Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The First and Almost Forgotten Bond, James Bond


Great actors have made their mark by playing the role of James Bond, the Ian Fleming creation who travels the world, protecting the interest of good over evil. Most movie aficionados can name the actors who have played Bond in their career, usually best recalling the actor who first introduced them to the franchise.

But mention “Barry Nelson”, and shamefully even the most ardent of Bond fans might be left scratching their heads.

It’s probably worth recounting how the Bond character came about, which will explain how Barry Nelson landed the role as the first Bond. There are 3 versions of Casino Royale in the on-screen Bond world, and Barry played the lead in the very first version. It was the 1954 television adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming that first introduced the character to the screen. Yes, James Bond began on TV.

Barry Nelson as 'Jimmy' Bond in the 1954 version of Casino Royale 

CBS paid Ian Fleming $1,000 at the time for the rights to the story. Due to broadcast restrictions, the adapted version lost many of the details found in the book, although it retained its violence, particularly in the final scenes. Here’s a brief look:



The hour-long Casino Royale episode aired on 21 October 1954 as a live (yes, live!) production, starring Barry Nelson as secret agent James Bond, with Peter Lorre in the role of the villainous Le Chiffre.  The Bond character in Casino Royale was re-cast as an American agent, described as working for "Combined Intelligence", supported by the British agent, Clarence Leiter, played by Australian Michael Pate. As such the Anglo-American relationship depicted in the book is reversed for 1950s American consumption. The full version as broadcast can be seen here:



But it was 4 years later when the Bond franchise we are more familiar with today began to gestate. CBS invited Fleming to write 32 episodes over a two-year period for a television show based on the James Bond character. Fleming agreed and began to write outlines for this series. When nothing ever came of this, Fleming grouped and adapted three of the outlines into short stories and released the 1960 anthology For Your Eyes Only along with an additional two new short stories. From here, Dr No, the first actual Bond film, starring Sean Connery, was raised.

The 1954 version of Casino Royale with Barry Nelson in the lead was lost for decades after its broadcast until a kinescope version of it was located by film historian Jim Schoenberger in 1981. MGM subsequently included a version on its DVD of the 1967 Casino Royale, where David Niven plays the lead in a rather satirical take on the franchise. 

David Niven with Ursula Andress in the 1967 version of Casino Royale




Monday, August 15, 2016

Did You Say "Dance"?

Either through history or by pure luck, ordinary or unexpected dance routines create a story that makes them more impressive than the actual moves.

Vamping Vicar

The classically trained multi-instrumentalist Richard Coles established The Communards in the 1980s with falsetto singer Jimmy Somerville, and appears in this clip as the geeky bespectacled keyboard player wearing a double breaster. What makes this surprising is that (for those outside the UK who don’t know), Richard is now the Reverend Richard Coles, a Church of England minister, as well as a sometime BBC broadcaster. In this clip, we see the ever rhythmic Somerville eventually undertaking an expert dancefloor exit to make way for the youthful Reverend busting a few retro moves on the disco dancefloor.



Jackman Drinking Tea

After undertaking more Broadway performances of The Boy From Oz than anyone can remember (just shy of 400 actually), one would hope that Hugh Jackman can actually tread the boards. The talent of this performer is remarkable considering the genres he crosses, from a camp Aussie cabaret singer to Wolverine in the X-Men. In this TV commercial we find Jackman bored in a Tokyo hotel lobby finding inspiration in a bottle of iced tea.  We think the idea was pinched from a concept mentioned at the end of this list, but eitherway, there’s no doubting Jackman’s talent in both his acting expression and his footwork.



Bizarre Boogie with a Bot

One of the most bizarre scenes in Ex-Machina is also one of the most memorable, as well as being one of the most telling in terms of the antagonist’s nature. Nathan is an internet genius and has recently lived a most solitary life. But his attitude towards women is entirely summarised in this short piece. Oscar Isaac said he and Sonoya Mizuno worked for ‘many hours’ with British choreographer Arthur Pita, and you might almost agree that Oscar wins the dance-off. The moves cement the character’s narcissism in needing to be considered superior in everything he does…even though he isn’t. The incredulous look on Caleb's face is priceless (explicit language warning).



Saturday Night Satire

It’s a complete piss-take, but successfully pulling off the flashback dance scene in Airplane! (known is some countries as Flying High!), Robert Hayes performs a strikingly good Travolta from Saturday Night Fever, outclassing a rather awkwardly moving Julie Hagerty (…which, to be fair, could be the extent of the character’s talent). Hayes also showcases his ability to juggle while obviously being suspended by wires.



Kilmer’s Best Moves

The same filmmakers (Abrahams and the Zucker brothers) seem to have a thing for getting their leading men to dance, as seen when Nick Rivers (played by Val Kilmer) needs to ‘cut a rug’ in order prove to the local resistance fighters that he is not, in fact, Mel Torme (see the film to have that little subplot explained). In Top Secret, given that Kilmer does play a 50s style performer, it would be expected of the character to be able to undertake substantial hip swingin’, but there certainly is a bit of physical acrobatics (again with wirework) required of Kilmer to perform the routine. He even attempts the moonwalk atop a table, although the scene is eventually carried by professional dancers who moments prior appeared to be mere patrons at the local pizza cafe.



Bestie Boogie

Ginnifer Goodwin stars in Something Borrowed as Rachel, a woman who sleeps with, then falls in love with her longtime friend Dex (Colin Egglesfield). This is a problem because unfortunately Dex is engaged to Rachel's best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson).  According to Goodwin, they rehearsed for a couple of weeks before filming began so it would be second nature by the time that scene was shot “But I was really nervous about that scene because we're breaking out into a dance, but we're not a musical. It's actually one of my favourite scenes in the movie because I think it's really a perfect example of why these two are good friends.” All the more reason for the heartbreak when the awkward love trist is finally discovered.




Hugh Grant for PM

In Love Actually, Hugh Grant (playing the UK PM), dances to a song on the radio. According to director Richard Curtis in an interview with The Daily Beast: "[Hugh] was HUGELY grumpy about it...because there was no way he could do that in a prime ministerial manner. It was originally a Jackson 5 song, but we couldn’t get it. We didn’t shoot it until the final day and it went so well that when we edited it, it had gone too well, and he was singing along with the words.”
If you watch closely, just before being interrupted, Grant is seen ‘barrelling’ the camera, an unplanned gaze directly down the lens. This is known in the business as ‘breaking the 4th wall’ and usually results in the scene being re-shot or cut from the film.



Walken’s Weapon of Choice

Spike Jonze’s pure brilliance in casting Christopher Walken to appear in Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice music video is easily considered genius. Hollywood is sprinkled with Walken’s dance routines, being a recognised dancer throughout his career. But for the culture of the time, fans of Fatboy Slim might have known little of Walken, let alone his dancing history. Although a stand-in is used for some routines, and the wirework is obvious, the grim and sullen nature of the environment (a hotel lobby that at the time was on the verge of refurbishment) is brightened for just a few minutes by this obviously agile yet mature 1.83 metre tall individual adding deadpan colour to the moment. Despite an enormous body of work, this could be the dance performance for which Walken is ultimately best remembered.