Jack Whittingham’s daughter publishes a Thunderball book

Cover to The Thunderball Story

Sylvan Whittingham Mason, daughter of screenwriter Jack Whittingham, has published a book about her father’s work on what would become Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

The book, which is available on Amazon, is titled The Thunderball Story: The Untold History of the First James Bond Screenplay. Here’s the description on Amazon:

“The story is the most fascinating and controversial in the entire history of James Bond. It began way back in 1958 when maverick Irish producer, Kevin McClory collaborated with 007 creator Ian Fleming and screenwriter, Jack Whittingham on a screenplay that was eventually entitled ‘THUNDERBALL’.” (Robert Sellers – “The Battle for Bond”) Jack Whittingham’s daughter, Sylvan – the only person still alive from that time – provides an unique and personal insight into the untold history of the very first James Bond screenplay.

Jack Whittingham (1910-1972) doesn’t get as much attention as the other players in the Thunderball saga. Kevin McClory took on Ian Fleming in court and eventually received the film rights to the novel. An attribution would be added to the book that it was based on a story by McClory, Whittingham and Fleming.

McClory cut a deal with Eon Productions and Thunderball became the fourth film in the Eon series. McClory in the 1970s battled Eon in court as well amid attempts to make a new film based on the novel. Eventually, Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake, was released in 1983.

Some collectors have a copy of an early 1960 draft by Whittingham for McClory. At that point the title was Longitude 78 West. In that script, the villains, led by Largo, belong to the Mafia. Other scripts would be written before the McClory project ran aground. Fleming would use the work as the basis for his Thunderball novel and the legal fights began after it was published. Writer Robert Sellers’s book The Battle for Bond covered that history. (You can CLICK HERE to view a 2015 interview the blog did with Sellers.)

The Thunderball Story is priced at 16.99 British pounds. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Bond 25 work continues amid director search, MI6 site says

Bond 25 keeping its head above water, MI6 James Bond website says.

Work is continuing on Bond 25 with the intent of meeting its original schedule amid the search for a new director, the MI6 James Bond website said.

Sets are still under construction at Pinewood Studios in accordance with “the original timetable and plans,” the MI6 site said.

Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, departed the project last month.

MI6 also said Hodge’s Bond 25 script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” The script “is being touched up again” to reflect concerns of star Daniel Craig and producers, according to MI6.

Deadline: Hollywood said in a Feb. 21 story that Boyle and Hodge had pitched an idea that Hodge was writing at that point. Deadline said that effort was separate from a Purvis and Wade script written last year.

A May 25 announcement that included that Boyle would direct said the project had “an original screenplay” by Hodge. There was no mention of Purvis and Wade.

MI6 did not mention who is revising the Bond 25 script currently.

Bond 25 has an announced release date of fall 2019. The May 25 announcement said filming would start on Dec. 3. Craig is scheduled to film a mystery movies, Knives Out, during November.

The MI6 website has a relationship with Eon Productions. Disclosure: The blog proprietor has done two articles for MI6 Confidential, a magazine published by the website.

UPDATE (7:05 p.m. New York time): On Twitter, the MI6 website said this about Hodge and the “original screenplay” of the May 25 announcement:

 

About that whole James Bond-Aston Martin thing

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

One wonders what Ian Fleming would have thought about the love affair between the James Bond films and Aston Martin.

In the Goldfinger novel, Bond had a choice between the Aston Martin DB3 or a Jaguar for use as a cover as “a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life.” He chose the Aston.

By the time Goldfinger was adapted by Eon Productions in 1964, Bond drove a government-issued DB5, complete with an elector seat, machine guns, oil slick and other extras. Bond films were never the same again. The cinematic Bond, despite some breaks here and there, has been driving Aston Martins frequently since.

Indeed, the DB5 has shown up in a number of films since 1995’s Goldfinger, including 2015’s SPECTRE where he drove it at the end of the movie.

In the novels, Bond was a civil servant who lived relatively modestly (although he could afford a housekeeper). But Aston Martin isn’t concerned about the middle class.

Latest example: The announcement that Aston Martin will build 25 replica DB5s at a price of 2.75 million British pounds each. The cars, though, won’t be street legal, according to a separate Aston Martin statement.

The replicas are supposed to come with Bond gadgets. The literary Bond might burn through a year’s salary (inflation adjusted) just paying for the insurance and maintenance bills. Then again, the 007 movies have glossed over, or simply ignored, other aspects of Fleming’s novels.

At the same time, Aston Martin has its issues as well. It’s a bit of an orphan in the automotive world. For 30 years, it was part of Ford Motor Co. But Ford had to sell it off in 2007 amid financial troubles.

As a result, Aston swims in an ocean of automotive sharks. The auto industry is a bit unsettled these days. Even the giants aren’t exactly sure what’s going to happen next in an era of self-driving cars and ride-sharing services.

In 2014, Adweek wrote about how Aston’s connection to the 007 films didn’t really help sales because the company sold so few cars. For a time, Aston was talking about the need to diversify from James Bond. In stories such as a 2016 article in Marketing Week, company executives said they relied too much on the 007 image.

That was then, this is now. Besides making DB5 replicas, the carmaker last month was part of a pact to sell pricey (129.99 British pounds) Lego versions of the 007 DB5. If Aston Martin is diversifying from Bond, it doesn’t much look like it.

The Bond marriage with Aston Martin continues, even if the literary 007 couldn’t afford the products that marriage produces.

Without whom, etc.

Our annual post.

Former 007 publicist has book out

Cover to Jerry Juroe book

Charles “Jerry” Juroe, a retired movie publicist who did work on the 007 film series, has a book out.

Bond, the Beatles and My Year with Marilyn is available from McFarland.com.

Here’s the description from the website:

In his remarkable 50-year career, D-Day veteran, international film publicist and executive and production associate Charles “Jerry” Juroe met, knew or worked with almost “anyone who was anyone,” from Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock to Mary Pickford, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, Brando and the Beatles.

He made his name working on the iconic James Bond films, running publicity and advertising for both United Artists and legendary producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s EON Productions. From Dr. No to GoldenEye, Juroe traveled the globe with Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. His entertaining memoir reads like insider history of Hollywood.

Juroe showed up as an interview subject on several documentaries produced for home video releases of Bond films in the late 1990s.

The book costs $29.95. The Kindle version costs $15.99. Besides McFarland, it can also be ordered through Amazon.com.

UPDATE (9:50 p.m. New York time): Reader @Stringray_travel on Twitter reminds the blog that Juroe was also an interview subject in the documentary Everything or Nothing. Here’s part of it where you can hear and see Juroe:

MI6 Confidential examines Horowitz, other topics

Anthony Horowitz

MI Confidential No. 46, the publication’s newest issue, looks at 007 continuation author Anthony Horowitz and other topics.

According to the publication’s website, Horowitz, among all the Bond continuation authors, was the only one who “had the privilege and challenge of integrating original and unused (Ian) Fleming material.

“After doing so successfully in 2015 (with Trigger Mortis), Anthony Horowitz was invited to reprise this role for ‘Forever and a Day’, released this May.”

MI6 Confidential said it spoke with Horowtiz about research and the  “enormity of the task of integrating his timeline with Fleming’s.”

Other articles in No. 46 include Steven Cole discussing his six years of writing the Young Bond book series.

For more information, CLICK HERE. To order, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 and 8.50 euros.

Never Say Never Again’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds round 2

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Adapted from a June 2013 post. An epilogue is added at the end.

Never Say Never Again marks its 35th anniversary in October. The James Bond film originally was intended to go directly up against Octopussy, the 13th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, that came out in June 1983.

Sean Connery, after a 12-year absence from the role, was going to make a James Bond movie his way. Warner Bros. and producer Jack Schwartzman had made the actor the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. He was not only star, but had approval over various creative aspects. He had much of the power of a producer without the responsibilities.

Schwartzman, an attorney turned film producer, took charge of a long effort to make an non-Eon 007 film. Kevin McClory, who controlled the film rights to Thunderball, had been trying to mount a new production since the mid-1970s with no success. Schwartzman became the producer, with McClory getting an executive producer credit and both men “presenting” Never Say Never Again.

McClory, at one point, had attemped a broader new 007 adventure. Never Say Never Again was only supposed to be a remake of Thunderball. Lorenzo Semple Jr., who had scripted non-serious (the pilot for the Adam West Batman series) and serious (Three Days of the Condor) was hired as writer. Irvin Kershner, who had directed The Empire Strikes Back, was brought on as director. As an added bonus, Kershner had a history of working with Connery on the 1966 movie A Fine Madness.

“As far as I’m concerned, there never was a Bond picture before,” Kershner said in quotes carried in the movie’s press kit. “There is a certain psychological righness to the characters as (Ian) Fleming saw them. He understood people very well. He was an observer of life and that’s what makes him a good writer. I tried to maintain that quality in the film. I wanted the people to be true.”

By the Way

Starlog magazine devoted a cover to the “Battle of the Bonds” in 1983.

Not mentioned in the press kit was the fact that Connery, who had script approval, objected to Semple’s effort. As a result, at Connery’s urging, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were hired to rewrite but didn’t get a credit.

The end result was a storyline that veered from a version of Largo who’s clearly off his rocker to goofy gags involving the likes of British diplomat Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson). Perhaps Connery really meant it when, in 1971, he called Tom Mankiewicz’s lighthearted Diamonds Are Forever script the best of the Eon series up to that point.

Also present in Never was an over-the-top SPECTRE assassin, Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), a far wilder version of Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). In Thunderball, Bond tells Domino (Claudine Auger) her brother has been killed in a dramatic scene on a beach. In Never, he tells Domino (Kim Basinger) in the middle of a tango in a campy scene with loud music playing on the soundtrack.

‘Sean’s Warmth’

Speaking of music, composer Michel Legrand was recruited by none other than star Sean Connery, according to Jon Burlingame’s 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. According to the book, Legrand felt burned out after working on the movie Yentl. “Sean’s warmth and enthusiasm persuaded me,” Legrand is quoted by Burlingame. Legrand’s score is a sore point with fans, who still give Connery a pass for his role in bringing Legrand to the film.

Understandably, fans prefer to focus on Connery’s performance in front of the camera, rather than decisions he made behind it. The actor, who turned 52 before the start of production in 1982, looked fitter than his Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever.

A survey of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant editors some years ago (the survey is now offline) reflects admiration for his acting while mostly downplaying his decision making behind the scenes.

At the box office, Never Say Never Again did fine while trailing 1983’s Eon entry, Octopussy, $55.4 million to $67.9 million in the U.S. The Schwartzman production had been delayed by four months compared with Octopussy.

Years later, Connery was seen on a CBS News show, saying that Never had “a really incompetent producer.” For Schwartzman, things didn’t end happily. He died in 1994 at the age of 61 of pancreatic cancer.

Connery remained a star until he retired from acting in the early 2000s. Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer eventually gained control of the rights to Never Say Never Again.

Cover to Bondage No. 12, 1983

2018 epilogue: Like Octopussy, Never Say Never Again polarizes fans. Maybe more so.

Bond fans who never warmed to Roger Moore say the movie is just fine and superior to many of the 007 offerings of Eon Productions during this era. Evidently, Nigel Small-Fawcett’s goofiness is better than the goofiness of, say, Eon’s Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

During this time, there was a U.S.-based 007 fan publication, Bondage. You got the idea whose side Bondage was taking with the “Battle of the Bonds.” Issue No. 12’s cover had a publicity still of Connery from Never Say Never Again.

“Sean Connery returns in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN,” read the cover blurb. “Plus Octopussy.” The publication devoted a second cover to Never Say Never Again in 1984.  (The Book Bond website ran a 2014 story showing all the covers from 1974 to 1989.)

Meanwhile, to this day, pro-Eon fans still curse the name of Kevin McClory. I’ve seen comments from 007 fans on message boards who abhor Never Say Never Again simply because it’s not an Eon product.

For me, Connery is my favorite Bond actor. But looking back, I suspect Connery discovered being a (de facto) Bond producer is a lot harder than it looks.

There have been fan efforts of re-editing parts of the movie, including one with an Eon gunbarrel logo (putting Connery’s head on top of Timothy Dalton’s body) and overlaying John Barry scores from the Eon series.

Decades after its release, Never Say Never Again still gets a rise out of fans, regardless of their opinion.