First Bond Film Released, 1962

“Dreadful. Simply dreadful.”

This was author Ian Fleming’s response when he first previewed the film Dr. No in 1962. He wasn’t alone. Time magazine called Bond a “blithering bounder” and “a great big hairy marshmallow.” The New Republic critic said the film couldn’t decide whether it was “suspense or suspense-spoof.” The Vatican denounced it for cruelty and sexual content, and the Kremlin considered Bond the embodiment of capitalist evil. Of course, those last two denouncements probably did the film’s reception with the general public more good than harm.

It hadn’t been easy to bring James Bond to the cinema. An earlier television production of Casino Royale had been aired on a 1954 episode of CBS’s Climax! but there was not much interest in a movie version of any of Ian Fleming’s books. Albert (“Cubby”) Broccoli and his business partner, Harry Salzman, had acquired the rights to all of the Fleming books except for Casino Royale, but they couldn’t interest any studios in financing them. The Bond series was “too British,” it was felt, and “too blatantly sexual.”

Finally, Broccoli and Salzman succeeded in convincing United Artists to sponsor a production, and they grudgingly agreed to the extent of putting up $1 million (roughly equivalent to $7 million in today’s money.) It wasn’t much money for a major production, and if you look closely, you can see it in the set design. M’s office sports cardboard paintings and plastic-covered wood panels. Dr. No’s base has stock-footage fish inserted into the aquarium. They were a little too big for the scale, so Dr. No explains that the glass is a magnifying lens.

Getting the script written was somewhat of a challenge, too. In the first version, penned by Richard Maibaum and Wolf Mankowitz, Dr. No turned out to be a monkey. Broccoli and Salzman told the scriptwriters to give it another try, and this time to stick a little closer to the original material. Mankowitz left the project, and Maibaum wrote a new script, helped out by script doctors Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather. Harwood, in particular, is responsible for many of the elements that make Bond “more British.”

Of course, the hunt for the perfect James Bond was the key to the movie’s success. An early choice of the producers was Cary Grant, who had recently starred in North by Northwest. But Grant would only commit to one picture, and Broccoli and Salzman had a series in mind. James Mason was also considered, but he would commit to only two pictures. Steve Reeves turned them down. Patrick McGooghan thought the movie was immoral. Also considered were Richard Burton, Trevor Howard, Rex Harrison, and David Niven. Ian Fleming’s choice for the role was Roger Moore, and he was considered, but ultimately Broccoli decided that he was “too young, and maybe too pretty.”

A contest was even held to cast the role of James Bond. Six finalists were chosen, and the winner was a 28-year-old model named Peter Anthony. He was said to have a “Gregory Peck-like quality” but ultimately his acting talents didn’t match his looks.

When Sean Connery first met with Broccoli and Salzman he was wearing old, scruffy clothes, but he put on the macho, devil-may-care attitude that got him the role. The two producers watched him from a window as he left their building and walked to his car, convinced that they had chosen the right man.

The right actress to play Honey Rider was also difficult to find, and two weeks before production the role had still not been cast. Then Broccoli and Salzman saw a picture of Ursula Andress taken by her husband, John Derek. Reportedly, Andress was sporting a wet t-shirt in the picture. Andress wasn’t interested in the role, but agreed to take it on after family friend Kirk Douglas read the script and urged her to.

Regardless of what the critics said, the movie grossed $840,000 in its first three weeks. Helping with its popularity was John F. Kennedy’s open appreciation of Ian Fleming’s books and his request to have the movie screened in the White House. Dr. No was the first of 22 James Bond films, making it the longest continually-running film series ever, and the second highest-grossing series (next to Harry Potter.) James Bond was the key element spawning the secret agent craze of the 1960’s, leading, not only to more movies, but to television shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and even comedies such as Get Smart. The film is also said to have been the single biggest influence on women’s swimwear worldwide, as evidenced by the soaring sales of bikinis after the movie’s release.

The next time you watch Dr. No, pay particular attention to the painting on an easel in Dr. No’s dining room. It’s Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington, which was stolen from the National Gallery shortly before the filming of the movie, which explains Bond’s amazement as seeing it there. Production designer Ken Adam requested a slide from the National Gallery and painted a copy over the weekend. Although the painting was recovered in 1965, at the time the movie was filmed its whereabouts remained a big mystery.arwood and BerkHa

Sources: Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2011 Edition: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Special Days, Weeks, and Months, Editors of Chase’s Calendar of Events; 5;;;,9171,896851,00.html;;

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