Monday, February 25, 2013

Interview with Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ



Carlos: Which are your least favorite Bond movies? Why?

Tom DeMichael: As I mentioned in my book, I find the 1967 version of Casino Royale to be intolerable - but as I also noted, it's not considered to be an "official" Bond film. Of the 23 Bond films produced by Eon Productions, my choice for least favorite Bond film would be a tossup between Moonraker and A View to A Kill. Moonraker, because I think Michael Lonsdale - despite his normally fine abilities as an actor - completely underplayed his role of Hugo Drax. Plus, the whole scene with Jaws and his newly-found girlfriend Dolly saving Bond and Holly Goodhead aboard a space shuttle makes me want to turn off the whole film at that point. A View to A Kill forces us to believe that Tanya Roberts is a geologist, villainous May Day is stronger than Oddjob - a character portrayed by a former Olympic weightlifter, and that Roger Moore - bless him - could still be a sexy and action-packed 007 at the age of 58. Both films suffered from a weak script and a general lack of creative direction and inspiration.

Carlos: Who is your favorite Bond girl? Why?

Tom DeMichael: This is a great question, dependent on whether I answer from my own feelings of attraction, or my opinion of theatrical performance. Perhaps I'll touch on both.

For my own tastes, Jill St. John from Diamonds Are Forever was a wonderful combination of stunning beauty, pure sexiness, and brains - at least in real life. With an IQ over 160, she's proved herself to be a very capable and attractive performer over the years. From a standpoint of pure beauty, it's hard to get past blonde Ursula Andress and dark-haired Eunice Gayson, both from Dr. No.

In terms of character, and portrayal in the films, I would have to say Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger gave a wonderful performance as a tough and independent woman - something unusual in the year of 1964. She was a skilled pilot, took very little guff from anyone and Blackman nailed the character.

I thought Sophie Marceau was very strong as Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough, a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome. Olga Kurylenko was very good in Quantum of Solace, playing a woman who had been hurt many times and one of the few women who did not succumb to Bond's charms.


Carlos: What is the future of the franchise?

Tom DeMichael: The James Bond film franchise is very unique in the history of cinema. It's relatively unprecedented for a literary character to be brought to the Silver Screen managed by the same production team for fifty years. Certainly, you have Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan - like Bond, portrayed by different actors over the years - but none of those series were controlled in total by a single creative entity. The Broccoli family members - first Albert, with partner Harry Saltzman until he split in the mid-70s, then stepson Michael G. Wilson and soon after daughter Barbara Broccoli - have maintained the roles of producer since 1962. Today, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli continue to successfully push the buttons for the franchise. Waiting in the wings is Wilson's son, Gregg, who has been involved with the Bond films since The World Is Not Enough and was most recently an associate producer on Skyfall. It's generally assumed that he will take over the executive reins at some point in the future. But Michael Wilson is in his early 70s and Barbara Broccoli is only in her early 50s, so they have many years left before turning over the keys to the 007 offices to Gregg.

In terms of the films themselves, you need only to look at the fact that the most recent Bond film, Skyfall, brought in more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. That doesn't include Blu-Ray, DVD, on-demand, and all the merchandising. I don't think there's any doubt that James Bond will return - for many, many years to come.

Carlos: Which actor will play the next Bond?

Tom DeMichael: Daniel Craig, who has brought to the screen much of the rough and cold demeanor that Ian Fleming's original James Bond had, is contracted to star in the next two Bond films - known currently as Bond 24 and Bond 25. At 45 right now, Craig would be only near age 50 when that arrangement is completed. Seeing how Roger Moore lasted until age 58 and Sean Connery returned as Bond at age 53 in Never Say Never Again, it's not unreasonable to think that Daniel Craig could re-up for another tour of duty as Bond toward the end of this decade.

So, considering that Craig is going nowhere in the foreseeable future, the gossip still rages as to who the "next" James Bond will be. Initial thoughts have tagged Robert Pattinson - from the Twilight movies - as a possible candidate, along with actors like Christian Bale and Guy Pearce. Considering the latter two would be 45 and 50 when Craig finishes his shift, they are unlikely. Henry Cavill, only 30, has also been mentioned as a possibility and actually tested for the role of Bond in 2006's Casino Royale.

Despite their varied abilities, all six actors who have played Bond were relatively unknown, and certainly not A-list performers, when chosen for 007. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had made their names in television series prior to taking the iconic role, and the rest came to the table with experience ranging from print model, stage performances, and secondary roles in feature films. It's very likely that next James Bond will come from similar backgrounds.

Carlos: Do you see a JB movie filmed in 3D?

Tom DeMichael: Knowing that the Bond producers have already stated that they really don't believe the 007 franchise is suitable for, or needs to be in, three dimensions, I would think the possibilities of James Bond in 3-D are very, very slim in the foreseeable future.

Carlos: Do you see Bond continuing to use the Walther PPK?

Tom DeMichael: A flippant response would be, "Dance with the partner that brought you to the party." The Walther PPK has been most reliable, and recognizable, for the last 50 years, remembering that the puny Beretta 418 was its predecessor in Dr. No (actually the prop used was a Beretta M1934). Walther was able to convince the producers of both Octopussy and Never Say Never Again to feature their new P5 in 1983, and 007 used a P99 in three of Brosnan's films and Craig's first.

The producers made a strong statement in Skyfall by featuring a new quartermaster, yet still entrusting Bond with a Walther PPK, albeit retrofitted with a hand signature grip. Right there, I believe the Walther PPK was reaffirmed as the weapon of choice for 007.

Carlos: Which of the Ian Fleming books/short story is the next Bond film?

Tom DeMichael: Story development for Bond 24 has already been underway for three months. As all twelve Ian Fleming novels have already made it to the screen, it it's unlikely any of those will be remade in the near future. Fleming wrote nine short stories, five of which have become films, even if by title only. Portions and snippets from three of the remaining four stories have appeared in one form or another in the Bond films over the years.

When one looks at the fact that much of the source material from Fleming is now 50 to 60 years old, I would be surprised to see any major plot points and/or characters from the original Fleming catalog show up in any of the upcoming Bond films.

Carlos:  How long did it take to write the book?

Tom DeMichael: Sticking to a rigid and well-planned schedule, the James Bond FAQ - all 140,000 words of it - was researched and written in six months.

Carlos: For how long did you want to write the book?

Tom DeMichael:I have always been an avid Bond fan, ever since I saw Thunderball at the age of 10. The format that the FAQ series from Applause Books established seemed perfect for the summation of all cinematic things 007, especially considering the timing of the landmark 50-year anniversary.

Carlos: Why was Dr. No the first novel made into a film?

Carlos:  How is the order of novels/short stories made into movies determined?

Tom DeMichael: I have combined these last two questions, since their answers have quite a bit of overlap.

Fleming wrote Casino Royale in 1953. The story was purchased by the CBS television network and produced as a one-hour drama in 1954. As the author continued to write his Bond novels, much thought was given to turning them into an on-going series for CBS. When that didn't happen, producers Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman formed Eon Productions and purchased options on Fleming's current and future Bond stories. The exception was Casino Royale, the rights to which he had already sold (which is why it was never produced as an Eon Productions film until 2006, when alternate arrangements could finally be made. When made in 1967, the film was shot by other producers as pure parody, in order to avoid any legal wrangling with Eon.)

The reason Dr. No - the sixth Fleming novel - became the first Bond film was largely economic. James Bond was an unknown commodity in 1962. While the books had been big sellers in Britain, America knew little about 007. Studios in Hollywood were hesitant to back a film about a secret agent from England (note that in CBS's 1954 TV production of Casino Royale, Bond was an American agent, echoing the thoughts that a British agent was of no interest to American audiences.) United Artists finally took a chance, agreeing to back seven films in the series.

Thunderball, a novel adapted from an aborted screenplay Fleming had written with several others, was supposed to be the first Bond film. But when one of the other writers went to court to block the production, Dr. No was deemed to be a story that could be shot within the budget of under $1 million. When it turned out to be a big hit, budgets were increased and Fleming's stories were selected on the basis of predicted commercial appeal and potential financial success.

You Only Live Twice - the fifth film, but actually the 11th novel - was the first to really stray far, far away from the Fleming novels. With the Space Race between America and the USSR going full throttle, it was believed a story about hijacking spacecraft was superior to Japanese castles and Blofeld disguised as Dr. Shatterhand. The next film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service - the novel actually BEFORE You Only Live Twice - returned to stick close to the original story, despite the inexperienced George Lazenby replacing Sean Connery. After that, the Bond films relied on Fleming titles and very little else from books.

When Casino Royale was released in 2006, it was a pleasant return to much of the original Fleming story, featuring characters and scenes from the novel that had come out more than 50 years before.


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You can find my husband Carlos on his blog Live Fast Look Good or on Twitter @livefastlookgd . Check out Carlos' review of James Bond FAQ.

James Bond FAQ
All That's Left to Know about Everyone's Favorite Superspy
by Tom DeMichael
978157838568
Paperback
Applause Theatre and Cinema Books (Hal Leonard)
December 2012

Find the book on:
Barnes and Noble
Powell's
Indie Bound
Amazon

Friday, February 22, 2013

James Bond FAQ by Tom DeMichael

James Bond FAQ
All That's Left to Know about Everyone's Favorite Superspy
by Tom DeMichael
978157838568
Paperback
Applause Theatre and Cinema Books (Hal Leonard)
December 2012

Find the book on:
Barnes and Noble
Powell's
Indie Bound
Amazon

This is a guest post by Carlos Stecher.


My earliest recollection of going to a James Bond movie was, Never Say Never Again (1983). I would later find out NSNA wasn’t even an “official” JB movie. More on that later. Over the years I would end up watching almost all of the James Bond movies. My favorite movies are, For Your Eyes Only (1981), Goldfinger (1964), and Quantum of Solace (2008). My favorite Bond is, of course, Sean Connery. Daniel Craig was the perfect choice for the modern Bond. I am curious to see who will replace him. James Bond almost did not return in 2010. MGM, the studio makes the films, was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was a period of 4 years without a movie being made. There was a similar situation with Timothy Dalton in the late eighties and early nineties where a period of 6 years went by without a movie. From 2002-2006, there was no Bond film as Pierce Brosnan’s contract had expired and the search for a new James Bond was on.

Who does not have a fascination/intrigued with the following scenario: a well-dressed handsome British secret agent who seduces beautiful women as he travels around the world while driving exotic automobiles?

The British secret agent was the creation of Ian Fleming. The character was loosely based on his life as he was also in British Intelligence, enjoyed the company of women, and loved to gamble and golf. He wrote the novels and short stories at his Jamaican winter home named Goldeneye, which would become a movies in 1995. He wanted the name to be, “suitably flat and colourless”. The honor went to a famous ornithologist, James Bond.

Tom DeMichael is the author of, James Bond FAQ, an exhaustive anthology of the James Bond franchise. The book is almost 400 pages of everything Bond. I was impressed of the depth of the research. The actors who play Bond, the villains, the famous Bond girls, his gadgets, his friends, title songs, the films themselves, unofficial projects, and the people behind the scenes each get their own chapter. Mr. DeMichael delves into each character and the person who plays that character with a detailed synopsis. Important props and gadgets all receive several paragraphs of information. Mr. DeMichael counts nine composers who have worked on 23 movies. I have a playlist with 27 songs from the Bond movies aptly named, Shaken, Not Stirred. Chapter 8 breaks down all the movies with year of release, director, original music, production design, and cast. Each movies’ synopsis explains the plot points and names minor characters with their roles. As a men's wardrobe specialist, I would have liked to have seen the author include a chapter detailing the suits and watches James wears. His outfits demonstrate his level of sophistication. There are two pieces of trivia I would added to the book: One, Caroline Cossey plays an extra in the pool scene in, For Your Eyes Only (1981). She was one of the first transsexual models in the world. Second, in the TV series, The Simpsons, the nuclear power plant Homer works in is sector 7G. This is homage from, Diamonds are Forever (1971).

Last year Bond 50 was released on Blu-ray. All 23 movies on high-definition with 130 hours of extras and a empty spot for Skyfall (2012). I immediately went to blu-ray.com to take a closer look. I looked through the movie titles and realized they “forgot” a movie! I distinctly remembered watching a James Bond movie with Kim Basinger and Barbara Carrera. The movie was Never Say Never Again. I looked again and did not see it in the set. Some research online and the book revealed since NSNA was not produced by Eon Productions it was not included in the set. NSNA was produced by Warner Brothers and does have the words, “James Bond”, “007”, or “Secret Agent” in the title.






You can find my husband Carlos on his blog Live Fast Look Good or on Twitter @livefastlookgd .

Stay tuned because coming up Carlos will be interviewing author Tom DeMichael about the book and all things James Bond!

Disclaimer: Thank you to Hal Leonard publishing for sending us a copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ These Glamour Girls (1939)


Thank my lucky stars that Dancing Co-Ed (1939) has a companion film in These Glamour Girls (1939). The two movies were filmed back-to-back and were released a little over a month apart in 1939 with These Glamour Girls hitting movie theaters first. They both feature Lana Turner in the role of a dancer who is taken out of her normal surroundings and thrust into collegiate life as an outsider. They both have Richard Carlson in either a romantic leading or supporting role. Both are just delightful collegiate films! (Check out my review of Dancing Co-Ed here). The two films were adaptations of stories that appeared previously in popular magazines. These Glamour Girls was written by Jane Hall for Cosmopolitan and she adapted it into a screenplay and Dancing Co-Ed was written by Albert Treynor for American Magazine and he adapted it into a screenplay too.  They were both picked up by MGM and directed by S. Sylvan Simon.


The "Glamour Girls" of New York City are all waiting for the Glamour Boys to invite them to the famous Kingsford house parties. Receiving an invitation in the mail is a big deal. Kingsford is an ivy league school and all the upper crust girls want to snag one of the college's students for their own.
I couldn't help but watch this film with contemporary eyes and wish that those girls would have been excited about college application acceptance letters rather than house party invitations. But the year is 1939 so I'll have to make allowances for that. And that there are other collegiate films from the 1930s with female students at co-ed schools (like *ahem* Dancing Co-Ed).





Lana Turner plays Jane Thomas a taxi dancer at the Joy Lane Club. Philip Griswold ( Lew Ayres) and his buddies take a break from their studies and head to the city to get drunk and to dance with the ladies at the club. Philip meets Jane and they are instantly smitten with each other. He drunkenly invites her to attend the Kingsford house parties with her, conveniently forgetting he's already invited his girl Carol (Jane Bryan ). When Jane arrives at Kingsford, everyone is in a tizzy especially Philip who soberly forgot that he invited Jane in the first place.

 Jane Bryan as Carol and Richard Carlson as Joe

I like that there are a lot of characters each with their own motivations. Sometimes characters just in a story help move the plot along but don't necessarily have interesting stories of their own. Not all of the stories are interesting. I was kind of bored by a few of the Glamour Boys. However I did like most of them. Richard Carlson plays Joe. He's not a glamour boy. Instead he's working his way through school and often finds himself working in service of the other students he shares a classroom with (This reminded me a little of Buster Keaton's character in College from 1927). He's in love with Carol who is still attached to Philip who has something Joe doesn't: money. Carol's motivations are not completely selfish. Her father lost the family's money and she sees a marriage with Philip as a way to provide her family with some financial security.



Ann Rutherford plays the ditzy Mary who is all about the status quo and snagging her ideal mate Homer. I adore Ann Rutherford and thought the role beneath her skills but was glad to see her anyways. Jane called Mary a Park Avenue Squab which I thought was hilarious! Anita Louise plays Daphne, the most coveted of all the glamour girls and the wily instigator.

 Marsha Hunt as Betty

Fans of Marsha Hunt will be happy to see her in the role of Betty. A 24 year old glamour girl who has been to the Kingsford House Parties one too many times. Her out dated style and her sexual reputation makes her the laughing stock at Kingsford. I was confused by why the other girls thought her out dated. Perhaps her look was a little to Greta Garbo? Was Garbo already passe by 1939?

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Spoiler alert: Marsha Hunt is the last surviving cast member as of early 2013 which is a bit ironic given what happens to her character in the movie. End of spoiler

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I was happy to see Dennie Moore  a fiesty character actress who appears in many films in the 1930s. She plays Jane's roommate Mavis and you can also see her in two of my favorite films from 1939, Bachelor Mother and The Women.

This movie was a lot of fun. I'm not surprised that I enjoyed it as much as Dancing Co-Ed. I love the dichotomies of rich vs. poor and men vs. women. I am always a big fan of opposing characters and Jane (Lana Turner) and Philip (Lew Ayres) are definitely opposites! I highly recommend watching These Glamour Girls and Dancing Co-Ed as a double bill. They are both around 1 and a half hours and make for wonderful movies to watch on a rainy or snowy day.



Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received These Glamour Girls (1939) from Warner Archive for review.



I submitted this post as part of the "I Totally F***ing Love This Movie" Blogathon hosted by Carley of The Kitty Packard Pictorial.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Little Caesar (1931)




Little Caesar (1931)  is one of the original gangster films and influenced the movies in that genre that were to come. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and based on a novel by W. R. Burnett.  Edward G. Robinson stars as Little Caesar aka Rico, a small time gangster looking to make it big. He and his good friend Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) head east to Chicago. But Joe is a reluctant gangster who has dreams of becoming a dancer.  Joe falls in love with another dancer, Olga (Glenda Farrell), but finds it difficult to severe ties with his gangster friend Rico who is now establishing himself as the king of the underworld. The cops are hot on the tails of Rico and his gangster buddies and poor Joe gets caught in the middle.




This is my favorite shot from the film. Lots of well-dressed gangsters all in a row.


Looks just like my apartment (in my dreams!).

This film is filled with Art Deco splendor and well-dressed gangsters who rule the city's seedy underworld. The gangsters wear the best suits with all the accessories: tie-pins, scarves, pinkie rings, tie-chains, lapel buttons and pocket watches. Along with the cloche hats and the evening gowns the ladies wear, any vintage fashion enthusiast will swoon when they see these wardrobes.

Little Caesar is a product of the early talkie era. It came from Warner Bros. studio during a time of experimentation. When you watch the film, you are most likely to notice a lot of breaks in sound where there is nothing but silence or the sounds of movement. There is no score. And the film also has a vestige of the silent film era: title cards.


Edward G. Robinson didn't have a contract when he made Little Caesar and the film was such a big hit that it helped him secure a lucrative 2-year deal. Little Caesar also heralded a new genre of film, the gangster movie, that would prove to be popular for many years to come. Ocean's 11 (1960) makes a hat tip to Little Caesar as both involve a heist that takes place during the commotion of a New Year's Eve celebration.




Spoiler Alert!

Let's face it, Little Caesar makes gangster life look glamorous. And I can see how that would make some conservative types a bit nervous. This is definitely a pre-code movie because even though the bad guy doesn't win, you can't help but admire him a little bit.

Spoiler Over


I very much enjoyed Little Caesar. I haven't found very many films with Edward G. Robinson that I did not enjoy. He always does a great job in his roles. I was happy to see Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in this because I'd like to watch more of him. Gangsters, elegant menswear, Art Deco, New Year's, 1930s are all elements that I thoroughly enjoy!

Thanks to Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings who encouraged others to watch this film and review it during the month of February! It was a fun excuse for me to finally watch Little Caesar.




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Promises to Keep (1985)


Three Mitchums for the price of one! That's right. You get not one, not two but THREE Mitchums! And three generations at that.

Promises to Keep is a TV movie from 1985 starring Robert Mitchum, Christopher Mitchum and Bentley Mitchum. I usually don't review films from the 1980s or any TV movies but this one was too good to pass up. Not only did it star my favorite actor but also featured his son and his grandson to boot!




Isn't Bentley's feathered '80s hair magnificent?!

Johnny (Bentley Mitchum) is 18 years old and is the narrator of the movie. His father Tom Palmer is the Captain of the fishing boat the Genoa. Tom is in trouble. The Genoa has been having engine problems and he and the other fishermen on board haven't been able to catch enough fish to turn a profit. And they are in competition with some other fisherman in Santa Barbara. Johnny is learning the trade with his Dad but yearns for freedom.

Tom's father  Jack Palmer (Robert Mitchum) is very ill. He will die unless he receives treatment very soon. He puts off treatment for a week to be able to travel from Wyoming to Santa Barbara, California to make amends wife and son he abandoned 30 years ago. He is reunited with his ex-wife Sally (Claire Bloom) and with his son Tom but Tom wants nothing to do with him. And Tom is under a lot of pressure. He is trying to get a new engine for his boat but can't afford it. His wife Gwen (Tess Harper) is putting their home up for sale. His son Johnny is both rebelling against his father and bonding with the grandfather he has never met. At a critical point, all three Palmers/Mitchums must come together to overcome the adversity in their lives. For Jack it's his illness and his regrets, for Tom it's his business and relationship with his father and son and for Johnny it's his yearning for freedom but the father and girlfriend who are holding him back.

Promises to Keep is a made-for-TV movie with a somewhat typical melodramatic plot and a sentimental score. What makes it stand apart are the three real life generations of actors, Mitchums at that, who also play three generations on screen. What sold this to me was the novelty of having three Mitchums in one movie. The story is quite good and I was engrossed the entire time. I hate to include spoilers but there is a moment at the end that makes the whole movie very satisfying. All three Palmers/Mitchums get together for what I call a "Mitchum Showdown".


Not the best screen shot of the Mitchum Showdown but the best I could do!

Promises to Keep is Bentley Mitchum's screen debut. It also features Jane Sibbett who fans of the show Friends will recognize as the second actress to play Ross Geller's ex-wife. Jane plays Libby, Johnny's girlfriend. It's really nice to watch Robert, Christopher and Bentley Mitchum work together. Fans of Robert Mitchum will enjoy seeing actual photographs and some home video footage of a younger Robert with his young son Christopher. Christopher's brother James Mitchum played a supporting role in Thunder Road (1958). Robert Mitchum did 3 movies with James and 4 with Christopher. He only did this one movie with Bentley but Bentley also appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit with Robert Mitchum in 1987. (Note - All of that data I got from IMDB, if any of it is incorrect let me know!).

I highly recommend Promises to Keep (1985) to the die-hard Robert Mitchum fan who would appreciate the novelty of the three Mitchum dynamic!


Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Promises to Keep (1985) from Warner Archive for review.

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