Change is inevitable—especially if you're dealing with Ian Fleming.
Ian Fleming was not an author to be trifled with. We talked about how he shifted the rights for Casino Royale from Popular Library to Signet. Well, here we go again. The above 1957 Perma paperback of Diamonds Are Forever with excellent William Rose cover art is rare because Fleming shifted the publishing to Signet after Perma changed the title of Moonraker to Too Hot to Handle. Since this happened after the Casino Royale fiasco you’d think the editors would have known better.
Perma: Ian, Moonraker is a terrible title. It sounds like a sci-fi novel.
Fleming: You listen here, you sniveling little pup—
Perma: This is my job, okay. I’m telling you a bad title hurts your whole brand.
Fleming: Well, I have an idea for a book called Goldfinger. I suppose you think that’s a bad title too?
Perma: Well, yeah...
Fleming: Why you rotten eel. And Octopussy? You don’t like that either?
Perma: Sounds pornographic. It’s ludicrous.
Fleming: You have two tin fucking ears is what’s ludicrous! And Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang?
Perma: The worst of the bunch, and pornographic. I’m sorry, Ian—
Fleming: Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang? Pornographic? That’s the last goddamned straw, you pimply little Yank!
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.
They say money talks. It also writes.
Where would we be without leaked documents in this day and age? There’s an interesting story hitting the wires today about how the Mexican government pressured Sony Pictures and MGM to change the script of the upcoming James Bond film Spectre in exchange for $14 million dollars. The money took the form of tax incentives, but in the real world it’s no different than bagloads of cash. The information comes from hacked e-mails provided by an unknown North Korean person or group. According to the e-mails, the Mexican government wanted an assassin’s identity changed from Mexican to some other nationality, an assassination target likewise changed from Mexican to other, and insisted upon the casting of a Mexican Bond girl. The last demand was met with the hiring of Sonora-born Stephanie Sigman.
All of this is pretty much business as usual in moviemaking—hardly even a story, really. But we always write about Bond here, so this item seemed worth sharing. The last aspect of the e-mails that interested us was a demand that the film include aerial shots of Mexico City’s skyline, with an emphasis on the modern buildings. Tens of millions of travelers from every part of the globe visit Mexico each year because of its native ruins, beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, indigenous food, historically authentic festivals, thousands of miles of beaches, and warmwaters, yet Mexican officials wanted its few glass skyscrapers to appear onscreen to emphasize to shallow businessmen that, yes, we too can offer the type of cookie-cutter modernity you love. It’s fascinating to us. The world won’t know how much of the Mexican government’s wish list was granted until Spectre’s November 2015 release, but if we had to guess we’d say all of it.
Eew, you mean you want me to, like, hug her and stuff?
When we saw this we had to share it. It’s a centerfold from Belgium’s Ciné Télé Revue magazine featuring Claudine Auger and Sean Connery. Made when they were promoting their pairing in the James Bond actioner Thunderball, the dubious expression on Connery’s seemingly lipsticked face is exactly the same as if he’d been forced to hug an octopus, while Auger seems to be having fun, but ended up with a double chin that probably made her shriek in horror when she saw the shot. But even though we suspect both actors probably fired their publicists after this, the result is a rare, candid photo showing that even the prettiest stars are, in the end, imperfect.
Two Fleming covers offer opposite visions of how to Live large.
Sometimes we get in the mood for a true classic, so at top is the excellent 1966 Macmillan Publishers edition of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die. It’s possible the James Bond books have had more cover iterations than any other series, and most of them are high quality, often trending toward the sort of luridness we love, but we also like the simple, elegant graphics of Macmillan's deep green masterpiece. On the other hand, if we were to go lurid then there’s no better art to be found than on the 1964 cover Vivi e lascia morire from the Italian imprint Garzanti. The variations on Live and Let Die are practically infinite, but the Garzanti edition is our other favorite (though this one is great too). There is no artist info on these, which is criminal, we think. We’ll dig, though, and see what we can find. As a matter of taste, it’s interesting to contemplate which of the two books we would buy, assuming we could buy only one. Tough choice. What do you think?
Update: the second cover was painted by Giovanni Benvenuti.
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.
James Bond submarine car sells at auction.
We’ve shared a lot of James Bond memorabilia over the years (who can forget our Honeychile Ryder figurine), which means we couldn’t possibly let this story pass. The Lotus Esprit turbo used in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me sold at auction yesterday in London for £550,000, or about $864,000. The car is one of eight used in the film. For the sake of comparison, other Bond vehicles, such as the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger, have sold for millions. But probably the price was low here because the car, though equipped with a propeller and fins, is not a functional vehicle, according to the auctioneers RM Auctions. But what makes the story so interesting is that the car was found in a Long Island storage unit in 1989 by a construction contractor who’d bought the contents unseen. American storage companies often arrange blind auctions when rental payments on storage spaces lapse. Buyers take the chance that something valuable might be inside, but just as likely might find nothing but junk. This particular buyer had been hoping to find power tools or other useful items, but instead was shocked to find the Lotus. His purchase price for the storage unit—$100.
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.
The man with the Midas touch.
The Japanese weren’t the only ones who produced amazing 45 sleeves for James Bond music. Above you see art for Shirley Bassey’s Bond theme “Goldfinger,” released by Columbia Records and EMI in Italy in 1965, with Sean Connery and gold plated Shirley Eaton caught during a moment between takes on the set. In Italy the movie was called Agente 007, Missione Goldfinger, which is why the title on the reverse differs from the front. Check out those Japanese Bond sleeves here.
We’ve got something special up our sleeves.
Above and below are the front and rear sleeves of four Japanese soundtrack pressings for the 1960s James Bond films Thunderball, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, and Goldfinger. The themes were sung by Tom Jones, Matt Munro, Nancy Sinatra, and Shirley Bassey respectively, and pictured along with Sean Connery you see Bond beauties Claudine Auger and Shirley Eaton. Ms. Eaton, as wrong-place wrong-time Jill Masterson, had the dubious honor of being suffocated under a coating of gold paint, certainly one of the most infamous deaths of any Bond femme. We think these sleeves are great, and if you agree and want to see a lot more excellent 007 soundtrack art, check our previous posts here, here, and especially here.
On a related note, the Bond franchise’s fiftieth anniversary is next month, and in honor of the occasion former star Roger Moore, along with co-stars Britt Ekland and Richard Kiel, are touring around England with a Blu-ray box set of all the films, which are stored inside a gold case that is in turn comfortably riding in one of Bond’s preferred vehicles, an Aston Martin DBS. Actors, auto, and discs are visiting some of the iconic locations of the Bond series in advance of the release of the next film, which is entitled Skyfall. You can read more about all that here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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