Study Guide

From Russia With Love Screenwriter

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Richard Maibaum

From Maibaum With Love

There are 25 James Bond films (plus the satirical Casino Royale), and Richard Maibaum wrote 13 of them. Between 1962's Dr. No and 1989's Licence to Kill, Maibaum created the James Bond moviegoers know and love, a dashing, brilliant spy with a wit to match. Interesting gig for a guy who was a noted serious Broadway playwright by the age of 22 (plays about lynching and Nazis, for example) and a Shakespearean actor before he got into the movie biz (source).

Maibaum wrote that he considered the Bond movies parodies of Fleming's novels, which created 007 as a "super sleuth, super fighter, super hedonist, super lover," but without a sense of humor (source). All that witty pillow-talk and cheeky gun-to-the-head repartee in Bond films? That's the Maibaum touch right there.

As you might surmise from the title, From Russia, with Love is about Soviet spies meddling in world affairs. But that's just the book version. Because the Cuban Missile Crisis had just gone down in the real world, Maibaum tweaked the novel, changing the real baddies from Russia's SMERSH to the nefarious SPECTRE, making Russia an equal victim in the shady proceedings, not the perpetrators (source).

Bond is supposed to be an escapist fantasy after all, not a documentary.

From Russia with Love is unique in that Maibaum includes throwbacks to his previous Bond film, Dr. No (1962). Most Bond films are stand-alone adventures, but Russia features Sylvia Trench from Dr. No, and Bond's scar causes the secret agent to talk about his now not-so-secret first mission.

Maibaum's plot also mirrors Dr. No's, but with a few twists. For example, the adventure really begins when Bond's plane lands in Istanbul. He's being tailed, much like in Dr. No, but Maibaum subverts audience expectations by not including a high-speed car chase right off the bat. He keeps viewers on their toes, expecting the unexpected.

Prior to penning Bond screenplays, Maibaum wrote a big screen version of The Great Gatsby in 1949. One Bond/Gatsby fan— they have so much in common— speculates that Grant's ribbing of Bond as "old man" is reminiscent of Gatsby's constant use of the phrase "old sport" (source).

To Maibaum, we say "Cheerio, old sport," for creating a cracking script that has kept audiences entertained for over fifty years.

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