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:

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2 Responses

  1. I may have said this before, but one has to wonder whether Spielberg used the demise of Kananga as an inspiration for the demise of the shark in Jaws. Of course, the shark merely blew up, where as Kananga soared to new heights of absurdity then blew up, but still, the kernel of an idea is there. Think how much more, ah, palatable LALD would have been had he remained in the water and then popped when bitten by a shark…

  2. Although I discovered the cinematographic Bond while 007 was entering Comedy area ( with D.A.F & such ) , I’ve always liked the ” Tom Mankiewicz’s touch ” regarding double entendres and various quips .
    Think he was better as a dialogue writer than a screenwriter .
    Trouble is , while Sir Sean could deliver those staying deadly serious , Sir Roger couldn’t help raising his damn eyebrown while enunciating those…

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