1999: TV Guide publishes a Bond special

TV Guide cover to the Nov. 13-19, 1999 issue

In 1999, TV Guide decided to go big on a special James Bond issue.

The Nov. 13-19 edition, with a Pierce Brosnan cover, included a new Bond short story, an interview with Bond actresses and an essay by a conservative icon.

Live at Five by Raymond Benson: This was a five-page short story by the American James Bond continuation author. Bond recalls an assignment in Chicago.

This was part of a big year for Benson’s tenure as a Bond author. 1999 also saw publication of an original Bond continuation novel by Benson, High Time to Kill, and the novelization of the 007 film The World Is Not Enough.

Buckley on Bond: William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008), a conservative commentator and sometimes spy author, mused about Bond. “James Bond does it all with that remarkable lightheartedness that attaches to the Just Man,” Buckley wrote. “The Bond films are there to be viewed, popcorn in hand. You’re not to worry about the girl’s emotional problems.”

I wonder what Barbara Broccoli would say if she had a conversation with Buckley.

Bond actresses: The issue has a Q&A with Jane Seymour, Luciana Paluzzi, Maud Adams, Lana Wood, Tanya Roberts, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Lois Chiles.

Tanya Roberts dies amid media circus

Tanya Roberts in a publicity still for A View to a Kill

Tanya Roberts, who appeared in A View to a Kill, the Charlie’s Angels TV series and That ’70s Show, has died at 65, The New York Times reported, citing the actress’ companion/boyfriend, Lance O’Brien.

Her death was the center of a media circus.

TMZ reported the death on Sunday night. Roberts’ publicist put out a press release. Numerous outlets picked up on it.

Then, O’Brien was taped by Inside Edition, a “TV tabloid” show for an interview on Monday. He sat in front of a green screen, the type used to create fake backgrounds on TV. During the taping, he got a call that Roberts hadn’t died yet.

Naturally, an intimate, emotional scene followed. Inside Edition also posted the segment on YouTube for its 8.44 million subscribers.

TMZ followed up with its own “she’s alive” story. The website was glib about the whole affair. “As for how this could happen … beats us.”

The Roberts publicist, Mike Pingel, said in an earlier NYT story: “It’s a human miscommunication, unfortunately…It’s a shame this happened.”

Do tell.

Anyway, many “Tanya Roberts is still alive” stories ran while the “Tanya Roberts dies” stories were taken down. (The blog ran one of each.) Some of the “she’s alive” stories noted that Roberts was not in good shape. She had been at Cedars-Sinai Hospital since Dec. 24.

On social media, Bond fans made the inevitable 007-related puns because of the bizarre turn of events, including variations on “You Only Live Twice,” such as “this is her second life.” There were also comments evoking Mark Twain saying reports of his death were extremely exaggerated.

Now, O’Brien tells the Times that Roberts did pass away Monday night. TMZ came out with its third story Tuesday morning. Fox News said it got the same information from O’Brien.

In 1985’s A View to a Kill, Roberts played Stacey Sutton, who becomes the ally of James Bond (Roger Moore in his last 007 film) to foil a plot to destroy California’s Silicon Valley.

Stacey Sutton wasn’t the favorite of some Bond fans for the way she screamed “James!” There was also a 28-year difference between Moore and Roberts, who shared a romantic scene at the end of the movie.

Roberts was in the cast of Charlie’s Angels in its final season, 1980-81. She was in That ’70s Show from 1998 to 2004.

As for the media circus that surrounded Roberts’ passing, the MI6 James Bond website had a tweet that summed it up.

Tanya Roberts still alive, reports say

Actress Tanya Roberts still is alive, less than 24 hours after she was reported dead, according to a new set of reports.

TMZ, which had the original story, pushed out a report around 5 p.m. New York time that Roberts hadn’t died. It quoted the same representative who said she was dead.

Other outlets, including the Associated Press and Variety put out stories about the development. The AP story said Roberts’ representative, Mike Pengel, on Sunday night sent out a press release reporting the death.

Meanwhile, Inside Edition, a “tabloid TV” show posted a video where it was interviewing Roberts’ boyfriend when he got a call that she was alive.

The blog will take down the obituary it posted on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, TMZ’s latest piece has a glib final line: “As for how this could happen … beats us.”

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station. As noted in a reader comment below, she was holding a clipboard. But she’s neither helpless nor ditzy.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

A View To a Kill, a reappraisal

If there ever were a James Bond movie that suffered from a split personality, it would be A View To a Kill, the 14th entry in the series produced by Eon Productions.

The 1985 007 film is not a favorite of HMSS editors. It was Roger Moore’s seventh, and final, appearance as Bond. A good many HMSS editors never liked Moore to begin with and weren’t about to cut him any slack. The actor was 56 when filming began and he’d celebrate his 57th birthday during production. But upon viewing the movie again, the future Sir Roger is the least of the movie’s problems.

How’s that? Well, Moore soldiers on despite the movie’s wildly uneven tone. Want a serious Bond? He does what the story calls for. Want a jokey Bond? The actor delivers. He gets the blame from fans for the uneven tone but that blame probably belongs elsewhere. Was he too old to play Bond? Easy to say in hindsight, but Moore didn’t hire himself. Perhaps it was a reward for 1983’s Octopussy doing better box office than the rival Never Say Never Again.

The pre-titles sequence, set in Siberia, is a microcosm of what follows. Some moments seem absolutely brilliant, with tension, drama and great stunts. Then the movie abruptly switches to slapstick, with Bond escaping Soviet soldiers, accompanied by a Beach Boys song (without the Beach Boys performing it). Then, we’re back to tense excitement as Bond gets out of his precarious situation followed by a light, if cheesy, moment.

The rest of the movie more or less follows this pattern. We get some yuks as Bond and Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) pose a vapid rich guy and his valet to infiltrate a horse auction held by villain Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). When Sir Godfrey ends up as the movie’s sacrifical lamb, Bond appears genuinely upset and PO’d with Zorin, looking like he really wants to kill the bad guy. Later, Bond and heroine Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) narrowly escape a Zorin deathtrap it’s appropriately tense (though Roberts’s screaming can be annoying). That’s followed up by a bad joke that breaks the fourth wall which also implies Stacey and a San Fancisco police captain know all about the famous James Bond. “Yeah and I’m Dick Tracy and you’re still under arrest!” the police captain says. And so on.

It’s almost as if director John Glen, with his third consecutive 007 outing, decided to, at times, channel Jules White, who helmed many of the classic short films of The Three Stooges. But at others, the movie takes on a very dark tone. One example: when Zorin and right-hand man Scarpine (Patrick Bauchau) gun down a work crew the villain has hired as part of his plot. It’s as if Glen, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Wilson couldn’t quite find the right mix of drama and humor so they opted to go extremes both ways.

Walken, as Zorin, also reflects the odd back-and-forth tone. At times, he seems like a true psychopath, at others as if he knows it’s a big joke and he’s playing along. Walken is a wonderful actor. Still, we’re also told that Zorin is French and speaks five languages without an accent. Then it’s revealed he’s the result of a genetic experiment held in a German concentration camp during World War II. Yet, we only hear Zorin speak in English with a Brooklyn accent. “MO-ah! Mo-ah POW-ah!” he proclaims after Bond has enared Zorin’s blimp at the Golden Gate Bridge in the film’s climax.

John Barry is the one member of the creative team who performs at his best. The composer, scoring consecutive 007 films for the first time since 1969 and 1971 (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever), does his best to elevate the proceedings and succeeds. Even when action sequences get too jokey at times, his music keeps things moving. If you ever hear somebody claim say that underscore in a movie doesn’t matter, A View To a Kill is Exhibit A that the opposite is true.

The movie was an end of an era. Besides Moore’s final 007 appearance, it was also the finale for Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny and she’s fine. Desmond Llewelyn’s Q reports for duty. In one shot in the final scene, he goes a bit over the top with a leering expression and askew headset, but that’s what his director presumably wanted. (“Desmond, as you do this scene, I want you to look like Curly Howard seeing a naked beautiful woman for the first time!”)

Finally, there’s an in-joke for those familiar with the business side of 007. Bond, desperately holding onto a rope attached to a blimp, has his manhood imperiled by the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. That structure was home to the conglomerate that formerly owned United Artists, the studio that released Bond films. Transamerica dumped UA, selling it to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after the movie Heaven’s Gate bombed at the box office.

With A View To a Kill, there are times it’s as if a classic James Bond movie is fighting to get out. There are flashes here and there, but the film never escapes its wildly inconsistent tone. Life’s that way sometimes. Mo-ah POW-ah, indeed.