Payday Loans
CASINO ROYALE (1967)
(Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joe McCrath, Robert Parrish )

 

“I have a very low threshold of death... I can't have bullets enter my body...”

BOND 5 . CASINO ROYALE  1967

 

Welcome to the first James Bond farce. If farce means “a ludicrous situation or action,” then, baby, this is it...  Producer Charles K Feldman’s four-ring circus of utter madness.. James Bond is suddenly... stupidly… everybody! Well, five 007s. Plus ten writers, six directors and three studios for what Daily Mirror columnist Donald Zec called: “The worst film I ever enjoyed.” Or “the most expensive Ed Wood picture,” according to the movie’s biographer Michael Richardson.

Woody Allen, one of the writers and stars, wrote home from London: "The film will probably make a mint.   Not money. But a single peppermint.”

“There’s a whole film to be made about the making of Casino Royale,” chief director Val Guest told SFX magazine in March 2003.

This is it… It’s called Feldmania.

 

The dog’s breakfast began when the Royale rights were bought in May 1954 by 20th Century Fox’s house Russian, the (hammy) actor and sometime (awful) director Gregory Ratoff. The price? $6,000 loaned to him by a certain Charlie Feldman.. and by head Fox Darryl F Zanuck. DFZ kept changing his mind about releasing the picture to be shot in London, close to locations in Italy and Portugal, with a script by Lorenzo Sempel Jr, who would pen TV’s Batman and Connery’s farewell to 007, Never Say Never Again, in 1982.

Ratoff was to co-produce with a certain Michael Garrison - who took 007 into The Wild Wild West with Robert Conrad as his hero West, James West, during 1965-1969, where else but on CBS where Royale (and Jimmy Bond !) eventually finished up.

The nonsense that followed started here because these three Hollyweirds had the brilliant, awe-inspiring and damned stupid idea of turning James Bond into a woman. To be played Susan Oliver. A beauteous, blue-eyed blonde New Yorker, Buddhist and pilot, who would turn up in a first season episode, The Bow-Wow Affair, of the Ian Fleming-inspired series, The Man From UNCLE.

Feldman obviously loved that notion of a female 007 as both Ursula Andress and Daliah Lavi were among the five Bonds in his mess.

The next scenarist was veteran Ben Hecht, winner iof the very first Best Original Script Oscar in 1929. He was also stupid - even though he had worked with Hitchcock on the Bond matrix, Notorious, in 1945. Hecht cut Bond completely out of the picture,.. ! And turned Fleming’s hero into a US gangster and gambler called Lucky Fortunato. Hecht was still around to, er, assist, with Charlie Feldman’s flying circus.

The Ratoff movie never happened. (Thank heavens) So, he took it to the Climax! TV show at CBS for a one-off $1,000 deal. As the kinescope unearthed in 1981 revealed, Bond was no longer a woman. Worse. He was no longer British, but an American…Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond, no less, a Yank working for British Intelligence. (Yeah, happens all the time). Leiter was Letter in the credits and played by Aussie Michael Pate as a Brit. Tyrone Power’s wife Linda Christian was Valerie Mathis, of the French Deuxieme Bureau - a mix of Fleming’s Vesper Lynd and French ally Rene Mathis. The 50 minute show, live from Stage 43 at CBS Television City in LA on Ocober 21, 1954, was scripted by Anthony Ellis and Charles Bennett (another Hitchcock associate back in the 30s during The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps).

CBS then became keen keen on a Bond series, why not. If Fleming could come up  with 32 episodes over two years. He completed some, then CBS changed its corporate mind - and not one to waste any of his (or anyone else’s) ideas, Fleming used some of the tales in the short 007 story collection, For Your Eyes Only, in 1960.

Fox also showed renewed interest in the UK secret agent… Zanuck commissioned Robert Banks Stewart to test if there was any life left in Royale. Well, yes, particularly as Banks Stewart was connected with certain British TV series, Danger Man.   Inevitably, the Scottish writer nominated his show’s star, Patrick McGoohan, for Bond, the star of that show, known in the US (on CBS, where else!) as…. Secret Agent. Except, the scenarist knew the actor’s high moral and religious scruples would prevent him portraying such a lady-killing bounder.

Meanwhile, still greatly enamoured of Bond’s potential. Ratoff found enough money to buy the Royale rights in perpetuity - LA speak for…

 

“If I can’t make it then I’ll keep the bugger

until someone wants it badly enough to buy it off me.”

 

No one did.

Or not until months after his death from leukemia in Switzerland on December 14, 1960. Feldman was discovered among his creditors and Charlie agreed to take the Royale rights in lieu of the money owed to him. (Doubtless, his half of the $6,000 which had bought the rights in the first place).

Having always regretted selling to Ratoff for so little money. Ian Fleming immediately tried to buy the rights back.  So did a certain Albert R Broccoli … who used to work for Feldman! Known as “the Jewish Clark Gable,” Feldman had founded the Famous Artists agency in 1949. Famous was right: it represented Lauren Bacall, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, William Holden, John Wayne. (Even Ratoff!). So, Charlie knew a good deal when he saw one. He just totaled this one.

Still old-Hollywood, Feldman talked with client Howard Hawks about royaling Casino. Broccoli had been Hawks’ assistant on The Outlaw, when working with Howard Hughes. (Hollywood is a village). The Feldman plan was the regular Hawks scripter Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, Hatari!, Rio Lobo; her final script was Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back)… and Cary Grant as Bond.

At least, that was the plan until Hawks saw Dr No and… knew they couldn’t compete.

Quickly, Feldman - “the shrewd deal-maker... a straight shooter, afraid of no one” - also saw the nonsense of trying to compete with the Eon Bonds (three were soon ruling the global box-office) and tried to set up a co-production with Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. They responded as one: Sure, but not until after Thunderball and You Only Live Twice and, oh maybe, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That meant Royale would be in the fridge until 1969 or 1970. Connery or no Connery, Feldman had spent a lot and wanted some return. “I don’t wanna wait that long.” OK, they said, we’ll buy your rights - $500,000? He claimed they offered a 50-50 deal, unlikely as Eon had the upper hand - and Sean! Broccoli said Feldman wanted too much return.

All this banter was Eon’s way of saying it already had dealt with a partner, after being legally forced into bed with Kevin McClory on Thunderball. Broccoli said: “Never again!” – and, unlike Connery, Cubby meant it.

Still living in the 40s, Feldman also got Ben Hecht to work on a script. He delivered a three-page outline (dated December 17, 1963) and the 40 page script, dated February 20, 1964, with scenes due in Algeria, Iraq, Germany and Italy. As Feldman could not get Connery, he had Hecht kill Bond off, in the line of duty… with his 007 prefix then being passed on by M to, guess what, an American agent. And to confuse the enemy (oh really!) there would be more than one James Bond (that idea made it in to the 1966 film, confusing fans and foes). Hecht kept Felix Leiter and Vesper Lynd, added some new babes - the Eurasian Lili Wing and a lesbian mud wrestler… except she turned out to be Bond in disguise!

 

Car chases, much sex and much violence…

“Never had more fun writing a movie,” said Hecht.

 

He also used the SPECTRE initials although Feldman had no rights to them as they first appeared in Thunderball. They quickly reverted to SMERSH.

Hecht tried more drafts, one of 84 pages, bringing Bond back alive, introducing Chiffre (as opposed to Le Chiffre), Gita whipping his balls in the famous seatless chair torture sequence (not to mention water-boarding - with whiskey). Hecht also matched Connry’s banter with Miss Moneypenny. If they couldn’t get Connery, they could at least model their Bond on him.

Next draft dropped Bond again, although Hecht called him the cinema’s first gentleman superman. Then, Hecht died at 70 on April 18, 1964. Feldman called in Billy Wilder who threw Hecht’s efforts out and started afresh.   More work, uncredited but paid, came from Blake Edwards (man behind Peter Sellers’ Clouseau) and the Irish, ex-blacklisted writer Michael Sayers. Writer-director Bryan Forbes, however, proved way too expensive.

Feldman’s previous Feldman exercise. What’s New Pussycat, has been saved, or so he maintained, by Peter Sellers… in a role wrietten by Woody Allen for Groucho Marx. And so, Charlie started wooing Sellers as early as the Spring of ‘64. He said no (or no to a comedy), then again, if he got fit, why not ? He set about developing a walk like a panther. (Brooccoli  always said Connery moved like a cat).

Feldman was ready to do any and everything to secure Sellers short of - as the infamous Donald Trump indecorously said of Milt Romney - going down on his knees… Feldman even said Sellers could star, write and direct.. “Give him some rope. It’ll be OK.” Yeah. Sure. Feldman went to Columbia and respun the whole thing as… What's New 007. Charlie was sure that Sellers would save the project. He did not. He destroyed it.

 

OK, Feldman had the book, he had Sellers

and Shirley MacLaine (or so he thought) but no Bond

 

Meanwhile, Thunderball started shooting on February 16, 1965…. Just one month after Columbia, making up for rejecting Dr No error, agreed to bankroll Royale. The studio also tried to buy Eon’s rights to the other books. Fat chance.

Columbia was full of it. Royale would start shooting March 29. Hah! It didn’t have a script, star or director… Just the UK casting legend Maude Spektor. (No, not Spectre). She, also worked for Eon, which explains her hiring such official Bond players as Ursula Andress, John Hollis, Burt Kwouk, Milton Reid and Maggie Wright (from Goldfinger and four of Roger Moorss Saint episodes).

As for 007, Feldman phoned Connery, far from pleased with the Bondwagon, to see if he’d be interested. “Sure! For $1m.” Feldman said his budget couldn’t cover that, but some time later when he ran into Sean at a London club, when Casino was hemorrhaging zillions (the $8m budget, already high, doubled, almost tripled), Feldman admitted: “At $1m for you, I would have got off lightly.”

The Feldman plan was for McGrath and Parrish to shoot 20 minutes each; Hughes, 25; Guest, 26; and Huston, 38 minutes with David Niven, Charles Boyer, William Holden and Deborah Kerr. Total: 129 minutes. Not counting the stunts directed by Richard Talmadge, 74, almost as old as Hollywood. He ran Huston’s second unit, a car chase in a Bentley with an uncredited and alleged Mireille Darc at the wheel, plus the massive baroom brawl finale - he’d devised tons of those in LA Westerns. This one came complete with Keystone Kops.   He’d worked with the Kops (he made his first film in 1914) and with Chaplin. So, or at least allegedly, he invited Geraldine Chaplin to join him, uncredited.

 

With different directors, different studios, different writers

writing for different stars... chaos ensued.   And then some.

 

Woody arrived in May ‘66, Huston finished (well, not quite) in June. Shooting was a psychedelic nightmare, as Guest and associate producer John Dark kept telling

me over the following months.

Feldman was forever calling about this or that idea.   “We got Brigitte Bardot next Wednesday? We gotta scene for her? No! Well, write something!” They never did - but, apparently, her dresses were made ready and delivered to the right studio at the right in good time for her non-appearance.   Finally, Jean-Paul Belmondo represented la belle France… He was dragged into it by his lover, Ursula Andress. I first heard about this when running into him buying the French sports paper, L’Eqiuipe, in Soho. I said: What are you doing here? And he told me all about his cameo as a fighting French Foreign Legionnaire.

Blindly, Feldman attempted to solve all the problems with more money, more directors, more writers, more stars, more guests, more… But this was not Around The World In 80 Days. And Charlie was no Mike Todd. Yet he kept kept chasing one director after another (Richard Lester, Blake Edwards, Bryan Forbes again - oh no, not after a Columbia suit called him “a blackmailing whore”) and even actor Cliff Robertson, who like McGrath had never directed a movie, and was simply starring in Feldman’s production, of The Honey Pot in Rome.

Charlie was also forever announcing cameos from Honor Blackman, Rex Harrison (The Honey Pot star in Rome), Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Pamela Tiffin, Peter Ustinov and Rudolf Nureyev. Plus Sophia Loren and Barbra Streisand after they had publicly denied any participation. (La Barb was committed to Funny Girl, Sophia was into sanity). Finally, the only cameos came from Belmondo,   O’Toole and George Raft as …. George Raft. Except for the case of champagne he was paid with, O’Toole regretted his bit as a Scottish piper for years to come. (No worse than Caligula).

Sarah Miles turned down Meg, which went to Alexandra Bastedo. explaining to Huston that there was no development, characterisation or proper comic scope (it could have been a review of the finished film). Nor would she be topless. Feldman even sent a script to her Oscar-winning scenarist husband, Robert Bolt, for an opinion. He gave it. “Garbage.”  

Things were so crazy, one would not have been surprised if The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret,  received an offer to join Sellers - they had made home-movie comic capers together. Instead, she simply visited the set and dealt a body blow to the Sellers ego, by making making more of a friendly fuss over Welles than Sellers. This was possibly HRH’s way of addressing the runours about Sellers being her lover… rumours spread, needless to add, by Sellers, himself. (Idem for Sophia Loren).

In a juvenile tantrum, Sellers immediately refused to share the casino scenes with Welles as Le Chiffre. As they were supposed to be playing baccarat together this was difficult, and necessitated the ridiculous solution of shooting their sides of the casino table on separate days. Great for the 200 extras, their days were doubled. Not good for the budget. Not good for Sellers, either. He was never told Welles was allowed to re-write his own dialogue, which is why, at times, it was at odds with Sellers’ responses.

This was not the first time Sellers had acted opposite Welles without Welles being there... In his dubbing and looping days in the 50s (when he voiced Bogart in Beat The Devil, Churchill in The Man Who Never Was, Joan Collins’ cockatoo in Our Girl Friday - seventeen characters in Malaga), Sellers was hired for The Black Rose opposite Tyrone Power, Herbert Lom (!) - to post-synch another fat radio star who dubbed voices in his own films, although they all tended to sound the same (unlike Sellers’ voices). The other fat radio star was Welles.

Feeling he should have been warned that HRH knew Welles so well, Sellers simply had McGrath - his choice, remember - dumped. His biggest mistake. His rôle and, thereby, the entire film never recovered. Actually, McGrath simply walked away - fled - after seven weeks of shooting. Of trying to shoot. “Pointless going on,” he told Feldman. “There’s no control. Nobody has any overall feeling for the film and what’s happening.” Sellers tried to get him back - too late. He eventually apologised by letter (I know of no letter to Feldman) and they later made The Magic Christian and The Great McGonagall together. Neither one was magic or great.

 

“A four-ringed circus,” admitted Feldman.

Yeah, with a right caboodle of Bonds...

 

From Sellers and Woody to Ursula Andress and David Niven, replacing first choice Rex Harrison.

Sir James Bond .   Sellers told Daily Express (which ran a Bond cartoon-strip) that Trevor Howard would be one of five Bonds. He became Niven – one of Fleming’s desires for 007. Sellers approved the casting, having enjoyed The Pink Panther with him, and anyway, they would not be sharing scenes (or directors), and although shooting had not yet begun, Sellers’ salary had just shot up from $750 000 to the $1m that Feldman had refused to offer Connery. (Niven got $500,000). Other potential  Sir Jimmies were Stanley Baker (very Bondish, sleek, smart, cat-like, as the Gestapo chief Heisler in The Angry Hills, 1959) and Laurence Harvey – while William Holden and Peter O’Toole, passed, preferring forgettable cameos.

James Bond .   Yeah, but which one…? Feldman called for Frank Sinatra. He didn’t bother to ask which Bond, just yelled: “You crazy, Charlie?” (Pause) “Well-known as I am, I wouldn’t follow Sean - because I’m no fool. Sean is James Bond to the world.” That is when Feldman tried Peter Sellers again. Charlie knew Sellers wanted to go straight. “How about 007?” His reaction was in the area of: And they call me mad! “No,” gulped Sellers, “I will absolutely not play James Bond. Not my scene.” OK, said Charlie, how’s about sending up Bond…? Yet Sellers did not know how to play Bond, or if he wanted to be Bond or some croupier mistaken for Bond. With no eccentricities to play, he based his rôle (croupier Nigel Force was spun into the world’s #1 baccarat ace Evelyn Tremble) upon Cary Grant.. Except a straight Sellers straight is strictly boring.

Vesper Lynd .   Charlie called them all. Capucine, Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor. Sellers wanted his Millionairess co-star (and as he always overly hinted, lover) Sophia Loren. The choice of the untried, untested McGrath as director put her off – even for a cameo . Columbia’s head honcho Mike Frankovich, “himself, offered me $1m to do it," said Shirley MacLaine. She had had introduced Feldman to Woody Allen’s stand-up act in New York, which led to him writing What’s New Pussycat - not Woody’s happiest experience. Meanwhile, Shirley came in – and went out so fast – it was as she’d located a revolving door at the Hilton Hotel. And so, Ursula Andress returned to Bondland -  “but no dubbing me this time.” She lost that and was voiced as per Dr No by Nikki Van dr Zyl.   Urst, as Sellers called her, was compensated with a $250,000 pay-cheque.   As Sellers said in the film: Everyone has his price.   His included a white Rolls Royce…

Mata Bond .   UK blonde Carol White, the Woolworth’s Julie Christie, was offered Joanna Pettet’s role. “I could have earned $2,000 a day but the part would have done nothing for me.” Feldman also tried for Brigitte Bardot - and only got her Two Weeks In September stand-in, Greta Van Rantwyck, for the wallpaper girly extras. To replace BB, there was talk of the top UK drag act, Danny La Rue. In a script hashed together by that committee - that never met - Mata was called the illegitimate offspring of Sir James Bond and another notorious spy, Mata Hari. D’oh! Mata was executed in 1917, three years before Bond was born.

Giovanna Goodthighs .   “She’s doing Casino Royale - same as everyone else!” Joan Collins’ husband, Tony Newley (co-writer with Leslie Bricusse of the Goldfinger song) told me at their Swiss Cottage home that August. “They meet you at the airport: do you wanna part?” She didn’t and he was not surprised.   “Joanie doesn’t have to work. She doesn’t have the drive to work. She’s got most of the things she wants out of life. But she does enjoy working.” Besides, she was pregnant. Jacky Bissett (as Jacqueline then was) was plucked from the babes brigade by Selllers and McGrath and given a career jolt, Sellers was not so kind when she flubbed lines – he aimed his Walter P38 with blanks at her face!

M .   John Huston said he had M written for one man and one man only - Robert Morley - he’d been Katharine Hepburn’s clergyman brother in Huston’s African Queen, in 1951. When Morley proved unavailable (he was making a Cliff Richard musical), Huston decided that only one other man could boss Bond around. Himself. Morley actually played the spy chief role opposite Anthony Hopkins in the excretal When Eight Bells Toll, 1970, where the best work was supplied by Connery-Bond’s regular stunt double and choeographr, Bob Simmons.

 

The fifth Bond proved

to be… Terence Cooper

 

Unknown to anyone (with the exception of another Bond fan called Kevin McClory), Cooper had been waiting in the corridors of SIS (the Secret Intelligence Service) since 1957 to play Bond. “It has been," he told me in London that year, “a long wait... When producer Kevin McClory tried to get Bond on the screen in 1957, he had a contract with... guess whose name on it? No, not Sean Connery’s.   Mine. In 1957!"

Very Bondian - a falling black comma of hair; sent down from Oxford for “various irregular activities” - Cooper called himself the greatest con-man in the game. (Well, second only to McClory). He went to RADA with Peter O’Toole, and almost punched out Feldman when they first met in London's Pickwick Club. “I was there with two beautiful young actress friends when along comes this guy wanting to know if I was in movies. I thought he was making a pass at my girls.” However, it was Cooper he wanted - on a seven year contract, rising from £250 to £1,000 a week.

“Why? I don’t know. He liked me, I guess. I was always very rude to him, swearing and all that, so he didn’t know what to make of me. But as all the other people who treated him like that had great talent, Charlie probably mistook me for being a tremendous actor.

“So all right, Connery is a world name. But Bond’s is really the big name, isn’t it? And to my mind, Sean doesn’t play the part right. Not for me, anyway. How will I play it? Don’t ask me!

 

“Just hope I get across the lines OK

without tripping over the flaming carpet”

 

Guest suggested Cooper should be a Clouseau-style Bond. Feldman said no (he’d made another decision!) – that was Woody’s department. Having lost Sellers, the harried producer now promised Woody he could write, produce, direct and star in Take The Money if he would become the new main comic aspect. (Feldman was dead before Woody did all that, when Money was produced by his managers).

Wolf Mankowitz thought Cooper was drafted in to fill up the suddenly Sellersless spaces as the nephew of James Bond... the black sheep of the Secret Service and a completely useless cocksman... The idea was Coop would fight his way through... “taking over all the action material at present carried out by Sellers and Andress who we wrote out... entirely,” dictated Mankowitz. Feldman was hardly going to agree about dropping Andress (another decision!) He’d paid enough for her, besides she was - and still is - a Bond icon. Sellers was - is - not.

She wasn’t happy, though. “I’m in a daze. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I don’t know which script, which director, which producder, which scene. It’s confusion.” The producer comment must have hurt Feldman, but he was rarely on the set, or even in whichever studio was in use - but gone to ground in his Grosvenor Hotel suite, reading new script pages and locking them away in his safe. .. from whom?

Neither the role or the farce did Terence Cooper any good. It was five years before he worked again - in the racy Australian TV series, Number 69. He achieved a brief 1980s’ fame as Detective-Sergeant Doug Miller in the New Zealand series, Mortimer's Patch. Born at Cairmoney, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1933, Coop was the first movie Bond to die - at Cairns, Australia. in 1997.

 

Watching some editing, John Huston commented:

“This could easily turn into a load of crap, couldn’t it?

 

The $8m budget hit $20m and then some… Feldman only had himself to blame. He never listened to anything he didn’t want to hear. Right from the beginning, Mankowitz had warned him that Sellers was a dangerous lunatic. “He wanted to piss around with the script. He knew nothing about anything except doing silly voices.”

Or as biographer Roger Lewis put it: Sellers wasn’t making a film, he was making trouble.

Feldman must have realised something was terribly wrong when Sellers announced he wanted to play Bond like Tony Hancock, a highly popular if morose UK comic. Of course, Feldman didn’t know who Hancock was. In Hollywood terms, Hancock was... WC Fields...

In short, Feldman’s “most talented guy I ever worked with,” behaved like a spoilt brat in the school playground and had to be (quietly) fired. “He pretty much ruined the film,” said Mankowitz. “A fucking amateur,” grumbled Welles. Sellers had already ruined the Sellers-Makowitz production company and its plans for Memoirs of a Cross-Eyed Man.

Apparently, Sellers heard about these comments because, sure enough, he reneged on Mankowitz again, insisting upon Terry Southern (from Dr Strangelove and The Magic Christian to come to write funnier lines for him.

And all this when, as no company would touch him, Feldman insured him   with $350,000 of his own money.

The psychotic Sellers deliberately sobotaged the entire movie... and nearly bankrupted Columbia. Said his next victim, UK director Roy Boulting (who helped turn the then chubby comic into an actor with I’m All Right Jack in 1959): “Not once, were his crazy decisions artistically motivated. They were power games He relished everyone being beholden to him.”

Feldman was relying on osmosis. Os, however,was out of town...

 

Woody never saw the film. “But my loved ones

tell me it was a uniquely ghastly experience.”

 

Val Guest was on the payroll for 007 months before directing a scene - in June he shot Woody’s scenes plus links with Niven and Andress…and Bouchet and M with Niven and Joanna Pettet’s Mata Bond and Lavi’s Detainer. Guest He recalled that during the protracted production he was invited to a Dorchester Hotel media reception to announce a new director for the film - it was some time before he realised the new director was himself!

Andress was back for extra work around July 4, 1966 - start date of You Only Live Twice at Pinewood while Feldmania was still afoot with no end in sight,. Daliah Lavi quit for Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon starting in Ireland on September 12 - and shooting shuttered (or the money ran out) in October. Bill Lenny then beganstarted editing 20 reels of film for a Christmas release (hah !) - later helped by Russell Lloyd from various Huston films. First cut was three hours, the final cut, 131 minutes - for a royal Royale premiere (just Princess Alexandra, no Margaret; no Sellers, either) on April 13, 1967 - my Dad’s birthday.

With a meagre profit of $5m and 13th place for the US year, Royale was buried at the box-office by Jungle Book and by The Real Deal - Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice.

Cubby Broccoli kindly called it a enlarged What’s New Pussycat? The posters said : “Casino Royale is too much for one Bond.” The doyennne of UK critics, Dilys Powell, found it too much for one critic.   Bosley Crowther (for another critic) called it disconnected nonsense. Not far from Niven’s line,  “a hodge-podge of nonsense.”

“I’ve been through the most harrowing experience that I have ever been through since I’ve been in the business, ”  Feldman wrote to his favourite client from his agent days, John Wayne. “Not a moment to myself, not a moment to write a letter, not a moment to pick up the horn… I was so ill at times, I didn’t know whether I could finish the film. ”

Feldman ultimately decided the film drove him crazy. “I didn’t know what had been shot and what hadn’t been shot… I lost control”

Columbia Pictures still said it was a $8m budget, more like double, even trebled – reaching $28m,r at least.   Feldman took the real  figure to his grave. He suffeed a heart attack and pancreatic cancer and died on May 25, 1968. If Sellers killed the film –the film killed Charlie.

In 1999, Sony paid MGM $5m to settle the $40m lawsuit brought over the Bond rights, due to Sony's intentions to retool the 1966 film. Sony also agreed to hand over all rights to Casino Royale and, therefore, to the 007 character. Down, but far from out, Sony had the last laugh - buying MGM and, of course, a year later, releasing the splendidly re-booted Royale with Daniel Craig behind the 9x19 mm Walther P99.

Footnote.   Funniest scenes of the Royale film were in hotel foyers, not film sets.  In London and Paris. First, at the Dorchester, when a Columbia Pictures exec mistook Sellers (talking with the director, Clive Donner, who supplied this anecdote) for Woody Allen, took him aside and said: “Don’t worry about this guy, Sellers. We’ll take care of him.” CUT to the George V in Paris. This time it was Leo Jaffe, the Columbia chairman, no less, who thought Sellers was Woody and told him: who Jaffe also thought was Woody “That sonuvabitch Sellers is causing us nothing but grief... I wish to hell we’d never signed him. You, Woody, are a gentleman.” In both instances, Sellers kept his temper and played along, replying as Woody... and then took more revenge. He disappeared, went walkabout to Sweden. or wherever, for a week or more.





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