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

Diamonds’ 50th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 50 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular). Also, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case at times seems a capable criminal, while at other times comes across as scatterbrained.

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie was former United Artists executive David Picker (1931-2019). In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans.

Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery. James Bond would return.

Bond 25 questions: No Time to Die’s box office crown

One of the many No Time to Die posters

Sometime soon, No Time to Die is expected will pass F9: The Fast Saga as the No. 1 Hollywood box office movie of 2021. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you mean “Hollywood” movie?

From the very beginning, Bond movies were financed by Hollywood studios. United Artists secured a loan from BANK OF AMERICA (a U.S. company) that supplied most of the money. It has never changed since.

Wait, what?

Yes, even though the movies were made in the U.K., the U.S. supplied the money. Without the likes of Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin and David V. Picker at United Artists, Bond would never have gotten off the ground.

But I thought Eon did everything!

That’s a comforting myth that many Bond fans have adopted. In reality, Eon plays with others’ money.

OK, but doesn’t product placement finance *everything*?

No. That’s another comforting myth among Bond fans.

What are you saying?

REPEAT: James Bond’s ownership is blurred. Creatively, it is controlled by Danjaq/Eon while Bond’s home studio is MGM. It’s an uneasy partnership. MGM can’t go forward without Danjaq/Eon while Danjaq/Eon can’t launch a Bond movie without MGM.

What are you trying to say?

MGM and Danjaq/MGM are in an uneasy partnership. MGM has agreed to be acquired by Amazon. Maybe that will create new opportunities.

Still?

Until Amazon gets full control of MGM (that deal still is subject to regulatory review), we don’t really know.

Jerry Juroe, one-time Eon publicity man, dies

Cover to Jerry Juroe’s recent book

Charles “Jerry” Juroe, a long-time publicity man whose career included a stint at Eon Productions, has died at 97.

Friends of Juroe, including Doug Redenius of the Ian Fleming Foundation, and Raymond Benson, former Bond novel continuation author, published tributes this week on social media.

Juroe published a book about his career in 2018. Besides Bond, he worked with many others as a publicist including Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles.

In addition, Juroe was a presence on home video documentaries about the Bond film series produced by Eon Productions. His career also included time at United Artists where he worked on non-Bond UA movies such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Jerry Juroe in 1963 working on the UA-released It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

UPDATE: Eon’s official James Bond feed on Twitter acknowledged Juroe’s passing.

About the ties between British and American Bond fans

John F. Kennedy statue in Fort Worth, Texas. Kennedy helped boost the popularity of James Bond.

I stirred a hornet’s nest this week by suggesting there are some British fans of James Bond who, shall we say, aren’t fond of American fans.

I posted a typical Twitter survey on the subject. I actually was encouraged by the bulk of responses, which indicated many British fans like their American counterparts just fine.

Still, there were some reminders that the feeling isn’t universal. For example:

What makes all of this amusing is the role Americans have had with the Bond film franchise.

Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions was American. Harry Saltzman, the other co-founder, was Canadian.

Also, Broccoli’s daughter, Barbara Broccoli, and stepson, Michael G. Wilson, were Americans The United Artists executives who gave the OK (Eon has never financed Bond films) were Americans. Screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz were Americans.

What’s more, two of the people who helped increase the appeal of Bond were also American: Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, and U.S. President John F. Kennedy. I know it’s a cliche, but Kennedy listing From Russia With Love as one of his 10 favorite books helped make Bond a thing in the U.S. in the early 1960s. Hefner’s Playboy serialized Ian Fleming short stories and novels.

From Russia With Love was one of the last movies Kennedy saw at the White House before he was assassinated in 1963.

The U.S. declared independence from Britain in 1776. The two countries had a major conflict in 1812. But, for most of the time since then, the U.S. and U.K. have had what is often described as the “special relationship.”

The “special relationship” may apply to Bond fandom. But, at least in the U.K., there are dissenters. So it goes.

In a way, cinema Bond’s 60th already is underway

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

h/t to David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier who researched the founding date of Eon Productions.

2022 will mark the 60th anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No. But in one sense, the 60th already is underway when it comes to key events that led to the movie.

What follows is a sampling (hardly a comprehensive list) of key dates.

June 29, 1961: United Artists issues a press release that it will distribute a series of James Bond films to be produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. A partial image of the press release is shown in Inside Dr. No, a documentary included in Bond film home video releases.

The producers earlier agreed to join forces. Saltzman held a six-month option on most of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. But he had been unable to reach a deal with a studio.

Broccoli had been interested in the Bond novels for years. He was introduced to Saltzman. Broccoli was unable to buy out Saltzman’s option. So they approached UA together.

July 6, 1961: Eon Productions is incorporated. It is the Broccoli-Salzman company that will produce the Bond films. A separate company, Danjaq, was formed to control the copyright to the movies.

Aug. 18, 1961: Eon receives a script by Richard Maibaum adapting Thunderball, Fleming’s most recent Bond novel. However, the novel had been based on material from an unmade film. Thunderball would generate legal fights. Eon would switch gears and begin its Bond series with Dr. No instead.

Aug. 23, 1961: Broccoli sends a note to Saltzman. “Blumofe reports New York did not care for Connery feels we can do better.”

The note appears in both Inside Dr. No and When the Snow Melts, Broccoli’s autobiography.

Blumofe may refer to Robert F. Blumofe, a West Coast-based UA executive from 1953 to 1966.

A 1961 article in The New York Times described him as “Hollywood symbol of cinematic revolution.” That referred to how UA provided producers and filmmakers more autonomy than other studios.

Connery, of course, was Sean Connery who got the Bond role. UA would soon change its mind about Connery’s suitability for the part.

UPDATE: Last year, Eon’s official Twitter feed listed Nov. 3, 1961 as the date when Connery’s casting was announced.

Broccoli celebrates birthday amid interesting 007 times

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli today celebrates her 61st birthday. Some birthdays are more memorable than others. As the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions unit, Broccoli’s birthday comes amid a lot of developments.

In recent years, Broccoli — the daughter of Danjaq/Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli — has emerged as the dominant management voice of the James Bond film franchise. And with this year’s birthday, there’s a lot happening on the Bond front.

Amazon has agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. That means, relatively soon, Broccoli and her colleagues will be dealing with a new studio regime — again. This has occurred quite a bit since 1981 when MGM first acquired United Artists.

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film made by Eon, has been on hold, partly because of creative disagreements (director Danny Boyle’s departure from the project), partly because of a global pandemic.

Bond fans around the globe are hoping No Time to Die finally comes out this fall. Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, have said they want Bond to continue as a big-screen experience, not as a streaming one.

In other words, Barbara Broccoli has a lot on her plate amid her latest birthday.

Broccoli has spent 39 years on a full-time basis in service of the Bond franchise. Even before that, as a teenager, she wrote captions for publicity stills for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

So happy birthday, Ms. Broccoli. The blog hopes it’s a good one.

Bond 25 questions: The Amazon edition Part III

An Amazon logo

All those news reports were mostly correct, Amazon said it agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. Naturally, the blog still has questions.

So, does Amazon own MGM right now?

No. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval. It can’t close until then.

How long is that going to take?

Likely months. Maybe even the better part of a year. Amazon, an e-commerce giant, has emerged as a big, powerful company. Regulators are likely to take a close look.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s richest men. That alone, guarantees the deal won’t be rubber stamped.

How will this affect the James Bond franchise?

In the short run, not much. Presuming Amazon completes the acquisition, it will want to get to know Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions better. But MGM only controls half of the Bond franchise and Broccoli and Wilson have a lot of control.

It’s possible that Amazon still won’t own MGM this fall when No Time to Die is scheduled to be released.

In the longer run? That remains to be seen. Could Amazon try to buy out the Broccoli-Wilson family? Perhaps. But, if it were me, there’s no point attempting that until you complete the big MGM film.

UPDATE: Broccoli and Wilson sent a statement to Variety: “We are committed to continuing to make James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience,”

What’s driving this?

Streaming, in a word. Netflix is concentrating on developing movies and TV shows it owns rather than relying on studios. Some studios, meanwhile, are in streaming as well. For Amazon, getting MGM’s library (much of which is the old United Artists library) as a big programming source for Amazon Prime.

Didn’t MGM dismiss stories it was in talks with Amazon as “speculation in the media”? Were they fibbing?

Could be. MGM wouldn’t be the first company to use this trick while in merger talks.

Will the MGM name survive in the long run?

Despite decades of financial ills, the MGM name and its Leo the Lion logo are still well known. I suspect (assuming the Amazon deal is completed), the MGM logo will survive but it may say “an Amazon company” beneath it.

Anything else?

On May 24, the blog had a post predicting more Jeff Bezos jokes if the Amazon-MGM deal was announced. It has been a tidal wave of Bezos and Amazon puns today.

Amazon near deal to acquire MGM, WSJ says

Amazon is near an agreement to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for $9 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

An accord may occur as early as this week barring last-minute complications, the financial newspaper said. MGM’s board was briefed on negotiations on Sunday, the Journal said, citing a “person close to the situation.”

There are “no guarantees” an agreement will be reached, the paper said.

MGM last week reported first-quarter financial results. During an investor call, Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Kay called reports about negotiations “speculation in the media.” Variety reported May 17 that Amazon was in talks to acquire MGM for about $9 billion.

The new report by the Journal makes it sound as if the studio’s relationship with the Bond franchise would remain the same. An excerpt:

MGM shares the James Bond franchise with a holding company owned by the Wilson/Broccoli family, who co-own the copyright to existing Bond movies and control the future of the franchise. The next James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” was repeatedly delayed due to Covid-19 and is now scheduled for release in October.

No Time to Die has been delayed five times, with three of those occasions stemming from COVID-19. The first two delays took place because of the replacement of director Danny Boyle by Cary Fukunaga. The movie’s original release date was fall 2019.

At $9 billion, an MGM acquisition would be the second-largest for Amazon behind its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, according to the Journal.

Amazon is a major player in streaming. MGM’s library of films and TV shows would be a source of in-house programming. Much of that library is from United Artists, Bond’s original studio, which MGM bought in 1981.

MGM’s library does not include classic movies and TV shows originally made by MGM before the mid-1980s. Such movies as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, and Mutiny on the Bounty are part of the Warner Bros. library.

UPDATE (8:45 p.m. New York time): Bloomberg came out with a story matching the Journal reporting. Bloomberg’s story says a deal could be announced on Tuesday. It has the usual caveats, i.e. things could change, etc. The story is behind a paywall; the site forced me off the story before I could finish it.

Amazon in talks to acquire MGM, Variety says

MGM logo

Amazon is in negotiations to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for about $9 billion, Variety reported.

MGM has been owned by a group of hedge funds since the studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. MGM reportedly has been for sale for months. According to Variety, talks have taken on new urgency. Here’s an excerpt from the Variety story:

Amazon’s interest in acquiring the studio has taken on a new tenor beyond the usual rumor mill. The deal is said to be being orchestrated by Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Amazon Studios and Prime Video, directly with MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich, whose Anchorage Capital is a major MGM shareholder.

MGM and Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, control the Bond franchise. MGM is one of the last of the independent studio operations available for aquisition.

Bond would be one of the major properties that would interest a buyer. MGM also controls the likes of The Pink Panther and Rocky/Creed franchises. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981

Amazon runs the Amazon Prime streaming service. The company, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has been expanding its entertainment properties.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film is scheduled to be released this fall. United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna, is to distribute the movie in the U.S. Universal will handle international distribution.