Live And Let Die’s 50th: The post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

Adapted from a 2013 post
For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted in 1973. It would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began.

They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint and The Persuaders! television shows. Older than Connery, Moore would employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for The Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman that if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect.

Sheriff J.W. Pepper, up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

But Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could survive without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.

FEBRUARY 2012 POST: LIVE AND LET DIE, A REAPPRAISAL

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME PROFILES THE NEW JAMES BOND

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME CALLS 007 A `RACIST PIG’

From Russia With Love’s 60th Part II: John Barry

John Barry

John Barry

Adapted from a 2013 post

John Barry wasn’t a happy man after Dr. No came out in 1962.

Barry had arranged and revamped Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. He thought the piece would only be in Dr. No’s main titles. Instead, it was inserted by editor Peter Hunt throughout much of the movie.

With the second 007 film, From Russia With Love, “John Barry’s irritation at seeing his work all over the film of Dr. No would soon turn to elation,” author Jon Burlingame wrote in his 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. Barry got the job of scoring the new 007 film and, in the process, established the Bond movie music template.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired Lionel Bart to write the title song. But Barry would score provided all the dramatic music.

Barry’s impact was evident immediately. Dr. No’s gunbarrel logo utilized electronic noises. Barry instead used an arrangement of Bond theme. The pre-credits sequence, where where assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) kills a Bond double during a training exercise, was heightened by Barry’s music. In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, composer Marvin Hamlisch did an homage to Barry’s work where Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are searching for Jaws amid Egyptian ruins. (CLICK HERE to see a Stuart Basinger-produced video comparing the two scenes.)

Barry’s work on From Russia With Love was the beginning of the James Bond sound.

“The 007 films demanded music that could be variously romantic, suspenseful, drive the action, even punctuate the humor,” Burlingame said in a 2012 E-MAIL INTERVIEW WITH THE HMSS WEBLOG about his book. “It was a tall order, and John Barry, especially, delivered what was necessary and helped define James Bond in a way that wasn’t possible with the visuals alone.”

Barry also composed what amounted to a second Bond theme, simply titled 007. It was used during two action sequences: A big fight between Soviet-aligned Bulgarians and gypsies working for MI6 and when Bond snatches a Russian decoding machine out of the Soviet consulate in Istanbul. Barry would end up bringing the 007 theme back in four more movies, the last being 1979’s Moonraker.

For the composer, this was just the beginning. He scored 10 more Bond films and become one of the most sought-after composers in the movies. Remarkably, his Bond work never got an Oscar nomination. But he won five Oscars for non-007 films starting with 1967’s Born Free and ending with 1990’s Dances With Wolves.

Meanwhile, Barry’s template was something other composers had to keep in mind when they worked on 007 films. In the 1990s, David Arnold, a Barry admirer, produced new takes on classic Barry 007 songs. That helped him to secure work on five Bond films.

NEXT: Desmond Llewelyn’s debut as Q

January 2011 post: JOHN BARRY, AN APPRECIATION

September 2012 post: HMSS TALKS TO JON BURLINGAME ABOUT HIS 007 MUSIC BOOK

Bond music documentary: Some recycled material

John Barry (1933-2011)

I am watching the new James Bond music documentary on Amazon Prime. It’s very entertaining. But it also recycles a lot of interviews originally done in the 1990s for DVD extras for the Bond films.

Some of the videos of John Barry (1933-2011) for those extras are obvious to anyone who watched them originally. Also, some of the Barry interview footage was shown for a 2006 special about Bond footage on the BBC.

Some interviews with Monty Norman also were originally shown on those DVD extras.

That’s not to say it’s all recycled. There are some more recent interviews. It appears Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions made recent comments. Ditto for David Arnold, who scored five Bond films for Eon.

In the documentary, Barbara Broccoli says the title song for No Time to Die was from the female point of view.

Bond concert scheduled for Oct. 4 in London

Logo for James Bond concert

A charity concert featuring songs from the James Bond film series has been scheduled for Oct. 4 at Royal Albert Hall in London, according to the venue’s website.

Here are the details.

Celebrate 60 years of the James Bond film franchise with a charity concert that will showcase the iconic music of Bond, headlined by the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey.

Curated by five-time Bond composer David Arnold and produced by EON Productions, the concert will feature Bond soundtrack artists including Garbage, as well as special guests including Celeste, putting their own interpretation on classic theme songs, backed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Dodd.

The date marks the anniversary of the world premiere of the first 007 film, Dr. No held on 5 October 1962.

More special guests to be announced

Bassey’s Twitter account helped announce the news.

Shirley Bassey performed the title songs for Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. All had music by John Barry with Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley, Don Black and and Hal David doing the lyrics.

David Arnold composed the scores for Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Monty Norman dies at 94

Monty Norman (1928-2022)

Monty Norman, the composer of The James Bond Theme, has died, the BBC reported.

Norman was hired to score Dr. No, the first Bond film produced by Eon Productions. There were disputes how much Norman contributed versus John Barry, who orchestrated the Bond theme for the movie.

Norman said he based the theme off something he wrote for a play titled A House For Mr. Biswas. Norman won a 2001 court case after suing The Sunday Times “over an article which said he did not write the James Bond theme,” the BBC reported at the time.

The composer only worked for Eon one other time — 1963’s Call Me Bwana, a comedy starring Bob Hope.

Starting with From Russia With Love, Barry composed six straight Bond films (From Russia With Love through Diamonds Are Forever). Barry ended up composing 11 Eon Bond movies overall.

Nevertheless, Norman’s Bond theme credit was included throughout the Eon series.

In 2013, Norman described how the Bond theme came together.

Tomorrow Never Dies’s 25th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new storyline. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released theatrically under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.

The Living Daylights at 35: A short-lived new era

The Living Daylights poster

The Living Daylights poster

Adapted from a 2017 post

The Living Daylights, the 15th James Bond film made by Eon Productions, was going to be the start of a new era for the series.

With hindsight, it’s now evident the new era was doomed to be short-lived. But nobody envisioned that when the movie came out in the summer of 1987.

Roger Moore hung up his shoulder holster following 1985’s A View to a Kill. There was going to be a new film James Bond. The question was who would it be.

Sam Neill was screen tested. He had supporters among the production team, but didn’t have the vote of producer Albert R. Broccoli, according to the documentary Inside The Living Daylights.

Pierce Brosnan tested for the role (including playing scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). He even signed a contract, with a photo taken of the event.

But all that went askew when NBC renewed his Remington Steele series. Broccoli had second thoughts.

Broccoli and his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, later denied in a television interview that Brosnan had even been signed.

The ultimate choice was Timothy Dalton. Broccoli said Dalton was the first choice all along.

“We wanted to get Timothy,” Broccoli said. “We had standing by the possibility of Pierce Brosnan. We liked Pierce. But we did really feel Timothy was the man we wanted.” Even if NBC hadn’t renewed Remington Steele, the producer said, “We liked Timothy very much.”

After the bumpy start, Daylights got into gear. Dalton, 40 at the time filming began, was almost 20 years younger than Moore. The actor also was more than willing to do some of his own stunts. This tendency showed up in the pre-titles sequence when Bond is on the top of a military truck at the Rock of Gibraltar.

Dalton, though, brought more than (relative) youth to the role. His Bond was more conflicted and more grounded in the original Ian Fleming novels and short stories.

Early in the film, Bond disobeys orders when he suspects a supposed sniper (Maryam d’Abo) isn’t genuine. He shoots her rifle instead of her.

Later, Saunders, another MI6 agent, says he’s going to report Bond to M. Dalton’s Bond isn’t fazed. “If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Richard Maibaum was on board for his 12th Bond film as screenwriter, collaborating with Wilson. The Maibaum-Wilson team built their story out from a sequence in Ian Fleming’s short story of the same title.

Initially, the duo had an “origin” storyline that Broccoli vetoed. Instead, Dalton’s Bond would again be depicted as a veteran agent.

The Living Daylights generated worldwide box office of $191.2 million, an improvement over A View to a Kill’s $152.6 million.

In the U.S. market, however, Daylights’ $51.2 million wasn’t much better than View’s $50.3 million. For whatever reasons, American audiences never warmed to Dalton the way international audiences did.

Still, Daylights seemed to represent a fresh start for the Bond film series. What nobody knew at the time was that audiences had already consumed half of the Dalton Bond films.

What’s more, Daylights was the end of an era for the series. It had John Barry’s final 007 score. For his final Bond film, the composer would make a brief on-screen appearance.

Daylights also would be the last time that Maibaum would fully participate in the writing.

The veteran scribe (1909-1991) would help plot 1989’s Licence to Kill. But the actual script was written by Wilson, with Maibaum sidelined by a Writers Guild of America strike.

You Only Live Twice’s 55th: Mixed legacy

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

Updated and expanded from a 2017 post.

The 55th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, but it also created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seemingly endless number of extras was available when needed.

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted the contract they had with the star. But their inducements were not enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by the acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained. Some fans even refer those changes as among the worst moves Eon ever made. CLICK HERE for a sampling.  One example: “What led the producers to discard the Fleming trilogy (the biggest single gaffe in the series´ history) is inexplicable.”

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

Importance of score & editing (Bond edition)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said this week several Oscars will be awarded before the Oscars telecast, including best score and editing.

Ben Mankiewicz, a TCM host, did a tongue-in-cheek tweet asking followers to name movies where score and editing made a difference. You can view it below.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll keep examples of James Bond movies only.

From Russia With Love: According to the documentary Inside From Russia With Love (available on some home video editions of the movie), editor Peter Hunt changed the order of early sequences. This, in effect, created the Bond tradition of the pre-title sequence.

The movie was also the first Bond film (out of 11 total) scored by John Barry. That helped establish the “Bond sound” of 007 movie film music. Barry’s contributions have lasted beyond his death. No Time to Die’s score incorporated Barry’s instrumental theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Thunderball: Director Terence Young departed the project early before post-production was completed. That left editor Hunt by himself, with deadlines for a Christmas release coming down upon him.

What’s more, things were hectic for Barry as well. The title song was changed late from Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang to Thunderball. “Barry worked overtime to incorporate the new theme into the score so it wouldn’t look like the kind of pasted-on song he loathed,” according to The Music of James Bond by Jon Burlingame.

You Only Live Twice: Originally, Peter Hunt was going to be the second unit director and not edit (see James Bond in the Cinema by John Brosnan). But early cuts of the movie were running long and Hunt ended up applying his editing talents as well. The film’s running time ended up just under two hours.

The Man With the Golden Gun: John Barry, generally, scored Bond films on a tight schedule. According to Burlingame’s book, even Barry felt the pressure. Barry only had three weeks to complete the entire score.

There are other examples, of course. In general, movies can be saved in post-production (1975’s Jaws being a notable example).

Bond crew members overlooked by the Oscars

John Barry (1933-2011)

Recently, the blog had articles concerning James Bond crew members who got overlooked about the Oscars.

With this month’s announcements about nominees for the 2022 Oscars, that tension has come up again.

At least four Bond crew members, who had an extensive relationship with the 007 film series, received Oscars — just not for their work on Bond movies.

They are:

–John Barry (five Oscars, but no Bond nominations.)

–Ken Adam (two Oscar wins, one Bond nomination)

–Peter Lamont (one Oscar win, three Oscar nominations, one for a Bond movie)

–Ted Moore (one Oscar win, no nomination for a Bond movie)

For the record, Adam and Lamont shared that one Bond nomination. That was for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Here is where Adam and Lamont lost.