The polarizing history of Kevin McClory

Kevin McClory's cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory’s cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory could always stir emotions among James Bond fans.

In the early 1980s, some fans viewed him as a hero. He had stood up to Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli and had helped bring an alternate version of 007 to the screen. It would have Sean Connery back in the role and show Eon what Bond movies should be.

Over the past 15 years, some fans (on Internet message boards and the like) have been vocal in casting McClory as, at best, a pest and at worse a villain who helped drive Ian Fleming to an early grave.

The more complicated truth has been the subject of books such as The Battle for Bond.

In short, McClory had worked on a Bond movie project in the 1950s. Ian Fleming was involved. The heavy lifting on the script was done by writer Jack Whittingham. When a film didn’t materialize, Fleming based his Thunderball novel on at least some of the screen material. McClory sued and, in a settlement, got the screen rights.

McClory entered an agreement with Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to make Thunderball. McClory even had a cameo in a casino sequence.

As part of the deal, McClory had to wait 10 years before doing anything more with his rights. When that time was up, the Broccoli-Saltzman partnership had ended and the Eon Productions 007 series was in flux. Court fights ensued between McClory and Broccoli. It would take several years, but finally Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake, came out in 1983.

It was during this period that McClory was hailed by some fans, particularly those who felt the Eon 007 films with Roger Moore had gone too light. In the end, Never did OK at the box office but not as well as Octopussy, Eon’s 1983 007 entry.

Years passed and McClory kept trying anew to start his own Bond series. Eventually, if you took a look around 007 Internet outlets, fans complained about McClory, wondering why he just couldn’t go away — especially during court fights in the 1990s.

The MI6 007 website has a story 10 NEGATIVE WAYS KEVIN MCCLORY AFFECTED THE 007 FRANCHISE, summing up the anti-McClory case.

McClory died in 2006. His family and estate have sold whatever rights he had held to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the Broccoli family. The move brings an end to McClory’s polarizing 007 history.

Vaughn says no U.N.C.L.E. cameo yet

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Robert Vaughn said he still hasn’t been approached to do a cameo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie as the production nears completion of principal photography.

The Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. has A FEATURE STORY about the actor’s long career. There’s this snippet:

He says he’d have loved a cameo in Guy Ritchie’s film remake of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but hasn’t been approached. ‘I’d be like the head of the organisation and sit in a big room with a bunch of television sets and send men to their deaths.’ Any thoughts on British actor Henry Cavill, who plays Solo in Ritchie’s remake? ‘I’m sure he’ll be fine,’ he says. ‘I’ve seen him wearing the Superman suit. He’s an attractive actor.’

Back in October, Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo, told THE BIRMINGHAM MAIL he had gotten “feelers” about doing a cameo. David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin in the 1964-68 series, has said he’s not doing a cameo.

The movie, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, completes production early next month after filming in various places in the U.K. as well as locations in Italy.

Will Blofeld return to the 007 film series?

"Good to see you again, Mr. Bond." (Graphic by Paul Baack.)

“Good to see you again, Mr. Bond.”
(Graphic by Paul Baack.)

Now that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the Broccoli family have acquired the 007 film rights held by the estate and family of Kevin McClory, the obvious question is whether Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond’s arch-enemy, will return to the film series.

The brief announcement on Nov. 15 didn’t provide details of the settlement. But it closed a half-century saga. It began with an ill-fated James Bond movie project in the 1950s in which 007 author Ian Fleming participated. When the project fell apart, Fleming based his Thunderball novel on screenplays written for the never-made movie.

A legal fight ensued. Under a settlement, Kevin McClory held the screen rights. As a result, he had the leverage to negotiate a deal with 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman for a co-production of Thunderball. Fleming’s novel had introduced Blofeld and his SPECTRE organization (the SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Broccoli and Saltzman already had inserted SPECTRE into their adaptations of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Fleming novels that hadn’t included SPECTRE.

Ten years after Thunderball, McClory began efforts to do his own Bond movies based on his Thunderball rights. As a result, the Eon Productions series steered clear of Blofeld and SPECTRE.

Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. Broccoli and current co-boss of Eon Productions, previously said Blofeld was past his due date. For example there was A CRAVEONLINE INTERVIEW where this exchange occurred:

Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new.

Some fans cite comments like this one and figure there’s no way Blofeld will return. However, that’s also the same interview where Broccoli denied writer John Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25, the next two movies in the series. (“That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.”) A few days after the interview was published, MGM confirmed on an investor call that Logan had, indeed, been hired to script the films. When it comes to previous statements by Bond producers, caveat emptor applies.

As reader Mark Henderson pointed out in a response to a previous post, “The realism of the last three movies, and the legacy of Austin Powers, all but preclude the Nerhu jacket and white cat fetish.” But that garb and pet were creations of the early Bond filmmakers. There’s nothing to preclude a darker, more realistic Blofeld.

In From Russia With Love and Thunderball (with Anthony Dawson providing the body and Eric Pohlman providing the voice), Blofeld wore a plain business suit. The character didn’t get the Nehru jacket until 1967’s You Only Live Twice.

Only Ms. Broccoli, her half-brother Michael G. Wilson and their associates know whether Blofeld, and SPECTRE, will only live twice. But the McClory settlement certainly makes it possible. The real question is whether Broccoli and Wilson want do exercise that option.

Danjaq, MGM reach agreement with McClory estate

MGM logo
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq LLC, the Broccoli family company that controls 007 copyrights ,said they’ve acquired all of the James Bond rights held by the Kevin McClory family and estate.

Text of a statement:

Los Angeles, CA (November 15, 2013) – Danjaq, LLC, the producer of the James
Bond films, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the longtime distributor of the Bond
films, along with the estate and family of the late Kevin McClory, announced
today that Danjaq and MGM have acquired all of the estate’s and family’s rights
and interests relating to James Bond, thus bringing to an amicable conclusion
the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50
years.

That would seem to pave the way for the return of Ernst Stavro Blofeld to the Bond series if Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson want to pursue it. Blofeld was introduced in the Ian Fleming novel Thunderball, based on scripts commissioned by McClory during an ill-fated movie project in the 1950s.

McClory dut a deal with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman for a co-production of Thunderball. McClory in the 1970s began efforts to launch his own 007 movies.

M’s mission succeeds: Philomena gets PG-13 rating

Not the University of Michigan president

Judi Dench in Skyfall

Judi Dench’s last (?) assignment as M was a success.

The veteran actress (sort of) reprised her role as M in a video meant to pressure the Motion Picture Association of America into relenting on its decision to give the film Philomena an R rating. Whether it was Dench’s video or not, the campaign was a success, according to A STORY IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

An excerpt:

This time, Harvey Weinstein seems to have gotten what he wanted.

It was less than a week ago that his Weinstein Co. declared war — yet again — on the Motion Picture Assn. of America, slamming the organization for assigning the studio’s upcoming release “Philomena” an R rating. Now, just a few days later, the MPAA has downgraded the rating to a PG-13 — prompting the Weinstein Co. to send out a news release touting its victory in the appeal.

“Philomena,” which stars Judi Dench as a woman trying to locate a son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years earlier, was initially given an R because it included two utterances of the F-word. To speak out against the MPAA’s decision last week, Dench filmed a FunnyorDie video assuming the character she played in the James Bond series, MI5 chief M.

Of course, M (who Dench played in seven 007 films from 1995 through 2012) was chief of MI6, not MI5. In any event, both Weinstein and his star got what they wanted. A PG-13 rating generally makes it easier to attract an audience than an R-rated one.

UPDATE (Nov. 14) In a CBS NEWS VIDEO, Harvey Weinstein is saying, not surprisingly, that he cleared having Judi Dench reprise the M role before that video was produced. Weinstein tells the anchors of CBS’s morning show that he called Sam Mendes, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig.

Previous posts:

Nov. 9: JUDI DENCH’S (M)OONLIGHTING OVER THE YEARS

February 2013: THE M OF TWO WORLDS

`The Green Girl’ and TV spy shows

Susan Oliver in The Cage, the first Star Trek pilot

Susan Oliver in The Cage, the first Star Trek pilot

The Green Girl, a documentary on the life of actress Susan Oliver (1932-1990) is nearing completion. If the name isn’t familiar, her image — seen frequently during classic TV spy shows — may be.

Oliver appeared in episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Bow-Wow Affair), I Spy (One Thousand Fine) and The Wild, Wild West (The Night Dr. Loveless Died).

But Oliver much more than one genre. Her versatility caused her to be cast in dramas, comedies and crime shows. The title of the documentary comes from Oliver’s part in The Cage, the first pilot for Star Trek in which Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) falls in love with a woman who is the pawn of a race with greater mental powers than humans. At one point in the story, Oliver’s character appears as part of a green-skinned race whose women are irresistible to men.

Oliver was also an accomplished pilot and a director. She had the potential to be a big star. Oliver fell short but had a long career as a guest star on U.S. television shows. This unusual life spurred efforts to create The Green Girl documentary.

The makers of the documentary want to release the film in Feburary. They have launched a fund raising effort to secure $10,000, $5,000 for color correction and $5,000 for insurance. As of the night of Nov. 12, $5.570 had been collected, with 18 days to go.

We’ll see if that effort is successful. What follows is a trailer followed by a Susan Oliver gallery.

Susan Oliver as a junkie on The FBI

Susan Oliver as a junkie on The FBI

Susan Oliver and David McCallum in The Bow-Wow Affair

Susan Oliver and David McCallum in The Bow-Wow Affair

Michael Dunn and Susan Oliver in The Night Dr. Loveless Died

Michael Dunn and Susan Oliver in The Wild, Wild West

Paul Mantee, busy character actor, dies at 82

Paul Mantee

Paul Mantee

Character actor Paul Mantee, who frequently appeared on spy-oriented television shows, has died at the age of 82, according to AN OBITUARY PUBLISHED BY THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Mantee’s appearances included Mission: Impossible, I Spy and a two-part Mannix story in the 1973-74 season where Mannix volunteers to help out the U.S. in a delicate mission in South America.

Mantee also got his chance to star in a spy movie, albeit a relatively low budget one, A Man Called Dagger, where he played the title character. Here’s the trailer, with Jackson Beck (the frequent voice of Bluto on Popeye cartoons) doing the announcing:

According to MANTEE’S ENTRY ON IMDB.COM, his acting credits extended to 1998.

Happy birthday, James Bond!

Happy birthday, James Bond!

Happy birthday, James Bond!

David Beckham and U.N.C.L.E.: rumor and (apparent) reality

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

This weekend saw the (apparent) closure of the notion that former soccer star David Beckham was auditioning to star in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

In June, a website called Celebrity Fix PUBLISHED A POST that said that Beckham would be “be auditioning for the lead role” in the U.N.C.L.E. movie. This was after actor Henry Cavill said he’d be playing Napoleon Solo in the film while Armie Hammer would play Illya Kuryakin. Either the Solo or Kuryakin part would qualify as “the lead” in an U.N.C.L.E. film.

On Nov. 10, a British tabloid, the Daily Mail, had A STORY saying Beckham was appearing in the movie. No details on the part.

The Daily Mail had a mixed record where accuracy is concerned. On one hand, the publication has a reputation for stealing copy from other publications without credit. On the other hand, the Mail’s Baz Bagimboye had a number of scoops about the 2012 007 film Skyfall that were proven to be correct.

Bagimboye, however, didn’t write the Mail’s U.N.C.L.E. story. Meanwhile, Celebrity Fix’s claim that Beckham was auditioning for “the lead” in the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. film seems to have been disproven.

Ritchie once directed an underwear commercial with Beckham, as described in THIS STORY by the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.

UPDATE: On Twitter, some of the Cavill-Hammer fan people raise the question whether the Daily Mail is correct about Beckham filming a scene in the U.N.C.L.E. movie or in the Matthew Vaughn-directed THE SECRET SERVICE.

What if the early 007 films had Marvel-style teasers?

drnoposter

Thor: The Dark World was the No. 1 movie at the U.S. box office this weekend with an estimated $86.1 million in ticket sales. It also continues the Marvel movie tradition, begun with 2008’s Iron Man, of having a teaser in the end titles for future film adventures.

By now, such teasers occur not only in the films made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. They’ve also become part of movies made by other studios, such as X-Men at 20th Century Fox and Spider-Man made at Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures.

So what would have been like if the early James Bond movies had such teasers? It was a different time back then, of course. Still, it might have gone something like this.

DR. NO

After the end titles roll, the screen goes black. We CUT TO:

INT.-DAY-BLOFELD’S OFFICE
BLOFELD, whose face, we can not see, is at his desk, petting his cat. The telephone RINGS and he answers.

BLOFELD
What’s that? Dr. No is dead? How?
(a beat)
Well, that makes me quite displeased. We should take note of this Mr. Bond.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

After the end titles roll, the screen goes black. We CUT TO:

INT.-DAY-M’S OFFICE
M is at his desk, smoking his pipe. His telephone RINGS and he answers.

M
Hello. What’s that? Unauthorized leakages? Involving gold? But why should it involve my deprtment?
(a beat)
Oh, I see. I’ll get our best man on it at once. He’s due back quite soon.

GOLDFINGER

INT.-DAY-BLOFELD’S OFFICE
Blofeld, whose face we still cannot see, is at his desk, petting his cat. The telephone rings and he answers.

BLOFELD
Yes, Number 2? Ah….splendid. Yes, please proceed. This will be the largest operation SPECTRE has ever undertaken. I am depending on you to make sure it becomes a reality.

Earlier posts:

MAY 2012: THE AVENGERS: THE POWER OF PLANNING

APRIL 2013: THE FAMILY MODEL (EON) VS. THE CORPORATE MODEL (MARVEL)