Bond is born in Ian Fleming's 1953 Cold War thriller.
We've read a few Bond novels, but not his debut in 1953's Casino Royale. When it comes to secondhand bookstores and yard sales you read what you find. But we decided to finally made a deliberate effort to go back to the beginning with an edition from Signet, which appeared in 1960 with Barye Phillips cover art. The debuts of franchise characters leave room for continuing adventures by design but we've never read a book that was so deliberately a prequel as Casino Royale. It's the essential novel for understanding Bond. You know the basics already: Cold War intrigue, opposing teams taking the field for a long struggle, a Soviet spy named La Chiffre who's dipped into funds not his and who hatches a desperate plan to restore them via the baccarat tables of a famous French casino, Bond dispatched to outplay him, break him, and ensure his downfall for stealing the money.
The book is fantastic from its opening, through its tremendously tense middle sections, and on to its brutal punchline of an ending. Bond is imperfect as both a spy and a man. He's sometimes kind, prone to sentiment, and philosophical about his work; he's also sexist, racist, and generally regressive. Casino Royale is designed to explain how the first three qualities were destroyed, making him a perfect spy. The latter three qualities remain. While in serious fiction many authors of the period were writing about racial equality and the essential sameness of people, Ian Fleming was declaring that Asians are terrible gamblers because as a race they lack resolve. None of this is a surprise because much is known about Fleming's personal views. Bond is an icon, but of a less enlightened era. We're readers, of ours. Yet we can meet on the page, and—with a tolerance Fleming never showed others—still manage to have a little fun.
She's ready to go anywhere her legs take her.
British actress Veronica Carlson's first screen role was an uncredited bit in Casino Royale, and her latest role is in 2018's upcoming House of the Gorgon. In between she became well known as a regular player in various Hammer Studios horror films. The above promo image was made when she appeared on the British television series The Saint. She looks a bit sinful, though, don't you think. Copyright 1969.
Bond—James Bond. But Jimmy is fine. Some people call me Jim, Jimbo, J-Man, J.B. My mom calls me Jimminy Cricket. I’m cool with whatever.
The story is well known—Popular Library insisted upon changing the title of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale to what you see above. They even went so far as to call 007 “Jimmy Bond” on the rear cover blurb. Fleming retaliated by selling the U.S. publishing rights to Signet at first opportunity, leaving only a small run of very collectible copies of You Asked For It on the market. Fleming must have learned from the episode, though, that titles don’t really matter, because he later wrote Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. Anyway, You Asked for It appeared in 1955, with unsigned and uncredited cover art. The blog Killer Covers has a bit more info about the book here.
It’s possible to have too many Bonds.
1967’s Casino Royale wasn’t a global Christmas movie in the sense that today’s films are, however it did premiere Christmas week in ten European countries, as well as today in Japan. The movie wasn’t good. Basic idea: Sean Connery is an imposter, so the real James Bond in the form of David Niven is coaxed out of retirement, and he comes up with a plan to confuse his arch enemies SMERSH by renaming all British agents—male and female—James Bond. Time’s review of Casino Royale was headlined “Keystone Cop Out,” and The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther was just as scathing, noting that “since it’s based more on slapstick than wit, with Bond cliché piled upon cliché, it tends to crumble and sprawl.”
But one thing about holiday blockbusters—past and present—is that they’re expensively promoted. The many posters produced to sell Casino Royale were top notch. A U.S. poster painted by the legendary Robert McGinnis remains one of his most iconic pieces, but we also like these Italian quattro foglio promos painted by the extensively and expensively collected Giorgio Olivetti. We saw a set of these asking $8,500 at an auction site. By contrast, below are several U.S. promos, not paintings but photo-illustrations, on which the film’s secondary players get starring roles. They aren’t nearly as collectible as the movie’s paintings, but they’re pretty, so we’re sharing them as well.
Perfectly dressed for both the season ending and the season coming.
Veruschka von Lehndorff, aka Vera Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort was born in Königsberg, East Prussia, a place that is now part of Russia and called Kalingrad. Today she’s a countess of Lehndorff-Steinort, which was once part of Germany but is now inside Poland. When she gained fame as a model in the 1960s she became known merely as Veruschka. She once shot an iconic set of photos in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, and once posed for Salvador Dali. She was six feet tall and could fold herself like a pretzel so that her ankles were behind her head. She branched out from modeling and acted in a dozen films, including Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 classic Blow Up, and 2006’s Bond reboot Casino Royale. She is a woman with range, and so we’ve selected two photos to exemplify that—shots from Vogue magazine that show her in both a summer and winter milieu. These are from 1968.
James Bond’s cruel nature is exposed on comic book cover.
This amazing Italian comic book cover for Ian Fleming’s Missione Royal, aka Casino Royale, with excellent cover art by Franco Picchioni, was printed in 1965. We found it over at the blog illustrated007, and there are other items there worth taking a look at if you’re inclined. Casino Royale was the first James Bond adventure written by Ian Fleming, but when it eventually hit the big screen in 1967 it was a Royale with cheese. Or more accurately, it wasn’t a Royale at all because it was a spoof that had nothing in common with Fleming’s work except the title and some characters. Still though, in its own way it was a good movie. But this cover reminds us that one thing we like about Bond as written by Fleming is his seriousness. Fleming more than once described Bond as having a “cruel mouth.” This doppleganger of Sean Connery has a cruel everything. No compassion in those eyes at all. We love it.
Your play, Mr. Bond.
Since we were just on the subject of classic dust jackets, it seems a good time to post this first edition jacket of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. We put together a post of Bond first editions a while back, but left this one out because it was thematically different. Those others Bonds are some of the best covers we’ve ever seen, but this hypothetical, two-suited playing card has a certain charm of its own. Speaking of which, when contemplating what to title this post we remembered that most people think of a card trickster as a “card shark,” but “sharp” is actually the older term, though both are accurate. Just FYI. Check our other Bond dust jackets here.
Now you too can roll like a superspy.
We love Bond stuff here, as you’ve probably figured out already. So we were pretty excited to find this Japanese advert for Imai’s scale model Aston Martin DB-5, a car which appeared in the James Bond films Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Casino Royale. The painting is a lot more impressive than the actual model, but we could be convinced to buy it anyway, as long it’s equipped with a tiny ejector seat.
Candid Press might have been the cheapest tabloid ever published.
Above you see an ultra low-rent Candid Press cover from today in 1966, with the inside scoop on an interracial love affair that got the Mississippi Klan riled up and ended in a castration. Sadly, these were not uncommon events during America's apartheid era, but Candid Press had no intention of doing any real reporting on it. Instead they were about pure sexual tease, with this and other stories re-enacted photographically by models who always seemed to lose their tops. All very interesting, but of special interest to pulp fans is a feature on Vera Novak, a well-known Harrison Marks model who had shot some nudie reels and acted in a film called It’s a Bare, Bare World.
These nudie reels are way before our time, but we know they are remembered fondly. Technically they're porn, but in reality they're way too innocent to be classified that way. There's no sex at all, and the nudity is chaste by any standards. Novak had established a name as a nudie model, but the article above describes how she was about to make the leap into A-features with a part in 1967’s big budget Bond spoof Casino Royale. But guess what? She never made it into the film. Possibly she shot scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, but she’s definitely not credited as a cast member. So, like many of the actresses we write about, she passed from film history into undocumented private life where, we can only hope, she was happy.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
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