I was thumbing through an old magazine when I remembered this one. Don’t think I’ve ever shared it.
Early in the 1970’s at the Boston television station where I worked. The newsroom was on the third floor and we had a lobby receptionist who looked and sounded like Thelma Ritter.
The phone rings at my newsroom desk. It’s the receptionist in the lobby. “Hey, Geeery, got a guest fer ya. An old guy. Odd ‘boid.’ Sez his name is Frankie and he’s gotta book fer ya.”
I was puzzled. Didn’t have any celeb guests booked. Who was this “Frankie?”
“Geeery, Hon. Ya still there? Frankie’s got this book fer ya? Whadda I do, Hon?”
I was still puzzled. I didn’t play the ponies and I didn’t know any bookies. I asked him to send the guest up on the elevator, then I raced out to meet him. The elevator opens and out steps … FRANK CAPRA. I simply stared with my mouth wide open.
Capra laughed at me. “Hi Garry, will you interview me?” Capra continued laughing as I continued to stare.
Of course, we went out for a few drinks afterward. He shared some great stories about working with Harry Cohn at Columbia. Capra had “director’s final cut” in all his contracts.
Harry used to go wild. He wanted a different ending for “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” Frank told Harry where to go.
It’s a consolation prize, a followup movie to the all-too-brief television series “Firefly.” We loved it. It went a small distance to answer the questions left in the wake of the premature ending of what should have been the best ever science fiction television show.
Nathan Fillion was a fine, dashing, surprisingly believable hero. He was just un-heroic enough to be witty and upbeat, but brave enough to save the universe.
Despite spaceships and a futuristic planetary setting for the movie, it’s a western. It’s “Tombstone” and “The Magnificent Seven.” A dollop of “Ride the High Country.” It is every thriller, western, and space opera you’ve seen. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Forbidden Planet,” too.
It’s based on “Firefly”, currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime — so if you haven’t seen it and you like science fiction and/or westerns and/or thrillers, you can’t help but love this.
Heroes curse in Chinese. Some have super powers or maybe they aren’t superpowers, but they sure do seem pretty super to me. Beautiful women, handsome men. Terrific pseudo-science that you are pretty sure you almost understand because it uses familiar gobbledygook language.
No warp drive. I suppose that means that going from galaxy to galaxy on a whim isn’t going to happen. No one exactly says where the story takes place. It’s a “terraformed” planetary configuration that you would call a solar system, except that technically, there’s only one solar system because there’s only one “Sol.”
And then The Hero, Mal Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, said it. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want mad at you, so when he came out with a line this terrific, I wrote it down on the back of an envelope before I forgot it. I knew I would write about it.
“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Spoken by Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the “Serenity.”
I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, steampunk and weird mysteries involving some kind of magical or futuristic technology. But I also read a lot of history, recently a lot of history that essentially debunks all the history I read in the past and makes me completely rethink everything I thought I knew. Tony Judt’s “Postwar” was one such book, but there have been a bunch of others. Some of them I’ve reviewed or otherwise written about. Others, I will talk about eventually.
When Mal Reynolds talks about “hiding half the truth,” it sums up history as most of us know it. We learn the “mythology” of history. It can also be a complete lie. There’s half the truth — and then, there’s a complete absence of any truth.
We are told what is true and for most people, it is easier to accept what we are told as “The Truth” rather than make an effort to find out what really happened.
History (mostly) is the stuff the winners say is true. Author Dan Brown said:
“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”
Sometimes, what you hear as “history” is a truth which never happened, but which losers need. It soothes guilty consciousness and makes it possible for them to “move on” and thus pretend the past never happened.
Every nation has a dark past. No nation is guiltless. In no country have the victors treated their victims with kindness and charity. There has been slaughtering throughout the world. Whether your particular people got slaughtered or not is pure luck of the draw.
It’s always an interesting philosophical question: Who draws the straws? Why us? Why them? It’s one of those “ultimate” questions and there is no answer.
History isn’t credible as taught. The history we hear in school has nothing to do with telling later generations what really happened. It ought to be but actually, it’s about getting everyone to believe a story that supports the current power structure.
Debunking those stories comes later when a changed power structure requires a different story.
Take your history with many grains of salt. Not because I said so, but because Mal Reynolds said so.
When Eon Productions, maker of all those James Bond movies, finally made a film based on the very first Ian Fleming novel, fans of the super spy may have wondered what took them so long. The novel, published in 1953, introduced us to the Cold War spy with a “License to Kill”, but why no movie? In the book as in the films (plural, follow along), Bond’s mission is to bankrupt the evil Le Chiffre of the Russian secret service by beating him at cards at the Casino Royale.
Le Chiffre is desperate for the money but confident he will win. His own life will be at risk if he loses.
The book was a hit in the UK, but sales in the US were slow and this set into motion events that would keep a serious adaptation of the novel away the big screen for over 50 years. In an effort to popularize his hero in America, Fleming sold the television rights for the novel to CBS to adapt into a live drama for the series Climax!
The program aired October 21, 1954, and probably would have been lost forever, if not for the eventual popularity of the novels and movies.
The television production starred Barry Nelson as James Bond, an American agent. Sometimes he is referred to as “Jimmy” which ought to make long-time Bond fans cringe. The American agent in the novel is now a British agent named Clarence Leiter (rather than Felix).
For the live drama, parts are condensed or eliminated and the focus is on the card game. Since the game is baccarat, not poker as in the latest movie, a little time is spent explaining it for the American audience.
Le Chiffre is played by Peter Lorre, a veteran of the big screen, with just the right amount of evil. A film star of the 1940’s and 50’s, Linda Christian, gets the honor of being the first “Bond girl.” You are left to wonder, at least at the outset, whose side she is really on. I guess for an early black and white television drama, it is not too bad, if you can get past Jimmy Bond as an American spy.
In 1955 Fleming sold the movie rights to film director and producer Gregory Ratoff for a mere 6 thousand dollars. Perhaps it was big money then. Unfortunately, Ratoff died in 1960, never having developed the story for the movies. Next up was the producer, attorney, and talent agent Charles K. Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights.
By now, the Bond series was off to a good start, so how could Feldman possibly compete? Failing to negotiate an agreement with Eon, he decided to do something that may have been typical of the mid to late 1960’s. He produced a “madcap” comedy, a spoof of the spy series.
There just is not enough space here to explain what the producers and various directors did to this film. Although they assembled what was meant to be an “all-star” cast, you can not say they got a lot of great performances from this crew. Various writers created sections that were to be filmed by different directors and all would be edited together. This allowed them to work with many stars doing different scenes at different locations and studios at the same time.
A movie monstrosity ensued.
John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left. Five other directors worked on the project, one uncredited. David Niven is “Sir James Bond” who must be convinced by Huston, Charles Boyer, William Holden, and Kurt Kazner to come out of retirement to deal with Le Chiffre. Bond takes on the role of head of the spy agency upon M’s departure and they recruit Peter Seller’s (Evelyn Tremble), a baccarat expert, to impersonate Bond and play Le Chiffre at the Casino. Le Chiffre is played by Orson Welles.
Explanations are pointless. See it — or not. The temperamental Sellers left the project for a rest before his part was finished. He was asked not to return. Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they barely spoke to each other. A gaggle of stars perform cameos. When all was said and done, it was a confused mess.
Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd) — a hopeless attempt to add some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ performance.
Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the end. There is no sensible explanation for the final scenes.
The critically-panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 1960’s did. At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love.
The film rights next passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that had put out this disaster. They held onto them until 1989 when Colombia was acquired by Sony. A legal battle followed, and the rights were used as a bargaining chip with MGM/UA for … wait for it … MGM’s portion of the rights to Spiderman.
Spiderman was traded for the original James Bond in 1999.
Casino Royale was not next as there was one more Pierce Brosnan movie to be made. When Brosnan declined a fifth film, the opportunity to “reboot” the spy series was at hand.
Back to the beginning. Our hero became “007,” and the silver screen welcomed Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”
CHRISTOPHER GUEST – (born February 5, 1948) – usually just known as Christopher Guest, is a British-American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian who holds dual British and American citizenship.
So there we are, Garry and I, watching “A Few Good Men” and Garry looks at me and asks, “Is that Christopher Guest?” And I didn’t know the answer because he’s one of those guys who looks very different, depending on his costume, whether or not he is wearing a beard, if it’s a comedy, musical, or a drama.
Or maybe he’s just the guy linking arms with Jamie Lee Curtis.
Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest is the son of an important Labour Politician in England. His father got the baronage, but Christopher inherited it.
These days, he’s both British and American and I love him most of all for two of my favorite movies: “Best In Show” and “A Mighty Wind.” He has a group of actors who he uses for many of his movies. He is goofy and funny. He loves folk music and dogs, so what could possibly be wrong?
So I knew everyone else is writing about company coming or going or expected, but I just wanted to let you know that having looked up Christopher Guest, I thought he was really interesting and no, I didn’t know he was married to Jamie Lee Curtis. Or that he used to be in the House of Lords.
He is one year and one month younger than me. I’m sure that must mean something, but I have no idea what.
If you want to read about a real “guest” guest, check our one of my favorite older posts:
Casting is now taking place for Bond 25 (working title) and Daniel Craig will return as “007.” The movie is set for a Fall 2019 release, so there will be plenty of talk for the next year about the next film and the next Bond, if Craig does not return. In his work preparing for Bond, Craig recently visit CIA headquarters. According to the Guardian: “The agency said its motivation was ‘to combat misrepresentations and assist in balanced and accurate portrayals’ of the intelligence community.”
After 20 James Bond films and 40 years, EON Productions finally had something that eluded them from the start. They obtained the rights to the first Ian Fleming novel, 1953’s Casino Royale. The story had been adapted into a 1954 American television drama and a 1967 comedy spoof, but had never been given a serious big screen treatment. The chance was at hand when Pierce Brosnan declined the opportunity to go on as 007.
The change to a new Bond also meant another change in attitude at the studio now run by Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of original Producer, Albert R. Broccoli, and by his stepson, Michael Wilson. Other studios had given their heroes a new start to great success, so why not Bond? Comic book characters had moved away from cartoon portrayals to serious action heroes. It was time to move Bond away from the comic quips and amazing gadgets. With an eye towards a more faithful portrayal of the book than any of the previous Bond movies had done, Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig took the story back to the beginning as secret agent Bond becomes 007.
Interestingly, the series did retain one cast member. Judi Dench returned as the head of MI6 and the boss of James Bond. She sends him on his first mission to Casino Royale. Only Timothy Dalton gave us such a serious Bond, but Craig shows less emotion than any previous version of our favorite spy. He is serious and calculating in his efforts to defeat the bad guys and serve his country. If you were a fan of the novels and a more serious Bond, the “reboot” might be much to your liking.
In Casino Royale, Bond must defeat the terrorist financier Le Chiffre at the Casino. Taking away the bad guy’s money is a dangerous plan for both players. There will be no spoiler alerts, but Bond will not escape with a few double meaning quips and hidden gadgets. This will be a painful ordeal.
Not everything is resolved at the end of the movie which allows for something the series has not tried before, a story arc. Elements are carried into Quantum of Solace as Bond seeks revenge for a murder and tries to learn about the organization, Quantum. It is a more serious and more violent film than any Bond movie we have had so far. An interesting side note is that Craig and director Marc Forster wrote sections of the script due to a screenwriter’s strike. They did not receive screen credit. The role of Judi Dench is expanded this time out. It make sense to make greater use of an actor of this stature.
The third Daniel Craig movie, Skyfall, may be the best so far. It honors the Bond canon by bringing back some favorite characters in the person of new actors while making reference to times past. This time out the story centers around M (Judi Dench) and the challenges to MI6 from outside and in. The only agent she can really trust to hunt down the threat is, of course Bond, James Bond. Already in her late 70s at the time, Dench is featured in the trap that Bond lays for the bad guys and the action sequences that follow. Javier Bardem is the evil trouble maker who is out to destroy the spy agency and get M. The action is intense.
Skyfall picked up a collection of nominations and awards. Adele sang the title song which you could not escape on the radio for a long time. It won the Oscar. Miss Moneypenny returns to the franchise. If you have not seen it, I will leave the surprising revelation for you. The Quartermaster (Q) returns and he is not the old-timer we were used to seeing in Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese. Of course, Llewelyn was a lot younger when he first appeared in a 1963 Bond film. British stage and film star Ben Whishaw is the younger Q, much to the surprise of Bond. He is more of a computer geek than a developer of gadgets, although he does have something for Bond. He is the perfect 21st century Q and a clever return for the character.
Ralph Fiennes is on hand as Mallory, M’s boss, and will play a continuing role into the next feature. Veteran Albert Finney is also on hand to support Bond in the late action sequences. All things considered, I liked the casting, the return of certain characters and even bringing back the Aston Martin. It is clever script writing by people familiar with the Bond legacy. It is directed by Sam Mendes, who returns for the 4th Craig film.
If you saw the early Bond films or read the books, you knew that James Bond was often on the trail of members of the criminal organization, SPECTRE. So it should be no surprise that the Bond reboot will find our hero on the search for information about the organization and its leader. We find another name from the past as the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
SPECTRE contains all the right elements: M, Q, Moneypenny, evil villains and beautiful “Bond Girls.” The storyline incorporates elements from early Bond stories by Ian Fleming. It will be interesting to see where they go from here. Will the next storyline continue to look for elements from Fleming novels and bring them up to date?
It is impossible to compare the Craig portrayal of Bond with the previous actors. The series “reboot” has given us a Bond for the 21st century, different from what we had before. I think it was the only way to go. The Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Brosnan portrayals are charming, yet dated. Like Bond, Craig will be back.
Just for fun, even the Queen is willing to appear in a James Bond film. You will have to click the link over to You Tube to watch, as they have now blocked it from playing on other sites.
Although Timothy Dalton had a six-year, 3 film deal to play the famous secret agent, James Bond, only two films were made. The third was delayed by a protracted legal fight between Danjaq, holder of the Bond copyright, and a variety of parties, including mega studio MGM. When the six years expired, Dalton walked away. He felt it might not just be the end for him as Bond, but the series itself may be over. Sixteen films had been made by 1989 which is a good run for any series.
While the legal battles went on, EON Productions planned to go ahead with the Bond legacy. With Dalton dropping out, the producers called on Pierce Brosnan who had actually been considered as the one to replace Roger Moore. His contractual agreement to a revived Remington Steele television series kept Brosnan from agreeing years earlier to the super sleuth. In 1994 he went into production on his first Bond film, GoldenEye.
The initial Brosnan movie was the second Bond film not to take the title from an Ian Fleming story. The original work did pay homage to the Bond creator, however, by taking its name from Operation Goldeneye. This was a project Fleming participated in as a Lieutenant Commander in British Naval Intelligence. Years later, after the success of the Bond stories, Fleming named his Jamaica estate, Goldeneye. The book GoldenEye is actually a novelization of the movie.
The story finds Bond investigating the theft of a helicopter, and the attack on a Russian outpost that controlled a satellite with the “GoldenEye” weapon. Was GoldenEye real? Was it capable of destroying London’s financial district? Could anyone save the day? Pierce Brosnan brings charm back to Bond with plenty of opportunity for the double entendre. Judi Dench now becomes M, head of MI6. Some regulars are recast but Desmond Llewelyn returns as Q, having played the part since the beginning of the Bond films. It is a good effort by Brosnan and he revives the series with the 1995 release after the long hiatus. The stunts and special effects are over the top as usual, and they will again ask you to accept the improbable (if not impossible) as fact.
For the second film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), can you imagine a media mogul who tries to manipulate the news to improve on ratings? If this seems a bit more modern, perhaps it is meant to be so. A British ship is sunk near China, a Chinese plane is shot down and the resulting tension seems to be pushing the world toward World War III. One cable news outlet is always on hand to catch the disasters as they happen. Jonathan Pryce plays the media mogul and Teri Hatcher is his trophy wife. Bond teams up with a Chinese agent (girl, of course) to find out what is really going on and the world will once again be saved. Despite script disputes with studios and also with actors, the final product was a success at the box office.
The World Is Not Enough (1999) for the evil villains that populate this story. There is no brief summary for this tale of a former KGB agent who is now a terrorist and has to be stopped after he gets weapons-grade plutonium. Is the daughter of an assassinated businessman, who had been kidnapped but later set free, still safe? Can Bond protect her? Is she sympathetic to her former captors? What about M who is later kidnapped? What about the pipeline to save a poor country? What about Istanbul? If you can stay with the interconnected storylines it is an engaging, if somewhat long, Bond affair. Denise Richards is the “Bond girl.”
After many years with United Artists, MGM becomes the distributor of the Bond films. The business dealings of MGM and it various holdings, United Artists, Danjaq, EON Productions and others has become more complicated than this Bond film. MGM will count on Bond not just to save the world, but the studio too.
A sad and ironic side note to The World Is Not Enough involves actor Desmond Llewelyn. In the film he seems to be training John Cleese to be his successor of Q division for gadgets. He indicates he is not retiring and there was no intention of replacing the aging performer in the role. Aside from continuity, he was a beloved character in the series. Soon after the première, Llewelyn was killed in an automobile accident. Cleese will indeed move up in the next film.
No one can kill James Bond, not even the North Koreans. While investigating a North Korean Colonel and the sale of diamonds for weapons, Bond is captured and imprisoned but he lives to Die Another Day (2002). Brought home through a prisoner swap after 14 months, Bond is suspended from duty but will that stop our hero? Of course not. Soon he teams up with an American Agent, Halle Barry, to follow the trail of diamonds and weapons from London to Cuba to Iceland. Like some other Bond films, the climactic fight takes place on a plane and who is flying the craft? Cleese is now Q. Madonna has a small part and performs the title tune. The film marks the 40th anniversary of the first feature when Sean Connery told us he was “Bond, James Bond.”
Brosnan had an option on a fifth film. In fact he had once mentioned he thought he might like to do six films. But he was already 50 and recalling the criticism Roger Moore took for staying too long in the role. He decided to decline the option and move on. This gave EON the opportunity to restart the series and go back to the first James Bond story and make the movie that had eluded them all along, Casino Royale.
James Bond first appeared in film in 1962 with Sean Connery bringing charm and adventure to the world’s greatest spy with a license to kill. After 6 films by Connery and one by George Lazenby, Roger Moore took the role for seven films.
After these 14 Eon Productions, a rival production that was a remake of Thunderball (Never Say Never Again) and a spoof (Casino Royale starring David Niven), it might seem that James Bond had reached the end. Moore’s last film, 1985’s A View To A Kill, did well at the box office, but was not particularly well received with the critics. It seems Moore was a bit too old for the secret agent.
Eon decided to move forward. Bond was back in the person of Timothy Dalton in the 1987 film, The Living Daylights. It was based on the Ian Fleming short story of the same name. This time the film may have retained more of the essence of the Fleming piece than many of the other Bond films had done.
With the first Dalton film you will find more of an intense James Bond than previously revealed. There is less of the charm and more uncertainty than we are used to in the Bond character. Dalton is not Connery or Moore in his portrayals of 007. He is a serious agent at work. Why the shift? Whether it was in the script or not, Dalton was attempting to move more toward the Bond as described in the novels rather than the Bond people had already seen.
Reports are that Dalton could be seen on set reading the Fleming novels to see what the original author had meant the character to be. The books were not describing the Bond seen in previous films. Some of those movies only used the title and little else from the original author’s story.
In The Living Daylights, as in the short story, Bond is set up as a sniper to shoot anyone who might harm a top Soviet defector. Bond does not kill the other shooter but only wounds her. Some think it is because the other sniper was a woman. We later learn she is the girlfriend of the defector Bond was supposed to protect, and she was just there to create the illusion of harm. From there Bond is left to figure out the real roles of the girlfriend and the defector, as well as diamond dealers and drug dealers. There is a little humor, a little charm, and a lot of intensity.
Next up for James Bond was the film Licence To Kill. No, you will not find an Ian Fleming story with that title. It was the first story to use an original title, although the term “licence to kill” was used often in the Bond stories. In truth many of the films retained almost nothing of the story from which the title was taken. There are references to other stories and characters in this movie, but the series has clearly gone in a new direction.
The sixteenth Eon production was written with the darker portrayal of Bond in mind. The charm is left behind as Bond is on more of a personal vendetta against a drug lord who has murdered friends of his. When one wonders why Bond has taken up the pursuit, someone refers back to something we see at the end of the sixth Bond film and is referred to in one of the Moore films. I won’t give that away just in case you have not seen it.
With James Bond now seen as a rogue agent, his “double 00” status is revoked. “Q” takes a vacation so he can help Bond in secret. This gives character actor Desmond Llewelyn, who played the keeper of all those Bond gadgets, an extended part in a film. Llewelyn had played the character throughout the series at this point. Here he is caught up in the action, as unlikely as that may seem.
The Dalton films were directed by John Glen, who also directed the last three Moore films. Just as before, Bond performs incredible action stunts throughout the features. Perhaps filming techniques have improved to the point that they can make the sequences appear more dangerous with minimal risk. Bond’s fight with the villain in Licence To Kill may be the most incredible yet.
Dalton had a six-year, three film deal with Eon Productions to play the super spy. After Licence To Kill, however, producer Albert Broccoli and his company Danjaq, holders of the Bond copyright, found themselves in a protracted legal battle over the Bond series. This effectively delayed the series for years as the lawsuit between Danjaq and MGM/UA dragged on. The movie studio had leased the back catalogue of Bond films to another party at below market value. MGM, which had previously merged with the UA who had funded the Bond series at the beginning, was owned by Qintex, which wanted to merge with Pathe Communications so they made the lease deal and… OK, that’s enough of that.
While all of this went on, the six-year deal with Dalton expired. Dalton reportedly said at the time “My feeling is this will be the last one. I don’t mean my last one, I mean the end of the whole lot.” We have already seen, however, that James Bond does indeed live more than twice. Bond will be back.
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