BOND From The Beginning - The Journey To The Big Screen

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Welcome to the first in a new regular weekly James Bond column. We'll be looking back at all the Bond movies in chronological order, starting next Thursday with Dr. No. But first, as a primer to the series, Martin Rayburn charts 007's journey to the big screen.


From the completion of his first 007 novel, Casino Royale, in 1952, 41-year old author Ian Fleming believed that movies and television would be the best platform for James Bond. People in the industry seemed to agree with him but multiple deals fell through, resulting in a pile of failed screenplays which Fleming would rewrite and adapt into best-selling short stories and novels instead. These would go on to become the back-bone of the long running movie series.

One if the deals that actually came to fruition resulted in an American TV adaptation of Casino Royale. On the 21st October 1954 a CBS anthology series called Climax!, which presented a different story and different set of characters every episode, featured James Bond's debut adventure as their third ever episode. To say they took liberties with the character is an understatement. Bond was played by Barry Nelson, and was depicted as an American spy working for the American Combined Intelligence Agency.



In the teleplay Jimmy Bond (yes, you read that right) arrives at the Casino Royale in Monte Carlo, Monaco. He is shot at whilst entering, and soon meets up with British Secret Service agent Clarence Leiter who briefs Bond about his mission. Jimmy runs into old flame Valerie Mathis (an amalgam of the Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis characters from the novel), she introduces him to Le Chiffre the Chief Soviet Agent in the area who is nearly always accompanied by three henchman - Basil, Zoltan and Zuroff. Le Chiffre has been gambling with the Soviet funds of his employers and he's down several million francs. Bond's mission is to beat him at a high-stakes card game of Baccarat so Le Chiffre will be ruined.

The episode flopped, and so any hope of a further television adventure for Jimmy Bond was ended right there. But Fleming's novels were gaining a lot of fans, amongst them several film producers. Two who could see the cinematic potential of the series were American Albert (Cubby) Broccoli and Canadian Harry Saltzman. The pair would become the key players in bringing the very British James Bond 007 to the screen.

Saltzman had managed to obtain an option to most of Fleming's work, but the move left him too financially strapped to produce any of them. Broccoli had wanted to produce the Bond novels himself, but he didn't own the rights. So when Saltzman refused to sell but offered a partnership instead, Eon Productions was created. United Artists were impressed by both the producers enthusiasm and vision and so they agreed to bankroll their proposed James Bond movie series.

Dr. No was chosen to be the first movie in the series, and one of the first directors approached was future Bond legend Guy Hamilton (director of Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die, and The Man With The Golden Gun). He declined, and so did many other people as Broccoli and Saltzman struggled to sign anyone to direct the movie - until in stepped a man as smoothly elegant as Bond himself, Terence Young. A very important find, as we will discover.


But who would play James Bond? Ian Fleming is said to have half-jokingly suggested that 52-year old David Niven (who would later play Bond in the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) would be a good 007. Cubby Broccoli wanted future-Bond Roger Moore! He was only 34 at the time, but was under contract to The Saint so had to rule himself out.

Then, co-incidentally and independent of each other, both Broccoli and Saltzman heard about a promising 31 year old Scottish actor named Sean Connery. After a viewing of the 1959 Disney movie Darby O'Gill And The Little People, featuring Connery as Michael McBride, Broccoli invited the Scot to audition. He was greatly impressed and hired Connery for the lead, quickly relaying his decision to director Terence Young. Young was tasked with teaching the rough-edged Connery some style and sophistication, something Young exuded. Fortunately Connery was a quick and eager learner, and soon he was so impressive that even Ian Fleming would call him perfect, and would in fact incorporate elements of Connery into his future Bond novels.

As for Dr. No himself, it was another case of knock-back after knock-back. Ian Fleming's cousin, Christopher Lee was approached, but was committed to other projects. Noel Coward famously refused the role with a quote of "Dr. No? No! No! No!". Eventually New York actor Joseph Wiseman was signed up as the main antagonist.

Rounding out the cast would be Jack Lord, a protégé of Broccoli's longtime friend Gary Cooper, as C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter. Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress was cast as Honey Ryder. Because of her think accent, Bond's first leading lady would have her voice dubbed by Nikki Van der Zyl. Finally, with the pair who would become the Bond regulars, Bernard Lee as M and Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, the on screen Bond legend was ready to begin...

Join us next Thursday as we begin our Bond cinematic journey with Dr. No.

By day, an ordinary bloke in a dull 9 to 5. By night, a tired ordinary bloke. Martin still hasn't worked out what he wants to do when he grows up. He is currently 46.
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