Dr. No’s 60th anniversary Part I: The odd couple

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Adapted from a 2012 post.

By mid-1961, there had been multiple attempts to adapt Ian Fleming’s James Bond to other media. A 1954 CBS adaptation of Casino Royale had become reality and was mostly forgotten. No film versions had yet gone before the cameras. That was about to change as American Albert R. Broccoli and Canadian Harry Saltzman agreed to team up. It’d be an eventful, and sometimes stormy, 14 years.

Each had something the other wanted: Saltzman had secured a six-month option on Fleming’s novels other than Casino Royale (and a court settlement would take the 1961-published Thunderball out of that package). Broccoli had studio connections that Saltzman lacked. Broccoli wanted to buy the option from Saltzman, but the latter wanted to go into business with Broccoli.

Saltzman, by multiple accounts, provided a constant flow of ideas. The quality, reportedly, was erratic but when they were good, they were brilliant. (Let’s have Bond “killed” at the start of From Russia With Love.) He could be volatile, almost killing off what would be two of the most popular title songs in the 007 series (Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever). Composer John Barry bemoaned in a 2006 U.K. television special that, “I could never deal with Harry and didn’t.”

Broccoli, by these accounts, was the steadier, more patient of the duo. He had wanted to do Bond for years before meeting Saltzman and was mostly content with 007, a large endeavor of its own. Saltzman, meanwhile, would launch a series based on Len Deighton’s spy novels and pursue other non-Bond projects.

Eventually, the producers grew apart, with Live And Let Die primarily a Saltzman production (although there are shots of Broccoli visiting locations and sets) while The Man With the Golden Gun was primarily overseen by Broccoli. The partnership would end when Saltzman, in severe financial trouble, sold his half of the franchise to United Artists, the studio that released the 007 films.

During work on 1962’s Dr. No, the producers managed to find a collaborative rhythm. James Bond probably would have come to the screen, but likely not in exactly the same form had Broccoli and Saltzman not joined forces.

For their work on Dr. No, the first 007 film, Broccoli and Saltzman received a producer’s fee of $80,000 and 50 percent of the profits, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The film debuted on Oct. 5, 1962, in the U.K., reaching other countries the following year.

In 1965, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. did an interview with Broccoli and Saltzman. At this point, Thunderball was about to be released.

Around 14 minutes into the interview, Saltzman had to take a call regarding a censorship issue with one of his non-007 movies. At the end, Saltzman works in a plug for his Harry Palmer films. Broccoli didn’t appear pleased.

NEXT: The $40,000 man

On 007’s 60th, will Harry Saltzman be the forgotten man?

Cover to When Harry Met Cubby by Robert Sellers

Adapted from a 2012 post.

The 60th anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, is gearing up. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has come out with an MGM logo noting the anniversary. No Time to Die is making a return to Imax theaters.

All of this is a reason to remind everyone about Harry Saltzman, the co-founder of Eon Productions, who played a key role in getting Agent 007 to the screen.

When Saltzman’s name comes up today, the image is of a cranky, volatile man who almost axed the classic Goldfinger title song, ordered elephant shoes for a movie (The Man With the Golden Gun) that didn’t have any elephants in it, etc., etc. At least one film historian, Adrian Turner, took a different view in his 1998 book, Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“To begin with, Saltzman took the responsibility for the scripts” of the early 007 films, Turner wrote. “Having worked with John Osborne, it’s clear he thought that Richard Maibaum — Broccoli’s man — was little more than a hack.”

Obviously, that’s hardly a unanimous opinion of Maibaum. Still, Maibaum is quoted on page 100 in author James Chapman’s 2000 book Licence to Thrill as saying that Saltzman did bring in U.K. screenwriter Paul Dehn to do the later drafts of Goldfinger (the notes section of the book says the quote is from page 285 of a book called Backstory.)

Saltzman’s contributions extended beyond being an eccentric crank.

The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership wasn’t an easy one. Eventually, the pair largely alternated producing the films while both were listed as producers. Saltzman primarily responsible for Live And Let Die (though Broccoli did visit the set in Louisiana and posed for a photograph with Saltzman and star Roger Moore) while The Man With the Golden Gun was Broccoli’s picture.

Saltzman had ambitions beyond the Bond films. He produced the Harry Palmer movies based on Len Deighton’s novels. He also produced (with S. Benjamin Fisz) Battle of Britain, a big, sprawling movie about Britain’s darkest hour. Saltzman’s three Palmer films employed the services of Bond crew members including Ken Adam, John Barry, Guy Hamilton and Maurice Binder.

The Broccoli-Wilson clan, now headed by Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, has supervised the 007 series since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody is suggesting that Cubby Broccoli wasn’t a master showman, who deserves a lot of credit for launching Bond on the screen. Still, it would be a shame if Saltzman ends up being the forgotten man as fans look back on 60 years of 007 films.

Bond 21-25 questions: Assessing the Craig era edition

Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace

The Daniel Craig era of the James Bond films is drawing to a close. A thoughtful reader drew my attention to an August 2020 article by the Screen Rant site assessing Craig’s tenure.

Still, until No Time to Die comes out, there’s only so far you can go. Or is that correct? Naturally, the blog has questions.

Was the Craig era really that different? Absolutely.

Ian Fleming’s Bond novels referenced how his creation had relationships with married women. In the Eon film series, M lists “jealous husbands” as a possibility for hiring $1 million-a-hit-assassin Scaramanga in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun. But 2006’s Casino Royale was more explicit.

Anything else? The tone often was more violent, in particular a killing Bond performs early in 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Quantum also had a more political point of view courtesy of director Marc Forster.

Did the Craig era follow earlier Bond films in any way? Yes. The Craig films, like earlier Eon Bond entries, adapted to popular trends in cinema.

In the 1970s, Bond films followed blaxploitation movies (Live And Let Die), kung fu (The Man With the Golden Gun) and science fiction (Moonraker).

In the 21st century Craig movies, the series followed Jason Bourne films (Quantum, including hiring a Bourne second unit director), Christopher Nolan Batman movies (Skyfall) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (SPECTRE, moving to tie all of the Craig adventures together).

Anything else? Some Bond fans argue Craig is the best film James Bond. No Time to Die (apparently) is the final chapter. No doubt there will be more debate once No Time to Die can be viewed.

John Logan provides a peek behind the 007 film curtain

John Logan

John Logan, co-screenwriter of Skyfall and SPECTRE, provided a glimpse behind the James Bond film curtain in a guest essay for The New York Times.

Logan’s article primarily is a plea for Amazon, which last week agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the $8.45 billion deal is subject to regulatory review) to leave the cinematic Bond alone. MGM is Bond’s home studio but it only has half of the Bond franchise, with the Broccoli-Wilson family having the other half.

Where Logan raises the curtain (some) is in describing how the making of Bond films works. One example:

Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the champions of James Bond. They keep the corporate and commercial pressures outside the door. Nor are they motivated by them. That’s why we don’t have a mammoth Bond Cinematic Universe, with endless anemic variations of 007 sprouting up on TV or streaming or in spinoff movies. The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on.

Logan’s specific example concerns Skyfall where Bond finally meets Silva, the film’s villain.

Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms. (Think about Bond first meeting Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld, all classic scenes in the franchise.) Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. 

Now, this is an opinion piece and Logan is certainly entitled to his opinion. But the scribe overlooks a few things.

When Skyfall began production, Mendes declared the movie was not connected to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the first two films starring Daniel Craig.

That didn’t last long. SPECTRE, where Logan was the first screenwriter, decided that Silva wasn’t an independent menace but rather was a part of Quantum/SPECTRE. And SPECTRE, after the fact, opted to make all of the Craig films one big arch.

In short, Bond was following the Marvel Cinematic Universe route that Logan appears to decry in his New York Times essay. And Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have doubled down on Marvel-style continuity that with No Time to Die, directed and co-written by Cary Fukunaga.

What’s more, it’s not like Bond has ignored popular trends prior to this. Albert R. Broccoli (father of Barbara Broccoli and stepfather of Michael G. Wilson) was involved with 007 films that referenced blaxploitation films (Live And Let Die), kung fu movies (The Man With the Golden Gun) and Star Wars and science fiction (Moonraker).

And it was under Cubby Broccoli’s watch that Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan yell (originally recorded for a 1930s Tarzan movie) showed up in Octopussy.

Logan’s essay is worth reading for Bond fans. But it should be read amid a larger context.

About that ‘James Bond knockoff’ thing

A James Bond Jr. character with a pencil communicator that looks a lot like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pen communicator

A James Bond friend of mine misses much spy entertainment as examples of “James Bond knockoffs.”

OK. But the James Bond film franchise has, more than once, borrowed from others. A few examples:

From Russia With Love: Ian Fleming’s fifth novel didn’t include a sequence where Bond dodges a helicopter. This was something the filmmakers added to the movie to add visual excitement. Clearly, it’s an “homage” to North by Northwest where a crop-duster plane goes after Cary Grant.

More broadly, the Bond series owes a lot to North by Northwest. NxNW has a delicate balance of drama and humor. Director Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman practically provide a blueprint for the Bond series that Eon Productions would go on to make.

Live And Let Die: The eighth Eon Bond film is based on Fleming’s second novel. But its popularity also owes much to the early 1970s “blaxplotation” craze. Essentially director Guy Hamilton and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz drop Bond into the middle of a blaxplotation movie. Mankiewicz wanted to cast Diana Ross as Solitaire but Eon wouldn’t go that far.

The Man With The Golden Gun: The ninth Eon Bond film sought to take advantage of the popularity of 1970s kung fu movies. You’d see stories (ahead of the film’s release) about how Roger Moore was training furiously to credibly do martial arts.

Moonraker: In 1966, there was an Italian-based spy movie called Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die. It shares Brazilian locations with 1979’s Moonraker. Heck, you could easily argue the 1966 movie makes better use of Brazil, including Rio’s massive Jesus statue. Also, there are sequences of the 1966 movie that would practically be repeated in Moonraker.

In addition to all that, in Moonraker, we hear a key tune from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Licence to Kill: Bond has a gun with attachments (site, extended barrel, extended magazine, rifle stock) that looks an awfully lot like the U.N.C.L.E. special. In Licence to Kill, the base gun looks like a camera but all the attachments look like the attachments of the U.N.C.L.E. Special.

James Bond Jr.: Many fans disavow this early 1990s cartoon series. But it was officially sanctioned by Eon and Michael G. Wilson shares a “developed by” credit. In episode 9, “The Eiffel Missile,” a character has a pencil communicator that appears copied from U.N.C.L.E.’s pen communicator that debuted in the second season of that series.

When great composers resort to the slide whistle

The end of the car jump of The Man With the Golden Gun

Sometimes, great minds just think alike.

So it is with the slide whistle. One of the most controversial James Bond music choices was when John Barry (1933-2011) opted to use a slide whistle in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

Bond (Roger Moore), desperate to catch up with villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), sends his car across a narrow Thailand waterway. The car completes one full rotation in mid-air before landing on its wheels.

In reality, it was a carefully planned stunt. Such jumps had already been performed at shows. The stunt originally was designed on a computer. Barry utilized a slide whistle for the scene. Many Bond film fans have never forgiven him since.

The thing is, another legendary film composer had used a slide whistle just several years before.

Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) scored the two Derek Flint films, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. With the latter, a 1967 release, Goldsmith also opted to use a slide whistle. It was part of an action sequence. You can see (and hear) use of the slide whistle around the 1:40 mark of the video below:

That’s show business.

UPDATE: On social media, I encountered someone who is claiming John Barry had absolutely nothing to do with The Man With the Golden Gun’s slide whistle.

In the book The Music of James Bond, Barry told a different story. “I just took the liberty of poking fun at it,” Barry is quoted by author Jon Burlingame in the chapter about Golden Gun (it’s on page 121 of the edition I own) specifically about the slide whistle. “It made a mockery of Bond, looking back on it. Even Cubby (Broccoli) didn’t like that. But it was me getting to the end of it.”

I know there’s a dispute about how much Barry contributed, or didn’t contribute to the Monty Norman-credited James Bond Theme. But people rarely seek credit for a lesser moment like Golden Gun’s slide whistle. With For Your Eyes Only, Richard Maibaum made sure everybody knew he didn’t write the line, “I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel!”

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.

Maibaum’s ‘circular’ script structure

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

A few James Bond films utilize a structure that, for the purposes of this post, I am crediting to veteran screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991).

That’s the “circular” structure — the audience sees something at or near the start of the movie that is repeated (with key variations) at the climax.

With the following examples, it’s difficult to give Maibaum full credit. Other screenwriters worked on the Bond films involved. But Maibaum is the only constant. So, without further ado:

From Russia With Love (1963): The film opens with James Bond apparently being stalked — and then killed — by Red Grant (Robert Shaw). However, Grant has only killed a double as part of a training exercise.

Grant kills Bond’s double using a garrotte hidden inside a watch. Later, Grant tries to kill the real Bond (Sean Connery) with the garrotte during a fight sequence on the Orient Express. Naturally, Bond turns the tables on Grant.

Caveat: Both Johanna Harwood (who got an “adapted by” credit) and Len Deighton (uncredited) also worked on the script.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974): The film opens with a gangster (Marc Lawrence) hired to take out Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) on his home grounds, including a “fun house.”

Scaramanga has to scramble before he finally dispatches the gangster. Much later, James Bond (Roger Moore) is lured into the “fun house.” Bond loses his own Walther PPK. But he kills Scaramanga taking a PPK from a life-sized 007 figure.

Caveat:  Tom Mankiewicz was the original screenwriter, then Maibaum was brought in. Mankiewicz did the final rewrites.

Octopussy (1983): After the main titles, a 00-agent disguised as a clown flees from a circus. He’s fatally wounded by twin assassins who are also circus performers.

Toward the climax of the film, Bond (Roger Moore) is disguised as a clown — the same getup as his doomed predecessor — and manages to deactivate an atomic bomb just in the nick of the time.

Caveat: Octopussy began as a script with an effort by George Macdonald Fraser, which was later rewritten by Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

Bond 25 questions: The lead character edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With less than nine months before the 25th installment of the James Bond film series, the blog had a few basic questions about James Bond, agent 007 (?, at least where Bond 25 is concerned).

Is Bond a hero or anti-hero?

This is a subject the blog has explored before and the answers remain murky.

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, maker of the Bond film series, said seven years ago that Bond was an antihero.

Barbara Broccoli, Wilson’s half-sister, said the same year that Bond is “a classical hero, but he’s very human.”

That makes for a split vote by the two principals of Eon.

An anti-hero is defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.”

Is Bond a misogynist or a male chauvinist?

A misogynist is defined as “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Woman hater is a synonym.

A male chauvinist is defined as ” a male who patronizes, disparages, or otherwise denigrates females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit.”

Since 1995, the Bond film series has gone with misogynist. In Judi Dench’s debut as M in GoldenEye, she calls Bond (Pierce Brosnan) a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.

Brosnan’s successor, Daniel Craig, said in 2015 that Bond is “actually a misogynist.”

Well, that would seem to settle the issue, wouldn’t it? If the guy who plays the character calls the character a misogynist that would seem to trump what a fan thinks.

How smart is Bond?

Bond doesn’t always show signs of being a strategic thinker.

In Dr. No, Bond (Sean Connery) brings Quarrel with him to Crab Key to see what happens. He brings along a Walther PPK.

In the novel From Russia With Love, Bond knows a trap has been set. But he decides to stay on the train to see what happens.

In The Man With the Golden Gun film, his plan (such as it is) is to fly to Scaramanga’s isolated island and see what happens.

In Quantum of Solace, he brings along his trusty Walther to take on Dominic Greene and his many thugs at the hotel powered by fuel cells (apparently filled with Explodium). He’ll see what happens.

In Skyfall, Bond takes M (Dench again) from London (where she has been guarded ineffectively) to stately Skyfall manor (which has no security, though Bond & Co. manage to cobble together some traps). Bond is able to kill Silva (Javier Bardem) moments before M dies.

The Wrecking Crew-Golden Gun mashup

Bruce Lee supervises Sharon Tate (left) and Nancy Kwan during production of The Wrecking Crew

The new movie Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood prompted the blog to again watch The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm film with Dean Martin.

The latter figures prominently in the Quentin Tarantino-directed Once Upon a Time.

After the latest viewing of The Wrecking Crew, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities with the 1974 James Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun.

Wrecking Crew: Freya Carlson (Sharon Tate) is a klutz.

Golden Gun: Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) is a klutz.

Wrecking Crew: Freya works for British Intelligence.

Golden Gun: Goodnight works for British Intelligence.

Wrecking Crew: One of Freya’s colleagues is known as JB.

Golden Gun: One of Goodnight’s colleagues is James Bond.

Wrecking Crew: Matt Helm (Dean Martin) spends a portion of the movie commenting on Freya’s clumsiness.

Golden Gun: James Bond (Roger Moore) spends a portion of the movie commenting on Goodnight’s clumsiness.

Wrecking Crew: When the mission is completed, Helm’s boss, MacDonald (John Larch) unexpectedly calls Helm in the villain’s private rail car that is towing $1 billion in gold. (You’d think it’d have an unlisted number.)

Golden Gun: When the mission is completed, Bond’s boss, M (Bernard Lee) unexpectedly calls Bond in the villain’s private boat. (You’d think it’d have an unlisted number.)

Wrecking Crew: Movie ends with Helm and Freya making out, about to make love.

Golden Gun: Movie ends with Bond and Goodnight making out, about to make love.