Monday 11 February 2013

Live and Let Die in the Gleaner

In the manner of the Chinese calendar, I was born in the year of Live and Let Die. And this year, both the film and I are 40 years old. Last year, during the film's 50th anniversary, I trawled through the archives of the Jamaican Daily Gleaner and Sunday Gleaner to discover how the newspapers reported the production and release of Dr No, which was substantially filmed in Jamaica. How did journalists respond when Eon Productions returned to the country ten years later for the filming of key scenes from Live and Let Die?

The coverage began on 31 August 1972, when the Daily Gleaner reported that co-producer Harry Saltzman arrived in Montego Bay on 26 August to announce that parts of the film would be shot in Montego Bay (which was used for the fishing boat scenes), Falmouth (where the crocodile farm and Kananga's cave scenes would be shot) and Ocho Rios (for the hotel scenes and others) along the north coast. Saltzman was reported as saying that Live and Let Die would be the most extravagant of the Bond series yet and tell the story of a black crime king based on a Caribbean island who plans world conquest using occult means. Many Jamaicans were expected to get parts in the film, the paper added.
More filming locations were revealed on 9 October 1972. The Gleaner reported that Messrs Hanson and Davis, representatives of Eon Productions, met the secretary and councillors of the Hanover Parish Council to discuss filming in Lucea, a small north-coast town. It was agreed that a new road at Johnson Town would be closed and as much local labour as possible would be employed during the filming. (This location was used for the bus chase.)

On Monday 13 November, the Gleaner reported that Roger Moore and Gloria Hendry flew into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay the day before (a photograph of Roger Moore greeting the manager of the Jamaican Tourist Board and the board's director of public relations was published on the 16th). Another arrival was tour director, Mr Henry Saltzman. The error amused Roger Moore, who noted it in his 'James Bond diary'. In his account, Roger Moore described being questioned repeatedly by the press about his salary, and could only shake the reporters off when he arrived at the Ironshore Golf and Country Club for lunch. “He would not disclose how much he was being paid for the James Bond series”, the paper wrote.

The filming of Live and Let Die was mentioned next on 19 November in the Sunday Gleaner in the social page, 'The World and His Wife'. “James Bond...walked over several areas of Ocho Rios over the past few days personified by actor Roger Moore”. The piece added that scenes  were also filmed at Owen Flynn's Ruins and Waterfalls. (These scenes included Bond and Rosie's picnic.)

Cast and crew returned to the UK in December, but items related to Live and Let Die continued to appear in the Gleaner afterwards. On 18 January 1973, the Gleaner published a photograph of Jane Seymour (Solitaire) and Gloria Hendry (Rosie Carver) beside a pool at the Sans Souci Hotel, where the production had been staying. A profile of Roger Moore was published on 18 February, and 5 August saw the publication of extracts from Roger Moore's 'James Bond Diary'.

Live and Let Die was released in the US on 27 June, and in the UK on 5 July. Jamaicans had to wait until 17 October before they could see the film. A feature announcing its arrival, published in the Sunday Gleaner on 14 October, noted Roger Moore's “suave, sophisticated style and physically impressive manner which conforms to author Ian Fleming's concept of British Agent 007”. Jane Seymour was said to portray Solitaire “with sensuous innocence”.

Not everyone enjoyed the film. In an opinion piece published on 30 October, Thomas Wright described Live and Let Die as “the poorest of the lot so far, though there were some great moments during the speed-boat chase”. The columnist also alluded to Jamaican protest that the film was “insulting to black people”, though dismissed the argument.

Just as in 1962 with Dr No, Live and Let Die gained regular press attention before and during its filming and at the time of its release. Forty years on, James Bond continues to fill newspaper pages and dominate other media outlets. It is testament to the success of the film series, that after 50 years, the James Bond phenomenon shows no sign of abating.

Mulder, M and Kloosterboer, D, 2008 On the Tracks of 007, DMD Digital

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