Thursday, 29 August 2013

Casino Royale or Casino Royal?

The BBC website holds a fantastic archive of James Bond related material, which brings together a selection of interviews, documentaries and analysis broadcast on BBC radio and television over the past 50 or so years. Among the treasures is an episode of Whicker's World broadcast in 1967. In the programme, presenter Alan Whicker visits the Pinewood set of You Only Live Twice and accompanies the production crew on location in Japan. The programme is interesting for a number of reasons, but in this post I want to focus on one aspect that seems minor, but is in a way quite intriguing – the pronunciation of 'Casino Royale'.

In the programme, we're taken to a press conference in Japan. An Australian journalist asked Sean Connery for his thoughts on the rival Bond film, Casino Royale (1967), which was in simultaneous production. Notably the journalist pronounced 'Royale' as the English form 'royal', rather than in a way approximating the French pronunciation.

The pronunciation is unusual, but it had been adopted by others, including Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers in their late 1960s song, 'Sock It To 'Em, JB'. In it, the titles of the Bond films are shouted out, one of them being Casino Royale, pronounced Royal. More remarkably, another person to use the Royal pronunciation was the author of the original novel, Ian Fleming. In an interview on 17th August 1964 for CBC-TV's Explorations programme, Fleming told interviewer Munro Scott about the plot of his first book, 'Casino Royal' (not 'Royale'). This was no slip of the tongue; he used the English pronunciation again later in the interview.

Given that Fleming was a fluent French speaker, the pronunciation seems odd, but it is possible that he
was influenced by the pronunciation of place names such as Port Royal, a town in south-east Jamaica, or more simply that his pronunciation reflected the way the word was pronounced by those around him. In any case, Fleming's cultural environment is likely to have had a modifying effect in the way that pronunciation and accents are naturally modified to conform to the prevailing use of language.

If in the 1950s and 1960s, the 'Royal' pronunciation was to some extent normal, today it has faded into obscurity. The success of Daniel Craig's Casino Royale in 2006, and other films such as Battle Royale (2000), have alerted audiences to what might be termed a more accurate pronunciation, but there was already broad awareness of the pronunciation, thanks in part to the cultural prominence of the 'Royale-with-cheese' meme from Pulp Fiction (1994). The memorable dialogue between John Travolta's Vincent Vega and Samuel L Jackson's Jules Winnfield in which the Royale with cheese is extensively discussed was a lesson in pronunciation, and also permitted people to utter the word without the feelings of self-consciousness that sometimes accompanies the occasional use of foreign words.

So should we pronounce 'Casino Royale' as 'Casino Royal'? Well, maybe, from a purist point of view, but anyone doing so would no doubt puzzle others or risk being corrected. I think I'd stick to Casino Royale.

I'm grateful to the HMSS Weblog editors for alerting me to the Rex Garvin video.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

An open letter to the chefs of the Dorchester hotel, London

Dear chefs,

I read with great interest on the Ian Fleming Publications website that the Dorchester will be serving a special 'James Bond breakfast' between 28th September and 30th November in celebration of the publication of William Boyd's James Bond novel, Solo. I understand that the novel opens at the Dorchester with Bond treating himself to a plate of his favourite food, scrambled eggs.

According to the publicity for this event, the breakfast William Boyd describes comprises scrambled eggs made with four eggs per person, half a dozen rashers of unsmoked bacon and strong black coffee. Given that Bond avidly consumes the dish throughout his adventures, we are able to reconstruct how Bond likes his eggs in quite some detail. So, to ensure that the scrambled eggs served at the Dorchester are as authentic as possible, may I respectfully suggest that the following points are borne in mind by your kitchen staff?

001 I don't think Bond would object too much to the four eggs, but when he orders room service in a New York hotel (Live and Let Die), he asks for three eggs lightly scrambled. His preference for three eggs is reiterated in the recipe for scrambled eggs given in the short story '007 in New York' (the recipe is for four 'individualists' and 12 eggs are required).

002 The eggs should be laid by Marans hens. We know that when at home, his boiled eggs are made with such eggs (From Russia, with Love), and presumably his eggs for scrambling come from the same source. In any case, avoid white-shelled eggs.

003 The eggs should be served moist. This reflects Ian Fleming's own preference for runny scrambled eggs (a letter from Ann Fleming mentions that Fleming liked the eggs 'très baveuse').

004 Milk should not be added to the eggs. In Live and Let Die, while dining in Jacksonville, Florida, Bond disdainfully observes that milk will be added to the scrambled eggs, and the 'no milk' rule is confirmed by the recipe noted above.

005 Customers will no doubt have their own preferences with regard to the bread used for the toast, but ensure that wholewheat (From Russia, with Love) or rye (Diamonds Are Forever) bread are available for the Bond purist.

006 I expect Bond does eat unsmoked bacon from time to time, but he also likes smoked bacon, preferably hickory-smoked. Will customers get a choice?

007 I have nothing to add about the coffee. It should be strong, black and unsweetened. If anyone asks for tea, tell them you don't serve cups of mud (Goldfinger).

Follow these tips, and you will create the perfect Bondian breakfast. And if you'd like more information on Bond breakfasts, or if you're thinking of expanding your menu to include Bond lunch and dinner items, then I invite you to read my James Bond cookbook, Licence to Cook: Recipes Inspired by Ian Fleming's James Bond. Good luck!

Kind regards,
Edward Biddulph

Photo of scrambled eggs by Clare McIntyre

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Plomer on Fleming: the view from Fleming's editor

Almost 50 years since his death, the extraordinary achievements of Ian Fleming continue to have huge cultural and historical impact. Some of those achievements were recognised in the many obituaries written about Fleming, but a more personal and generous tribute was paid by Fleming's editor, William Plomer, in an address given at a memorial service on 15th September 1964. Plomer's address offers a fascinating view of Fleming's legacy and the Bond phenomenon at a time when books sales were rocketing and 'Bondomania' was about to strike with the release of Goldfinger. Plomer also alludes to factors that shaped Fleming's writing and world-view. Let's take a look at some of them.

A theme that runs throughout the address is that of Fleming's pursuit of knowledge and well-disposed view towards experts in their fields. Plomer describes, for example, Fleming's “admiration of what was well done”, and mentions later that Fleming was “a great finder-out”. This much is clear to any reader of Fleming's books. Not only did Fleming pack his writing with facts and accurate detail, but he was more than happy to acknowledge the experts who furnished him with the information, among them Geoffrey Boothroyd, who persuaded Fleming to change Bond's handgun, and Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees, whom Fleming consulted on heraldry matters while preparing On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Of Fleming's wartime experiences, Plomer says little – presumably there was still much that was officially secret – but he reveals more than is mentioned in the obituaries. The obituary in The Times, for example, almost passes over Fleming's war years entirely, pausing to mention only that Fleming found his experiences “'intensely exciting'”. Plomer's address leaves out some of Fleming's key achievements (such as his setting up of the 30 Assault Unit), but nevertheless alludes to Fleming's ability to cut through the red tape and military hierarchy to get things done. He also hints at Fleming's very significant contribution to the war effort, quoting Admiral Godfrey, who told Plomer that Fleming “'was a war-winner'”.

Intriguingly, Plomer reveals that it was Godfrey who introduced Fleming to underwater swimming, an interest that would be critical to the plots of Live and Let Die, Thunderball and other Bond stories. I had assumed that the interest developed during Fleming's visits to Jamaica and his experiences diving with Jacques-Yves Cousteau off Marseilles in 1953, but in reality Fleming caught the bug closer to home.

More intriguing is Plomer's reference to a book by “a then unknown writer” which Fleming read during his later youth and “turned out to have a lasting influence”. The author is not named, but a possible candidate is Phyllis Bottome, under whom Fleming studied while in Austria in 1927. Fleming credited Bottome for inspiring him to become a writer, and he would certainly have read her novels. Phyllis Bottome's first novel, The Dark Tower, was, however, published in 1916, and it seems unlikely that she would have been unknown even by the time Fleming arrived at Eton in 1921. If we allow some movement in the chronology, another candidate is Geoffrey Household, whose first adult novel, The Third Hour, was published in 1937. Fleming admired the book so much that he sent copies to friends. There may be other candidates, but in any case the book deserves to be required reading for students of Fleming and James Bond.

Much of Plomer's address is taken up by the success of the Bond books and also the nascent success of film series. There is, for example, a reference to fans forming James Bond clubs, a phenomenon, incidentally, verified by a story published in the Daily Express on 1st February 1963, which describes how Joanna Hare, the daughter of Labour minister John Hare and an undergraduate at Oxford University, had been identified by Oxford University's James Bond Club as the university's answer to the “perfect Bond girl”. Plomer also talked of the “cheerful reactions of film audiences”, and the “vast new publics [sic]” that respond to the films. The address alluded, too, to the criticisms that Fleming evidently continued to face concerning the moral tone of his work. In answer, Plomer merely said that readers and audiences found “the atmosphere anything but corrupt”. 

William Plomer's memorial address was subsequently privately printed as a slim volume by the Westerham Press, and copies are available through specialist book dealers. As a window into the world of Fleming at the time of his death, it is essential reading.

Chancellor, H, 2005, James Bond: The Man and His World, John Murray
Gilbert, J, 2012, Ian Fleming: The Bibliography, Queen Anne Press
Plomer, W, 1964, Address Given at the Memorial Service for Ian Fleming, Westerham Press

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The media's search for the next James Bond - and Doctor Who

The new Doctor Who was announced to great fanfare last week. Peter Capaldi, well known for his role as foul-mouthed spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in BBC's The Thick of It, will be replacing current incumbent Matt Smith as the Doctor. There was much excitement and speculation in the press about who would take the role in the weeks leading up to the announcement. For Bond fans, this press interest recalled the frenzy of speculation that has traditionally preceded the casting of an actor in the role of James Bond, and there has been a number of similar elements to the media campaigns for both characters. In this post, I'd like to look at some of these elements, and examine the conditions that have led to such media interest in the casting for major TV and film characters.

Just as dozens of potential candidates for the role of James Bond are put forward in the media during casting, the list of possible Doctors has also been extensive. In 2005, before David Tennant was cast as the Doctor, some of the names mentioned in connection with the role included Bill Nighy, Richard E Grant, David Thewlis and Alan Davies. When David Tennant left the role in 2008, Russell Brand, Sean Pertwee, David Morrissey, and Robert Carlyle were among the actors considered by the media as potential replacements. The role ultimately went to Matt Smith, but when he quit earlier this year, the speculation resumed. This time, it appeared that David Harewood, Dan Stevens, Bill Bailey, Daniel Rigby, Damien Molony Aneurin Barnard, James Nesbitt, and Bond alumni Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear were in the running.

But there has been speculation about the who'd play the next Doctor Who almost since the first Doctor, William Hartnell, left the role in 1966. For example, an article in the Daily Mirror in February 1974 was headlined, “Who next? Jon Pertwee ('I can't stand Daleks') quits”. In January 1996, the Daily Express announced that “Our man McGann beats the stars to become the next Dr Who”, and in July 2002, the Express predicted that Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Head would be cast in the role.

The same sort of press interest has accompanied every period of casting for the next James Bond. If anything, the level of interest has been much higher and more intensive than that for Doctor Who. The tradition of speculating on the identity of the new Bond actor began during casting for the first Bond film, Dr No (1962). Many names were mentioned in connection with the role, including James Mason, Patrick McGoohan and David Niven, and famously the Daily Express ran a campaign to find James Bond, settling on model Peter Anthony. Over the course of the film series, actors have been put forward as potential candidates for the role, even when there was no position available, and there were particularly intensive periods of speculation in 1986, 1994 and 2005 ahead of the casting of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig respectively.

Notably, recent media speculation on potential Doctor Whos has included consideration of black actors, among them Paterson Joseph and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Similarly, the press has championed black actors for the role of James Bond. The Sun in December 2004, for example, tipped Colin Salmon for the role, and more recently Idris Elba has had to address persistent rumours that he might be James Bond when Daniel Craig hangs up his dinner-suit. However, while the media have been open to the possibility of a female Doctor Who (Helen Mirren, Olivia Coleman and Sue Perkins have been among the names mentioned), the prospect of a female Bond has never been given any serious consideration.

Evidently, then, the search for the next James Bond and Doctor Who has usually been accompanied by intense media coverage. But what are the conditions that induce such speculation, and why are other serial fictional characters of less interest to the media? Clearly the media reflect the considerable public affection that there is for both Bond and Doctor Who (hence the casting for the roles of historical characters attracts little attention, even if the characters have been portrayed several times), and this in turn reflects the sense that the characters are bigger than any actor who plays him. In the case of Bond, this was a view that Eon Productions had sought from the start. In his autobiography (When the Snow Melts, 1998), Cubby Broccoli wrote that “if we cast an unknown actor, the public would be more likely to accept him as the character.” This recalled a view that Broccoli had expressed to Alan Whicker in 1967, agreeing with Whicker that after Connery, there would be other Bonds. On the face of it, Batman would seem to be an exception to this rule; casting for the role has also attracted a reasonable amount of media speculation, despite the fact that Batman has been played by top-flight Hollywood stars. But in this case, the actors have been largely hidden under a mask, which to an extent has anonymised the actors and allowed audiences to focus on the character. In contrast, Matt Damon is so strongly identified with the role of Jason Bourne, that there was no question that another actor would take the role following Damon's departure from the Bourne series.

Continuing this point, for the media to be encouraged to generate lists of potential actors for certain roles, there must generally be an established pattern of transition. Even with prolonged gaps between films, there has never been intense speculation about actors who might take on the role of Indiana Jones or Ethan Hunt, and it seems unlikely that the characters would appear on screen unless played by Harrison Ford or Tom Cruise. It is interesting to note that when Disney announced that episode seven of the Star Wars saga would be made, it was taken for granted that the actors who had appeared in the original trilogy would resume their roles, rather than the possibility that the roles would be offered to other actors.

It is difficult to gain an accurate view of this without a significant amount of research in press archives, but I wonder whether, in the UK at least, intense media interest in the casting for a serial character has until the past decade or so been confined to James Bond and to a lesser extent Doctor Who. Now there is (almost) as much speculation about who might play Batman, Superman and other characters. If this is the case, it may in part be a product of the changing means by which the media source their information. In the past, rumours about certain actors were generated by journalists themselves (whether based on anything substantive or not). Today, newspapers and other media organisations are as likely to respond to rumours generated by the public and disseminated through the internet, especially social media sites.

There is one other point worth making here. The idea of the next James Bond, or the next Doctor Who, is itself a meme that has currency in cultural space. It exists as an entity in its own right, serving as a phrase which is transmitted through various media and in conversation. To hear the phrase in the home, pub or the workplace triggers a sort of parlour game in which lists of actors are championed or dismissed. And even before the ink's dry on incumbents' resignation letters, the media and public speculation commences.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Cover art for William Boyd's Solo

Ian Fleming Publications have published details of the cover of Solo, the forthcoming James Bond adventure by William Boyd. The design is stylish and dramatic, hinting at danger, intrigue and exotic locations. On the front of the dustjacket is the title Solo; the final O appears to be open, allowing us to peek through to the dramatic red colour of the boards beneath. The back of the dustjacket is emblazoned with the 007 motif, and this time the hardcover is seen through one of the zeros. The hardcover itself is decorated with representations of bullet holes and a gecko, which alludes to the novel’s African location.

Suzanne Dean, the designer, said that she didn’t “just want to depict a cinematic image”, and that she was influenced by designers such as Saul Bass (read her full statement here), but inevitably the bullet holes on the hardcover and the arrangement of the title and Bond’s code number on the dustjacket recall the gunbarrel sequence that opens (or closes) the James Bond films. The use of shadow and open elements on the dustjacket also give, to my mind, the design a trompe l’oeil appearance, perhaps in keeping with the famous Richard Chopping covers of Fleming’s novels.

I wonder, also, whether the gecko offers clues to the African location. I’m certainly no expert on geckos, but the shape of the one depicted is not too dissimilar from that of the West African forest gecko. In previous posts, I’ve speculated on the basis of Boyd’s previous work and experiences, the events of 1969, and the clues that he’s provided that Boyd would send Bond to West Africa, possibly Nigeria. Of course, the image might simply represent a generic gecko not specific to any location, but such animals do vary in shape and size, and the gecko depicted does not appear to be inconsistent with the West African species.