JFK at 100: 007’s biggest American fan

John F. Kennedy statue in Fort Worth, Texas (photo by the Spy Commander)

Today, May 29, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

His presidency, shortened by assassination in November 1963, is still studied by scholars.

The purpose of this post is more limited. JFK was the most prominent American fan of the literary James Bond, propelling the character to even greater heights of popularity in the early 1960s, just as the movie series was about to start.

Kennedy provided a list of his 10 favorite books. The titles tended to be biographies of prominent politicians and one was written by Winston Churchill.

But the list also included a spy thriller, From Russia With Love, the fifth James Bond novel penned by Ian Fleming.

Today, you might ask what was the big deal?

JFK was the first American president born in the 20th century. His election amounted to a major generational change. And he and his family were photogenic at a time television became the dominant medium.

As a result, JFK’s endorsement was a boon to the Bond novels and the movies about to come out.

Ian Fleming certainly knew that was the case.

” I am delighted to take this opportunity to thank Kennedys everywhere for the electric effect their commendation has had on my sales in America,” Fleming wrote in a 1962 letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. New York time): A 1987 story in the Los Angeles Times provides a bit more detail.

ABC newsman Pierre Salinger, formerly Kennedy’s press secretary, said from Paris: “I was simply given the list and instructed to distribute it. There’s been speculation its inclusion was engineered to show he wasn’t an egghead. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can tell you people were shocked on Capitol Hill.”

The article was a tremendous boon to producers Albert (Cubby) Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who only months earlier had acquired film rights to the Bond novels. By year’s end, they were in pre-production on “Dr. No” and had a deal with United Artists for a second installment–“From Russia With Love.”

Kennedy had done more than just help popularize the novels and pave the wave for screen adventures. He had “created a public tolerance for this type of activity,” said Roy Godson, a professor of government at Georgetown University. “Kennedy was fascinated by these types of operations. No other President, before or since, has been as actively involved in the covert-action aspect of spying.”

 

Spanish in James Bond movies

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

SMERSH’s dossier on James Bond stipulates he is fluent in three languages: English, French and German.

However in the films, Bond and those he encounters speak a fair amount of Spanish on occasion.

 

From Russia with Love (1963)

The audience hears a few words in Spanish during the SPECTRE training sequence in the pre-title sequence.

As Red Grant terminates the fake 007 during his exercise, a few headlights are turned on and a voice in an unidentified dialect says: “Silencio, cada uno donde está”, which in English means “Silence! Everyone, stay where you are.”

Goldfinger (1964)

In the pre-title sequence of Goldfinger, James Bond breaks into a heroin-making laboratory in Latin America.

After setting up explosive charges over nitro barrels in Ramírez’ lab, Bond goes to a nearby canteen. There, a dancer named Bonita makes up a flamenco step show with people cheering.

The charges explode and as the crowd moves along, Bond talks to a man in English. It’s his contact. He warns 007 not to go back to his hotel and to take the first plane to Miami. He addresses Bond as Señor, not Mister.

Bond disregards the advice and goes to see Bonita. He is attacked by an assailant, whom he terminates with electricity in a “shocking” way. The assailant, played by stuntman Alf Joint, is wrongfully credited in publications as “Capungo” as if it were a name or a surname. In Ian Fleming’s novel, we know capungo is a Mexican slang for “thug” or “hitman.”

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) says a single line in Spanish when having lunch with Bond, claiming the death of 007 “mano a mano, face to face” will be all his.

FYEO U.S. Insert

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

This is the first film in the series where 007 speaks in Spanish. Roger Moore has the distinction of being the first Bond to use the language.

007 is sent to Madrid to capture and interrogate Héctor González, a Cuban hitman responsible of the death of Timothy and Iona Havelock. While spying on the González estate, Bond is captured. The agent escapes after a diversion caused by Melina, the daughter of the late Havelocks, when she shots a bolt into González’ back.

As Bond and Melina escape, we hear some words: “¡Vamos, que no se puede escapar!” (Come on, we can’t let him escape). Later, 007 and the girl try to find a way out while driving Melina’s Citroen 2 CV.

The car flips down while taking a low road and some of the natives try to help the couple. As the henchmen of González try to reach them in their more powerful Mercedes Benz, Bond asks the citizens to help them push the car: “Por favor, ¡empujen!”

Safe in his hotel, Bond reserves a flight back to London and thanks in Spanish: “Muchas gracias.”

octopussy

Octopussy (1983)

Spanish is much heard during the first ten minutes of the film, when 007 infiltrates an air base in an unknown Latin American country (probably Cuba) to sabotage a missile. We hear trough the radio phones one Colonel Alvarado is performing an equestrian show.

Bianca, a Latin American agent, helps 007 don his disguise (fake moustache included): Colonel Luis Toro. A detail to note is that the prop department wrongfully abbreviated the word “Colonel” in English (Col. Toro) when it should have used the Spanish abbreviation (Cnel. Toro).

Moore makes a good use of his double entendrés with Toro’s surname: “Toro? Sounds like a load of bull” (The English for toro is “bull”).

Bond –- posing as Toro -– infiltrates the compound and greets one of the officers working on the missile. “Coronel,” the man says.  007 replies “Continúe” (Carry on) before knocking the man unconscious and getting discovered by the real Toro.

“Interrogación”, the military orders for the impostor to be arrested and interrogated. One of the officers complies while replying: “Sí, Coronel. Métanlo al camion” (Yes, Colonel. Get him on the truck).

007 escapes with the aid of Bianca’s seductive skills and, before taking a leap on the Acrostar jet for the definitive runaway, he thanks her with a “gracias, querida” (Thank you, darling).

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Licence to Kill (1989)

Given the film had major locations shot in Mexico, Spanish is present in the last film with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Bond himself only uses the language by addressing the villain as “Señor Sánchez” and by translating to Leiter the villain’s statement: “Plomo o Plata” (literally translated as “Lead or Silver”).

The villain played by Robert Davi uses a handful of Spanish words: “No te preocupes” (Don’t worry) to his girlfriend Lupe before whipping her; “amigo” (friend) to Krest and Bond); and even a mouthful: “¡Este hijo de p*ta!” (son of a bitch) before shooting the dead body of double agent Kwang, who killed himself with cyanide to avoid capture.

So does Lupe Lamora –often addressed as señorita instead of Miss– mixing words in Spanish with English phrases: “You loco” and “You borracho” (loco: crazy, borracho: drunk) to Bond and Krest.

Milton Krest, one of Sànchez’ associates, says a “muy bien” (all right) while searching for Bond as he escapes his troops. We can notice Anthony Zerbe’s voice is dubbed.

More of the language is heard when Bond and Pam (Carey Lowell) arrive at Isthmus City, when a radio is playing a populist narration claiming the benefits for the people given by the president (a puppet of Sánchez): “Beneficios para el pueblo con Héctor López, su Presidente”.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The film begins in Bilbao, Spain, while visiting a corrupt banker, Lachaise. The mission for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is to recover Sir Robert King’s money and extract information on who eliminated a fellow agent.

Bond fights Lachaise’s thugs and manages to escape from the Spanish police trough the office window. We hear officers speculating about the crime scene and shouting warinings: “Creo que son dos o tres, están armados… se oyeron cinco disparos y una explosión… ¡Abra la puerta, Policía!” (I think there were two or three, they’re armed. We heard five shots and an explosion. Police! Open the door!).

007 calmly escapes and, as he walks through the streets close to the Guggenheim, museum, one of Lachaise’s guards is caught: “¡Quieto ahí! Levanta las manos!” (Stay right there! Hands up!).

DADposter

Die Another Day (2002)

Bond (Brosnan) visits Cuba to eliminate assassin Zao. His first stop in Havanna is Raoul’s tobacco factory, where he asks for Delectados, a kind of cigars not made anymore.

“Raoul, aquí hay un tipo que busca delectados, de Universal Exports” (Raoul, there’s a guy asking for delectados, from Universal Exports), an old man notifies via telephone. Delectados were used as an understanding code between the agents.

In the tobacco factory, a man is reading the newspaper aloud to the employees, an article about the selling of lenses and recording cameras.

As Bond and Raoul talk about Zao, he calms down the tense looking old man, holding a gun to protect his boss, given the case: “Bueno, ¡pero relájate, hombre!”

Strangely, Raoul is a French name and the Spanish version of that name should have been “Raúl.”

Enjoying a bit of the Cuban culture, Brosnan makes use of his Spanish knowledge as James Bond: “Un mojito, por favor”, he asks ordering the famous Cuban drink.

To gain access to the Álvarez Clinic in Los Órganos, where Zao a patient for DNA makeover therapy, he knocks down a grumpy patient, carries him unconscious in a wheelchair and uses his papers to transport him. Before he does, he greets the prostitute: “Buenos días” (Good morning). Then, he delivers his papers to a boat transbord agent, calling him señor, and as the man grants him permission Bond replies “gracias”.

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The 22nd film in the series is set in Latin American locations, with Panama and Chile doubling for Bolivia.

For the first time, Spanish was an important language in a Bond film and not restricted to a few words. The Spanish dialogue was so important that in most countries it was subtitled.

In Haití, Camille greets General Medrano. Before capturing her, the military, responsible for the death of her parents, tells her: “Conocí a su familia, tristemente, creo que fui el último que los vio vivos” (I met your family. Sadly, I think I was the last one who saw them alive).

As Bond (Daniel Craig) rescues Camille, the general will throw orders in Spanish: “¡Síganlos!” (Follow them!).

Following the lead to villain Dominic Greene, Bond visits La Paz with Mathis, returning to the series after Casino Royale.

Upon reaching the city, they’re joined by Fields, a British agent sent to return Bond to London but who ends up joining the quest.

Stationed in Bolivia for almost a decade, Mathis is a friend of the Police Colonel, Carlos, whom he calls as a chatterbox taxi driver complains of the poor state of the country: “Calentamiento global… llueve mucho o no llueve nada” (Global warmth, it either rains or it never rains) and of the high taxes. Mathis continuously shushes him: “Cállate, ya, ¡chito!

When Bond checks into the luxurious Grand Andean Hotel, Craig says, “Hola, somos maestros en año sabático, y nos ganamos la lotería” (We’re teachers on sabbatical, and we have just won the lottery).

The concierge replies, “Felicidades, señor. ¿Les puedo ayudar en algo?” (Congratulations. How can I help you?). The voice of the concierge was dubbed by noted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

There are some mistakes in the subtitles added to the film: when 007 approaches a villager asking for the DC-3 plane to escape with Camille, the man rudely asks: “Buenos días, ¡¿Qué es lo que quiere?!” Subtitled as the polite “How can I help you?”, it should have been translated as the more literal “What do you want?” given the rudeness of the voice tone of the man.

Another Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón, provided the voice for the radio guiding the Bolivian jet planes sent by Greene to hunt Bond and Camille, with the first phrase being “Objetivo eliminado” (Target terminated).

Something rather funny happens near the end of the film, when General Medrano and the Chief of Police have a chat on the Perla de las Dunas hotel.

Both characters are Bolivian, yet Medrano is played by a Mexican actor (Joaquín Cosio) and Carlos, the Colonel is played by a Spaniard actor (Fernando Guillén Cuervo).

The different dialects show up, and there’s yet another mistake in the subtitles.

Complaining by the noise made by the fuel cells to give electricity to the complex, the Colonel says: “Maldito quebradero de cabeza, la verdad”. Subtitled as “Pain in the ass, really”, the more literal “This sound wrecks my head” would have been more appropriate.

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

SPECTRE (2015)

The movie begins in Mexico City during the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Bond (Craig) is seen, in disguise, with a girl called Estrella, who in the hotel elevator mutters him some words in Spanish to his ears – presumably “te deseo” (I desire you) is logical since she kisses him as they both reach the room.

Not much more is heard except for the melody sang aloud by the attendants: “Los muertos vivos están, siento ya su poder, vengan todos aquí, este día llegará” (The dead are alive, I can feel their power. Let’s get all together, this day will arrive).

At around the half of the film, the SPECTRE agents are reunited in Rome to discuss the job in hand after the death of Sciarra in Bond’s hands. One of Blofeld’s assistants claims the next duty for Sciarra was the assassination of Mr. White, and offers the assignment to a Spaniard member known as Guerra.

Guerra, played by Benito Sagredo, complies by showing his loyalty to the organization in his own language: “Por supuesto. Mi lealtad a esta organización es absoluta. La protegeré hasta mi último aliento. No habrán más… aficionados. No veremos más muestras de debilidad” (“Of course. My loyalty to this organization is total. I will protect it with my last breath. There will be no more… amateurs. No more shows of weakness”).

 

How fans view 007 movies as LEGO blocks

On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster

Fans treat the object of their affection like LEGO blocks. You can just move a few blocks from here to there without any other differences.

So it is with 007 films and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

For years — decades, actually — Bond fans have debated the subject. The 007 film series produced its adaptations of Majesty’s and You Only Live Twice out of order.

Take out George Lazenby and put in Sean Connery? OHMSS would be a lot better is a common talking point.

Except, real life doesn’t necessarily work that way.

“If only they’d made OHMSS before YOLT…”

Except, you don’t get Peter Hunt as director. In turn, that means a ripple effect. You likely don’t get the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, as the 1969 movie turned out to be.

Instead, you get You Only Live Twice except the character names and locations are changed.

Meanwhile, you have a greater chance of an underwater Aston Martin (in one of the script drafts before Hunt came aboard). You may even get Blofeld as a half-brother of Goldfinger.

All this isn’t speculation. Author Charles Helfenstein provides a summary of the various 1964-68 treatments and drafts for Majesty’s written by Richard Maibaum. Blofeld as Goldfinger’s half-brother was in a screenplay dated March 29, 1966, according to the book (pages 38-39).

In real life, making movies is more complicated. Change a major piece, such as the director, and there are ripple effects throughout the production.

Meanwhile, Eon Productions changed the order it filmed Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

With the novels, Russia came first. Dr. No came second. The movies reversed the order. Yet, few Bond fans complain about that.

Fan discussions about 007 movies are similar to debates among sports fans. Example: Which baseball team was better, the 1927 New York Yankees or the 1976 Cincinnati Reds?

For fan purposes, things would have been a lot better if Ian Fleming hadn’t sold off the rights to Casino Royale, his first novel, so quickly. In theory, if that had happened, Eon could have done Fleming’s novels in order.

Except, does anyone believe Sean Connery would have done a dozen Bond films?

Would Connery really have been satisfied doing that many 007 films in a little more than a decade? On the other hand, would fans have been satisfied with a Bond series of only six Connery movies starting with Casino Royale and ending with Dr. No?

Fans have their fantasies. Real life, though, is more complicated. Certainly, making movies is not like assembling LEGO blocks.

Happy 86th birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery how we remember him, circa 1963, while posing for publicity stills for From Russia With Love.

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Theater features 007 triple feature for Father’s Day

Promotional art for Father's Day 007 triple feature

Promotional art for Father’s Day 007 triple feature

A theater in eastern Pennsylvania has come up with an interesting way to spend Father’s Day — a James Bond triple feature, each with a different actor playing James Bond.

The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is having its Bonding With Dad Marathon on Sunday. The lineup consists of 1963’s From Russia With Love with Sean Connery, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with George Lazenby and 2006’s Casino Royale with Daniel Craig.

For older Bond fans in the area, it’s a one-day chance to relive the past when 007 double (and even triple) features were released between Bond film releases. That fell by the wayside for the most part after Bond films first appeared on television and then went to home video. Today, such double features occur as special events.

The Colonial Theatre first opened in 1903. “Real movie buffs know that the Colonial was featured in the 1958 science fiction classic, The Blob, starring Steve McQueen and filmed in and around Phoenixville,” according to the Colonial’s website.

The Bond three movies run from 12 noon until 7 p.m. Prices are $21 for adults, $16 for seniors and students and $11 for children under 13. Phoenixville is near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

 

Morley Safer’s 007 moment

Morley Safer, the long-time 60 Minutes correspondent, died on Thursday only days after CBS announced his retirement.

Safer covered the Vietnam War for CBS and came aboard 60 Minutes in 1970, two years after the broadcast began. During that stretch, he managed a James Bond moment.

In the 1970s, he did a story about the Orient Express, including how it had seen better days. You can catch a few shots of it in The Associated Press video obituary below, starting around the 20-second mark.

At one point, the story showed the train changing engines, with the new engine having the number 007 on its front.

That led to a brief sequence edited to make it appear as if Safer was listening in on the From Russia With Love fight between James Bond (Sean Connery) and Red Grant (Robert Shaw).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that clip, but the AP obit below is worth a watch. It runs 1:17. Meanwhile, while living as a bachelor in London in the 1960s while working for CBS, he bought a Bentley with his poker winnings, according to Sunday’s 60 Minutes telecast about Safer’s career.

UPDATE (10:25 p.m.): If you CLICK HERE, you may be able to view the 1977 story about the Orient Express. The video seems to be freezing up after a commercial is shown. The story was titled “Last Train to Istanbul.”

 

The official 007 Blofeld survey and the options not listed

Max Von Sydow

Max Von Sydow

When you have a long break between films, you need to engage the fans somehow.

So the official James Bond account on Twitter asked, “Who is your favourite Blofeld?”

However, given the weird history about Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s film rights, this question is more complicated, with some options understandably not listed.

The four choices are the Blofeld actors whose face could be seen onscreen in movies made by Eon Productions: Donald Pleasence (You Only Live Twice), Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Charles Gray (misspelled Grey, at least when the tweet first went up, in Diamonds Are Forever) and Christoph Waltz (SPECTRE).

Not making the cut are the combination of Anthony Dawson (body) and Eric Pohlman (voice), used in From Russia With Love and Thunderball. On screen, we never see Blofeld’s face. The dialogue only refers to “Number One,” although the From Russia With Love end titles list “Ernst Blofeld” followed by a question mark in the cast of characters.

This version of Blofeld also dresses different than the others, wearing a suit and not the Nehru jacket-style top of the other four.

Also not listed is the stuntman (body) and Robert Rietty (voice) in the pre-titles sequence of For Your Eyes Only. Last year, the official 007 website carried a press release promoting a re-release of Bond movies featuring SPECTRE. The list included For Eyes Only. The villain in the pre-titles sequence was the only trace of SPECTRE in the movie.

At the time Eyes came out, the rights to Blofeld were in dispute and officially the character in the pre-titles sequence wasn’t Blofeld. In 2013, a settlement was reached with the estate of Kevin McClory, finally bringing Blofeld back into the Eon fold.

Finally, and most significantly, there’s Max Von Sydow, who played Blofeld in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, the McClory-Jack Schwartzman remake of Thunderball. It, of course, is not part of the Eon series and there’s no way the 007 Twitter account would include Von Sydow.

Still, Von Sydow is a great actor and his casting was a major plus for the movie. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get that much screen time. Von Sydow’s Blofeld does have a cat (like Eon’s Blofelds) but wears a suit.

The tweet about Blofeld is embedded below. Click on it to see the complete image.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m. New York time): Over on the official James Bond Facebook page, that version of the post does include the Dawson-Pohlman duo.

It should be noted that you can’t actually cast a ballot either on Twitter or Facebook.