April 14, 2013


Casino Royale: 60 years old today : Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Casino Royale was first published on April 13 1953 and there is an intriguing tale behind the original screenplay of the 007 film adaptation. (Jeremy Duns, 13 Apr 2013, The Telegraph)

Much of the creative renaissance of the past decade stems from the decision to return to the spirit of Fleming's novels. Craig's Casino Royale was an adaptation of Fleming's first novel. The book merged the traditions of vintage British thrillers with the more realistic and brutal style of hardboiled American writers such as Dashiell Hammett.

But Craig's debut was not the first attempt to film the novel, but the third. The first was a one-hour play performed live on American television in October 1954: Barry Nelson starred as crew-cut American agent "Jimmy Bond" out to defeat villain Le Chiffre, played by Peter Lorre, at baccarat to ensure he will be executed by Soviet agency Smersh for squandering their funds. Due to the format, this was a much-simplified version of Fleming's novel, with little of its extravagance or excitement.

The book features a wince-inducing scene in which Le Chiffre, desperate to discover where Bond has hidden the cheque for 40 million francs that he needs to save his life, ties Bond naked to a cane chair with its seat cut out and proceeds to torture him by repeatedly whacking his testicles with a carpet-beater. This could clearly not be shown on television, so instead Bond was placed in a bath, his shoes removed, and viewers watched him howl with pain as, off-screen, Le Chiffre's men attacked his toenails with pliers. [...]

Of all the Bond books, Casino Royale was one of the more problematic to adapt for film. On the one hand, it's one of Fleming's strongest novels (Raymond Chandler and Kingsley Amis both felt it his best): intense, almost feverishly so, and richer in characterisation and atmosphere than many of the others.

But the novel is also short -- practically a novella -- with little physical action in it other than the infamous torture scene. Bond also falls in love with his fellow agent on the mission, Vesper Lynd, and even considers proposing marriage to her before he discovers she has been coerced into working for Smersh and has betrayed him. She kills herself, and the novel ends with Bond reporting to London savagely that "the bitch is dead".

Posted by at April 14, 2013 11:24 AM

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