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The First James Bond Film Memo

7th December 2013

A 1958 memo by Ian Fleming outlines his vision for the first James Bond film

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Whilst planning a possible big screen adaptation of his literary character James Bond in 1958, author Ian Fleming penned a memo to screenwriter Jack Whittingham outlining his intentions for the first 007 film.

Below is a copy of the one page memo accompanying Ian Fleming's first draft treatment, given to Jack Whittingham outlining his intentions for the first James Bond film. The first draft treatment ran to 57 pages with copy annotations and crossings out as well as 7 addition pages and rewrites.

This is a rough suggested treatment for a James Bond film.

It is the story of an attempt by the Mafia to blackmail the West for £100 million using as a lever an automatic warhead stolen from one of Britain's rocket sites. The target is a new "Cape Canaveral" build on the GRand Bahamas.

The scene is in England, the English Channel and Nassau.

My concern has been only to stitch together a more or less plausible narrative based on this plot and to make it as fast-moving and packed with incidents as possible. To my mind the chief weakness in the treatment is the thinness of the Mafia threat and this must be considerably strengthened, perhaps by more attention to the Mafia meeting in London.

There are other weaknesses which would need to be tightened up here and there bit it seems to me that the main thread of the story stands up fairly well.

I am badly in need of good Italian names for the Mafia gangsters and these could perhaps be obtained from the Venice telephone directory!

In order to keep the feet of this film firmly on the ground, production will have to be particularly brisk so as not to allow the audience time to worry about probabilities. Production will also have to be particularly strong in portraying the Secret Service and the Mafia. Any suspicion of cardboard must be avoided and the acting throughout should be under-played and without exaggeration.

There are no very expensive props except and American helicopter and an American submarine and these could probably be obtained without much difficulty.

More subsidiary incidents should be added where there is any sign of the pace flagging but, for the time being, my invention has run out.

I saw George Raft the other day in a film and he is as good as ever. He might be useful. Ernest Cuneo should definitely be used as the Cap Mafiosi who comes to London to set up the spiel.

No other suggestions for the moment.

It was from this first treatment that Jack Whittingham formed a screenplay for the first James Bond film. Robert Sellers comments in his book 'The Battle For Bond': "With his trained eye Whittingham immediately saw the deficiencies in Fleming's treatment and after reading it formed the opinion that the author had very little idea of writing for the screen. In my view Fleming's film treatment was terribly bad...and completely inappropriate for film development."

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