Bond, James Bond PT2: Maurice Binder

7 Apr

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Maurice Binder (August 25, 1925 – April 4, 1991) was a film title designer best known for his work on 14 James Bond films including the first, Dr. No, in 1962 and for Stanley Donen’s films from 1958. He was born in New York City, but mostly worked in England from the 1950s onwards. The Bond producers first approached him after being impressed by his title designs for the 1960 Stanley Donen comedy film The Grass is Greener. He also worked with Stanley Donen in Charade and Arabesque, both with music of Henri Mancini (Pink Panther).

Binder created the signature gun barrel sequence for the opening titles of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. Binder originally planned to employ a camera sighted down the barrel of a .38 caliber gun, but this caused some problems. Unable to stop down the lens of a standard camera enough to bring the entire gun barrel into focus, Binder created a pinhole camera to solve the problem and the barrel became crystal clear. Binder described the genesis of the gun barrel sequence in the last interview he recorded before his death in 1991:

“That was something I did in a hurry, because I had to get to a meeting with the producers in twenty minutes. I just happened to have little white, price tag stickers and I thought I’d use them as gun shots across the screen. We’d have James Bond walk through and fire, at which point blood comes down onscreen. That was about a twenty-minute storyboard I did, and they said, This looks great!”

At least one critic has also observed that the sequence recalls the gun fired at the audience at the end of  The Great train Robbery (1903)

Binder is also best known for women performing a variety of activities such as dancing, jumping on a trampoline, or shooting weapons. Both sequences are trademarks and staples of the James Bond films. Maurice Binder was succeeded by Daniel Kleinman as the title designer for 1995’s Golden Eye.

Prior to Golden Eye, the only James Bond movies for which he did not create the opening title credits were From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964), both of which were designed by RobertBrownjohn.

Binder shot opening and closing sequences involving a mouse for The Mouse That Roared (1959), a sequence of monks filmed as a mosaic explaining the history of the Golden Bell in The Long Ships (1963), and a sequence of Spanish dancers explaining why the then topical reference of nuclear weapons vanishing in a B-52 mishap shifted from Spain to Greece in The Day the Fish came Out. He designed the title sequence for Sodom and Gomorrah (1963) that featured an orgy (the only one in the film). He took three days to direct the sequence that was originally supposed to take one day.

Binder also was a producer of The Passage (1979), and a visual consultant on Dracula (1979) and Oxford Blues (1984).

Binder’s visual style and eroticism has made an indelible mark on Bond Films. His work was more organic in the way movement was portrayed, as opposed to the CGI look of later Bond films. Binder’s creative genius gave us the flavor and mood of the story that was about to unfold before us.

Binder, who never married, but loved his career, photography and women, died of lung cancer in London at 65 years of age.

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