|£3,000 - £5,000
A mimeographed typescript of Roald Dahl’s screenplay, dated 17 June 1966, 142 pp, in grey card covers indistinctly inscribed in pencil on the front Mr Lewis Gilbert in an unidentified hand, 36 pages annotated in both pencil and ballpoint pen, majority in Gilbert’s hand with some brief notes on character’s movements, a few camera directions, and a number of dialogue changes; 55 coloured pages of later inserts dating between 15 July – 4 October; contained in a black cloth binder; and a printed call sheet dated 7 December 1966, sets listed include: Interiors of ‘Blofeld’s Apartment’ and ‘Volcano Control Room and Complex’
Following the remarkable success of Alfie, Lewis Gilbert received the invitation to direct his first Bond film. In his autobiography All My Flashbacks Gilbert recalled that at first he was reluctant to take on the fifth 007 film in the series, feeling that he wouldn’t be able to bring anything new to the table. Telling Cubby Broccoli: “ I would be like Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth husband. I’d know what to do but I wouldn’t know how to make it any different..” Broccoli persuaded Gilbert otherwise, apparently winning him around with the argument that he had the world’s biggest audience waiting to see what kind of a hash he would make of it. A challenge, Gilbert couldn’t resist and one that he thoroughly enjoyed.
For this fifth 007 film, the producers Broccoli and Saltzman decided to make a number of significant changes to the team with the aim of bringing a fresh approach to the production. Gilbert replaced director Terence Young and writer Richard Maibaum was replaced by Roald Dahl. It was the first and only Bond screenplay Dahl was to write, which in some ways seems strange as Dahl seemed to have been uniquely qualified for the role, having worked for a secret British intelligence network which was part of M16 in the USA during the Second World War. It was here that according to his biographer Donald Sturrock, Dahl was encouraged to embrace a second life and to: “employ his ‘wining and dining’ skills with women to secretly gather important gossip and other essential information..”.
Roald Dahl had known Ian Fleming well and was excited by the prospect of writing the screenplay for the film. He was not however a fan of Fleming’s book on which the storyline was to be based describing it as: “tired, bad, Ian’s worst book.” In the end Dahl took little more than the title You Only Live Twice from the book and retained four or five of Fleming’s best ideas. The film had to be set in Japan, with Tiger Tanaka, Blofeld, Bond’s pearl-diving girlfriend Kissy and the Ninjah masters of oriental arts. Gilbert recalled that Dahl had been handpicked for this task: “We needed his storytelling skills to strengthen Fleming’s plot and his dark humour to complement it..” Dahl’s script was influenced by contemporary events such as the first astronauts walking in space in 1965; and in January 1966 a US air force bomber carrying two atomic bombs went missing off the coast of Spain, leading to speculation about hostile forces being at play. Broccoli commented that both these headline stories gave Dahl’s script: “ ..a strong flavour of authenticity..”. Dahl’s compelling storyline unfortunately failed to translate into huge box office success, although the film was by no means a failure.
GILBERT, Lewis All My Flashbacks The Autobiography of Lewis Gilbert, Sixty Years A Film Director, Reynolds & Hearn, London, 2010
FIELD, Matthew & CHOWDHURY, Ajay Some Kind Of Hero, The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films, Cheltenham Glouc.,2015
RUBIN, Steven Jay The James Bond Movie Encyclopaedia, Chicago Review Press Incorp. Chicago, 2021
Spymaker: The secret career of 007 writer Roald Dahl www.007.info
Bellmans is grateful to Wallace and Hodgson for their assistance with cataloguing the Lewis Gilbert Film Script and Production Archive.