U.N.C.L.E. script: Sam Rolfe’s Solo is ready for filming Part I

Title card for the Solo series pilot

With Ian Fleming long gone, a pilot would have to be made before Solo would become a series. So, Sam Rolfe used his Solo series presentation (originally titled Ian Fleming’s Solo) as the springboard for the script.

Rolfe’s script, dated Oct. 29, 1963, begins with a sequence based on a 12-page short story in the earlier work. The Thrush attack team is smaller (four operatives now). The tailor shop is now called Del Floria’s (replacing Giovanni in the presentation). But the general situation is the same.

A person only identified as ‘FIRST MAN” enters Del Floria’s, a shop in New York City. “The only occupant occupant of the shop is an old, wizened Italian tailor, DEL FLORIA,” according to the detailed stage directions. An “ancient television” is on a counter with a hand-written note. “No Touch — Broke!”

The First Man tosses his raincoat over the TV set. The man takes off his stained jacket and shows it to Del Floria. While the tailor inspects the jacket, the other man takes out a cigarette lighter, holding it near Del Floria’s face. “He abruptly flips the ‘striker’ on the lighter,” according to the stage directions. “There is a low hiss as a jet of grey mist spurts into Del Floria’s face.” The tailor is rendered unconscious.

Now, three more intruders enter the tailor shop. A changing cubicle operates as an opening into…what?

INT. RECEPTION ROOM – RECEPTIONIST – DAY

Reception is a gleaming, metallic room without windows. The room is Spartan in its simplicity. There are no decorations. The only furniture is a steel desk and chair in the center of the room, set to face one wall (the wall in which the door to the Tailor Shop is set.) The desk top itself contains a small TV viewer and a desk sign that reads “U.N.C.L.E.”

An Asian woman is at the desk (described here as “Oriental GIRL”) but she is overcome by the invaders before she can sound an alarm.

One of the intruders has replaced Del Floria at the pressing machine. One of the team is now at the receptionist’s desk. The Leader and one other move into the bowels of the mysterious complex.

The stage directions emphasize the unusual nature of the facility.

NOTE: THERE ARE NO WINDOWS ANYWHERE IN THIS BUILDING EXCEPT FOR ALLISON’S OFFICE. ALL AREAS ARE COMPLETELY ENCLOSED BY METALLIC WALLS AND CEILINGS. ALL LIGHTING IS IS ARTIFICIALLY INDUCED BY CONCEALED FIXTURES.

Things go well for the intruders until an alarm goes off. Despite this, the leader of the invading team manages to get deeper into the complex.

Solo stands behind a bullet-resistant screen while the leader of a Thrush invasion group opens fire.

REVERSE ANGLE – REAR OF WAITING ROOM – SOLO -DAY

A figure can seen, silhouetted against the rear of the office, standing before the closed door that leads to Allison’s office. The figure (SOLO) stands poised, hands hanging loosely at its side, one holding a gun (P-38).

INTERCUT – THE FIGHT

The Leader raises his gun and starts to fire. There is the soft “snapping” noise as the bullets spew forth. A series of striations appear before the figure of Solo, as if cracks like spider webs are renting the air before him, fragmenting his figure.

WHIRL IN ON SOLO to a CLOSEUP as he stands transfixed…the spiderweb of striations refracting light…

SUPERIMPOSE MAIN TITLE “S O L O” and –

FADE OUT.

At the start of Act I, the action resumes.

FADE IN:
INT. WAITING ROOM – FULL SHOT – SOLO – DAY

The spider webbed lines still hang in space,” the stage directions say. “The Leader’s face reflects shock and fear. He fires again. Abruptly the light in the room dims out and everything is blackness except for the light streaming in from the open doorway. The Leader spins around, looking for another opponent. Sensing movement behind him, the Leader turns and fires. There is a “sewing machine like” hum as the figure of Solo appears behind him, the P-38 (a semi-automatic pistol) unleashing a flood of bullets.

As filmed by director Don Medford, this sequence would be slightly different. For one thing, Solo (Robert Vaughn) fires a Luger pistol. However, the P-38 eventually would be the basis of the U.N.C.L.E. Special, a hand gun with attachments including a larger magazine enabling automatic fire as well as a sight.

Regardless, things proceed more or less as the version eventually broadcast by NBC. Solo inspects the body of the Leader. Illya arrives. The agents discuss what has happened.

Early Solo publicity still with (left to right) Will Kuluva as Allison, David McCallum as Illya and Robert Vaughn as Solo

This script, however, still has Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief referenced in the original series presentation. As in that work, Allison chides Solo for not taking the man alive. He then summons Solo for a briefing.

What follows is a scene that explains the U.N.C.L.E. security system and how the invaders had a lot of information about U.N.C.L.E. headquarters but lacked key data. Namely, the reception had chemicals on her fingers to activate the security badges. Without her doing so, the alarms still went off.

In the middle of the briefing, Illya brings in the surviving prisoners. Except — they don’t survive long. All are dead within moments.

“But they are dead!” Illya says. “But how?!!!”

In the filmed version, the sequence is slightly different. The prisoners are brought before Solo is briefed by Allison. But they end up just as dead. As in the earlier Ian Fleming’s Solo presentation, the audience is eventually told they had ingested a slow-acting poison that would kill them whether they succeeded or failed.

In both this script and the filmed version, Allison gives Solo his mission. An U.N.C.L.E. operative named Lancer had communicated with Allison that a the head of a newly independent African nation has been targeted for assassination by Thrush. The communication had been cut off before it was completed.

TO BE CONTINUED

In the beginning: Ian Fleming’s Solo

Title page to proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo,” which would emerge as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In 1963, producer Norman Felton was attempting to launch a new adventure television series. In the fall of 1962, he had a few days of meetings with Ian Fleming. The James Bond author had provided some ideas, but little else.

Felton turned to writer-producer Sam Rolfe, who was working on Felton’s The Eleventh Hour dramatic series about psychiatrists. Rolfe had also co-created (and produced some episodes of) Have Gun-Will Travel, a popular 1957-63 Western series about a bounty hunter known only as Paladin.

It was clear to Felton that Fleming wasn’t going to be available for the heavy lifting of the new would-be series. So Rolfe turned out a 40-page series proposal (including a one-page diagram). Despite that, Fleming’s name would included and the proposal titled “Ian Fleming’s Solo.”

Teaser

The proposal begins with, in effect, a 12-page short story. A peddler goes into a tailor shop in the East Forties, “a few blocks from the United Nations cluster.”

The tailor shop is run by Giovanni. The peddler tosses a rain coat over a “battered old television.” The peddler takes out a toy “called a Robot Commando…battery operated….upon commands spoken into a microphone, it rumbles across the floor, its arms whipping in tight, mechanical circles as it flings small plastic balls into the air, its eyes whirling in dizzying spirals.”

The toy robots of Ian Fleming’s Solo would be used in season one’s The Double Affair

Giovanni watches the demonstration but isn’t interested in a purchase. The peddler packs up. Giovanni returns his attention to his pressing machine. But the peddler takes out a second toy robot before departing.

Once outside, the peddler takes out another microphone. Inside the tailor shop, Giovanni is hearing a woman’s voice through the television set. “Something is blocking the camera.”

Giovanni sees the peddler’s rain coat and moves toward the television set. However, one of the toy robots flings “small glass balls” which “break, relasing wisps of smoke around Giovanni. The result is instantaneous. He is unconscious before his body even touches the floor.”

The peddler re-enters, followed by five other men. A raid commences. The peddler finds a hidden button in the pressing machine. The invaders use a coat hook in one of the “shabby ‘try-on cubicles.” They gain entry to….what?

“On the far side of the wall is a small, modernistic, windowless office. A desk, with a desk plate inscribed ‘U.N.C.L.E.’, is occupied by by an attractive Young Woman who is frowning at a small TV viewer.” On the “viewer-picture” is the inside of the peddler’s coat.

The attackers overcome the woman before she can sound an alarm. The peddler remains in the tailor shop, now posing as Giovanni.

Ian Fleming notes, written on one of 11 telegram blanks, and given to Norman Felton

Eventually, the intruders are tripped up. They use identification badges, unaware they have to be deployed in a certain way without the alarm system going off. Two men, identified as the Leader, the other as an Accomplice make their way through the mysterious facility. The Accomplice is holding glass balls like the ones the toy robot used.

“The Accomplice’s hand is shattered by a spray of bullets, the glass balls splintering in the mangled fingers.” He’s overcome by the gas coming from the broken glass balls.

The Leader, though, presses forward and enters “a small inner reception office.” He’ll get no further as “four bullets tear through him.”

We’re introduced to “a tall, dark, well-dressed man” who “moves gracefully.” He steps over the body of the Leader and examines the Accomplice. At the same time, an “armed, Slavic-looking man runs down the corridor to stop at the doorway.”

They are soon addressed by a “pedantic looking, fifty-five year old man” who enters the office. He chides the dark man, whom he addresses as “Mr. Solo” about killing the Leader.

The men discuss how much information the intruders must have had to get this far into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. They must have had information from someone working inside U.N.C.L.E.’s Section Three — where there would be enough information to get here but not enough to totally avoid the alarm system.

However, we’re then told even the captured intruders died because they had ingested poison before the raid. They were dead men whether they succeeded or failed.

“But let us leave this story for a while. Later we’ll come back to it and tell you what happened after this opening,” this section of the presentation concludes.

U.N.C.L.E. Complex

The proposal describes buildings on the same block of Manhattan. They include a parking garage, four brownstones and a “fairly new, three-storied whitestone.”

Two stories of the latter are taken up by a restaurant called The Mask Club “which features fine food served by waitresses wearing masks (and little else) to to patrons who don masks (covering nostrils to brow) as they enter.” It’s an establishment that is “different, exclusive, expensive and frivolous.”

Sam Rolfe (with guest star Jill Ireland), making a cameo appearance in the first-season UNCLE episode The Giuoco Piano Affair. Rolfe would take over and do the heavy lifting on devising the series.

The third floor is “a sedate suite of offices, the entrance to which bears the engraved letters ‘U.N.C.L.E.'” The offices have “ordinary” people who handle mail and greet visitors.

All of the buildings involved are owned by U.N.C.L.E. Inside the walls of  brownstones is “one large building consisting of three floors of a modern, complex office building…There are no staircases in the building. Four elevators handle vertical traffic.” There is an underground channel leading to the East River.

U.N.C.L.E. we’re told “might stand for the United Nations Committee on Law and Enforcement…Certainly it is not far from the United Nations Building in Manhattan. And coincidence could not account for the fact that the personnel of the organization is peculiarly multi-national.”

Within headquarters, a red badge “will admit you to the ground floor which contains personnel and equipment for day in, day out routine operations.” Trying to get above the floor with a red badge will sound off alarms.

A blue badge permits entry to the ground and second floors. A white badge gains entry to the third floor which includes “the elite of this organization, the Enforcement Agents.”

U.N.C.L.E. Organization

The proposal presents an organizational chart.

Section I: Policy and Operations

Section II: Operations and Enforcement

Section III: Enforcement and Intelligence

Section IV: Intelligence and Communications

Section V: Communications and Security

Section VI: Security and Personnel

The enforcement agents enter through the Giovanni tailor shop, while other personnel take other entrances.

Characters

Miss Marsdian’s two favorite agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin

Napoleon Solo: The character named by Ian Fleming during his meetings with Norman Felton. He has an apartment that overlooks the East River. He has “a somewhat coppery kitchen (he cooks).” This was one of the ideas that Fleming contributed in his meetings with Felton.

“Solo has a love for the sea, possibly a hangover from his days of service with the Royal Canadian Navy (where he had served as the Commander of a Corvette).” Solo owns a “third foot sloop” kept on a marina on Long Island. The agent “rather tends to view all men as equals, unless their behavior (as opposed to their backgrounds) proves them otherwise.”

Solo also “fought in a war which was called a ‘Police Action.'” While attending a university, he majored in philosophy and minored in languages.

There is also this description:

He makes no high-blown moral statements about his work, nor his reasons for engaging in it. But you will sense (and other characters in the story may at times state it) that he can only work for a “cause” that is in the right…and he takes satisfaction in the destruction of evil.”

Mr. Allison: Allison (the pedantic man described earlier) is a member of Section I and “the only one ever seen or whose identity is even known.”

The only window in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in Allison’s office, which has a view of the East River and the U.N. Building. Allison “appears to be humorless. That’s not the case, but Allison doesn’t show it. Allison also doesn’t hesitate to send agents on missions that may end in their deaths.

Miss Marsdian: She guards the entrance to Allison’s office. She is “fat and fifty, running to the ‘motherly’ in her general appearance.” Marsdian also is “the only one at U.N.C.L.E. capable of showing genuine emotion at the fate of the Agents.”

Marsdian has two favorites among the agents. One is Solo. The other is…

Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin: Another Section II agent “of equal rank with Solo.” Kuryakin is “very much a loner. He does his job, but doesn’t discuss it. Like a machine that has been fashioned for a specific purpose … nothing seems to exist but the purpose.”

Kuryakin “is of Russian origin. It is wise for U.N.C.L.E. to draw agents from behind the iron curtain.” The agent “maintains an austere apartment in the same building as Solo.” Kuryakin has entrusted Solo with one secret — a hidden compartment under his bed filled with jazz records.

Miss Doris Franklyn: A Section II operative who has a cover as a struggling actress. “There is a question as to whether Doris would rather be an Actress than an agent.”

Ian Fleming sells off his interest in UNCLE.

U.N.C.L.E. Enemies

“Crime, by its large scale nature, is international in scope.” As a result, according to the proposal, the Mafia “and all its attendant ramifications are all basic material for assignments. But it will be treated in a bizarre and interesting manner.” The proposal also cites the example of a deposed Middle Eastern ruler who is forming an international crime empire.

But the recurring opponent is Thrush, a mysterious organization “shaped somewhat like a darker convolution of U.N.C.L.E. … a Dr. Moriarty and his friends would make a fair analogy.” The proposal says, “Thrush himself (and we will refer to him as if he were a single, male entity) is an unknown cipher.” Thrush may hire out or strike and his/its own depending on the situation.

Innocents

A key part of the series is that ordinary people get involved with the agents. The audience “will be made to identify with those caught up in the plots.” The proposal supplies various examples of innocents such as a school teacher, a housewife and a Siberian farmer.

Oh By The Way…

Felton sent a version of what Rolfe worked up to Ian Fleming, to gauge the author’s reaction and to see if he had any reactions or ideas. But Fleming would soon pull out of the project, selling his interest for a single British pound. U.N.C.L.E. would go on.

But Ian Fleming’s Solo (as this proposal was titled) had come to an end. However, concepts in the presentation would evolve.

Jack Whittingham’s daughter talks about her father

Cover to The Thunderball Story

Sylvan Whittingham Mason, daughter of screenwriter Jack Whittingham, discused her father and her limited-edition book, The Thunderball Story in an interview with the blog.

Jack Whittingham (1910-1972) was hired to pen a script while Kevin McClory collaborated with 007 creator Ian Fleming to try to launch a James Bond film in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

That initial effort faltered, but was the heart of a 1960s court case that would have an impact on the cinematic 007 for decades.

McClory would gain the film rights to Fleming’s Thunderball novel, written by Fleming after the film project ended. McClory would work in partnership with Eon Productions for 1965’s Thunderball. He’d try to compete with Eon with projects based on his Thunderball film rights. One emerged (1983’s Never Say Never Again) while nothing came of other attempts.

The interview was conducted by email. Some of the answers were edited for length. Thanks to Shane Whaley of the Spybrary podcast and Facebook page for making introductions for the interview.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m. New York time: Readers of the blog have advised the book isn’t available in the United States.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m. New York time: Sylvan Whittingham Mason advises the book can be ordered in the U.S. CLICK HERE for the Kindle version.

SPY COMMAND: Just how did your father come to be involved in the late 1950s/very early 1960s film project?

SYLVAN WHITTINGHAM MASON: In 1959, My father was a writer for hire, having just left Ealing studios to go free-lance, where he had been been part of the Ealing team, and had been writing screenplays for 14 years. Kevin McClory was looking for an experienced screenwriter to work with Ian Fleming on a James Bond movie, and approached MCA agent, Bob Fenn who suggested my father.

SC: How did your father come to be the forgotten man of Thunderball?

SWM: My father was at the height of his career; he had a six bedroom house in a leafy Surrey stockbroker belt, and two children in private education.

However, sometime after proceeding with Kevin McClory as co-plaintiff against (Ian) Fleming and (Fleming friend Ivar) Bryce, and watching the case mushroom out of all proportion, he realised that Kevin, (who had Bobo Sigrist’s Hawker Siddeley fortune behind him should he fail,) had everything to gain but nothing to lose. My father, who had no one backing him, had nothing to gain and everything to lose as he had been paid for the original screenplay and had transferred his rights (of whatsoever nature) to Kevin.

He stepped down as co-plaintiff and became principal witness supporting Kevin completely for the remainder of the proceedings, thus reducing the risk of bearing the potentially enormous cost of a case that could be of no financial compensation to him should they lose.

His own case against Fleming for professional damages and false attribution, etc. was scuppered when Fleming’s final heart attack put an end to it.

SC: The Thunderball affair has been examined in detail, including The Battle for Bond by Robert Sellers. What will readers learn with this new book?

SWM: There are some new quotes and several photographs that have not been widely seen before, but most of the information, as you rightly say, came from ‘The Battle For Bond,’ in which the information for that book (regarding my father and Kevin,) originally came from me, as I hold a complete set of both plaintiff’s court case papers, and so was able to provide absolutely accurate source material to my esteemed friend Robert Sellers.

However, my aim with this small book was to present my father’s enormous contribution to the 007 phenomenon in a simple, concise way that, not just the serious James Bond aficionado who is happy to trawl through some 400 pages of small writing in ‘The Battle For Bond’ could enjoy, but for everybody who finds it hard to grasp this somewhat complex tale.

I have been asked so many times to explain what happened. I always start off by saying, “I’ll try and keep this as brief as I can.” Before I am half way through the story, eyes start to glaze over, and very few people actually “get” that Ian Fleming did not write the THUNDERBALL novel or the THUNDERBALL screenplay, and the character of Bond in his books was not the same character that appeared in the films, though he did bear the same name. One of my closest friends remarked recently after reading my book, “At last I see clearly exactly what happened!”
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SC: What would you say your father contributed to Thunderball?

SWM: My father contributed a screenplay that catapulted a popular set of seven well (but not brilliantly) written books with a rather stuffy Bond character who wore pin striped suits, carried an umbrella and drove a Bentley, and who was somewhat lacking in charm or charisma, into the raised eyebrow, charismatic, charming, suave, tongue in cheek, superstar character we know and love today.

Screenplay title card for Thunderball (1965) that references Jack Whittingham’s earlier script

His professionally written screenplay was the pivot between the books being turned down by all the film studios for being too misogynistic, violent and unbelievable, and a film project that had the top movie makers queuing up.

This very first screenplay was plagiarized on 105 pages in Fleming’s novel of Thunderball, and was the basis for that book and for the final screenplay that emerged from the book that was based on the first screenplay.

Without my father’s first screenplay, it is entirely possible that the film James Bond phenomenon as we know it today might never have taken off at all and would probably have never progressed further than the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.

007 Magazine Issue 57 available for pre-order

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

Issue 57 of 007 Magazine is available for pre-order. Publisher Graham Rye said it will be available with three different covers. Each features an image from Maurice Binder’s main titles for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Inside features include a look at female James Bond villains; Ian Fleming meeting author Raymond Chandler; and James Bond’s 50 greatest stunts.

Chandler, creator of Philip Marlowe, was a friend of Fleming’s. The two corresponded with Chandler commenting about Fleming’s books. Fleming conducted a radio interview with Chandler in 1958.

The publication has a pre-order price of 9.99 British pounds. Once published, it will go up to 12.99 British pounds. Other prices are $15.99 in the U.S. and 11.99 euros in Europe.

For more details about the issue and ordering, CLICK HERE.

Jack Whittingham’s daughter publishes a Thunderball book

Cover to The Thunderball Story

Sylvan Whittingham Mason, daughter of screenwriter Jack Whittingham, has published a book about her father’s work on what would become Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

The book, which is available on Amazon, is titled The Thunderball Story: The Untold History of the First James Bond Screenplay. Here’s the description on Amazon:

“The story is the most fascinating and controversial in the entire history of James Bond. It began way back in 1958 when maverick Irish producer, Kevin McClory collaborated with 007 creator Ian Fleming and screenwriter, Jack Whittingham on a screenplay that was eventually entitled ‘THUNDERBALL’.” (Robert Sellers – “The Battle for Bond”) Jack Whittingham’s daughter, Sylvan – one of the few people left alive still alive from that time – provides an unique and personal insight into the untold history of the very first James Bond screenplay.

Jack Whittingham (1910-1972) doesn’t get as much attention as the other players in the Thunderball saga. Kevin McClory took on Ian Fleming in court and eventually received the film rights to the novel. An attribution would be added to the book that it was based on a story by McClory, Whittingham and Fleming.

McClory cut a deal with Eon Productions and Thunderball became the fourth film in the Eon series. McClory in the 1970s battled Eon in court as well amid attempts to make a new film based on the novel. Eventually, Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake, was released in 1983.

Some collectors have a copy of an early 1960 draft by Whittingham for McClory. At that point the title was Longitude 78 West. In that script, the villains, led by Largo, belong to the Mafia. Other scripts would be written before the McClory project ran aground. Fleming would use the work as the basis for his Thunderball novel and the legal fights began after it was published. Writer Robert Sellers’s book The Battle for Bond covered that history. (You can CLICK HERE to view a 2015 interview the blog did with Sellers.)

The Thunderball Story is priced at 16.99 British pounds. For more information, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE OCT. 27: The original Amazon description was changed from saying Sylvan Whittingham Mason was “the only person still alive from that time” to saying she was “one of the few people left alive still alive from that time.” So the post has been edited today, Oct. 27, to reflect that. See a comment from another Whittingham below.

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.”

About that whole James Bond-Aston Martin thing

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

One wonders what Ian Fleming would have thought about the love affair between the James Bond films and Aston Martin.

In the Goldfinger novel, Bond had a choice between the Aston Martin DB3 or a Jaguar for use as a cover as “a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life.” He chose the Aston.

By the time Goldfinger was adapted by Eon Productions in 1964, Bond drove a government-issued DB5, complete with an elector seat, machine guns, oil slick and other extras. Bond films were never the same again. The cinematic Bond, despite some breaks here and there, has been driving Aston Martins frequently since.

Indeed, the DB5 has shown up in a number of films since 1995’s Goldfinger, including 2015’s SPECTRE where he drove it at the end of the movie.

In the novels, Bond was a civil servant who lived relatively modestly (although he could afford a housekeeper). But Aston Martin isn’t concerned about the middle class.

Latest example: The announcement that Aston Martin will build 25 replica DB5s at a price of 2.75 million British pounds each. The cars, though, won’t be street legal, according to a separate Aston Martin statement.

The replicas are supposed to come with Bond gadgets. The literary Bond might burn through a year’s salary (inflation adjusted) just paying for the insurance and maintenance bills. Then again, the 007 movies have glossed over, or simply ignored, other aspects of Fleming’s novels.

At the same time, Aston Martin has its issues as well. It’s a bit of an orphan in the automotive world. For 30 years, it was part of Ford Motor Co. But Ford had to sell it off in 2007 amid financial troubles.

As a result, Aston swims in an ocean of automotive sharks. The auto industry is a bit unsettled these days. Even the giants aren’t exactly sure what’s going to happen next in an era of self-driving cars and ride-sharing services.

In 2014, Adweek wrote about how Aston’s connection to the 007 films didn’t really help sales because the company sold so few cars. For a time, Aston was talking about the need to diversify from James Bond. In stories such as a 2016 article in Marketing Week, company executives said they relied too much on the 007 image.

That was then, this is now. Besides making DB5 replicas, the carmaker last month was part of a pact to sell pricey (129.99 British pounds) Lego versions of the 007 DB5. If Aston Martin is diversifying from Bond, it doesn’t much look like it.

The Bond marriage with Aston Martin continues, even if the literary 007 couldn’t afford the products that marriage produces.