The most detailed and comprehensive account ever published of the making of the most bizarre James Bond film ever, Casino Royale starred the likes of Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Ursula Andrews, Orson Welles, Barbara Bouchet and David Niven. Produced outside of the main Bond canon, Casino Royale is one part satire, one part drama with some 60s cheese thrown in for good measure.
Casino Royale is a strange, strange film. Originally conceived as a straight, dramatic outing for Fleming’s most famous creation, following the purchase of film rights by multi millionaire Charles K Feldman the film descended into a bizarre, pop based semi satire that, while grossing 41 million is a rather conflicted and disjointed mess.
Michael Richardson’s challenge of telling the story behind the film’s chaotic production is a difficult one but one that he handles with skill and wit. Beginning with the writing of Casino Royale in 1952, Richardson takes us on a journey through the many faces of the film. Involving the likes of Sean Connery at various points in the early stages of production, Richardson gives snippets of very different versions of the film. One version would have involved a script penned by creator of the Zygons, Robert Stewart Banks and starring Danger Man and The Prisoner star, Patrick McGoohan; another would have seen the script penned by Catch 22 author Joseph Heller; another version would have seen Ben Hecht screenwriter of Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights and Scarface amongst others producing a screenplay in which Bond journeyed from Algeria to Iran to Italy before concluding in a German castle. However, the story only gets more fascinating when its two most pivotal figures enter the scene; Peter Sellers and Orson Welles.
Richardson’s account became more fascinating when Sellers and Welles enter the scene. Two screen colossuses, Sellers and Wells almost immediately began a feud which would last throughout their segment of the film. Sellers, tall, fit and athletic was the exact opposite of the large, cumbersome Welles of whom Sellers would constantly criticise because of his weight. Spiralling off from this original sparring over weight, the rather one sided feuding would lead to Sellers becoming utterly neurotic and mad at Welles. Richardson’s segments detailing this rivalry are a delight to read and are in some ways the high point of the book simply for their comic genius.
If you are interested in the history of film or even just the history of the James Bond franchise this is the book for you. Laced with interesting facts (including that, for a few years in the early 60s, James Bond appeared as a cartoon character in the Daily Express) and delicious anecdotes about some of the most famous film icons of the 20th century, Richardson’s The Making of Casino Royale (1967) is a pleasure to read and I highly recommend it.
With thanks to Telos, the publishers of the book. You can buy a copy of The Making of Casino Royale here.