Monday, November 5, 2012

"And He Strikes..."

He knows the meaning of success.
His needs are more, so he gives less.
They call him the winner who takes all.
And he strikes, like Thunderball.

- Tom Jones, "Thunderball" (Capitol, 1965)

Both Thunderball the film and its theme song had a long and bumpy road to the big screen. Film producer Kevin McClory was introduced to Ian Fleming in 1959 and suggested to the Bond author that a new story should be written for Bond's first film. McClory collaborated with Fleming and screenwriter Jack Whittingham on a script entitled Latitude 78 West,[1] which laid the foundational story in which SPECTRE hijacks two atomic bombs from NATO. When funds could not be acquired, Fleming departed to his Jamaican home Goldeneye and used the script's plot for his novel Thunderball. McClory brought Fleming to court for infringement and eventually won the rights to the story. After the official version of Thunderball, McClory later attempted to remake the film in the 1970s as James Bond of the Secret Service. This eventually evolved into Never Say Never Again, featuring an older Sean Connery returning to the role (hence the name) and released the same year as Octopussy.[2] In late 1997, McClory announced another Bond project via Sony with the title Doomsday or Warhead 2000 A.D. (Bond candidates supposedly included Timothy Dalton, Liam Neeson, and Clive Owen).[3] MGM/UA took legal action and eventually settled with Sony.

The story of the theme song is just as complicated. The original song was "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," supposedly an Italian nickname for Bond. Once again, Goldfinger's Shirley Bassey recorded the song. Dionne Warwick later provided a version and plans were made to use it in the title credits. Even country superstar Johnny Cash submitted a theme song, which sounded like the opening to a John Ford film. Wanting to feature the film's title in the song, Tom "The Voice" Jones was hired on as the "male Shirley Bassey." When Jones asked about the lyrical content, John Barry apparently told him to simply go in and sing his heart out like Shirley Bassey. As for the final note, Barry told Jones to hold it as long as he could. Jones did and when he opened his eyes, he thought the room was spinning. The result was what you hear in the film. With that final note, Jones ushers in what it arguably Connery's best performance as Bond.

Of course, the only thing that comes close to equaling Tom Jones with James Bond is Tom Jones with Martians:

 1. I've read that it was originally Longitude 78 West. Steven Jay Rubin says it was Latitude. See Rubin, The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia, Revised Edition (New York: Contemporary Books, 1995), "McClory, Kevin."

2. Ibid. 

3. See the write-ups at Alternative 007 or Universal Exports.

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