Bond, James Bond PT 1: Albert (Cubby) Broccoli

7 Apr

 

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On the Bond movie formula: “A virile and resourceful hero, exotic locations, the ingenious apparatus of espionage and sex on a fairly sophisticated level.”

In the first of a series concerning itself with the Bond franchise, the following is a broad overview of legendary film producer Cubby Broccoli. The 22 Bond films based on the books by Ian Fleming and produced by the Broccoli’s, has become the most enduring and profitable franchise in cinema history.

Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was born in the borough of , Queens, New York, the younger of two children of immigrants from the Calabria, region of Italy, Giovanni Broccoli and Christina Vence. He acquired his nickname after his cousin, Pasquale “Pat” DiCicco, began calling him “Kabibble,” eventually shortened to “Kubbie” and adopted by Broccoli as “Cubby.” The family later bought a farm in Smithtown, New York, on long Island, near their relatives the DiCiccos.

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During his early period in Hollywood, Broccoli may have taken part in a bar-room brawl which took the life of comedian Ted Healy. According to E. J. Fleming’s book The Fixers, Broccoli, his cousin, gangster Pasquale “Pat” DiCicco, and film star Wallace Beery, fought with Healy and beat him to death. Fleming asserts that MGM executives Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling, in an attempt to save the reputation of their star Beery, fabricated a story about college students attacking Healy, immediately followed by a four-month trip to Europe for Beery. Immigration records confirm a four-month trip to Europe on Beery’s part immediately after Healy’s death, ending 17 April 1938.

At the beginning of the 1950s, Broccoli moved once more, this time to London, where the British Government provided subsidies to film productions made in the UK with British casts and crews. Together with Irving Allen, Broccoli formed Warwick Films that made a prolific and successful series of films for Columbia Pictures.

When Broccoli became interested in bringing Ian Fleming’s, James Bond character into features, he discovered that the rights already belonged to the Canadian producer Harry Saltzman, who had long wanted to break into film, and who had produced several stage plays and films with only modest success. When the two were introduced by a mutual friend, screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz, Saltzman refused to sell the rights, but agreed to partner with Broccoli and co-produce the films, which led to the creation of the production company EON Productions and its parent (holding) company Danjag, LLC named after their wives’ first names, Dana and Jacqueline.

Saltzman and Broccoli produced the first Bond movie, Dr. No, in 1962. Their second, From Russia with Love, was a break-out success and from then on, the films grew in cost, action, and ambition. With larger casts, more difficult stunts and special effects, and a continued dependence on exotic locations, the franchise became essentially a full-time job. In 1966, Albert was in Japan with other producers scouting locations to film the next James Bond film You Only Live Twice, Albert had a ticket booked on BOAC flight 911. He cancelled his ticket on that day so he could see a ninja demonstration. Flight 911 crashed after clear air turbulence.

Broccoli made one notable attempt at a non-Bond film, an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, and due to legal wrangling over the rights to story elements, ceded producer credit on Thunderball to Kevin McClory. By the mid-1960s, Broccoli had put nearly all of his energies into the Bond series. Saltzman’s interests continued to range apart from the series, including production of a loose trilogy of spy films based on Len Deighton’s, Harry Palmer, a character who operates in a parallel universe to Bond, with all the danger but none of the glamour and gadgets.

Saltzman and Broccoli had differences over Saltzman’s outside commitments, but in the end it was Saltzman who withdrew from Danjaq and EON after a series of financial mishaps. While Saltzman’s departure brought the franchise a step closer to corporate control, Broccoli lost relatively little independence or prestige in the bargain. From then until his death, the racy credits sequence to every EON Bond film would begin with the words “Albert R. Broccoli Presents.” Although from the 1970s onward the films became lighter in tone and looser in plot, at times less successful with critics, the series distinguished itself in production values and continued to appeal to audiences.

In 1981, Broccoli was honoured with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work in film; the award was presented at the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony by the current James Bond at that time, Roger Moore. Broccoli also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as Cubby Broccoli.

Broccoli married three times. In 1940, at the age of 31, he married actress Gloria Blondell (the younger sister of actress, Joan Blondell); they later divorced amicably in 1945 without having had children. In 1951, he married Nedra Clark, and the couple were told they had fertility problems and would never have children. They adopted a son, Tony Broccoli, after which Nedra became pregnant. She died in 1958, soon after giving birth to their daughter, Tina Broccoli. At the time of Nedra’s illness, while nursing her in America, Albert Broccoli became convinced that Bond would make a good movie series, and set up a meeting between Ian Fleming and his partner in London.

In 1959, Broccoli married actress and novelist Dana Wilson (née Dana Natol) (1922 – 29 February 2004). They had a daughter together, Barbara Broccoli, and Albert Broccoli became a mentor to Dana’s teenage son, Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli insisted on keeping his family close to him when possible. Consequently the children grew up around the Bond film sets, and his wife’s influence on various production decisions is alluded to in many informal accounts.

Michael Wilson worked his way up through the production company to co-write and co-produce. Barbara Broccoli, in her turn, served in several capacities under her father’s tutelage from the 1980s on. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have co-produced the films since the elder Broccoli’s death.

Dana Broccoli died of cancer in 2004, aged 82. The end of Tomorrow Never Dies, displays the dedication “In loving memory of Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli”.

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