Willard Whyte, aka Jimmy Dean, passes away at 81

Singer Jimmy Dean died on June 13 at the age 81.The Associated Press obiturary for Dean said he passed away at home.

The AP obit goes into detail about Dean’s singing career and business savvy. And there’s this reference:

Dean became a headliner at venues like Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl and became the first country star to play on the Las Vegas strip. He was the first guest host on ”The Tonight Show,” and also was an actor with parts in television and the movies, including the role of James Bond’s ally Willard Whyte in the 1971 film ”Diamonds Are Forever.”

Dean’s role was the result of producer Albert R. Broccoli having a dream that his old friend, reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes, had been replaced but nobody knew about it. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, taking over after a first draft by Richard Maibaum, built his script around the idea, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld having taken over the busines empire of Mankiewicz’s Willard Whyte character (aided by Bert Saxby, an aide to Whyte). But it was Dean who brought the character to life, which led to one of the highlights in the film:

An incomplete history of hacking 007 movies for television

The news that TCM is going to show the six Sean Connery 007 films produced by Eon Productions Ltd. got us to thinking about the rocky history of James Bond movies on television. Here’s a partial list:

1972: ABC airs Goldfinger, Eon’s third Bond movies and the 1964 film that became a blockbuster. ABC editors took out the gunbarrel, although the gunbarrel music plays.

The film is mostly complete and airs in a 2:15 time slot, including commercials. For future ABC showings, more scenes are cut to make the move fit into a 2-hour time slot. For example, the entire pre-credits sequence would be cut.

1974: ABC airs From Russia With Love, Eon’s second Bond film. The first showing is in a 2:30 time slot. It’s mostly complete, but ABC decides to shift the order of the opening sequences. ABC starts with the main titles then shifts to the gunbarrel (which, at least, is shown this time) and the rest of the pre-credits sequence. After that, we pick up with Venice and the rest of the movie is shown in its proper order. In future showings, you guessed it, the movie is cut to fit a 2-hour time slot. In one such showing, the entire gypsy camp scene is eliminated.

1974: ABC taps Thunderball to lead off the new season of The ABC Sunday Night Movie. For some reason, ABC *again* cuts out the gunbarrel while retaining the music. The movie is mostly complete and fills a 2:45 time slot. In future showings, it’s cut to 2:30. One such showing also has a disclaimer warning parents there’s a bit of violence in “this typical James Bond movie.”

1975: ABC airs Diamonds Are Forever to lead off a new ABC Friday Night Movie. It’s a big night of competition as ABC and CBS try to knock off NBC’s The Rockford Files. CBS is airing a two-hour Hawaii Five-O episode featuring the return of McGarrett arch foe Wo Fat.

ABC this time elects to keep the gunbarrel in. But the network trims a lot of dialogue, including Shady Tree’s line about how trying to find billionaire Willard Whyte “is like trying to find a virgin in a maternity ward.”

1975: Later in the same television season, ABC broadcasts You Only Live Twice on a Sunday. The networks editors are again feeling a little creative. We first see the gunbarrel, then shift to the main titles, then see the pre-credits sequence and then jump back to Bond’s “funeral” in Hong Kong.

1976: ABC makes its boldest changes to a 007 movie, although it will only be for one showing.

First, ABC decides to televise On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a two-part broadcast, each part being 90 minutes, including commercials. In Part I, we see the gunbarrel. Suddenly the picture dissolves *into the middle of the movie* as Bond prepares to escape Blofeld’s Piz Gloria lair.

What’s more, we hear a narrator, identifying himself as James Bond, giving us the Raymond Chandler/Philip Marlowe treatment. The voiceover is NOT done by George Lazenby, the star of the movie. It sounds vaguely like an American trying to sound British.

After we see some of Bond skiing away from Blofeld’s men, we shift back to the start of the movie as a flashback. Throughout part I, we go back and forth in this manner with ABC’s Bond periodically commenting. This goes into the start of Part II, but when we catch up to Bond getting away from Piz Gloria, the rest of the movie is more or less how it was shown in theaters, albeit with occasional cuts because of violence.