Happy holidays 2021 from The Spy Command

Our annual greeting

The accompanying graphic has been the blog’s annual Christmas/holiday season greeting since 2011. It’s a tradition and things wouldn’t be the same without it.

This year was eventful. No Time to Die made it to theaters after five delays, including three related to COVID-19. But there are still are James Bond events on the horizon, including the 60th anniversary of the film franchise in 2022.

The graphic used in this post was designed by Paul Baack (1957-2017). It’s just one sample of his artistic handiwork. He designed it when the blog was part of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (1997-2014).

To the blog’s readers: Thanks for being here. If you’ve got some time off, enjoy it.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone.

Questions about IFP’s new Double O novels

Ian Fleming Publications “Double O” logo.

Ian Fleming Publications has announced a new series of novels by Kim Sherwood intended to expand the James Bond literary universe.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Who is Kim Sherwood? C&W, which represents her, has a biography.

Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989 and lives in Bath. She pursued her MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, before teaching at UEA and the University of Sussex. Kim is now Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England, and teaches prisoners. She has written for MslexiaLighthouseGoing Down SwingingThe Telegraph, and elsewhere. Kim makes frequent media appearances, including BBC Radio 4 Front Row, BBC Bristol, and Griefcast. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @kimtsherwood

Kim began researching and writing Testament, her first novel, after her grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away, and her grandmother began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust Survivor for the first time. Testament won the 2016 Bath Novel Award, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Award, shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel, and won the Harpers’ Bazaar Big Book Award.

In 2018, Kim received support from the Society of Authors’ Authors Foundation Grant for her second novel. Drawing on adventure fiction, the literature of roguery, travel and life writing, A True Relation will explore issues of gender, genre, and place.

Kim is also the author of the forthcoming Double 0 trilogy, and is the first woman to author a 007 novel. 

Her grandfather was George Baker? Yes, the same George Baker who played the real Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and a Navy officer in The Spy Who Loved Me. Baker also played one of the many Number Twos in the Patrick McGoohan series The Prisoner. Baker enjoyed a long career as an actor.

When will the new Sherwood novels be set?

During the present day, according to the author herself. She disclosed the information in response to a question on Twitter.

The new Sherwood trilogy of novels will come on line just as Anthony Horowitz is wrapping up his three-period-piece Bond novels (one set at the start of Bond’s career, one set in the middle and the upcoming third after the events of The Man With the Golden Gun novel).

How significant is this?

It demonstrates that Ian Fleming Publications continues to be interested in spinoffs. It has previously commissioned Young Bond novels and The Moneypenny Diaries. Meanwhile, Eon Productions, maker of the James Bond films, has said it’s not interested in Bond spinoffs.

Tarantino takes a shot (?) at Jack Lord

Soundtrack cover for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino is out with a novelization of his 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. As a result, the writer-director has even more room to make comments about 1960s entertainment.

So far, I’m only a chapter into it and noticed a less-than-flattering reference to Jack Lord, the first screen Felix Leiter and the star of the original Hawaii Five-O (1968-80).

In Chapter One (“Call Me Marvin”), actor Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie) chats with agent Marvin Schwarz.

“Stewart Granger was the single biggest prick I ever worked with,” Dalton says. “And I’ve worked with Jack Lord!”

What brought this on? Lord (1920-98) had a reputation for (depending on your perspective) being a perfectionist or….more than that.

A 1983 Starlog interview with Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum revealed that Lord was wanted back to reprise the Leiter role for Goldfinger. Except, Lord wanted a big raise and better billing. Cec Linder got the job instead.

Also, there was this passage from a 1971 TV Guide article (text is available on Mike Quigley’s Hawaii Five-O page) that had quotes from Ben Wood, entertainment editor for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“My phone rang. It was the show’s press agent. He said that ‘management’ was ‘very upset’ over the piece. I had called Zulu and Kam Fong stars. They are not stars, I was told. Not even Jimmy MacArthur. They are all ‘featured players.’ There is only one star of Five-O, and that is Jack Lord. When I reported this conversation in print, a couple of CBS vice presidents (Perry Lafferty and Paul King) got into the act. ‘Management’ had said no such thing. They demanded a retraction, making it look as if I was guilty of inaccurate reporting. That was when we began to refer to ‘Jimmy MacArthur, Co-Star’.”

The original Five-O ended its run more than 40 year ago. But, occasionally, there are still references to Lord. In November 2020, the official George Lazenby Twitter feed suggested that the one-film Bond may have had an interesting experience.

Also in Chapter One, Rick Dalton also compliments director Paul Wendkos to Schwarz. Wendkos’ many credits include the 1968 Hawaii Five-O TV movie pilot.

Participants discuss 1983 U.N.C.L.E. TV movie

Participants, including director Ray Austin and actor Anthony Zerbe, talked about the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on a June 26 Zoom call that’s up on YouTube.

The TV movie brought back Robert Vaughn and David McCallum to again play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. George Lazenby had a small part as a James Bond-like character.

Among other things, Austin references how a scene where Zerbe’s villain escapes was filmed at a real prison. Zerbe grabbed onto a helicopter, which the actor says was for real. Zerbe also talked about working as a villain on the original Mission: Impossible series.

The video is below. It run for three hours.

How Operation Kid Brother was ahead of the Bond films

Operation Kid Brother had tropes that would later appear in the Bond films.

I finally finished off watching Operation Kid Brother/OK Connery/Double Double 007. It turns out the Italian production starring Sean Connery’s brother, Neil, provided the path that the Eon-produced James Bond film series would follow.

–Assistant Maxwell (Lois Maxwell) isn’t just a helper for Commander Cunningham (Bernard Lee). She goes out into the field and shoots guns. This is a preview of agent Eve (Naomie Harris) in Skyfall, who revealed to be Moneypenny at the end of the film.

–There’s a ship of female operatives overseen by Maya Rafis (Daniela Bianchi). But those women aren’t just decoration. They can fight. In fact, fight in a manner similar to the Octopussy women in Octopussy (1983).

By the end of Operation Kid Brother/OK Connery, Maya Rafis and her women operatives have switched sides to the cause of good. Dr. Neil Connery (Neil Connery) uses his powers of hypnotism to make Commander Cunningham forget pretty much everything.

The movie ends with Dr. Neil Connery and Maya Rafis sailing off with all the women operatives. It’s implied that Dr. Neil Connery will be even busier than James Bond (George Lazenby) was at the top of Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Diana Rigg gets left out of BAFTA ‘In Memoriam’

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

This weekend, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or BAFTA, gave out its film awards. It’s the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars.

Like the Oscars, the BAFTAs include an “In Memoriam” segment. This year’s “In Memoriam” left out Diana Rigg (1938-2020). Variety, which was covering the awards inquired why. Here’s a tweet the entertainment news outlet put out:

Rigg was known for both movies and TV shows. For spy fans, she played Tracy, James Bond’s ill-fated wife in the 1969 film adaptation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. On TV, she was known for The Avengers and other television series.

UPDATE (April 12): Viewers advise that Bond film veterans Honor Blackman and Earl Cameron also didn’t make the “In Memoriam” segment. THIS STORY says Prince Philip, who died last week, was included.

UPDATE II: Reader @toysofbond advises Honor Blackman was included in the 2020 BAFTA TV “In Memoriam.” So she, lie Dame Diana, was deemed a TV performer rather than a movie one. See tweet below:

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Spy entertainment in memoriam

In the space of 12 months — Dec. 18, 2019 to Dec. 18, 2020 — a number of spy entertainment figures passed away. The blog just wanted to take note. This is not a comprehensive list.

Dec. 18, 2019: Claudine Auger, who played Domino in Thunderball (1965), dies.

Jan. 8, 2020: Buck Henry, acclaimed screenwriter and co-creator of Get Smart (with Mel Brooks), dies.

Feb. 8, 2020: Anthony Spinner, veteran writer-producer, dies. His credits include producing the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and a 1970s version of The Saint.

Feb. 8, 2020: Robert Conrad, star of The Wild Wild West and A Man Called Sloane, dies.

March 8, 2020: Actor Max von Sydow dies. His many credits playing a villain in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Blofeld in Never Say Never Again (1983).

April 5, 2020: Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale in The Avengers and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), dies.

Sept. 1, 2020: Arthur Wooster, second unit director of photography on multiple James Bond movies, dies.

Sept. 10, 2020: Diana Rigg, who played Emma Peel in The Avengers and Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), dies.

Sept. 21, 2020: Michael Lonsdale, veteran French actor whose credits included playing the villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979), dies.

Oct. 5, 2020: Margaret Nolan, who was the model for the main titles of Goldfinger and appeared in the film as Dink, dies.

Oct. 31, 2020: Sean Connery, the first film James Bond, dies. He starred in six Bond films made by Eon productions and a seventh (Never Say Never Again) made outside Eon.

Dec. 12, 2020: David Cornwell, who wrote under the pen name John le Carre, dies. Many of his novels were adapted as movies and mini-series.

Dec. 18, 2020: Peter Lamont, who worked in the art department of many James Bond films, including production designer from 1981-2006 (excluding 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies), dies.

Happy holidays 2020 from The Spy Command

Our annual greeting

The accompanying graphic has been the blog’s annual Christmas/holiday season greeting since 2011. It’s a tradition and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a crummy year. The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the globe. It has caused many, many deaths and untold misery for even more. Other events have made people miserable. We could use a nice holiday season.

The graphic used in this post was designed by Paul Baack (1957-2017). It’s just one sample of his artistic handiwork. He designed it when the blog was part of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (1997-2014).

To the blog’s readers: Thanks for being here. If you’ve got some time off, enjoy it.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone.

Diana Rigg dies at 82

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Diana Rigg, who entertained generations of fans in The Avengers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Game of Thrones, has died at 82, the BBC reported.

The actress was versatile, acting in a variety of roles on stage, television and films.

Rigg became an international star in the 1960s, playing Emma Peel on The Avengers. She joined the series after Honor Blackman exited, going on to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

The Avengers didn’t lose a step. One of the Rigg episodes had John Steed (Patrick Macnee) receiving a Christmas card from Blackman’s character, Cathy Gale. Steed wondered what she was doing in Fort Knox.

Rigg had a huge impact on the show. Mrs. Peel, a “talented amateur” (in the words of one introduction for The Avengers) could out-fight and out-think male opponents. Rigg and Macnee had a chemistry that fans enjoyed.

The U.K.-produced series was imported into the United States during Rigg’s run. Mrs. Peel became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic.

She was twice nominated for an Emmy for The Avengers. She lost both times to Barbara Bain of Mission: Impossible.

Rigg left the show to seek new challenges. One of her post-Avengers projects was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She played Tracy, the doomed bride of James Bond.

The actress got the role, in part, because the filmmakers figured they needed an experienced female lead opposite the inexperienced George Lazenby.

Majesty’s, while financially successful, wasn’t as big a hit as earlier Bond entries. Nevertheless, Rigg again was memorable. Her character’s death at the end of the movie, was the first unhappy conclusion for the film series produced by Eon Productions.

About the only format Rigg couldn’t conquer was starring in her own TV situation comedy. A U.S. series, Diana, ran less than a full season during 1973-74.

Rigg’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 70 movie and TV credits.