by Stuart Basinger
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 rights is 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 $1000.00.
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 Artists.
Charles K. Feldman, Jean Howard, and Louis B. Mayer. The love triangle that eventually affected Cubby Broccoli's work relationship with MGM Studios.
During the early 1950s one of Feldman’s associates, and aspiring producer, was escorting a new talent by the name of Robert Wagner onto the MGM lot. This associate was 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 barred both Wagner and Broccoli from Berman’s office, and had security remove them 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 continue to work with Famous Artists until 1953.
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 nonetheless.
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 Luciana Paluzzi.
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 directed by Gregory Ratoff.
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 Wrecking Crew.
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 regret later.
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 gone missing.
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 spoofing it.
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 worthless.
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 for it."
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 designer.
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 Vesper.
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 Girls.
"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 tried.
"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 Playboy).
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 wreck 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 moviegoer’.
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 Royale.
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 estimated 15,000.
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," Dubrawsky said.
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 resulted."
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 on the 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 magazine #9)
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 magazine #17)
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 of CommanderBond.net. "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 to McClory's Never Say Never Again from TaliaFilms. Now Eon Productions had control of all the Bond theatrical titles.
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 Craig (click 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 sources.
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 Loved Me.
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 be his 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'.
A definite sign that the curse has been lifted.
James Bond copyrights held
by respective owners:
Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions Ltd,
Sony/Columbia Pictures/MGM/United Artists Corp.,
Ian Fleming Publications Ltd
Apologies to Jack Davis for the use of his It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World artwork.
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