Telegraph reports on Ben Hecht’s 1960s Casino Royale scripts

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. has an article by Jeremy Duns about the scripts noted screenwriter Ben Hecht did for producer Charles K. Feldman’s ill fated Casino Royale movie.

Duns has a brief entry in his blog, the Debrief, which you can read BY CLICKING HERE. You can try to read the article itself by registering for a one-day free trial at the Telegraph’s Web site BY CLICKING HERE. The article is in the Telegraph’s Seven magazine.

Hecht died in April 1964. His long career including co-writing the play The Front Page (with Charles MacArthur, husband of Helen Hayes) and scripting Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 film Notorious starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

Based on some comments Duns has made on his Facebook page, Hecht’s drafts leaned toward a faithful adapation of Ian Fleming’s first novel, including a torture scene. Before Hecht was hired, Feldman had tried to interest director Howard Hawks in the project. Feldman later shifted gears, turning Casino Royale into a colossal, and expensive, spoof.

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns advises an extended version of the article will be on the Telegraph’s Web site in a few days. He also confirms that Hecht’s drafts are for a straight version of the novel, not the mega-spoof Feldman produced later.

UPDATE II: We couldn’t wait, so we did the one-day trial subscription. A few details from the Duns article:

1.) The Hecht drafts are at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

2) Hecht kept the basic plot, but as with Dr. No and From Russia With Love in the official 007 series, LeChiffre now works for SPECTRE, rather than the Soviets.

3) Hecht, in one of his drafts introduces the idea that the real James Bond has died and another agent is being re-named James Bond. In the rest of the script, “Bond” acts just like Bond.

The Duns article includes an excerpt of this draft where M informs the agent about the name change. This is the origin of an idea that will be greatly expanded upon in the final version of the 1967 Feldman film, which implies the Connery version of Bond in the official film series took the name of David Niven’s James Bond. It’s also a notion that gets recycled on message boards of fan Web sites in which some people argue that James Bond is just a code name, therefore, the Sean Connery version isn’t the same as Roger Moore, etc., etc., etc.

Mr. Duns notes the scene where Bond II is informed of his new name may simply have been inserted as a possible option for producer Feldman. It only appears in some drafts and isn’t part of others. Throughout the the remainder of Hecht’s material, Bond acts like Bond and he says you can even “hear” Sean Connery’s voice as you read Bond’s scripted lines.

4) Hecht invented a character called Gita, Le Chiffre’s wife, who gets half her face shot away when Bond uses her as a shield. She, rathern the Le Chieffre himself, later administers the torture. Le Chiffre has Gita stop the torture at one point and says, “M’sieur Bond may want to change his mind while he is still a m’sieur.”

5) Hecht was still working on Casino Royale at the time of his death.

More about James Bond songs from UK documentary

The original spoofy Casino Royale in 1967 was, by all accounts, a big mess. It was instigated by Cubby Broccoli’s former boss, Charles K. Feldman, who snared the rights. But Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, after already having to make Kevin McClory a partner in Thunderball, weren’t in the mood to share a second time with another producer. So Feldman made Casino Royale a spoof instead. Uneven is probably the most tactful description.

However, the film has a major asset, the song The Look of Love. The story behind it is can be seen below. Also, we get a look at the creation of the title song for Moonraker, the third (and least popular) Shirley Bassey Bond song. Dame Shirley wasn’t as keen on it as her earlier Bond efforts but says she did as a favor to her old collaborator John Barry.

As it turns out, Hal David did the lyrics for both of the songs featured in this segement: