About that 500-day countdown to Bond 25

Sean Connery in a publicity still for Goldfinger.

Earlier today, some 007-related Twitter accounts began the 500-day countdown to Bond 25’s Feb. 14, 2020 release date. Among them: the Twitter feed of the MI6 James Bond website and @Bond25Film, which provides Bond 25 updates.

This got the blog to thinking: How did the 500-day mark translate to the earliest days of the 007 film franchise, when installments were made more often? To get the dates, the blog simply used Google.

Dr. No: It debuted on Oct. 5, 1962 in the U.K. Five hundred days before that was May 23, 1961. Richard Maibaum delivered his first draft script — for Thunderball — on Aug. 18, 1961. That would be shelved to make Dr. No instead.

From Russia With Love: Its premiere was Oct. 10, 1963. Five hundred days before that date was May 28, 1962. Dr. No was in post-production. Ian Fleming celebrated his 54th birthday.

Goldfinger: Its debut was Sept. 17, 1964. Five hundred days before that date was May 6, 1963. From Russia With Love was still in production.

Thunderball: Its earliest premiere was Dec. 9, 1965, according to IMDB.COM. Five hundred days before that date was July 27, 1964. Goldfinger was in post-production.

Of course, that was a different era, Bond films are more elaborate to make today, etc., etc., etc.

Still, once upon a time, nobody got excited it was a mere 500 days before a James Bond film came out. Such is life.

UPDATE (4:45 p.m., Oct. 3, New York time): Out of curiosity, the blog looked up what was going on 500 days before the July 7, 1977 premiere of The Spy Who Loved Me. That movie was affected by the breakup of the partnership between Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. That date was Feb. 23, 1976. The Spy Who Loved Me was in pre-production and would be filming later that year.

How to keep Marilyn Monroe in From Russia With Love

A poster for the United Artists-released Some Like It Hot

One of Ian Fleming’s most notable chapter titles was “The Mouth of Marilyn Monroe” for chapter 19 of From Russia With Love. It’s where Bond and Darko Kerim (aka Kerim Bey) hunt down the assassin Krilencu (as it’s spelled in the novel).

The killer has an escape hatch hidden in a giant movie advertisement on the side of a building. “The outline of a huge woman’s face and some lettering appeared,” Fleming writes in the novel published in 1957. “Now Bond could read the lettering. It said: ‘Niyagara Marilyn Monroe ve Joseph Cotton…'”

The movie was Niagara (1953), a 20th Century Fox release. By the time the From Russia With Love film came out, it was a full decade after Niagara and there was no way the UA-released From Russia With Love would promote a Fox movie.

On the other hand, Monroe along with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) had starred in the 1959 UA-released Some Like It Hot. Monroe died in 1962, a year before From Russia With Love went before the cameras. But re-releases were common in those days. So it wouldn’t have been unusual to see Some Like It Hot being promoted in Istanbul in 1963.

Eon decided, instead, to go with (no surprise) the Eon-produced (and UA-distributed) Call Me Bwana for the movie advertisement for the movie. Albert R. Broccoli’s and Harry Saltzman’s “present” credit can be seen on the Bwana advertisement in the 007 film. Pedro Armandariz as Kerim Bey references Bwana co-star Anita Ekberg with the line, “She has a lovely mouth, that Anita.”

Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

Happy 88th birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still.

It’s Sean Connery’s 88th birthday.

It has been three years since the last James Bond movie and the next one won’t be out for more than another year.

But that’s OK. Fans still have his seven 007 films (six for Eon Productions’ series, and Never Say Never Again, not part of that series) to view pretty much anytime. Not to mention his many other films.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.

The blog’s list of (really) non-spoilers

The movie came out in 1941. By any reasonable standard, it should be OK to talk about the ending. That’s especially true in this case. It was a joke on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s and an Iron Man comic book in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

The blog was reminded while publishing a post about spoiler sensitivity. It’s a subject the blog has written about a number of times including HERE, HERE, and HERE.

In THIS 2011 POST, a reader yelped that a “spoiler alert” should be tagged with a spoiler alert about a movie that had come out years before (seven years at the time of the post, 14 years ago now).

I ended up doing that, but regretted it later. Spoilers should have a sell-by date. But spoiler extremists insist on spoiler alerts on everything, no matter how long ago the film or TV show came out. By that standard, it’s never OK to talk about any movie, now matter how old.

Spoiler police: “That’s a spoiler! You’re spoiling it for the 19-year-old who’s never seen The Great Train Robbery!”

If you suspect the blog is kidding with this example you’d be right. Still, The Great Train Robbery (1903) is considered a major example of early cinema, including the ending above. But if we take the position of the spoiler police to its logical conclusion, the ending would be forbidden to talk about.

More recently, but still back in the “old days,” trailers often gave away the best bits. Example: Trailers for The Spy Who Loved Me showing the ski jump Rick Sylvester performed while doubling for Roger Moore.

For that matter, sometimes soundtracks — which came out before the movie —  had track titles beginning with “Death of” followed by a character name. See the soundtracks for From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice for examples.

At that time, if you were disappointed about a spoiler, you sucked it up. You manned up and moved on. Today, it’s the source of complaining, complaining and more complaining.

I understand the concern about spoilers. You should be considerate, especially before and during a movie’s release. But I do think some people complain too much about them.

The idea of a forever ban on spoilers isn’t reasonable. Nineteen-year-olds have plenty of chances to catch up on classic movies without a gag order on the rest of us. And some members of the spoiler police define a spoiler as saying anything about a film.

So, with that in mind, here’s the blog list of not-really spoilers (but may offend the spoiler police).

Classic Movies

–Rosebud is the sled.
–Rhett breaks up with Scarlett.
–Ranse really didn’t kill Liberty Valance. Though I’m told some film analysts actually debate this point because it’s in a flashback. (Actually a flashback within a flashback, to be precise.)
–Shane decides to ride off.
–“Nobody’s perfect!”
–“WTF just happened?” (audiences at 2001: A Space Odyssey)
–Lawrence went home after the war, shaken and disturbed.
–“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!”

Genre Movies
–Harry still had a bullet left.
–The money got incinerated.
–The castle blows up.
–The lead character was really dead all this time. (multiple movies)
–Rock lost one leg, but is still alive even if most of his officers aren’t.
–Iron Man wins.
–Captain America wins.
–Batman wins.

James Bond Movies
–Bond wins (multiple films).
–Tracy dies.
–Vesper dies.
–Quarrel dies.
–Fiona dies.
–Aki dies.
–Tilly dies.
–Jill dies.
–Vijay dies.
–Kerim dies.
–Paula dies.
–Plenty dies.
–Scaramanga dies.
–Oddjob dies.
–Goldfinger dies.
–Largo dies.
–Dr. No dies.
–Klebb dies.
–Q gets a laugh from the audience showing Bond a gadget (multiple films).
–Q gets annoyed at Bond. (multiple films)
–Bond has sex with women characters (multiple films).
–Bond flirts with Moneypenny (multiple films).
…..There are many more, but you get the idea.

Sylvia Trench, an appreciation

Eunice Gayson (as Sylvia Trench), Zena Marshall (as Miss Taro), Sean Connery (as James Bond) and Ursula Andress (as Honey Rider) in a publicity still for Dr. No.

The character of Sylvia Trench, as portrayed by the late Eunice Gayson (1928-2018), has a special place in 007 film lore.

Sylvia was the only Bond woman character (aside from M’s assistant, Miss Moneypenny) to appear in more than one of the Bond films made by Eon Productions. Maud Adams appeared twice as two different characters in the Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy.

Sylvia had less than 20 minutes of screen time combined for Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Still, Sylvia was Bond’s first film on-screen conquest. Or was Bond her conquest? In Dr. No, Sylvia is the one who takes the initiative.

Sylvia Trench wasn’t an Ian Fleming character from his 007 novels. The idea was Sylvia, devised for the films, would be a recurring character. Bond would be rushing out to go on a mission but would, eh, spend some quick time with Sylvia before doing so.

At the same time the basic notion behind Sylvia’s character likely would have gotten old had it gone beyond two films.

How would you put Sylvia into Goldfinger? Asking Bond why he was morose after Jill’s death from being pained with gold paint?

Where would you place Sylvia in Thunderball? “Sorry, Sylvia. I have to go to this health clinic. Maybe I can see you when I get back.”

In You Only Live Twice? Maybe she’s sobbing after Bond has faked his death.

What about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Bond (with George Lazenby replacing Sean Connery) already tosses his hat to Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) at his wedding. It’s a small emotional moment. What would he do for an encore for Sylvia?

The Sylvia Trench character actually helps make the first two 007 films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, special. There’s a fair amount of continuity between the two movies without getting bogged down.

What’s more, Bond’s initial encounter with Sylvia in Dr. No  helps establish a lot about the 007 character in a very tight, economical way. The character, as played by Eunice Gayson, was a key part of that.

So with the passing of Eunice Gayson, let us also remember Sylvia Trench. The character was important to getting the film 007 off the ground. At the same time,  she certainly didn’t overstay her welcome.

Sometimes, less is more. But Sylvia stayed around long enough to have an impact.

Eunice Gayson, 1st Bond woman, dies at 90

Eunice Gayson in a publicity still.

Eunice Gayson, who played Sylvia Trench, the first Bond woman of the 007 film series, died June 8 at 90.

Gayson’s death was announced by her official Twitter feed.

The British actress played Sylvia Trench in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. The character wasn’t in Ian Fleming’s novels but created for the movies.

When first seen in Dr. No, she’s gambling at the same table as Bond. Sean Connery’s Bond initially isn’t seen to build up his introduction to audiences.

The audience witnesses Sylvia Trench losing twice to Bond. She then arranges to get more funds (“I need another thousand.”).

“I admire your courage, miss…” Bond says.

“Trench, Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, mister..”

“Bond, James Bond,” as the character’s face is finally shown. Later, Sylvia surprises Bond in his apartment only wearing a pajama top.

The casino scene “locates Bond in this exclusive environment of high-stakes gambling, but what’s also interesting is that Sylvia Trench is there as an independent woman,” James Chapman, an academic who has written extensively about Bond, said in a sidebar to a 2012 BBC story.

“She’s the one who comes on to him with a double entendre-laden dialogue,” Chapman said. “”It’s 1962 and right on the cusp of sexual revolution. The scene is saying it’s OK for this woman to be unaccompanied in a casino, picking up men.”

Trench again played Sylvia Trench in From Russia With Love but the character was retired from the series after that.

During her acting career, Gayson also appeared in episodes of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Saint.

Here was the post on Twitter announcing her death.

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UPDATE (9:50 a.m. New York time): Eon Productions issued a statement via Twitter by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson about Gayson’s death. “Our sincere thoughts are with her family.”