Duns uncovers Joseph Heller’s work on Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

Writer Jeremy Duns, who in 2011 researched Casino Royale scripts by Ben Hecht, has produced another chapter in the saga of the Charles K. Feldman production — work that Catch 22 author Joseph Heller did for Feldman’s project.

Duns’ research about Heller is contained in an April 20 article in The Times of London.

Heller was approached by producer Feldman after Hecht died in 1964. Hecht’s work was more of a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel.

However, according to the article, Feldman wanted to go in a more extravagant direction after Hecht’s death. Heller, who worked with novelist George Mandel as a co-writer, came aboard during this phase of the project in early 1965.

In one version of the Heller material, according to Duns, the fugitive Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele “is removing the brains of leading scientists” and storing them.

A very similar idea would be included in a March 1966 episode of The Wild Wild West, The Night of the Druid’s Blood. The series was set in the 1870s but the villain of the episode has removed the brains of scientists who are still alive, albeit disembodied. That episode was scripted by Henry Sharp, one of the show’s leading writers who earlier in his career had written for pulp magazines.

The Heller-Mandel material also includes the villain’s base is in a dormant volcano. As noted by Duns, both Our Man Flint, with James Coburn, and 1967’s You Only Live Twice featured the same concept.

Despite such flourishes, Duns says the tone of the Heller material has “a real sense of menace and suspense.”

Duns found the Heller material in the Charles K. Feldman Collection at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Feldman’s family donated Casino Royale material in 1969 but the collection has been closed to the public until recently, according to Duns.

To read the much more detailed article, CLICK HERE. The article is behind a paywall. However, if you register for The Times’ site, you can see two free articles a month. The Times is offering a one-month free subscription plan. Duns also has his own summary of his research on his blog.

3 Responses

  1. I would kill to read those Hecht scripts.

  2. IIRC, they’re at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Hecht donated his papers there. My understanding is an Oscar he won is also there.

  3. When I was in the same archive ten years ago before John Cork and I did the commentary track for Casino Royale’s special DVD release from Sony, I was amazed at the amount of material that had been saved. I was particularly fascinated with a ledger that Feldman kept every day to identify where he ate his meals. Apparently, he had gotten into some trouble with the Internal Revenue Service over reported expenses. Jeez, this guy ate three times a day at some of the most expensive eateries in Europe. Given that he died shortly after the film’s release, I believe he ate himself to death.

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