Live And Let Die’s 50th: The post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

Adapted from a 2013 post
For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted in 1973. It would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began.

They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint and The Persuaders! television shows. Older than Connery, Moore would employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for The Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman that if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect.

Sheriff J.W. Pepper, up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

But Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could survive without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.

FEBRUARY 2012 POST: LIVE AND LET DIE, A REAPPRAISAL

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME PROFILES THE NEW JAMES BOND

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME CALLS 007 A `RACIST PIG’

FRWL’s 60th: The dancer in the main titles

Autographed photo of Julie Mendez (Provided by Steve Oxenrider)

Steve Oxenrider, a long-time James Bond fan, originally prepared this story more than a decade ago. He talked to Julie Mendez, who was the dancer in the main titles of From Russia With Love. She passed away in 2013.

By Steve Oxenrider, Guest Writer

A belly dancer’s best friend is her snake.  If Julie Mendez had had her way, the undulating, gyrating movements of the main title dancer in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE might have featured a boa constrictor. 

Julie is the dance artist who performed as the credits were projected onto her shimmering body for the introduction to the second James Bond thriller. When I spoke to her at her Brighton home summer 2009, Julie had just returned from holidays in Málaga, Spain. 

She was tanned, exuberant and excited to talk about her contribution to what many fans and critics consider the best  Bond film.  She is also extremely modest.  “All my work, no matter how popular, I just regarded it as going from one job to another.  It never went to my head…even FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.”

“My background was as a specialty dancer.  I started training at age 4.”  Julie continued training and practice and her love of dance developed into other talents.

“I left home when I was 15 and was chaperoned around England by an American family of performers.  I learned how to ride a unicycle, jump trampoline, even shooting.”  Somewhere around the age of 18 or 19, Julie added a new dimension to her cabaret act by working with large, live snakes.

“I learned everything I could about them.  I had no fear at all.  Each snake has its individual characteristics.  I would do housework, vacuuming, washing dishes with the snake wrapped around me and that way the snake would get used to me.” 

But accidents do happen. “Before I went on one evening, I was bitten by one of the snakes after it had been fed two large rats.  I went to the hospital and got a tetanus shot and went right back on stage.  But I had a noticeable bite mark inside my arm.  So I applied glue and glitter and it looked just like a decorative bracelet, part of my costume.”

Julie says she prefers boas to pythons.  “Boas cling to you but pythons are more interested in trying to escape.”

 One of Julie’s earliest screen appearances was in the 1959 Brian Rix comedy THE NIGHT WE DROPPED A CLANGER in which she appeared as a tassel dancer.  She had a brief role as an alluring snake dancer in THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960), as an exotic cabaret dancer in THE VALIANT (1962) and as a cabaret snake dancer in THE INSPECTOR (1962) starring Stephen Boyd. 

 “In Tel Aviv, THE INSPECTOR was advertised by posters with me holding the snake!  I always took an interest in all the places I traveled to.  Before I went to Israel I learned all about the desert.  It’s much more interesting to talk to people about their countries than about my snake!  I read up on copper mining before I went to Zambia and so on.”

There is a lot of debate over how the innovative title design of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE evolved.  In a 1964 interview for SHOWTIME magazine American graphic designer and creative advertising specialist Robert Brownjohn recalled how a student, late to his typography class, accidentally walked in front of his slide-projector presentation at school.  “He walked in front of the projector’s beam.  Immediately the type in the slide shot on to his shirt.  Of course, the shirt wasn’t flat like a screen, so the type changed sizes.  It looked great!” 

In her lavishly produced book ROBERT BROWNJOHN: SEX AND TYPOGRAPHY (2005, Princeton Architectural Press, New York) author Emily King stated that in animator Trevor Bond’s initial meeting with Robert Brownjohn the FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE main title design was to be an animated chessboard, with bullet holes.

But when Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli met with Brownjohn and mentioned there was a belly dancer in the film, the slide projector idea immediately came back to Brownjohn.  The designer demonstrated the notion by borrowing a projector, darkening the room, removing his jacket and dancing in front of a beam of projected images.  “It’ll be just like this,” he told the producers and executives, “except we’ll use a pretty girl.”

In fact, three different women would be used for the title design.  Harry Saltzman introduced Brownjohn to Trevor Bond, who had animated the Maurice Binder titles for DR. NO.  After Brownjohn explained the belly dancer theme, Trevor Bond accompanied him to audition girls at Omar Khayyam,  a famed Oriental cabaret of Middle Eastern belly dancers in London in the 1960s.  They brought one of the dervish dancers to the studio to do tests, but when they asked her to lift her skirt in order to project on her legs, the frightened girl fled in disgust.  A brief filmed sequence of this first girl appears during the smaller credits. Then a friend mentioned Julie Mendez to Trevor Bond.

“I approached Robert Brownjohn directly, not through an agent.  I didn’t have to audition as I just showed him stills of myself from another film, THE INSPECTOR, with Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart.  The costume I did the FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE titles in was used in several other films, including THE INSPECTOR.  We had a chat and that was it.  His choice was made.  I did not meet the director, Terence Young.”

“Robert Brownjohn was a large man, very charming and extremely professional.”  Julie was very candid in describing her working relationship with Brownjohn.  “I just remember him sitting behind a desk.  He had very little to do with me, whereas Trevor Bond was young, hip and attractive.  Secretly… he took a fancy to my hairdresser!”

“Trevor directed me to move my body, but not to music, and he focused the letters to my body as I moved.  He’d direct me to step back a little…move to the left…which way to step.”

“I remember that at one stage during filming, the titles were focused on my right thigh.  So when I moved, it tended to disappear…up my backside!!  We all laughed about this, as it was highly amusing.  In the end, I had to change position so this didn’t happen.”

“I had to concentrate my movements on the titles…I had to focus on accuracy.  I had good balance and could do it quickly.  Time is money.  The whole lot was filmed over several days in a private studio on Baker Street in London.”

A third girl, a Persian model, was later brought in for the face and breast shots, with ‘007’ projected onto them.  Years later, Julie says she wasn’t really aware of any other face in the titles and speculates “it might have been Robert Brownjohn’s wife as I had seen her around a lot in the office.”  FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square, London, on October 10, 1963.  Julie was invited along with the rest of the cast and crew but had a previous engagement and was unable to attend.  “I saw it for the first time at a West End cinema.”

When asked if she is ever confused with Lisa ‘Leila’ Guiraut, the sensual belly dancer who charms Bond at the gypsy camp, Julie replies, “Whenever anyone has asked, I have always said I was the belly dancer behind the credits and that’s all.  As far as being recognized, if people don’t know, I don’t say anything.  I’m four feet eleven inches.  Leila was much taller.”

“Leila and I did cabaret together at Omar Khayyam.  She was booked long before the main titles were done.  I actually invited her to my house for tea.  She was lovely, very charming and an excellent belly dancer.”

 The rest of the 1960s was an especially prolific period for Julie, with a steady stream of film and television offers (SHE, THEATRE OF DEATH, DUFFY, “Hugh and I Spy”, “Virgin of the Secret Service”), choreographer on several CARRY ON films (“In FOLLOW THAT CAMEL I taught Anita Harris how to belly dance”), worldwide theatre and cabaret, even a safety film for the National Coal Board!

 Readers can enjoy seeing Julie in two of her most celebrated on-screen appearances.  In a 1970 episode of the British TV. comedy On the Buses titled, appropriately enough, “The Snake”, Stan and Jack go to an Indian evening at the depot. Both have their eye on an attractive Indian cook, Fatima, played by Mendez.  As the evening progresses, Fatima, much to their surprise, does an exotic dance with a large snake and ends by putting the snake’s head in her mouth!

Interestingly, the character Ahmed is played by Ishaq Bux, who 20 years later would appear as the fakir disturbed from his restful bed of nails in the OCTOPUSSY market scene.  And in perhaps the funniest scene of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)  Dr. Longstreet (Terry-Thomas) tries desperately to get his inquisitive maid out the door so he can enjoy a ‘stag’ film of a scantily-clad snake dancer (Mendez) on an old-fashioned home projector, shortly before he becomes victim to one of Phibes’ ingeniously gruesome murders.

“I entertained U.S. forces in Germany, France and England.  Other belly dancers or artists would come on stage and the GIs would be yelling out ‘Take it off!’  But when I appeared, with a large snake wrapped around me, there was surprise, then a long silence, then applause.  The snake controlled the audience.”

  Note from Steve Oxenrider: A special thank you to Vicky Yare for arranging this interview

From Russia With Love’s 60th conclusion: Legacy

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Adapted from a 2013 post 

From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film, remains different from any 007 adventure since.

It’s the closest the Bond series had to a straight espionage thriller. The “McGuffin” is a decoding machine. That’s important in the world of spying but the stakes would be much larger in future 007 adventures: the fate of the U.S. gold supply, recovering two atomic bombs, preventing nuclear war, etc.

From Russia With Love includes memorable set pieces such as the gypsy camp fight between Bulgarians working for the Soviets and the gypsies working for MI6’s Kerim Bey, as well as Bond dodging a helicopter. But they’re not the same scope compared with what would be seen in future 007 films.

No underwater fights. No giant magnets snatching cars from a highway. No death-dealing satellites. Even when Bond movies such as For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights tried to have From Russia With Love-like moments, they still had larger action sequences.

From Russia With Love is by no means a small, “indie” film. It’s just different compared with what producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and their successors, would offer in future 007 installments. Perhaps that’s why some fans keep coming back to view From Russia With Love again and again.

From Russia With Love also introduced stylistic changes to the Bond series, particularly with the beginning of the 007 pre-credits sequence. It also had an actual title song, unlike Dr. No. However, the main titles used an instrumental version (plus an arrangement of the James Bond Theme). The vocal, performed by Matt Monro, is briefly heard during the film and isn’t played in its entirety until the end titles. Finally, the movie was the first time Eon Productions revealed the title of the next 007 adventure in the end titles.

From Russia With Love also demonstrated that Dr. No wasn’t a fluke. If Sean Connery as Bond had been a diamond in the rough in Dr. No, he was now fully polished in his second turn as Bond. At the box office, From Russia With Love was an even bigger hit with audiences than Dr. No.

The 1963 007 outing proved once and for all the judgment of Broccoli and Saltzman — the odd couple forced by circumstances to join forces — that Bond had major commercial potential. The likes of Irving Allen (Broccoli’s former partner who hated Ian Fleming’s novels) and Columbia Pictures (which had the chance to finance Dr. No only to see United Artists do the deal) had egg on their faces.

More than a half-century later, From Russia With Love is often in the conversation among fans (particularly older ones) as among the best of the Bond films. It also ensured the series would continue — though nobody realized how big things would get.

THE END…NOT QUITE THE END…JAMES BOND will return in the next Ian Fleming thriller “GOLDFINGER.”

55th anniversary of the end of U.N.C.L.E. (and ’60s spymania)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

Originally published Dec. 28, 2012. 

Jan. 15 marks the 55th anniversary of the end of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was also a sign that 1960s spymania was drawing to a close.

Ratings for U.N.C.L.E. faltered badly in the fall of 1967, where it aired on Monday nights. It was up against Gunsmoke on CBS — a show that itself had been canceled briefly during the spring of ’67 but got a reprieve thanks to CBS chief William Paley. Instead of oblivion, Gunsmoke was moved from Saturday to Monday.

Earlier, Norman Felton, U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, decided some retooling was in order for the show’s fourth season. He brought in Anthony Spinner, who often wrote for Quinn Martin-produced shows, as producer.

Spinner had also written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode and summoned a couple of first-season writers, Jack Turley and Robert E. Thompson, to do some scripts. Spinner also had been associate producer on the first season of QM’s The Invader series. He hired Sutton Roley, who had worked as a director on The Invaders, as an U.N.C.L.E. director

Also in the fold was Dean Hargrove, who supplied two first-season scripts but had his biggest impact in the second season, when U.N.C.L.E. had its best ratings. Hargrove was off doing other things during the third season, although he did one of the best scripts for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. during 1966-67.

Hargrove, however, quickly learned the Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. was different. In a 2007 interview on the U.N.C.L.E. DVD set, Hargrove said Spinner was of “the Quinn Martin school of melodrama.”

Spinner wanted a more serious take on the show compared with the previous season, which included a dancing ape. Hargrove, adept at weaving (relatively subtle) humor into his stories, chafed under Spinner. The producer instructed his writers that U.N.C.L.E. should be closer to James Bond than Get Smart.

The more serious take also extended to the show’s music, as documented in liner notes by journalist Jon Burlingame for U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks released between 2004 and 2007 and the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE.

Matt Dillon, right, and sidekick Festus got new life at U.N.C.L.E.'s expense.

Matt Dillon (James Arness), right, and sidekick Festus (Ken Curtis) got new life at U.N.C.L.E.’s expense.

Gerald Fried, the show’s most frequent composer, had a score rejected. Also jettisoned was a new Fried arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music. A more serious-sounding version was arranged by Robert Armbruster, the music director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Most of the fourth season’s scores would be composed by Richard Shores. Fried did one fourth-season score, which sounded similar to the more serious style of Shores.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, however, weren’t a match for a resurgent Matt Dillon on CBS. NBC canceled U.N.C.L.E. A final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, aired Jan. 8 and 15, 1968.

U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t be the only spy casualty.

NBC canceled I Spy, with its last new episode appearing April 15, 1968. Within 18 months of U.N.C.L.E.’s demise, The Wild Wild West was canceled by CBS (its final new episode aired aired April 4, 1969 although CBS did show fourth-season reruns in the summer of 1970). The last episode of The Avengers was produced, appearing in the U.S. on April 21, 1969.

NBC also canceled Get Smart after the 1968-69 season but CBS picked up the spy comedy for 1969-70. Mission: Impossible managed to stay on CBS until 1973 but shifted away from spy storylines its last two seasons as the IMF opposed “the Syndicate.” (i.e. organized crime or the Mafia)

Nor were spy movies exempt. Dean Martin’s last Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew, debuted in U.S. theaters in late 1968. Despite a promise in the end titles that Helm would be back in The Ravagers, the film series was done.

Even the James Bond series, the engine of the ’60s spy craze, was having a crisis in early 1968. Star Sean Connery was gone and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pondered their next move. James Bond would return but things weren’t quite the same.

The unheralded James Bond anniversary

Albert R. Broccoli (Illustration by Paul Baack)

Last month marked a notable anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, but it dealt with behind-the-scenes maneuvers.

In December 1992, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer settled a lawsuit filed by Danjaq LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions. The legal fight had paralyzed the production of Bond films.

The dispute was related to a takeover of MGM by financier Giancarlo Parretti. Here’s an excerpt from a UPI story about the settlement.

The companies said the agreement settles the suit Danjaq filed in February 1991 against MGM and its former parent company, Pathe Communications Corp. Danjaq claimed in the suit that then-MGM owner Parretti had breached contracts with it by selling the rights to the Bond films to help finance his $1.4 billion purchase of the studio in late 1990 from Kirk Kerkorian.

This is how Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Danjaq and Eon, described the situation leading up to the lawsuit in his autobiography When the Snow Melts.

We learned that our sixteen James Bond pictures were being sold off as part of Parretti’s cash-raising in order to clinch the purchase of MGM/UA. Moreover, it was clear — to us least — that these pictures were to be sold off at bargain-basement prices in a number of foreign TV and video licensing deals. The longer we looked at the fine print, the more our attorneys, Michael (G. Wilson) and me were convinced that not only an alleged breach of contract was involved. This was becoming a question of the virtual survival of James Bond…Our action was a matter of simple prudence…During the protracted lawsuits that arose from this situation we were forced to put James Bond on hold and carry on with our lives.

The legal settlement changed that. Much work would remain to relaunch the film series, such as hiring a director and writers. Still, the conclusion of the legal fight more than 30 years ago was a significant milestone.

Footnote to the cinematic 007’s 60th anniversary

Sean Connery in Dr. No: Sorry, Sir Sean, you’re in the back of the pack.

So, the 60th anniversary of the cinematic James Bond still is underway.

Lea Seydoux, who appeared in two of the 25 Eon-produced Bond films (8 percent of the series total), shared her favorite Bond moment on the official Eon Instagram account.

“There are so many, but the scene from NO TIME TO DIE – saying goodbye in the boat is so beautifully shot and poignant. Daniel’s final moments on screen, at the end of his five film run was very emotional for us all.”

That’s to be expected. This reflects Seydoux’s not-so-vast Bond film experience.

Still, the cinematic Bond’s 60th anniversary hasn’t been so much about the character’s long run on movie screens. It has been more about Daniel Craig’s long run as Bond, with Eon boss Barbara Broccoli as her primary backer.

Craig was the first Bond actor chosen by Barbara Broccoli. Pierce Brosnan was the final Bond chosen by Broccoli’s father, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli.

No Time to Die, Craig’s last Bond film, came out a year ago. We still hear about how he was a great Bond.

When does Eon finally let Craig go?

We don’t know. It will be *years* before the next film Bond debuts.

We’ll see.

Script bible for James Bond Jr.

Logo for the James Bond Jr. cartoon series, circa early 1990s

One of the more interesting parts of the James Bond film series is the James Bond Jr. cartoon series that debuted in the early 1990s.

The cartoon was co-developed by Michael G. Wilson. The show was an attempt to interest young viewers in Bond amid a 1989-1995 hiatus in the movie series.

James Bond Jr., more than three decades after his debut in a syndicated cartoon show, generates a lot of mixed comments from hard-core Bond fans.

Thanks to Bond collector Gary J. Firuta, I received a copy of the “bible” for writers of the cartoon show. Some highlights:

Our series follows the exploits and adventures of James Bond’s teenage nephew; JAMES BOND, JR. (NOTE: For clarity, hereafter, the elder James Bond will be referred to simply as “007.”)

More details:

With the security risk posed by the nature of his uncle’s work, James is enrolled in WARFIELD ACADEMY, a special, high security boarding school on the Southeast coast of Britain.

Warfield was the name of a production company set up by Albert R. Broccoli after his partnership with Irving Allen broke up. It was through Warfield (rather than Eon Productions) that Broccoli produced Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The 1968 children’s film included a combination of veterans from James Bond movies and from the 1964 film made by Walt Disney, Mary Poppins

The James Bond Jr. bible runs more than 200 pages. It describes supporting characters such as Tracy Milbanks (“the attractive daughter of Warfield’s no-nonense headmaster”); Gordon “Gordo” Leiter, “the son of 007’s best friend, CIA agent, FELIX LEITER”; and Phoebe Farragut, “the chunky bespectacled daughter of a fabulously wealthy industrialist/ambassador.”

The bible also describes how each episode of the cartoon series should mirror Bond films. It also describes how the series will have a mix of established Bond villains (Goldfinger, Oddjob, Dr. No) as well as new creations.

Die Another Day’s 20th: Eon discovers CGI is hard

Die Another Day’s gunbarrel, complete with CGI bullet

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Die Another Day, the James Bond film where Eon Productions decided to go all-in on computer-generated imagery.

Eon had dabbled with CGI before, including the title designs of Daniel Kleinman who had taken over for the late Maurice Binder.

But Die Another Day was another matter entirely. First up was a CGI bullet fired at the audience by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in the opening gunbarrel sequence. Evidently, Bond was a better shot than anyone knew. He was able to fire a bullet into the barrel of another person’s gun.

Later, U.S. operative Jinx (Halle Berry) supposedly dives backward into the ocean from a cliff — supposedly being the operative word.

There was also an Aston Martin that could turn invisible. For Bond, it helped that the thugs of villain Gustav Graves didn’t notice the tracks the invisible car was putting in the snow.

But, of course, the movie’s most famously bad use of CGI came as Brosnan/Bond surfs to avoid being swallowed up by a tidal wave. Much of the sequence looks like a mediocre video game with insert shots of Brosnan gamely trying to sell the audience he’s actually concerned about the proceedings.

Director Lee Tamahori was a big enthusiast of what digital imagery would bring to the table of the 20th James Bond film.

The “manipulations” enabled by CGI “are endless and effortless,” Tamahori said. “The high-end action sequences that are done for real are still going to exist.” The rest, he said, might move into entirely digital effects. These comments were once on the Haphazard Stuff website but have since been yanked.

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

Tamahori was indeed correct that digital effects would become more prominent in future Bond movies. Safety cables for stunt performers can be hidden, for example. Also, mice can be created and rail cars can be added to trains. (For the latter two examples, CLICK HERE for a post about CGI use in 2015’s SPECTRE.)

Unfortunately for Die Another Day, the director and production company found out CGI is hard. Better execution of CGI in a Bond would movie would have to wait for another day.

Poor CGI wasn’t the movie’s only problem. For the first time, Eon decided to make a big deal about a 007 film anniversary (2002 being the series’ 40th anniversary). Tamahori & Co. opted to put all sorts of Bond film references that tended to distract from the film’s plot. Look, a set based on a Ken Adam set from Diamonds Are Forever! Look, there’s the Thunderball jet pack! Look, there’s the same electronic noise that accompanied the Dr. No gunbarrel! Look, there’s a Union Jack parachute! And on, and on, and on, and….

At the same time, Die Another Day proved to be the end of the line for Pierce Brosnan.

When the film was released, Brosnan said during talk show appearances that Eon wanted him back for a fifth Bond film and he was looking forward to it. Two years later, Brosnan got a telephone call from Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson informing the actor that his services were no longer required.

Brosnan was the last Bond chosen by Albert R. Broccoli. “The kids” were about to pick their own.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 45th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 45 years ago, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won.

The Living Daylights at 35: A short-lived new era

The Living Daylights poster

The Living Daylights poster

Adapted from a 2017 post

The Living Daylights, the 15th James Bond film made by Eon Productions, was going to be the start of a new era for the series.

With hindsight, it’s now evident the new era was doomed to be short-lived. But nobody envisioned that when the movie came out in the summer of 1987.

Roger Moore hung up his shoulder holster following 1985’s A View to a Kill. There was going to be a new film James Bond. The question was who would it be.

Sam Neill was screen tested. He had supporters among the production team, but didn’t have the vote of producer Albert R. Broccoli, according to the documentary Inside The Living Daylights.

Pierce Brosnan tested for the role (including playing scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). He even signed a contract, with a photo taken of the event.

But all that went askew when NBC renewed his Remington Steele series. Broccoli had second thoughts.

Broccoli and his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, later denied in a television interview that Brosnan had even been signed.

The ultimate choice was Timothy Dalton. Broccoli said Dalton was the first choice all along.

“We wanted to get Timothy,” Broccoli said. “We had standing by the possibility of Pierce Brosnan. We liked Pierce. But we did really feel Timothy was the man we wanted.” Even if NBC hadn’t renewed Remington Steele, the producer said, “We liked Timothy very much.”

After the bumpy start, Daylights got into gear. Dalton, 40 at the time filming began, was almost 20 years younger than Moore. The actor also was more than willing to do some of his own stunts. This tendency showed up in the pre-titles sequence when Bond is on the top of a military truck at the Rock of Gibraltar.

Dalton, though, brought more than (relative) youth to the role. His Bond was more conflicted and more grounded in the original Ian Fleming novels and short stories.

Early in the film, Bond disobeys orders when he suspects a supposed sniper (Maryam d’Abo) isn’t genuine. He shoots her rifle instead of her.

Later, Saunders, another MI6 agent, says he’s going to report Bond to M. Dalton’s Bond isn’t fazed. “If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Richard Maibaum was on board for his 12th Bond film as screenwriter, collaborating with Wilson. The Maibaum-Wilson team built their story out from a sequence in Ian Fleming’s short story of the same title.

Initially, the duo had an “origin” storyline that Broccoli vetoed. Instead, Dalton’s Bond would again be depicted as a veteran agent.

The Living Daylights generated worldwide box office of $191.2 million, an improvement over A View to a Kill’s $152.6 million.

In the U.S. market, however, Daylights’ $51.2 million wasn’t much better than View’s $50.3 million. For whatever reasons, American audiences never warmed to Dalton the way international audiences did.

Still, Daylights seemed to represent a fresh start for the Bond film series. What nobody knew at the time was that audiences had already consumed half of the Dalton Bond films.

What’s more, Daylights was the end of an era for the series. It had John Barry’s final 007 score. For his final Bond film, the composer would make a brief on-screen appearance.

Daylights also would be the last time that Maibaum would fully participate in the writing.

The veteran scribe (1909-1991) would help plot 1989’s Licence to Kill. But the actual script was written by Wilson, with Maibaum sidelined by a Writers Guild of America strike.