007 in New York exhibition opens

Ken Adam sketches shown at Spyscape in New York (Photo courtesy of Gary J. Firuta)

This weekend, the Driven: 007 x Spyscape, a James Bond exhibition opened up in New York.

The blog couldn’t make it for real-life reasons. However Gary J. Firuta, a friend of the blog, was present and sent some photographs.

Spyscape is a New York City spy museum. The Driven: 007 x  Spyscape exhibit was intended to provide “a different perspective in this brand new exhibition.”

“The multi-sensory experience explores the creative process behind the 007 movies while revealing the secrets of James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin DB5.”

The exhibit takes up five rooms at Spyscape. Over the past two weeks, a number of 007 fan sites indicated they’d be present for this weekend.

The exhibit’s debut came a little more than a month before the beginning of principal photography of Bond 25.

Lewis Gilbert, director of three 007 epics, dies

Lewis Gilbert

Lewis Gilbert (1920-2018)

Lewis Gilbert, who directed three of the biggest, most spectacular James Bond films, has died at 97, according to a tweet by the James Bond fan website From Sweden With Love.

Gilbert helmed You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). The three epics contained more less the same basic plot, where a villain is going to wipe out huge parts of mankind.

The films also utilized production designer Ken Adam to the fullest, including a SPECTRE headquarters inside a volcano, a tanker that swallowed atomic submarines and a space station.

Gilbert wasn’t the most obvious choice to supervise such massive, escapist movies. The director’s first films in the 1940s were documentaries. During the 1950s and ’60s, he directed dramas or comedies such as The Good Die Young, Sink the Bismarck!, The 7th Dawn and Alfie.

The latter, released in 1966, was critically acclaimed. According to the documentary Inside You Only Live Twice, Gilbert initially turned down directing Bond but producer Albert R. Broccoli remained insistent until he got his man.

Twice was the first 007 film to totally dispense with the plot of an Ian Fleming novel as it instead tried to top its 1965 predecessor, Thunderball, for spectacle. It turned out not to be as big a hit as Thunderball but was still popular. The movie was overshadowed, to an extent, by star Sean Connery announcing he was through as Bond.

Gilbert directed other films until Broccoli came calling again. The producer had split with partner Harry Saltzman. This time, Broccoli only had a Fleming title with The Spy Who Loved Me.

By the mid 1970s, some questioned how much life was left in 007. The Man With the Golden Gun’s global box office had slid almost 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die. The Spy Who Loved Me would test both Broccoli and Bond’s box office appeal.

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The 10th James Bond film proved to be a big hit. Gilbert was brought back for Moonraker while Broccoli sought to make an even more extravagant film where Bond would go into outer space.

“Bond is just a huge entertainment, it isn’t just a normal film,” Gilbert told the BBC during filming of Moonraker in Rio. “It isn’t meant meant to be a great drama…It is pure escapism.”

Moonraker also delivered at the box office, although some fans complained the movie had strayed far beyond Fleming. Broccoli opted to bring Bond back to earth for For Your Eyes Only and the budget would be scaled back. Rather than retain Gilbert, Broccoli promoted editor-second unit director John Glen to the director’s chair.

Gilbert, though, didn’t lack for things to do. He directed six post-007 films, remaining active into the early 2000s. He wrote an autobiography, All My Flashbacks, that was published in 2010.

UPDATE (2 p.m. New York time): Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions issued a statement on the official James Bond website: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of our dear friend Lewis Gilbert. Lewis was a true gentleman. He made an enormous contribution to the British film industry as well as the Bond films, directing YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER. His films are not only loved by us but are considered classics within the series. He will be sorely missed.”

Gassner says he will be Bond 25’s production designer

Dennis Gassner told International Cinematographers Guild Magazine that he will return as production designer for Bond 25.

“I’m about to do my fourth James Bond film, and acknowledging the efforts of Ken Adam and others is a big part,” Gassner said. He said with franchise films ““you have to honor the established elements while meeting audience expectations.”

The ICG article primarily is about Blade Runner 2049.

Gassner, 68, took over as 007 production designer with 2008’s Quantum of Solace. He held the position with 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE.

Prior to Gassner, Peter Lamont had a long run as production designer starting with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only and running through 2006’s Casino Royale. The only Bond film Lamont didn’t work on during that period was 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.

The MI6 James Bond website earlier wrote about Gassner’s return as part of a roundup of recent Bond 25 news.

Below is a 2012 Skyfall video blog featuring Gassner describing his work on that film.

Roger Moore, 7-time film 007, dies at 89

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore, who played James Bond in 007 films in 12 years, has died at 89. His family announced his death via his Twitter account.

Moore died following “a short but brave battle with cancer,” according to the statement.

The actor was the third film Bond, following Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

During his tenure, from 1973 to 1985, the Bond films took a more lighthearted tone. But his films established, once and for all, the series could survive — and more — without Connery, the original film 007.

Moore’s first Bond film, 1973’s Live And Let Die, was an international hit. Its worldwide box office totaled $161.8 million, the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball’s $141.2 million. The U.S. box office was more modest, $35.4 million. That didn’t match the U.S. take for Connery’s Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever ($43.8 million).

Regardless, both Eon Productions and its feuding producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman along with studio United Artists were satisfied. Moore would continue.

The Man With the Golden Gun, released in late 1974, was a letdown with audiences, with the global box office falling 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die. The series, though, faced a larger crisis. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership was about to fall apart because of Saltzman’s financial problems.

UA bought out Saltzman, leaving Broccoli in charge. But the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me, would tell the tale whether 007 still had a future in the cinema.

The answer was yes. Spy had magnificent sets designed by Ken Adam, an Oscar-nominated score by Marvin Hamlisch and photography by the well-regarded Claude Renoir. Director Lewis Gilbert determined to play up the actor’s strengths. With Moore as the headliner,  James Bond once again was an undisputed hit.

The actor remained 007 for four more films. Eventually, Moore negotiated his Bond movies one production at a time. Broccoli would test screen potential replacements, including American James Brolin in 1982.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

But Broccoli kept returning to Moore, long after the actor turned 50.

Moore returned for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. It was a much more grounded Bond outing following 1979’s Moonraker, which saw 007 go into outer space. The pre-credits sequence was filmed as if it the movie was intended to introduce a new Bond, with 007’s face not initially revealed.

Eyes was the first film in years to extensively use Ian Fleming story lines, utilizing two short stories from the author’s 1960 For You Eyes Only collection. While things beccame more serious, Moore showed himself up to the task.

Two years later, Moore was back again for Octopussy. Sean Connery was starring in a rival Bond film, Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball. Broccoli eventually went with Moore.

The 1983 movie was more uneven than Eyes. But Moore gave off a “I know exactly what I’m doing” vibe. The “Battle of the Bonds” generated big publicity but the actor appeared as if he were unfazed by it all.

Many fans felt Moore, now nearing 60, stayed for one 007 adventure too many with 1985’s A View to a Kill. Fans who never warmed to Moore — and there are some who’ve spent decades decrying the actor — felt vindicated. For those who enjoyed Moore’s performances, it felt like the end of an era.

For more than three decades, Moore continued to be the Bond franchise’s best ambassador. He expressed support for his Bond successors, Daniel Craig in particular. 

Moore lived to a ripe old age. So long, he outlived and said good-bye to a number of colleagues. Among them: director Guy Hamilton (who helmed his first two 007 films), Ken Adam and fellow actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee.

The actor, of course, did much more than Bond. He had become a star playing The Saint on television in the 1960s. He followed that up with another television project, The Persuaders, with Tony Curtis as his co-star. And he was a goodwill ambassador for years for UNICEF.

From a 007 perspective, he helped establish the longevity of the Bond franchise. As late as 1972, people could ask in all seriousness whether Bond could survive Connery’s departure. After Moore’s 12 years as Bond, that wasn’t a question anymore.

Here is the Twitter post from the Moore family:

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Why this blog posts obituaries

Guy Hamilton

The tragic death of Chris Cornell this week was a reminder why this blog publishes so many obituaries.

Cornell’s death by suicide was sudden. To be honest, the blog’s obit was published so quickly because the Spy Command was up in the middle of the night and saw the news.

Obits are as much about lives led as they are the deaths that ended them.

Essentially, obituaries are a very rough first draft of the biographies of prominent people.

A little over a year ago, the blog began writing “prepared obituaries.” In the first part of 2016, the likes of George Martin, Ken Adam and others had died. They were in their 90s.

So the blog began writing prepared obits. The first one published was for Guy Hamilton, a four-time 007 film director whose credits included Goldfinger. The blog’s obit for Hamilton was, literally, written two days before his death. That was, admittedly, a little spooky.

If this sounds ghoulish, it’s not. The New York Times first wrote an obit for Fidel Castro in the 1950s when he was hiding in the jungles of Cuba. The idea is that the rough first-draft biography be as good as it can possibly be.

The blog has posted other prepared obits when those involved died. They included actor Mike Connors and television producer Bruce Lansbury.

Still, the blog is a hobby. This isn’t a major news organization that has an obituary desk. From time to time, there are sudden deaths, such as actor Robert Vaughn and Chris Cornell, that had to be written quickly.

Given that a lot of what the blog writes about originated more than a half-century ago, this is the way of the world.

It’s not fun by any means. But those who’ve departed deserve an appropriate send off. And that’s why the blog spends as much time on obits as it does.

Why we mourn those we’ve never met

Chuck Berry, Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer

Over the weekend, we witnessed the passing of Chuck Berry, a Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer (age 90); Jimmy Breslin, a distinguished columnist and journalist (age 88); and Bernie Wrightson, a notable comic book artist (age 68).

Their life details and accomplishments vary. But all three touched many. Social media was flooded with remembrances by fans.

A natural question is why so many can feel so intensely.

One answer is those involved touched many people. The passing of those who died this weekend somehow seems personal.

In a way, it is personal. Besides admiration for the accomplishments of the departed, there’s an additional layer of sadness. A piece of one’s own life has died. It is a reminder of one’s own mortality.

Baby Boomers likely are feeling this most of all. That generation is either in retirement age or approaching it. A weekend like this one is a reminder that Boomers are closer to the end than the beginning.

Here’s some context in terms of this blog and its primary subjects, the James Bond films and the spy entertainment generated by them.

In less than 12 months, we’ve witnessed deaths among the few remaining early key behind-the-camera contributors to the Bond film series (Ken Adam, Guy Hamilton). Among the “The Other Spies,” we’ve seen the death of Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

When the first screen Bond passes away — whoever it is, whenever it happens — there will be around round of mourning, one that will circle the globe.

This will only continue. It’s the way of the world.

Ken Adam makes In Memoriam; Robert Vaughn doesn’t

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, production designer on seven James Bond movies, was included in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars telecast Sunday night.

Adam also designed the sets of 1964’s Dr. Strangelove and won Oscars for Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George.

Also referenced in the segment was film editor Jim Clark, whose credits included 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Not making the segment was actor Robert Vaughn. While best known for television’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vaughn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for 1959’s The Young Philadelphians. He was also the last survivor of the actors who played The Magnificent Seven in the 1960 film.

Also not making the segment was Guy Hamilton, director of four James Bond films, including Goldfinger.

UPDATE (Feb. 27): I re-watched the In Memoriam segment. There were about 45 people shown in 2:48.