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.”

Roger Moore: Let’s just say, ‘Au Revoir’

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

On Dec. 31 2016, I spent New Year’s Eve alone. I decided it was a way to say goodbye to my late father who – among other things – introduced me to James Bond.

So, breaking all the known traditions, I popped in the BluRay discs of Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun and Moonraker starting around the afternoon and ending minutes before midnight, to bid farewell to him with those three classic films he always told me about before we watched them on blurry VHS tapes after he picked me up from school.

Little I knew that I was bidding farewell of their protagonist as well.

Painful Year

2017 will be remembered as a painful year for the James Bond community. On May 23, we lost our most remarkable ambassador: Sir Roger Moore, the longest serving James Bond actor in the official cinematic series starring Ian Fleming’s secret agent.

I received the news of his passing with great shock on the afternoon of that fateful day, during my lunch break. It was a simple text message saying “RIP Roger Moore.” My immediate reaction was, simply, to ask “What?!”

Of course, it sounds silly. One should expect an 89-year-old man to depart soon. Maybe I was among those who thought he would live forever and that’s where my surprise and astonishment of sorts came.

Sir Roger Moore became the first (official) film Bond to visit the ultimate location no other Bond has been in: heaven.

My first touch with Moore’s Bond came shortly after I discovered GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, almost 20 years ago.

It was my dad – whom I hope he has meet Roger up in the borderless skies by now – who once told me (in another lunch break, this time from school) about a Bond movie where a car made a 360 degree jump over a bridge.

Some days later, we were watching The Man With The Golden Gun on a VCR. And months later, we were enjoying Live And Let Die and Moonraker, in that order.

The days went on and as much older people than me explained that Roger Moore was also a relevant figure in The Persuaders! and The Saint, I managed to get a glimpse of those two wonderful TV series thanks to a retro channel that broke the barriers of time.

And as kids of my age were on Dragon Ball Z or Knight of The Zodiac, I was into the globe-trotting adventures of Lord Brett Sinclair and Simon Templar.

Personal Connection

I’m sure I’m not the only one who will feel Roger’s departure as something personal. He joined us on our childhood, teens and adult life.

He retired from the role of James Bond in 1985, exceptionally looking good at 58 years old and he went on to work in comedies and doing small appearances on TV shows like Alias. Much more important, he joined UNICEF and has been actively working as a Goodwill Ambassador, helping children in need.

Still, he always showed gratitude to the role he played in seven films over twelve years. He never refused an autograph. “I’m here because of them,” he told his daughter Deborah when she noted that he took so much time to sign photos, posters or DVD covers.

But more than that, he has been the only one true Bond Ambassador. Having his word on every released 007 film on his many published books or his Twitter account.

The Ambassador

He didn’t go to premieres often, but he cherished every time a new Bond adventure was released. He was the one who bid farewell to the many members of his cinematic family like Richard Kiel, Geoffrey Holder or Guy Hamilton, and a man that retained the same charm, style and sense of humor he had when he portrayed the role.

The truth is… I don’t see any of the other five actors fully acting as “Bond Ambassadors.”

Sean Connery seems out of the spotlight and has barely reconciled with the character that brought him to fame. Timothy Dalton remembers Bond from time to time. George Lazenby and Pierce Brosnan would be the closest ones as they often share an anecdote of their time as 007.

Lazenby had a funny biopic titled Becoming Bond and we see Brosnan sharing some publicity stills on Instagram although he’s clearly focused on his current projects. Yet, nobody had the panache of remembering James Bond as Sir Roger Moore did.

While the others portrayed Bond as another job, Moore was Bond until he died. That day, I felt as if James Bond –the unbeatable secret agent– had died. I never stopped feeling that at any age he still had the charm of the James Bond of the 1970s and 1980s.

Roger Moore was a very much important part of my time as a Bond fan. It’s fair to admit that I owe much of my good taste and my sense of humor to him.

It may be a cliché to say this at this point but, truly, nobody did it better.

Good-bye Roger, or – as I’ve learnt from you in that film of 1977 – let’s just say ‘au revoir.’

Thanks for being part of my life.

Evolution of the United Artists logo on 007 films

United Artists logo from 1983

United Artists is a forgotten studio today despite an illustrious history. It was founded in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith.

For James Bond fans, it was the studio that gave life to the cinematic 007. In 1961, UA, by then led by Arthur Krim, bought into the pitch by independent producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. For two decades, UA financed the 007 movies.

Under Krim’s leadership, UA invested in other film properties, including The Magnificent Seven, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night and movies starring The Beatles. Under Krim, UA acted more like a bank than a true studio, financing various independent producers. UA didn’t have actual studio facilities.

For first-generation 007 film fans, the UA logo (or lack thereof) was part of the theater experience. What follows is a look at what theater goers would see. Still other UA logos were devised for home video and television showings.

1962-1965: For the first four 007 films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball), there was no UA logo. Just a black screen before the gunbarrel logo. Some fans look on those days fondly. Without a logo, it build up the anticipation for the gunnbarrel.

1967: Transamerica, an insurance and financial conglomerate, bought UA in 1967 while keeping Krim and his crew in charge.

The first Bond film with a UA logo was You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Eon series. United Artists was identified as “a Transamerica company.” There was no music with the logo.

1969-1979: Tranamerica devised a stylized “T” logo that was incorporated with the United Artists logo.

Long-running UA logo under Transamerica ownership.

Theater goers would see the “T” logo come together, followed by the words, “United Artists, Entertainment From Transamerica Corporation.” There was still no music accompanying the logo.

This logo would run a full decade as far as the 007 series was concerned, beginning with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and running through 1979’s Moonraker.

However, behind the scenes, UA was undergoing challenges. Krim and his executives exited UA in the late 1970s, starting a new operation, Orion Pictures.

Various executives were promoted to replace them. That group (financially, at least) made a bet on director Michael Cimino and his movie Heaven’s Gate. It was a huge bomb. Would lead to….

UA logo, 1981

1981: Transamerica had enough with the unpredictable film business. The company sold off UA. The buyer was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a studio weaker than its glory days of the 1930s-1950s.

When For Your Eyes Only came out, there was a UA logo without mention of Transamerica. Just “United Artists,” with white letters on a black background.

1980s MGM/UA logo

In 1983, MGM was now billing itself as MGM/UA Entertainment Co. That year, UA-branded films (including the 007 adventure Octopussy). were followed by “United Artists Presents.”

With A View To a Kill, things were simplified, with just the MGM/UA logo.

UA logo, late 1980s

However, toward the latter part of the 1980s, a new stylized UA logo following a new MGM/UA logo (without MGM’s Leo the Lion in it).

Music accompanied the MGM/UA logo. When it switched to the UA logo there would be a “swoosh” sound effect.

This would be seen in 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill. What’s more, it shows up on some television versions of 007 films.

However, another shakeup was in store.

MGM in the early 1990s was in financial turmoil after it changed hands and called itself MGM-Pathe. French bank Credit Lyonnais took over MGM in 1991. Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, also sued MGM following an MGM sale of television rights to the 007 film series that Danjaq/Eon felt undervalued the movies.

UA logo in 1995

It wouldn’t be until 1995 things were sorted out where the Bond film series could resume with GoldenEye. (The bank would eventually sell MGM to Kirk Kerkorian, a previous owner of the studio.)

A new United Artists logo debuted with the words, “United Artists Pictures Inc.” Lights came together to form the words “United Artists.”

UA logo 1997

When 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies was released, the logo was tweaked slightly to say, “United Artists, An MGM Company.”

What’s more, versions of this logo were also used in home video releases of Bond films in the late 1990s. They were attached to the early 007 movies without logo and replaced UA-Transamerica logos in other movies.

And then, as far as Bond was concerned, it was over.

MGM 1999 logo used with The World Is Not Enough

Starting with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, Bond movies were now marketed under the main MGM brand name. That film included a version of the familiar MGM logo noting the studio’s 75th anniversary with the words, “A legacy of excellence.”

From this point forward, the only reminder of the UA days for Bond would be deep in the titles in the copyright notice where United Artists Corp. would be listed as one of the copyright holders.

Footnote: MGM revived the United Artists brand, cutting a 2006 deal with Tom Cruise’s production company. That resulted in the 2008 movie Valkyrie.

Footnote II: Orion Pictures, the outfit founded by the former UA executives, is part of MGM.

MI6 Confidential Comes Out With 2 Roger Moore Issues

Cover to MI6 Confidential No. 40, one of two Roger Moore tribute issues.

MI6 Confidential is out with not one, but two Roger Moore tribute issues.

In issue 40, there are features about how the actor was introduced as the new James Bond in the early 1970s and examinations of his first four 007 films, Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

In issue 41, there are features about For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. The issue also includes an interview with director John Glen, who helmed Moore’s Bond adventures of the 1980s.

According to the MI6 Confidential website, customers will be charged for two issues, or 14 British pounds plus postage and handling and such.

Full disclosure: The Spy Commander occasionally contributes to MI6 Confidential but wasn’t involved with either of these issues. Sir Roger died in May at the age of 89.

Roger Moore double features in LA in August

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

The New Beverly Cinema, a Los Angeles revival movie house owned by Quentin Tarantino, has scheduled Roger Moore double features in August.

According to the theater’s schedule, it is showing:

–Aug. 1: The Cannonball Run, a Burt Reynolds comedy with Moore playing a character who thinks he’s Roger Moore, and Mission: Monte Carlo, a movie that’s re-edited from two episodes of  The Persuaders! television show.

–Aug. 2-3: Ffolkes and The Wild Geese, two non-Bond action films with the actor. Both were directed by Andrew V. McLagen (1920-2014).

–Aug. 18-19: The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, Moore’s third and fourth films as James Bond.

According to the theater’s website, it only shows film prints.

Thanks to @jamesbondlive, the Twitter feed of the James Bond MI6 website for the tip.

Favorite of 007 scribes: Roger Moore safari suits

Roger Moore in Moonraker

Being a movie critic or writer about movies involves making observations and expressing opinions in the most witty way you can.

When it comes to James Bond films starring Roger Moore, the term safari suit it too tempting for some scribes to pass up.

Here are a few examples that have come up over the years.

STUART HERITAGE, THE GUARDIAN, JULY 5, 2010: “James Bond actually died long ago, when Roger Moore strapped himself into his first male girdle and started wheezing around in a safari suit.”

ANTHONY LANE, THE NEW YORKER, NOV. 16, 2015: “By custom, (James Bond films) have been stacked with beautiful people, and tricked out with beautiful objects, but the outcome was often unlovely to behold, with a gaucheness that ran far deeper than Roger Moore’s safari suit.”

MICHAEL HANN, THE GUARDIAN, OCT. 3, 2012: “Instead, (The Man With the Golden Gun’s) setting is just a background, as if the film were just a Duran Duran video with extra guns and safari suits.”

SIMON REYNOLDS, DIGITAL SPY, MAY 28, 2017: “When Roger Moore found out he was not only older than his Bond Girl co-star Tanya Roberts but older than her mother too, he knew it was time to hang up the safari suit.”

HELEN O’HARA, THE TELEGRAPH, AUG. 19, 2015: “Talk tailoring in the movies, and most will think immediately of James Bond, the super-spy with impeccable taste in practically everything. From Roger Moore’s safari-wear to Daniel Craig’s shawl-collar cardigan and chukka boots (a look modelled on Steve McQueen), he’s rarely to be found underdressed.”

JONATHAN SOTHCOTT, GQ.COM, MAY 20, 2014: “More recently, the hardcore Bond fans who were so vocal in their condemnation of Roger Moore’s playboy Bond have softened in their views, perhaps because Moore has become a bona fide national treasure, or perhaps because some of his Bond films are actually amongst the best in the series once the blinkers come off. Even his safari suits are beginning to become style touchpoints.”

For more information, check out The Suits of James Bond website’s 2015 infographic about about the actor’s “Infamous Safari Jackets and Shirts.”

The Spy We Loved: Remembering Roger Moore

Roger Moore’s Bond rarely lost his cool.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

The work of Sir Roger Moore has had a great impact in our lives. For some, he was Simon Templar, The Saint For others, he was the “Persuader” Brett Sinclair. For the ones who are reading this article, he was the longest-serving James Bond.

Moore was the first “English from England” Bond actor. He had the tough challenge to follow the Scottish-born Sean Connery, the first film 007.

Unlike Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby, who felt the pressure to “imitate” Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moore adapted much of his Simon Templar and Brett Sinclair personas in his James Bond. He was different than the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels. But he was very effective, achieving success and popularity for over 12 years.

Roger Moore’s first minute in Live and Let Die established him as a playboy. We see the new Bond sleeping with an Italian beauty, played by Madeleine Smith.

The rest of the 1973 movie wouldn’t be so comfortable for him. While moving along the streets of Harlem or the Louisiana bayous, he had to improvise escapes like maneuvering a plane with an elderly flying student or jumping over a row of hungry alligators.

The Man With The Golden Gun, his second Bond, had the influence of the martial arts craze that Bruce Lee created. The 1970s vibe was present with Lulu’s main title song and John Barry’s soundtrack, underlining Bond’s escape from karate experts, or a 360 degree jump with an AMC Matador accompanied by his annoying ally Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

No matter the odd, Roger Moore’s James Bond always looked clean and tidy, whether he was dressed with his ivory dinner jacket or his pistachio green safari suit. Comical, but well played, were the performances of Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize as the debonair assassin Scaramanga and his servant and accomplice, respectively.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

In spite of the humor that some considered ridiculous, The Man With The Golden Gun showed one of the few gritty moments of Moore: The scene where he interrogates Scaramanga’s lover Andrea (Maud Adams). This movie also features for the first time some ethical statements by James Bond, who differentiates himself of his nemesis by firmly saying “he only kills professionals.”

Moore’s third 007 adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me, was a breakthrough.

The 1977 film — the first Bond with Albert R Broccoli as sole producer — featured a solid script. It was an original story far from Ian Fleming’s novel of the same title that dealt with a shipping magnate plotting to instigate World War III to create “a beautiful world beneath the sea.”

The splendor of locales such as as Cairo and Sardinia gave brilliance to the movie. Its action scenes are among the best of the series. Spy stands out the epic battle between the forces of the villain Stromberg and the captive USS Wayne troops, allied to 007, inside the huge Liparus tanker.

Even when Moore admitted to be doubled in most of the action scenes, he looked both sympathetic and manfull in one his best performances as the secret agent. He himself declared to be pleased with the result, and the tenth film in the series was his favorite.

The biggest Bond extravaganza from the 1970s came at the very end of the decade: 1979’s Moonraker.

Roger Moore and Lois Chiles in a Moonraker publicity still

After the success of Star Wars, it was decided that James Bond was also important enough to conquer outer space to stop a madman. Moonraker remained the most successful box office Bond hit until GoldenEye in 1995.

Director John Glen took the helm of the Bond franchise in 1981, and the films became more down-to-earth. Nevertheless, Moore’s portrayal didn’t leave his sense of humor aside.

For Your Eyes Only felt the influence of the new decade with Bill Conti’s disco-inspired soundtrack, which emphasized some comical actions by the actor, such as the car chase in Madrid where Bond runs away from hit men in a Citroen 2 CV or ski sequences in Cortina D’Ampezzo, where 007 interferes in a bobsled track after knocking down like dominoes a row of skiing trainees. The gag was reprised in GoldenEye with bicycles.

However, For Your Eyes Only isn’t without grit. In one scene, Bond kicks Emile Locque’s car off to a cliff, sending the villain to his death. It is because of this scene Moore considered Locque one of the most important villains he faced, because he was reluctant to shoot it.

For Octopussy, James Bond visited India and Moore gave one of his hilarious performances: Going incognito as a clown to defuse a bomb in a circus tent and yelling like Tarzan while jumping ropes in a jungle are among the funniest moments in the film and the whole series.

While the plot had a serious backdrop such as the tension between the West and the East, Octopussy was a Bond film made for Roger Moore’s adventurer spirit — dozens of girls, car chases, fist fights, and many gags and funny one- liners.

He retired from the role after A View To A Kill, in 1985. The marketing campaign of the film tried to aim to a younger audience, promoting Duran Duran’s main title song throughout trailers and TV spots.

Popular singer Grace Jones joined the cast as the May Day. Christopher Walken portrayed one of the most ruthless Bond nemesis as Max Zorin. Courtesy of these two villains, A View To A Kill could be considered one of the most violent films from the Moore era. This is also reflected by John Barry’s music, which sounded more dramatic this in comparison with the more relaxed sound of Octopussy or The Man With The Golden Gun.

Then again, Roger Moore didn’t let his sense of humor out. Looking dashing at 57 years old, Moore illuminated the screen with his magnetism: he (or his doubles) could stand up on a fight or survive a dangerous stunt, but his best defense mechanisms were still the one-liners.

True to his nature, he spent his last minute onscreen taking a shower with Tanya Roberts character. In a way, he never detached himself from the playboy image. He felt more comfortable holding a glass of champagne than a gun. If he had the option, he would have opted for killing a villain with the smoke of his Davidoff cigars rather than with a bullet or a knife.

Some people may still debate if he was a good or a bad James Bond.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

He was just different – different than Sean Connery, different than George Lazenby, different than the literary Bond. But it was thanks to that difference that he kept the Bond flame alive for over a decade, and welcome many people to join the Bondwagon during the 1970s and the early 1980s.

People from all over the world felt his death as somehow personal, yet we all feel like if he is still around in every frame of Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me or Octopussy – for natural charm, elegance, and a refined sense of humor can transcend the barriers of time, space, and the temporary existence of earthly life.

Here’s to Sir Roger – nobody did it better!