About the buzz over a Bond title song performer

John Barry (1933-2011)

Whenever a new James Bond is being made, there’s a lot of interest in who will be doing the title song. On Sunday, the MI6 James Bond website reported that American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, 18, will have the honors.

While unconfirmed, naturally fans are commenting about it. Calvin Dyson, who runs an entertaining YouTube channel centered on Bond asked the following in a tweet.

Reacting to news that Billie Eilish is likely doing the #NoTimeToDie theme do you:

A: Feel good about it
B: Acknowledge she isn’t really for you but reserve judgement until release
C: Grumble “Never heard of her” for 3 months
D: Froth at the mouth that it’s not Shirley Bassey

For me, the answer is none of the above. Just a personal reaction, but for a while now Bond title songs have been more part of the marketing but tacked on to the films themselves.

It wasn’t always that way. John Barry’s first Bond score was From Russia With Love. He didn’t write the title song (Lionel Bart did). But Barry incorporated it into his score with different arrangements, tempos and orchestrations.

Of course, once Barry started writing Bond title songs with Goldfinger, he layered them into the scores — sometimes quietly, sometimes with a loud, brassy sound. In the case of Thunderball, Barry incorporated two songs: Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (written first but rejected) and Thunderball.

Barry wasn’t around for Live And Let Die. Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the title song. George Martin, who had helped McCartney produce the song and who negotiated with producer Harry Saltzman, did the score. Martin incorporated instrumental versions of the song into his score. Other Bond composers, such as Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti, also worked the title songs they helped write into their scores.

In other words, the song was more than just something performed for the titles. A title song became part of the movie itself, playing a role in establishing mood and emotion.

Things change. One reason Barry finally walked away from the series for good was he would not be allowed to write the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies. He’d already been away from Bond for a decade. That was simply the last straw.

The last time a title song got the Barry treatment was “You Know My Name” for 2006’s Casino Royale. David Arnold, composer for the score, collaborated with performer Chris Cornell on writing the song.

In the 2010s, both Skyfall and “Writing’s on the Wall” from SPECTRE won Oscars for best song. Instrumental versions appear in the two movie scores but, to my ear, seem placed because that’s what’s expected.

Nothing stays the same. John Barry died in 2011. David Arnold, who updated the Barry/Bond music template, hasn’t worked on the series since 2008.

The new title song, whoever writes and performs it, may be great. It may be OK. It may be mediocre. There’s no way to know until it’s released.

But, speaking only for myself, I find hard to get excited about it. Your mileage may vary.

Claudine Auger dies at 78

Sean Connery and Claudine Auger in Thunderball

Claudine Auger, who played the lead female character in Thunderball, died this week at 78, the French newspaper Sud Quest reported.

Auger died on Wednesday. The newspaper cited “the artistic agency Art Time who represented her” as the source of the information.

The actress won the role of Domino, the mistress of SPECTRE villain Emilo Largo (Adolfo Celi) in Thunderball. James Bond (Sean Connery) wins over Domino, who provides the British agent help on his mission. In the film’s climax, Domino kills Largo with a spear gun, saving Bond’s life.

Auger turned 24 during production of the fourth Bond movie. Other contenders for the role included Julie Christie, Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway. Thunderball was a huge hit and came out at the peak of the 1960s spy craze.

The November 1965 U.S. television special The Incredible World of James Bond included a Thunderball scene at a Nassau casino where Auger and Celi could be heard speaking in their own voices. Both were dubbed for the final version of the movie, which came out a month later.

Auger’s IMDB.COM entry lists 80 acting credits, lasting into the 1990s.

Ford v Ferrari’s odd James Bond reference

Henry Ford II (1917-1987) in front of portraits of his father, Edsel Ford (1893-1943) and grandfather Henry Ford (1863-1947).

Obviously, this is a spoiler for Ford v Ferrari.

This weekend, the top box office movie in the U.S. is Ford v Ferrari, a depiction of how Ford beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in the 1960s. It also has a peculiar James Bond reference.

Early in the film, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) is trying to persuade Ford Motor Co. boss Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to get involved in international auto racing to boost the company’s image.

As part of Iacocca’s presentation he shows two slides of Sean Connery as James Bond — one a publicity photo for Goldfinger of Connery with the Aston Martin DB5, the other a still from Thunderball. “James Bond doesn’t drive a Ford,” Iacocca says.

“That’s because he’s a degenerate,” Henry Ford II, aka “Hank the Deuce,” scoffs.

This is a little odd for a few reasons.

In Goldfinger, Ford already supplied a fleet of vehicles. Ford Motor wouldn’t own Aston Martin until 1987. But the movie was the movie debut of the Ford Mustang (driven by Tilly in Switzerland).

The film also had a Lincoln Continental (crushed with the body of Mr. Solo inside), a Ford Thunderbird (with Felix Leiter as a passenger) and a group of Ford trucks (driven to Fort Knox).

Ford’s presence was even more prominent in Thunderball.

There was another Thunderbird (driven by Largo to SPECTRE headdquarters in Paris), two Lincoln Continentals, a Ford Fairlane (driven by Count Lippe when he meets his demise via rockets fired by Fiona Volpe) and another Mustang (driven by Fiona when she picks up a hitchhiking Bond).

On top of all that, Henry Ford II himself was an extra in the movie during the Nassau casino sequence, according to The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin. The auto executive’s fee was $35, according to that book.

Also, if anything, Bond and Henry Ford II should have been kindred spirits. Here’s a short passage from an obituary about Henry Ford II by the Los Angeles Times.

He was the international playboy who did as he liked, starring in the jet set gossip columns and making headlines as master of revels at famous watering holes in the Bahamas, Mexico and the Riviera.

“Never complain, never explain,” he said when questioned about a 1975 peccadillo.

Ford Motor had a long, on-and-off relationship with the Bond film series. Other Bond films with Ford vehicles include On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Three brands formerly owned by Ford, Aston Martin (sold in 2007) and Jaguar and Land Rover (sold in 2008) continue to appear in the series.

No time to drive: Price appreciation of 007 cars

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

A study by 1st Move International looked at how prices have appreciated for various cars that appeared in James Bond movies.

At the top, not surprisingly, was the Aston Martin DB5, which was originally priced at 4,175 British pounds ($11,690 at the 1960s exchange rate of $2.80 to the pound), which now fetches 687,696 pounds (more than $883,786 at current exchange rates.

What follows is  sampling of other cars of note in British pounds. The data is as of Sept. 20.

Toyota 2000 GT (You Only Live Twice): 6,379 pounds originally, now 530,111 pounds.

Aston Martin DBS (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service): 4,473 pounds originally, now 214,950 pounds.

Lincoln Continental Convertible (Thunderball): 475 pounds originally, now 20,336 pounds

Chevrolet Impala Convertible (Live And Let Die): Almost 2,084 pounds originally, now 23,906 pounds.

Bentley Mark IV (From Russia With Love): 2.997 pounds originally, 29,500 pounds now.

Ford Mustang Mach 1 (Diamonds Are Forever): 2,883 pounds originally, 20,000 pounds now.

Sunbeam Alpine Series II (Dr. No): 985 pounds originally, 6,771 pounds now. 

Lincoln Mark VII (Licence to Kill) 8,041 pounds originally, 43,499 pounds now.

Lotus Esprit S1 (The Spy Who Loved Me): 10,791 pounds originally, 39,999 pounds now. 

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Voltaire (The Living Daylights): 54,685 pounds originally, 150,000 pounds now. 

The study also analyzed car appreciation place by actor. Sean Connery cars, for example, averaged an appreciation of 7,134 percent. Timothy Dalton was at the low end at 208 percent. Daniel Craig films weigh in at 1,193 percent, which includes use of the DB5.

For more about the 1st Move International study, CLICK HERE.

Ready or not, the DB5 reports for service again

A replica Aston Martin DB5 rolls off the truck in preparation for Bond 25 filming

Italian news outlet Sassilive had a story about Bond 25 getting ready for filming in Matera, Italy. The article included a photo gallery, including a picture (see above) of an Aston Martin DB5 coming off a truck.

So, ready for not, the DB5 is back. Again.

Most people won’t care that the car (actually one of several) is an expensive replica of the DB5. Carbon fiber body. BMW engine. New suspension components that were never included in the DB5s that Aston Martin made in the 1960s.

Regardless, Eon Productions is turning to one the most iconic images of its James Bond film series. The question is whether this may be one time too many.

The original DB5 was introduced in Goldfinger and made a return in Thunderball. While other Aston models showed up in various Bond films, the DB5 wasn’t seen again in a 007 outing until 1995’s GoldenEye.

In that film, the DB5 appeared to be Bond’s personal car. Ditto for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. A left-handed drive version then appeared in 2006’s Casino Royale, something he won in a card game.

But the DB5 — an original right-hand drive version — was back in 2012’s Skyfall. This time, director Sam Mendes made sure everyone knew it was (or at least it was supposed to be) the original Goldfinger car. And, indeed, every time I saw the film in the theater, it got a rise out of the audience.

The DB5 was blown up in Skyfall, a somewhat emotional moment. But all was forgotten in 2015’s SPECTRE when Q (improbably) had it rebuilt. And Daniel Craig’s Bond appeared to drive off into the sunset at the end of the movie.

Since then, we’ve gotten expensive Lego DB5s and even more expensive replica DB5s with replica gadgets that Aston Martin is selling for more than $3 million each. That’s a lot of money, especially they’re not legal to drive in actual traffic.

Regardless, the DB5 (at least a faux version) is back for Bond 25. Daniel Craig told Prince Charles the secrets of the Bond 25 DB5s when the prince visited Pinewood Studios in June. Now the replica DB5 will soon be at work when Bond 25 begins filming in Italy in a few weeks.

I never really thought I’d say this, but I’m getting tired of the DB5.

Yes, people collect vintage cars. But does it really make sense for Bond to drive what’s supposed to be a 55-year-old (or so) car on a regular basis?

Yes, the DB5 is an iconic Bond car — or at least it was. But is it getting used too much?

Haphazard Stuff, which does very amusing, detailed videos, recently did a long look at Bond 25. He examined the DB5 issue, starting at the 33:36 mark. You can see the video below. (If I did this correctly, it’ll go to the DB5 discussion when you click.) Anyway, some food for thought.

A guide to references in Tarantino’s new film

Post for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

These aren’t plot spoilers but the spoiler adverse should avoid.

The Quentin Tarantino-directed Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood opens this weekend. Trailers and TV spots for the film promised references to 1960s entertainment. It delivers.

Here’s a guide to some of the references that may be of interest to readers of the blog.

The Wrecking Crew: Margot Robbie, playing Sharon Tate, goes to a movie theater to watch the fourth Matt Helm film starring Dean Martin. She’s depicted as gauging how the audience reactions.

As a result, for most of the sequence, you have the fictional Tate watching the real Sharon Tate opposite Martin and Nancy Kwan. At one point, a fight scene between Tate and Kwan is juxtaposed with scenes of  of Robbie’s Tate training with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh).

Burt Reynolds in The FBI episode All the Streets Are Silent. Leonardo DiCaprio replaces Reynolds in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The FBI: Actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman/gofer Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) goes to Dalton’s house to watch the actor’s appearance in The FBI in an episode titled All the Streets Are Silent.

It’s an actual episode of the series. Except shots with Burt Reynolds, playing the episode’s lead villain, are replaced with DeCaprio as Dalton. “This is my big FBI moment,” Dalton says just before the freeze frame at the end of the pre-titles sequence where the villain’s name is on the screen.

All the Streets Are Silent was a 1965 episode. But the film is set in 1969. So the title card for the episode’s name is altered so it’s consistent with the series for the 1968-69 season.

Mannix: At one point, Booth goes home to his own trailer and watches an episode of the private eye drama. The title sequence does match the titles for the 1968-69 season.

The arrangement of Lalo schifrin’s theme uses strings instead of a piano (which began in the third season and lasted the rest of the series.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: The two shows are mentioned in passing by a character played by Al Pacino. Girl went off the air in 1967 while Man’s final episode was in January 1968.

The Wild Wild West: The show isn’t mentioned by name, but Al Pacino also references “Bob Conrad and his tight pants.”

The Green Hornet: There’s a flashback scene depicting Cliff Booth getting into a fight with Bruce Lee on the set of the 1966-67 series.

Have Gun-Will Travel: Underscore from the 1957-63 Western is used with a fictional Western series where Dalton had been a big star. Details of specific music is cited in the end titles.

Batman: The theme music for the 1966-68 series shows up in the end titles, along with audio from what sounds like a radio ad featuring Adam West and Burt Ward.

These are just a fraction of movie and TV references in the film. There are other trailers, posters and billboards shown throughout the movie.

UPDATE (July 26): Matthew Chernov advises via Twitter that there also is music from Thunderball in the end titles of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

“It’s a cue from Thunderball,” Chernov wrote in response to a tweet from me. “I saw both movies virtually back to back and it’s definitely part of a climactic action track.”

Chernov conducted a question and answer session with Luciana Paluzzi on July 17 at the Tarantino-owned New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. The actress attended a showing of Thunderball at the theater.

Chernov also wrote a July 23 article for the James Bond Radio website about Pauluzzi’s appearance.

(July 29): Reader Matthew Bradford, in a comment on The Spy Command’s page on Facebook, advises the Thunderball music was part of the Batman radio spot cited above.

(July 30): Reader Delmo Waters Jr. identifies the Mannix episode as “Death in a Minor Key,” original air date Feb. 8, 1969. Guest stars include two future Bond film actors: Yahphet Kotto and Anthony Zerbe.

Luciana Paluzzi attends Thunderball screening

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

Luciana Paluzzi, who played femme fatale Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, attended a screening of the fourth James Bond film and took some questions.

The film was shown at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, owned by writer-director Quentin Tarantino.

Today I moderated a surprise Q&A at the @newbeverly with THUNDERBALL star Luciana Paluzzi after watching a gorgeous Technicolor print of the film,” writer Matthew Chernov said on Twitter.

“It was a packed house, and Ms. Paluzzi wept in happiness because this was the first time her grandchildren saw her on the big screen.”

The theater is showing five 1960s James Bond films this month, with each showing at 2 p.m. local time on Wednesdays. Thunderball, starring Sean Connery and released in late 1965, came out at the peak of 1960s spymania.

Paluzzi, 82, also made appearances on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and Hawaii Five-O during her career.

Here is Chernov’s tweet:

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