Two 007 facts amid the speculation

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What follows are two 007-related facts. They don’t necessarily connect to one another.

On the other hand, you see so much on social media, we thought we’d mention them, for what they’re worth.

–It’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s choice, not Eon Productions’, what studio will distribute Bond 25.

That’s not this blog talking. It’s Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss. He gave an interview late last year portions of which are on YouTube.

“It’s not primarily our decision,” Wilson said. “MGM will…it’s their responsibility.” Wilson said, at the time. He also said that Eon had met with studios (he didn’t specify which ones) which were interested in releasing Bond 25 for MGM.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films but its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

–Barbara Broccoli’s current non-Bond film has a relatively short filming schedule. 

According to the Screen Daily website, the Eon co-boss’ drama, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, is scheduled to wrap filming on Aug. 8. Principal photography began in late June and is based at stages that are part of an expansion at Pinewood Studios.

A producer’s job, of course, doesn’t end with filming. A producer oversees various post-production tasks — editing, sound work, music, etc.

Meanwhile, Screen Daily also refers to the movie as a “passion project” of Broccoli’s. The movie is based upon the memoirs of British actor Peter Turner, who had a relationship with American actress Gloria Grahame. Broccoli acquired the film rights more than 20 years ago, according to Screen Daily.

At the same time, Eon has various other pending non-007 projects. So, there’s no telling how many will take up Broccoli’s time before she turns her attention to Bond 25.

 

DC rolls out more optimistic take on movies

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman was criticized for being overly dark.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Book Con, Warner Bros./DC Entertainment provided its first preview of an more optimistic take on its super hero movies.

The studio used Comic Con to show a trailer for the Woman Woman movie scheduled for June 2017. Also unveiled was a video with footage from Justice League, due out for release in the fall of 2017.

To a degree, both seemed lighter than Batman v Superman, which was criticized in late March for its mostly dark and somber tone.

Batman v Superman got a ton of bad reviews, reflected in a only a 27 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. More importantly, for studio executives, its worldwide box office was $872.7 million.

While impressive for most movies, the movie plunged after a huge opening its first weekend. Also, Warners was looking to join the $1 billion club. The movie didn’t match the 2015 James Bond movie SPECTRE ($880.7 million).

WB/DC’s big competitor, Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, made to the $1 billion club again a few months later with Captain America: Civil War. That movie had a serious, emotional payoff while still retaining the type of humor seen in other Marvel films.

Since then, there has have been executive changes at DC, including elevating Geoff Johns, a comic book writer turned executive, to co-head of DC’s movie operations. The news was broken in May by The Hollywood Reporter, which described the move as a “course correction.”

New York magazine’s Vulture website described Johns as “big on hope and optimism.”

The studio has a lot riding, in particular, on Justice League, because it’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers movies (the Justice League came first in the comics). Also, Justice League, is being directed by Zack Snyder, the director of Batman v Superman.

Anyway, both trailers are below.

Gene L. Coon: More than just Star Trek

Poster for The Killers, a pre-Star Trek credit for Gene L. Coon

Poster for The Killers (1964), a pre-Star Trek credit for Gene L. Coon

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

For the purposes of this post, we’re stretching the definition of “unsung.” Gene L. Coon was a major figure for the original Star Trek series (where he was producer for part of the first and second seasons) and he’s mostly remembered for that.

However, the writer-producer performed work in other genres. That included 1960s spy shows, serving as a producer for some episodes of The Wild Wild West and It Takes a Thief. He also wrote episodes of war dramas and westerns.

Coon also did the script for the 1964 version of The Killers, with a cast headed by Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Ronald Reagan. The crew included composer John Williams.

The Killers was intended by Universal to be a made-for-television movie. What producer-director Don Siegel delivered was deemed to be too violent for the small screen. So The Killers got a theatrical release instead.

Coon had a reputation as a hard worker. He had an admirer in director Ralph Senensky. Here’s what Senensky said about Coon in a reply to a post about an episode of The Wild Wild West titled The Night of the Druid’s Blood:

I think Gene Coon is one of the unsung heroes of television. Both on this series and later on STAR TREK his work (and he was a rewriting machine) set a standard that elevated both series to levels that were seldom reached after his departure.

Coon produced only six episodes of The Wild Wild West near the end of that show’s first season (1965-66). The following television season, he joined Star Trek as producer, working under creator-executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Coon’s main task was to secure and produce a steady stream of scripts.

Coon’s major contributions included the Klingons and co-writing Space Seed, the episode that introduced Ricardo Montalban’s Khan character. Khan would be brought back twice (once with Montalban and once with Benedict Cumberbatch) as villains in Star Trek movies.

Put another way, Coon’s contributions had an impact on Trek productions long after he first made them.

The writer-producer continued into Trek’s second season but departed. He ended up at Universal’s television operation. However, he did some moonlighting, writing some Trek scripts under the pen name Lee Cronin.

One of them, Spock’s Brain, in which Spock’s brain is taken from him, still generates groans from Trek fans decades later. Well, everyone has an off day and the writing conditions (doing it on the side while working full-time at Universal) weren’t ideal.

Gene L. Coon died of cancer on July 8, 1973, just 49 years old. His final writing credit was for an episode of The Streets of San Francisco titled Death and the Favored Few. That show aired in March 1974.

Tabloid says Broccoli in no rush to make Bond 25

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

The Sun, the U.K. tabloid, said in a gossip column that Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli isn’t hurrying to make Bond 25 and still hopes to convince Daniel Craig, 48, to return as James Bond.

The tabloid quotes a source it didn’t identify as saying the following: “Barbara is not going to be rushed into a Bond and wants to work on two other film projects next year. It will give her time to work out a script and try to convince Daniel to maybe return.”

The producer currently is overseeing a drama called Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

Before we proceed further, here’s a caveat: The Sun has a trashy reputation.

But on at least one aspect, this story has the ring of truth. Barbara Broccoli has repeatedly made clear she wants to do things other than 007 films and wants more time between Bond movies.

Reminder No. 1: In November 2012, Broccoli made the following comment to the Los Angeles Times:

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

Reminder No. 2: Earlier in 2012, Broccoli and Craig, in an interview with the Collider website, publicly slapped down a Sony executive who had said Bond 24 would be out in 2014, two years after Skyfall:

Last week Rory (Bruer), the president of distribution of Sony, announced Bond 24 for I guess late 2014…

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it.

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs). It’s very nice that he has the confidence to be able to do that, but we haven’t finished this movie yet.

One of the most repeated myths on 007-related message boards is that Eon held up Bond 24, later titled SPECTRE, an extra year to get Sam Mendes back as director. Barbara Broccoli has repeatedly made clear she doesn’t want to do Bond movies on an every-other-year basis.

The Sun’s gossip column says Bond 25 won’t come out until late 2018 at the earliest. That should be of absolutely no surprise to anybody who’s followed events of the past five years.

Garry Marshall dies; wrote an I Spy episode

Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

Garry Marshall, a veteran writer-producer on television series as well as a movie director, has died at 81, according to AN OBITUARY PUBLISHED BY VARIETY.

On television, his credits included developing The Odd Couple as a TV series and creating Happy Days. His movie credits including directing 1990’s Pretty Woman.

For the purposes of this blog, we just wanted to note that Marshall, with his then-partner Jerry Belson, wrote a quirkly I Spy episode titled No Exchange on Damaged Merchandise.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks as U.S. agent Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) writes up a report to his superiors, seeking reimbursements for expenses from an assignment.

His partner Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) wants Kelly to forget it. But Robinson is so annoyed with the bureaucracy, he’s determined to get the reimbursement.

The viewer doesn’t get the entire story until Robinson is about to complete the report. Along the way, Scott was almost killed. Meanwhile, the duo was forced to improvise a prisoner exchange with a corpse.

 

Why the Bond vs. Bourne debate is silly

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Matt Damon is promoting his latest Jason Bourne movie, creatively titled Jason Bourne. Among other things, Damon has said Bourne would beat James Bond in a fight.

In turn, some Bond fans have been offended. Here are some reasons they shouldn’t be.

Bond and Bourne are fictional characters. Therefore, Bourne can’t beat Bond or vice versa.

Are you ready to get into other countless debates? You might as well participate in debates such as would Jim Phelps beat Joe Mannix in a fight? Or would Jim Phelps beat Dan Briggs in a fight? Or would James West beat Matt Dillon in a fight? Or who would win in a fight between Bambi and Godzilla? Or who would win in a fight between Superman or Batman? Oh wait….the latter question generated a $250 million movie…..

All you’re doing is helping Matt Damon promote his movie. Damon is trying to generate publicity for Jason Bourne. If you’re a 007 fan annoyed with this and posting on social media about it, you’re just helping him. He’s getting paid for his trouble while you aren’t.

 

William W. Spencer: ‘Artist who painted with light’

Stephen Brooks and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as photographed by William W. Spencer in The FBI.

Stephen Brooks and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as photographed by William W. Spencer in The FBI.

Another in a series of unsung figures of television.

With films, the director of photography often is celebrated as an artist and a critical contributor.

On television? Not so much. Even today, with TV’s prestige at an all-time high (where television is hailed as more adult than motion pictures), directors of photography don’t get the attention of their movie counterparts.

However, people who worked with television directors of photography are fully aware of how much they bring to the table. That’s certainly the case with William W. Spencer, a two-time Emmy winner who was also nominated a third.

“Billy Spencer was an artist who painted with light,” director Ralph Senensky wrote on his website about The FBI episode titled The Assassin.

Similar comments were expressed by those in front of the camera. “He knew what he wanted all the time, how he wanted to set it up, how it would be dramatically correct,” actress Lynda Day George told author Jonathan Etter for the book Quinn Martin, Producer.

In the first episode of The FBI, Jeffrey Hunter played Francis Jerome, a psychotic killer with sexual identity issues. Jerome kills women by strangling them with their own long hair.

In Act III, Jerome visits the dreary home of his domineering grandmother (Estelle Winwood). After bending to her will, yet again, Jerome freaks out as he looks at the portrait of the long-haired Blue Boy.

In a close up, Spencer’s lights emphasize Jerome’s eyes. In the 21st century, that’s an old-fashioned technique, but effective in telling the story.

Born in 1921, Spencer worked camera-related jobs at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as the studio was beginning to decline from its glory days. He graduated to director of photography (one of two) for the 1958 movie Andy Hardy Comes Home.

MGM shifted Spencer to television with a series based on The Thin Man. He would work in television for the bulk of his career.

That meant working faster than even modestly budgeted movies.

“You were constantly adapting, constantly sacrificing and letting things go,” Spencer told Etter for the Quinn Martin book.

When filming at a borrowed house on location, “We frequently shot in very cramped quarters,” Spencer said. “The lamps were often so close to the actors, they almost got burned.”

Spencer worked on various series, including The Richard Boone Show, an anthology show with the same actors appearing every week. From there, he was recruited to QM Productions and assigned to photograph 12 O’Clock High, the World War II drama.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a first-season episode of The FBI

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as photographed by William W. Spencer in a first-season episode of The FBI

The director of photography picked up his first Emmy for that series. QM then shifted Spencer to The FBI, the production company’s first color series.

“Now he was filming in color and his photography was magnificent, because he lit it the same way he lit black and white, with cross lighting,” Ralph Senensky wrote about The Assassin episode of The FBI..

In a separate post about the 12 O’Clock High episode The Trap, the director wrote that Spencer hated color. “When color became the dominant mode of transmission on television, Billy watched on his color television set, but he watched in black and white with the color turned off.”

Spencer mostly worked at QM for more than a decade. He occasionally scored movie jobs, including 1967’s Countdown and QM’s only feature film, 1971’s The Mephisto Waltz.

After QM ceased operations, Spencer remained active into the 1980s. He won a second Emmy for the Fame television series.

Spencer died in 2007, at the age of 85.

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