Daily Mail rips the scab off the Barry-Norman question again

John Barry

Over the weekend, the Daily Mail ran a story ripping the scab off the question whether it was the credited Monty Norman or John Barry who really wrote The James Bond Theme.

The article tilts in Norman’s favor simply because the composer, 90, is still around (and was interviewed) while Barry died in 2011. Anyway, here’s an exerpt:

Barry and Norman, like their screen counterparts Bond and Blofeld, became bitter rivals, slugging it out for decades as they fought over this piece of Hollywood gold.

(snip)

Norman says he’s amazed at both the riff’s success and its longevity. ‘I accept the good fortune that I wrote something that has not only lasted more than 50 years but will last another 50,’ he says. ‘There are musicals I have written that took six months and I think, “Oh God, James Bond took just six hours.’’’

The question was once part of a court case where Norman came out on top. At the end of the Daily Mail story, Norman takes a victory lap.

Barry died in 2011 but the two men never buried the hatchet. Does he have any regrets about that? ‘None whatsoever,’ says Norman. ‘I did not like him.’

The most neutral answer to the question is “it’s complicated.” Author Jon Burlingame in his 2012 book The Music of James Bond examined the conflicting stories between Barry (officially brought aboard or orchestrate and arrange the theme) and Norman.

Barry fans argue it’s really not that complicated, with Barry doing much of the heavy lifting and drawing upon some of his past work. Barry ended up scoring 11 Bond films and co-wrote famous title songs to Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. He ended up winning five Oscars (though none for a Bond film).

For those who’ve never seen it, this 2009 video comes from the Barry side. You can judge its point of view for yourself.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. New York Time): I exchanged an e-mail with a long-time (i.e. from Dr. No onwards) 007 film fan. This reminds me of the debate in comic books about who created what at Marvel between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. My correspondent referenced parts of the Dr. No score that incorporated the Bond theme that don’t sound like Barry. I am just referencing this for informational purposes.

 

Michel Legrand’s brush with 007

Cover to Michel Legrand’s soundtrack for Never Say Never Again

The death of accomplished film composer Michel Legrand at 86 resulted in many tributes (see this story in Variety) because of the work generated over a long career.

But, given the subject matter of this blog, Legrand’s score for a James Bond film shows doing music for any movie isn’t easy and especially so when the core audience has built up certain expectations.

The 007 film, of course, was 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery heading up a Bond production competing with Eon’s Octopussy coming out the same year.

Jon Burlingame wrote in the 2012 book The Music of James Bond that Legrand wasn’t even approached until after filming had been completed. The composer had been working on Yentl, “one of his most complex projects,” involving nine original songs as well as the score, according to the book.

Then, Sean Connery came calling about Never Say Never Again.

“Sean’s warmth and his enthusiasm persuaded me,” Legrand told Burlingame. “And I told myself, to attach a Bond to my filmography, it’s not something to pass up!”

The musical template of the Eon 007 films had been established by John Barry, who had been signed to score Octopussy. Legrand chose to go his own way, especially with Never Say Never Again featuring an older Connery.

“The idea of Never Say Never Again was to bring a distance, an irony, a second layer of connection to the official series, in relation to Connery’s age,” the composer told Burlingame. “Immediately, there was a distinction.”

Over the years, I’ve heard fans complain about Legrand’s score. Burlingame, in a review of the score in his book, says “as a fundamentally jazz-based score, it has many fun moments and offers a very different slant on music for 007 even though it was far from what Connery fans were expecting.”

For more details on Legrand’s career, you can read obituaries from Variety (wrtten by the aforementioned Burlingame), the BBC and The New York Times. Below is a tribute on Twitter from film composer Daniel Pemberton.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Eon’s The Rhythm Section Delayed Until November

Eon Productions logo

Eon Productions’ non-007 spy movie, The Rhythm Section, has been delayed until November, Variety reported.

The film, starring Blake Lively, was scheduled for a Feb. 22 release by Paramount. The release date is now Nov. 22, according to Variety.

Production was delayed after Lively suffered a hand injury, shutting down filming for months. No change in the release date has been announced. But there has been no advertising or other marketing for the movie even as the original Feb. 22 date approached.

Here’s an excerpt from the Variety story:

Insiders familiar with the studio’s thinking said the new date is attractive for several reasons, including the holiday box office boon. The gritty spy tale, adapted from Mark Burnell’s novels surrounding character Stephanie Patrick, is thought by Paramount insiders to be ideal counter-programming to Disney’s “Frozen 2,” which is opening at the same time.

The development continues the mixed history of Eon’s non-James Bond projects. A spinoff movie feature Halle Berry’s character from Die Another Day never developed. Neither did a proposed film based on the life of Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, Eon’s indie-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy drew very small audiences.

Eon’s next Bond film, the yet-to-be-named Bond 25, is scheduled to begin production in March.

Bond 25 offered Norwegian film subsidy

Bond 25 has been offered a subsidy to film in Norway worth 47 million krone ($5.52 million), the Norwegian Film Institute said on its website.

The announcement lists the grant is being offered to a film called “B25,” according to a translation of the website. It is the largest grant offer in the history of the program, according to the translation.

The program requires productions receiving grants have “broad international distribution.”

Bond 25 is scheduled to begin filming in early March for a February 2020 release date.

H/T @Bond25Film on Twitter.

James Frawley, an appreciation

Peter Falk in a surrealistic moment in the Columbo episode Murder, a Self Portrait, directed by James Frawley.

James Frawley (1936-2019) was never a star but was a working actor. When he switched to directing, he found his true calling.

Frawley appeared in some Spy-fi. Hhe wasn’t the main villain but usually a secondary one. But he made an impact, nevertheless.

One example was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Guioco Piano Affair, written by Alan Caillou and directed by Richard Donner. Frawley plays a South American police lieutenant who has been assigned to assist agent Napoleon Solo.

Frawley’s character pulls a double cross because he has been bribed by the villains. But the policeman doesn’t realize he himself has been double crossed. Solo (Robert Vaughn) overcomes Frawley’s character and gets both men to safety.

Nevertheless, Frawley’s character tries to double cross Solo *a second time.* Solo, this time  is more than ready. He whistles and the military of the unnamed South American nation take the conspirators into custody. It’s a very satisfying ending.

“You see,” Solo says. “I didn’t trust you.”

As a director, Frawley had an even bigger impact. He worked on comedy series, including The Monkees, where he helmed 28 episodes and won an Emmy. Yet, Frawley could direct drama.

One of his best dramatic efforts came with the Columbo episode Murder, a Self Portrait.

Famous artist Max Barsini (Patrick Bauchau) lives with his second wife and a model. They’re next door to Barsini’s first wife. The artist kills his first wife because he’s still afraid, years after the fact, he’ll spill the beans on a killing he did.

The late first wife had a relationship with a psychologist. While under his care, the former Mrs. Barsini described reoccurring dreams. As staged by Frawley, Max is in the middle of painting Lt. Columbo while the audience can hear a recording of the murder victim describing the dreams.

The dream sequences were filmed in black-and-white, adding to the surrealism. In the end, the recordings provide Columbo with the clues he needs to crack the case.

Frawley as a director was late coming to Columbo. He worked on the show during the 1976-77 season (the final NBC season) and the first year Columbo was on ABC (1989). But he still made his mark.

In the 21st century, Frawley isn’t that well known. But for those who saw his work as an actor and director, he’ll be remembered.

Actor-director James Frawley dies at 82

James Frawley in The Giuoco Piano Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

James Frawley, a character actor and Emmy award-winning director, died Jan. 22 at 82, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun newspaper.

As an actor, he some times played secondary villains. His acting appearances included episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy and The FBI.

He branched into directing during in the mid-1960s. He was active into the 2000s, according to his entry on IMDB.com.

Frawley won an Emmy for an episode of The Monkees and was nominated for another. He directed 28 episodes of that comedy series. But he proved adept at drama as well.

The director helmed six episodes of Columbo. Some of them included unusual staging. Murder, Smoke and Shadows in 1989 featured a young director as the killer. Some scenes emphasized visual tricks of movie making. Murder, a Self Portrait, also that same year, featured Patrick Bauchau as the killer. The episode included recreation of dreams described on tape.

Frawley also directed episodes of the original Magnum, PI, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Law & Order. He also helmed The Muppet Movie.

Below is a video from the 1967 Emmys when Frawley won his directing award. It includes Barbara Bain and Bruce Geller of Mission: Impossible also getting Emmys as well as Buck Henry and Leonard B. Stern of Get Smart.

007 in New York (exhibition) opens in March

Skyfall’s poster image

Driven: 007 x Skyscape, a New York James Bond exhibition, will open on March 8, the official James Bond film Twitter feed announced today.

Here’s the description from the website of Spyscape, a New York spy museum:

Discover 007 from a different perspective in this brand new exhibition. The multi-sensory experience explores the creative process behind the 007 movies while revealing the secrets of James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin DB5.

Investigate gadgets in Q’s lab, examine original concept art in Oscar®-winning Production Designer Sir Ken Adam’s studio and peek behind the scenes of Skyfall’s explosive finale.

The exhibition originally was announced in December, with details yet to come. American Express cardholders can buy tickets starting today through Jan. 30 ahead of the general public.