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.

 

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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.

Is Agent 007 a hero or an anti-hero?

Hero? Anti-hero?

So is James Bond a hero or an antihero? If you think the answers is easy, think again. Not even the co-chiefs of Eon Productions, whose personal fortunes stem from 007, agree.

Michael G. Wilson, who has worked on the Bond film series longer than anyone, is in the anti-hero camp. In an INTERVIEW WITH USA TODAY EARLIER THIS YEAR Wilson said, “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero.” He again calls Bond an anti-hero in the new Everything Or Nothing documentary.

Barbara Broccoli, Wilson’s half-sister and the other co-boss at Eon, did an interview published last week at AIN’T IT COOL NEWS. This was her take on Bond: “He’s a classical hero, but he’s very human.”

Back on Feb. 1 WE DID A POST about Wilson’s remarks. It got a mixed reaction. One respondent wrote, “Bond of the novels was definitely an anti-hero, in my opinion, as was the Connery Bond of the first two films.” This person posted a YouTube video of a clip from Dr. No where 007 shoots Professor Dent, Dr. No’s lackey, in cold blood. Another said Bond was an anti-hero because he smokes, kills and “uses women.” Others wrote that Wilson misunderstands the Bond character or that 007 is a hero, but “a Cold War hero.”

As we presented on Feb. 1, this is the definition of anti-hero, according to Dictionary.com:

noun, plural an·ti·he·roes.
a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.

A less-evil mobster


By that definition, you could argue the label is more befitting of, say, Michael Corleone in The Godfather. He’s less evil than the leaders of the other mobs because he doesn’t want to get into the drug business. But, arguably at least, he’s not really a heroic figure.

Some have argued Bond is a hero, but a tarnished one (he does kill after all). He’s a patriot who, when he kills, does so for what he believes is a higher cause. Then again, John Le Carre would disagree, as would followers such as Robert MacNeil, the former PBS newsman.

We suspect none of this will settle the issue. As we noted before, when the two co-chiefs of Eon come down on different sides, that suggests the matter is one people will disagree about.

Harry Saltzman gets a little attention for 007’s 50th

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Harry Saltzman, the co-founder of Eon Productions is starting to get a bit of attention as the 50th anniversary of the 007 movies approaches Oct. 5.

The official 007 Web page has an announcement Aug. 29 about “Global James Bond Day on the Oct. 5 anniversary date. It includes an image of Saltzman, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, Sean Connery and Bond author Ian Fleming. On Aug. 28, it was also announced there’d be a new documentary, Everything or Nothing, about the origins of the 007 films that also mentioned Saltzman prominently.

THAT PRESS RELEASE said the following:

EVERYTHING OR NOTHING focuses on three men with a shared dream – Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and author Ian Fleming. It’s the thrilling and inspiring narrative behind the longest running film franchise in cinema history which began in 1962. With unprecedented access both to the key players involved and to Eon Productions’ extensive archive, this is the first time the inside story of the franchise has ever been told on screen in this way.

Today, in Sony Pictures’s announcement about Global James Bond day, there was the same phrasing about “three men with a shared dream,” also mentioning Saltzman along with Broccoli and Fleming.

We’ve commented before about how Saltzman had been the forgotten man during the film 007’s golden anniversary year. So it’s good to see him get some attention.