Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass -- "Casino Royale" (1967)

Film historian Robert Dassanowsky described the 1967 version of Casino Royale as "a film of momentary vision, collaboration, adoption, pastiche, and accident.  It is the anti-auteur work of all time, a film shaped by the very zeitgeist it took on."  

The wildly popular music blog 2 or 3 lines saw things a bit differently, describing it as "a hot mess."  (Actually, let's amend that to "a hot mess squared.")

Casino Royale (the movie) uses the title of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, but that's about all the movie and the book have in common.  The book is similar to the other Bond novels, but the movie takes a radically different approach than the four Eon Productions movies based on Bond novels that preceded it (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball).

Somehow, Eon Productions didn't have the rights to make a movie based on Casino Royale, but the producer who did have those rights was too chicken to make a serious Bond movie, which he feared would come up short compared to the Eon movies.  Instead, he decided to make a parody of spy movies.

To say that the production was "troubled" is a major understatement.  

For example, five different directors were credited.  A sixth director was uncredited.  (Ever hear that old saying, "Too many cooks spoil the broth"?)

The first screenplay for the movie was written by Ben Hecht, "The Shakespeare of Hollywood," who  wrote or co-wrote the stories or screenplays for well over a hundred movies (including Scarface, Gone With the Wind, Gunga Din, His Girl Friday, Notorious, Monkey Business, and A Farewell to Arms). 

But Hecht died of a heart attack before completing a final screenplay, so Billy Wilder (the screenwriter and/or director of Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment) was hired to rewrite the script.  Later, other writers were hired to do still more rewriting.

The cast represented a "who's who" of the era's most famous actors and actresses -- Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Charles Boyer, Jean-Paul Belmondo, John Huston (who was also one of the directors), William Holden, Peter O'Toole, Ursula Andress, Deborah Kerr, and Jacqueline Bisset among them.

Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress
Sellers was reportedly so intimidated by Welles (who referred to him as "that amateur") that he hired Terry Southern (who wrote or co-wrote Dr. Strangelove, The Cincinnati Kid, Barbarella, and Easy Rider) to write his dialogue in the hopes that it would "outshine" that of Welles and Woody Allen.  

Sellers was either fired or quit before shooting had been completed, which made it impossible for the directors to tie up all the scenes they had shot into a coherent whole.  The finished product is a train wreck of awe-inspiring proportions, but the James Bond name was so popular with audiences in 1967 that the movie -- which was one of the most expensive movies ever made at the time -- was quite profitable.

The music for Casino Royale was composed by Burt Bacharach.  "The Look of Love" (performed by Dusty Springfield) was deservedly nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song.

Herb Alpert
Most of the soundtrack (including the "Casino Royale" theme) was performed by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.  The Tijuana Brass was very popular in the sixties, with 13 top-40 singles (not counting Alpert's solo hit, "This Guy's in Love with You").

"Casino Royale" made it to #27 on the Billboard "Hot 100," but reached #1 on the "Easy Listening" chart.  It's a winner -- perhaps my favorite Herb Alpert record.

Herb Alpert and his partner, Jerry Moss, founded A&M Records, which they eventually sold for about $500 million.  That ain't hay, motherf*ckers!

Here's "Casino Royale":

Click below to buy "Casino Royale" from Amazon:

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