Barry Nelson, the first actor to play James Bond onscreen in
the 1954 production of Casino Royale, has died aged 89....
Barry Nelson, an MGM contract player during the 1940s
who later had a prolific theater career and was the first actor to play
James Bond on screen, has died. He was 89. Nelson died on April 7th 2007
while traveling in Bucks County, Pa., his wife, Nansi Nelson, said
Friday. The cause of death was not immediately known, she said. Nelson
is survived by his wife. He did not have any children.
Contrary to popular belief, the honour of being the
first actor to play James Bond fell not on Sean Connery, but on American
Barry Nelson, who starred in a live one-hour production of Ian Fleming's
Casino Royale. The performance on 21st October 1954 (8.30pm EST) was the
first in CBS's 'Climax' series of dramas. CBS brought the rights for
Fleming's first book for $1000. Nelson played James Bond as an American
named "card sense" Jimmy Bond; the program also featured Peter
Lorre as the primary villain. Originally broadcast live, the production
was believed lost to time until a kinescope emerged in the 1980s. It was
subsequently released to home video, and is currently available on DVD
as a bonus feature with the 1967 film adaptation of the novel.
Above: A publicity shot of Barry Nelson taken one
year before he would play James Bond.
During production Nelson was unaware of the fact that the
character of Bond was an Englishman. In an exclusive interview with Cinema Retro
in 2004, he said “At that time, no one had ever heard of James Bond….I was
scratching my head wondering how to play it. I hadn’t read the book or
anything like that because it wasn’t well known. The worst part of it was that
I learned it was to be done live. I thought I was finished with live t.v. I was
trying to get out of it, actually".
Above: Barry Nelson in a 007-style pose
Fleming's novel had only just been published in
America six months before the TV production (it was first published on
13th April 1953 in the UK), and the screenplay was developed late on.
“They were making changes up to the last minute. There was nothing you
could do if anything went wrong”, Nelson said.
Whilst he enjoyed acting opposite Peter Lorre (Le
Chiffre) and Linda Christian (Vesper Lynd), he was frustrated by the
fact that time constraints had eliminated any background information
about the character of Bond. Nelson recalled “I was very conscious of
the fact that there wasn’t much to go on. It was too superficial.”
“Casino Royale” made little impact on audiences
or critics and was largely dismissed as just another “run of the mill”
edition of “Climax!”. Over the next few years, however, Fleming’s
Bond novels began to grow in popularity and by the early 1960’s they
had established an enthusiastic following throughout the world.
Since then the rights have gone via Charles Feldman's spoof
of 1967 to Eon Productions, who picked them up in early 2000 and later produced
the first 'official' movie based on the story with Daniel Craig as 007 in 2006.
Above Left: Barry Nelson as 'Card Sense' Jimmy Bond at the tables of
Above Right: Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre tortures Bond in an attempt to
retrieve his money
Nelson was born Robert Haakon Nielsen in San Francisco, California on April 16th
1920. He began acting in school at age of fifteen, playing an 80 year old man.
He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1941 and, because of
his theatrical efforts in school, was almost immediately signed to a motion
picture contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
Nelson made his screen debut in the role as Paul Clark in
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, with Donna
Reed. He followed that with his role as Lew Rankin in the film noir crime/drama
Johnny Eager (1942) starring Robert Taylor and Lana Turner.
During his military service in WWII, Nelson debuted on the
Broadway stage in one of the leading roles, Bobby Grills, in Moss Hart's play
Winged Victory (1943). His next Broadway appearance was as Peter Sloan in Hart's
Light Up the Sky (1948), which was a first-rate success. He also appeared
opposite Lauren Bacall in the Abe Burrows comedy Cactus Flower in 1965. Another
Broadway role, that of Gus Hammer in The Rat Race (1949), kept Nelson away from
the movies again, but after it closed he starred in the dual roles as Chick
Graham and Bert Rand in The Man with My Face (1951), which was produced by Ed
Gardner of radio fame.
He was the first actor (and, to date, the only American) to
play James Bond on screen, in a 1954 adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Casino
Royale on the TV anthology series Climax! (preceding Sean Connery's
interpretation in Dr. No by eight years). Nelson's additional television credits
include guest appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, The Twilight
Zone and Dr. Kildare. He appeared regularly on TV in the 1960s. He was one of
the What's My Line? Mystery Guests and later served as a guest panelist on that
popular CBS quiz show. Nelson appeared in both the stage and screen versions of
Mary, Mary. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for
his role as Dan Connors in The Act (1977) with Liza Minnelli. His final
appearance on Broadway was as Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (1986).
Nelson has had two wives, actress Teresa Celli (married
February 19, 1951-divorced) and Nansilee Hoy (married November 12, 1992-).
Nelson and his second wife divided their time between homes in New York and
France. Nelson was often seen publicly at American Civil War Shows across
America. He had planned to write a couple of books about his time on stage and
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) (MGM) ... Paul Clark
Johnny Eager (1942) (MGM) ... Lew Rankin
Dr. Kildare's Victory (MGM) (1942) ... Samuel Z. Cutter
The Human Comedy (1943) (MGM) ... Fat, first soldier
Bataan (1943) (MGM) ... F.X. Matowski
A Guy Named Joe (1943) (MGM) ... Dick Rumney
The Man with My Face (1951) (United Artists) ... Charles "Chick"
Graham/Albert "Bert" Rand
Casino Royale (1954) (CBS) ... Jimmy Bond
Airport (1970) (Universal) ... Capt. Anson Harris
Pete 'n' Tillie (1972) (Universal) ... Burt
The Shining (1980) (Warner Bros.) ... Stuart Ullma
förste skådespelare som gestaltade James Bond var inte
alls Sean Connery utan en idag närmast helt
bortglömd, norskättad amerikan vid namn Barry
Ian Flemings första
Bond-roman, "Casino Royale," gavs ut i
England 1953 och i USA året därpå.
Ian Fleming sålde snabbt filmrättigheterna till romanen
till tv-bolaget CBS för endast 1000 dollar. Redan året
därpå, 1954, visades som en tv-film i USA.
Den 21 oktober 1954, kl
20.30, visades i amerikansk tv en timslång omarbetning
av Casino Royale i form av en direktsänd
teaterpjäs. Programmet ingick i serien "CBS
Climax Mystery Theater", där man varje vecka
sände spänningshistorier i teaterform.
Direktsändningen medförde givetvis vissa begränsningar
i återgivningen av bokens intrig. Filmen var uppdelad i
tre akter för att ge utrymme för reklamavbrott.
Regissören hette William H Brown och programmet
presenterades av William Lundigan. Man hade tagit
sig vissa friheter med Flemings originaltext. Bond var
här en amerikansk agent och hade fått öknamnet
"Card Sense Jimmy Bond". Felix Leiter hade
blivit brittisk agent, men hade fått förnamnet
Bond spelades alltså
av Barry Nelson, medan skurken Le Chiffre spelades
av ingen mindre än Peter Lorre, känd från
storfilmer som "Casablanca".Linda
Christian hade den kvinnliga huvudrollen som Valerie
Mathis (i boken heter hon ju Vesper Lynd). Intrigen
följde annars romanen rätt väl och utspelades i Monte
Carlo vid baccarat-bordet.
En hel del övertydliga förklaringar av casinospel fick
läggas in i filmens dialog eftersom tv-publiken inte
automatiskt kunde förväntas känna till hur man t ex
spelar Baccarat eller Chemin de fer.
Det bästa med den här
tv-filmen är Peter Lorres utmärkta insats som skurken
Le Chiffre. Det är synd att Lorre aldrig fick tillfälle
att spela Bondskurk i någon av de "riktiga"
En kul incident inträffade under direktsändningen,
beroende på ett tekniskt fel: Efter att Le Chiffre
blivit skjuten, dröjde kameran av misstag kvar vid Lorre
tills han reste sig upp och började gå till sin loge!
ingen uppståndelse, fick halvbra kritik och glömdes
sedan bort. Länge trodde man att inget bevarats till
eftervärlden av denna version av Casino Royale.
En filmsamlare vid namn Jim Shoenberger gick 1981
igenom gamla filmburkar med innehåll som skulle kastas,
och återupptäckte då en välbevarad upptagning av
programmet. Om det inte hade angivits
"svart/vitt" på filmburken, hade Shoenberger
kastat bort innehållet i tron att det var 1967 års Casino
Royale-film. Han upptäckte då att filmrullen
innehöll 1954 års tv-film.
Det gamla TV-programmet
visades sedan offentligt för första gången i juli 1981
vid en James Bond Weekend i Los Angeles. Barry Nelson var
"Min roll var illa skriven, utan charm eller
någonting. Min entré i programmet var verkligen komisk
och det var inte bra, för det var inte alls
meningen", sade Nelson i en intervju.
från 1954 finns utgiven på köpvideo, men måste trots
allt betraktas som kuriosa och enbart något för de
allra mest hängivna Bond-fansen.
De flesta tillgängliga versionerna av den här tv-filmen
saknar lustigt nog den sista minuten, som försvunnit.
För att få tag i den kompletta upptagningen av Casino
Royale från 1954 får man jaga en amerikansk VHS- eller
DVD-version, utgiven av Spyguise
A publicity shot of Barry Nelson for “My Favorite
– the TV series he toplined the year before playing Bond.
Nelson’s Bond is not the secret agent we’ve subsequently come to
know; he’s an American that works for “Combined Intelligence” and
orders Scotch-and-waters (there are no martinis to be found). Naturally,
the brutal passages of Fleming’s novel are watered down for 1950s
television, and so genital torture becomes toe torture.
The episode became a forgotten piece of the Bond saga until years
later, when a man named Jim Schoenberger bought a 16mm
kinescope (the process of filming a television monitor to preserve a
live show for posterity) of the program – reportedly at a flea market
sometime in the 1970s.
According to Bond authority and Cinema
Retro magazine publisher Lee Pfeiffer,
Schoenberger bought the 1954 “Casino Royale” as an
unmarked 16mm canister at the flea market, at first not knowing what he
had. Bond book author Steve Rubin understands it
“The canister was labeled as the 1967 ‘Casino Royale,’”
says Rubin. “But he looked at the print and saw it was black and white.”
In any case, Schoenberger bought the “Royale” kinescope, and the
episode was soon to get its first showing in decades.
Around the time Rubin’s book “The James Bond films: A
Behind the Scenes History” was published in 1981, the author
organized the James Bond Weekend at the Playboy Club in
Century City. He decided to screen the 1954 “Casino Royale”
and invite Barry Nelson.
“He was a little surprised,” Rubin says about the star’s
reaction to the invite. Although Nelson wasn’t actively associated
with the Bond legacy at the time, neither had he fallen into total
obscurity; the actor had recently completed the hotel-manager role for Stanley
Kubrick’s “The Shining.” (Nelson is the
fella who hires Nicholson.)
The “Climax” episode became available as a
public-domain video dupe, and Pfeiffer says the 16mm kinescope was
donated to the Museum of Television and Radio. But in 1998, Pfeiffer
finally gave the ‘54 “Royale” the royal treatment, with a
handsomely packaged Collector’s Edition, introduced by Pfeiffer
“There were two versions floating around out there,” says
Pfeiffer, “And I realized I had the one with the complete ending.”
So he released the Collector’s Edition through his company Spy Guise
Entertainment. “I was able to do it pretty cheaply. We shot the intro
in my basement.”
A short time after the “Climax” episode aired,
Fleming sold full “Royale” rights for $6000 (buying a car with the
spoils), and it reached the big screen in 1967 as a goofy, spoofy movie
with little relation to the novel. The 1954 “Royale” was included as
an extra on the 2002 DVD release of the 1967 version. (And Rubin is now
working with Fox to create the extras package for another DVD edition of
“Royale” ‘67.) The official Bond film series – as produced by
Eon Productions – acquired the rights to Fleming’s inaugural Bond
novel in the late 1990s. Now it’s been made by Eon as the 21st
official Bond film, with Daniel Craig in the tuxedo and
a newly created adventure preceding the casino action.
So in some ways, the original “Casino Royale”
adaptation is still the most faithful (and it’s the only to include
the memorable cane-gun scene). As for “Jimmy” Bond, the still-living
Barry Nelson gets the occasional fan letter but
considers his Bond connection to be “more of a trivia question,”
according to Pfeiffer. The current issue of Cinema
Retro features an interview with the actor.
The only James Bond movie which is scoreless and without a soundtrack. more
Revealing mistakes: A prop gun went off accidentally right at the beginning of
the show. Four shots are heard but only three gunshot markings are seen on the
casino building. more
James Bond: [James
Bond in bathtub. Zuroff is tying rope on him. Le Chiffre, Valerie, Basil enter
bathroom] Le Chiffre: All right
Mr Bond where's that money? Look Mr Bond, as you should know by now I... I'm
quite without mercy and if you continue to be that obstinate, I... I'll have
to torture - - - you'll be tortured to the edge of madness. Believe me. You
have no hope whatsoever. You hear. None
[Turns to face Valerie] Le Chiffre: Nor has
Just why did it take this long for the producers
of the long running James Bond series to make Ian Fleming's first novel Casino
Royale into a theatrical film? Perhaps secretly the novel was one of
those mythical Hollywood curses one usually reads in tabloid magazines at
grocery store checkouts.
According to dictionary.com,
a Curse(noun) is the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil,
doom, etc., befall a person, group, etc.
I am not one to believe in curses, but after
doing research on the history of Fleming’s Casino Royale, I might
reconsider it. For over 50 years the first James Bond novel has never been
properly adapted for the silver screen. The reason is simple, Eon
Productions (the official company of the James Bond series) never owned the
complete film rights to the novel. The
story of how they finally won the rightsis a fascinating and perhaps an
excellent example of how both past and present day Hollywood works.
Casino Royale was published in 1953 and it
introduced British agent James Bond OO7 to the literary world. The book is
relatively short and basically takes place in the casino at Royale-Les-Eaux
where Bond must defeat Communist paymaster Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat.
Bond is aided by American CIA agent Felix Leiter, Rene Mathis of the French
Deuxieme Bureau, and a beautiful undercover assistant by the name of Vesper Lynd.
After wiping out Le Chiffre, Bond enjoys a short
moment of victory while he hides the casino cheque in the door plate to his
hotel room. Only to have his world smashed as he is captured by Le Chiffre
and tortured naked with a carpet beater below his exposed cullions.
Without spoiling further details of the story for those who have never read it,
Bond survives only to discover a shocking revelation in the last few pages.
Casino Royale has been published in both hardback
and softcover formats. It has also been presented as a comic strip.
On July 7, 1958, the Daily Express newspaper began what became a long
association with OO7 by serializing the Bond stories for the daily comics.
Beginning with Casino Royale the artwork would be drawn by John McLusky,
who would contribute twelve more comic strips featuring the British agent.
"He (Fleming) had something of the snob in
him." said Anthony Hern, the writer and literary editor for the paper.
"He found, at first, something distasteful about the very idea that his
creation should be 'vulgarized' in a comic strip." Fleming
eventually came around to liking the way McLusky and Hern condensed his work and
telegrammed Hern saying, "Salute to a master butcher." The
serialization would continue well into the 1980s covering all of Fleming's
novels and most of his short stories, producing original works as well.
In an August 1962 article for SHOW magazine,
Fleming clearly stated that he writes, unashamedly, for pleasure and money. That
his books are not ‘engaged’ and have no message for a suffering humanity.
They are basically written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains,
airplanes, and beds.
That comment should send the typical Bond fanatic
over-the-edge. But truth be said, Fleming was looking for his golden goose.
After publishing the first four novels of his intrepid spy, Fleming was hoping
that OO7, like his friend Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe series, would be
made into theatrical films. Frustrated with the Hollywood system and how
receptive they were to his novels, Fleming would eventually come to killing off
his creation in the last sentence of his fifth novel, From Russia with Love,
only to bring him back to life in Doctor No the following year.
Chandler advised him to reconsider killing off his anti-hero and would one year
later write an endorsement in the New York Times saying "Ian Fleming's
impetuous imagination has no rules."
With all the adulation pouring in from admirers,
the movie deals were just not happening. The only moving image of his
ruthless British spy would come one year after Royale's publication.
Only Bond was no longer British, but American.
Bond Reaches Climax
In 1954, the Columbia Broadcasting System or CBS
Television purchased Casino Royale for a one time live presentation on
their new anthology program Climax Mystery Theater. They paid Fleming
Barry Nelson as Jimmy 'Card-Sense' Bond and
Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre.
The $25,000 live production aired on Thursday
night October 21, 1954 at 8:30 EST. It starred Barry Nelson as American Combined
Intelligence Agent ‘Card Sense’ Jimmy Bond. Veteran actor Peter Lorre is
honored by being the first Bond villain, Le Chiffre, and Linda Christian played
the first Bond girl Valerie Mathis. Although the production was basically a
stage play, many of Fleming’s elements from the novel remained. The classic
card game against Le Chiffre is obviously there, however it is refreshing to see
the scene where Basil, one of Le Chiffre’s henchmen, holding up his walking
cane revolver against Bond’s spine only to have Bond foil the henchman’s
murderous plans by falling backwards on top of the cane. A definite highlight
from the novel.
Top Photo - Bond faces danger with Le
Chiffre's henchman who has a concealed gun inside his walking cane. Bottom
Photo - Valerie Mathis enjoys an intimate moment with Bond.
Just before airtime, the producers realized the
sixty-minute production was over by three minutes.
"So they went through and cut three words
here, a line there, a half-a-word here, and their script ended up looking like a
bad case of tic-tac-toe." recalled Barry Nelson in a Starlog interview from
1983. I tell you it was so frightening that when I entered (the scene) my only
thought was, ‘Oh, God, if I can only get out of this mother!’" "I
was very dissatisfied with the part, I thought they wrote it poorly. No charm or
character or anything."
Peter Lorre agreed and saw Nelson so nervous with
all the changes to the script that he commented, "Straighten up, Barry, so
I can kill you!"
For decades afterwards, Bond fans had wondered
why Barry Nelson (click
here for video clip) was chosen for the role. However, his
main reason for accepting the part was simply to work with Peter Lorre.
Nelson was a great admirer of Lorre's work and felt he might never get another
opportunity to work with him again.
The live performance was considered lost on the
pretense that it was not filmed on a 16mm kinescope telecine. However, in
1981 a Chicago airline executive named Jim Schoenberger discovered, while
sifting through old film canisters of presumably the 1967 version of Casino
Royale, the black and white film strip. Quickly he ran the film
through a projector and found a pristine copy of the 1954 production. The
film had its first public performance at the James Bond Weekend in July 1981.
Barry Nelson was also in attendance.
VHS and DVD copies are available including one
VHS version from Spyguise that has
an additional 60 seconds where Le Chiffre is shot not once, but twice before
succumbing to an eternal sleep.
As if the future of the TV production of Casino
Royale’s fate was foreshadowed in the first few seconds of the live
production, when a prop gun misfired, so would the novel for the next fifty
years misfire on the theater screen.
From A Russian, With Love?
In 1955, flamboyant Russian actor and director
Gregory Ratoff was in Cairo, Egypt. According to the story by screenwriter
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (he would also pen the 1960's Batman TV series and
the screenplay to Never Say Never Again) , "Gregory had been acting
in a film titled The Royal Bed, which was about King Farouk. It was a big
rip-off. Everyone was trying to rob as much money as possible from the Italian
backers, who weren’t allowed into the country. Gregory stole 10,000 pounds in cash,
and needed a way to get it out of Egypt. He got down on his knees at the
Cairo airport and prayed: ‘As God is my witness, if I get through with this
cash, I’m going to buy a TIME magazine when we land in Athens, and use the
money to purchase film rights to the first book I read a review of’."
The book turned out to be Casino Royale.
Ratoff borrowed money from then- head of 20thCentury
Fox, Darryl Zanuck and long time friend and producer Charles K. Feldman and paid
Fleming $6000.00 for the film rights. During the next five years, Ratoff tried
to bring James Bond to the silver screen - unsuccessfully.
"I was a bright young guy fresh out of
college." said Semple, "Gregory hired me to write the screenplay. I
worked without pay, but it was a great deal of fun. We traveled around the world
while he gambled in casinos, supposedly doing research. He was too old-fashioned
to work, so I would sit at the typewriter for four or five hours a day in
whatever hotel we were staying in, and just turn out pages and pages of scenes.
I probably wrote several scripts during a year of traveling throughout Europe.
Gregory thought the story was too silly. He said: ‘Nobody believe this James
Bond, so we make him into woman. Then, we make great movie.’ The idea was to
write it as a vehicle for actress Susan Hayward."
Flamboyant actor and director Gregory Ratoff
envisioned actress Susan Hayward as secret agent Jane Bond.
On December 14, 1960, Gregory Ratoff died from
leukemia and his widow was left holding the proverbial empty bank account. She
was forced to sell any film properties her late husband owned to get out of debt.
Feldman was one of the creditors to the Ratoff estate. The former lawyer turned
talent scout and producer was handed the film rights to Casino Royale.
A Cry to Battle
Feldman was one of Hollywood’s most intelligent
and cultivated talent agents. Handsome, tanned and sophisticated, He was the
full definition of success. His yearly salary in 1933 (at the height of the
Great Depression) was approximately $500,000 before taxes. His company, Famous
Artists, specialized in bringing new and aspiring talent to the studio system.
His 300 client list included John Wayne, Richard Burton, Greta Garbo, Tyrone
Power, William Holden, George Raft, Lana Turner and Marilyn Monroe.
Born April 26, 1905 in New York City. One of six
children whose family name was Gould. Left as an orphan, he was adopted by the
Samuel Feldman family of Bayonne, New Jersey. The family moved to California a
few years later. By college, Feldman took up law at the University of California
at Los Angeles. His first contact with the movie industry occurred during school
vacations when he worked at the studios. One of his earliest jobs was as an
assistant cameraman for director John (The Searchers) Ford.
Feldman started his own law practice in Hollywood
and specialized in the contractual aspects of the film industry. He came up with
the idea of creating jobs for his clients instead of fighting for the few
available ones. This was the origin of what became known as the ‘package deal’.
For example, after buying a story idea for as little as $2,500, he found an
unemployed writer, actor, director and producer. He once said, "I didn’t
go into competition with the studios. I just bought what they didn’t want or
had passed up. I would wrap a story up, then stick an important name on the
label, usually the name of a star or top director. The rest was easy. No
producer in his right mind would turn down a deal like that."
During his years as a producer, Feldman would
bring to the screen films that Hollywood was afraid to touch. Films such
as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, The Seven
Year Itch, and What's New, Pussycat?
After listening to an inspiring speech in 1942 by
then U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace, Feldman had a brainstorm of an idea.
He conceived an episodic film that would highlight war fronts during WWII. The
six hour film was to be titled "Battle Cry" and enlisted an
army of writers including Ben Hecht and Pearl Buck. He even tried to convince
the studio heads to make this film on a non-commercial charity basis. Many
famous actors and actresses agreed to volunteer their time for this epic
production and were promised that they would only work 12 days. A list of famous
actors included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Ida
Lupino, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Claudette Colbert, Leslie Howard,
Ingrid Bergman, Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Merle Oberon, Jean Arthur, Margaret
Sullivan, John Garfield, Ann Sheridan, and George Raft were all at one time
committed. Film directors Lewis Milestone, Alexander Korda, and Howard Hawks
among others were being touted to direct their own segments. Only one scene was
filmed and that was of a burning wheat field in upper state California before
Jack Warner sent word to shut down production because of escalating cost.
Feldman’s epic idea may have gone up in smoke
but it would eventually find its way into Casino Royale 25 years later.
Feldman had many dalliances, according to sources,
with some of Hollywood’s most glamorous ladies. He often gave lavish gifts to
his clients and kept close ties to studio moguls such as David O. Selznick, Jack
Warner, and Darryl Zanuck. Only one studio head refused to do business with
Feldman - MGM’s Louis B. Mayer.
In 1933, Feldman met actress Jean Howard at a
party in Beverly Hills. According to Ms. Howard, it was ‘love at first sight.’
Unfortunately, she was also the girlfriend to Mayer and would cause such a stir
that Mayer would forbid any business transactions with Feldman and Famous
Charles K. Feldman, Jean Howard, and Louis
B. Mayer. The love triangle that eventually affected Cubby Broccoli's work
relationship with MGM Studios.
It was during this time that one of Feldman’s
associates, and aspiring producer, was escorting several new talented actors
onto the MGM lot. This young associate was 24 year old Albert Romolo (Cubby)
Broccoli and he was about to learn one of Hollywood’s biggest lessons.
According to Broccoli’s autobiography When
the Snow Melts, he was there to meet with producer Pandro Berman. The
receptionist allowed the actors to enter Berman’s office, but not Cubby. He
was barred from the studio lot. Feeling dejected and confused, he returned to
Famous Artists and explained the situation to Feldman, who remained silent.
Eventually Cubby discovered the truth about his boss and Mayer, and would work
on and off with Famous Artists thru the 30s, 40s and early 1950s.
The Trials of Cubby Broccoli
Broccoli was born April 5, 1909 in New York. He
and his family lived on a modest farm in Long Island. His father, mother, and
brother would tirelessly grow vegetables to be driven in an old truck to the
streets of New York to be sold. Cubby was raised with integrity and believed
strongly that good hard work should not be sacrificed needlessly. There was a
time in the Harlem marketplace that some customers would try to buy his
family’s vegetables for less than what it cost to grow. Hoping to earn $1500
for the truckload, Cubby was faced with the street hustlers who would only go as
high as $150. Dissatisfied, Broccoli would say no and then dump the truck load
into the Harlem River. His parents were sadden by this act, but agreed
Broccoli worked on several films including the
Howard Hughes 1946's production of The Outlaw. Learning various
aspects of film making, he eventually ventured out into producing films with
1953's The Red Beret starring Alan Ladd. His partner and co-producer was
Irving Allen, who was a client of his during the late 1940s. They named their
company Warwick Films after the hotel they were staying at in London - The
Warwick. In the seven years they were together they produced 19 films such
as The Cockleshell Heroes, Hell Below Zero, Zarak, Safari,
and Fire Down Below. The films attracted many stars such as Victor Mature,
Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Rita Hayworth, James Mason, Peter Finch, Jack
Lemmon, and Michael Caine. Cubby would also establish a relationship with up and
coming actors, directors, writers and technicians who would work in the Bond
films. Such people included Terence Young, Desmond Llewelyn, Bernard Lee, Walter
Gotell, Christopher Lee, Bob Simmons, Richard Maibaum, Julie Harris, Lawrence
Naismith, Ted Moore, Eric Pohlmann, Anthony Newley, Roland Culver, Earl Cameron,
Martin Benson, Marne Maitland, Paul Stassino, Syd Cain, Donald Pleasence, and
Cubby Broccoli was an assistant on the The
Outlaw and would work his way up to producer with films like Safari, Zarak,
and Hell Below Zero. He and his Warwick Films partner Irving Allen
produced 19 films during the 1950s.
Broccoli was always interested in the James Bond
novels and wanted very much to film them. He tried to convince his then-partner
Irving Allen to help him acquire them, but Allen said the books were so bad that
they were not good enough for television (an insult since television was only
capable of producing low budgeted productions). According to Broccoli’s
autobiography, he offered to buy the rights of Casino Royale from
Feldman, after he had acquired them from Ratoff’s widow, but Feldman declined.
In 1960, Warwick Films produced their last film The
Trials of Oscar Wilde. The film starred Peter Finch and it opened a week
after another Oscar Wilde film premiered. Ironically it was produced by Gregory
With dismal box office returns, Warwick Films
went out of business and Broccoli and Allen parted their ways. Allen would go on
to produce low budgeted films but eventually would make his mark in the spy
genre with Dean Martin starring as Matt Helm in four Columbia Pictures’ The
Silencers, Murderers’ Row, The Ambushers, and The
Meanwhile, Broccoli was still interested in the
Bond novels. In 1961, Producer Harry Saltzman was the man who held the options
on the James Bond properties. All except Thunderball and Casino Royale.
Broccoli arranged to meet Saltzman and the two agreed to form a partnership and
make the James Bond films. Eon Productions was born and Cubby arranged to meet
with United Artists and, as potential backup, Columbia Pictures to negotiate
bringing OO7 to the screen.
It was Arthur Krim, president of United Artist,
who offered the fastest deal Saltzman had ever witnessed. Thanks in part to his
nephew, David Picker, who was an avid Fleming fan (Years earlier Picker tried to
convince Alfred Hitchcock to buy the rights to Goldfinger).
Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli and Arthur Krim
With 60% of the profits going to the producers
and 40% to the studio, James Bond was on his way to celluloid history. Feeling
that they did not have a contract but only a handshake from Krim, Saltzman
insisted on hearing from rival Columbia Pictures, and what sort of deal they
would offer. Broccoli reluctantly agreed and set up the meeting only to realize
later that Columbia was not interested - an act the studio would certainly
According to Todd McCarthy’s biographical book Howard
Hawks – The Grey Fox of Hollywood, during the early 1960s many players
came into the Casino Royale foray, such as Howard Hawks, Cary Grant,
Leigh Brackett, Billy Wilder, and Ben Hecht. Feldman was preparing to produce Casino
Royale with Hawks as the director. Both Feldman and Hawks brought in writer
Leigh (Rio Bravo, The Empire Strikes Back) Brackett to ‘discuss an
approach to the script’. Hawks felt that his old friend Cary Grant would be
perfect as the dapper British agent James Bond. However, in late 1962, Feldman
and Hawks received an advance print of Dr. No from England. Hawks quickly
lost interest in Royale. Reasons were never fully explained but perhaps
the idea of competing against his friend Cubby Broccoli, who was once an
assistant director to him on the Howard Hughes western The Outlaw, may
have been a factor.
With Hawks off of Casino Royale, Feldman
was more persistent.
Bondmania Is Born
It would be redundant to say what happened next,
but James Bond was huge in the 1960s. From 1962's Dr. No to 1967's You
Only Live Twice, Eon Productions was flying first class all the way to the
bank. Many spy movies capitalized on that success. Films such as Our Man
Flint, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, That Man In Istanbul,
Hammerhead, Deadlier Than the Male, One Spy Too Many, Operation
Kid Brother, and Arabesque, would roll out in hopes that the audience
would pay their hard earned money to see them, and see them they did for the 60s
belonged to the spy genre. Although those films made a profit, none of them came
close to the success of the Bond films.
While all this was happening, Feldman was
watching from the sidelines. Having invested nearly $550,000 of his own money
into pre-production of Casino Royale, he was now desperate to cut a deal
with his former associate, Cubby Broccoli.
Between the years of 1964 and ‘65, Feldman was
negotiating to get his Casino Royale produced with a co-partnership of
Columbia Pictures, United Artists, and Eon Productions. United Artists offered
him $500,000 and a percentage of the profits, a sum that was far less than what
he already had spent in pre-production. Adding insult to injury, he was told
that they would not be able to film Royale until they finished their
fifth Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sometime in mid 1967.
At the time, it was not known whether Feldman
knew of the deal Broccoli and Saltzman made with producer Kevin McClory for the
rights to present Thunderball. However, there are existing British prints
of Goldfinger that show On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as being
the follow up film. When Thunderball was announced in December ‘64,
Feldman knew he was being pushed aside and needed to pitch his deal quickly
while the iron was hot. Facing the possibilities that Casino Royale was
not going to see the light of day until 1968, Feldman approached Columbia with a
script by the late Ben Hecht and an unknown musical stage actor by the name of
Terrence Cooper, his ace-in-the-hole Sean Connery look-alike. Columbia was sold
and Feldman begin pre-production in early 1965.
By May 1965, Broccoli, Saltzman and United
Artists opened up negotiating channels again in order to prevent a rival OO7
film. They agreed to co-produce with Feldman and offered actor Sean Connery as
his leading man, an important factor to the success of Royale.
Unfortunately, Connery was making ugly noises during the production of Thunderball.
According to some sources, he read in Variety that crooner Dean Martin was
making more money in the first Matt Helm film, The Silencers, than he did
in his first four OO7 films combined. Connery was understandably unhappy with
his current financial conditions and was asking to be a co-producing partner
with Broccoli and Saltzman. Broccoli felt this was not a good deal and Connery
decided that the fifth OO7 film would be his last.
Irving Allen went on to producing for
Columbia Pictures the Matt Helm spy series with Dean Martin.
Hearing about this, Feldman asked Connery if he
would be interested in doing Casino Royale after his contract ended with
Eon. "Only for a million dollars." was the reply from a defiant
Connery. Feldman said, "The budget wouldn’t run to that." Several
years later Feldman would say to Connery, "You know something, at a million
dollars for you I’d have got off lightly."
According to director Val Guest, during the
negotiating phase with Eon, Feldman was given another Casino Royale screenplay
by Bond veteran and screenwriter Richard Maibaum. The script was to be the sixth
Eon produced OO7 film. It was shown to Guest by Feldman but sadly the script has
Finally in late May, Feldman demanded that he
receive 75% of the box office profits while 25% went to Broccoli, Saltzman, and
United Artists. This most likely was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Broccoli was not in a position to play second fiddle to his former boss. The
pending deal fell through and Casino Royale was thrown into the
proverbial Harlem river of film deals. Broccoli was quoted as saying to
Feldman, "I can’t work for you. I already did that and it was great. I
like you, too. But on these terms, Charlie, you’re going to have to make the
picture on your own."
Feldman was furious with this outcome and,
according to screenwriter Wolf Mankowicz, decided to ruin the Bond business by
Feldman had convinced Columbia Pictures to
finance his $6 million dollar so called ‘Battle Cry Producer’s Film’
by creating the ultimate, star filled, three ring circus extravaganza. He was
lining up actors such as Laurence Harvey as James Bond, Shirley MacLaine as Mata
Bond and Trevor Howard as M, though ultimately none of them would be available.
Even Roger Moore, still hot as TV’s saintly Simon Templer, was considered for
the role of James Bond. Moore commented later by saying he had not heard
anything from Mr. Feldman but kind of fancied himself as a OO7.
The original choice for playing James Bond
was Lawrence Harvey. Shirley MacLaine was asked to play Mata Bond, and
Trevor Howard as 'M'.
In 1965, Feldman had just come off of his
successful sex romp What’s New, Pussycat? with Peter Sellers.
Determined to have Sellers perform in Casino Royale, Feldman hired
screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz to pick up where the late Ben Hecht left off and
create a new role, croupier Nigel Force.
With a starring salary of $1 million and a white
Rolls-Royce, Peter Sellers said, "You’re asking me to play James Bond?
You must be out of your bloody mind. Offering me a king’s ransom, and don’t
think I couldn’t use a king’s ransom. But I think the Bond image is too
fixed. I don’t want to touch it."
But what really sold Sellers was the idea of a
little man being asked to play Bond for a day. Sellers went to work re-writing
his scenes and changing his character’s name to Evelyn Tremble. He worked
closely with Feldman, writer John Law, and his personal friend, director Joe
McGrath by trying to inject more humor such as the scene where he impersonates
Hitler, Napoleon and Toulouse-Lautrec. Sellers was reportedly proud of his input
and boasted, "I will be getting an author’s screen credit."
Peter Sellers was well known for portraying
various parts. On the left he mimics a Cary Grant-like pose as James Bond.
On the right, he dresses up as artist Toulouse-Lautrec.
McGrath was a Scottish television director and
worked with Sellers on shows such as Tempo. Sellers convinced Feldman
that McGrath was the right choice to direct the film. According to Sellers’
biographer, Roger Lewis, McGrath was chosen because Sellers wanted to
‘recreate the happy anarchy of his early days on TV’.
In the summer of 1965, Feldman had approached
David Niven to play the part of Sir James Bond. After reading the script at
Feldman’s home and than witnessing it being locked in a private safe, Niven
agreed to play the part that would have him presiding over the Secret Service
while observing a multitude of James Bonds fighting against Smersh.
The cast grew on a daily basis and began to
resemble a British version of the film comedy, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad,
World. Ursula Andress is added to the film in the role of Vesper Lynd
as well as Orson Welles in the part of Le Chiffre. Followed by Daliah Lavi,
William Holden, Charles Boyer, Kurt Kaznar, Jacqueline Bisset, George Raft,
Jean-Paul Belmondo, Joanna Pettet, Barbara Bouchet, Angela Scholar, Anna Quayle,
Ronnie Corbett, Bernard Cribbins, Tracy Reed, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Wells,
Duncan Macrae, Graham Stark, Burt Kwouk, Vladek Sheybal, and Peter O’ Toole.
On January 11, 1966, Casino Royale began filming at
Shepperton Studios, United Kingdom.
From Here On, All Hell Broke Loose
"There’s been nothing like this since
Michael Todd’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’," said one man on
the set. A comment that referred to the large scale production, with an all star
cast including David Niven from ten years before. The only difference between
the two films would be the adaptations from their original sources. Jules
Verne’s novel was faithfully recreated but Casino Royale most likely
had the late Ian Fleming rolling in his grave. Feldman was aiming to make the
biggest, star-studded, comedy in history and he began it by flooding the screen
with the world’s most beautiful women.
Joanna Pettet ended up portraying the sexy
daughter, Mata Bond.
"No background dogs in my
picture," barked an order from Feldman. "Get only real beauties."
And with that literally hundreds of Britain’s finest auditioned to play Fang
Girls, Guard Girls, Casino Girls, Karate Girls, and 12 daughters of ‘M’, all
between the ages of 16 and 18.
There was a filing system to help avert numbness:
Type ‘A’: must have first, personality; second figure; third looks. Type
‘B’: first, looks; second, figure; third, no personality. Type ‘C’:
those who just get by on all three. Whatever the system, Casino Royale
certainly has the largest of any cast of beautiful women.
Three famous Bond girls. Caroline (The
Spy Who Love Me) Munro, Jacqueline (The Deep)
Bisset, and Angela (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Scoular.
Perhaps the biggest problem behind the scenes was
Peter Sellers. At the time he was married to Britt Ekland, who would later play
Mary Goodnight in the 1974 Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.
Sellers marriage was on the rocks and he was chasing after her every weekend in
order to save it. He refused to listen to any production assistant who was
in-charge of getting him to the set and reportedly was late to the set daily or
would not arrive at all.
Sellers ego would be his Achilles heel, he would
really be annoyed if people did not pay attention to his needs as an actor. On
one occasion, Leo Jaffe, the executive vice president of Columbia, visited the
set and made a mistake by thinking Woody Allen was Peter Sellers. "When you
put glasses on them," said Feldman, "they do sort of look alike."
Sellers was not amused over this mistake.
During the baccarat scene long time Seller’s
friend, Princess Margaret, visited the set and rushed to meet Orson Welles.
Reportedly ignoring Sellers. Welles, who played the part of Le Chiffre, gave a
sarcastic comment to Sellers concerning his tardiness and causing the film to go
over budget. This made Sellers so irate that he insisted that his scenes with
Welles be done with a stand-in. Because of this on-set rivalry only one shot is
shown during the entire scene with both Sellers and Welles in the same frame.
Orson Welles as Citizen Le Chiffre.
Sellers eventually lashed out against his long
time friend Joseph McGrath and literally disappeared for weeks forcing the
production to come to a halt. According to Val Guest, Feldman was furious and
decided to terminate Sellers contract, firing him from the picture. Then
he put plan two into operation and began rewrites and building of newer sets at
Pinewood Studios and Elstree Studios. Because of Sellers tantrums, Feldman
radically altered Royale’s storyline. This left McGrath irritable and forced
Feldman to hire four more directors, Val Guest, Ken (Chitty Chitty, Bang, Bang)
Hughes, Robert Parrish, and John (The Maltese Falcon) Huston. Richard
Lester was also asked to join but turn down the offer because he was friends
with both Sellers and McGrath. The film would now be directed in four parts
"Our concept for this film includes not only multiple stars, but also
multiple directors," said Feldman in the March 2, 1966 edition of Variety.
Feldman also hired a small army of writers to
‘juice up’ the script. Famous writers and directors such as Billy Wilder,
Joseph Heller, Terry Southern, and Michael Sayers added their inputs. The
situation was too much for McGrath. He left the unfinished film after he
completed his contractual agreement.
Sellers eventually came back to film other scenes,
but kept calling his friend McGrath and begging him to return. "Please come
back! Charlie will give you a Rolls Royce if you come back. He gave me one!"
After a while, Feldman did call McGrath and offered him a Rolls Royce if he
would return. McGrath did not. Two years later, co-producer Jerry Bresler drove
up to McGrath in a white Rolls Royce and said, "I’m driving the car
Charlie Feldman was going to give to you if you came back to the movie."
John Huston was fresh off of finishing the epic
film The Bible before he was invited to direct a sequence of Royale.
He was asked how did he get from King James to Ian Fleming?
"Well, it was broached to me as a lark,
which it was. I said, I’ll do it if you let me write my segment of the picture
and shoot it my way." (New York Times interview June 26, 1966)
Huston went on to say that Robert Morley was
first asked to play the part of ‘M’ but was too busy. Feldman then offered
Huston a painting if he would play the part, so he did, bald and with a Guards
mustache. However, he preferred to be paid not by a painting but by a Greek
bronze head, which he recently fallen for. Ironically, it turned out to be
Huston directed his scenes with David Niven at
Pinewood Studios under the false working title "The David Niven Story".
Unfortunately, TIME magazine exposed the ruse and wrote, "Casino Royale is
shooting there and from the looks of what’s happening, shooting is too good
John Huston directing a scene at M's castle
and Deborah Kerr as a converted double agent.
Actress Deborah Kerr found herself in Royale
by accident. She dropped by to visit her friend, John Huston, and was given a
choice guest part that grew from ten days into two months of work. She purchased
a new ‘luxury’ swimming pool she later dubbed ‘The Charles K. Feldman
Memorial Swimming Pool’. Miss Kerr played the part of double agent Mimi and
pretended to be the late ‘M’s widow Lady Fiona McTarry. Her part became so
outrageous that in the end she had converted to being a Catholic nun.
"She’s played nuns so often she takes her
nun kit everywhere she goes," said Julie Harris, the film’s fashion
Ms. Harris, one of the many unsung heroes
behind-the-scenes, added that Ursula Andress, who plays Vesper Lynd, was excited
about a circus scene where she would be riding atop an elephant. She had Harris
create a shocking pink Elephant Boy outfit with pink-blue feathers.
Peter Sellers changed the scene where he and
Ursula Andress are riding an elephant and made it into a dream sequence with 104
kilted Highlanders. The Elephant Boy costume can be seen worn by Ursula in
the spy control room.
Unfortunately, Peter Sellers had one of his
nightly prophetical dreams where his mother was saying not to do the scene
because it was dangerous. So the circus scene went away and 104 kilted
Highlanders was born. Ursula was so upset that Feldman created another scene
where she could wear the Elephant Boy outfit while prancing around her spy
control room with David Niven. Thus the line from a curious Sir James, "Why
don’t you wear that on the street?" "People might stare," says
An expensive solution, but one must feel sorry
for the elephant owner when he arrived with his five-toed pachyderm at the
Shepperton Studio gates, only to be told from a disgruntled security guard that
he was at the wrong studio.
Director Robert Parrish replaced McGrath and was
perplexed when he was greeted with a huge, bare, white, cylindrical set.
"There was nothing in the script to indicate what it was for. I didn’t
know what to do with it and for a few days I just hoped it would go away. But
then Peter came up with his dream sequence and those damn pipers." (New
York Times interview May 22, 1966)
One of those pipers was actor Peter O’Toole.
Feldman paid him a case of champagne for his brief cameo role.
Director Val Guest said in a Scarlet Street
interview, "I went on under contract for eight weeks, and I was still under
contract nine months later. Feldman was a madman. There were days when you could
hug him, and then other days when you could throttle him!"
Guest was in charge of directing the scenes with
Woody Allen as the evil Dr. Noah. Allen was quoted as saying he would have to
leave in the middle of a sentence if this film went on much longer. He had been
in London for months waiting and doing nothing except writing a Broadway play (Don’t
Drink the Water), a screenplay (Take the Money and Run), and winning
at poker. By the time he actually started work he was on overtime.
Woody Allen as Dr. Noah with his Guard
"My part has been steadily changed, even up
to two days ago," Allen explained in the November 15, 1966 LOOK magazine.
"No matter what anybody brought in to be read at story conferences, their
material was generally received all the way from enthusiastic to wildly
enthusiastic. Then this stuff was never heard from again, in any form whatever."
Allen, who wrote most of his scenes, claimed he had a theory that there was an
unseen house writer chained in Feldman’s dungeon. Allen demanded a signed
confession from Feldman that he, Woody, did none of the writing, although he
"Think of the old pyramid builders,"
said Allen, "and you have some idea of what Charlie Feldman is like, lavish
in the Egyptian tradition of lavish."
Director Ken Hughes, who directed the Cubby
Broccoli film The Trials of Oscar Wilde, was the last director hired.
When he showed up on his first day he was surprised to see that the Art
Department had built a $30,000 replica of the Taj Mahal. "I just wanted a
simple backdrop to suggest a temple where Joanna Pettet does her shimmy with all
these swinging monks," he said. "Instead, they went and built this
behind my back. I won’t use it. Take good care of old Ken, Feldman said."
Top Left: Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie's
daughter) and Richard Talmadge can be seen as the Keystone Cops. Top Right:
Moneypenny and Sir James sneak around Dr. Noah's island hideout from this
deleted scene. Bottom: Another deleted scene finds two lovers
embraced during the final battle scene in Casino Royale (Photos courtesy
Legendary stuntman and director Richard Talmadge,
was in charge of the second unit. His contribution to the film is the final
chaotic battle scene inside Casino Royale. "Let’s blow up the whole
picture," Talmadge said to LOOK magazine. Dubbed Custer’s Last Stand it
included U.S. Calvary and American Indians colliding with Smersh’s croupiers
in a scene that looked as if it had been lifted from an old silent Keystone Cop
film. The entire scene took six weeks to film and featured 200 actors and extras.
Insurance firm, Lloyds of London, was so worried
about this scene that they suspended the insurance during this portion of the
film. The main reason was due to Talmadge, who had directed the train wreak
scene in How the West Was Won, when one of the stuntmen was crushed under
fallen timber. Feldman was gambling on Talmadge’s professionalism and said,
"If he had lost, some widows might have owned his picture.
With all the mayhem, Feldman’s health began to
wane. He suffered a heart attack during the production, which he blamed on
Sellers. "I’d be in my grave if I ever started anything like this again.
Everyday a new crises with people who have reached a certain point, good or bad,
in their careers. Stars are no real insurance for the success of a picture, you
know, except possible for the performance they give. In my grave. . ."
Columbia Pictures announced that Casino Royale
would open no sooner than Christmas 1966. This would give United Artists’
next Bond entry You Only Live Twice some breathing room with six months
between pictures and no competition from a first run film. This probably gave
some solace to producer Cubby Broccoli, who faced competition in another form
after releasing his Oscar Wilde film in 1960 one week after Gregory Ratoff’s
version. Any form of a competing Bond film would spell disaster at the box
office. However, Columbia’s commitment came and went and the release date was
pushed to mid April 1967.
Three more deleted scenes - Top: Vesper is
found dead on top of the roulette table. Right: Moneypenny evades Dr.
Noah's guards by disguising herself in a wetsuit and fake duck (homage to
Goldfinger's pre-credit segment). Bottom: Mata Bond, Cooper, Sir James,
and Moneypenny try to break out of Dr. Noah's psychedelic maze.
By early January, John Huston walked away from
the film with scenes still not filmed. He told a surprised Val Guest that
he would be shooting his remaining scenes. Guest was now left alone to
finish the monstrosity. For his dedicated commitment, Feldman offered an
additional credit in the form of Coordinating Director. Guest barked,
"This is coordinated? If you do that, I’ll sue you!" A compromise
was reached and Guest received ‘Additional Sequences By’ which is the last
part of the opening credits.
Heavy publicity followed in the months leading up
to the premiere. Columbia Pictures promotional department flooded countless
magazines with articles such as the Playboy spread called ‘The Girls of Casino
Royale’ with commentary by Woody Allen. Movie theaters hung huge posters
depicting the actors and a nude, tattooed covered lady. Audio clips would play
over their lobby speakers announcing the arrival of the film with the tag line -
"Casino Royale Is Too Much For One James Bond" (Click
here for video clip).
Terrence Cooper and Barbara Bouchet work
overtime to save the free world.
The war of the Bond movies had reached a pinnacle
when United Artists began to advertise You Only Live Twice with bold
lettering saying "Sean Connery IS James Bond". Three campaign posters
would be made depicting Sean Connery being bathed by geisha girls, flying his
‘Little Nellie’ helicopter while fighting off SPECTRE’s flying army, and
the interior of Blofeld’s volcano hideout during the final battle scene with
Connery hanging upside down from the crater opening. With all the exposure
between these two films, James Bond was becoming ‘too much for the average
With all the negative morale during the
production, Feldman was convinced he had a sure winner and proceeded to prove to
the world that his film was the ultimate crowd pleaser.
In New York City, Feldman gave a press party on
the roof of Broadway’s Screen Building. He unveiled a 62' x 100' sign of the
classic tattooed lady and served Hebrew National hot dogs and champagne. Also in
attendance was 60's pop icon Twiggy, shown viewing the trailer to Casino
The Cannes Film Festival was hoping to get in on
the fun by having Casino Royale as the show opener. Unfortunately,
Feldman was unable to complete the film in time for the festival.
Legend has it that the film almost did not make
it to its April 13, 1967 premiere at the London Odeon Leicester Square theater.
Apparently a final cut was being prepared inside the projection room. The U.S.
premiere would not happen until Friday, April 28th.
However, a week later on Saturday night, May 6,
1967 in Boston, Massachusetts, a riot broke out outside the Sack Savoy Movie
Theater. According to the report, several thousand persons were denied admission
to a 4am screening of Casino Royale. Radio station WRKO had promised free
admission with doughnuts and coffee or soft drinks to any ‘spy’ who showed
up wearing a trench coat. The theater manager, John P. Sullivan, decided to run
the movie two hours earlier because the crowd, mainly youths, had grown to an
Before order was restored three hours later, some
30 persons had been injured, several stores looted and cars smashed. Fifteen
persons were arrested on charges ranging from drunkenness to unlawful assembly.
As policemen converged on the mob outside, the
capacity crowd inside the theater also became unruly. The theater’s assistant
manager, Frank Dubrawsky, said he kept the film running despite two fires in the
seats and a broken fire hose that soaked portions of the audience.
"I was scared stiff to shut the projector
down. They were fighting in the aisles every time someone left his seat,"
Allen Friedberg, General Manager of Sack
Theaters, said, "Under no condition will there be another preview of this
type by any Sack Theater. I never dreamed that this situation would have
Despite being a confusing spoof of the Bond films
and a psychedelic run-up of the 1960s, Feldman’s Casino Royale went on
to gross $17.2 million dollars at the U.S. box office. Eon’s You Only Live
Twice would better that by $2 million more. To this date, debate
continues whether Feldman's film actually did damage to future Bond films.
There is no doubt that the 60s spy craze was fading and underground films such
as Easy Rider and Billy Jack were becoming popular. Bond
films such as 1973's Live and Let Die were still attracting audiences,
but not as good compared to Goldfinger or Thunderball a decade
earlier. For it would not be until 1979's Moonraker when Bond would
break new U.S. box office records.
Perhaps the most redeeming part of Feldman's Casino
Royale is the music score by Burt Bacharach. With lyrics by Hal David
and the title song performed by Herb Alpert & The
Tijuana Brass, the soundtrack became a cult favorite and a highly sought after
collectible among audiophiles. By the late 1980s the LP record could fetch
up to several hundred dollars. The reason behind this was the way the
recording studio processed the record. By increasing the volume to near
over-modulation, the sound gave most stereo sound systems a run-for-its-money.
When the soundtrack was reproduced for the CD generation, the sound from the
original 1/4" tapes was faithfully restored.
On May 25, 1968, Charles K. Feldman died of
cancer. He was 63. His prophetic remark, "I’d be in my grave if I ever
started anything like this again.", reverberated off the obituary of
the New York Times. Two years later Casino Royale would premiere on
CBS television on September 18, 1970. Unfortunately it would not be a rating
blockbuster the network was hoping. The film would eventually fall into
syndicated broadcast oblivion for the next two decades.
To Bond fans worldwide the 1967 version was a
confusing mess. However, in 2000 the Director of Film Studies at the
University of Colorado, Robert von Dassanowsky, wrote a very compelling article
artistic values of Casino Royale.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
For years after 1967, the film rights to Casino
Royale hanged in limbo.
On June 29, 1979, at the New York Museum of
Modern Art, producer Cubby Broccoli, director Lewis Gilbert and film critic
Judith Crist, answered questions from audience members during a panel discussion
on Moonraker and the OO7 films. One question was asked about the
fate of Casino Royale and whether Eon owned the rights. "No, we
don’t own it." said Broccoli. "When the first deal was made
with the Fleming estate to make Bond films, that was already sold." (Bondage
Ten years later during a visit to a James Bond
film class, the same question would be asked to Cubby’s stepson and
co-producer, Michael G. Wilson.
"United Artist bought out Charlie
Feldman’s rights and Columbia owns the rights in common, so they’re in a
Mexican standoff." Wilson continued, "I think it's an
interesting (Fleming) story - whether it's in our style, the right way to go
with Bond, I don't know? It's a very heavy story in a way. To fall
in love with a woman who is a double agent and be completely misled after all
Bond has been through with her is tough. Then have her commit suicide and
have Bond feel good about it - that's kind of a heavy film." (Bondage
Wilson shared the forum with Bond fan and future
writer of the official novels, Raymond Benson. In 1985, Benson proposed to
Glidrose (the literary owners of James Bond) that he would write a James Bond
stage play based on Casino Royale.
"I wrote the play in 2-3 months and then
held a staged reading of it in New York City in February 1986, using
professional actors." said Benson during an online interview with John Cox
"The reading went very well and we then had a discussion with the audience
about what worked and what didn’t. It’s a shame that Glidrose couldn’t
attend that reading because the outcome might have been different. Anyway,
Glidrose paid me and then they submitted the play to a British theatrical agent.
She was very elderly and in my opinion she just didn’t get it. She recommended
that the play not be produced. After further thought, Glidrose shelved it with
the ultimate decision that a James Bond stage play simply wouldn’t work. The
films had Bond in a monopoly and there was no way a play could compete. I
disagreed, but it was their property."
In early 1997, Thunderball producer Kevin
McClory and Sony/Columbia Pictures teamed up to begin work on Warhead 2000,
a James Bond film based loosely on a treatment McClory worked on with Ian
Fleming in the late 1950s. Sony/Columbia was looking for a franchise movie
series and McClory was the stepping stone they needed in perhaps the most
outrageous lawsuit in the annals of Hollywood history.
In short, McClory/Sony/Columbia sued MGM/UA and
Eon Productions on the grounds that McClory’s story elements from Thunderball
had been exploited in every James Bond film since 1962's Dr. No. A claim
that could yield McClory and Sony millions, if not billions, and the control of
the cinematic rights to James Bond.
The suit was considered ‘dirty pool’ in
Hollywood. The thought of undermining the series away from the Broccoli
family, who has made it successful for over 35 years, was pathetic in the minds
of fans all over the world. By late 1999, Sony/Columbia still had no
competing Bond film. Faced with a negative ruling from a Los Angeles judge, Sony
decided to drop the suit and settle out of court which in turn gave MGM the
distribution rights of Casino Royale. Two years earlier MGM also
won the distribution rights toMcClory's Never Say Never Again from
TaliaFilms. Now Eon Productions had control of all the Bond theatrical
And the First Shall Be Last
In 2004, MGM/UA was sold to Sony/Columbia
Pictures. Their entire library of the best loved musicals, comedies and dramas
would now be controlled by the rival studio. The fate of the James Bond
franchise was in question and delayed the start of Bond 21 until 2006.
However, on February 3, 2005, after the dust had settled between Sony/Columbia
and MGM/UA, Eon Productions made the announcement that the next James Bond film
would be Casino Royale. Fans could not have been happier except that
there was no mention if Pierce Brosnan, the current actor to play OO7, would
return. Other actors such as Dougray Scott, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Clive
Owen and Eric Bana were potential contenders for the role but on October 14,
2005, the world was in for a bigger surprise than expected.
Arriving in a military speed boat, actor Daniel
here for video), the sixth official actor to play OO7, made his grand
entrance in front of the world press. Craig would later reveal that he was
not interested in the part but was persuaded by producer Barbara Broccoli to
reconsider. "I will not accept the part unless I see the script."
Craig said. After several months and a
revised script by Paul Haggis, Craig was more than satisfied.
According to Premiere magazine (November 2006
issue), while in Baltimore, Maryland working on his latest film with Nicole
Kidman called The Invasion, Craig was picking up laundry detergent in the
Whole Foods Market aisle when his cell phone rang. On the other end, and
literally on the other side of the Atlantic, was Barbara Broccoli. "It's
over to you, Kiddo!," were the words and with that Craig dropped the
detergent and headed to the local liquor store for a bottle of Vodka and
Vermouth. He obviously did not need to shake it, he already was himself.
He gave his mother a call to tell her the news
and to keep it quiet until after the press conference. Unfortunately, one
tabloid reporter called his mother and said, "The news has broken.
What do you think about your son becoming the new OO7?" His mother
nonetheless let the cat out of the bag. A cheap trick that anyone would
have fallen for it.
Unfortunately, the Royale curse continued
and now had Craig in its grasp. "He’s too blonde, too ugly." said
some Internet outlets. "He's not tall
enough. He looks more like a villain than a hero." said other press
On the website Absolutely
James Bond one disgruntled fan said: "My god, don't the producers
have any brains? Craig is not Bond material. Bond must be tall, dark and
handsome. Or at least two of the three, and he isn't even one!"
Perhaps the biggest news was not Daniel Craig but
the website danielcraigisnotbond.A site endorsed by approximately 50 disappointed fans who feel that Pierce
Brosnan is the only actor who can play Bond. This immediately attracted the
attention of the press and before the cameras began rolling, Craig was the most
unwelcome Bond actor since the early days of George Lazenby.
Negative rumors continued to flood the Internet
on a day-to-day basis. Anything from Daniel Craig being unable to drive a
car with a clutch, to having his front teeth knocked out during a staged fight
scene. Both stories are untrue. Craig, being raised in England, obviously
can drive a clutch and the teeth incident was merely a capped tooth that had
come unglued. The headlines obviously disturbed Craig, but the results
were more positive. He approached the role more serious and more determine
than any other role he had played. He worked closely with the script and
suggested that a scene with a suicide bomber be dropped because the people who
do that for real are divided on religious and political grounds. "If
you are going to show someone setting up a bomb to kill people," Craig said
to Premiere magazine, "Then have him walking away with a case of money
afterwards." Craig even had input into the music and title song.
Daniel Craig becomes the sixth actor to play
OO7. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre.
As the months rolled on however, photos and news
clips would leak onto the Internet showing a very buff and muscular Daniel
Craig, who would spend three hours a night working out in the gym. The rest of
the cast would slowly be announced with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen playing a
thin Le Chiffre, Eva Green playing the Bond girl who breaks our secret agent’s
heart - Vesper Lynd, and Jeffery Wright playing a black Felix Leiter (previously
played by white actors). By late-summer the majority of fans and non-fans were
beginning to warm up to Daniel Craig as OO7 as the official trailer made its way
onto the Internet. The trailer began in gritty black and white as a young Bond
earns his OO agent status. The rest of the trailer is in color and sets up the
story in modern times as Le Chiffre is the big investment banker for the world's
terrorists. Bond, with the aid of Vesper, must defeat Le Chiffre in a
winner-take-all poker game at Casino Royale. By the end of the trailer, the
majority of Bond fans world-wide were completely satisfied.
Still some fans however have voiced their
concerns about the grittiness of the film and whether it will be too much
compared to the rest of the series. Mads Mikkelson said to Premiere
magazine, "We're talking grittiness compared to the other Bond films.
That's what we're talking, of course we're not talking gritty gritty. That would
be a no-go. The task is to bring this magical universe — it's still a fairy
tale, he's still Superman, I'm still the baddie — into 2006. That's the kind
of grittiness we're talking about."
Unfortunately when one gambles long enough lady
luck is sure to turn, on July 30, 2006, Pinewood Studios largest stage, The
Albert R. Broccoli OO7 Stage, burned to the ground (click
here for video). Inside the stage was the remains of a Venetian
set. Fortunately the crew had finished filming and production staff were
in the process of dismantling the set. This is the second time this stage
burned down. The first time was in 1984 during production of Legend.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in either accident. The OO7 Stage is well
known among Bond fans for housing the submarine set in 1977's The Spy Who
By late September, the main title song by Chris
Cornell, "You Know My Name" leaked onto the Internet. The
song was met with mediocre results since it lacked a Bondian tune. However,
by mid-October a newer version showed up at Cornell's website with full
orchestration. The results were better than the initial release and set
the tone for the November 17th premiere.
Co-Producer Barbara Broccoli sums up the main
reason why Eon finally filmed Casino Royale, "It was always an
ambition of theirs (Cubby and Harry Saltzman) to be able to make this story but,
sadly, they were never able to. So, when it finally became available to us,
we leapt at the chance. I like to think that I'm doing this for my Dad."
Ironically Ian Fleming’s first novel will behis last officially adapted for the screen by Eon Productions (all of his
OO7 books have been used either by title or by story). Royale is the
closest to any of his Bond novels since 1969's On Her Majesty’s Secret
Service. However, this film is more about how James Bond became the agent we
all know and love than simply about his relationship with Bond-girl Vesper Lynd.
On the other hand, the 1967 Feldman version is the opposite. It depicts an aging
Sir James Bond, forced out of retirement to fight his greatest nemesis - his
nephew. Only to be blown up with the rest of the world in the final moments of
the climatic battle.
The good news in all of this is that where
Feldman’s version ended with no where to go, Eon’s version will obviously
begin a new chapter in James Bond’s cinematic life. This will no doubt
reverberate from the silver screen at the end of Casino Royale when the
words 'James Bond Will Return'.