Literary 007 meme: Jimmy Cannon

Jimmy Cannon (1909-1973)

Thanks to .@JB_UnivEx on Twitter, the blog was reminded of a major U.S. sports writer, Jimmy Cannon (1909-73).

In the novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond hangs around quite a bit with former CIA agent Felix Leiter.

Leiter gives Bond a New York Post sports column he clipped from the newspaper.

“This Jimmy Cannon is their sports columnist,” Leiter tells Bond. “Good writer. Knows what he’s writing about. Read it in the car. We ought to be moving.”

A couple of sentences later, there’s this passage:

“Bond settled himself down with Jimmy Cannon’s tough prose. As he read, the Saratoga of the Jersey Lily’s Day vanished into the dusty, sweet past and the twentieth century looked out at him from the piece of newsprint and bared its teeth in a sneer.”

What follows is a supposed Cannon column. (h/t to the Fleming’s Bond website, which wrote about Cannon in 2014.) Afterwards, Leiter comments. “And Jimmy Cannon doesn’t let on the big boys are back again, or their successors.”

Cannon, in his day, was a celebrated U.S. newspaper sports columnist. He wrote short, punchy sentences. It was said Cannon never wrote a sentence longer than 10 words.

One of his fans was Dick Schaap (1934-2001). Schaap began as a newspaper man but managed to transition into television. He was the host of an ESPN show called The Sports Reporters. It consisted of Schaap and (mostly egoist) newspaper columnists. That show ended in May 2017.

Going into commercial breaks during the early years of The Sports Reporters, viewers saw images of Howard Cosell, one of the most famous U.S. sports casters of all time. Another was Jimmy Cannon.

When Cannon died, Dave Anderson of The New York Times did his obituary.

He was perhaps the first sportswriter aware of the sociological impact of the black athlete. Of Joe Louis, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, he once wrote:

“He’s a credit to his race—the human race.”

Of all his assignments, Mr. Cannon appeared to enjoy boxing the most, even though he criticized it as “the red‐light district” of sports. He was content with his role as a sports columnist despite editors who sometimes derided the sports pages as the “toy department” of their newspapers.

When Diamonds Are Forever was written, Ian Fleming was still a working journalist. In his case, Fleming was the foreign editor of The Sunday Times. Of course, earlier in his career, Fleming wrote from the Soviet Union for the Reuters news service.

The fact that 007’s creator was familiar with leading U.S. journalists was not a surprise. Fleming would drop other references to U.S. journalists later in his novels.

Still, Dick Schaap, a Cannon admirer, is barely remembered today. Cannon didn’t live to the era when sports writers became celebrities.

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FiveThirtyEight: Being 007 is bad for your career

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What actor wouldn’t want to be James Bond? You’re paid well. There’s a worldwide audience awaiting your next film. You will be one of the most famous people on earth.

Well, according to ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog, it may not be good for your career.

FiveThirtyEight, formerly affiliated with The New York Times, helped popularize “data driven journalism,” where data, and not snark and supposition, drives stories.

FiveThirtyEight (named after the number of electors in the U.S. electoral college) was founded by Nate Silver, who gained notoriety for correctly forecasting results of the 2012 U.S. presidential election when the site was part of the Times. Silver later moved on, selling FiveThirtyEight to Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.

Anyway, FiveThirtyEight is about more than politics and goes into entertainment news. As a result, the site’s Ben Lindbergh analyzed career trajectories of James Bond actors.

Here’s an excerpt:

While ur-Bond Sean Connery made the character an icon and, in the process, became iconic himself, the returns for the actors who’ve succeeded him — even excluding George Lazenby, who hadn’t acted in films before becoming Bond and who went one and done with “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” — have been more mixed. To determine the potential impact of playing Bond on an actor’s output, I analyzed the IMDb user ratings for each post-Lazenby Bond’s acting work from the five years before his first Bond film, the years during his reign, and the five years after he retired his tux, excluding uncredited roles, one-episode spots on TV shows, voice work and video games.

Lindbergh writes that those IMDB user ratings are higher for 007 actors during the five years before they became Bond compared with their 007 years or the five years following the role.

Lindbergh wrote: “Acting credits tend to dwindle after Bond, perhaps because financial security frees actors to take fewer roles; Bond-related fame and advancing age limit their other options; or celebrity, protracted productions and the need to recover from the beatings they take sidetrack their careers. (Or your alternative theory!)”

What spurred the post is speculation that Tom Hiddleston could be in the running to succeed Daniel Craig following the former’s appearance in the miniseries The Night Manager.

To read the entire post, CLICK HERE. It’s titled “Pray Your Favorite Actor Doesn’t Become James Bond.”

U.N.C.L.E. movie underwhelms in U.S. opening

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

UPDATE (Aug. 17) — Revised figures on Monday, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBERS WEBSITE, put The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie at $13.4 million, compared to $60.2 million for Straight Outta Compton.

(ORIGINAL POST): The Man From U.N.C.L.E. underperformed in the United States and Canada, finishing No. 3 in its debut weekend with estimated ticket sales of $13.5 million, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Guy Ritchie’s reinterpretation of the 1964-68 television series trailed Straight Outta Compton, a film about the rap group N.W.A. at $56.1 million and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, in its third weekend of release.

The Tom Cruise M:I film had estimate weekend ticket sales of $17 million, according to A TWEET from Exhibitors Relations.

Straight Outta Compton initially was estimated to produce a $30 million opening weekend and is coming in at almost twice that. It also was also shown on 2,757 screens, compared with U.N.C.L.E.’s 3,638, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Over the weekend on social media, there was some debate about all this. Those who were annoyed (or worse) that the movie didn’t retain the series’ secret headquarters, Jerry Goldsmith theme (only a few notes were used in the film), or who wanted different casting, etc., said the results validated their positions.

The answer, though, may be more simple than that. It could be that outside of the aging U.N.C.L.E. fan base (including folks such as the Spy Commander) and the younger Henry Cavill fan base, there weren’t that many people who wanted to see the movie.

Warner Bros. can’t be blamed for a lack of marketing support. The studio bought ads all over U.S. television the past few weeks. For example, it paid for a two-minute ad on the ABC prime-time telecast of the ESPN ESPY awards. The spot ran shortly before transgender ex-athlete Caitlyn Jenner picked up an award for sports courage, the main highlight of the show.

Would having Jerry Goldsmith’s full theme boosted the box office take? If a great Goldsmith theme had that much impact, the 1973 series Hawkins on CBS would have lasted longer than a season and the 1975 Archer series (as in Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer) on NBC would have run longer than six episodes.

Would having the secret HQs, complete with Del Floria’s tailor shop have changed the outcome? 2015 audiences already had a secret HQs in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was basically an updated version of the U.N.C.L.E. secret HQs of the show.

Would having, say, Jon Hamm, the star of the now-completed Mad Men series, as Napoleon Solo instead of Henry Cavill changed things?

Hamm’s Million Dollar Arm in 2014 was No. 4 its opening weekend in the U.S. at $10.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It finished with worldwide box office of $38.3 million. Of course, to be fair, he also was the voice of Herb Overkill in Minions, which had worldwide box office of more than $900 million.

Would having cameos by Robert Vaughn or David McCallum, the stars of the original show, increased ticket sales significantly? Would ticket sales double or triple? Or would they have risen by 1 percent or less? Meanwhile, McCallum endorsed the film in a Fox News interview and that doesn’t seem to have had much impact.

For Warner Bros., the best hope for the film may be in overseas markets. The DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD website reported there were early signs of a better reception in various countries, including Russia.

ESPN panelist makes U.N.C.L.E. joke; host doesn’t get it

The outcome of ESPN’s Around the Horn show on May 25 depended on a joke based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Host Tony Reali didn’t get it — and that affected the outcome.

Background: Around the Horn, which airs at 5 p.m. New York time, is ESPN’s “show of competitive banter,” where four sportswriters discuss sports news of the day, with their arguments given scores by host Reali.

On May 25, sportswriters Tim Cowlishaw and Kevin Blackistone were the last two men standing and appeared on the show’s “showdown” segment. One question concerned a box who plans his own television show. Reali asked both Cowlishaw and Blackistone to start coming up with titles. After a few tries from both, Cowlishaw piped up, “The Man Who Cried UNCLE!”

Reali had no idea what Cowlishaw was talking about and took away a point. That led to Blackistone winning the contest for the day.

After Blackistone delivered a short commentary (the prize for the winner of each day’s show), Cowlishaw informed Reali about how his pun referred to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. At that point, Reali seemed to get it but didn’t real care. Too bad, given how Reali has been known to occasionally make James Bond references on Around the Horn.

007 music at the Olympics courtesy of Kim Yu-Na

Korean ice skater Kim Yu-Na used a medley of James Bond music for her short program at the Vancouver Olympics. NBC waited until 11 p.m. ET to show her performance.

Selections included some of John Barry’s scores, including Thunderball and From Russia With Love and a Barry-esque sounding selection that David Arnold composed for Die Another Day. There were also versions of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme.

She scored 78 points, a record, for the short program.

UPDATE: Our friend Mark Henderson points out this wasn’t exactly her debut at using 007 music:

UPDATE II: J.A. Adande, a participant in the Feb. 24 edition of ESPN’s Around the Horn, praised the “James Bond moment” during a commentary at the end of the show after he won the game of “competitive banter.”

ESPN quotes (sort of) from Never Say Never Again

Woody Paige, a participant on ESPN’s Around the Horn on Feb. 18 cited Never Say Never Again in analyzing the Winter Olympics.

A segment of the show devoted to “competitive banter” dealt with U.S. success this week at the Winter Olympics. “It’s like what Largo said to Bond in Never Say Never Again,” the sometimes goofy Denver Post sports columnist said, “it’s all about total world domination!”

Paige was referring to the scene in NSNA where Bond and Maximillian Largo play an elaborate video game where players try to take over territory (and the loser receives electric shocks). Largo, after winning the early rounds, is bested by 007 when the agent ups the stakes to the rest of the world.

It wasn’t the first time the ESPN show has made 007 references. Last August, host Tony Reali quoted from Goldfinger during banter with Dallas Morning News sports staffer Tim Cowlishaw.

Paige’s 007 quip didn’t help him much. He was the first sportswriter eliminated from competition. ESPN’s Michael Smith ended up the winner, besting Cowlishaw in the final “showdown” segment.

Countdown to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary part III: even ESPN gets into the act

Goldfinger, the 007 movie about to celebrate its 45th anniversary, still is having an effect on popular culture. Consider ESPN’s Around The Horn.

On Thursday, the half-hour show of “competitive banter” featuring four sports columnists blathering about topics of the day featured a Goldfinger reference by host Tony Reali.

Reali awards points based on the arguments of the sports scribes. During a segment about a U.S.-Mexico soccer game, Reali felt some points made by Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News were too sarcastic. “Choose your next witticism carefully, it may be your last,” Reali said as he deducted points from Cowlishaw.

That, of course, is nearly a verbatim quote from Goldfinger as James Bond tries to bluff the film’s title villain. Things are a little tense. Bond is bound to a table while a laser beam is coming up between his legs.