David Picker, ex-UA executive, dies at 87

David Picker (1931-2019)

David Picker, part of the United Artists executive team that struck the deal with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to launch the 007 film series, died Saturday at 87, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The cause was colon cancer, according to the entertainment-news outlet.

Picker was among the UA executives who, in 1961, held a meeting in New York with Broccoli and Saltzman. He was head of production for the studio, which was led by Arthur Krim (1910-1994).

In the documentary Inside Dr. No, he said UA struck a deal with the producers the same day.

Picker wrote a 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybe and Nevers: A Book About the Movies. In the book, he took credit for part of the success of the Bond series.

“Much has been written about Bond,” Picker wrote. “Until now, no one has written in detail exactly what happened, how it happened and why it happened for one simple reason: they weren’t there.” The Bond series “would not have happened had it not been for this author’s belief in their potential.”

In the memoir, Picker wrote that Dr. No really cost $1.35 million, not the $1.1 million that had been budgeted and that he had found a way to provide the extra $250,000.

The 2011 book A Bond for Bond, published by Film Finances Inc., the company that provided the movie’s completion bond, published a copy January 1963 budget document with a figure in British pounds that was closer to the $1.1 million figure.

In 1969, Picker became president and chief operating officer at UA. For 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, Broccoli and Saltzman signed American actor John Gavin to play Bond. PIcker, though, didn’t like the choice and wanted to try to re-sign Sean Connery, who had departed the Eon series after You Only Live Twice.

UA operated more like a bank than a studio. It didn’t have its own studio facilities, like a Warner Bros. or a Disney. It often gave the producers it worked with a lot of leeway.

But on this occasion, Picker won out and Connery was signed for $1.25 million, with UA agreeing to finance other films for the star. One movie, The Offence, was made under that deal.

Picker left UA in the 1970s. For a time, he became a producer himself, then held executive jobs at Paramount and Columbia Pictures.

Picker appeared in multiple documentaries made in the late 1990s and directed by John Cork about Bond movies. He also was among those interviewed for the 2012 documentary Everything or Nothing about the 007 film series.

Is it Eon or EON?

Image from the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing

On Facebook, the blog caught a debate whether it should be Eon Productions or EON Productions.

EON would indicate an acronym. In 1983, an updated version of Steven Jay Rubin’s The James Bond Films was published. “I’ve also discovered that Eon Productions stands for Everything or Nothing Productions, an appropriate tag,” Rubin wrote in the introduction for the update.

In the late 1990s, the officially sanctioned documentary Inside Dr. No seemed to try to debunk that idea.

NARRATOR (Patrick Macnee): For many years, some speculate the (Eon) name stands for everything or nothing.

MICHAEL G. WILSON: Cubby (Broccoli) was always…when I said to him does it mean “Everything Or Nothing,” he said, “I’ve never heard of that.”

OK. Also, eon is a word defined as “an indefinite and very long period of time, often a period exaggerated for humorous or rhetorical effect.”

Except….flash forward to the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing.

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Cubby and Harry (Saltzman) formed a company called Eon, everything or nothing.

Accompanying Barbara Broccoli’s quote is image of Eon business cards, where it’s spelled Eon, rather than EON.

So, over a period of years, you had the two leaders of Eon (or EON) Productions telling different versions of the company’s origin. Meanwhile, there was an officially licensed video game titled James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.

Regardless, there are differences in English-English and American-English about how you treat acronyms. The term “public limited company” is usually abbreviated PLC in the U.S., while in the U.K., it is abbreviated as “Plc.”

Beyond that, companies love to bend the rules of English (on either side of the Atlantic Ocean). Time magazine refers to itself as TIME, even if nobody else does so. Boeing is formally The Boeing Company but The Associated Press and other news organizations simply refer to it as Boeing Co.

Going back to Eon, the company that produces James Bond films, its key figures don’t agree whether the name is an acronym or not.

On Eon’s website, the name is spelled EON. However, the company’s films, such as DR. NO, CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE are spelled with all capital letters. So that’s not very definitive, either.

Ultimate answer: It’s up to you. The available information is, at best, conflicting.

Blanche Blackwell, Fleming companion, dies

Blanche Blackwell and Ian Fleming in Jamaica

Blanche Blackwell, who had a relationship with Ian Fleming, has died at 104, according to an obituary posted by The Telegraph.

Blackwell was part of two 007-related documentaries, 2000’s Ian Fleming: 007’s Creator ( an extra in the home video release of The Living Daylights) and 2012’s Everything or Nothing.

Her interviews for the documentaries provided perspective for fans about Fleming’s complicated life, touching on her affair with the married author. She lived in Jamaica, where Fleming wrote his James Bond novels.

“He was somebody who could be anybody he wanted to be,” Blackwell says of Fleming at the start of the 2000 documentary.

Ian Fleming: 007’s Creator included a section on Blackwell. “I decided how I wanted to live long ago,” she says. “And I’ve managed to succeed at doing it without getting into too much trouble.”

In 2012, The Express. published a feature story about her.

“A neighbour of both (Noel) Coward and Fleming, she was a society beauty who beguiled the guests who came to her home, Bolt House, in St Mary, Jamaica,” according to the story.

UPDATE (Aug. 12): The Washington Post has published a very detailed obituary of Blanche Blackwell that’s worth a read.

 

Two 007 fan magazine offers

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Two competing 007 fan magazines have new offers.

MI6 Confidential has a new issue, No. 20, out. It features a cover with a Daniel Craig image and features include a look at 007 title designer Daniel Kleinman (responsible for every Bond main titles since 1995 with the exception of 2008’s Quantum of Solace); some artwork developed for the ad campaign for A View To a Kill; a look at Skyfall special effects; and a story about the Everything Or Nothing documentary.

The publication’s price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros. For more information about ordering, CLICK HERE.

Meanwhile, Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine and 007 Magazine Archive Files are offering back issues at half price, 4.99 British pounds, for a limited time. That includes an issue devoted to Skyfall. For more details and information on ordering, CLICK HERE.

MI6 Confidential’s new issue looks at Skyfall

MI6 Confidential No. 18 looks at Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie that opens in the U.K. this week.

The NEW ISSUE includes interviews with star Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes; an overview on the making of movie; a feature on producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; and a look at the new documentary Everything or Nothing about the 50th anniversary of the 007 film series.

There’s also an article about the pre-007 work of Harry Saltzman, who co-founded Eon Productions with Albert R. Broccoli.

The price is 6 British pounds, $10 or 7 euros. For ordering information, CLICK HERE.

Happy 85th birthday, Roger Moore

Roger Moore, star of seven 007 movies from 1973 to 1985, turns 85 on Oct. 14.

When he talks about Bond, he frequently compliments other actors in the role, particularly Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. Occasionally, such as the new Everything Or Nothing documentary, he’ll analyze his own films. For example, in that documentary, he mentions a scene in The Man With the Golden Gun he now cringes about. His Bond double crosses a Thai boy and pushes him in the water.

But when it comes to Bond, he mostly still promotes the enterprise even though his direct involvement ended long ago while not (publicly at least) seeming to worry about his place in it.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 essay by HMSS co-founder Paul Baack that analyzed Moore as 007:

While one may quibble over screen Bond depictions vs. Ian Fleming’s descriptions, Roger Moore actually had quite a satisfactory screen presence in the role. That he was handsome goes without saying, although he’s been charged with being “blandly handsome.” Whatever. His voice is perhaps the best of all the Bonds, a rich baritone with a drawling English accent just this short of being plummy (which he could actually turn quite crisp when he needed to).

(snip)
It didn’t often seem like it, but Moore could actually act. His style wasn’t flashy like Timothy Dalton’s or studied like Sean Connery’s, but you never saw him looking awkward on the screen. Goofy at times, sure, but even then it was always in concert with the scene and the other actors. He could project great warmth or steely coolness; it’s still a thrill to see the gravitas he brought to his “serious” scenes. Like you would imagine 007 to be, Moore was comfortable in his own skin, naturalistic and at ease onscreen as “that gentleman secret agent.”

He was a great ambassador for the James Bond movies. Moore was a frequent, and welcome, guest on most of the major television talk shows, where he could banter and/or engage in serious conversation with wit, charisma, and charm. Whether promoting the newly-released film or talking about going into production on the next one, his enthusiasm and appreciation were always tempered by his self-deprecating sense of humor and private amusement at where his career had taken him…. The old saw about “he kept the series popular” is largely true, and no small accomplishment.

You can read the entire essay BY CLICKING HERE.

The non-Bond film that had the biggest impact on 007

Dean Martin as Matt Helm during a dramatic moment in The Silencers.


With the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series, we got to thinking about the 007 film competitor that had the biggest impact. It’s really not much of a contest. It’s 1966’s The Silencers.

Now, other spy films had an impact on the style of Bond films. Studio executives told The New York Times (without letting their names be attached) in 2005 that The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy comprised the model for Daniel Craig’s rebooted 007, beginning with 2006’s Casino Royale and especially with 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Even non-spy films influenced earlier 007 films such as Live And Let Die (Shaft, Super Fly), The Man With the Golden Gun (Bruce Lee kung fu films) and Moonraker (Star Wars).

But The Silencers rocked the Bond franchise in ways other films didn’t. The 1966 movie was the first of four Matt Helm movies produced by Irving Allen, once the partner of Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of the 007 film franchise. Allen (dismissed as a “blowhard” by current Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli) had been skeptical of 007’s film potential and had insulted Ian Fleming.

Allen, presumably realizing the scope of his mistake, got the film rights to the Matt Helm series of paperback novels by Donald Hamilton. To make a Helm film series a reality, Allen needed a star. He got one — Dean Martin. But to get Dino into the fold, Allen made the Rat Packer a partner. For The Silencers, that meant a $1.2 million paycheck, more than twice the money Sean Connery got for doing Thunderball. To top it off, the Helm series found a home at Columbia Pictures. That was the same studio that passed on doing business with 007 producers Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who ended up taking their project to United Artists.

The Scotsman didn’t like that and tensions accelerated between the star and 007 producers Broccoli and Saltzman. Perhaps Connery would have tired of the role anyway. But the conflict over money — fueled by The Silencers — caused Eon’s relationship with its star to rupture. Broccoli’s relationship with Saltzman was already getting tenuous and making Connery a partner in the enterprise wasn’t going to happen. Broccoli eventually would be proven right in one respect. Once Dean Martin lost interest, the Helm film series went away.

Still, had Allen not brought The Silencers (retooled from Hamilton’s serious novels to almost an extension of Dean Martin’s variety show) to the screen, much could have been different. Perhaps Connery would have stayed longer. Perhaps On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would have been a lot different with Connery, rather than George Lazenby. The point is, things got a lot bumpier for the franchise as The Silencers worsened tensions lurking beneath the surface.

Other films affected Bond films but The Silencers affected the business of Bond. The new Everything Or Nothing documentary references this in an indirect way. But in a way, the impact of The Silencers is part of Bond film history.