When great composers resort to the slide whistle

The end of the car jump of The Man With the Golden Gun

Sometimes, great minds just think alike.

So it is with the slide whistle. One of the most controversial James Bond music choices was when John Barry (1933-2011) opted to use a slide whistle in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

Bond (Roger Moore), desperate to catch up with villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), sends his car across a narrow Thailand waterway. The car completes one full rotation in mid-air before landing on its wheels.

In reality, it was a carefully planned stunt. Such jumps had already been performed at shows. The stunt originally was designed on a computer. Barry utilized a slide whistle for the scene. Many Bond film fans have never forgiven him since.

The thing is, another legendary film composer had used a slide whistle just several years before.

Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) scored the two Derek Flint films, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. With the latter, a 1967 release, Goldsmith also opted to use a slide whistle. It was part of an action sequence. You can see (and hear) use of the slide whistle around the 1:40 mark of the video below:

That’s show business.

UPDATE: On social media, I encountered someone who is claiming John Barry had absolutely nothing to do with The Man With the Golden Gun’s slide whistle.

In the book The Music of James Bond, Barry told a different story. “I just took the liberty of poking fun at it,” Barry is quoted by author Jon Burlingame in the chapter about Golden Gun (it’s on page 121 of the edition I own) specifically about the slide whistle. “It made a mockery of Bond, looking back on it. Even Cubby (Broccoli) didn’t like that. But it was me getting to the end of it.”

I know there’s a dispute about how much Barry contributed, or didn’t contribute to the Monty Norman-credited James Bond Theme. But people rarely seek credit for a lesser moment like Golden Gun’s slide whistle. With For Your Eyes Only, Richard Maibaum made sure everybody knew he didn’t write the line, “I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel!”

One Response

  1. Related to this (kind of) I’ve seen two versions of the scene in Thunderball when Bond escapes the shark pool. In one he says ‘Sorry old boy better luck next time’ and in the other ‘Now you can talk about the one who gotta away’. I imagine the later was for a UK audience and the former for an international one. Pity we didn’t get a UK Daley version printed – would have been great to have these two iconic franchises linked.

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