REVISIT: A Bond tour of NYC

New York City’s 21 Club in better days (photo courtesy of Gary J. Firuta)

With the 60th anniversary of the film Bond (and the 69th anniversary of the literary 007), the blog was reminded a mini-tour New York City locations.

The blog’s host more than a decade ago was Bond fan Gary J. Firuta. He lived in the greater New York area at the time.

(Originally published 2009)

Sardi’s, 234 West 44th Street: In Chapter 8 of Diamonds Are Forever, Felix Leiter takes Bond to lunch at Sardi’s and they dine in the upstairs dining room. The friends have some martinis (with a domestic vermouth).

At the time of the visit, the upstairs dining room was closed but the Spy Commander had an unofficial tour guide. We were told the bar had been moved since the time Fleming described the Bond-Leiter meal. Also, black paint had been removed from windows overlooking 44th Street, so now the restaurant has a great view of nearby theaters.

21 Club, 21 West 52nd Street: In chapter 9 of Diamonds, Bond and Tiffany Case have dinner. Tiffany has three martinis before dinner and as the main course arrives, so does “one of the famous Kriendler brothers who have owned ’21’ since it was the best speak-easy in New York.”

The 21 Club is known for the jockey statues outside. If you go, prepare to spend money. A cocktail costs about $15. There’s a men’s room attendant who has been with 21 for decades, complimenting patrons (for example telling middle-aged men they should remember to bring their ID next time or they might get carded).

Years later, toward the end of the Live And Let Die film, Bond (Roger Moore) tells Felix Leiter (David Hedison to remember to meet up for dinner the following night at the 21 Club. As Bond gets on a train with Solitaire (Jane Seymour), Felix asks why Bond is traveling by train. “Say goodbye to Felix, darling,” Bond says.

Unfortunately, the 21 Club has closed, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

20th anniversary of 007’s swan song on ABC

Adapted and expanded from a 2009 post

In the fall of 2002, James Bond returned to his original U.S. television home, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC television network.

It ended up being the end of a 30-year, on-and-off relationship between the fictional spy and ABC.

007’s television debut occurred on Sept. 17, 1972, when Goldfinger was shown by ABC. The network was 007’s television home through the 15th Eon-produced film, The Living Daylights.

After that, things began to change. Licence to Kill appeared on Fox. Time Warner’s TBS scooped up the TV rights to the older films in the early 1990s. Pay-cable networks diminished the aura of 007 movies appearing on broadcast television. GoldenEye debuted on NBC, while CBS snared Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.

So, it was a bit of a surprise when ABC brought 007 back “home” in the fall of 2002. It was an opportunity for MGM and Eon Productions to promote the upcoming Die Another Day.

However, the media world had changed. ABC canceled the Bond Picture Show after nine Saturday nights in the fall of 2002. And truth be told, things weren’t the same after ABC voiceover king Ernie Anderson passed away in 1997.

Since then, movies — once a staple for broadcast networks — fell out of favor for the most part.

What’s more, the Bond Picture Show included a major trivia moment. Disney/ABC, in its 2002 showing of Diamonds Are Forever, implemented digital underwear for Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever.

In the original scene, Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) had flesh-colored panties. Disney/ABC gave her a black bra and panties before the character was thrown out of a window, landing in a swimming pool. CLICK HERE to see a 2020 story at the MI6 James Bond website that describes what happened.

Below, here’s a promo that ABC aired for the fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.

No Time to Die wins 2 BAFTA awards

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, received two awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

The No Time to Die winners, according to a list compiled by Variety, were:

–Editing (Tom Cross and Eliott Graham)

–Rising Star (Lashana Lynch)

The Bond film was also nominated in these categories:

–Outstanding British Film (winner: Belfast)

–Cinematography (winner: Dune)

–Special Visual Effects (winner: Dune)

–Sound (winner: Dune)

Hans Zimmer, who co-composed No Time to Die’s score (with Steve Mazzaro), received a BAFTA award for Dune’s score.

Shirley Bassey, 85, also performed Diamonds Are Forever by John Barry and Don Black. BAFTA tweeted out a clip from Bassey’s performance.

UPDATE: BAFTA also tweeted a clip of Lashana Lynch.

UPDATE II (March 14): The rising star was a fan vote. Still, on Feb. 3, Eon’s official Twitter feed counted it as a No Time to Die nomination. Former Bond continuation author Raymond Benson writes on Facebook the blog should not have counted it as a win for No Time to Die. His comment: “The Lashana Lynch award was not specifically for No Time to Die… she was just “Rising Star,” along with other nominees, not cited for any particular film they were in either. No Time to Die won ONE award.”

Diamonds’ 50th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 50 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular). Also, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case at times seems a capable criminal, while at other times comes across as scatterbrained.

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie was former United Artists executive David Picker (1931-2019). In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans.

Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery. James Bond would return.

What’s left of Fleming for future Bond films?

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

The other day, the blog published a post about whether Ian Fleming content matters much anymore for James Bond movies. Still, how much “Fleming content” is left?

Bond screenwriters (most likely Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) have added scraps and bits over the past two decades. The first half of Die Another Day was a de facto adaptation of Fleming’s Moonraker novel. Skyfall, SPECTRE and No Time to Die have mined the novels On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

What follows is a partial list of what’s left. Consider this a starting point for a broader conversation.

–A brainwashed Bond tries to kill M: The Man With the Golden Gun novel is uneven because Fleming was in bad health. But the start of the novel includes a memorable set-piece where Bond, brainwashed by the Soviets, attempts to assassinate M.

Playboy magazine, when it serialized the novel, led off with an illustration of Bond (drawn, understandably, like Sean Connery) immediately after the failed attempt. It included an M drawn like Bernard Lee and a Moneypenny drawn like Lois Maxwell.

–Gala Brand: At one point, the lead female character of Fleming’s Moonraker novel was going to be named Gala Brand in Die Another Day. But the name was changed to Miranda Frost (a traitor) when the movie was filmed

–Bond vs. a giant squid: In the novel Dr. No, the villain sends Bond through an obstacle course. The agent eventually has to take on a giant squid. This never appeared in the first Bond film made by Eon Productions.

-The Spang Brothers: Jack and Seraffimo Spang were the villains of Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming’s fourth novel. One of the brothers owns an old western ghost town called Spectreville.

-Stuffing a fish down somebody’s throat: The character Milton Krest, from the short story The Hildebrand Rarity, has already been used in 1989’s Licence to Kill. But Krest’s literary demise, having a rare fish stuffed down his throat, still is out there.

Separately, a late friend of mine, Paul Baack, once designed a make-believe movie poster of an Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of The Hildebrand short story.

About that boring thunderbolt logo

A scene from the first Matt Helm movie, The Silencers

The blog was reminded earlier today about how two classic villainous organizations (SPECTRE and Thrush) traded in their classic logos for newer (uninspired) designs with thunderbolts.

The thing is, the Matt Helm movies produced by Irving Allen (Albert R. Broccoli’s one-time partner) featured a villainous organization called BIGO (the Bureau of International Government and Order). It’s logo was a thunderbolt through a capital O.

The Helm movies were out of production by 1969. But apparently other spy entertainment franchises may have remembered it.

In the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE has traded its classic octopus logo in for a thunderbolt.

For example, thanks to the Behind the Stunts feed on Twitter, here’s an image of the same stunt performer who appeared in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever. With the latter image, his helmet has SPECTRE’s new logo.

More than a decade later, we got The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV movie in 1983. Instead of the classic Thrush logo, the villainous organization also went in for a thunderbolt logo. The one exception was a scene at desk of a Thrush chieftain played by Anthony Zerbe. Mostly viewers saw spiffy new orange uniforms for thugs with a thunderbolt logo.

Thrush thugs in their new orange uniforms with the (boring) thunderbolt logos

Well, you can’t win them all. Nevertheless, the thunderbolt logo may have been Irving Allen’s main contribution to spy entertainment.

UPDATE: Reader Ricardo C Cantoral reminds me that the original SPECTRE logo is on Blofeld’s mini-sub in Diamonds Are Forever. That’s true. I’ve seen that mini-sub up close. It’s in the custody of the Ian Fleming Foundation. Likewise, the original Thrush logo can be seen briefly in The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert Short, technical adviser for the TV movie, managed to get it on the desk of Anthony Zerbe’s character. Regardless, the filmmakers intended the thunderbolt logo to be the symbol of the revamped SPECTRE and Thrush.

Fleming scholar on the trail of 007’s creator

F.L. Toth during a research trip to Indiana University’s Lilly Library (photo courtesy of F.L. Toth)

F.L. Toth is a librarian and a scholar about the works and life of Ian Fleming. Her Twitter feed, @3octaves, or 007intheAdirondacks, notes significant events in the life of James Bond’s creator. She lives in update New York, territory where the literary Bond was known to travel.

Toth has made research trips to study the life and works of Fleming. She also is a contributor to Artistic Licence Renewed. You can see a sample of her work by CLICKING HERE.

The blog interviewed Toth via direct messages on Twitter. A transcript follows.

THE SPY COMMAND: What spurred your interest not only in Ian Fleming’s Bond stories, but also in the life of the author?

F.L. TOTH: My high school boyfriend (eventually my husband!) introduced me to James Bond movies, and I began to borrow the books from the library. When I got to The Spy Who Loved Me, I was astonished to realize that the jet-setting, sophisticated Bond had an adventure in my little town of Glens Falls (population 15,000, and just outside the Adirondacks).

I was even more amazed to see he knew where to pick up a lady of the night, since that would not be on any tourist maps—he’d have to have been here or have spoken to a local to know. From that moment, when I was a mere 17 years old, I was fascinated by Ian Fleming.

TSC: Fleming seems like a complicated personality. He also seems to have crammed 90 years of living into a little more than 56. What’s your appraisal of Fleming?

F.L. TOTH: Oh, yes, he lived large. He seems to have been a bundle of contradictions, with a lot of people disliking him but others saying how kind he was. He contributed a great deal to his own myth of “ignoring” the warnings to stop drinking and smoking and knew fully well that he was an addict.

But what an amazing brain! He could write with passion about the most minute things, and with such clarity that a person disinterested in golf or bridge is all a -flutter reading his descriptions. And although Fleming women are often a subject of ridicule, some of the most tender monologues I’ve ever read were Fleming’s heroines.

Domino Vitale’s story of the hero in the Players cigarettes, which goes on for five pages, is heart rending.

TSC. As you researched Fleming, what was your biggest and surprise (and why)?

F.L. TOTH: I’ll never get over the shock of Fleming’s knowing where the bad part of my little town is! Other than that the biggest surprise was not at all salacious; it was how comparatively easy he had it as a writer.

Fleming had two uninterrupted months in every year to write, was not altogether dependent on his writing to survive, and had secretaries, researchers, and typists to help him make it happen. Under the circumstances, it would have been amazing if he had NOT had some success. But I think most people who approach Bond from the movies would be shocked to realize how progressive Fleming could be on social issues.

He had moments of shocking feminism, such as having a main character obtain an abortion and remain sympathetic. He had Bond express admiration for Jack Kennedy, and Fleming was an environmentalist who wrote with verve and delight to his wife about his participating in a flamingo count.

He certainly had his conservative and imperialist moments but there are times it seems the only thing that kept him from being a hippie was his love of money, which was considerable.

TSC: Where have you gone to research Fleming? A remember some time back you tweeted from the Lilly Library at Indiana University, which houses many of his manuscripts.

F.L. TOTH: Everywhere I can! Las Vegas, a Bond walking tour of London courtesy of Tom Cull of Artistic Licence Renewed, Dunn’s River Falls (seen in Dr. No) in Jamaica, multiple NYC locations, Lilly Library (not at all a Bond site but as you mentioned the home of the typescripts).

I am hoping to expand my view outside North America and Europe as soon as we are able to resume travel. Interestingly, if a person wants to see a well-preserved Bond site, the best I have seen is undoubtedly Route 9 from the Canadian border down to Lake George. There are multiple businesses under the same management (or at least the same families) as I write this as when Ian Fleming visited in the 1950s and 1960s, and construction along this route has been minimal because of the rules of the Adirondacks.

TSC: What’s your opinion of the films vs. Fleming’s originals? What films since his death do you think he’d have liked the most?

F.L. TOTH: I stopped watching the films years ago because of the sexual assault. More diplomatic people than I call the rape in Goldfinger “problematic” but this is the antithesis of Bond, who was irresistible, not predatory.

I am not entertained by sexual assault and don’t understand why anyone else is. The books have an understated but wry humor so in my opinion Fleming would have enjoyed Roger Moore (who was, according to legend, one of Fleming’s own choices for Bond).

It is important to note that Fleming was not much of a movie or theater buff even though he enjoyed the money movies brought in, and even though he had to know about theater to write his Sunday Times “Atticus” column. Fleming doesn’t write about movies with the regularity or enthusiasm of golf or fine dining.

Fleming’s sister-in-law, Celia Johnson, was a BAFTA award-winning actor and he was not known to have attended any of her performances, which gives an idea of not much interest in the performing arts.

TSC: What are some of the Fleming literary locations you’ve visited or are familiar with?

F.L. TOTH: I am intimately acquainted with the New York State locations in Diamonds Are Forever and The Spy Who Loved Me and Route 9 runs right past my house! I’d be glad to take any visitor to a bath in Saratoga or to a diner in Lake George, and when we are able to again, A day at the races would take us to the same grandstand Bond visited all those years ago.

21 Club, a literary Bond location, to close

The 21 Club, a well-known New York City restaurant, is closing, the New York Post reported, citing a spokesman.

The restaurant was a location for the literary James Bond. In the novel Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond and Tiffany Case dine there after Bond has smuggled diamonds into the U.S. They meet “one of the famous Kriendler brothers, who have owned ’21’ ever since it was the best speak-easy in New York.”

The Kriendler and Berns families owned 21 from 1922 to 1985, according to the restaurant’s entry in Wikipedia.

The 21 Club also is referenced, but not shown, in the film Live And Let Die. Bond (Roger Moore) and Felix Leiter (David Hedison) are to meet there for dinner, the audience is told as Bond and Solitaire (Jane Seymour) get ready to board a train to travel to New York.

The restaurant is known for his exterior (statues of jockeys) and its clientele (the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway) over the decades.

The restaurant has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. New York state has banned indoor dining for a second time to slow the spread of the virus. 21 has been shut since March of this year. According to the Post, 21’s employees have been told they’ll lose their jobs by March 2021.

The Post said 21’s owners are exploring options for the restaurant to reopen in some form in the future.

Sean Connery, original film 007, dies at 90

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery, the original film James Bond, has died at 90. His death was confirmed by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, in a post on Twitter.

Jason Connery, the actor’s son, told the BBC that his father “has been unwell for some time.”

The Scottish actor took on the role of James Bond with Dr. No, when he was 31. By doing so, he became one of the major icons of the 1960s, along with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Connery enjoyed a long career, which extended into the early 21st century. His last live-action performance was 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Connery also did voice work for a 2005 video game that adapted the 007 film From Russia With Love and a 2012 animated film, Sir Billi.  The actor’s honors included an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1987’s The Untouchables.

Despite all that, his seven Bond films — six for Eon Productions as well as the non-Eon production of 1983’s Never Say Never Again — defined his career and made him a star.

Dr. No producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, working with a modest budget, decided on Connery relatively early in pre-production. United Artists, the studio that would release 11 Bond films before it was absorbed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, initially was skeptical.

Eventually, UA executives were sold. It was a decision they would profit from handsomely. The 007 series was UA’s major asset in the 1960s, a decade when the studio also released such films as West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night and low-cost but profitable films featuring The Beatles.

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Connery’s Bond was both sophisticated and ruthless. The actor was tutored in the former trait by director Terence Young, who helmed three of the first four 007 movies. It was Young who polished the rough diamond of an actor who came from a working-class background in Scotland.

Audiences adored the combination. The first four Bond films were mostly faithful adaptations of Ian Fleming novels. For the American market, Connery’s Bond was a more macho hero than audience members probably expected.

The actor stayed busy with non-Bond projects, including The Hill, a World War II drama. But the conversation kept coming back to Bond, like in an Oct. 3, 1965 episode of What’s My Line?

Connery, the first of two mystery guests, was present because The Hill was opening in New York later that week. He was also in New York filming A Fine Madness, directed by Irvin Kershner, who’d later work with Connery on Never Say Never Again.

But panelist Martin Gabel, one of Connery’s co-stars in the Alfred Hitchcock film Marnie, cited Bond in deducing the actor’s identity.

What’s more, Connery’s relationship with Broccoli and Saltzman became troubled. As the budgets and scope of the movies expanded, Connery felt cheated with his share of the enterprise.

In 1966, Columbia Pictures released The Silencers, a spoofy version of Donald Hamilton’s very serious Matt Helm novels. The producer was Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen.

To secure the services of star Dean Martin, Allen had to make Dino a partner. That ensured the actor, who received a share of the proceeds, would get a bigger payday than Connery got for 007 films. From then on, Connery would be at odds with his Bond employers.

Connery quit the series after 1967’s You Only Live Twice (the first 007 venture than dispensed with the plot of an Ian Fleming novel).

UA, unhappy with the box office of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, lured Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever with a big payday, including a $1.25 million fee (which the Scottish actor donated to a trust he founded). Connery also received a percentage of the box office.

After Diamonds, Connery said he was done with Eon for good. But he went back into Bondage one more time with Never Say Never Again.

Connery had more behind-the-camera power than he ever had with Eon. He brought in scribes Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to do an uncredited rewrite of Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s script. The actor also recruited Michel Legrand to score the movie.

Both the script and the music would be among the most criticized aspects of Never Say Never Again. But many Bond fans, happy to see Connery one last time, overlooked the actor’s role as de facto producer.

Sean Connery in 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Regardless, Connery was the building block for Eon’s 007 film series that has lasted more than a half century.

The series, of course, had many talented contributors including director Young, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry. However, Connery provided a popular Bond for audiences. All future Bond actors would be compared to Connery.

Some fans and critics have argued that Connery has been surpassed in the 21st century by Daniel Craig. But without Connery at the start, that’s almost a moot point. All of Connery’s 007 successors had the opportunity because of the Scot’s original work.

Bond 25 questions: Killing time until November edition

New (well, tweaked) No Time to Die character poster

Fans of the James Bond films have some time to kill before November. The blog has some questions.

What’s up with Bond’s new gun in a revised character poster for No Time to Time?

Previously, a series of character posters for the 25th James Bond film were released. One, naturally, featured star Daniel Craig.

A revised version went out this week. It now says “November” at the bottom instead of “April 2020,” reflecting the delay in release date.

But something else changed. The gun Craig is holding looks different, perhaps now equipped with a silencer or maybe simply a different firearm.

I’m not sure what caused the change. The MI6 James Bond website noticed the alteration, with a side-by-side comparison in THIS TWEET.

What happens to all the publicity we were going to get?

Well, Bond fans are getting some of it now. Publications such as GQ and Total Film came out with No Time to Die articles. The schedule was based on an April release of the movie. But last week’s decision to shift the movie to November came too late for the publications to change their plans.

The GQ piece was similar to Craig profiles of yesteryear (including 26 references to the f-word), how he initially hesitated to play Bond, etc.. We’re also told how “Craig introduced time to the Bond movies… Bond ages.”

This isn’t a new angle. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall boasted in 2014 that in that film “for the first time characters were allowed to age.”

It wasn’t true then. Previous Bond films had reference to aging. Sean Connery told True magazine in 1971 that he was playing Bond older in Diamonds Are Forever than his earlier 007 films. Also, aging was part of Roger Moore’s 1980s Bond films.

Still, you could argue that the aging theme was much more pronounced in Skyfall (with its often-repeated “the old ways are the best” line). Well, whatever works for an article.

Is there a bright side to this delay?

For that, I’ll defer to the Haphazard Stuff channel on YouTube. He found 13 bright spots. One involves the infectious laugh of former No Time to Die director Danny Boyle. You can view Haphazard Stuff’s take below.