FROM THE ARCHIVES: First attempt at a Thunderball script

Kevin McClory's cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory’s cameo in Thunderball

Adapted from a 2015 post

Bond collector Gary J. Firuta loaned us a copy of the first script in what would eventually become 1965’s Thunderball — but it’s an uneven effort at best.

The script was Jack Whittingham’s first draft, titled Longitude 78 West for producer Kevin McClory. It’s dated as being completed on Feb. 15, 1960. The title page specifically refers to it as a “first draft screenplay” that’s “Based on a story by Ian Fleming.”

The villains belong to the Mafia and are led by Giovanni “Joe” Largo. Except we’re told in the second half of the script that name is an alias. Nevertheless, he is identified as Largo throughout the script in both lines of dialogue and in stage directions.

Aside from the hijacking of two atomic bombs, there’s no other action in the script’s first half. It begins with a short pre-credits sequence where U.S. President Harry S. Truman comments about how, one day, civilization could be destroyed by atomic weapons.

“It is hoped that we may be able to persuade Mr. Truman to record this scene,” the stage directions read. “If not, it’s (sic) intention and content can be expressed quite easily some other way.”

Bond doesn’t appear until page 26. The rule of thumb is that one page of script equals a minute of running time. So 007 wouldn’t be seen until almost a half-hour into the movie. He’s on the shooting range at headquarters, in a scene similar to the opening of Fleming’s Moonraker novel.

Bond is summoned to M’s office. Here, the secretary to the MI6 chief is named simply Penny, not Moneypenny. The British government has been notified by the Mafia it has the atomic bombs and it wants 100 million pounds.

We also see things unfold in the Bahamas. Largo’s mistress is Gaby. It’s clear she’s not particularly enthusiastic about the arrangement. He wants her for, in effect, decoration at an upcoming meeting of delegates to a supposed union meeting (of course they’re fellow members of the Mafia, or the Brotherhood). “I’ve got a lot of entertaining to do, and I want you around,” Largo tells Gaby.

Bond meets Gaby at a hotel on page 38. It turns out Largo’s group is meeting there as well. Bond orders a planter’s punch from a bartender and buys a vodka martini for Gaby. They talk until page 41, when Bond first gets a look at Largo and 007 meets the villain on the following page.

Shortly thereafter, Bond meets up with the CIA’s Felix Leiter. After a meeting with the governor of the Bahamas, the agents have lunch. Bond talks a lot about food. When Bond asks the waiter for a wine list, Leiter replies: “Not for me thanks. Bring me a glass of water.” Bond says, “Of course, I’d forgotten!” What he forgot is never explained.

In the story, there’s a sequence that goes back and forth between Bond romancing Gaby and Leiter keeping tabs on Largo’s group. There’s also a scene where Gaby talks to Johnni, a young boy who’s a crew member on Largo’s yacht. Bond wonders why Gaby is so interested in children. She replies because she can’t have any.

The action picks up in the second half. Largo is mad about Bond being with Gaby, and the agent gets beaten up. Eventually, the Mafia makes its move and is ready to bring one of the bombs to Miami.

Bond plays Largo in a game of baccarat. Presumably, this is an homage to Fleming’s Casino Royale and the scene is more important that a similar scene in Thunderball; in that version, the card game is where Bond and Largo first meet. Bond tries to win Gaby to his side and instructs her how to deactivate, or activate, the bomb.

Meanwhile, Leiter, while not an equal to Bond, is more of a participant in events than he’d be in Thunderball. He gets captured by Largo and is on the villain’s yacht.

In the climax, Bond is involved in an underwater fight with the Mafia (though not as expansive as would take place in Thunderball). Largo shoots Leiter, after the CIA agent had gotten free. Largo takes Gaby and the other bomb in an airplane.

Bond tends to Felix and watches the plane getting away. Then, the aircraft goes up in an atomic explosion. “She’s done it…She had the guts…She’s done it!” Bond says as the story ends.

Besides the downer ending, which 007 audiences wouldn’t experience until 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the script is unusual in other ways. It’s very chatty. VERY chatty. Scenes go on and on. Bond comes across as a social worker where he quizzes Gaby about her fondness for children.

Granted this is a first draft, but one suspects if this version had gone before the cameras, the cinema 007 might have ended right there.

You Only Live Twice’s 55th: Mixed legacy

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

Updated and expanded from a 2017 post.

The 55th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, but it also created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seemingly endless number of extras was available when needed.

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted the contract they had with the star. But their inducements were not enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by the acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained. Some fans even refer those changes as among the worst moves Eon ever made. CLICK HERE for a sampling.  One example: “What led the producers to discard the Fleming trilogy (the biggest single gaffe in the series´ history) is inexplicable.”

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

Bond event scheduled in June for the Bahamas

A James Bond event has been scheduled for June 14-17 in the Bahamas.

Titled “Back to the Bahamas,” participants are scheduled to include Luciana Paluzzi and Martine Bestwick from Thunderball.

Here is a description:

Expect Bond girls, Bond tours, Bond locations! All in one of the most exotic places on this planet. Drown yourself in luxury at The Reef Atlantis for three days of fun, together with friends from all around the world.

Explore New Providence, enjoy Nassau, enjoy James Bond’s favorite destination in good company.

Oh, and did I mention the Kiss Kiss Club?

 – “Does that really exist then?”
It will on June 16, I promise you!

During the finale party we will launch our latest book and you will be part of the reunion you do not want to miss.

If you CLICK HERE, you can download an event brochure and check out a booking form.

Casino Royale’s 55th anniversary: Oh no, 007!

Adapted from a 2012 post

April Fool’s Day is as good as any occasion to note this month marks the 55th anniversary of Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale, the producer’s 1967 send-up of 007.

Feldman, one-time agent (Albert R. Broccoli was one of his employees) turned producer, was nobody’s fool. He had produced films in a variety of genres such as 1948’s Red River (uncredited), 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 1955’s The Seven Year Itch and 1965’s What’s New Pussycat.

So, when he acquired the film rights to Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel in the early 1960s, Feldman recognized it had commercial potential even as the film series produced by one-time associate Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was getting underway in 1962.

Feldman tried to entice director Howard Hawks, his one-time colleague on Red River. Hawks was interested but the director backed out after seeing an early print of Dr. No with Sean Connery.

Feldman pressed on, signing distinguished screenwriter Ben Hecht to come up with a screenplay. Details of Hecht’s work were reported in 2011 by Jeremy Duns in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper. Hecht died in 1964, while still working on the project. In 2020, Duns uncovered additional details about an attempt by Joseph Heller to adapt Fleming’s first novel.

By the 1960s, Eon’s series was reaching its peak of popularity with 1964’s Goldfinger and 1965’s Thunderball. Broccoli and Saltzman agreed to a co-production deal with Kevin McClory, holder of the film rights for Thunderball.

James Bond, The Legacy, the 2002 book by John Cork and Bruce Scivally, presents a narrative of on-and-off talks between Feldman, Broccoli, Saltzman and United Artists, the studio releasing the Broccoli-Saltzman movies. In the end, talks broke down. (Behind the scenes, Broccoli and Saltzman had their own tensions to deal with, including Saltzman’s outside ventures such as his Harry Palmer series of films.).

So Feldman opted to go for farce, but not in a small way. His movie had an estimated budget, according to IMDB.com. of $12 million. The Cork-Scivally book put the figure at $10.5 million. Either way, it was more than the $9.5 million budget of You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Broccoli-Saltzman series. Twice’s outlay included $1 million for Ken Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set.

Feldman’s film didn’t have that kind of spectacle. But he did pay money (or Columbia Pictures’ money) for talent such as John Huston (one of five credited directors), David Niven (playing the “original” James Bond, brought out of retirement, who implies the Sean Connery version of the Broccoli-Saltzman series was assigned the James Bond name by MI6), Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress (now famous because of Dr. No), William Holden, Woody Allen and….well CLICK HERE to view the entire cast and crew.

Casino Royale, however, was less than the sum of its impressive parts. The humor is uneven, it doesn’t really have a story, despite employing a number screenwriters, including Wolf Mankowitz, who introduced Broccoli and Saltzman to each other.

The’67 Casino managed a reported worldwide gross of $41.7 million. That was good in its day, though less than a third of Thunderball’s $141.7 million global box office.

Much has been written since 1967 about the stressful production, including reported feuds between Sellers and Welles. Perhaps all that took a toll on the film’s producer. Feldman died in May 1968, a little more than 13 months after Casino Royale’s premier. He was 64.

Importance of score & editing (Bond edition)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said this week several Oscars will be awarded before the Oscars telecast, including best score and editing.

Ben Mankiewicz, a TCM host, did a tongue-in-cheek tweet asking followers to name movies where score and editing made a difference. You can view it below.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll keep examples of James Bond movies only.

From Russia With Love: According to the documentary Inside From Russia With Love (available on some home video editions of the movie), editor Peter Hunt changed the order of early sequences. This, in effect, created the Bond tradition of the pre-title sequence.

The movie was also the first Bond film (out of 11 total) scored by John Barry. That helped establish the “Bond sound” of 007 movie film music. Barry’s contributions have lasted beyond his death. No Time to Die’s score incorporated Barry’s instrumental theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Thunderball: Director Terence Young departed the project early before post-production was completed. That left editor Hunt by himself, with deadlines for a Christmas release coming down upon him.

What’s more, things were hectic for Barry as well. The title song was changed late from Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang to Thunderball. “Barry worked overtime to incorporate the new theme into the score so it wouldn’t look like the kind of pasted-on song he loathed,” according to The Music of James Bond by Jon Burlingame.

You Only Live Twice: Originally, Peter Hunt was going to be the second unit director and not edit (see James Bond in the Cinema by John Brosnan). But early cuts of the movie were running long and Hunt ended up applying his editing talents as well. The film’s running time ended up just under two hours.

The Man With the Golden Gun: John Barry, generally, scored Bond films on a tight schedule. According to Burlingame’s book, even Barry felt the pressure. Barry only had three weeks to complete the entire score.

There are other examples, of course. In general, movies can be saved in post-production (1975’s Jaws being a notable example).

Bond 25 questions: The Oscars edition

No Time to Die poster

Well, the Oscar nominations are out. Good news for Bond fans: No Time to Die got three nominations. Bad news: It didn’t get any of the major ones.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened? Have you paid attention? The Bond film series produced by Eon Productions has won a grand total of five Oscars over 60 years. Goldfinger got a sound award, Thunderball got a special effects award. Skyfall received a sound award (tying with Zero Dark Thirty) and best song. SPECTRE won a best song award.

Meanwhile, John Barry won five Oscars by himself but wasn’t even nominated for his Bond film work.

The Oscars are not particularly friendly to the Bond series. Films like Live And Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only got nominations and walked away empty.

For the record, No Time to Die was nominated for best song, visual effects, and sound.

But I thought this was going to be different! Well, sure, there was talk some genre movies (such as No Time to Die or Spider-Man No Way Home) might sneak in and grab one of the 10 best picture nomination slots.

Sorry. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t have a category for popularity. Once upon a time, popular movies won or at least were nominated. Que sera sera. What will be, will be.

But hey, Spider-Man No Way Home only got one nomination (visual effects). If you’re a Bond fan and want to gloat, you can seize upon that.

Are there any bright spots in this? Sure. No Time to Die is only the third Bond film to receive multiple nominations. The others were The Spy Who Loved Me (three nominations, no wins) and Skyfall (five nominations, two wins).

Any lessons to be learned? Perhaps Bond’s home studio (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and producers (Eon) ought to roll back their expectations for big, expensive Oscar campaigns.

I wouldn’t go banco on that, however.

Dr. No’s 60th anniversary Part V: Ken Adam’s magic

Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) gets his instructions from Dr. No on a Ken Adam-designed set.

Adapted from a 2012 post

Dr. No, the first James Bond film, had a modest $1 million budget. Ken Adam, the movie’s production designer, performed some magic that disguised that fact, making the film look more expensive than it really was. In doing so, the designer helped make James Bond’s world a special one.

Adam’s work on the initial 007 film included Dr. No’s living quarters, a mix of modern and antique; a mostly empty room with a large circular grille in the roof where an unseen Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) provides instructions to his lackey Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson); and Dr. No’s control room, complete with nuclear reactor, perfect for any ambitious villain.

Adam’s work had an immediate effect: director Stanley Kubrick snatched Adam up to work on Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In that capacity, Adam’s sets included the Pentagon “war room.” That image has been said to prompt Ronald Reagan, upon becoming U.S. president in 1981, to inquire about seeing the place (CLICK HERE to see a 2001 story in the The Guardian that references this or CLICK HERE for a 2009 review of the movie that also makes mention of it.)

Ken Adam

In any case, 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, after having to forgo Adam’s services for From Russia With Love, made sure the designer was on board for Goldfinger. Adam’s sets got more elaborate. Some had moving sections, such as the room Goldfinger describes his plans to raid Fort Knox. Of course, there was the interior of Fort Knox itself.

Adam’s work influenced other ’60s spy movies. Films such as Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die and The Ambushers had scenes where a villain has quarters with moving sections. Adam, though, got more money to play with than his rivals, coming up with the Disco Volante (where a lead hydrofoil could separate from the rear section of the craft) in Thunderball and Blofeld’s volcano headquarters in You Only Live Twice.

Adam (1921-2016) was already a veteran designer when Dr. No came along. He helped make Bond movies special. Adam has worked on less than one-third of the Eon Productions-produced Bond movies and his last 007 credit was 1979’s Moonraker. But his work still stands out and remains the standard others are judged by.

Audiences received yet another reminder of that with 2021’s No Time to Die. Mark Tildesley, the production designer, did an homage to Adam’s circular grille. It was part of the lair of the movie’s villain, Safin played by Rami Malek.

Rami Malek on a No Time to Die set designed by Mark Tildesley certainly appears inspired by a Ken Adam set from Dr. No.

NEXT: Legacy

No Time to Die footnote edition

No Time to Die poster

No Time to Die’s theatrical rollout is well along, with only a few countries left to see the movie. With that in mind, here’s a look at various things that were either supposed to happen or people wanted to happen.

The ginormous premiere: Remember how Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions were supposed to be considering staging the movie’s world premiere “at the biggest venues in London, starting with Wembley and going down from there” ?

At least that was the tale from The Mirror on April 17. That didn’t happen. The premiere took place at Royal Albert Hall.

An “in memoriam” title card for Sean Connery and Roger Moore: James Bond fans were rooting for No Time to Die to note the passings of Sean Connery (1930-2020) and Roger Moore (1927-2017). The two actors played Bond in 13 of Eon’s 25 Bond films. That didn’t happen, either.

MGM’s push for a Best Picture Oscar nomination: Matthew Belloni, part of a digital news startup called Puck, wrote in June that he was told No Time to Die “will get a best picture push a la the final Lord of the Rings.”

This, of course, could still happen. Belloni is a former editor of The Hollywood Reporter. And some of his other items about No Time to Die have proven correct, including an August newsletter item that MGM and Eon were committed to releasing No Time to Die in late September in the U.K. and on Oct. 8 in the U.S.

The Bond series has experienced a mixed record at the Oscars. Goldfinger and Thunderball won for sound and special effects respectively. Skyfall won for best song and a sound award while SPECTRE also received a best song Oscar.

However, Bond films haven’t been nominated for acting, directing, or writing nor for best picture. Perhaps that could change if MGM and Eon make a sufficient push.

Leslie Bricusse, prolific songwriter, dies at 90

Leslie Bricusse (1931- 2021)

Leslie Bricusse, a prolific songwriter whose work included some of the best-known songs of the 1960s spy craze, has died at 90, according to the BBC.

Bricusse, over his career, picked up two Oscars and multiple nominations.

His work included the 1967 film Doctor Doolittle, where he wrote the screenplay and the music and lyrics for the songs. The movie included the song If I Could Talk to the Animals, which has been re-recorded on numerous occasions.

Bricusse became familiar to fans of 1960s spy movies. He collaborated with composer John Barry and wrote the lyrics to two of the most famous James Bond songs, Goldfinger (with Anthony Newley) and You Only Live Twice.

Goldfinger, recorded by Shirley Bassey, was a big hit song. The subject of Bond, though, wasn’t new to Bricusse. He told Jon Burlingame, author of The Music of James Bond, that he was a fan of Ian Fleming’s novels.

“I read the books from the day they came out,” Bricusse said. The songwriter told Burlingame they key to writing the song was the phrase “Midas touch,” because after that the rest of the lyrics came together.

John Barry

With You Only Live Twice, the Barry-Bricusse team wrote two songs. The first, recorded by Julie Rogers, went unused (surfacing in the early 1990s on a collection of 007 title songs and film music). The second attempt was written in early 1967, according to Burlingame’s book.

“John made it easy for the lyric writer in that the music said what it was meant to be,” Bricusse told Burlingame. “Remember, you go in (a) knowing the context, (b) you’ve got the melody, and (c) you’re given the title of the song. So it’s fill in the blanks.” The song was recorded by Nancy Sinatra.

Barry and Bricusse also worked together on another Bond song, Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It was intended as the title song for 1965’s Thunderball. But the production team vetoed it at the last minute, instead wanting a song titled Thunderball.

Barry and Don Black collaborated on Thunderball, which was recorded by Tom Jones. However, music from the Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang song was woven into the film’s score by Barry.

Bricusse also worked with Jerry Goldsmith on the unlikely titled Your Zowie Face in 1967’s In Like Flint. An instrumental version was used in the main titles. But the end titles featured full vocals.

Zowie came from Z.O.W.I.E., or Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage, that was part of the two Derek Flint films starring James Coburn. Working “zowie” into a song sounds as if it might have been difficult, but the song actually works.

Bricusse knew early he wanted to be a songwriter.

“I wanted to grow up to be George and Ira Gershwin from the age of about six,” he told the Financial Times in a November 2017 interview.

Asked by the FT what kept him motivated, Bricusse replied: “The sheer pleasure of writing. When you live in a world of imagination, your imagination doesn’t necessarily grow old with you.”

The songwriter also told the FT he didn’t believe in an afterlife.

“No. I think we have to assume we have one life,” he said. “Though having said that, I did write a song called ‘You Only Live Twice’. I’ll settle for that.”

MGM may push for a Best Picture nom for NTTD

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may promote a Best Picture Oscar nomination for No Time to Die, according to a newsletter by a former editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

An edition of the newsletter this week outlines various MGM Oscar hopefuls. “And don’t forget No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie, which I’m told will get a best picture push a la the final Lord of the Rings,” wrote Matthew Belloni, who left THR last year. He is now part of a digital media startup.

A screen capture from the newsletter showed up on the James Bond Facebook group alt.fan.james-bond. Belloni verified on Twitter he had written on the subject of MGM’s Oscar hopefuls.

The Bond series has won five Oscars: sound (Goldfinger), special effects (Thunderball) another sound-related award (Skyfall in a tie with Zero Dark Thirty) and two for best song (Skyfall and SPECTRE). It has had other nominations, including for best song (multiple times), cinematography (Skyfall), art direction (The Spy Who Loved Me) and best score (The Spy Who Loved Me and Skyfall).

Starting with 2009-released films, the Oscars permitted as many as 10 Best Picture nominees, up from five previously. The idea was to make it easier for popular films to be among the nominated movies.

MGM is in the process of being purchased by Amazon.