Harry Saltzman, the forgotten man, gets remembered

If the official 007 Twitter feed were your only source of information, you’d have to conclude the two guys on the left weren’t that important to the Bond movies.

It only took eight months and 319 posts, but the official 007 Twitter feed got around to mentioning Harry Saltzman, the co-founder of Eon Productions, which produces the James Bond film series.

OTDIBH: 1961, Eon Productions, the company behind the 007 series, was founded by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. ‪

The 007 Twitter feed, remember, is the official face of Eon as Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film, comes out this fall. The official Twitter feed didn’t get around to mentioning Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator, until May 28 (the 104th anniversary of the author’s birth). It took even longer to recognize Saltzman who supervised script development of the earlier Bond movies. He was the one, for example, who brought in writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins to revise Richard Maibaum’s drafts for Goldfinger and Thunderball.

Of course, if you checked out message boards on some James Bond Web sites, you’d see how some fans would claim that’s not really producing. In fact, supervising scripts is one of the most important things a movie producer does.

However, history is written by the winners. Saltzman sold out his interest in Eon in 1975 because he got into financial trouble. And the Broccoli-Salztman partnership was not an easy one.

Still, on the occasion of the golden anniversary of the cinema 007, it’s ridiculous to pretend as if Saltzman never existed. Saltzman, not Broccoli, had obtained the option for the film rights of the majority of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels. Without Saltzman, Eon would not come to be. If Broccoli had never met Saltzman (thanks to an introduction by writer Wolf Mankowitz), Cubby might have died the obscure producer of less-than-memorable screen epics such as The Bandit of Zhobe and Hell Below Zero.

The official 007 Twitter feed — and by extension, Eon itelf — avoided that level of ridiculousness today.

Peter Morgan, 007 fans hardly knew ye

Peter Morgan, screenwriter of Frost/Nixon and other prestige movies, joined a line of scribes such as Len Deighton and Anthony Burgess, who gave a try at writing a James Bond movie and couldn’t get it done. “The whole thing went to hell,” Morgan said in an interivew, published on the Indie Wire blog. “I’m so happy to be doing something else.”

Eon Productions put out a news release last year saying that Morgan would join Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in writing Bond 23. In the Indie Wire interview, which you can view for yourself starting around the 3:20 mark of the following video, Morgan says he “wrote a treatment, I never wrote a script…I went there with an orignial idea.” He never mentions Purvis and Wade.

Take a look for yourself:

In the next video, starting at the 0:15 mark, Morgan says the Bond is dated and “I’m not sure it’s possible to do it … I do think the absence of social reality in the Bond film…if they fix that, or they get that of if they get that in a script, which I’m so hoping they will, where you can actually believe in him, that he isn’t just a person in a dinner jacket…he is a creature of the Cold War, Bond….I just personally struggle to believe a British secret agent is still saving the world.”

Morgan goes on the praise Sam Mendes, the would-be director of Bond 23. You can see for yourself:

Eventually, the financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the Bond franchise, caused Morgan to cease his efforts, which he clearly doesn’t seem sad about. The fate of Bond 23 won’t be decided until MGM’s future is resolved.

Some observations and specuation about Morgan’s comments:

— Prestige apparently means more to current Eon boss-people Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli than it did to master showman Albert R. Broccoli, Eon’s co-founder with Harry Saltzman. Broccoli relied on Richard Maibaum, at least for first drafts, while Saltzman tried to entice more prestigious scribes, such as Paul Dehn (on Goldfinger) and John Hopkins (on Thunderball) to revamp Maibaum’s early drafts. Deighton also did some work on From Russia With Love, according to U.K. film historian Adrian Turner, and Burgess was among a gaggle of writers that pitched ideas for The Spy Who Loved Me. But the old Eon seemed to keep it all in perspective (i.e. they didn’t let the search for presige bog down the screenwriting process) than the current crew.

— Morgan sounds like he was never highly interested in the world of 007. You half expect him to sound like Sebastian Faulks, author of a 2008 Bond continuation novel, that it might be a jolly good romp to try writing a Bond movie.

— This is another case why press releases shouldn’t be viewed as any more than the tip of an iceburg.

007 Fidelity Index: How close are the films to the books? Part I

An exchange of e-mails between James Bond fans referenced a range of faithfulness of the 007 films to Ian Fleming’s novels. That got us to thinking, what would a spectrum of 007 fidelity look like?

Here’s our try at it. To keep thing simple, we’re keeping it to the official series made by Eon Productions

THE ONE ABOVE THE REST

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: The major components of Fleming’s novel, written in 1962 while filming of Dr. No was underway in Jamaica, are in Peter Hunt’s film version. Richard Maibuam (aided by Simon Raven’s dialogue polish) brings the books’s two storylines closer by having Blofeld capture Tracy, giving her a role in the cliamatic attack on Piz Gloria. The filmmakers may have considered further deviations, but the finished product is the closest to having Fleming’s world put up on the screen.

BEST OF THE REST

Dr. No: Some sequences, and even dialgoue, are taken directly from Fleming’s 1958 novel. But Dr. No now works for SPECTRE, rather than the Russians; the screenwriters add Felix Leither and a new character, Miss Taro; Bond’s trip through Dr. No’s obstacle course is removed and he just crawls through tunnels instead; and Dr. No’s demise is totally changed.

From Russia With Love: No. 2 in the series again transposes sequences and dialgoue. Still, some notable tinkering — including having SPECTRE organizing the plot instead of the Russians; Bond gets off the Orient Express much earlier, creating two new, outdoor action sequences; and Bond’s final faceoff with Klebb occurs in Venice, rather than Paris and the film lacks the cliffhanger ending of Fleming’s original. On the latter point, given the filmmakers changed the order of books they used, that’s just as well but it’s still a deviation.

Goldfinger: Makes changes that improve upon Fleming’s 1959 novel, including having the villain plot to irridate Fort Knox’s gold (to make his own more valuable) rather than stealing it. Screenwriter Maibuam felt the novel’s buzz saw corny and a cliche, so the laser beat was introduced instead. The Maibuam-Paul Dehn script also has Goldfinger in an alliance with China, rather than working for the Russians.

Thunderball: The film is not only based on Fleming’s novel but scripts that preceded the book. The novel introduced Blofeld and he’s still pulling the strings here, with Largo being the operational commander. Maibaum and co-screenwriter John Hopkins make things more complicated by having SPECTRE substitute a double for a NATO pilot, rather than just buying off the pilot. And the climatic underwater fight takes place in the middle of the day (probably to make things easier to film, a difficult enough undertaking in 1965) rather than at night.

Casino Royale: In the 21st Century, Eon adds considerably to the basic story of Fleming’s first novel. Also, Vesper’s suicide is transformed from just taking an overdose of pills to being part of a huge action set piece. Still, the main part of Fleming’s novel is there, including the torture sequence and “The bitch is dead” line.

TO BE CONTINUED