Thunderball (1965)

132 mins | Adventure, Drama | 21 December 1965

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HISTORY

According to the 2 Feb 1962 DV and 27 Dec 1965 LAT, Thunderball was initially intended as one of the first entries of the “James Bond” film series, but legal complications arose over the authorship of the source material. An 11 Jul 1978 DV article explained that Ian Fleming co-wrote an early draft of Thunderball as a screenplay with Irish filmmaker Kevin McClory in 1959, which he then adapted into a novel and published in 1961. After filing a complaint against Fleming, McClory was awarded film and television rights to Thunderball and ten other Bond stories on which they had collaborated. Upon reaching the settlement, the 10 Dec 1963 LAT announced McClory’s intention to produce Thunderball as the fourth Bond feature for a budget of $2.24 million. By the following month, a 22 Jan 1964 Var article stated that he was already scouting potential actresses in Rome, Italy, and had established a film company in the Bahamas called Bramwell Film Productions, Ltd.
       Meanwhile, Eon Productions had successfully launched the Bond motion picture franchise with Dr. No (1963, see entry), featuring Sean Connery in the leading role. Because the company had signed Connery to an exclusive contract to reprise the character in From Russia With Love and Goldfinger (1964, see entries), the 6 Mar 1964 LAT reported that McClory would be faced with the challenge of finding a new actor to play Bond, and had already spoken with Richard Burton about stepping in as a competing “007.” Later that year, however, a 26 Sep ... More Less

According to the 2 Feb 1962 DV and 27 Dec 1965 LAT, Thunderball was initially intended as one of the first entries of the “James Bond” film series, but legal complications arose over the authorship of the source material. An 11 Jul 1978 DV article explained that Ian Fleming co-wrote an early draft of Thunderball as a screenplay with Irish filmmaker Kevin McClory in 1959, which he then adapted into a novel and published in 1961. After filing a complaint against Fleming, McClory was awarded film and television rights to Thunderball and ten other Bond stories on which they had collaborated. Upon reaching the settlement, the 10 Dec 1963 LAT announced McClory’s intention to produce Thunderball as the fourth Bond feature for a budget of $2.24 million. By the following month, a 22 Jan 1964 Var article stated that he was already scouting potential actresses in Rome, Italy, and had established a film company in the Bahamas called Bramwell Film Productions, Ltd.
       Meanwhile, Eon Productions had successfully launched the Bond motion picture franchise with Dr. No (1963, see entry), featuring Sean Connery in the leading role. Because the company had signed Connery to an exclusive contract to reprise the character in From Russia With Love and Goldfinger (1964, see entries), the 6 Mar 1964 LAT reported that McClory would be faced with the challenge of finding a new actor to play Bond, and had already spoken with Richard Burton about stepping in as a competing “007.” Later that year, however, a 26 Sep 1964 LAT news story revealed that McClory had negotiated a deal to join forces with Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to produce and distribute Thunderball through their existing arrangement with United Artists (UA). Although he told the 16 Jan 1966 NYT that he was eager to break away from the Bond franchise, Dr. No and From Russia With Love director Terence Young agreed to return for his third and final Bond picture.
       According to the 4 Apr 1964 LAT, Burl Ives was rumored to have a role in the film, while items in the 13 Jan 1965 Var and 12 Sep 1965 LAT claimed that Elsa Martinelli and Raquel Welch were among those considered to play “Bond girls.” The casting of Claudine Auger was announced in an 18 Feb 1965 DV item, which also noted the start of principal photography that same day in Paris, France.
       The start date was confirmed in a 26 Feb 1965 DV production chart, and the 31 Mar 1965 Var indicated that the unit remained in France for more than a month before relocating to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, on 24 Mar 1965. An 11 Apr 1965 NYT article revealed that thirty-five scenes were shot in Nassau and on the surrounding islands, including a nighttime party sequence featuring approximately 200 local socialites. According to the 16 Apr 1965 DV, underwater sequences were filmed at Ivan Tors Underwater Studios aquatic facility in Nassau with the assistance of eighteen diving professionals and cameras developed by Lamar Boren. Mako Products engineer Jordan Klein was hired to oversee the effects, and the 9 Dec 1964 Var stated that the U.S. government agreed to loan out an experimental hydrofoil to be replicated for the film. A 30 Nov 1965 LAT news story claimed that more than a quarter of the picture required underwater shooting. The remainder of principal photography took place at the “007 Stage” of Pinewood Studios in London, which the 11 Jun 1966 LAT noted would qualify the production for a projected $2.1 million in benefits from Britain’s Eady levy. Filming was completed in Jul 1965, as indicated by a 26 Oct 1965 DV item claiming that the total shooting schedule lasted five months. Various contemporary sources estimated a negative cost of $6.5—$8 million, making it the most expensive Bond picture up to that time.
       A 29 Mar 1965 LAT article stated that Mia Fonssagrives and Vicky Tiel of the fashion firm Fonssagrives & Tiel were asked to design costumes for the film, but their involvement could not be determined. Additionally, the 14 Apr 1965 Var claimed that filming also took place in Switzerland, but this information could not be corroborated by other contemporary sources.
       Despite a 9 Dec 1964 Var report that British singer Julie Rogers had been tentatively hired to sing the title theme, the 24 Nov 1965 Var announced that Tom Jones had been signed instead, with Shirley Bassey attached to record a song written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse for the film’s finale. However, the 1 Dec 1965 Var issue revealed that the piece, “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” was originally pitched as the title theme per an oral agreement between Bassey and Albert R. Broccoli. When Broccoli rejected the song as “artistically unmeritorious,” Bassey unsuccessfully filed for an injunction against the film’s release. Although not featured in the theatrical cut, Bassey’s rendition of “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” was included in the official soundtrack, and items in the 10 Dec 1965 DV and 15 Dec 1965 Var indicated that singers Ann-Margret and Glenda Grainger released their own versions in the weeks leading up to the U.S. debut.
       Such last-minute changes may have affected plans for the film’s opening, as the 1 Sep 1965 Var announced the cancellation of the 21 Oct 1965 world benefit premiere at London’s Odeon, Leicester Square Theatre. As Eon Productions claimed the delay was due to “processing problems,” the film was not screened publicly until the world premiere event at the Hibiya Theater in Tokyo, Japan, on 9 Dec 1965. According to an LAT article five days later, Broccoli was in attendance to partake in a ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming a crowd of more than 500 eager filmgoers that had been lined up since before dawn. Meanwhile, the 3 Nov 1965 Var noted the U.K. release was rescheduled for simultaneous openings at the London Pavilion and Rialto Theatres on 29 Dec 1965, as well as a midnight gala that evening at the Pavilion to benefit the British Rheumatism & Arthritis Association. The picture premiered the next day in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with general release across the U.K. to follow on 13 Mar 1966.
       Thunderball debuted in North America on 21 Dec 1965. According to a NYT article published following day, the East Coast engagement comprised of fifty-two New York City and New Jersey venues, including the 3,300-seat Paramount Theatre, which had been closed since the previous spring. The 19 Nov 1964 NYT noted that the deal to re-open the Paramount was part of an exclusive leasing agreement with UA specifically for the release of Thunderball. Similar to the strategy used for Goldfinger, screenings at the Paramount ran twenty-four hours a day during the holiday season, and the 31 Dec 1965 LAT announced that special midnight and 2:30 a.m. showtimes were added to accommodate crowds at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.
       On 29 Dec 1965, Var indicated that Thunderball was consistently out-grossing Goldfinger, with more than 400 prints in circulation around the U.S., and 300 in Europe. A 4 Jan 1967 Var item listing the “Big Rental Pictures of 1966” ranked Thunderball in the top spot with earnings of $26 million.
       According to the 9 Dec 1965 DV, the picture was released in France as Operation Thunderball.
       Thunderball received an Academy Award for Special Visual Effects. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Feb 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Feb 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
16 Apr 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
26 Oct 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Dec 1965
p. 9.
Daily Variety
10 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1978
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
10 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
6 Mar 1964
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
4 Apr 1964
p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
26 Sep 1964
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
29 Mar 1965
Section C, p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
12 Sep 1965
Section N, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 1965
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1965
Section E, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1965
Section C, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1965
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
31 Dec 1965
Section A, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jun 1966
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jun 1966
Section A, p. 11.
New York Times
11 Apr 1965
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
19 Nov 1965
p. 32.
New York Times
22 Dec 1965
p. 23.
New York Times
16 Jan 1966
Section X, p. 19.
Variety
22 Jan 1964
p. 4.
Variety
9 Dec 1964
p. 23.
Variety
9 Dec 1964
p. 51.
Variety
13 Jan 1965
p. 26.
Variety
31 Mar 1965
p. 18.
Variety
14 Apr 1965
p. 13.
Variety
5 May 1965
p. 27.
Variety
25 Aug 1965
p. 61.
Variety
1 Sep 1965
p. 15.
Variety
3 Nov 1965
p. 22.
Variety
3 Nov 1965
p. 24.
Variety
24 Nov 1965
p. 24.
Variety
1 Dec 1965
p. 54.
Variety
15 Dec 1965
p. 59.
Variety
29 Dec 1965
p. 5.
Variety
4 Jan 1967
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Stunt dir
Asst dir
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Underwater cam
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Supv film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp & dir
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Underwater engr
Main title des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Thunderball by Ian Fleming (London, 1961).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Thunderball," music undetermined, lyrics by Don Black, sung by Tom Jones.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
21 December 1965
Premiere Information:
Tokyo world premiere: 9 December 1965
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 December 1965
London premiere and opening: 29 December 1965
Production Date:
18 February--July 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Eon Productions
Copyright Date:
10 December 1965
Copyright Number:
LF4
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
132
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

SPECTRE, an international crime syndicate, plans to hijack a Vulcan plane carrying two atomic bombs during a NATO training exercise and blackmail the Western Powers into paying £100 million ransom by threatening the destruction of two important cities. As part of the plot, Major Derval of NATO is murdered at a clinic near the NATO airfield by a bandaged assailant, Palazzi, whose features have been altered by plastic surgery to make him Derval's double. "Derval" then flies with the bombs to the Bahamas and ditches the plane under water. He is then murdered by SPECTRE official Emilio Largo, who secrets the bombs in an underwater cave. Meanwhile, British intelligence agent 007, James Bond, has been dispatched to the clinic to thwart the SPECTRE plan. After narrowly escaping death on an exercise machine, he meets Domino, Derval's sister and Largo's ward. He traces Largo to the Bahamas and, disguised as one of Largo's frogmen, approaches the underwater cave; but he is recognized and sealed into a shark-filled swimming pool adjoining the cave. CIA agent Felix Leiter, who has traced Bond's movements through a radioactive device swallowed by Bond, now saves him and takes him to Miami. Here Bond meets Fiona, a SPECTRE agent who makes love to him and then turns him over to her cohorts. He escapes with a bullet wound in the leg, and when Fiona follows his trail of blood to a dancefloor, he makes another narrow escape by maneuvering her into the path of a bullet. Meanwhile, Largo and his men hide the bombs in a sunken ship off the Florida coast, but U. S. Aquaparatroops, alerted by Bond, attack and defeat the SPECTRE forces, recovering ... +


SPECTRE, an international crime syndicate, plans to hijack a Vulcan plane carrying two atomic bombs during a NATO training exercise and blackmail the Western Powers into paying £100 million ransom by threatening the destruction of two important cities. As part of the plot, Major Derval of NATO is murdered at a clinic near the NATO airfield by a bandaged assailant, Palazzi, whose features have been altered by plastic surgery to make him Derval's double. "Derval" then flies with the bombs to the Bahamas and ditches the plane under water. He is then murdered by SPECTRE official Emilio Largo, who secrets the bombs in an underwater cave. Meanwhile, British intelligence agent 007, James Bond, has been dispatched to the clinic to thwart the SPECTRE plan. After narrowly escaping death on an exercise machine, he meets Domino, Derval's sister and Largo's ward. He traces Largo to the Bahamas and, disguised as one of Largo's frogmen, approaches the underwater cave; but he is recognized and sealed into a shark-filled swimming pool adjoining the cave. CIA agent Felix Leiter, who has traced Bond's movements through a radioactive device swallowed by Bond, now saves him and takes him to Miami. Here Bond meets Fiona, a SPECTRE agent who makes love to him and then turns him over to her cohorts. He escapes with a bullet wound in the leg, and when Fiona follows his trail of blood to a dancefloor, he makes another narrow escape by maneuvering her into the path of a bullet. Meanwhile, Largo and his men hide the bombs in a sunken ship off the Florida coast, but U. S. Aquaparatroops, alerted by Bond, attack and defeat the SPECTRE forces, recovering the bombs although Largo escapes in his hydrofoil. Bond fights his way aboard the vessel and is about to be overcome by Largo and the crew when Domino appears and shoots Largo. She and Bond leap from the boat as it swerves toward the rocky shore and explodes. As they await rescue on a raft, Bond and Domino make love. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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