How to keep Marilyn Monroe in From Russia With Love

A poster for the United Artists-released Some Like It Hot

One of Ian Fleming’s most notable chapter titles was “The Mouth of Marilyn Monroe” for chapter 19 of From Russia With Love. It’s where Bond and Darko Kerim (aka Kerim Bey) hunt down the assassin Krilencu (as it’s spelled in the novel).

The killer has an escape hatch hidden in a giant movie advertisement on the side of a building. “The outline of a huge woman’s face and some lettering appeared,” Fleming writes in the novel published in 1957. “Now Bond could read the lettering. It said: ‘Niyagara Marilyn Monroe ve Joseph Cotton…'”

The movie was Niagara (1953), a 20th Century Fox release. By the time the From Russia With Love film came out, it was a full decade after Niagara and there was no way the UA-released From Russia With Love would promote a Fox movie.

On the other hand, Monroe along with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) had starred in the 1959 UA-released Some Like It Hot. Monroe died in 1962, a year before From Russia With Love went before the cameras. But re-releases were common in those days. So it wouldn’t have been unusual to see Some Like It Hot being promoted in Istanbul in 1963.

Eon decided, instead, to go with (no surprise) the Eon-produced (and UA-distributed) Call Me Bwana for the movie advertisement for the movie. Albert R. Broccoli’s and Harry Saltzman’s “present” credit can be seen on the Bwana advertisement in the 007 film. Pedro Armandariz as Kerim Bey references Bwana co-star Anita Ekberg with the line, “She has a lovely mouth, that Anita.”

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Settlement reached in 007 box set case

Never Say Never Again’s poster

A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit that originated when a consumer who bought a James Bond box set marketed as containing “all” of the 007 movies but didn’t include 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

The lawsuit was filed against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio to the 007 franchise, and 20th Century Fox, which distributes Bond films on home video.

Under terms of the settlement, eligible consumers will receive digital copies of the two 007 films that were not made by Eon Productions.

“The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing and the Court has not decided who is right and who is wrong.  Instead, the parties decided to settle the dispute,” according to the announcement.

The box sets referenced in the settlement announcement were “Bond 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007,” “The James Bond Collection” and “The Ultimate James Bond Collection.”

If someone wants to claim the digital copies, they have to submit a claim form by May 29. “Claim forms can be obtained at www.bondDVDsettlement.com or by calling 1-833-380-5565.”

If someone wants to be excluded from the settlement they have to do so by May 18. “This is the only option that allows you to keep any rights you currently have to negotiate with or sue Defendants about the claims in this case,” according to the announcement.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

This is the same case where a federal judge in Seattle last year issued a 14-page ruling full of James Bond puns.

A 007 film moment almost without precedent

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been a Bond movie moment quite like this one.

On the one hand, the incumbent Bond actor (Daniel Craig in this case) has said he’s coming back. And a release date (early November 2019) has been announced.

On the other hand, It has been more than 190 days since that release date was announced. We still don’t know who will get the movie to theaters.

The distributor issue is a moving target. At one point, 20th Century Fox was in the mix. But Walt Disney Co. struck a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of the rival film studio.

Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, which has released the last four 007 films, was also in the mix. Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai has announced his retirement. Now, there’s renewed speculation that Sony Corp. may sell off its film and TV business.

Also, Eon Productions, which produces the Bond films, hasn’t been this busy with non-Bond projects. Eon suffered a setback with its non-007 spy film, The Rhythm Section, had to suspend production following an injury to star Blake Lively.

At this point, there isn’t much firmly known about Bond 25, the next installment in the 007 film series. Craig told CBS’s Stephen Colbert in August he’s coming back; Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced the 2019 release date in July 2017; and veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on the Bond 25 story.

The Hollywood Reporter said in September that tech giants Apple and Amazon were in the hunt for Bond rights, but nothing has been heard from since then.

Before now, the 2009-2011 period was the most uncertain for the Bond franchise. MGM, which controls half of the franchise, filed for bankruptcy.

Still, MGM completed bankruptcy. On Jan. 11, 2011, Eon and MGM announced that Bond 23 (later titled Skyfall) was back in production after being suspended because of MGM’s uncertain financial situation.

Today, more than seven years later, MGM is more healthy financially. It’s moving toward becoming a “big boy” studio again. Last year, it struck a deal with Annapurna Pictures to form a joint venture to release each other’s movies. But, at least for now, that deal doesn’t cover Bond 25.

Despite that, Bond 25 distribution (and financing) issues aren’t resolved. The industry is changing quickly. The Disney-Fox deal, for example, would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

Is this crying wolf? No. It’s just a recognition things are more complicated than 2010-11, the last time when Bond’s film future was unsettled.

Get ready for a new era with Disney-Fox deal

Walt Disney Co. logo

UPDATE (7:10 a.m., Dec. 14): Walt Disney Co. announced this morning it was acquiring the 20th Century Fox studio and other Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock.

Among the bullet points in the press release: “Popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic to join Disney’s portfolio.

Disney also said CEO Robert Iger, 66, who has postponed retirement once already, will remain in the post through 2021. It was under Iger that Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars), deals dwarfed by this latest one.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 13): Walt Disney Co. reportedly is about to buy 20th Century Fox and other major assets from 21st Century Fox. (Both CNBC and The New York Times have said the deal may be announced Thursday.)

Many entertainment and fan websites have concentrated on how major Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, now controlled by Fox, would come under Disney and its Marvel Studios unit.

The business media (such as this CNBC story) has focused on how the deal would bolster Disney with its plans to start a streaming service to challenge Netflix.

However, such a deal would cut the number of major studios releasing movies. 20th Century-Fox probably would become another brand for Disney and be involved in fewer movies overall. As the Daily Beast put it last month, “A Disney-Fox Merger Is Bad for Everyone But Disney.” Also, such a transaction may spur additional deal making and consolidation.

Fox currently handles home video distribution for James Bond films, with its current deal lasting through June 2020. It’s uncertain how or when a Disney acquisition of Fox assets would affect that. Disney may have its hands full dealing with Marvel characters and streaming issues that the 007 home video situation may have to wait.

Meanwhile, if a Disney-Fox hookup spurs more consolidation, it’s possible the Bond franchise may be affected. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, is a relative runt.

MGM is just now — seven years after exiting bankruptcy — taking steps to distributing its own movies again by forming a distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Could MGM get gobbled up at some point?

In any case, the anticipated Disney-Fox deal means things won’t be the same.

William Self: Fox TV to the rescue

William Self title card on an episode of Batman, produced by 20th Century Fox’s television unit

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

In the early 1960s, things were not looking good at 20th Century Fox.

The 1963 film Cleopatra, while popular with audiences. It sold 67.2 million tickets in the U.S. and Canada. That was more than Goldfinger’s 66.3 million.

But Cleopatra was so expensive, it had no chance of recouping its costs. The studio was going to need a bailout.

The bailout came from its television division, headed by executive William Self, a former actor.

Self’s TV unit took an inventory of the properties Fox held and began developing television versions.

As a result, in the fall of 1964, Fox came out with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the studio’s 1961 film produced by Irwin Allen); Peyton Place, based on a 1956 novel, made into a 1957 Fox film; and 12 O’Clock High, based on a 1948 novel and made into a 1949 Fox movie.

All three were part of ABC’s 1964-65 schedule. Also, Fox produced Daniel Boone for NBC that same season.

Soon after, Self’s Fox TV unit was the home of other Allen shows as well as the 1966-68 Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The latter got off to a rocky start as test audiences were confused by the campy approach.

Self’s tenure at Fox lasted into the early 1970s. He became a producer (something he had done before joining Fox), whose credits included 1976’s The Shootist, the final John Wayne film.

Self died in 2010 at the age of 89.

MGM-Annapurna may distribute Bond 25 in U.S.

The recently announced joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures may distribute Bond 25 in the United States, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

“This all should be finalized this week, and rumors are flying today,” according to the story by Mike Fleming Jr. and Anita Busch.

MGM and Annapurna announced the joint venture on Oct. 31. At the time, MGM and Annapurna said Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

Deadline said distribution outside the U.S. for Bond 25 hasn’t been decided.

“There are still major decisions to be made on both international distribution and ancillary distribution, the latter of which long had been administered by Fox in a deal that is expiring,” according to the story.

Deadline said Warner Bros. Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal are still seeking  international distribution for Bond 25.

20th Century Fox currently handles home video releases of Bond films.

MGM controls half of the Bond franchise, with the other half under control of Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions.

MGM hasn’t had its own distribution operation since exiting bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four Bond films. Other MGM projects have been released by other studios.

Sony “has been informed that domestic will not go their way” for Bond 25, Deadline said.

Annapurna is a movie production company that got into distribution this year with the drama Detroit.

007: With media consolidation, just a piece on the board

“Sorry, Kronsteen. Disney just bought you out.”

In less than a week, there have been two developments that reinforced how James Bond — despite his cinema history — is just a piece of the chessboard.

On Halloween, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures announced a joint venture to release movies in the U.S.

MGM is 007’s home studio and controls half of the franchise. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal. Still, it was a reminder how Bond fans don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes.

MGM hasn’t had a distribution operation since exiting bankruptcy in 2010. The Annapurna deal is a first step toward being a “big boy” studio again. Still, it’s not clear how this affects the Bond franchise just yet.

On Monday, CNBC reported that Walt Disney Co. had engaged in discussions with Rupert Mucdock’s 21st Century Fox to buy most of the 20th Century Fox movie and TV operations.

That has the potential to affect Bond because Fox has a contract for home video distribution of 007 films. It has even more potential to affect Marvel Studios. Disney owns Marvel but Fox licenses key properties such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

For now, according to CNBC, the “two sides are not currently talking at this very moment.” But, until Monday, nobody had an inkling this was even a possibility. 

Back in February, this blog suggested MGM needed to get bigger or get out. The blog took some flak from on social media for daring to suggest MGM wasn’t as strong as other studios. Nine months later, this blog may have been proven right and then some.

It was once observed (by Shady Tree) that Willard Whyte liked “to play Monopoly with real buildings.” In 2017, it’s not just real buildings that are stake. The fate of major movie franchises is also in the pot.

How is it going to turn out? Your guess is as good as the blog’s. But next time you see someone on social media saying they know what’s going to happen, don’t believe them.