Hugh Hefner, who helped popularize 007, dies

George Lazenby’s 007 reading a copy of Playboy

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy and who helped popularize James Bond for American audiences, has died at 91, according to CNBC, citing a statement from Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy published the Ian Fleming short story The Hildebrand Rarity in 1960, beginning a long relationship between the magazine and the fictional secret agent.

At the time, the literary Bond has his U.S. fans but the character’s popularity was far from its peak. Things changed a year later when the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, listed Fleming’s From Russia With Love as one of his 10 favorite books.

As Bond’s popularity surged in the 1960s, Playboy serialized the novels You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun.

The relationship spread into the Bond movies produced by Eon Productions. In 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond (George Lazenby) kills time looking at an issue of Playboy while a safe cracking machine works away. Two years later, in Diamonds Are Forever, the audience is shown that Bond (Sean Connery) had a membership card at a Playboy club. Also, over the years, Playboy published Bond-related pictorials.

In the 1990s, the Playboy-literary Bond connection was revived. Playboy published some 007 short stories by continuation novelist Raymond Benson, including Blast From the Past as well as serializations of Benson novels.

One of Benson’s short stories published by Playboy, Midsummer Night’s Doom, was set at the Playboy Mansion. Hefner showed up as a character.

During the 21st century, Playboy “has struggled in the face of tough competition from the available of free pornography online,” CNBC said in its obituary. The magazine experimented with no nude photos “before returning to its previous formula,” CNBC said.

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About that remaking OHMSS idea

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post’s Page Six gossip operation succeeded in creating a buzz with a report that Bond 25 will rework part of the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But is it a good idea?

Many fans enthusiastically say yes, because it means a proper adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice novel.

Let’s take a look at some issues involved.

–Another revenge plot? In the Twice novel, Bond is a broken man following the death of his wife Tracy. He’s given an “impossible mission” involving diplomacy instead of guns (trying to get the Japanese to share intel it gathers and decodes using its Magic 44 system).

But through a few twists and turns, it turns out Blofeld is in Japan and Bond gets to go after him.

Eon Productions did Twice first, dispensing with most of the plot while retaining key characters. Majesty’s became the next film in the series. Diamonds Are Forever didn’t make any direct references to Majesty’s. Thus, many fans say they were deprived of a classic revenge plot.

True enough. Eon, over the years, has made up for lost time revenge wise: Licence to Kill (Bond goes after the killers of Leiter’s wife, who also severely maimed Leiter); GoldenEye (Bond, betrayed by 006, goes after him); The World Is Not Enough (Bond is betrayed by Elektra King, goes after her); Die Another Day (Bond is framed and imprisoned, goes after those responsible); Quantum of Solace (Bond swears revenge for the death of Vesper in Casino Royale).

Bond films may have things in short supply, but revenge plots aren’t among them. This time it’s personal (again).

–Chemistry, or lack thereof, with the actors involved. In SPECTRE, Lea Seydoux was very convincing when her Madeline Swann said she hated Daniel Craig’s Bond. Not so much when Swann decided she was in love with Bond.

In 1969’s Majesty’s Diana Rigg as Tracy was very convincing as the character who made Bond feel she was “the one,” his true love. Seydoux wasn’t in that league, a point this blog made in a January 2016 post.

Or, as Philip Nobile Jr. of Birth. Movies. Death wrote: “Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux had absolutely no chemistry on together.”

None of this will matter to advocates of using Majesty’s and Twice as the basis for Bond 25. Blofeld Trilogy, Garden of Death and all that. We’ll have to wait for a couple of years before seeing if there’s anything to all this.

NY Post says Bond 25 reworks OHMSS plot

Daniel Craig

The Page Six gossip operation of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post said Bond 25 may rework the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

“A Hollywood insider tells us that in the film that’s so far been dubbed ‘Bond 25’: ‘Bond quits the secret service, and he’s in love and gets married,'” Page Six said. “The source continues that ‘his wife then gets killed,’ bringing Bond back into action.”

“’The film’s like ‘Taken’ with Bond,’ says the source, who adds the suave spy is trying to avenge his wife’s murder.”

Page Six adds this caveat: “It’s unclear if the writers will rework the plot after the leak.”

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the rebuilt Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux).

A Dec. 1, 2014 draft of the script had Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” But that line isn’t in the film.

That’s the same line Bond (George Lazenby) tells Tracy (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel. Tracy is killed shortly thereafter.

Earlier drafts of SPECTRE included a henchwoman named Irma Bunt, also the name of a major character in Majesty’s. But that character got dropped.

None of this background was mentioned by Page Six. The Page Six item also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade “reportedly boarded” Bond 25. The duo’s return was referenced in a July 24 announcement by Eon Productions that Bond 25 will have a November 2019 release date.

The Post is the U.S. equivalent of British tabloids in its gaudy tone. Page Six said in April that Craig was “ready to sign on to return as 007.” Craig announced he was coming back for Bond 25 last month.

Trailer for Becoming Bond released

OHMSS poster

George Lazenby in OHMSS poster

Hulu has released its trailer for Becoming Bond, which recounts George Lazenby’s short tenure as James Bond. The streaming television outlet will show it on May 20.

The “unique documentary/narrative hybrid chronicling the stranger-than-fiction true story ” also is getting its world premiere March 11 at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Lazenby’s sole 007 film was 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He won the role despite having no acting experience. The Peter Hunt-directed movie arguably was the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming 007 novel.

Josh Lawson plays Lazenby, with Adamo Palladino as Peter Hunt. The cast also includes Jane Seymour, who played Solitaire in 1973’s Live And Let Die.

The trailer wouldn’t embed here at the blog, but you can view it at Entertainment Weekly’s website.

UPDATE: Hulu has now posted the trailer to YouTube. You can view it below.

How fans view 007 movies as LEGO blocks

On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster

Fans treat the object of their affection like LEGO blocks. You can just move a few blocks from here to there without any other differences.

So it is with 007 films and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

For years — decades, actually — Bond fans have debated the subject. The 007 film series produced its adaptations of Majesty’s and You Only Live Twice out of order.

Take out George Lazenby and put in Sean Connery? OHMSS would be a lot better is a common talking point.

Except, real life doesn’t necessarily work that way.

“If only they’d made OHMSS before YOLT…”

Except, you don’t get Peter Hunt as director. In turn, that means a ripple effect. You likely don’t get the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, as the 1969 movie turned out to be.

Instead, you get You Only Live Twice except the character names and locations are changed.

Meanwhile, you have a greater chance of an underwater Aston Martin (in one of the script drafts before Hunt came aboard). You may even get Blofeld as a half-brother of Goldfinger.

All this isn’t speculation. Author Charles Helfenstein provides a summary of the various 1964-68 treatments and drafts for Majesty’s written by Richard Maibaum. Blofeld as Goldfinger’s half-brother was in a screenplay dated March 29, 1966, according to the book (pages 38-39).

In real life, making movies is more complicated. Change a major piece, such as the director, and there are ripple effects throughout the production.

Meanwhile, Eon Productions changed the order it filmed Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

With the novels, Russia came first. Dr. No came second. The movies reversed the order. Yet, few Bond fans complain about that.

Fan discussions about 007 movies are similar to debates among sports fans. Example: Which baseball team was better, the 1927 New York Yankees or the 1976 Cincinnati Reds?

For fan purposes, things would have been a lot better if Ian Fleming hadn’t sold off the rights to Casino Royale, his first novel, so quickly. In theory, if that had happened, Eon could have done Fleming’s novels in order.

Except, does anyone believe Sean Connery would have done a dozen Bond films?

Would Connery really have been satisfied doing that many 007 films in a little more than a decade? On the other hand, would fans have been satisfied with a Bond series of only six Connery movies starting with Casino Royale and ending with Dr. No?

Fans have their fantasies. Real life, though, is more complicated. Certainly, making movies is not like assembling LEGO blocks.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, when it was affiliated with the now-inactive (but fondly remembered) Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, co-founder of HMSS, who also had the idea for the blog.

It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more. Paul still reads the blog on occasion. So if he spots this, here’s a big thanks from the Spy Commander.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS

Should Daniel Craig stay or should he go?

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Should he stay or should he go?

It seems like yesterday when Pierce Brosnan was dismissed from the role of James Bond, Martin Campbell announced as the director of Bond 21 aka (the official version of) Casino Royale and the thousands of candidates tipped by the press to replace him: Heath Ledger, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill and Daniel Craig.

It also seems like yesterday when Daniel Craig was finally announced to the doubtful worldwide press as “The New James Bond.”

I was 15 then. I can even recall a newsflash in Argentina reading, “Doubts, many doubts” when showing the footage of the Chester-born actor, posing next to producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for a photo call that seemed to say it all without a single caption describing it.

In 10 years that passed as 10 seconds, Craig seems to be leaving the role.

I don’t know if he will and I don’t believe in the gossip British and American tabloids, whose headlines are almost copied-pasted throughout the rest of the world, where the James Bond phenomenon has expanded since 1962. But, I have to admit, when people such as Graham Rye, the 007 Magazine editor, provides information on the subject, I may actually think about it.

So, without saying if he stays or if he goes (because I clearly don’t have that information, and maybe very few people do) or the real reasons on why he’s leaving or has been ditched, according to the sources we’ve heard, I want to offer my opinion on his future. And it’s going to be a very heartfelt opinion, because Craig was the Bond of my teens and adult life.

I want him to come back, but I think he should leave.

I’m not too much convinced on the tipped “replacements” and, of course, Craig can do one more Bond film at 48.

He still looks the part and showed a cool side of Ian Fleming’s spy: tough and brutal, but still fresh and humorous. But I honestly think he gave us all he had to give and “his” Bond found what he was looking for.

CinemaSins jokingly said that none of Craig’s Bond films can get over Casino Royale in their “sin count” of SPECTRE, and beyond the puns intended, that is indeed true. Because the 2006 film presents us the main conflict of the character: his emotions shattered after the induced suicide of the girl he loved, his purpose to avenge her (yes, to go behind the man “who held the whip” but with a slight desire of settling the score) and the need of getting over her and run away from that world of violence he belongs to because, apparently, it was “better than the priesthood.”

In Casino Royale, Craig/Bond loses Vesper; in Quantum of Solace, he finds a way to make justice; in Skyfall, an apparently “unrelated” story arc movie, he fails to protect Judi Dench’s M, who dies in his arms; and in SPECTRE we learn everything was connected to his foster brother Ernst Stavro Blofeld who operated from the shadows to make him lose the ones he loved.

007 defeats the villain, but instead of shooting him at point blank he decides to leave him to MI6 and sign off for a better life next to his new love, Madeleine Swann.

The end of the movie is a bit reminiscent to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Bond and his new wife Tracy left on an Aston Martin and then she was shot dead by a machine gun attack led by Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt. Even the last sentence of the 1969 film was, at one point, in SPECTRE’s script: “We have all the time in the world.”

In the finished film, the line was dropped and a smiling James Bond drove the DB5 next to Madeleine right through the London streets as Monty Norman’s trademark theme sounded.

I was incredibly happy when I saw that scene and I immediately thought it’s the best farewell Craig’s Bond could have.

Incredibly enough, after my first watching, a friend told me: “Hey, but she’s going to die in the next one,” connecting that scene to the tragic climax of the only 007 movie starring George Lazenby.

I wouldn’t like that again for two reasons: one, it would be way too repetitive that Bond loses two women close to his heart in four movies. It would be expected. It would be repeating a past, an exclusive past that is not compared to have many villains plotting WWIII or extravagant liars.

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Two, Craig’s portrayal of the role has been so special, unique and different to the other five actors (the whole creative process for this era was different and continuity, in a way or another, mattered) that I feel he deserves this happy ending.

It’s a far cry for Connery/Bond next to a hussy Tiffany Case asking for the diamond-made satellite in the sky, Moore/Bond taking a shower with the clingy Stacey Sutton, a tuxedo-clad Dalton/Bond kissing the self-reliant Pam Bouvier in a swimming pool or Brosnan/Bond throwing diamonds on NSA agent Jinx’s belly during lovemaking.

Only George Lazenby’s final scene as Bond had the tragic ending of the hero crying over the dead body of his bride.

And SPECTRE’s ending is the perfect “revenge” to that scene: James Bond finally gets to be happy with the girl he loves and not with a fling, and they can have a happy future: a future that will not be known to us.

How could Bond and Madeleine fell for each other so quickly is still a subject of debate and I agree the relationship needed more development. Yet Léa Seydoux’s character can make a judgment call on 007 and make him throw the gun away right before he shoots Blofeld dead.

Minutes before, the villain lured Bond into the soon-to-be-demolished ruined MI6 building, now decorated with photos of Vesper and M. “This is what left of your world, everything you stood for, everything you believed in, are in ruins.”

When 007 opts not to kill his “brother,” he embraces Madeleine. They kiss and walk away of the crowded Westminster street where a wounded Blofeld lies before being arrested. Bond walks out of that world of violence and destruction the mastermind wanted for him.

The film’s proper ending is a Bondian epitaph for the Daniel Craig era. He is now the James Bond we all know and love, he’s there again, but keep “being Bond” would mean the end of his happy life: another Vesper. So, he says goodbye.

In 1615, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra decided to kill of Don Quixote so that no other author could continue writing about him, because he wanted to “own” him. The same should happen to this version of James Bond, because Daniel Craig “owned” the character, from that brutal black and white bathroom fight (at the start of Casino Royale) to the stylish Aston Martin ride with a girl.

So, to summarize this article – or extensive dilemma– should Daniel Craig’s James Bond stay or go? I want him to stay, I would love him to stay.

But he should go.

UPDATE (June 23): “Versión en español en Bond en Argentina” (to read a version in Spanish on the website Bond en Argentina), CLICK HERE.