QM’s The FBI vs. J. Edgar’s FBI

One of the more talked about (if not financially successful) movies this fall was the Clint Eastwood-directed J. Edgar, a “biopic” about J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years until his death in 1972. We were particularly interested because we enjoy the Hoover-sanctioned 1965-74 television series produced by Quinn Martin.

The QM FBI is an idealized version of the real life agency, which by various reports spied on civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and performed other less-than-heroic acts. interestingly, producer Martin was initially hesitant to do a series based on the FBI because he and Hoover were different politically.

But the show, produced in association with Warner Bros. (which released Eastwood’s J. Edgar plus the heavily pro-Hoover movie The FBI Story in 1959) proceeded anyway. It would end up being Martin’s longest-running television series, running nine years. In real life, the FBI might be accused of going easy on the Mafia, at least prior to John F. Kennedy becoming president. But on QM’s The FBI, the bureau was vigilant against organized crime, even in episodes LIKE THIS ONE or LIKE THIS ONE, where the mob bosses had names like Mark Vincent or Arnold Toby and avoided the word “Mafia.” And, of course, the QM FBI never failed to catch spies working against U.S. interests.

However, if you catch certain episodes of QM’s FBI, the Hoover influence is unmistakeable. In many episodes, you can spot a photo of Hoover in an FBI office. In EPISODES LIKE THIS ONE, a character comes out of Hoover’s office (we never see the Director, of course) obviously moved to put their scruples aside to aid the cause of law and order. The real-life Hoover’s influence extended to having approval of the casting of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine, the lead character of the television series.

Enough of this heavy thinking. Here’s a complete second-season episode of The FBI, along with its original commercials (the Ford Motor Co. logo appears in the main titles). Towards the end, you’ll see a promo for the next episode, the first of a two-part episode called “The Executioners,” in which future James Bond villain Telly Savalas appears as, what else, an organized crime figure. That two-part episode would be released outside of the U.S. AS A MOVIE.

UPDATE: Oops moment in the epilogue. The suspect shoves a guy into the water. But agents Erskine and Rhodes (Stephen Brooks) are so intent on arresting the suspect (J.D. Cannon), they never check back on the innocent guy who got shoved into the water. What if he drowned?

UPDATE II: One connection between this episode of The FBI and Clint Eastwood. The assistant director of the television episode was Robert Daley, who’d serve as producer on a number of films for Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions, including being executive producer of Dirty Harry and producer of Magnum Force.

Ex-007 scribe Morgan tells NYT about near-death of his Hereafter screenplay

Peter Morgan, hired to write Bond 23 before production got shut down, got his newest screen credit this week when “Hereafter” hit theaters. It turns out his script for the movie directed by Clint Eastwoods went through some complications almost as severe as he has experienced in the world of 007.

Charles McGrath of The New York wrote about it in an Oct. 13 article, which included extensive quotes from both Morgan and Eastwood. A sample:

(Morgan’s) involvement in a project about the afterlife is in many ways even more remarkable than Mr. Eastwood’s, and his script, as it happens, underwent a near-death experience and then a resurrection.

“How did this come about? I have no idea, really,” Mr. Morgan said from his car while stuck in traffic in Vienna, where he lives part of the year and does almost all of his writing. “I am a person of the Enlightenment, as it were.”
(snip)

Normally an obsessive outliner and reviser, he began writing a screenplay without any clear idea of where it was going. “So much of what I usually do offers solution or explanations, but this time I wanted to write something open ended,” he said. “I didn’t want answers. I wanted to ask questions.”

To read the entire story, which goes on to describe how M. Night Shyamalan and Steven Spielberg got interested before Eastwood took over, just JUST CLICK HERE. You can also read Times movie critic A.O. Scott’s evaluation of the film BY CLICKING HERE.

The question for Bond fans is whether Morgan’s Bond 23 work fares as well as his efforts for Hereafter. In an interview with the Coming Soon Web site(which you can read by CLICKING HERE), Morgan indicated he hadn’t gotten past the outline stage when financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. shut down production. Morgan also made it sound like he won’t return to the project:

CS: I don’t know how much you can talk about this, but as far as working on the James Bond script, how far had you gotten along before they pulled the plug? Did you have a finished script?
Morgan: No, no, no, I hadn’t gotten that far. I was working on an outline when they said, “We’re going to have to stop this process now,” and when it came to the point where I was going to commit to doing the Freddie Mercury film, I sort of discussed with my reps that it would probably take me out of all consideration and that’s what’s happened, and I wish them the best.

Eastwood as 007? Just one of the worst James Bond film ideas that were seriously considered

The Express newspaper in the U.K., on its Web site, has run a short item that Clint Eastwood says he was approached by 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman about playing James Bond after Sean Connery quit the role.

The California-born star was approached by Bond bosses to play the superspy when Sean Connery quit the franchise, but he turned the role down.

And Eastwood insists he made the right decision – because he didn’t want to see the iconic character portrayed by an American.

He says, “I thought James Bond should be British. I am of British descent but by that same token, I thought that it should be more of the culture there and also, it was not my thing.”

There aren’t many additional details presented. But, as the Cinema Retro Web site says, if this is true, it probably happened between the release of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, where Broccoli and Saltzman seemed convinced they needed an American 007.

If that’s the case, it only one example of the worst James Bond movie ideas that were seriously considered. By that, we mean ideas that were REALLY, REALLY close to being reality, at least closer to reality than 007 fans would prefer. Among the others:

— Considering Adam West for the role of Bond (source: the documentary Inside Diamond Are Forever and West’s autobiography).

— Signing John Gavin to play Bond in Diamonds until United Artists (principally executive David Picker) decided that Connery should be approached one more time; Picker’s gambit paid off and Gavin was paid off on the contract he signed with Broccoli and Saltzman.

— Considering Burt Reynolds to play Bond. This was primarily director Guy Hamilton’s idea. But in the period from 1970 into 1975, Hamilton had more influence on the Bond franchise except for Broccoli and Saltzman.

— Considering James Brolin to play Bond, to the point of having him screen tested in either 1981 or 1981, in the period between For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, when it appeared Roger Moore would retire from the role. In the documentary Inside Octopussy both co-producer Michael G. Wilson and director John Glen claimed Brolin had a great screen test. But when some of our staff saw the screen tests at the 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles, Brolin came across as laughable.

— Passing over Julie Christie, one of the best British film actresses of the 20th Century, because her breasts were too small.

— The decision to both reverse filming of Ian Fleming’s novels On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice PLUS throwing out the plot of Twice altogether.

With the former, there are some quirks that fans just have to overlook and with the latter, the film producers tossed a wonderful story down the toilet. Twice screenwriter Roald Dahl has been quoted as saying the novel’s story was unfilmable. Really? At its core, Fleming’s novel is Bond’s ultimate “personal” mission where he finally settles accounts with Blofeld. Meanwhile, 1989’s Licence to Kill, 1995’s GoldenEye, 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, 2002’s Die Another Day, 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace all featured varioations of the theme “This time — it’s personal!” If Eon Productions actually makes another James Bond movie, we’re hoping it won’t be personal just because this theme is getting tiring and none of Eon’s attempts on theme have matched Fleming’s original.