Eunice Gayson, 1st Bond woman, dies at 90

Eunice Gayson in a publicity still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here was the post on Twitter announcing her death.

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

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Bond researcher analyzes new SPECTRE trailer

James Chapman as he appeared on the BBC

James Chapman as he appeared on the BBC

This week, the first regular trailer for SPECTRE came out. So, the U.K. MIRROR newspaper asked 007 researcher and academic author James Chapman to analyze it.

Chapman wrote Licence to Thrill, a 2000 book that analyzed the James Bond film series up until that time. It was deeply researched, with extensive footnotes that detail the sources of the information included. It’s one of the Spy Commander’s go-to sources for checking out 007 movies of the past.

Here’s a non-spoiler quote from Chapman from the Mirror story: “The Spectre trailer suggests that the film will combine aspects of the classic Bond movies of the 1960s with a modern twist.”

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE. There aren’t any serious spoilers, but the super spoiler adverse (such as those who consider movie trailers to be spoilers) should avoid.

SPECTRE will be released in October in the U.K. and Nov. 6 in the United States.

NYC hangout for Bond writers, collectors loses an owner

Jean-Claude Baker

Jean-Claude Baker

Jean-Claude Baker, a New York restaurateur, died this week at 71. He owned Chez Josephine, a colorful establishment that on more that one occasion served as a place for James Bond collectors and scribes who wrote about Agent 007 to gather.

One can only imagine how Ian Fleming would have described Chez Josephine. It was part restaurant, part shrine for Baker’s adoptive mother, Josephine Baker. There’s live music and the restaurant does brisk business from New York theater goers.

There was also something of a James Bond clientele.

Gary Firuta, a Bond collector, often brought the likes of writers James Chapman, Raymond Benson, Alan Porter, John Griswold, Anders Frejdh and Joseph Darlington to Chez as well as video producer Mark Cerulli.

Jean-Claude, upon seeing the Bond-related groups enter, would immediately say, “Oh, my friend!” in his French accent and fuss over those present. One could be away for months or a year or two. It was always the same when Jean-Claude spotted you.

Today, there are myriad Chez Josephine customers who wish they could hear “Oh, my friend!” just one more time.

For more information about Jean-Claude Baker’s colorful life, you can view AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES or a PLAYBILL OBIT.

UPDATE: Here’s the text of an e-mail the restaurant sent to customers:

With great sorrow, the Chez Josephine family mourns the passing of Jean-Claude Baker.

Throughout his eventful life, Jean-Claude fulfilled with passion and commitment his one true vocation: to bring laughter, joy and love to all who knew him. His larger-than-life personality and unfailing generosity touched everyone around him.

His spirit was irrepressible. His love will endure in the lives touched by his special magic. A magic that his Chez Josephine family will do its best to continue in his honor.

The restaurant is closed today–Thursday, January 15–out of respect to our “Maman Jean-Claude.” We will reopen on Friday, January 16, as Jean-Claude would wish.

Licence to Thrill author to be interviewed Nov. 10

UPDATE II (Nov. 12): WJR apparently only made part of the 007 segment available on The Warren Pierce Show part of its Web site. Pierce also talked to a movie critic about Skyfall, but the podcast ends there and Chapman isn’t included.

James Chapman, author of Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films, is scheduled to be interviewed on Detroit radio station WJR at 6:10 a.m. on Nov. 10.

The book was published in 2001 and is meticulously researched, with 25 pages of footnotes and drawing on various sources, including draft screenplays. Chapman likely will be asked about Skyfall, which debuts at U.S. theaters this weekend.

WJR, on the AM dial, is a clear-channel station (meaning it doesn’t lower it lower its signal at night) and can be heard well outside Detroit. After the braodcast, the interview will be available on the Web page of WJR’s WARREN PIERCE SHOW.

UPDATE: Also out of the Motor City, Paul Eisenstein of The Detroit Bureau has 007: LICENSED TO DRIVE, a look at 50 years of Bond cars. An excerpt:

“The Broccolis were good to work with,” recalls Ford marketing executive Samantha Hoyt, who handled the negotiations with the producers. But, she quickly adds, “They were tough negotiators (who) really believed in the value of their franchise. They expect a lot from their partners, but the films deliver. Looking back, it was worth the investment and it gave us six months of global coverage as the film launched around the world.”

On 007’s 50th, will Harry Saltzman be the forgotten man?

This week, the official 007.com Web site added some new features, including this greeting from Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions:

At the 0:22 mark, Wilson says, “Cubby Broccoli made Dr. No, the first Bond film, in 1962.” Albert R. Broccoli did indeed produce the film with his then-partner Harry Saltzman. Now, Wilson is Broccoli’s stepson and our guess is this isn’t an intention dig at Saltzman, who exited the series in 1975 and died in 1994. It is, after all, a 45-second video, not a definitive history. But it may be a sign that in 2012, the year of the cinema Bond’s 50th anniverary, Saltzman may end up being overlooked.

When Saltzman’s name comes up today, the image is of a cranky, volatile man who almost axed the classic Goldfinger title song, ordered elephant shoes for a movie (The Man With the Golden Gun) that didn’t have any elephants in it, etc., etc. At least one film historian, Adrian Turner, took a different view in his 1998 book, Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“To begin with, Saltzman took the responsibility for the scripts” of the early 007 films, Turner wrote. “Having worked with John Osborne, it’s clear he thought that Richard Maibaum — Broccoli’s man — was little more than a hack.” Obviously, that’s hardly a unanimous opinion of Maibaum. Still, Maibaum is quoted on page 100 in author James Chapman’s 2000 book Licence to Thrill as saying that Saltzman did bring in U.K. screenwriter Paul Dehn to do the later drafts of Goldfinger (the notes section of the book says the quote is from page 285 of a book called Backstory.)

We only bring this up to show that Saltzman’s contributions extended beyond being an eccentric crank. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership wasn’t an easy one. Eventually, the pair largely alternated producing the films while both were listed as producers. Saltzman primarily responsible for Live And Let Die (though Broccoli did visit the set in Louisiana and posed for a photograph with Saltzman and star Roger Moore) while The Man With the Golden Gun was Broccoli’s picture.

The Broccoli-Wilson clan, now headed by Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, has supervised the 007 series since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody is suggesting that Cubby Broccoli wasn’t a master showman, who deserves a lot of credit for launching Bond on the screen. Still, it would be a shame if Saltzman ends up being the forgotten man as fans look back on a half century of 007 films.

Also, here’s a shoutout to Dell Deaton, who blogs about James Bond watches. A tweet of his got us to thinking about all this.

The mysterious 007 movie writing credit

One of the more intriguing credits — and one we suspect has an interesting story behind it — is in the main titles of You Only Live Twice. It reads, “Additional Story Material by Harold Jack Bloom.”

It appears in a noticeably smaller font than the “Screenplay by Roald Dahl” credit. What does this mean exactly?

Some Bond reference sources omit mention of Bloom’s work on YOLT entirely, including James Bond, The Legacy by John Cork and Bruce Scivally and James Chapman’s Licence to Thrill. You can read all sorts of things about Roald Dahl, a prolific author who made his screenwriting debut with YOLT, helped by the fact that Dahl himself described his 007 experience in Playboy magazine.

But what of Bloom? Cork and Scivally provide a few clues in their Inside You Only Live Twice documentary that Cork wrote and directed and Scivally co-produced. Ken Adam, the film’s production designer, said this in the documentary:

We were in serious trouble. Because the film had a release date, Sean’s contract was running out and we had no script. So, the pressure was on everybody and we lost the writer.

As Adam says this, there is one shot of five men sitting at a table. Four are recognizable: producers Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, director Lewis Gilbert and Adam, smoking one of his trademark cigars. At the far left fo the shot is a man who is apparently Bloom, but he’s not identified as such. A few seconds later is a headshot of Bloom, who looks to be the same man as in the previous shot but we’re not told that for sure.

Narrator Patrick Macnee simply says, “After Harold Jack Bloom’s departure, the producers decide to hire noted short story writer Roald Dahl.” No further mention of Bloom, or his apparent troubles, is made.

After Dahl’s death in 1990, Starlog magazine profiled the writer and described how he worked on YOLT.

In the midst of that 1991 article, there’s this mention:

“We had a writer,” Broccoli told a gathering at the Museum of Modern Art in 1979, “who came up with the idea of having these Ninja-like Japanese characters crawling all over Tokyo, and it just wouldn’t work. So, we flew all over Japan with a fleet of kamikaze pilots,, and that’s when we found the volcano.”

So the question remains how much of Bloom’s work made the final film. A set piece or two? If that’s the case, why give Bloom a credit at all? Or did Dahl actually rewrite a Bloom draft rather that coming up with his own story?

This was the first time Broccoli and Saltzman junked the plot of a Fleming novel, retaining only the title and a few characters. The principals in this tale are mostly dead (Bloom died in 1999, Saltzman in ’94 and Broccoli in ’96). Richard Maibuam, whose papers are at the University of Iowa, didn’t work on the film.

In any case, here’s a sample of Bloom’s work pre-YOLT. If you CLICK HERE you can see the trailer to The Naked Spur, a 1953 James Stewart Western co-written by Bloom and Sam Rolfe.

Eleven years later, Rolfe had developed and was producing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Its second episode was The Iowa Scuba Affair written by Bloom. Here’s a scene;

From Russia With Love: When Ian Fleming met Len Deighton (sort of)

While paging through a few 007 reference works recently, we came upon this gem: that Len Deighton had a whirl at writing a James Bond screenplay. But not just any script. No, he attempted to adapt From Russia With Love, the 1963 film considered by many 007 fans sd one of the best Bond movies ever.

OK, this gets a little complicated. The book we saw this was Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films by James Chapman, published in 2000. In turn, Chapman quotes Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a 1986 book edited by Pat McGilligan.

In any event, the source of all this is none other than 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum, the sole credited screenwriter of From Russia With Love (though Johanna Harwood got a vague “adapted by” credit). Maibaum said the following:

On From Russia With Love, they had Len Deighton start, and he did about thirty-five pages; but it wasn’t going anywhere, so they brought me in. I did the screenplay and got a solo credit on it. Johanna Harwood got an adaptation credit, because she worked some with the director, Terence Young, and made several good suggestions. I was a little put out that she was given an adaptation credit because I don’t think she deserved it, but there are always politics in these things.

Deighton, of course, wrote the novels that became the basis of the Harry Palmer films of the 1960s, that were produced by 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman. Saltzman, in turn, hired Bond veterans such as John Barry, Peter Hunt, Guy Hamilton and Maurice Binder to work on the Palmer films.

Over on the Mister 8 Web site, there’s an article that discusses other ties between Ian Fleming and Len Deighton and you can read it by CLICKING HERE.