Peter O’Toole dies; his minor 007 connection

A pair of Peters: Sellers and O'Toole in 1967's Casino Royale

A pair of Peters: Sellers and O’Toole in 1967’s Casino Royale

Peter O’Toole has died at 81. His stellar career included one very, very minor James Bond connection: an unbilled cameo in producer Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 Casino Royale spoof.

We’d try to explain, but it’s really not worth it. Feldman signed up a lot of famous actors for his over-the-top comedy. The producer opted to go the spoof route after being unable to cut a deal with Albert R. Broccoli (a former employee) and Harry Saltzman, who held the film rights to the bulk of the Ian Fleming 007 stories.

O’Toole in various obituaries (including THE GUARDIAN, VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER) understandably emphasized his role as the title character in Lawrence of Arabia.

That 1962 film, directed by David Lean, had a crew that would have a greater impact on the film world of James Bond: director of photography Freddie Young (You Only Live Twice), camera operator Ernie Day (who’d be a second unit director on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) and special effects man Cliff Richardson, the father of John Richardson, who’d work special effects on several Bond movies.

Also, Spy’s composer, Marvin Hamlisch, included a snippet of Maurice Jarre’s main theme for Lawrence for a scene set in the Eyptian desert.

007 references at the Oscars (R)

"Who's this Sandler kid?"

The Oscars (R) telecast on ABC early in the proceedings had a montage of clips of popular movies of yesteryear. Austin Powers made the cut while 007 got blanked.

Shortly thereafter, there was a montage of actors talking about the first movie they saw. Adam Sandler said his was Diamonds Are Forever when he was 5. He said something about being impressed by Sean Connery’s performance and his chest hair and that inspired him to become an actor. For some critics, that will be seen as another reason why Bond films aren’t good.

UPDATE: Bond film alumnus John Richardson lost out on a visual effects Oscar. He and three others were nominated for Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The special effects team for Hugo won the award.

UPDATE II: Skyfall screenwriter John Logan, nominated for Hugo, loses out on the adapted screenplay award. The writers for The Descendants win.

UPDATE III: The In Memoriam segment had only one person with any major 007 connection, former studio executive John Calley, who was involved in relaunching the Bond series with 1995’s GoldenEye. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, reportedly had issues with Calley. Like him or not, he was a major player at a time some questioned whether the series could be revived after a long hiatus.

Syd Cain, who passed away last year and helped sets on a number of 007 films, wasn’t included. In 2011, major actors such as Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Falk passed away as did Gilbert Cates, a director who also produced a number of Oscar telecasts and who first hired Billy Crystal as host of the Oscars telecast.

The Men Who Would Be Bond

The Men Who Would Be Bond

Back in 1969, after it was certain that Sean Connery would not be returning to the role he made famous, LIFE magazine ran a photo story about the various actors auditioning to take his place as the cinematic James Bond. Obviously, the magazine did not print every picture photographer Loomis Dean took, focusing instead on the eventual winner, George Lazenby.

Now, LIFE’s website is running the previously unpublished photographs documenting the tryouts of actors John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Robert Campbell, and Hans de Fries, as they vie for cinematic history. (There’s also some choice shots of Lazenby that we haven’t seen before.)

So, stop wasting your time reading this, and get yourself over to the LIFE magazine website for the answer to that vexing question: Who Would Be James Bond?

OHMSS’s 40th anniversary Part I: The men who would be Bond

In a few short weeks it will be the 40th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film is a) one of the best, if not the best, James Bond movies; b) the “first major hiccup” in the Bond series (as TCM weekend host Ben Mankiewicz put it in introducing Diamonds Are Forever when that film was shown on TCM in May; c) the rare Bond film with an unhappy ending.

It’s such an important film to the Bond series, we figured it was worth the same treatment we gave to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. The best place to start is with the obvious: it was the first film in the official 007 film series not to star Sean Connery.

The reasons for that have been much written about, including Connery’s tiring of the role *and* feeling unappreciated and underpaid (particularly in comparison to the paychecks Dean Martin was getting for the Matt Helm film series). You can’t have a Bond movie without a Bond, so somebody had to be chosen.

Life magazine gave its readers a view of the five finalists in a collage of photographs taken by Loomis Dean.

The late Peter Hunt, the film’s director, described in the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service there were numerous potential Bonds tested. The Life photos gave a hint of that, including actor John Richardson performing a love scene. Also shown was a shot of actor Anthony Rogers’s screen test. Others under consideration were Hans De Vries, Robert Cambell and an Australian model named George Lazenby.

Life also showed actors auditioning for other roles including Agneta Eckemyr doing a screen test, apparently for the role of Tracy, 007’s doomed bride. In that photo Hunt can be seen in the lower right.

In the end, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman went with George Lazenby, the least experienced of the five 007 finalists. The move would have a major effect on the film.