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.”

Advertisements

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.

Without whom, etc.

Our annual post.

The Man With the Golden Gun novel, a re-evaluation

Cover to a U.S. paperback edition of The Man With the Golden Gun

A friend of mine makes a point of re-reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels every year. He refers to it as “reading the scriptures.”

I haven’t read the texts in a while. 007 continuation novels, yes. But not the originals, at least not beyond researching them for posts.

As a result, I got one out. But I opted for the runt of the litter, Fleming’s last novel, The Man With the Golden Gun.

The novel doesn’t get a lot of fan love. Raymond Benson, in his James Bond Bedside Companion, says it’s “a major disappointment and is the weakest book in the series.”

The novel is, essentially, a published first draft. Fleming wrote it in early 1964, just months before he died in August of that year of a heart attack.

“He died before he could revise, polish, and add the rich detail he always incorporated after he had completed the first draft,” Benson wrote in his 1984 evaluation of the book. In the 1990s, Benson took over as author of 007 continuation novels and movie novelizations.

That said, The Man With the Golden Gun is still an interesting novel. Fleming, despite failing health, was still a spinner of tales.

The novel begins with Bond, brainwashed by the Soviets, trying to kill M. The plot is foiled because a “great sheet of armour-plated glass hurtled down from the baffled slit in the ceiling.”

M decides that Bond is to be un-brainwashed and sent after the supposedly invincible Francisco Scaramanga, the novel’s title character. If Bond dies trying, well, he dies as a hero. If he succeeds, he’s accepted back into the Secret Service.

So far, so good. The problem is Scaramanga doesn’t seem that invincible, other than being a quick draw with his golden gun.

He’s not very smart. Scaramanga comes across as more bluster than brains. He hires Bond (who catches up to Scaramanga in Jamaica thanks to luck) as an assistant.

Meanwhile, Scaramanga’s operation has already been infiltrated by the CIA. The Langley contingent, of course, includes Felix Leiter, who has once again been drafted back into active duty. You would think a guy with one hand and a hook would be a little obvious to deploy in undercover work. But hey, he is awfully capable.

The novel reminds a reader of Fleming’s Goldfinger novel. Instead of a “Hood’s convention” discussing Auric Goldfinger’s Fort Knox robbery plot, Fleming has “The Group,” representing the Mafia, KGB and Castro. The Group’s objectives, though, are less ambitious than Goldfinger’s.

Besides Scaramanga, one of Bond’s adversaries is Mr. Hendriks, the KGB’s representative in this affair. You would think the KGB — by now knowing its plot to have Bond kill M failed — would make sure all of its operatives knew what 007 looked like. But Hendriks has no clue.

“I have no informations or descriptions of this man, but it seems that he is highly rated by my superiors,” Hendriks says at one of The Group’s gatherings.

Still, the novel does get its second wind once Leiter makes his appearance. The Bond films have never really captured the Bond-Leiter rapport of the novels. As far back as Jack Whittingham’s first 007 script draft for Kevin McClory, screenwriters have tried to give Leiter more to do. But it never works out.

One of the best Bond-Leiter bits of this novel comes toward the end. Leiter is getting out of the hospital first. The two have their final Fleming-written banter.

Bond comments how Scaramanga “was quite a guy” and should have been taken alive.

“That’s the way you limeys talk about Rommel and Donitz and Guderian. Let alone Napoleon,” Leiter responds. “Once you’ve beaten them, you make heroes out of them….Don’t be a jerk, James. You did a good job. Pest control. It’s got to be done by someone.”

Each also has trouble actually saying “good-bye” to the other. An exhausted Bond lapses back into unconsciousness. “Mary Goodnight shooed the remorseful Leiter out of the room…”

The Man With the Golden Gun is far from Ian Fleming at his best. But it’s still Fleming. And that’s what makes the difference.

007 literary meme: John F. Kennedy, author

John F. Kennedy statue in Fort Worth, Texas

In Chapter 7 of The Man With The Golden Gun (“Un-real Estate”), James Bond is relaxing in his room at the uncompleted Thunderbird Hotel in Jamaica.

He’s getting ready to have a bourbon. “The best drink in the day is just before the first one (the Red Stripe didn’t count),” Ian Fleming wrote.

Bond “took Profiles in Courage by Jack Kennedy out of his suitcase, happened to open it at Edmund G. Ross (“I…looked down into my open grave”)…”

When Fleming wrote the book in early 1964,” President John F. Kennedy had been dead only for a few months. Kennedy in 1961 had given U.S. sales of Fleming’s 007 novels a huge lift after listing From Russia With Love among his 10 favorite books.

Thus, it was appropriate that Bond is carrying around Kennedy’s book in the middle of a mission to eliminate Francisco Scaramanga.

Profiles in Courage was published in 1956 when Kennedy was a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. It discussed people who exhibited political courage.

In addition to Ross, a U.S. senator from Kansas in the 19th century, the book also had chapters on, among others, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Sam Houston and Robert A. Taft.

It wasn’t Kennedy’s first book. He wrote the 1940 book Why England Slept.

Profiles in Courage won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for biography. However, a controversy ensued after journalist Drew Pearson said in an interview with Mike Wallace in December 1957 that the book was ghostwritten.

“He’s the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten for him, which indicates the kind of a public relations buildup he has had,” Pearson told Wallace, according to a partial transcript of the interview in an excerpt of a 2005 Wallace autobiography on NBC News’s website.

The interview aired on ABC. Under a threat from the Kennedy family to file a libel suit, the network apologized.

“I was incensed that my employers had caved in to the Kennedys,” Wallace wrote in his memoir, Between You and Me.

In fact, major work on the book was performed by Kennedy assistant Theodore Sorensen.

“It was no great secret that Mr. Sorensen’s intellect was an integral part of the book,” according to The New York Times’ 2010 obituary on Sorensen. “But Mr. Sorensen drafted most of the chapters, and Kennedy paid him for his work.“

“I’m proud to say I played an important role,” Sorensen said in an interview that was recorded to appear with the obituary. He became Kennedy’s speech writer after the latter took office as president.

Thrilling Cities audio book available

Cover to a 2009 edition of Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book

An audio book version of Ian Fleming’s 1963 book Thrilling Cities is now available, Ian Fleming Publications said Sept. 12.

Thrilling Cities was a non-fiction book by Fleming. It was based on a series of stories he did for The Sunday Times about important cities around the world.

The audio book is narrated by actor Barnaby Edwards.

It is available at Amazon U.K. and the website of W.F. Howes Ltd. 

Thrilling Cities, indirectly, also begat the creation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series that ran from September 1964 to January 1968.

Producer Norman Felton was approached whether the book could be made into a television show. Felton had access to gallies. He decided it couldn’t but made a pitch for an adventure show. Ian Fleming was involved in the project from October 1962 until mid-1963.

Literary 007 meme: Arthur Krock

Kentucky historical marker for Arthur Krock (1886-1974)

In the 12th chapter of Thunderball (The Man From the C.I.A.), James Bond is waiting to make a contact after an aircraft with two atomic bombs has been hijacked.

Bond “went to the souvenir shop and bought a copy of the New York Times. In its usual discreet headlines it was still leading with the loss of the Vindicator,” Ian Fleming writes.

“Perhaps it also knew about the loss of the atom bombs, because Arthur Krock, on the editorial page, had a heavyweight column about the security aspects of the NATO alliance.” Before Bond can finish Krock’s column, he’s surprised by Felix Leiter. “007? Meet No. 000.”

It’s a passing reference to a figure who was once among the most significant figures in American journalism.

Krock was a reporter, columnist and Washington bureau chief for the Times. He won four Pulitzer Prizes, two regular awards, a special commendation and a special citation.

Krock also worked in a much different era, the insider journalist. One of his Pulitzer Prizes was for an exclusive interview with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“So great was his knowledge of politics and government that Presidents sought his advice and, possibly in return, granted him exclusive interviews,” according to his obituary in the Times.

What’s more, some have written that Krock was too close to some of his subjects. The Columbia Journalism Review wrote in 2013 that Krock’s friendship with Joseph Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy, “showed in his coverage.”

Thus, when Bond is musing whether the Times knows more than its telling in Thunderball, it’s fiction based on fact.

As the blog has noted before, Fleming had been a working journalist, including being foreign editor of The Sunday Times. The 007 creator likely was familiar with Krock’s work.

“Unquestionably, Arthur Krock was conservative in his outlook on matters political, social and economic. His editorial page column, ‘In the Nation,’ was widely regarded as a major voice of conservative America,” according to the Times’ obituary.

“But as a reporter, any partisan leanings he may have had were submerged in his independence as a professional journalist.”

Krock was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, in 1886. After working in Washington for Louisville, Kentucky, newspapers, Krock joined the New York Times in 1927. He was given the task or reorganizing the paper’s Washington bureau in 1932.

Krock yielded the Washington bureau chief title in 1953 so the paper could keep the up-and-coming James Reston, according to The Kingdom and the Power by Gay Talese. But Krock continued writing the “In the Nation” column until his retirement in 1966.