007 scripts and a gun to be auctioned

Screenplay title card for Thunderball (1965) that references Jack Whittingham

Thunderball scripts and related documents from writer Jack Whittingham and a Walther PPK that belonged to actor Bernard Lee are to be sold at separate auctions.

On Dec. 11, “seven items from the personal archive of the daughter of acclaimed British playwright and screenwriter Jack Whittingham will be auctioned” according to a statement by Bonhams.

Whittingham was the screenwriter employed by Kevin McClory in an attempt to make a James Bond film a reality. The project wasn’t successful and Ian Fleming wrote his Thunderball novel based on the material. A court fight ensued. In a settlement, McClory got the film rights to the novel. Eon Productions brought McClory into the fold for 1965’s Thunderball. McClory was involved with competing 007 projects of which only one, 1983’s Never Say Never Again, was made.

Among the items being auctioned by Sylvan Whittingham Mason are:

–A 35-page treatment dated Nov. 10, 1959 and titled James Bond of the Secret Service.

–First draft script titled Longitude 78 West.

–Letters and documents between Whittingham, McClory, Ian Fleming and others.

Bernard Lee (1908-1981)

Meanwhile, a Walther PPK handed to Sean Connery’s 007 in an early scene of 1962’s Dr. No is being auctioned, according to the BBC. An excerpt from the story:

The Walther PPK pistol was owned at the time by M actor Bernard Lee, who brought it on set when a prop was not available.

A letter signed by Lee confirms the then fully-active gun was the “first ever to appear in a James Bond film”.

Auctioneer Jonathan Humbert described the piece as a “superlative piece of British film history”.

In the scene, M forces Bond to give up his Beretta .25 handgun (“It jammed on you last job.”) and take the Walther instead. The scene was a straight adaption of Fleming’s 1958 novel.

UPDATE (1:20 p.m., New York time): On social media, some fans say the gun seen in Dr. No is really a Walther PP, not a PPK. As a result, they’re questioning how valid this item is. A website (new to me) called the Internet Movie Firearms Data Base states this as so. (The site looks similar to Wikipedia with a logo looking similar the Internet Movie Data Base). So if you’re thinking about bidding, Caveat Emptor.

UPDATE (4:50 p.m., New York time): The blog looked up the actual listing for the gun being auctioned. Here’s part of what the listing says:

“This Walther PPK was the personal property of Bernard Lee (who played ‘M’) and was gifted to the vendor (referred to as ‘your boy’ in above letter). According to Eon Productions- the ‘call list’ for this scene (list of props required for filming) included ‘a gun’ however, said gun was not available at the time of filming so Bernard Lee bought in his own. It is famously known that a Walther PP, not a PPK was in fact used in the balance of the filming- and likely Bernard Lee’s ‘live and unregistered’ PPK was inappropriate for filming on location and Eon’s PP was the only substitute available. This is therefore, the first of the famous James Bond Walther PPKs to appear in a Bond film.”

I have the feeling that explanation isn’t going to satisfy many, but there you have it.

1960: First attempt at a Thunderball script

Kevin McClory's cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory’s cameo in Thunderball

Bond collector Gary J. Firuta loaned us a copy of the first script in what would eventually become 1965’s Thunderball — but it’s an uneven effort at best.

The script was Jack Whittingham’s first draft, titled Longitude 78 West for producer Kevin McClory. It’s dated as being completed on Feb. 15, 1960. The title page specifically refers to it as a “first draft screenplay” that’s “Based on a story by Ian Fleming.”

The villains belong to the Mafia and are led by Giovanni “Joe” Largo. Except we’re told in the second half of the script that name is an alias. Nevertheless, he is identified as Largo throughout the script in both lines of dialogue and in stage directions.

Aside from the hijacking of two atomic bombs, there’s no other action in the script’s first half. It begins with a short pre-credits sequence where U.S. President Harry S. Truman comments about how, one day, civilization could be destroyed by atomic weapons.

“It is hoped that we may be able to persuade Mr. Truman to record this scene,” the stage directions read. “If not, it’s (sic) intention and content can be expressed quite easily some other way.”

Bond doesn’t appear until page 26. The rule of thumb is that one page of script equals a minute of running time. So 007 wouldn’t be seen until almost a half-hour into the movie. He’s on the shooting range at headquarters, in a scene similar to the opening of Fleming’s Moonraker novel.

Bond is summoned to M’s office. Here, the secretary to the MI6 chief is named simply Penny, not Moneypenny. The British government has been notified by the Mafia it has the atomic bombs and it wants 100 million pounds.

We also see things unfold in the Bahamas. Largo’s mistress is Gaby. It’s clear she’s not particularly enthusiastic about the arrangement. He wants her for, in effect, decoration at an upcoming meeting of delegates to a supposed union meeting (of course they’re fellow members of the Mafia, or the Brotherhood). “I’ve got a lot of entertaining to do, and I want you around,” Largo tells Gaby.

Bond meets Gaby at a hotel on page 38. It turns out Largo’s group is meeting there as well. Bond orders a planter’s punch from a bartender and buys a vodka martini for Gaby. They talk until page 41, when Bond first gets a look at Largo and 007 meets the villain on the following page.

Shortly thereafter, Bond meets up with the CIA’s Felix Leiter. After a meeting with the governor of the Bahamas, the agents have lunch. Bond talks a lot about food. When Bond asks the waiter for a wine list, Leiter replies: “Not for me thanks. Bring me a glass of water.” Bond says, “Of course, I’d forgotten!” What he forgot is never explained.

In the story, there’s a sequence that goes back and forth between Bond romancing Gaby and Leiter keeping tabs on Largo’s group. There’s also a scene where Gaby talks to Johnni, a young boy who’s a crew member on Largo’s yacht. Bond wonders why Gaby is so interested in children. She replies because she can’t have any.

The action picks up in the second half. Largo is mad about Bond being with Gaby, and the agent gets beaten up. Eventually, the Mafia makes its move and is ready to bring one of the bombs to Miami.

Bond plays Largo in a game of baccarat. Presumably, this is an homage to Fleming’s Casino Royale and the scene is more important that a similar scene in Thunderball; in that version, the card game is where Bond and Largo first meet. Bond tries to win Gaby to his side and instructs her how to deactivate, or activate, the bomb.

Meanwhile, Leiter, while not an equal to Bond, is more of a participant in events than he’d be in Thunderball. He gets captured by Largo and is on the villain’s yacht.

In the climax, Bond is involved in an underwater fight with the Mafia (though not as expansive as would take place in Thunderball). Largo shoots Leiter, after the CIA agent had gotten free. Largo takes Gaby and the other bomb in an airplane.

Bond tends to Felix and watches the plane getting away. Then, the aircraft goes up in an atomic explosion. “She’s done it…She had the guts…She’s done it!” Bond says as the story ends.

Besides the downer ending, which 007 audiences wouldn’t experience until 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the script is unusual in other ways. It’s very chatty. VERY chatty. Scenes go on and on. Bond comes across as a social worker where he quizzes Gaby about her fondness for children.

Granted this is a first draft, but one suspects if this version had gone before the cameras, the cinema 007 might have ended right there.

Hitchcock directs Burton as Bond?

richard-burtonBurl Ives as “Henrico” Largo? Richard Burton as James Bond? Directed by Alfred Hitchcock??

“Liquidator65” has the whole story over at Jive Mofo, in a concise retelling of how the cinematic James Bond came to be, and Kevin McClory’s sisyphean efforts to create a parallel 007 film series.

Of course, we all know how things turned out, and are generally grateful for the outcome. On the other hand, Richard Burton as James Bond 007 in Alfred Hitchcock’s LONGITUDE 78 WEST sounds an intriguing notion.

Go, read and learn.