Jeremy Duns discusses scripts for 1967 Casino Royale

Jeremy Duns

Writer Jeremy Duns over the past nine years has researched the James Bond work performed by journalist-screenwriter Ben Hecht (1893-1964) and novelist Joseph Heller (1923-1999).

Both were among the scribes employed by producer Charles K. Feldman for his 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale. But little had been written about that Casino Royale work prior to Duns’ research.

The Spy Command conducted an interview with Duns via email.

QUESTION: What is it about the Charles K. Feldman production of Casino Royale that spurred you to find out more?

JEREMY DUNS: I tend to be interested in oddities and gaps in the record, and follow them up if I think there might be more there.

There has been so much written about the James Bond series that the tendency is to think that there’s nothing substantial that could now be discovered about this world, but I started to rethink that in 2005 after I found a few draft pages of an unpublished Bond novel from the Sixties (Per Fine Ounce).

That research was triggered by my reading a few sentences about the book in Duff Hart-Davis’ excellent biography of Peter Fleming, published in 1974. The discovery suggested to me that there might be more to find than I’d thought. A couple of years later, a passing mention in one of Kingsley Amis’ published letters to a ‘story outline’ he was writing ‘based on an original Ian Fleming idea’ led me to finding Jon Cleary’s unfilmed screenplay for The Diamond Smugglers.

So what else could there be out there? Like many, I had read more about the 1967 version of Casino Royale in advance of the reboot with Daniel Craig, and had watched it again. It was as much of a mess as I remembered, but I was intrigued as to how it had all come about.

So many famous actors, directors and writers were involved, and I was particularly intrigued by some of the names in the latter camp – several books mentioned that, among others, Ben Hecht and Joseph Heller had been involved in writing for the film.

Those are two mammoth figures, of course, so that started me looking. Idly searching the internet in late 2009 I found that the Newberry Library in Chicago had copies of Ben Hecht’s material for the film. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I had any luck with Heller, for reasons explained here.

QUESTION: As you’ve written, Feldman’s project went through various phases from straight adaptation to madcap spoof. What do you think accounts for this?

DUNS: Lots of factors, I think, although we don’t know for sure. Eon’s films became increasingly successful as Feldman was trying to make his, and with each one, Sean Connery became more established in the public’s view as James Bond – he was soon virtually indistinguishable from the character.

Feldman tried to poach Connery for his movie, but Connery asked for a million dollars and Feldman refused (according to Connery he admitted to him later that this had been a mistake). But at some point, I suspect he figured that trying to compete with Eon by making a film like theirs, without Connery, would risk a weak imitation.

Feldman had also negotiated with Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to make Casino Royale with them, but they had balked at his price. There might well have been some bitterness on Feldman’s part from those negotiations failing. And in 1965 he produced What’s New Pussycat?, which despite being a chaotic production, became a big hit.

Just as a few years later, George Lazenby was convinced by his agent that James Bond was old hat in the hippie era, Feldman seems to have convinced himself of something a little similar –- that the wild madcap psychedelic tone of What’s New Pussycat? was the hip new thing, and that he had a finger on that pulse.

QUESTION: What accounts for the interest of Ben Hecht and Joseph Heller in writing for Feldman? Was it just money? Were the writers genuinely interested in the material?

DUNS: It’s always tricky to speculate on people’s motivations, and I suspect they were nuanced and with many factors.

Ben Hecht

I don’t think Hecht needed the money, but he had initially moved to Hollywood in order to make it, of course. He was a screenwriter for hire, and one of the highest-paid in the field. He knew Feldman, had worked with him before, and they seemed to have been on friendly terms. He was certainly interested in the material – in his last letter to Feldman he said he had “never had more fun writing a movie.” I think the drafts he wrote also show he was interested in the source material.

As for Heller, Feldman offered him $150,000 to work on the script, and by Heller’s own account that was a major motivating factor – as it likely would have been for most writers.

But Heller was also interested in the material, I think, and enjoyed writing it, if not the stress of working for Feldman and doing so in the dark with other writers simultaneously working on the same script. Heller’s correspondence with Feldman and his satirical article about the experience are self-deprecating and dismissive, to the point where one might feel he disliked Bond, but that’s the Heller voice, familiar from Catch-22: cool, cynical, sardonic. It’s not the voice of his material.

If I’d only found a snippet of his letter to Feldman in which he described the pre-titles sequence he and George Mandel wrote for the film, but none of the script material, it would be easy to assume that he found the whole thing beneath him and was taking the mickey out of the whole thing. But I think that sequence is brilliant and shows a lot of care and craft. That and a lot else he wrote is easy to imagine in a later Connery film.

Other aspects of that letter, the script material, and Heller’s extensive notes and suggestions for it, show that he took the job very seriously, and did a lot of work on it.

Joseph Heller

QUESTION: Of the Hecht and Heller Casino Royale scripts, which do you think is better?

DUNS: That’s impossible to say at this point, mainly because I don’t know if there’s any more Heller material out there. There are thousands of pages in the Charles K Feldman Collection, but it’s currently closed, and there are clearly parts of the story we don’t yet know.

That said, it looks on the face of it that Hecht did more work on the film, for longer, and it more generally fits the kind of Bond film I tend to favor, eg From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Heller’s material wasn’t pastiche, spoof or satire, but nudges more towards the vein of You Only Live Twice.

Heller built on a lot of Hecht’s material, though, perhaps with Billy Wilder’s material in between, so there are several plot similarities, and their tone is broadly similar. But there’s more research to do, and it’s a little like comparing apples and pears. These were two geniuses of the 20th century, let loose on James Bond.

QUESTION: How would you describe Charles K. Feldman. I know he was an agent (and Albert R. Broccoli’s boss) and he got into production. What made him want to do that transition?

DUNS: He was a powerful Hollywood figure, and as an agent represented a huge number of stars: Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, to name just a few. He was handsome and debonair and had a rather peculiar biography, of which it’s not clear how much was true – there’s a touch of Jay Gatsby about him. I’m no expert on his career, but I think he went into production at least in part because the studio system was collapsing and creating his own projects was a way to steer a new course for the talent he represented.

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

QUESTION: Is there an element of tragedy with the Feldman production of Casino Royale? Hecht dies while working on the project. Feldman dies not long after the movie came out. The finished movie seems to have wasted an enormous amount of money. Was it worth it?

DUNS: Ben Hecht was 71 when he died, Feldman 63. I don’t know if the latter’s death was at all connected to the stress of making Casino Royale, but I doubt Hecht’s was related. This just happened to be the project he was working on when he died.

In terms of the finished film, I think it was a folly and an obsession that led Feldman astray, and he squandered enormous sums – including a lot of his own money – on it. But he also didn’t make use of some extraordinary script material he had commissioned from two of the era’s greatest writers. That’s perhaps not a tragedy, but it’s certainly a crying shame. Still, the material itself still exists, and I hope it can be read more widely at some point.

QUESTION: Perhaps an obvious question but is making a James Bond movie a lot harder than it looks? The two non-Eon films (1967 Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again) both encountered a lot of problems.

DUNS: Making any film is harder than it looks, but yes, a Bond film is especially tricky, especially because of the weight of expectations. At this point, Feldman was up against a phenomenon and, despite Heller’s clear warning, he didn’t understand that even a spectacle like Bond has to be at least halfway coherent.

You can replace John Barry with Burt Bacharach. You can have tremendous sets and costumes and Ursula Andress and David Niven and Orson Welles and the world’s greatest directors and writers… but you need to be able to put it all together. Feldman, quite literally, lost the plot.

The book Duns on Bond is an omnibus that collects Duns’ articles about Hecht’s Casino Royale scripts as well as pieces he wrote concerning Per Fine Ounce and The Diamond Smugglers. It can be ordered at AMAZON UK and AMAZON US, as well as AMAZON CANADA and other Amazon sites.

Duns wrote about Joseph Heller and Casino Royale in an APRIL 20 article in The Times of London. The article is behind a paywall. if you register for The Times’ site, you can see two free articles a month. The Times is offering a one-month free subscription plan. 

Duns uncovers Joseph Heller’s work on Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

Writer Jeremy Duns, who in 2011 researched Casino Royale scripts by Ben Hecht, has produced another chapter in the saga of the Charles K. Feldman production — work that Catch 22 author Joseph Heller did for Feldman’s project.

Duns’ research about Heller is contained in an April 20 article in The Times of London.

Heller was approached by producer Feldman after Hecht died in 1964. Hecht’s work was more of a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel.

However, according to the article, Feldman wanted to go in a more extravagant direction after Hecht’s death. Heller, who worked with novelist George Mandel as a co-writer, came aboard during this phase of the project in early 1965.

In one version of the Heller material, according to Duns, the fugitive Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele “is removing the brains of leading scientists” and storing them.

A very similar idea would be included in a March 1966 episode of The Wild Wild West, The Night of the Druid’s Blood. The series was set in the 1870s but the villain of the episode has removed the brains of scientists who are still alive, albeit disembodied. That episode was scripted by Henry Sharp, one of the show’s leading writers who earlier in his career had written for pulp magazines.

The Heller-Mandel material also includes the villain’s base is in a dormant volcano. As noted by Duns, both Our Man Flint, with James Coburn, and 1967’s You Only Live Twice featured the same concept.

Despite such flourishes, Duns says the tone of the Heller material has “a real sense of menace and suspense.”

Duns found the Heller material in the Charles K. Feldman Collection at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Feldman’s family donated Casino Royale material in 1969 but the collection has been closed to the public until recently, according to Duns.

To read the much more detailed article, CLICK HERE. The article is behind a paywall. However, if you register for The Times’ site, you can see two free articles a month. The Times is offering a one-month free subscription plan. Duns also has his own summary of his research on his blog.

007 Tweets of note from Jeremy Duns, Anthony Horowitz

On Sunday, Jan. 25, two rather interesting posts on Twitter emerged related to the world of James Bond.

The first was from journalist and author Jeremy Duns. He came across a 1963 story in the Daily Express indicating that, at one time, Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman was interesting in having actor-playwright Robert Shaw script a 007 film.

Shaw, of course, played Red Grant in 1963’s From Russia With Love. There are no details about what Bond project this might have been for.

Generally speaking, screenwriter Richard Maibaum was close to Albert R. Broccoli, the other Bond co-producer. Saltzman was always on the lookout for other scribes, including Len Deighton (who did uncredited work on From Russia With Love), Paul Dehn (Goldfinger) and John Hopkins (Thunderball).

Duns previously has detailed the work screenwriter Ben Hecht did for producer Charles K. Feldman’s ill-fated 1967 Casino Royale film. Duns researched how Hecht had a more serious take in mind. Duns has a e-book on the subject, ROGUE ROYALE.

The other Tweet came from Anthony Horwitz, writer of the next James Bond continuation novel coming out this fall.

The author, as it turns out, was watching the 1974 movie on television. On Jan. 15, HE TWEETED he had delivered his Bond novel. On Jan. 22, HE TWEETED that he had seen the cover, calling it “perfect.”

UPDATE: Horowitz later engaged in a dialogue with other Twitter users.

One commented to Horowitz that the Golden Gun novel isn’t one of Fleming’s best novels. Horowitz’s reply: “True. But that rubber nipple? Oh dear.” In a separate response, he said of the 1974 movie’s car jump: “Great stunt. But the sound and the sheriff? Oh dear.”

He was then informed by freelance writer and author Jeffrey Westhoff, “Slide whistle was John Barry’s choice, which he later regretted. But director, etc. could have nixed it.” Horowitz’s reply: “That’s a very interest piece of movie trivia!”

E-book on Ben Hecht’s Casino Royale scripts available

Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht

A new e-book about screenwriter Ben Hecht’s drafts for the ill-fated 1967 Casino Royale movie is now available.

The author is Jeremy Duns, who in EARLY 2011 wrote about the scripts by Hecht, one of the best screenwriters of all time, for the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.

Duns has now expanded his work into the 11,000-word Rogue Royale: The Lost Bond Film by the ‘Shakespeare of Hollywood.’ Hecht did a mostly faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first novel. But Hecht died in 1964 and the writer’s death caused producer Charles K. Feldman to switch gears.

The eventual result was the 1967 spoof, which was expensive to make and generated a fraction of box office of the regular 007 film series produced by Eon Productions and released by United Artists.

You can check out the e-book at the U.S. VERSION OF AMAZON.COM or AMAZON U.K. Duns also has an entry on his blog about Rogue Royale that you can read by CLICKING HERE.

Earlier posts:

TELEGRAPH REPORTS ON BEN HECHT’S 1960S CASINO ROYALE SCRIPTS

CASINO ROYALE’S 45TH ANNIVERSARY: OH NO, 007!

The African war that may have influenced Boyd’s Solo

William Boyd

William Boyd

Solo, the new James Bond novel by William Boyd, according to U.S. publisher HarperCollins, is set in 1969 and takes place in “Zanzarim, a troubled West African nation” that “is being ravaged by a bitter civil war.” Bond is assigned “to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.”

It sounds as if Solo’s story may concern a fictional version of a real war. From 1967 to 1970, THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR raged, after the southeastern provinces of Nigeria, a former U.K. colony, seceded to form the Republic of Biafra. (To see a Wikipedia map, CLICK HERE.) Nigeria, with U.K. support, took back Biafra. That civil war also produced MANY DISTURBING IMAGES, including those of starving children.

Boyd has written a number of stories set in Africa.

If Solo is using the Nigerian civil war as the basis for the plot, it won’t be the first time a spy novel has done so. The 1967-70 conflict was a setting in the 2009 novel FREE AGENT by Jeremy Duns. The novel’s lead character is Paul Dark, who “is a seasoned agent for MI6 when a KGB officer turns up in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war wanting to defect.”

In the publicity materials for Free Agent, the story is endorsed by William Boyd, who calls the tale a “wholly engrossing and sophisticated spy novel.”

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns, in a reply to yesterday’s post about the HarperCollins plot summary, provides a LINK to the plot summary of Solo by the Curtis Brown literary and talent agency. It reads thusly (with the part in boldface type added emphasis by this blog):

It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.

A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, DC, where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.

Even if Bond succeeds in exacting his revenge, a man with two faces will come to stalk his ever waking moment.

To view Wikipedia’s entry for the Nigerian Civil War, CLICK HERE

To view a promotion for Free Agent along with an excerpt, CLICK HERE.

Earlier post:

BOYD’S U.S. PUBLISHER PROVIDES PLOT SUMMARY OF SOLO

RE-POST: Happy 60th anniversary, Mr. Bond

Casino Royale's original cover

Casino Royale’s original cover


Originally posted April 1. Reposted for the actual anniversary.

Sixty years ago, readers sampled the start of a novel by a new author. “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” it began. The world hasn’t been quite the same since.

The novel, of course, was Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, published April 13, 1953. About 5,000 copies of its first edition were printed and it sold out quickly. Fleming combined the skills and experiences of two lives: his work as an intelligence officer during World War II and his experience as a journalist in spotting the right, and telling detail.

Casino Royale was a short novel. But it had an impact on readers. The story’s hero, British secret agent James Bond, first loses and then wins a high-stake game of cards with Le Chiffre, the story’s villain. Later, Bond is helpless, the victim of torture by Le Chiffre. But before Le Chiffre can finish the torture, he is dispatched by an operative of Smersh for being “a fool and a thief a traitor.” The Smersh operative has no orders to kill Bond, so he doesn’t. But he carves up the back of Bond’s right hand. “It would be well that should be known as a spy,” the killer says.

What seems to be novel’s climax happens less than three-quarters of the way through the story. But the new author had some other ideas to keep readers turning the pages until the real resolution. Bond is betrayed Vesper, a woman he had fallen deeply in love with. She commits suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills.

Bond, after all this, doesn’t collapse. He emerges more resolute, determined to “attack the arm that held the whip and the gun…He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy.”

Writer Jeremy Duns in an essay PUBLISHED IN 2005 argued “there’s a strong case to be made for it being the first great spy thriller of the Cold War.” Toward the end of his article, Duns writes, “Before Casino Royale, the hero always saved the damsel in distress moments before she was brutally ravaged and tortured by the villain; Fleming gave us a story in which nobody is saved, and it is the hero who is abused, drawn there by the damsel.”

For Fleming, Casino Royle was just the start. More novels and short stories followed. He lived to see two of his novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, turned into movies in 1962 and 1963 (following a CBS adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954). The author visited the set of the third film, Goldfinger, but died in August 1964, just before 007 became a phenomenon, spurring a spy craze.

Six decades later, the 23 movies of the Eon Production series (plus a couple of non-Eon films) are what most people think of when the name James Bond is mentioned. 2012’s Skyfall had worldwide ticket sales of $1.1 billion.

Oh, the Fleming books remain in print. Ian Fleming Publication hires a continuation novel author now and then (William Boyd, the latest continuation author, is scheduled to disclose his novel’s title on April 15). Periodically, there’s a new book about some aspect about the film series.

Fans can fuss and debate about Bond (and do all the time). But there is one certainty: without Casino Royale’s publication six decades ago, none of that would be possible.

UPDATE: Other 007 blogs and bloggers are noting the anniversary today, including THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER, BOND BLOG, MARK O’CONNELL, JAMES BOND BRASIL, FROM SWEDEN WITH LOVE and THE BOOK BOND You can also read an article in the Express newspaper by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, Spy Vibe, part of the COBRAS group of blogs, has a post including a graphic of various Casino Royale covers. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.

Happy 60th anniversary, Mr. Bond

Casino Royale's original cover

Casino Royale’s original cover

Sixty years ago, readers sampled the start of a novel by a new author. “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” it began. The world hasn’t been quite the same since.

The novel, of course, was Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, published April 13, 1953. About 5,000 copies of its first edition were printed and it sold out quickly. Fleming combined the skills and experiences of two lives: his work as an intelligence officer during World War II and his experience as a journalist in spotting the right, and telling detail.

Casino Royale was a short novel. But it had an impact on readers. The story’s hero, British secret agent James Bond, first loses and then wins a high-stake game of cards with Le Chiffre, the story’s villain. Later, Bond is helpless, the victim of torture by Le Chiffre. But before Le Chiffre can finish the torture, he is dispatched by an operative of Smersh for being “a fool and a thief a traitor.” The Smersh operative has no orders to kill Bond, so he doesn’t. But he carves up the back of Bond’s right hand. “It would be well that should be known as a spy,” the killer says.

What seems to be novel’s climax happens less than three-quarters of the way through the story. But the new author had some other ideas to keep readers turning the pages until the real resolution. Bond is betrayed Vesper, a woman he had fallen deeply in love with. She commits suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills.

Bond, after all this, doesn’t collapse. He emerges more resolute, determined to “attack the arm that held the whip and the gun…He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy.”

Writer Jeremy Duns in an essay PUBLISHED IN 2005 argued “there’s a strong case to be made for it being the first great spy thriller of the Cold War.” Toward the end of his article, Duns writes, “Before Casino Royale, the hero always saved the damsel in distress moments before she was brutally ravaged and tortured by the villain; Fleming gave us a story in which nobody is saved, and it is the hero who is abused, drawn there by the damsel.”

For Fleming, Casino Royle was just the start. More novels and short stories followed. He lived to see two of his novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, turned into movies in 1962 and 1963 (following a CBS adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954). The author visited the set of the third film, Goldfinger, but died in August 1964, just before 007 became a phenomenon, spurring a spy craze.

Six decades later, the 23 movies of the Eon Production series (plus a couple of non-Eon films) are what most people think of when the name James Bond is mentioned. 2012’s Skyfall had worldwide ticket sales of $1.1 billion.

Oh, the Fleming books remain in print. Ian Fleming Publication hires a continuation novel author now and then. Periodically, there’s a new book about some aspect about the film series.

Fans can fuss and debate about Bond (and do all the time). But there is one certainty: without Casino Royale’s publication six decades ago, none of that would be possible.

EARLIER POST: CLICK HERE to read a March 17 post about events at the University of Illinois to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale.

Len Deighton on From Russia With Love

Len Deighton and Michael Caine


The Deighton Dossier blog has a new interview with author Len Deighton. You can read the entire interview by CLICKING HERE One thing that caught our eye was Deighton’s description of his work on From Russia With Love, the second 007 film.

The Q and A featured questions from readers. One of those readers was Jeremy Duns, journalist (he dug out Ben Hecht’s screenplay drafts for producer Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale) and spy author.

Richard Maibaum got the screenplay credit for From Russia With Love, with Johanna Harwood receiving an “adapted by” credit. Maibaum had a long association with Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. On the early Bond films, Harry Saltzman, the other Eon co-founder, was involved heavily in developing the scripts and often sought English writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins. Saltzman later produced the Harry Palmer series, starring Michael Caine, based on Deighton novels.

Here’s how Deighton in the Deighton Dossier interview, prompted by a question from Duns, described his time working on the film:

I’m very interested in your work on From Russia With Love – do you have any surviving drafts of your script and how do you regard it?

Len: I went to Istanbul with Harry Saltzman, plus the director and the art director. As with virtually all movies, the producer is the driving force who gets the idea, buys the rights, commissions the screenplay, chooses the actors and employs the director.

Harry demonstrated this creative power. We took breakfast together every day so that he could guide me and teach me how film stories worked. It was a wonderful course in movie making especially as the rest of each day was spent roaming around Istanbul with Harry plus the director and art director talking about locations and building the sets back in England.

I’ve always been rather careless about typescripts and notes etc. And having a restless disposition I have packed, unpacked and repacked countless times as my family and I lived in different countries, I don’t have much written stuff left.

Terence Young directed the movie and Syd Cain worked as art director, with Michael White as assistant art director.

The Deighton Dossier and this blog, are members of the Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies. We noticed the From Russia With Love mention from Tweets by Jeremy Duns.

Casino Royale’s 45th anniversary: Oh no, 007!

April Fool’s Day is as good as any occasion to note this month marks the 45th anniversary of Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale, the producer’s 1967 send-up of 007.

Feldman, one-time agent (Albert R. Broccoli was one of his employees) turned producer, was nobody’s fool. He had produced films in a variety of genres such as 1948’s Red River (uncredited), 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 1955’s The Seven Year Itch and 1965’s What’s New Pussycat.

So, when he acquired the film rights to Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel in the early 1960s, Feldman recognized it had commercial potential even as the film series produced by one time associate Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was getting underway in 1962. (CLICK HERE for a post on Jeremy Duns’s Debrief blog for a more detailed history.)

Feldman tried to entice director Howard Hawks, his one-time colleague on Red River. Hawks was interested but the director backed out after seeing an early print of Dr. No with Sean Connery.

Feldman pressed on, signing distinguished screenwriter Ben Hecht to come up with a screenplay. Details of Hecht’s work were reported last year by Jeremy Duns in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper. Hecht died in 1964, while still working on the project.

By now, Eon’s series was reaching its peak of popularity with 1964’s Goldfinger and 1965’s Thunderball. Broccoli and Saltzman agreed to a co-production deal with Kevin McClory, holder of the film rights for Thunderball. James Bond, The Legacy, the 2002 book by John Cork and Bruce Scivally, presents a narrative of on-and-off talks between Feldman, Broccoli, Saltzman and United Artists, the studio releasing the Broccoli-Saltzman movies. In the end, talks broke down. (Behind the scenes, Broccoli and Saltzman had their own tensions to deal with, including Saltzman’s outside ventures such as his Harry Palmer series of films.).

So Feldman opted to go for farce, but not in a small way. His movie had an estimated budget, according to IMDB.com. of $12 million. The Cork-Scivally book put the figure at $10.5 million. Either way, it was more than the $9.5 million budget of You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Broccoli-Saltzman series. Twice’s outlay included $1 million for Ken Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set.

Feldman’s film didn’t have that kind of spectacle. But he did pay money (or Columbia Pictures’ money) for talent such as John Huston (one of five credited directors), David Niven (playing the “original” James Bond, brought out of retirement, who implies the Sean Connery version of the Broccoli-Saltzman series was assigned the James Bond name by MI6), Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress (now famous because of Dr. No), William Holden, Woody Allen and….well CLICK HERE to view the entire cast and crew.

Casino Royale, however, was less than the sum of its impressive parts. The humor is uneven, it doesn’t really have a story, despite employing a number screenwriters, including Wolf Mankowitz, who introduced Broccoli and Saltzman to each other. (For a more sympathetic view, CLICK HERE for a long essay on the subject.)

The’67 Casino managed a reported worldwide gross of $41.7 million. That was good in its day, though less than a third of Thunderball’s $141.7 million global box office.

Much has been written since 1967 about the stressful production, including reported feuds between Sellers and Welles. Perhaps all that took a toll on the film’s producer. Feldman died in May 1968, a little more than 13 months after Casino Royale’s premier, at age 64.

Matt Helm novels returning to print in 2013, Titan Books says


Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels will return to print in 2013, Titan Books announced in a post on its company blog.

An excerpt:

London, U.K. – December 9, 2011 – Titan Books announced today that beginning in 2013, they will reissue the original Matt Helm® spy thrillers written by Donald Hamilton, starring the famed counter-agent whose career included 27 novels spanning more than three decades, four films, and a network television series.

The first Matt Helm® novel, Death of a Citizen, was released in 1960, just two years after publication of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale—which hadn’t yet caught on in the United States. Otto Penzlernoted, “Whereas Bond was a sophisticate who knew wine, expensive cars, and tuxedos, Helm lived much of the time in the American Southwest, drove a pickup truck, and wore flannel shirts.” The novel introduced a man in his mid-thirties, 6’4” and intelligent, who had been a military assassin eliminating Nazis during World War II.

Actually, Casino Royale was first published in 1953, but we’re not going to quibble with the other details. The Helm novels were like a mix between Mickey Spillane (the first person narration) and Ian Fleming (international intrigue). The 27 novels were originally published between 1960 and 1993. The author penned a last, unpublised Helm story around 2001. Hamilton died in 2006.

The news was reported earlier at a post on the Existential Ennui Web site. You can learn more about the Helm novels BY CLICKING HERE to read an essay by journalist and spy novelist Jeremy Duns. We first found out about the news from a post Mr. Duns did on Facebook, linking to Existential Ennui.

Finally, CLICK HERE to view a 2000 HMSS article about how the Helm novels weren’t exactly faithfully translated to the screen in the four Dean Martin films of the 1960s.