Live And Let Die’s 50th: The post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

Adapted from a 2013 post
For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted in 1973. It would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began.

They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint and The Persuaders! television shows. Older than Connery, Moore would employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for The Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman that if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect.

Sheriff J.W. Pepper, up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

But Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could survive without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.

FEBRUARY 2012 POST: LIVE AND LET DIE, A REAPPRAISAL

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME PROFILES THE NEW JAMES BOND

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME CALLS 007 A `RACIST PIG’

A belated review of Spider-Man No Way Home

Poster for Spider-Man No Way Home

Spoilers contained for a movie out since December.

Spider-Man No Way Home may not have saved cinema but it made life easier for theater owners and generated enjoyment for theatergoers. The third Tom Holland Spider-Man movie has generated almost $1.9 billion in global box office.

During the COVID-19 pandemic that seemed impossible. But it happened anyway.

COVID prevented the blog from actually seeing the movie until this weekend. It’s understandable how the film made such an impact.

It combines typical comic book action with emotion, high stakes and tragedy. In the end, it also emphasizes personal sacrifice in an era marked by selfishness.

Being a comic book-based movie, Spider-Man No Way Home embraces the notion of a “multiverse,” or multiple dimensions. Holland eventually meets up with his predecessors as Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

Imagine, if you will, a James Bond movie in the 1980s where the Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore versions of Bond meet up.

That would have produced an emotional high. Bond, of course, isn’t intended for a “multiverse” presentation.

Spider-Man No Way Home isn’t perfect. The action sequences go on too long (a typical hazard of comic book films). But that’s mostly a quibble. The film has a lot of emotion. GRADE: A.

Dr. No’s 60th-anniversary conclusion: Legacy

Adapted from a 2012 post.

In evaluating the legacy of Dr. No as it approaches its 60th anniversary, start with the obvious: There’s still a 007 film series to talk about.

James Bond isn’t the biggest entertainment property in the world the way it was in 1965. But its longevity is unique.

The time that has passed includes more than a decade of enforced hiatus (a troublesome 1975 financial split between Eon co-founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; a legal fight in the early 1990s between Broccoli and MGM; and MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy) disrupting production of the Bond movies.

Still, the Bond films soldier on. The 25th entry, No Time to Die, debuted in the fall of 2021.

The series turned actor Sean Connery into a major star. It made Roger Moore, known mostly as a television star, into a movie star. The same applies to Pierce Brosnan. It made Daniel Craig a star. Even George Lazenby (one movie) and Timothy Dalton (two) who had limited runs as 007 are identified with the series.

The films generated new fans of Ian Fleming’s hero to the point that the movie 007 long ago outsized the influence of his literary counterpart. Finally, the film 007 helped form an untold number of friendships among Bond fans who would have never met otherwise.

All of that began with a modestly budgeted film, without a big-name star, led by a director for hire, Terence Young, who’d be instrumental in developing the cinema version of Agent 007. Dr. No, filmed in Jamaica and at Pinewood Studios, made all that followed possible.

Fans may fuss and feud about which Bond they like best. This 007 film or that may be disparaged by some fans, praised by others. The series may get rebooted. Bond may get recast. The tone of the entries may vary greatly.

In the end, Bond continues. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can’t say that; The Avengers, the John Steed variety which debuted the year before Dr. No, can’t say that; Matt Helm can’t say that. Jason Bourne, which influenced recent 007 movies, hasn’t been heard from since a 2016 film.

Many of those responsible for Dr. No aren’t around to take the bows.

They include:

–Producers Broccoli and Saltzman

–Director Young

–Screenwriter Richard Maibaum

–Editor Peter Hunt

–Production designer Ken Adam

–United Artists studio executive Arthur Krim, who greenlighted the project

–David V. Picker, another key UA executive, who was a Bond booster

–Joseph Wiseman, who played the title charater, the first film Bond villain

–Jack Lord, the first, and some fans say still the best, screen Felix Leiter, who’d become a major television star on Hawaii Five-O

–Art director Syd Cain

–Composer John Barry who orchestrated Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme and who would later define 007 film music.

–Nikki van der Zyl, who dubbed Ursula Andress in Dr. No and would work on other Bond films.

–Finally, Sean Connery, who brought the film Bond to life, passed away in 2020 at the age of 90.

That’s too bad but that’s what happens with the passage of time. The final product, though remains. It’s all summed up with these words:

James Bond will return. (Even with the ending of No Time to Die.)

Author discusses her James Bond fashion book

Llewella Chapman, author of Fashioning James Bond

Film historian and academic Dr. Llewella Chapman is out with a new book, Fashioning James Bond.

For a character with a license to kill, fashion in the form of suits, dinner jackets, etc., has always been important. The new book examines the costumes and the fashions of the James Bond film franchise, starting with 1962’s Dr. No and running through 2015’s SPECTRE.

According to the book’s listing at Amazon, Fashioning James Bond “draws on original archival research, close analysis of the costumes and fashion brands featured in the Bond films, interviews with families of tailors and shirt-makers who assisted in creating the ‘look’ of James Bond, and considers marketing strategies for the films and tie-in merchandise that promoted the idea of an aspirational ‘James Bond lifestyle.'”

The blog interviewed Dr. Chapman by email. It was edited to go with “American” English rather than English English.

THE SPY COMMAND: There are various books about James Bond. What makes yours different?

LLEWELLA CHAPMAN: There are! And one of my favorites is Dressed to Kill: James Bond the Suited Hero (authored by Jay McInerney, Nick Foulkes, Neil Norman, and Nick Sullivan (1995). I also really enjoyed Peter Brooker’s and Matt Spaiser’s co-authored book From Tailors With Love: An Evolution of Menswear through the Bond Films (2021). The key difference with Fashioning James Bond is that I not only analyze Bond’s costumes but also the costumes worn by the villains, the “Bond girls,” the henchmen, and many others besides.

Hopefully, there will be something in there for everyone! Everyone has a favorite character, of course, and so I’m sorry if yours isn’t analyzed in my book. Unfortunately, I had a word limit and had to stop somewhere!

In many ways, of course, and as Julie Harris, the costume designer for Casino Royale (1967) and Live and Let Die (1973), summarized the key difference between fashion and a costume designer’s role to The Times in 1967: “fashion is the big pitfall in costume design. Not only because the time lag between drawing the designs and the film’s showing averages a year, time enough for anything to have happened in fashion … film designers have to keep a sharp and beady eye on fashion. They have to develop a flair for fashion futures, for the average time between starting designs and the actual appearance of the film can be anywhere between nine months and a year.”

In direct relation to Bond, the character’s suits evolved depending on need and not just fashion. From Sean Connery until the end of Roger Moore’s tenure, Bond wore bespoke tailored suits. From Timothy Dalton onwards, we see Bond dressed the majority of the time in made-to-measure and off-the-peg suits. The main reason for this was the sheer amount of suits needed for the films, particularly since Dalton’s, and the timescale required to make them.

TSC: As you researched your book, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

CHAPMAN: I compiled my research for this book from many different archives, libraries, and repositories, and one of the surprises and rather fun anecdotes was discovering a connection between Bond and the multiple menswear firm Montague Burton. The company attempted to capitalize on the “Bond mania” of the mid-1960s following the release of Goldfinger in the U.K. by briefly hiring Anthony Sinclair as a consultant, and producing a small range of 007 suits.

However, Montague Burton quickly realized that ‘young people, although they may like Bond, do not want to dress like him, and middle-aged men don’t want a coat that has pockets for hand grenades, and so the range was swiftly dropped before the release of Thunderball in the U.K. You can find out more about this story in Chapter 3 of my book.

TSC: Who had the biggest influence with the style of James Bond? Anthony Sinclair and his suits? Someone else?

CHAPMAN: I think that it mainly depends on who made the decision to go with a particular tailor or menswear firm to dress Bond in his suits. With Sean Connery, Terence Young recommended his personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and similarly with George Lazenby, Peter Hunt elected to dress George Lazenby in Dimitrov “Dimi” Major’s suits.

Roger Moore is the first actor to play Bond who had his own agency over the way the character was dressed, owing to his interest in menswear and him being an established television star. It is somewhat appropriate that he also had three tailors dress him over the course of his Bond films: Cyril Castle, Angelo Vitucci, and Douglas Hayward.

With Timothy Dalton, he particularly influenced Bond’s style, wanting a more casual look for the films, and for Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s first film, Casino Royale (2006), it was Lindy Hemming, the costume designer, who elected to dress Bond in Brioni. For Quantum of Solace, costume designer Louise Frogley explained that she chose Tom Ford to provide Bond’s suits owing to “needing to solve a problem,” and from Skyfall until No Time To Die, we see Craig possess more agency over the way his Bond was dressed.

TSC: How would you characterize the James Bond style?

CHAPMAN: In three words, I think that the “James Bond style” should be: classic, elegant, and timeless. Though ultimately, Bond should be a chameleon in any situation in which he finds himself: fitting into the scene seamlessly and in order to obtain what he needs.

TSC: What do you think accounts for Bond’s continuing popularity?

CHAPMAN: Good question! I think because the films aim to not only present a fun, often humorous, and thrilling story for audiences worldwide with the money “spent on the screen,” but also because over the past 60 years the films have continuously evolved to reflect the political, social and cultural contexts during the time they were made.

Cover to Fashioning James Bond

You can order Fashioning James Bond at Amazon’s U.S. site by CLICKING HERE. Or you can order from the U.K. Amazon site by CLICKING HERE. Another option is ordering through the website of Bloomsbury (the book’s publisher) by CLICKING HERE. I’ve been advised this may be a quicker method for customers in the U.S.

Participants discuss 1983 U.N.C.L.E. TV movie

Participants, including director Ray Austin and actor Anthony Zerbe, talked about the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on a June 26 Zoom call that’s up on YouTube.

The TV movie brought back Robert Vaughn and David McCallum to again play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. George Lazenby had a small part as a James Bond-like character.

Among other things, Austin references how a scene where Zerbe’s villain escapes was filmed at a real prison. Zerbe grabbed onto a helicopter, which the actor says was for real. Zerbe also talked about working as a villain on the original Mission: Impossible series.

The video is below. It run for three hours.

How Operation Kid Brother was ahead of the Bond films

Operation Kid Brother had tropes that would later appear in the Bond films.

I finally finished off watching Operation Kid Brother/OK Connery/Double Double 007. It turns out the Italian production starring Sean Connery’s brother, Neil, provided the path that the Eon-produced James Bond film series would follow.

–Assistant Maxwell (Lois Maxwell) isn’t just a helper for Commander Cunningham (Bernard Lee). She goes out into the field and shoots guns. This is a preview of agent Eve (Naomie Harris) in Skyfall, who revealed to be Moneypenny at the end of the film.

–There’s a ship of female operatives overseen by Maya Rafis (Daniela Bianchi). But those women aren’t just decoration. They can fight. In fact, fight in a manner similar to the Octopussy women in Octopussy (1983).

By the end of Operation Kid Brother/OK Connery, Maya Rafis and her women operatives have switched sides to the cause of good. Dr. Neil Connery (Neil Connery) uses his powers of hypnotism to make Commander Cunningham forget pretty much everything.

The movie ends with Dr. Neil Connery and Maya Rafis sailing off with all the women operatives. It’s implied that Dr. Neil Connery will be even busier than James Bond (George Lazenby) was at the top of Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Laz goes down Five-O memory lane

George Lazenby in The Year of the Horse

Back on Nov. 19, George Lazenby briefly went down memory lane to revisit his turn as a “special guest star” in a 1979 episode of Hawaii Five-O.

The two-hour episode, The Year of the Horse, was filmed in Singapore. Lazenby tweeted out a publicity still of himself, Five-O star Jack Lord and Victoria Principal, another guest star in the episode.

Laz did not say much. He just opined that, “Victoria was great while Jack was something else.”

What was odd about the episode is that Lazenby and Lord had no scenes together. Thus viewers could not see the first screen Felix Leiter and the second film Bond.

However, by this time, Lord was the de facto executive producer of the show. So Laz probably had some interactions.

Here is the tweet.

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Diana Rigg dies at 82

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Diana Rigg, who entertained generations of fans in The Avengers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Game of Thrones, has died at 82, the BBC reported.

The actress was versatile, acting in a variety of roles on stage, television and films.

Rigg became an international star in the 1960s, playing Emma Peel on The Avengers. She joined the series after Honor Blackman exited, going on to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

The Avengers didn’t lose a step. One of the Rigg episodes had John Steed (Patrick Macnee) receiving a Christmas card from Blackman’s character, Cathy Gale. Steed wondered what she was doing in Fort Knox.

Rigg had a huge impact on the show. Mrs. Peel, a “talented amateur” (in the words of one introduction for The Avengers) could out-fight and out-think male opponents. Rigg and Macnee had a chemistry that fans enjoyed.

The U.K.-produced series was imported into the United States during Rigg’s run. Mrs. Peel became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic.

She was twice nominated for an Emmy for The Avengers. She lost both times to Barbara Bain of Mission: Impossible.

Rigg left the show to seek new challenges. One of her post-Avengers projects was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She played Tracy, the doomed bride of James Bond.

The actress got the role, in part, because the filmmakers figured they needed an experienced female lead opposite the inexperienced George Lazenby.

Majesty’s, while financially successful, wasn’t as big a hit as earlier Bond entries. Nevertheless, Rigg again was memorable. Her character’s death at the end of the movie, was the first unhappy conclusion for the film series produced by Eon Productions.

About the only format Rigg couldn’t conquer was starring in her own TV situation comedy. A U.S. series, Diana, ran less than a full season during 1973-74.

Rigg’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 70 movie and TV credits.

OHMSS’ 50th: ‘This never happened to the other fella’

OHMSS poster

OHMSS poster

Updated and adapted from a 2014 post.

When Sean Connery was cast as James Bond in Dr. No, there was interest. Ian Fleming’s 007 novels were popular. President John F. Kennedy was among their fans. Still, it wasn’t anything to obsess over.

By the end of the 1960s, things had changed. Bond was a worldwide phenomenon. 007 was a big business that even producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hadn’t anticipated originally. Now, the role was being re-cast after Sean Connery departed the role.

As a result, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which debuted 50 years ago this month, was under intense scrutiny. The film required a long, exhausting shooting schedule. This time, Bond would be played by a novice actor, George Lazenby, and supervised by a first-time director, Peter Hunt.

Hunt, at least, was no novice with the world of 007. He had been editor or supervising editor of the previous five Broccoli-Saltzman 007 films and second unit director of You Only Live Twice. So he was more than familiar with how the Bond production machine worked. Also, he had support of other 007 veterans, including production designer Syd Cain, set decorator Peter Lamont, screenwriter Richard Maibaum and composer John Barry.

Lazenby, on the other hand, had to take a crash course. He was paired with much more experienced co-stars, including Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas. And he was constantly being compared with Connery.

When, at the end of the pre-titles sequence, Lazenby says, “This never happened to the other fella,” the statement was true on multiple levels.

Majesty’s was also the first time Eon Productions re-calibrated. You Only Live Twice had dispensed with the main plot of Fleming’s novel and emphasized spectacle instead. Majesty’s ended up being arguably the most faithful adaptation of a Fleming 007 novel. It was still big, but it had no spaceships or volcano hideouts.

Majesty’s global box office totaled $82 million, according to THE NUMBERS WEBSITE. That was a slide from You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million. Twice’s box offce, in turn, had declined compared with Thunderball.

For Lazenby, once was enough. He subsequently has said he erred by not making a second Bond. “This never happened to the other fella,” indeed.

The film also marked Hunt’s exit from the series. He had been one of the major contributors of the early 007 films. But Eon would no longer employ his services after Majesty’s.

Today, Majesty’s has a good reputation among many 007 fans. In 1969 and 1970, the brain trust at Eon Productions and United Artists concluded some re-thinking was needed. Things were about to change yet again.