The real-life Operation Goldfinger

A natural inspiration for the name of a U.S. secret operation.

There’s a new book out about the relationship between the United States and gold. It includes a passage out a real-life secret operation dubbed, naturally, Operation Goldfinger.

The book is One Nation Under Gold: How One Precious Metal Has Dominated the American Imagination for Four Centuries by James Ledbetter.

An excerpt from the book appeared in this month in The New Yorker magazine. That excerpt specially explores Operation Goldfinger, a 1960s U.S. effort to increase the gold supply.

Background: By the mid-1960s, the gold standard for the global economy was under severe strain. The U.S. government decided it needed more of the precious metal and needed to look in unlikely places.

Naturally, the name of the third James Bond film, released in 1964, was an inspiration for a project name.

Here’s an excerpt.

 

The government would end up looking for gold in the oddest places: seawater, meteorites, plants, even deer antlers. In an era during which people wanted badly to believe in the peaceful use of subatomic energy, plans were drawn up to use nuclear explosives to extract gold from deep inside the Earth, and even to use particle accelerators to try to change base metals into gold.

(snip)
Operation Goldfinger took the form of hundreds of research projects designed to find gold in places likely and very unlikely. The Roberts Mountains in north central Nevada had long seemed like a promising source of gold, and samples from dozens of areas were taken to search for surface minerals (such as limestone) known to be associated with gold deposits. Other studies were long shots. For decades, various scientists had found traces of gold in coal, and so the U.S. Geological Survey sifted through coal in dozens of locations in Appalachia and the Midwest. The government even took samples from coal ash and “coal-washing waste products received from various industrial plants.” These did not yield gold bonanzas.

There’s quite a bit more to the story. To read the full New Yorker excerpt, CLICK HERE. Also, Ledbetter was interviewed on the June 26 edition of Fresh Air, an NPR radio show. The interview runs about 37:19. Ledbetter begins discussing Operation Goldfinger around the 23:40 mark.

The U.S. went off the gold standard in 1971.

Veteran TV writer featured in NPR feature story

morning edition logo

NPR’s Morning Edition on March 8 ran A FEATURE STORY about the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement community and one of the interview subjects was a writer who kept busy on U.S. television.

Anthony Lawrence lives at the retirement community. His credits include nine episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O series, starting with the second season and running through the sixth.

On Five-O, Lawrence often penned stories that had unhappy endings. Among them was a two-part story, Three Dead Cows at Makapuu. In it, an idealistic scientist — who has gone missing after working on the U.S.’s germ warfare program — decides the only way to get the world’s attention is to unleash a potent sample that will wipe out all life on Oahu.

Eventually, the scientist (Ed Flanders) changes his mind and sacrifices himself to prevent the catastrophe. Lawrence, over the course of his career, wrote in various genres, including Westerns such as three Bonanza episodes that told the back story of each of Ben Cartwright’s three wives.

Here’s an excerpt of the text version of the NPR story as it relates to Lawrence:

More recently, a meeting at the campus was almost movielike: TV writer Tony Lawrence, 87, moved to the campus 11 years ago with his wife, Nancy, who had Alzheimer’s. They had been married 50 years when she died. “And that’s why it was so astonishing and such a miracle to find … someone like Madi in my life,” he says.

Madi is Madeline Smith, 75, a former NBC administrative assistant who moved to the campus in 2014. A year later, she and Lawrence got married in the rose garden. On the couch in their small cottage, the newlyweds sit so close together you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between them. This is what, in showbiz, you’d call a happy ending. Especially since neither wanted to move here.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, this is a bunch of old people. I don’t want to live here,’ ” Smith recalls

“Of course, everybody says that before they come here,” Lawrence adds. But then you arrive and, as Lawrence puts it, “You find out you’re one of the old people.”

To view the entire NPR story, CLICK HERE. To listen to the audio, CLICK HERE.

Authors discuss 007 title songs on NPR

Cover for The James Bond Songs

Cover for The James Bond Songs

The authors of the new book The James Bond Songs Songs were interviewed on NPR’S WEEKEND EDITION today.

Among their conclusions: Bond songwriters sometimes are inhibited from doing their best work, Goldfinger still sets the standard and SPECTRE’s title song generated mixed results.

Here’s a sampling.

On Goldfinger: “This is the song that everybody’s been trying to copy ever since, and it’s the standard that listeners hold these songs up to on whatever level of consciousness,” co-author Adrian Daub told NPR’s Scott Simon.

On the quality of Bond songwriting: “(W)hen you’re writing a Bond song, or singing a Bond song, that you have to feel yourself compromise — kind of pulled in two or three directions at once,” co-author Charles Kronengold said in the interview.

“I mean, if you’re a lyricist, having to use a ridiculous word like “Moonraker” or “Thunderball” is not going to make your life any easier or pleasanter. It’s not necessarily going to be your best work, so the records don’t necessarily add up,” he said.

On Live And Let Die’s autobiographical elements for Paul McCartney:  “And the idea that Paul McCartney is going to be still around, still making music, but not with The Beatles — what does that mean?” Kronengold said. “Why does he even come to work? Why does he have to do this, and what’s the point of it? And the song brings that out in a really nice way.”

On SPECTRE’s “Writing’s On The Wall”: “Well, not enough menace and danger for our taste,” Kronengold said. “It seems like they forgot about the swagger and the bite that the best Bond songs have.”

On the other hand, Daub said: “(T)here’s one part of it that we really like, and it seems to be the one that everyone else hates — which is when you get to the chorus….The song builds to this amazing crescendo, and then just kind of ends with this whimper.”

You can read an edited transcript of the interview BY CLICKING HERE. The full audio from the interview will be made available there starting about 12 noon New York time.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the book (subtitled Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism): CLICK HERE for the Amazon.com listing.

UPDATE: If you click to the website, the full audio of the story is now up. It runs 6:21.

Idris Elba: the 007 debate that’s not going away

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

The debate whether black actor Idris Elba should be the next James Bond isn’t going away, even though there’s no official vacancy for the role.

One of the latest examinations of the topic occurred Friday on Friday during NPR’s Morning Edition program. The story included comments from  Bill Desowitz and Bruce Scivally, who’ve written books about 007 films.

Earlier, a controversy erupted over comments by Anthony Horowitz, author of the new Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis.

Horowitz told the U.K. Daily Mail in a story POSTED AUG. 29 that Elba was “too street” to play Bond.  Here’s the key excerpt from the story:

Neither is Horowitz impressed with the favourite to take over from Daniel Craig.

‘Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better.’

He names Adrian Lester, star of Hustle.

‘For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too “street” for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.’

After the story ran, Horowitz took to Twitter on Sept. 1.

Horowitz’s novel was commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications, which has no ties to the Bond films, which are produced by Eon Productions.

Many fans of the original Ian Fleming novels say there shouldn’t be a debate at all. They say Fleming described him as half-Scot, half-Swiss.

More casual fans who like the idea of an Elba Bond say the actor, who turns 43 on Sept. 6, is suave, good looking and could do the role justice.

Earlier this year, while the new 007 film SPECTRE was in production, Michael G. Wilson, co-chief of Eon, said Elba would “make a great Bond.”

At the moment, there isn’t a vacancy for the role. Daniel Craig, 47, has completed SPECTRE, his fourth 007 film, which comes out this fall. But the debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.

NPR interviews Jeffery Deaver about Carte Blanche

Over the weekend, NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed Jeffery Deaver on the network’s Weekend Edition Saturday about the author’s new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche. To check it out, you can JUST CLICK HERE. You can hear the audio and read a transcript of the interview.

The audio runs almost eight minutes. Subjects include a cocktail that Deaver invented for Bond in the novel.

007 alumnus Vic Armstrong talks to NPR

Vic Armstrong, former James Bond stuntman and second unit director, was interviewed by NPR on May 18 about his new book. He talked about how a fellow stuntman, who was working on 2001: A Space Odyessey and unable to get away from it, helped him get a job on You Only Live Twice, his first 007 film.

From that rather humble beginning (Armstrong figures he got about $100 a week on You Only Live Twice), he would eventually be put in charge of Bond’s action unit. As a second unit director (on Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day), he was responsible for tens of millions of dollars.

Armstrong also did many other films, including doubling for Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones and Christopher Reeve’s Superman. In the NPR interview, Armstrong says Yakima Canutt was the greatest stuntman of all time (he did a memorable stunt in 1939’s Stagecoach and staged the chariot race in 1959’s Ben Hur), while also favorably mentioning long time 007 stunt arranger Bob Simmons and George Leech, another veteran 007 stuntman (and Armstrong’s father-in-law).

To listen to the interview, just CLICK HERE.

Morgan Spurlock criticizes Bond 23’s product placement

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock who once took McDonald’s to task, has come out with a new documentary about movie product placement called The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Oops. Correction: Palm Pom Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Anyway, during an interview with NPR, Spurlock noted the planned Bond 23 product placement — to be used to fund a third of the production budget — may be a bit high.

To listen to the story, JUST CLICK HERE. The Bond 23 reference doesn’t occur until after the 11:00 mark but the entire interview is probably worth your time.