of this theme fit into the body of Arnold’s score — pretty much the exact meaning of the term theme song! Why this wasn’t used, apart from misguided (and mistaken) commercial instincts, is beyond our ken. Does anybody care to speculate on how much bigger a pop hit this would’ve been, as opposed to what was ultimately used?

Oh well, that’s all history now. So, until they get it right next time… enjoy!

Saab, once 007’s ride, is on the endangered list

Back in March, we ran an article on how the literary James Bond once drove a Saab and how that Swedish brand was facing tough times.

James Bond Saab

Illustration of the literary Bond’s Saab via MI6 James Bond website

Things haven’t gotten easier for Saab. In fact, Bloomberg is reporting that General Motors Co. may close Saab after sports-car maker Koenigsegg Group AB canceled a planned acquisition of the Swedish company. The story cites a person familiar with the matter that Bloomberg didn’t identify.

Bond drove a Saab in the first continuation novels by writer John Gardner, whose 007 ran began in 1981 and lasted through 1996.

Cinema Retro’s look at Robert Vaughn’s birthday bash

Over at Cinema Retro’s Web site, Lee Pfeiffer describes Robert Vaughn’s 77th birthday party.

A brief excerpt:

The black tie affair began with a cocktail hour attended by the likes of Ben Gazzara, Dick Cavett and Joe Sirola, who had played a villain in several episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. As with all Players events, the charm of the evening was enhanced by the fact that the crowd is very limited in size, giving the event a very personal aspect. Vaughn arrived looking dashing as ever in the company of his charming wife Linda. His son Cassidy (a ringer for Christopher Reeve) and fiancee Kelly also attended. Even among the sophisticates at the cocktail hour, there was quite a commotion when a surprise guest appeared: David McCallum (who was accompanied by his wife Kathy). Vaughn was pleasantly shocked.

To read the entire article and view accompanying photographs, just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

Salute to Maurice Binder’s non-007 work

The late Maurice Binder is closely associated with the world of James Bond, starting with his gunbarrel logo that began Dr. No to the main titles of 14 007 movies. But Binder did many creative main titles for other films that ought not be overlooked.

Binder did some interesting collaborations with composer Henry Mancini. For example, there was 1963’s Charade:

A few years later, producer-director Stanley Donen again tapped Binder and Mancini for Arabesque:

Finally, there was The Tamarind Seed, one of the few movies directed by Blake Edwards that didn’t have a score by Mancini. Instead, John Barry was hired, with Binder doing the main titles. By coincidence, a number of 007 alumni (director of photography Freddie Young and art director Harry Pottle) also worked on the movie. It began like this:

James Bond Theme is played during Oregon-Arizona college football game

ABC (well technically ESPN via ABC) is showing the Oregon-Arizona college football game on Nov. 21. Around 8:30 p.m. ET, one of the bands of the teams involved played the James Bond Theme. It remains to be seen whether one of the best-known movie themes shows up again during the broadcast.