Have No Fear, Bond is Here: 50 Years of Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman's 1967 version of Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

It was a day of 2002 when my father bought me a VHS tape of the 1967 satirical version of Casino Royale, then the only film tied to Ian Fleming’s much different book that initiated the literary saga of James Bond.

That video had no subtitles in Spanish, and by then my English knowledge was good but not good enough to understand a movie. If the film’s plot was already confusing, misguided and in many aspects “incomplete,” just imagine a 12-year-old boy trying to get something out of it, barely understanding a few words and having not read the novel.

Strangely enough, I was fascinated by the movie. I still am.

The Charles K. Feldman production is a colorful, bombastic and very funny film: you won’t be laughing for hours, but there are a few humorous moments that will make you raise a smile.

It has a great score, with the legendary Burt Bacharach and the Herb Alpert trumpets for the main titles. And there’s the delicate voice of Dusty Springfield, who performed the Oscar-nominated song that has outlived the movie, “The Look of Love.”

‘Suggested by’

The story, “suggested” by Fleming’s novel and written by, among others, Wolf Mankowitz, has the four leaders of the secret services begging the retired Sir James Bond (David Niven) for help after a mysterious threat has agents of every secret service killed.

Sir James refuses, disappointed by the abuse of gadgetry in the operatives and upset for “the bounder who was been given his name and number,” an obvious reference to Sean Connery’s official 007.

Failing every attempt to bring him back, a missile (actually a plan of M to take him out of retirement) blows his mansion away. Back to London, Sir James plans a strategy to confuse the enemy: to recruit a number of agents and name them all “James Bond 007,” including the girls.

What follows is an absolute nonsense. Peter Sellers is seduced by Ursula Andress and recruited to play baccarat against Orson Welles. The daughter of Mata Hari and James Bond are kidnapped by an UFO. A psychedelic mind torture replaces the infamous carpet beater from the novel.

Woody Allen, pioneering a look for Bond villains that would be seen in the official 007 film series

Woody Allen, pioneering a look for Bond villains that would be seen in the official 007 film series

And the evil threat behind it all… the nephew of 007, Jimmy Bond.

In the end, after an everyone vs everyone battle that includes George Raft, Jean Paul Belmondo, Geraldine Chaplin and dozens of Indians and cowboys, everything goes up in smoke.

Messy production

The production of the film was messy, with the stars fighting each other almost like at the end of the movie, and Peter Sellers rewriting his scenes and hassling with Orson Welles to the point their scenes had to be shot separately.

The film was directed by five movie makers (John Houston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath and Val Guest) not knowing what the other was shooting. Yet, I don’t think Casino Royale is a bad movie.

The best advice is to fully enjoy it would be to put the novel aside, forget every comparison to the official Bond films, sit back and enjoy an hilarious and colourful story that resembles the swinging 1960s. The structure of the story evokes another Charles K. Feldman production, What’s New Pussycat, released two years before.

The cast has a good number of very talented actors that maybe don’t show all their talents and even when their appearances are limited to a few frames, it wasn’t bad to see them. Yet, in my opinion, the ones that steal the show are David Niven and Woody Allen.

Niven, an original suggestion of Fleming to portray Bond, plays a refined 007 in his retirement. The movie shows him as a man worried about banal things like the black flower in his garden, his time to play Claude Debussy pieces on piano, and came from “a selected priesthood” to become a spy.

This Bond shows a great difference with Eon’s version. He refuses the seduction of the many young girls who laid eyes on him at McTarry’s castle and rejects his widow (Deborah Kerr), considers a spy has now became a “sex maniac” and his trademark drink is a lapsang souchong tea instead of a martini shaken not stirred. In Feldman’s vision, this is not Connery’s Bond retired but “one and only” and Connery’s Bond an impostor.

On the other hand, Woody Allen’s Dr. Noah – head of SMERSH, no reference is made to the Soviets as in the book – is seen in the shadows until his real identity is revealed: Jimmy Bond.

The nephew of Sir James can’t speak in front of him – a trauma makes his voice block upon the admiration of his uncle. Shortly after, we see him trying to impress (and ultimately falling into her trap) the captive agent Detainer (Daliah Lavi) by replicating all the abilities of his uncle: “everything uncle James does, I can do it better.”

Another special mention goes to Joanna Pettet and the late Ronnie Corbett in the Berlin scenes, where Pettet’s character Mata Bond (daughter of Sir James and Mata Hari) infiltrates the old dancing school of her mum that has become a SMERSH hideout, to find a battery operated butler who – falling into Mata’s seduction — reveals Le Chiffre is trying to make money by selling his “art collection,” actually… soldiers caught in the act having fun with hookers.

Like I said before, this movie has won my heart. I would not dare to put it next to the Eon Bond films (not in chronological order, at least) but as I get older, I understand its humor more and more.

Everytime I watch it, I feel like getting into a time machine and going back to the late 1960s. And it’s a great experience indeed!

Dr. No’s script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Concluding our look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood species the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silouhette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production manger Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

Dr. No’s script Part III: A friendship is forged

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during Dr. No's production.

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery.

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

Dr. No’s screenwriting team of Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood opted to bring in Ian Fleming’s Felix Leiter character into the film version of Dr. No even though he wasn’t in that novel.

Their challenge: establish the James Bond-Leiter friendship within a few minutes of screen time.

By the time Dr. No was nearing production, Leiter had appeared in the novels Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger and Thunderball. Bond and Leiter had shared a number of adventures in the novels, including Leiter providing a major financial assistance in Casino and nearly getting killed in Live And Let Die.

But that back story wasn’t of use for the screenwriters. They would have to invent their own storyline of the forging of the Bond-Leiter friendship.

In the film, it gets off to a rocky start. The audience doesn’t realize it’s Leiter observing Bond at the Kingston airport. Bond gets the best of the encounter, losing Leiter and Quarrel, who are following him. Bond catches up to Quarrel and gets into a fight. Here’s how the script describes what happens next.

Behind him, and unknown to him, LEITER has appeared in the door. He gently takes BOND’S wrist and equally gently shoves a Walther into his kidneys.

LEITER
(softly)
Gently, bud, gently. Let’s not get execited, eh?

BOND stiffens. His position is now untenable and he’s not a bloody fool. LEITER stretches round in front of him and takes his gun. He tooks at two identical weapons with slightly raised eyebrows.

The exchange that takes place is similar to the finished film but there are some interesting stage directions.

Quarrel we’re told is “looking murderous, steps forward and expertly frisks BOND. (Expertly means to start at sock level and run and tap lightly upwards. A favourite place for keeping a second gun or a knife is taped to the inside of the thigh. QUARREL evidently knows this.)”

Leiter is “moving around so he can see BOND CLEARLY.” After Leiter tells Bond his got his gun from “a guy in Washington,” he then “suddenly breaks into a grin, puts his own gun into his shoulder holster, reverses one in his left hand and holds it butt first to BOND, simultaneously holding out now free right hand in greeting.”

The next scene is at the restaurant/night club as in the film. “In the background, FOUR ATTRACTIVE GIRLS, wearing just what they are forced to by law, are going through a particularly Jamaican type of Twist.”

As they discuss how Cape Canaveral rockets are being sabotaged, Bond “chooses his words with irony” when he asks if Leiter had “cased the joint.”

LEITER
I checked…unofficially. You…
(mimics BOND)
“Limeys” can be pretty touch about trespassing.

The TWO MEN grin at each other.

From here on out, the two men are friends, although there’s an occasional edge. Later, Leiter “thoughtfully” asks whether Professor Dent is a bad professor or a bad liar. Bond “grimly” says he intends to find out which.

When Bond finally shows up to head out to Crab Key, Leiter is “growling” when he asks where Bond has been.

When Bond and Quarrel get ready to make their approach to Dr. No’s island, Leiter “softly” says “Let me go with him” to Bond. The British agent replies, “We’ve argued all the way out. Strangways happened to be a friend of mine.”

Bond and Leiter “grin understandingly” after Bond says, “We’ll be back in twelve. If not, it’s your show, and you’d better bring in the Marines.”

NEXT: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

UPDATE: A reader (see comment below) questions whether that’s Jack Lord in the photo above. Lord tended to favor wide-brim hats in hot climates (occasionally on camera in Hawaii Five-O, but normally away from the set). You can see a photo from his Hawaii Five-O days. Meanwhile, here’s a photo of John Derek and Ursula Andress on the Dr. No. set.

Jack Lord straw hat

John Derek dr. no

UPDATE II: Below are some outtakes from a parade broadcast with Jack Lord.

Early 1962: Dr. No’s script takes shape Part I

Sean Connery in Dr. No

Sean Connery in Dr. No

By early 1962, the screenwriters of Dr. No finished their fifth draft of a script adapting Ian Fleming’s novel. That draft, dated 8-January-1962, greatly resembles the film that would ultimately premier that fall. But there were still elements that either got dropped or significantly altered during production.

What follows is a summary based on a copy supplied by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The draft’s title page lists Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and J.M. Harwood as the writers and Harry Broccoli and A.R. Broccoli as producers. The production company name is listed as Eon Film Productions Ltd., later shortened to Eon Productions.

The early sequences are very similar to the final product, but scenes have additional dialogue than would make the final cut.

In the stage directions, John Strangways, R.N. (ret.) is described as “Carribean Universal Exports Agent, or, less discreetly, the local representative of the British Secret Service. He is a tall, lean man with a black patch over his right eye, and the sort of acquiline good looks associated with the bridge of a destroyer.”

The bridge game at the Queen’s Club includes an exchange after Strangways departs the bridge game for his daily call from headquarters. Potter, one of the players, asks, “What is his wretched Company, anyway?” Professor Dent replies, “He’s the Carribean Agent for Universal Exports…”

In the script, Strangways realizes, too late, he’s in danger. “The tapping of the sticks” of the supposedly three blind men “ceases. STRANGWAYS turns partially back to the, the moment of silence registering.” (Yes, there appears to be a dropped word.) The stage directions specify Strangways is hit between the shoulders, small of the back and the pelvis. The driver says, “Hurry it up, boys…” rather than the “Hurry, man, hurry!” of the final film. Meanwhile, inside the hearse, the killers put on “roomy black alpaca coats” and replace their baseball caps with black top hats.

At Strangways house, Mary Prescott, “STRANGWAYS’ secretary and No. 2,” is described as “a striking-looking young woman despite her tailored dress.” As described in the stage directions, she only sees one of the assassins before she dies.

As in the final film, the scene switches to London. The script references “the M.I.6. building, a square eight-storey structure near Regent’s Park.” An operator even says, “Urgent. M.I.6. RT Control.”

We’re then off to Le Cercle Casino. On page 10, the stage directions refer to SYLVIA TRENCHARD, who is “willowly exquisitely gowned with a classic, deceptively cold beauty. The stage directions say at first she is playing the “MAN” As the game progresses, it’s specified “we have still not seen” the Man. He is then identified as BOND when he “takes a cigarette from a flat gun-metal case on the table besides him.”

The game continues. On page 11, Sylvia introduces herself as “Trench…Sylvia Trench.” Bond lights her cigarette.

SYLVIA
And I admire your luck, Mr….?

BOND
(as he brings the lighter up to his own cigarette, and for the first time we see his face.)
Bond….James Bond.

TO BE CONTINUED

Casino Royale’s 45th anniversary: Oh no, 007!

April Fool’s Day is as good as any occasion to note this month marks the 45th 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. (CLICK HERE for a post on Jeremy Duns’s Debrief blog for a more detailed history.)

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 last year by Jeremy Duns in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper. Hecht died in 1964, while still working on the project.

By now, 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. (For a more sympathetic view, CLICK HERE for a long essay on the subject.)

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, at age 64.

BBC says MI5 suspected 007 screenwriter of being a Communist agent

Wolf Mankowitz has only one official 007 screenwriting credit but his influence extends beyond that. Anyway, the writer was monitored by the U.K.’s MI5, which suspected Mankowitz of being a Commnist agent, the BBC reported this week, citing newly released government records.

You can read the full story BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Born in London’s East End, Mr Mankowitz attended the University of Cambridge where he joined the university’s Socialist Society and met his wife Ann, a Communist Party member.

MI5 first became interested in Mr Mankowitz in 1944, when the couple were living in Newcastle.

Mankowitz is one of the credited screewriters of producer Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale. But a few years earlier, he introduced Harry Saltzman, who held an option on Ian Fleming’s 007 novels that was running out, with Albert R. Broccoli. That fateful meeting resulted in the 1961 formation of Eon Productions, the company that produces the official Bond film series.

Mankowitz worked on the new company’s first project, Dr. No, along with Richard Maibaum but, according to the documentary Inside Dr. No, pulled out, fearing the project would be a disaster.

Also, according to film historian Adrian Turner’s 1998 book on Goldfinger, Mankowitz sold Saltzman an idea that was incorporated in to that 1964 film. Turner quotes Mankowitz as saying he came up with the idea of having a Mafia chief put into the trunk of a car that would be run a car crushing machine. The price: 500 British pounds.

Also, here’s a shoutout to Jeremy Duns, author of the spy novel Free Country, from whom we learned of the BBC story on Mankowitz.

Nominations for most harebrained 007 movie ideas

The James Bond movie series is remarkable for its longevity (47 years, albeit with a couple of notable gaps in production). But it’s also remarkable for some harebrained ideas that were seriously considered. Our list of five nominations.

1. Considering Adam West, for the role of Bond.

West, the one-time Batman, disclosed in his autobiography that he had been approached for the role in the late 1960s after Sean Connery quit the role for the first time. When we read that, we wondered if West had taken one too many blows to the head from the Riddler. However, this was verified by none other than Dana Broccoli, wife of producer Albert R. Broccoli, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever.

2. Considering James Brolin for the role of Bond

In 1982, it looked like Roger Moore had retired as 007. Producer Broccoli lined up James Brolin as a replacement. The actor’s screen tests were first publicly shown to fans at a 1994 fan convention in Los Angeles. Broccoli’s stepson, Michael G. Wilson, described Brolin’s approach as “Mid-Atlantic.”

If he meant all wet (as in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean), he was right. The actor’s screen tests were first shown publicly at a 1994 Bond fan convention in Los Angeles. Brolin’s attempt at a British accent were laughable. Meanwhile the rival Bond production Never Say Never Again was gearing up, with Sean Connery on board. Broccoli decided to pony up more money and bring Moore back for his sixth 007 outing in Octopussy.

3. Making Dr. No in the villain’s pet monkey.

Screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Wolf Mankowitz felt Ian Fleming’s Dr. No villain was too much of a stereotype. So they devised a draft where a villain had a pet monkey named Dr. No. Broccoli wasn’t amused, having spent years pursuing his dream of producing movies from Fleming’s novels. So he instructed his writers to go back to the source. Interestingly, Broccoli largely dispensed with the source material after 1969.

4. Having an ending for Goldfinger involving curtains closing.

Screenwriter Paul Dehn, having taken over for Maibuam on Goldfinger, had a draft where we’d see Bond and Pussy Galore in a clinch and then we’d see curtains close on the scene. The curtains would reopen and we’d be told what the next movie would be. In fact, this was the next-to-last draft of the script. Sean Connery, among others, thought the idea was horrible and it was dropped when the final shooting script was written.

5. Using Moonraker as a way to copy Star Wars

Rather than adapt or just update Moonraker, Broccoli and United Artists had an idea that they’d use the title as a way to exploit the Star Wars craze and….oh, wait. They did that, didn’t they? As it turned out, Moonraker ended up the most successful Bond movie up to that time, despite a budget that ran more than 30 percent its original estimate.