Danny Biederman’s spy fi collection

Danny Biederman has an impressive collection of spy fiction props, covering James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and much more. Biederman has uploaded a YouTube video of highlights of news reports when parts of his collection were displayed at the CIA and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

During clips of the movies and shows in question, there’s music from a Gerald Fried tune originally composed for U.N.C.L.E. and part of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Our Man Flint.

Take a look:

Almost 30 years ago, Biederman and Robert Short attempted to put together a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (CLICK HERE and scroll to the second entry). They had gotten Bond veteran production designer Ken Adam interested in the project but it was not to be. There’s also a clip of Robert Conrad wishing he had kept James West’s sleeve gun that’s part of Biederman’s collection.

Thunderball’s 45th anniversary conclusion: legacy

Thunderball, which had its world premier on Dec. 9, 1965, was a winning bet. It certainly was for Eon Productions showmen Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, becoming their biggest hit to date (and still the biggest on an inflation-adjusted basis); for Kevin McClory, who held the film rights and talked Broccoli and Saltzman into making him a partner for the one film; and for Bond enthusiasts in general — it was *their* time and the 007 phenomenon would never reach these heights.

In a way, Thunderball’s mind-set — “the biggest Bond of all!” — was a well-timed bet. Spies were now populating television on a growing scale and new spy movie series (Matt Helm at Columbia and Derek Flint at 20th Century Fox) were in the works. Thunderball with its huge scale provided something 007’s competitors couldn’t.

If Thunderball had a long-term problem, it may have been it caused Broccoli and Saltzman to believe they could do no wrong.

In the Ian Fleming canon, Thunderball was part of a trilogy followed by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. Broccoli and Saltzman initiially intended to film OHMSS next but switched gears and did Twice instead — tossing out the novel’s plot entirely and, in effect, doing another Thunderball only on a still-bigger scale. There would be no true Blofeld trilogy on film.

Who was around to argue? Not Ian Fleming, who died in August 1964 and hadn’t been too vocal about other major changes Eon made in adapting his novels. Not United Artists. The money was coming in and Eon’s decision making was a safe investment. Want to build a set (Blofeld’s volcano headquarters in Twice) that cost as much as Dr. No? No problem. The fans? Fans of the novels might complain but Bond was now bigger than them and, let’s face it, they’d still show up to see a 007 film anyway.

Still, Thunderball was, and is, a major part of the Bond film series. It’s not ranked as the best in the series, but often comes in toward the top. There are some fans who still still obsess over it. There’s enough interest in Thunderball that artist Robert McGinnis, who did some of the original promotional artwork for the film, still does art based on the 007 adventure (including some samples that are not safe for work).

All in all, not a bad legacy.

Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary (conclusion): the film’s legacy

This week marks the 45th anniversry of Goldfinger’s U.K. premier. What’s the film’s legacy? Try these on for size:

1. Most obvious, it was the first 007 mega-hit.

Dr. No and From Russia With Love had been successful, but Goldfinger turned 007 into a worldwide phenomenon. It set a record at the time for recouping its costs and spurred massive promotional tie-ins.

2. It was the tide that lifted all boats for 1960s spy entertainment.

Columbia, which had passed on 007 before United Artists snapped him up, and 20th Century-Fox commissioned projects with the idea of creating an “american James Bond.” The result would be four Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin and two Derek Flint films with James Coburn.

On television, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. premiered the same month as Goldfinger’s U.K. premier. The show got off to a slow start in the ratings but NBC kept it on the air and the show caught on, especially after a mid-season change in day and time slot. U.N.C.L.E., in turn, spurred network executives to commission other spy series, such as I Spy and The Wild, Wild West in 1965 and Mission: Impossible in 1966.

Goldfinger’s success also created demand for “anti-Bonds,” or serious spy stories contrasted with Goldfinger’s escapism. Within a year, John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From The Cold and Len Deighton’s The Ipcress File were made into movies.

Interestingly, both utilized creative personnel from Goldfinger. One of the screenwriters who adapted Le Carre was none other than Paul Dehn, who wrote the critical later drafts of Goldfinger. The Ipcress File was produced by Harry Saltzman, co-producer of the Bond series. For the film, Saltzman hired composer John Barry, production designer Ken Adam and editor Peter Hunt.

3. It changed the Bond film series, not necessarily for the better.

After Goldfinger, Saltzman and partner Albert R. Broccoli went through a period of trying to top their 1964 hit. With Thunderball, they scored an even bigger hit, but the movie was at least faithful to Ian Fleming’s novel (which in turn was based on an earlier movie project that never got off the ground). So for You Only Live Twice, the producers threw out that novel’s plot altogether, kept a few characters and made yet another film relying on spectacle.

After an attempt to bring things back to Fleming with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the producers again were looking for “another Goldfinger.” When Richard Maibaum was hired to adapt Diamonds Are Forever, the screenwriter obliged with a first draft featuring Auric Goldfinger’s twin brother. That approach was rejected, but it reflects how Goldfinger remained on the minds of Broccoli and Saltzman. The producers later hired Goldfinger’s director, Guy Hamilton, to work on Diamonds and again had Shirley Bassey sing the title song.

Over at the I Expect You to Die blog, the case is made that Goldfinger is only the 7th best 007 film, trailing movies such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love and even GoldenEye. In terms of influence and impact, though, Goldfinger remains at the top of the 007 heap.

Salute to Jerry Goldsmith

It doesn’t seem possible, but it has been five years since the death of film and television composer Jerry Goldsmith, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday in February if he were still with us. Arguably, Goldsmith is second only to John Barry in musical influence of 1960s spy entertainment. (Lalo Schifrin would also be a contender.)

Barry, of course, was the composer was associated with every 007 movie of the decade (arranging Monty Norman’s James Bond theme in Dr. No and composing the scores for the five other Eon-produced Bond films of the decade).

Goldsmith’s effect on spy entertainment had two legs: he composed the theme for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. along with scores for three episodes. Because the series only had original scores for about half of its episodes, that music got recycled so that Goldsmith’s music could be heard on a majority of first-season episodes. In the show’s fourth, and final, season, Goldsmith’s music was re-recorded and used liberally.

Here’s the “documentary” style opening for the seventh episode, The Giuoco Piano Affair, that features Goldsmith’s original verison of the theme:

Goldsmith also scored the two Derek Flint movies, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. Here’s his stylish Flint theme from the main titles of Our Man Flint:

Near the end of the film, Flint (James Coburn) engages in some derring-do, which provides a chance to sample Goldsmith’s score:

In the sequel, Flint combats a general who wants to take over the U.S. who has manipulated some powerful women who want to take over the world. Don’t ask, just go with the flow and enjoy Goldsmith’s score (with the possible exception of a “pop goes the weasel” effect):