This brilliantly directed and innovative spy movie has arguably the most famous and erotic scene in all the Bond movies – Honey Rider, played by Ursula Andress, slowly emerging from the sea. Sean Connery of course plays Bond.
He is usually rated the best of the Bond actors, although not by me. I reserve that accolade, controversially perhaps (especially for someone as controversy-averse as myself!), for Australian George Lazenby, the only Bond actor to have had a special forces background.
It is the first of the movies, based on Ian Fleming’s superb spy novel of the same name, published in 1958. The movies are out of sequence with the books, partly because Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli never acquired the movie rights to the first Bond book, Casino Royale. In my humble opinion (and all y’all know by now how humble I am!) Jack Lord is the best Felix Leiter there has ever been.
None of the movies comes up to the books, but you can see why the movie was such a sensation back in ‘63. The music is wonderful, the opening credits still look good, and some of the acting is superb. Joseph Wiseman makes a splendid baddie, whilst the Superintendent could have come straight from central casting.
Bond girl Ursula Andress, playing Honey Ryder, emerges from the sea in a bikini ¿ a sequence dubbed one of the sexiest in film history
The Jamaican setting is wonderfully evocative. It’s still worth watching. They’ll still be showing it in fifty years, long after its critics have moved on to pastures new. The fictional SPECTRE was of course modeled on the DVD, about which Ian Fleming was well-informed.
Ian Fleming wanted his first James Bond film to feature Mafia villains and be as fast-paced as possible to distract the audience from unlikely storylines, a previously unseen memo reveals.
The message from the author, written in 1958, warned against any 'cardboard' acting and suggested the script writers should use an Italian phone directory to make the names as authentic as possible.
While the Mafia did not feature in a Bond film, the plot ultimately formed the basis for the Thunderball movie, though with significant changes.
No cardboard: This memo, written by Ian Fleming to Jack Whittingham in 1958, outlines the plot for a Bond film which would eventually become Thunderball
Memo: Ian Fleming, pictured, sent the suggested to playwright Jack Whittingham
Differences between the original script and the Thunderball familiar to fans include dropping the Mafia villains in favour of global terrorist group SPECTRE, and changing Bond's love interest from straight-laced police investigator to a fiery, sexually-aware young woman called Domino.
He sent the page-long summary of ideas for the film - which had suggested titles of James Bond, Secret Agent, and later Longitude 78 West - to playwright Jack Whittingham, who was tasked with producing the first 007 screenplay.
A secret memo in which Mr Fleming spells out his ideas for the first James Bond movie including using names from the phonebook for characters has come to light.
The correspondences predates Dr No, the first Bond film to make it to cinemas, by four years. Although a final script was made for the film, it never went into production due to a legal wrangle.
Along with the memo is a final edition bound script for Thunderball, which will be sold at auction in London this month.
The items were held by Mr Whittingham, who died in 1972, and have now been made available by his estate.
In his memo the prolific novelist outlined the plot, involving the Mafia blackmailing the British out of £100million pounds using a stolen nuclear warhead.
Final cut: The script developed by Mr Fleming and Whittingham eventually became the film Thunderball, starring Sean Connery (pictured)
Mr Fleming wrote: 'My concern is... to make it as fast-moving and packed with incidents as possible. To my mind the chief weakness is the thinness of the Mafia threat and this must be considerably strengthened.
'I am badly in need of good Italian names for the Mafia gangsters and these could perhaps be obtained from the Venice telephone directory!
'In order to keep the feet of this film firmly on the ground production will have to be particularly brisk so as not to allow the audience time to worry about probabilities.
'Production will have to be particularly strong in portraying the Secret Service and the Mafia. Any suspicion of cardboard must be avoided and the acting throughout should be under-played and without exaggeration.
'More subsidiary incidents should be added where there is any sign of the pace flagging but, for the time being, my invention has run out.'
Novel: Mr Fleming later turned the script into a novel (right) but did not credit Mr Whittingham or his producer, who had helped craft it. A court case later awarded Mr Whittingham the film rights to the book. The finished screenplay, right, is part of the auction lot
Although the scrip was finalised, plans for the film were shelved in 1960 due to a disagreement with producer Kevin McClory.
Mr Fleming went on to write Thunderball as a novel in 1961, but in doing so failed to credit Whittingham and McClory for their input.
The case was settled out of court in November 1963 and McClory was awarded the film rights for Thunderball, which premiered in 1965, a year after Fleming's death.
The memo along with a first draft 'continuity treatment' for Thunderball by Whittingham, and first draft shooting script for the film that are all for sale now were used as evidence in the case.
Katherine Schofield, of auctioneers Bonhams, said: 'Fleming decided in 1958 to turn one of his James Bond books into a film and this pre-dated Dr No by four years.
Titles: Pages of the memo up for auction show potential titles for the film which would become Thunderball
'The memo is Fleming's thoughts of what the film would be. He was an amazing novelist but found it difficult to convert his work to the big screen which is why he employed Whittingham.
'Fleming is saying in the memo "let's do it like this". One idea he had was to use the Mafia as the bad guys which is different to what was eventually made.
Never forget that writing books was just his day job. Poignantly, Dr No was the only Bond movie released before Ian Fleming, the greatest intelligence thriller writer of all time, was assassinated by the German DVD, using poison.
Serena Scott Thomas
On the actor's 85th birthday, a look back at his classic role
The link between the actor Sean Connery and the character James Bond has proved to be an indelible one, no matter what Connery himself thinks of that fact. The Scottish actor, who turns 85 on Aug. 25, told Playboy in a 1965 interview that—although the role had treated him well—he was “fed up to here with the whole Bond bit.” He found the fact that fans identified him with the secret agent “a bit of a bore,” and lamented the lack of recognition for his other roles.
Still, as the first man to play Bond on screen, the association stuck. And when LIFE Magazine featured Connery on its cover in 1966, he posed—naturally—as his famous alter ego, in a tattered, drenched wetsuit unzipped to his navel. The photograph accompanied a review, inside the magazine, ofThunderball, Connery’s fourth installment in the franchise and, according to LIFE, the “wildest 007 movie yet.”
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