MI6 Confidential brings out 2 new publications

Peter Lamont

MI6 Confidential is bringing out two new publications.

The first is a 100-page special publication focused on Peter Lamont’s work on 1973’s Live And Let Die.

In the publication, “Peter tells the story of making the film, location by location, as they appear in the film. It is lavishly illustrated with rare stills from the film, behind the scenes photographs never committed to print, and notes and storyboards from Lamont’s personal collection,” according to the MI6 Confidential website.

Lamont had the title of co-art director on the film. He worked on the 007 film series in various art department capacities starting with Goldfinger and running through Casino Royale. The only Bond film he missed was 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies because he was production designer on Titanic.

The other publication is issue 42 of the regular MI6 Confidential magazine. It concentrates on George Lazenby and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Included is a story about Lazenby and “007’s lifelong shadow” on the actor as well as a feature on Diana Rigg.

To order the 100-page special, CLICK HERE. The price is 17 British pounds, $22 or 19.50 euros.

To order MI6 Confidential No. 42, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $10 or 8.50 euros.

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Hugh Hefner, who helped popularize 007, dies

George Lazenby’s 007 reading a copy of Playboy

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy and who helped popularize James Bond for American audiences, has died at 91, according to CNBC, citing a statement from Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy published the Ian Fleming short story The Hildebrand Rarity in 1960, beginning a long relationship between the magazine and the fictional secret agent.

At the time, the literary Bond has his U.S. fans but the character’s popularity was far from its peak. Things changed a year later when the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, listed Fleming’s From Russia With Love as one of his 10 favorite books.

As Bond’s popularity surged in the 1960s, Playboy serialized the novels You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun.

The relationship spread into the Bond movies produced by Eon Productions. In 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond (George Lazenby) kills time looking at an issue of Playboy while a safe cracking machine works away. Two years later, in Diamonds Are Forever, the audience is shown that Bond (Sean Connery) had a membership card at a Playboy club. Also, over the years, Playboy published Bond-related pictorials.

In the 1990s, the Playboy-literary Bond connection was revived. Playboy published some 007 short stories by continuation novelist Raymond Benson, including Blast From the Past as well as serializations of Benson novels.

One of Benson’s short stories published by Playboy, Midsummer Night’s Doom, was set at the Playboy Mansion. Hefner showed up as a character.

During the 21st century, Playboy “has struggled in the face of tough competition from the available of free pornography online,” CNBC said in its obituary. The magazine experimented with no nude photos “before returning to its previous formula,” CNBC said.

The Spy We Loved: Remembering Roger Moore

Roger Moore’s Bond rarely lost his cool.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

The work of Sir Roger Moore has had a great impact in our lives. For some, he was Simon Templar, The Saint For others, he was the “Persuader” Brett Sinclair. For the ones who are reading this article, he was the longest-serving James Bond.

Moore was the first “English from England” Bond actor. He had the tough challenge to follow the Scottish-born Sean Connery, the first film 007.

Unlike Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby, who felt the pressure to “imitate” Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moore adapted much of his Simon Templar and Brett Sinclair personas in his James Bond. He was different than the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels. But he was very effective, achieving success and popularity for over 12 years.

Roger Moore’s first minute in Live and Let Die established him as a playboy. We see the new Bond sleeping with an Italian beauty, played by Madeleine Smith.

The rest of the 1973 movie wouldn’t be so comfortable for him. While moving along the streets of Harlem or the Louisiana bayous, he had to improvise escapes like maneuvering a plane with an elderly flying student or jumping over a row of hungry alligators.

The Man With The Golden Gun, his second Bond, had the influence of the martial arts craze that Bruce Lee created. The 1970s vibe was present with Lulu’s main title song and John Barry’s soundtrack, underlining Bond’s escape from karate experts, or a 360 degree jump with an AMC Matador accompanied by his annoying ally Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

No matter the odd, Roger Moore’s James Bond always looked clean and tidy, whether he was dressed with his ivory dinner jacket or his pistachio green safari suit. Comical, but well played, were the performances of Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize as the debonair assassin Scaramanga and his servant and accomplice, respectively.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

In spite of the humor that some considered ridiculous, The Man With The Golden Gun showed one of the few gritty moments of Moore: The scene where he interrogates Scaramanga’s lover Andrea (Maud Adams). This movie also features for the first time some ethical statements by James Bond, who differentiates himself of his nemesis by firmly saying “he only kills professionals.”

Moore’s third 007 adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me, was a breakthrough.

The 1977 film — the first Bond with Albert R Broccoli as sole producer — featured a solid script. It was an original story far from Ian Fleming’s novel of the same title that dealt with a shipping magnate plotting to instigate World War III to create “a beautiful world beneath the sea.”

The splendor of locales such as as Cairo and Sardinia gave brilliance to the movie. Its action scenes are among the best of the series. Spy stands out the epic battle between the forces of the villain Stromberg and the captive USS Wayne troops, allied to 007, inside the huge Liparus tanker.

Even when Moore admitted to be doubled in most of the action scenes, he looked both sympathetic and manfull in one his best performances as the secret agent. He himself declared to be pleased with the result, and the tenth film in the series was his favorite.

The biggest Bond extravaganza from the 1970s came at the very end of the decade: 1979’s Moonraker.

Roger Moore and Lois Chiles in a Moonraker publicity still

After the success of Star Wars, it was decided that James Bond was also important enough to conquer outer space to stop a madman. Moonraker remained the most successful box office Bond hit until GoldenEye in 1995.

Director John Glen took the helm of the Bond franchise in 1981, and the films became more down-to-earth. Nevertheless, Moore’s portrayal didn’t leave his sense of humor aside.

For Your Eyes Only felt the influence of the new decade with Bill Conti’s disco-inspired soundtrack, which emphasized some comical actions by the actor, such as the car chase in Madrid where Bond runs away from hit men in a Citroen 2 CV or ski sequences in Cortina D’Ampezzo, where 007 interferes in a bobsled track after knocking down like dominoes a row of skiing trainees. The gag was reprised in GoldenEye with bicycles.

However, For Your Eyes Only isn’t without grit. In one scene, Bond kicks Emile Locque’s car off to a cliff, sending the villain to his death. It is because of this scene Moore considered Locque one of the most important villains he faced, because he was reluctant to shoot it.

For Octopussy, James Bond visited India and Moore gave one of his hilarious performances: Going incognito as a clown to defuse a bomb in a circus tent and yelling like Tarzan while jumping ropes in a jungle are among the funniest moments in the film and the whole series.

While the plot had a serious backdrop such as the tension between the West and the East, Octopussy was a Bond film made for Roger Moore’s adventurer spirit — dozens of girls, car chases, fist fights, and many gags and funny one- liners.

He retired from the role after A View To A Kill, in 1985. The marketing campaign of the film tried to aim to a younger audience, promoting Duran Duran’s main title song throughout trailers and TV spots.

Popular singer Grace Jones joined the cast as the May Day. Christopher Walken portrayed one of the most ruthless Bond nemesis as Max Zorin. Courtesy of these two villains, A View To A Kill could be considered one of the most violent films from the Moore era. This is also reflected by John Barry’s music, which sounded more dramatic this in comparison with the more relaxed sound of Octopussy or The Man With The Golden Gun.

Then again, Roger Moore didn’t let his sense of humor out. Looking dashing at 57 years old, Moore illuminated the screen with his magnetism: he (or his doubles) could stand up on a fight or survive a dangerous stunt, but his best defense mechanisms were still the one-liners.

True to his nature, he spent his last minute onscreen taking a shower with Tanya Roberts character. In a way, he never detached himself from the playboy image. He felt more comfortable holding a glass of champagne than a gun. If he had the option, he would have opted for killing a villain with the smoke of his Davidoff cigars rather than with a bullet or a knife.

Some people may still debate if he was a good or a bad James Bond.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

He was just different – different than Sean Connery, different than George Lazenby, different than the literary Bond. But it was thanks to that difference that he kept the Bond flame alive for over a decade, and welcome many people to join the Bondwagon during the 1970s and the early 1980s.

People from all over the world felt his death as somehow personal, yet we all feel like if he is still around in every frame of Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me or Octopussy – for natural charm, elegance, and a refined sense of humor can transcend the barriers of time, space, and the temporary existence of earthly life.

Here’s to Sir Roger – nobody did it better!

 

Roger Moore, 7-time film 007, dies at 89

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore, who played James Bond in 007 films in 12 years, has died at 89. His family announced his death via his Twitter account.

Moore died following “a short but brave battle with cancer,” according to the statement.

The actor was the third film Bond, following Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

During his tenure, from 1973 to 1985, the Bond films took a more lighthearted tone. But his films established, once and for all, the series could survive — and more — without Connery, the original film 007.

Moore’s first Bond film, 1973’s Live And Let Die, was an international hit. Its worldwide box office totaled $161.8 million, the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball’s $141.2 million. The U.S. box office was more modest, $35.4 million. That didn’t match the U.S. take for Connery’s Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever ($43.8 million).

Regardless, both Eon Productions and its feuding producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman along with studio United Artists were satisfied. Moore would continue.

The Man With the Golden Gun, released in late 1974, was a letdown with audiences, with the global box office falling 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die. The series, though, faced a larger crisis. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership was about to fall apart because of Saltzman’s financial problems.

UA bought out Saltzman, leaving Broccoli in charge. But the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me, would tell the tale whether 007 still had a future in the cinema.

The answer was yes. Spy had magnificent sets designed by Ken Adam, an Oscar-nominated score by Marvin Hamlisch and photography by the well-regarded Claude Renoir. Director Lewis Gilbert determined to play up the actor’s strengths. With Moore as the headliner,  James Bond once again was an undisputed hit.

The actor remained 007 for four more films. Eventually, Moore negotiated his Bond movies one production at a time. Broccoli would test screen potential replacements, including American James Brolin in 1982.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

But Broccoli kept returning to Moore, long after the actor turned 50.

Moore returned for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. It was a much more grounded Bond outing following 1979’s Moonraker, which saw 007 go into outer space. The pre-credits sequence was filmed as if it the movie was intended to introduce a new Bond, with 007’s face not initially revealed.

Eyes was the first film in years to extensively use Ian Fleming story lines, utilizing two short stories from the author’s 1960 For You Eyes Only collection. While things beccame more serious, Moore showed himself up to the task.

Two years later, Moore was back again for Octopussy. Sean Connery was starring in a rival Bond film, Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball. Broccoli eventually went with Moore.

The 1983 movie was more uneven than Eyes. But Moore gave off a “I know exactly what I’m doing” vibe. The “Battle of the Bonds” generated big publicity but the actor appeared as if he were unfazed by it all.

Many fans felt Moore, now nearing 60, stayed for one 007 adventure too many with 1985’s A View to a Kill. Fans who never warmed to Moore — and there are some who’ve spent decades decrying the actor — felt vindicated. For those who enjoyed Moore’s performances, it felt like the end of an era.

For more than three decades, Moore continued to be the Bond franchise’s best ambassador. He expressed support for his Bond successors, Daniel Craig in particular. 

Moore lived to a ripe old age. So long, he outlived and said good-bye to a number of colleagues. Among them: director Guy Hamilton (who helmed his first two 007 films), Ken Adam and fellow actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee.

The actor, of course, did much more than Bond. He had become a star playing The Saint on television in the 1960s. He followed that up with another television project, The Persuaders, with Tony Curtis as his co-star. And he was a goodwill ambassador for years for UNICEF.

From a 007 perspective, he helped establish the longevity of the Bond franchise. As late as 1972, people could ask in all seriousness whether Bond could survive Connery’s departure. After Moore’s 12 years as Bond, that wasn’t a question anymore.

Here is the Twitter post from the Moore family:

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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.

Fun with numbers: Most popular Bond in U.S.

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Consider this post fun with numbers on a holiday: Who was the most popular James Bond in the United States when it comes to getting people to actually pay for a movie ticket?

If you guessed Sean Connery, the original film 007, you’re right and it’s not much of a surprise. But available statistics show how dominant the Scotsman was in the U.S. when it came to Bond movies.

On Box Office Mojo, you can find a list of Bond films by estimated number of tickets sold in the U.S. It has 25 films, the 24 made by Eon Productions plus 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

By that measure, Connery 007 films comprise five of the top 10 Bond movies.

In order: Thunderball (1), Goldfinger (2), You Only Live Twice (4), From Russia With Love (8) and Diamonds Are Forever (9).

In that top 10, two actors are tied at two apiece. Daniel Craig has Skyfall (3) and Casino Royale (10). Pierce Brosnan has Die Another Day (6) and Tomorrow Never Dies (7).

Rounding out the top 10 is Roger Moore with Moonraker (5).

Looking at the list, there’s a surprise or two.

Live And Let Die in 1973 and The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 were big hits globally at the time of their release.

Live And Let Die, Moore’s debut and featuring a Paul McCartney title song, was the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball at the worldwide box office. Spy re-energized the franchise after the split of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

But on the U.S. list of ticket purchases, Spy shows up  at No. 16. It’s edged out by Octopussy at No. 15. Meanwhile, Live And Let Die is No. 17.

Curious about how George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton did? Well, Lazenby’s sole 007 effort, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is No. 21. Dalton’s two Bond films come in at No. 23 (The Living Daylights) and No. 25 (Licence to Kill).

Finally, Connery isn’t completely invincible on this list. Dr. No, the first Bond film (which came to the U.S. in 1963) is No. 19. Never Say Never Again, Connery’s effort to do a Bond without Albert R. Broccoli, is No. 20.

If you’re a James Bond fan in general, or of a specific 007 actor, none of this should really matter.

Even when keeping it to tickets purchased, comparisons across decades are a dicey thing. For example, movie going habits have changed. In the 1960s, people went more often to the movies than they do now.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, when it was affiliated with the now-inactive (but fondly remembered) Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, co-founder of HMSS, who also had the idea for the blog.

It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more. Paul still reads the blog on occasion. So if he spots this, here’s a big thanks from the Spy Commander.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS