Our archive of Fleming U.N.C.L.E. correspondence

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

As a footnote to our Oct. 3 post about correspondence related to Ian Fleming’s involvement with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., we’ve put up the text from some of the letters.

You can view that text ON THIS PAGE at our sister site, THE SPY COMMAND FEATURE INDEX.

Most of the letters displayed there are from Felton to Fleming, but one is by the 007 author after he signed away his rights to the television series for 1 British pound.

Also included is the text of the cease-and-desist letter sent by attorneys representing 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, which sought to stop production of the show.

Finally, there’s a 1965 letter from Felton to an MGM executive in England. MGM had been approached about Felton’s availability to help with what would become The Life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson. In the letter, Felton discusses how his lawyers said not to talk about Fleming at all.

Here we go again: SPECTRE an origin story, Mendes says

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

It’s deja vu all over again.

Sam Mendes, the director of SPECTRE, is quoted in an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY STORY as saying the 24th James Bond film is an origin story.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The Bond creation myth never happened,” Mendes says. “I felt there was an opportunity there: What made him? And who were the people who affected him along the way? You’re sort of telling the story backwards of how Bond became Bond.”

Nine years ago, Casino Royale, the 21st 007 film and the first to star Daniel Craig, was marketed as an origin story for Bond.

This continued well after its theatrical release. In the United States, the USA cable channel showed the film. USA’s promos had the tagline, “How James became Bond!”

In the Casino Royale novel, author Ian Fleming’s first, Bond already was a veteran agent. The story took place in 1951 (or so we’re told in Fleming’s Goldfinger novel) and Bond had been active as an operative since World War II.

That was then, this is now. “Spectre provides a kind of culmination to the three previous films while developing a backstory that’s been largely unexplored until now,” according to the Entertainment Weekly story.

The main thing that’s changed since Casino Royale is that Danjaq LLC/Eon Productions (the Broccoli-Wilson family entities that control the Bond film rights and produce the films) reached a settlement with the estate of Kevin McClory.

That settlement, reached in 2013, gives Danjaq/Eon (and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, their partner) control of SPECTRE and the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

SPECTRE and Public Relations 101

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

It’s been a rough year for Sony Pictures. It got hacked. A lot of its corporate secrets got exposed.

And it has shown Sony (and/or its James Bond partners) are not very good at basic public relations, at least where SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film is concerned. It has trouble effectively communicating basic information such as release dates.

Here’s a step-by-step analysis.

July 11, 2013: The release date is first announced in THIS STATEMENT FROM SONY. It reads in part, ” The film is set for release in the UK on October 23, 2015 and in the US on November 6, 2015.”

So far, so good. But on Dec. 4, 2014, when announcing the movie WILL BE CALLED SPECTRE, Sony adds this detail: ” SPECTRE begins principal photography on Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.”

There is no mention of a separate release date for the U.K. Based on this release — put out by the studio releasing the movie — fans conclude there is now a worldwide release date of Nov. 6, 2015.

July 17, 2015: The announcement goes out the movie will have its world premier on Oct. 26, 2015.  The movie will also be available for watching in the U.K. and Ireland the very same day.

That’s different than what was announced in December, but things change. However, the MI6 James Bond site put out this tweet in response to a comment this blog made on Twitter:

In other words, Sony was aware there was a problem, but did nothing publicly to deal with it.

But don’t worry. One James Bond fan site comes along and says Sony isn’t to blame. It’s the fault those who read the Dec. 4 press release and took it at face value.

And to double down, the same fan site makes this remark, letting everyone know of its insider knowledge:

On top of everything else, some time back, the Canadian arm of Sony put out a tweet that gave out a possible SPECTRE spoiler. (Don’t click on the link if you don’t want to know.)

This may all be academic. Sony’s contract to release Bond movies ends with SPECTRE. It’s possible another studio may cut a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release future 007 films.

“Retcon”: For Your Eyes Only now official SPECTRE movie

Blofeld (apparently we can actually call him that now) menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

Blofeld (apparently we can actually call him that now) menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

The James Bond film series has done what’s known in comic books as a “retcon” — or retroactive change in continuity. It appears 1981’s For Your Eyes Only is now officially considered a SPECTRE-related movie.

When did this happen? Today when the official 007 site today announced A HOME VIDEO RELEASE in connection with the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s the start of the press release:

As fans prepare for the November 6th release of SPECTRE, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release an all-new line-up of special edition Blu-rays, DVDs and box-sets on September 15th.

Two never-before-seen featurettes are included with interviews from Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. “The Shadow of SPECTRE” will recount the fictional history of the global criminal syndicate and terrorist organization, “The Story So Far” will provide an overview of Daniel Craig’s first three Bond movies.

Six films featuring the SPECTRE organization (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY) and the three recent Daniel Craig titles (CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL) will each get a limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook release, their cover designs inspired by each film’s opening title sequence. (emphasis added)

Interestingly, at the time of its release, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only wasn’t considered a SPECTRE related film. Its pre-titles sequence features a wheelchair-bound villain who looked like Ernst Stavro Blofeld but wasn’t identified as such.

The script, by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, had a line where the villain notes this is the 10th anniversary of his last encounter with Bond. That would appear to be a veiled reference to 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The line was cut from the movie but appears in the Marvel Comics adaptation.

At the time, Kevin McClory still held the film rights to Thunderball and he claimed ownership of the Blofeld character.

Presumably, with Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2013 obtaining all of the 007 rights held by McClory’s estate, all of that is moot now. Voila, For Your Eyes Only’s story has been changed.

One other note: Dr. No, the first 007 film, was also SPECTRE related because Dr. No was a member of the criminal organization. However, Blofeld didn’t put in an appearance, probably explaining why it’s not listed as part of this package.

A thought or two about the James Bond musical

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

“I have to sing now?” “Be quiet, darling!”

We’ve had the first volley about a possible (unlikely?) James Bond stage musical. Here are a few reactions from this modest corner of the Internet.

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape…and you don’t mess around with Jim (Bond)”

In this corner, we have Danjaq LLC (the holding company for Broccoli-Wilson family’s 007 interests, including Eon Productions). In the other, we have a daughter of Danjaq-Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman who says her stage production is a parody that’s protected by fair use provisions of copyright law.

Merry Saltzman announced last week she had secured the rights for a 007 musical. This week, Danjaq/MGM, which control the 007 film rights, said they also control the stage rights. Danjaq/MGM said they haven’t licensed those rights to anybody.

Merry Saltzman, the daughter of Danjaq/Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman, replied her planned stage production is a parody, which falls under fair use provisions of copyright law. In short, she doesn’t need to license any rights from Danjaq/MGM.

A little bit of history: Danjaq had been known to employ lawyers to try to shut down anything it viewed as a threat.

The original Danjaq founders, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, bullied 007 creator Ian Fleming to abandoning his activities related to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series. So much so, Fleming sold off his U.N.C.L.E. interest for one British pound in June 1963, at a time the success of the 007 film series was far from assured. Danjaq/Eon, famously, also went after Kevin McClory when he tried to mount movies based on the 007 rights he held.

Regardless of how sound Merry Saltzman’s case is, she probably has fewer resources for a legal fight than Danjaq/Eon. Lawyers may end up making money than this stage production will generate.

Is this really a good idea?

This is the broader issue. A half-century ago, Mad magazine did a parody of a 007 magazine.

It was pretty funny. Written by Frank Jacobs and drawn by Mort Drucker, it had a lot of good jokes and featured “songs” written to the tune of songs from Oklahoma!

Still, for all of the hard word by Jacobs and Drucker, that’s not anywhere near the effort to put on a Broadway stage production. Has Merry Saltzman really lined up enough entertainment to do a Broadway/Las Vegas show? Intentionally entertaining, that is.

Merry Saltzman says planned 007 musical is a parody

Skyfall's poster image

Will 007 sing yet?

The woman behind a planned James Bond musical says she’s pushing on with the project.

Merry Saltzman TOLD PLAYBILL, that her production doesn’t need to be licensed from Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which control the film rights and say they also control the stage rights.

The reason? Saltzman says the play is a parody and that it “does not require permission from the owners of the intellectual property being parodied,” according to Playbill.

Copyright law includes “fair use” provisions where parts of copyrighted works can be used. Parody is an example of fair use. Mad magazine, for example, deals in parody. Mad has parodied 007 on a number of occasions, although he’s usually called “James Bomb” or another name to make clear it is a parody.

On July 8, Danjaq (holding company for the Broccoli-Wilson family 007 interests, including Eon Productions) and MGM issued A STATEMENT in response to Saltzman’s announcement about her stage production, to be called James Bond: The Musical. Danjaq and MGM said “no James Bond stage show may be produced without their permission.”

Saltzman issued her own statement to Playbill that said, “We are producing a parody, no permissive rights are required from Eon, Danjaq, MGM et al to produce our show; it will not infringe on their intellectual property. James Bond: The Musical will go on as planned.” Saltzman told Playbill that a reference in her original announcement to having secured rights, referred to acquiring “rights to a James Bond musical parody written by Dave Clarke with music and lyrics by Jay Henry Weisz.”

From a distance, this would appear to be an aggressive utilization of parody/fair use. It’s one thing for a half-dozen pages in Mad or a short 007 skit on Saturday Night Live. It’s another to do a complete stage musical. We’ll see.

Merry Saltzman is the daughter of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Danjaq and Eon. Harry Saltzman sold his 007 rights to United Artists in 1975 because of personal financial troubles. MGM acquired UA in the early ’80s. To read the entire Playbill story, CLICK HERE.

Danjaq, MGM say they haven’t licensed a 007 musical

Skyfall's poster image

Oh, no, 007

Danjaq LLC, the holding company for James Bond rights held by the Broccoli-Wilson family, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer threw cold water on Merry Saltzman’s announcement about a James Bond stage muscial.

Danjaq and MGM said IN A STATEMENT they haven’t licensed the stage rights to Ms. Saltzman, daughter of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Danjaq and Eon Productions.

“Danjaq and MGM jointly control all live stage rights in the Bond franchise, and therefore no James Bond stage show may be produced without their permission,” according to the statement.

Merry Saltzman last week announced she had secured the rights to a do a stage musical. She said at the time that a production called James Bond: The Musical could start performances by 2017 or early 2018.

Harry Saltzman sold his interest in 007 to United Artists in 1975 because he had encountered financial troubles. MGM acquired UA in the early 1980s.


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