'James Bond, Back-To-Back' BFI 07/11/22

Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

This should be a nice event, at the Reuben Library in BFI Southbank, London. Two academics publishing books on DN and FRWL speak to various aspects of the films' contexts, marketing and reception, apparently with reference to recent archival discoveries.

I'm already familiar with James Chapman's 'Licence To Thrill: A Cultural History Of The James Bond Films', a highly readable survey of the series; and Llewella Chapman's 'Fashioning James Bond: Costume, Gender and Identity', which is scrupulously precise in describing all aspects of costuming, film by film. I always find these types of book far more interesting than 'official' coffee-table book retrospectives.

Llewella Chapman's BFI Film Classics entry on FRWL was out just this week and I look forward to reading it soon. James Chapman's book on DN is, I believe, due to be published around the time of this event.

I have a ticket, but whether I get there may depend on how soon I'll be able to get away from work that evening.

I hope to do so because both authors clearly write with fannish interest, not just as academic critics. The Reuben Library isn't enormous so it may be a fairly small scale affair.


Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.

Comments

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Sounds worth attending, though clearly I can't. If you manage to make it, please let us know how it went.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    I like the back-to-back reference too, it shows the organisers are old time fans…


    Like @Barbel I would love to attend but that’s impossible, too!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • _Stocks_Stocks EnglandPosts: 391MI6 Agent

    Really interesting talk by James and Llewella about their respective new books. Lots of insights about the research process for the books and how fun those boxes would be for us to root through. And apparently Eon are very helpful to researching authors!


    Murder | Employment.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited November 2022

    This was a very interesting event. Separately contracted to write new books on Bond, Llewella Chapman and James Chapman spoke about their experiences of research during lockdown, how they gained online access to archival materials including the Richard Maibaum papers at Iowa University (Eon's permission was needed for that) and Ian Fleming's papers in the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

    Hosted by the BFI's Reuben Library, this evening's gathering was relatively small, the audience comprising a Southbank mix of film buffs, Bond fans, academics - some of them writing on Bond - and other interested parties. I asked a couple of questions - one about Eon's current take on academic publications on Bond (referring back to the 70s when Eon considered themselves 'burned' by a Marxian critique of the films' ideological effects, levelled by the Open University team they'd accommodated during the production of TSWLM. I asked whether published 'Bond studies' have since shifted more towards a market for fans as well as academics.)

    Other questions addressed topics as diverse as the influence of Hitchcock on the early Bond films, coverage of the filming of DN by the Jamaican press, Terence Young's direction, sound edits in a German-dubbed cut of FRWL and the budget for wigs!

    Mentioning Laura Mulvey's feminist work of the 70s on visual pleasure and narrative cinema, James Chapman and Llewella Chapman shared drafts of screenplays for DN and FRWL; the extracts give insight to the filmmakers' awareness of the 'male gaze' as an explicit point of reference during production, and, in the case of FRWL, a sub-Hitchcockian self-reflexivity about film as spectacle.

    Llewella Chapman spoke of her interest in research about women behind the scenes of the Bond films; for example, quoting correspondence by FRWL's wardrobe mistress Eileen Sullivan (who is briefly seen in the film, on location in Istanbul). She also commented on Fleming's drafts of the novel 'From Russia With Love', pointing out, amongst other things, that Rosa Klebb's sexual proclivities were originally going to include bestiality!

    James Chapman remarked on a wealth of evidence that, during production, Harry Saltzman was relatively hands-on, while Cubby Broccoli was more focused on financial matters. He shared documentary evidence that Robert Shaw was seriously under consideration for the part of Bond in DN. He said that he'd found absolutely no evidence to support a popular myth that, in an early treatment, Doctor No was the name of the villain's pet monkey. He explained how the Maibaum papers reveal that ideas abandoned for one Bond film were often picked up in a later one. For example, at the time when OHMSS was earmarked as the follow-on movie to TB, there was a greater emphasis on gadgets (than when OHMSS was eventually made): it was then that the notion of an underwater car entered the mix; it was also then, apparently, that the idea to re-cast Gert Frobe was first mooted (Blofeld would unmask himself as Goldfinger's twin brother!) The historical politics of on-screen credits for writers were explored, including a dispute over whether Tom Mankiewicz's name should have preceded Maibaum's in credits for the films on which they both worked, and whether Broccoli denied Mankiewicz a credit on TSWLM because of financial considerations to do with the Eady Levy. These were just some of the juicy titbits offered during the evening.

    I'd have loved to have stayed for a drink but disruption to train services in the wake of postponed strike action meant that the 20.28 was the last train out of Waterloo on my route!

    @CoolHandBond That very poster was cast as background to this evening's proceedings. As James Chapman observed, the back-to-back double bill of DN and FRWL followed the release of the enormously successful GF and, as such, made more money than the two films had made on initial release... very unusual for a double bill!

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    Thanks for that review @Shady Tree sounds like a fascinating evening

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    thanks for the in-depth report @Shady Tree , youve shared with us a whole lotta behind-the-scenes nuggets I never knew before

    I like License to Thrill and also recommend Chapman's book Saints and Avengers about the ITV adventure shows of the 60s


    but what does this mean? and how does it apply to From Russia with Love?

    ... a sub-Hitchcockian self-reflexivity about film as spectacle ...

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited November 2022

    @caractacus potts but what does this mean? and how does it apply to From Russia with Love?

    ... a sub-Hitchcockian self-reflexivity about film as spectacle ...


    Sorry, yes... the draft screenplay Llewella Chapman shared was an extract of dialogue between Grant and Bond during their showdown aboard the Orient Express. When Grant goads Bond about the secret film of Bond and Tania making love in the bridal suite - "What a performance!" - Bond replies darkly that perhaps he and Tania should be awarded Oscars.

    'Self-reflexivity' = when a text is knowingly conscious of its own status as a text (films within films, that sort of thing).


    Another interesting finding of James Chapman's was that treatments of DN didn't start out as the (reasonably) faithful adaptation of Fleming's novel that the film became; it was through Maibaum that the work headed back to Fleming. An early idea was that Doctor No would already be dead and that the villain would be one of his barons.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Thanks, Shady, that was great.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited November 2022

    Thank you, guys.

    I'd known for a long time of an idea that an early proposal for DAF involved bringing back Gert Frobe as Goldfinger's twin brother. That makes sense - to the extent that this villain would have shared with his late sibling a fetish for a precious substance (in his case, diamonds).

    But if I heard correctly on Monday evening and it's the case that, during planning for OHMSS as the film originally intended to follow TB, the writers were considering making Goldfinger's brother (Frobe) the true identity of Blofeld - Blofeld unmasked! - then I guess this Goldfinger Mark 2 would have been revealed as 'the author of all of Bond's pain' in the SPECTRE films of the series to that point! Ring any bells? Thank goodness they didn't go there!

    James Chapman said he has prepared a new essay on OHMSS which is due to be published in an edited collection of writings on the Bond films by various academics. Hopefully there'll be some more light shed on the evolution of ideas towards OHMSS as made.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • _Stocks_Stocks EnglandPosts: 391MI6 Agent

    ^ this was like reading a transcript of that event! Wonderful summing up, Shady Tree. Incredible recollection. Interesting to hear how Maibaum would almost write scenes in isolation to be put to use somewhere in the series (AVTAK climax).

    I was the guy sat next to you and I remember thinking when you spoke “that was such a great question!” I had wanted to grab a drink and a chat with you, hopefully next time.

    Murder | Employment.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    @_Stocks Thanks... it's a small world 🙂

    Yup, it was another little nugget that the idea of some airship action, as used in AVTAK, had originally been considered for OP's PTS.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    James Chapman has been kind enough to acknowledge this thread with a reply to me as follows:

    "Thank you for supporting the event, for your questions, and for the very generous review.

    "There's probably a mini-essay to be written on bringing back Gert Frobe. The idea is there in treatments and scripts for OHMSS. The line that Maibaum attributed in interviews to Goldfinger's planned return in Diamonds ("I believe you knew my half-brother Auric? Our mother always cautioned him about his reckless fetishism. In fact she regarded him as somewhat retarded") is there in drafts of OHMSS. Goldfinger's brother is also there in early treatments for Diamonds, and ends up siding with Bond (and in some treatments Draco) in pursuit of Blofeld ... And Blofeld was also in an early treatment of Octopussy, where Octopussy's gang beats SPECTRE to a heist and Octopussy remarks to the effect that as all the big criminal gangs have been run by men, and have failed, it's time for the women to have their go!"

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    these clues are so cryptic, just enough to get us to imagine alternate possible Bond films, but you know those unused drafts must have had a lot more than that. imagine if someone were allowed to adapt these unused scripts into a graphic novel!

    Nice to know there was once a draft for Diamonds are Forever in which Tracy's death was acknowledged.


    so @Shady Tree are you going to convince James Chapman to join our fourm?

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    For me, the fascinating takeaway from #13 is that it seems that, at least in early treatments, some of the kind of continuity now associated with Craig's Bond films was (sort of) considered for earlier Bond films, ranging from the late 60s through to the mid 80s. Fortunately there was enough sensible filtering going on then to forestall that, although I suspect that, during the 70s/80s - at least in the case of the OP example given - rights issues over use of SPECTRE (McClory vs Eon) would have put paid early on to continuity brainstorming of that order.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
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