Maibaum’s ‘circular’ script structure

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

A few James Bond films utilize a structure that, for the purposes of this post, I am crediting to veteran screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991).

That’s the “circular” structure — the audience sees something at or near the start of the movie that is repeated (with key variations) at the climax.

With the following examples, it’s difficult to give Maibaum full credit. Other screenwriters worked on the Bond films involved. But Maibaum is the only constant. So, without further ado:

From Russia With Love (1963): The film opens with James Bond apparently being stalked — and then killed — by Red Grant (Robert Shaw). However, Grant has only killed a double as part of a training exercise.

Grant kills Bond’s double using a garrotte hidden inside a watch. Later, Grant tries to kill the real Bond (Sean Connery) with the garrotte during a fight sequence on the Orient Express. Naturally, Bond turns the tables on Grant.

Caveat: Both Johanna Harwood (who got an “adapted by” credit) and Len Deighton (uncredited) also worked on the script.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974): The film opens with a gangster (Marc Lawrence) hired to take out Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) on his home grounds, including a “fun house.”

Scaramanga has to scramble before he finally dispatches the gangster. Much later, James Bond (Roger Moore) is lured into the “fun house.” Bond loses his own Walther PPK. But he kills Scaramanga taking a PPK from a life-sized 007 figure.

Caveat:  Tom Mankiewicz was the original screenwriter, then Maibaum was brought in. Mankiewicz did the final rewrites.

Octopussy (1983): After the main titles, a 00-agent disguised as a clown flees from a circus. He’s fatally wounded by twin assassins who are also circus performers.

Toward the climax of the film, Bond (Roger Moore) is disguised as a clown — the same getup as his doomed predecessor — and manages to deactivate an atomic bomb just in the nick of the time.

Caveat: Octopussy began as a script with an effort by George Macdonald Fraser, which was later rewritten by Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

Did Fleming think Maibaum’s 007 was better?

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

This week, TCM kicked off showing 19 James Bond films made by Eon Productions. The first night included a promotional video featuring comments by Bond film veterans Bruce Feirstein (credited as writer on three films) and Martin Campbell (director on two).

Feirstein, at one point told an anecdote about Bond’s creator talking to Richard Maibaum on the set of Goldfinger.

“Apparently, Fleming told Maibaum that he liked Maibaum’s Bond better than his own. Because Maibaum added the wit….There is no wit in the books. So one of the key elements that we all know and love Bond for was added by Maibaum.”

That sounds very provocative. But how true is it? Feirstein doesn’t provide a source for the information. The word “apparently” is a way to hedge your bet.

What’s more, the Bond scripting process was a lot more complicated.

Movies are a collaborative medium. That’s especially when it comes to scripts. By the time Goldfinger was in production, Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkeley Mather, Len Deighton, Wolf Mankowitz and Paul Dehn had all taken turns at the typewriter (some getting credit, some not).

At the very least, it’s debatable whether there was a “Maibaum Bond” versus a “Fleming Bond.”

Maibaum was a writer on 13 of the first 16 Bond films made by Eon. He was clearly a major contributor and had a lot of input.

On the other hand, with Goldfinger, Maibaum started the scripting while Dehn did the later drafts. And Mankowitz sold co-producer Harry Saltzman a major idea (having the gangster Mr. Solo in a car that was crushed at a junkyard) that was a highlight of the movie. The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger spells out the scripting process.

In any case, Feirstein provided an interesting anecdote. You can see it around the 6:40 mark of this YouTube copy of the TCM video. Warning: you never know when these things may get pulled down by YouTube.

Bond 25 questions: The new writer edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

One of the later questions deal with a possible Bond 25 story line, so consider that a spoiler.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a writer and performer, has come aboard Bond 25 as the newest screenwriter. The story was broken by the Mail on Sunday while The Observer had its own, later story with additional details.

Not surprisingly, the blog has some questions.

What is Waller-Bridge’s background?

She was born in 1985 and acts, writes and directs. One of her prominent credits is the BBC comedy Fleabag.

Why is she being brought on Bond 25?

According to The Guardian’s story, actor Daniel Craig requested her services. An excerpt:

Sources close to the film in the US said that while in the country she discussed with Craig how to improve the script of Bond 25, which the 007 actor felt needed some “polishing”, by introducing more humour and the offbeat style of writing she is best known for.

What’s the significance of this move?

Eon Production recently hired “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns for a four-week stint going over the script. If The Guardian is to be believed, the powers that be felt yet more work was needed.

The Mail on Sunday hyped Waller-Bridge’s hiring as “a comprehensive makeover for the MeToo era.” The Guardian’s story makes it sound like more of a tweaking.

Any plot hints? (here’s the spoiler for the spoiler adverse)

The Mail on Sunday story said one plot “being considered” has a retired Bond while a woman agent now has the 007 code number.

If accurate, that’s the flip side of an idea in Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day 007 continuation novel. It’s set in 1950. Bond gets promoted to the 00 section and opts to take the 007 number, which had been assigned to a murdered agent.

Is it a big deal to hire a woman screenwriter for a Bond film?

It shouldn’t but it probably will be because there have been so few.

Johanna Harwood (b. 1930) worked on the first two films in the Eon series. She shared the Dr. No screenplay credit with Richard Maibaum and Berkely Mather. On From Russia With Love, she received an “adapted by” credit while Maibaum got the screenplay credit.

Dana Stevens took over from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had done the initial drafts of The World Is Not Enough. Bruce Feirstein subsequently took over from her. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein shared in the screenplay credit while Stevens went uncredited.

Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

Dr. No’s script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Concluding our look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood species the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silouhette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production manger Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

Dr. No’s script Part III: A friendship is forged

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during Dr. No's production.

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery.

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

Dr. No’s screenwriting team of Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood opted to bring in Ian Fleming’s Felix Leiter character into the film version of Dr. No even though he wasn’t in that novel.

Their challenge: establish the James Bond-Leiter friendship within a few minutes of screen time.

By the time Dr. No was nearing production, Leiter had appeared in the novels Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger and Thunderball. Bond and Leiter had shared a number of adventures in the novels, including Leiter providing a major financial assistance in Casino and nearly getting killed in Live And Let Die.

But that back story wasn’t of use for the screenwriters. They would have to invent their own storyline of the forging of the Bond-Leiter friendship.

In the film, it gets off to a rocky start. The audience doesn’t realize it’s Leiter observing Bond at the Kingston airport. Bond gets the best of the encounter, losing Leiter and Quarrel, who are following him. Bond catches up to Quarrel and gets into a fight. Here’s how the script describes what happens next.

Behind him, and unknown to him, LEITER has appeared in the door. He gently takes BOND’S wrist and equally gently shoves a Walther into his kidneys.

LEITER
(softly)
Gently, bud, gently. Let’s not get execited, eh?

BOND stiffens. His position is now untenable and he’s not a bloody fool. LEITER stretches round in front of him and takes his gun. He tooks at two identical weapons with slightly raised eyebrows.

The exchange that takes place is similar to the finished film but there are some interesting stage directions.

Quarrel we’re told is “looking murderous, steps forward and expertly frisks BOND. (Expertly means to start at sock level and run and tap lightly upwards. A favourite place for keeping a second gun or a knife is taped to the inside of the thigh. QUARREL evidently knows this.)”

Leiter is “moving around so he can see BOND CLEARLY.” After Leiter tells Bond his got his gun from “a guy in Washington,” he then “suddenly breaks into a grin, puts his own gun into his shoulder holster, reverses one in his left hand and holds it butt first to BOND, simultaneously holding out now free right hand in greeting.”

The next scene is at the restaurant/night club as in the film. “In the background, FOUR ATTRACTIVE GIRLS, wearing just what they are forced to by law, are going through a particularly Jamaican type of Twist.”

As they discuss how Cape Canaveral rockets are being sabotaged, Bond “chooses his words with irony” when he asks if Leiter had “cased the joint.”

LEITER
I checked…unofficially. You…
(mimics BOND)
“Limeys” can be pretty touch about trespassing.

The TWO MEN grin at each other.

From here on out, the two men are friends, although there’s an occasional edge. Later, Leiter “thoughtfully” asks whether Professor Dent is a bad professor or a bad liar. Bond “grimly” says he intends to find out which.

When Bond finally shows up to head out to Crab Key, Leiter is “growling” when he asks where Bond has been.

When Bond and Quarrel get ready to make their approach to Dr. No’s island, Leiter “softly” says “Let me go with him” to Bond. The British agent replies, “We’ve argued all the way out. Strangways happened to be a friend of mine.”

Bond and Leiter “grin understandingly” after Bond says, “We’ll be back in twelve. If not, it’s your show, and you’d better bring in the Marines.”

NEXT: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

UPDATE: A reader (see comment below) questions whether that’s Jack Lord in the photo above. Lord tended to favor wide-brim hats in hot climates (occasionally on camera in Hawaii Five-O, but normally away from the set). You can see a photo from his Hawaii Five-O days. Meanwhile, here’s a photo of John Derek and Ursula Andress on the Dr. No. set.

Jack Lord straw hat

John Derek dr. no

UPDATE II: Below are some outtakes from a parade broadcast with Jack Lord.

Early 1962: Dr. No’s script takes shape Part I

Sean Connery in Dr. No

Sean Connery in Dr. No

By early 1962, the screenwriters of Dr. No finished their fifth draft of a script adapting Ian Fleming’s novel. That draft, dated 8-January-1962, greatly resembles the film that would ultimately premier that fall. But there were still elements that either got dropped or significantly altered during production.

What follows is a summary based on a copy supplied by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The draft’s title page lists Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and J.M. Harwood as the writers and Harry Broccoli and A.R. Broccoli as producers. The production company name is listed as Eon Film Productions Ltd., later shortened to Eon Productions.

The early sequences are very similar to the final product, but scenes have additional dialogue than would make the final cut.

In the stage directions, John Strangways, R.N. (ret.) is described as “Carribean Universal Exports Agent, or, less discreetly, the local representative of the British Secret Service. He is a tall, lean man with a black patch over his right eye, and the sort of acquiline good looks associated with the bridge of a destroyer.”

The bridge game at the Queen’s Club includes an exchange after Strangways departs the bridge game for his daily call from headquarters. Potter, one of the players, asks, “What is his wretched Company, anyway?” Professor Dent replies, “He’s the Carribean Agent for Universal Exports…”

In the script, Strangways realizes, too late, he’s in danger. “The tapping of the sticks” of the supposedly three blind men “ceases. STRANGWAYS turns partially back to the, the moment of silence registering.” (Yes, there appears to be a dropped word.) The stage directions specify Strangways is hit between the shoulders, small of the back and the pelvis. The driver says, “Hurry it up, boys…” rather than the “Hurry, man, hurry!” of the final film. Meanwhile, inside the hearse, the killers put on “roomy black alpaca coats” and replace their baseball caps with black top hats.

At Strangways house, Mary Prescott, “STRANGWAYS’ secretary and No. 2,” is described as “a striking-looking young woman despite her tailored dress.” As described in the stage directions, she only sees one of the assassins before she dies.

As in the final film, the scene switches to London. The script references “the M.I.6. building, a square eight-storey structure near Regent’s Park.” An operator even says, “Urgent. M.I.6. RT Control.”

We’re then off to Le Cercle Casino. On page 10, the stage directions refer to SYLVIA TRENCHARD, who is “willowly exquisitely gowned with a classic, deceptively cold beauty. The stage directions say at first she is playing the “MAN” As the game progresses, it’s specified “we have still not seen” the Man. He is then identified as BOND when he “takes a cigarette from a flat gun-metal case on the table besides him.”

The game continues. On page 11, Sylvia introduces herself as “Trench…Sylvia Trench.” Bond lights her cigarette.

SYLVIA
And I admire your luck, Mr….?

BOND
(as he brings the lighter up to his own cigarette, and for the first time we see his face.)
Bond….James Bond.

TO BE CONTINUED