March 1963: Ian Fleming caught between two worlds

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

Fifty years ago this month, Ian Fleming was a busy man. Maybe too busy. He would soon be caught between the worlds of movies and television.

Dr. No, the first movie based on one of his 007 novels, had gotten off to a promising start. But as March 1963 began, it still had yet to debut in a number of major markets, including the U.S. Production would begin a month later on From Russia With Love. That was good news for the author. But Bond still wasn’t a phenomenon.

Meanwhile, Fleming had another iron in the fire. According to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. For Your Eyes Only Web site:

March 1963
Ian Fleming, passing through New York on his way home to London after his annual stay at Goldeneye, discusses Solo with Phyllis Jackson.

She starts negotiations with MGM for Fleming’s participation in the series. NBC reconfirms that it will put an Ian Fleming TV series on the air without a pilot. At the same time, (producer Norman) Felton, realizing Fleming will not devote the time necessary to actually creating a concept ready for weekly production, enlists Sam Rolfe to develop a full series presentation.

Jackson was Fleming’s agent in the U.S. and was with the Ashley-Steiner Agency.

Presumably, Fleming had a copy of his You Only Live Twice novel manuscript in either his briefcase or luggage. The year before, in early 1962, Fleming had penned On Her Majesty’s Secret Service while in Jamaica and he had visited the Dr. No set. Readers wouldn’t discover for more than a year that Fleming has surprise in mind for the literary 007.

By early March 1963, it had been more than four months since Fleming had his first meetings in New York during late October 1962 with producer Felton to discuss a proposed television series to be called Solo that would feature a lead character named Napoleon Solo. Fleming hadn’t done the heavy lifting but his March ’63 meeting would seem to indicate he still remained interested in the project.

Within a few months, that would change. Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the producers of the 007 series, weren’t happy about Fleming’s potential new venture. According to the U.N.C.L.E. For Your Eyes Only site, Fleming was making counterproposals for his Solo deal as late as May 8. But on May 28, Fleming’s 55th birthday, he writes to Ashley-Steiner Agency to indicate he wants out of the television project.

Saturday, June 8 – Wednesday, June 12, 1963

Jerry Leider of Ashley-Steiner travels through London and meets with Fleming, who tells Leider that Saltzman and Broccoli have pressured him to drop out of Solo.

Fleming’s final exit occurs June 26. He signs away his interest in the television show for one British pound. By that time, filming on From Russia With Love was well underway, with a world premier scheduled for the fall of 1963.. Meanwhile, Fleming wouldn’t live to see debut of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the television’s show new title, debut on Sept. 22, 1964.

For more, CLICK HERE to see the U.N.C.L.E. For Your Eyes Only Web site for significant 1962 dates. CLICK HERE for significant 1963 dates.

Quick reactions to the new Skyfall trailers

SEMI-SPOILERS. We’ve had a chance to look over the new international and U.S. trailers for Skyfall. While each is only about two-and-a-half minutes long, they’re the most revealing glimpse yet. We’ll call these observations semi-spoilers. Anybody who has read certain key writings by Ian Fleming won’t be surprised but many 007 film fans haven’t read the books.

“You were expecting somebody else?”

So if you don’t want to know *anything at all*, stop reading now. Without further ado:

More Ian Fleming content this time out: There have been signs for a while that director Sam Mendes and his writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan had tapped into Chapter 21 of Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel, You Only Live Twice. The chapter is Bond’s obituary as published in The Times of London, written by M.

First, pictures taken by a nature photographer surfaced in March of an outdoor Skyfall set, that included tombstones for Bond’s parents, whose names are referenced in the obituary in Fleming’s novel. Now, in the new trailers, we briefly see Judi Dench’s M writing 007’s obituary and are shown why the world thinks Bond is dead.

This raises the question whether Mendes & Co. are also dipping into Fleming’s final 007 novel, The Man With the Golden Gun. In that story, a brainwashed Bond, turns up in London and tries to kill M. We’re NOT predicting Skyfall goes that far, but in the trailers Bond surprises M after his “death.”

During the November Skyfall press conference, the principals said the new movie had no connections to an Ian Fleming stories (That occurs around the 15:00 mark if you check out the video embedded in that link). Then, in late April, Mendes & Co. emphasized how Skyfall was true to Fleming.

Evidently, there was some “misdirection” going on in November. We’re intrigued by the apparent renewed emphasis on Fleming material. So we’ll leave it at that.

Question No. 2: Could Javier Bardem’s Silva be a revamped version of Fleming’s Francisco Scaramanga? Bardem, with his blonde wig doesn’t have “hair reddish in a crew cut” like Scaramanga did, so he’s not a physical twin.

In 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, very little of the novel was actually used. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga was more sophisticated chap than his literary counterpart while retaining the basic back story (which Lee briefly recites in a scene with Roger Moore).

Still, could Bardem’s Silva be possibly channeling the literary Scaramanga? Skyfall could end up, in terms of amount of Fleming content, being like 2002’s Die Another Day. The first half of that movie was a de facto adaptation of Fleming’s 1955 Moonraker novel. Both Moonraker and You Only Live Twice were cases where the movie of the same name used little of the source material.

More homages in Skyfall to previous 007 films: We had the same reaction to seeing a bootleg copy of a Skyfall trailer last week (evidently a pirated copy of a special Imax trailer for Skyfall). In the new trailers, Q (Ben Whishaw) gives Bond (Daniel Craig) a new Walther that can only be fired by 007 and nobody else. Desmond Llewelyn provided Timothy Dalton’s Bond a gun with similar technology in Licence to Kill.

We’re hoping Skyfall doesn’t go too far overboard with the homages. Die Another Day, the 40th anniversary Bond film, did so and it turned into a game of “Where’s Waldo?” that got distracting. In the new trailers, there’s a shot of a helicopter turning that looks much like a similar shot in Die Another Day’s pre-credit sequence. *IF* that’s an intended homage (and not a coincidence), we’re not sure you have to go that far.

New Skyfall trailer debuts, first Silva dialogue included

The newest Skyfall trailer debuted today on the official at 2 p.m. in the U.K. and 9 a.m. ET in the U.S. After a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Javier Bardem’s villain Silva in an NBC commeercial last week, the new trailer includes Silva’s first dialogue. Silva, indeed, is supposed to be blonde.

The trailer also indicates that director Sam Mendes & Co. have borrowed from a literary device Ian Fleming used in his 1964 novel You Only Live Twice. Those who’ve read the book will instantly recognize it.

Finally, the trailer uses a more traditional version of the James Bond Theme. If you haven’t seen it already, take a look:

UPDATE I: The trailer at least partially confirms some fan analysis of clues (some of it based on call sheets and storyboards that were sold on eBay). Bond goes missing, lives the soft life for a while and has to get into shape for a new mission.

That’s not unlike Robert Conrad’s James West in The Wild, Wild West Revisited in 1979, a TV-movie that was played more for laughs than the original 1965-69 series. (And no, we’re not saying that’s a deliberate influence, just noting the coincidence.)

UPDATE II: An amusing Tweet from “Ernst Stavro Blofeld” (well, one of them):

So in #SKYFALL Bond gets ‘killed’ and comes back to life. Haven’t we seen this movie before? #YouOnlyLiveTwice

UPDATE III: This morning we embedded the international trailer. Here’s the somewhat different U.S. trailer: