Happy 91st birthday, Jack Lord

The first screen Felix Leiter, Jack Lord, would be 91 years old if he were alive today. The Leiter character wasn’t in the Dr. No novel by Ian Fleming but he ended up in the 1962 film version scripted by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather. When approached about reprising the role in Goldfinger, he famously demanded billing on par with Sean Connery and was refused.

007 fans wonder why Lord would have done that, but let’s face it: being Felix in a Bond movie isn’t going to get you much screen time and probably isn’t going to help your career that much. A few years later, five days before filming was to begin on the pilot, Lord was cast as lawman Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O, whose lead character dabbled in spy storylines. Here he is on The Mike Douglas Show during the show’s first season, 1968-69:

And here are the opening credits of the 11th season Five-O episode The Year of the Horse, where former Bond George Lazenby was “special guest star.” (No Lazenby in the clip but you do see his billing). McGarrett even flies to Singpore on Pan Am, the airline of choice in the Bond movies up to this time (United was the normal airline shown on series episoes):

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.

The earliest days of Bond

Nothing startling here, but given many of the principals are no longer with us, it’s still interesting to hear the perspectives of those who launched 007 movies in 1962.

So, in this video, you can hear 007’s first director, Terence Young; Johanna Harwood, one of the screenwriters of Dr. No; Peter Hunt, and edited five films and directed a sixth; and former United Artists executive David Picker all discuss how Bond got started.