Live and Let Die (1973) - Illustrated Reference
Live and Let Die was directed by Guy Hamilton and premiered on 27th June 1973. Starring Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, Gloria Hendry, Clifton James and David Hedison. Screenplay by Tom Mankiewicz. Music by George Martin. Theme sung by Paul McCartney and Wings. 121mins.
007 is sent to New York to investigate the death of three British agents. The trail leads to black gangster Mr. Big and his tarot expert Solitaire. Bond discovers a link between Mr. Big and Dr. Kananga, whose plan it is to distribute tons of heroin for free thus increasing the number of addicts and drive his competitors out of business. Bond is out to stop him but first has to deal with the voodoo threat of Baron Samedi.
Live and Let Die was Ian Fleming’s 2nd Bond novel and was first published in 1954, it was preceded by Casino Royale and followed by Moonraker.
Sean Connery had hung up his Walther PPK and the search was on, among the actors who tested for Bond were Michael Billington who starred in the TV series UFO, he would later appear in The Spy Who Loved Me as Soviet agent Sergei, and Jeremy Brett, who would later find fame on TV as Sherlock Holmes.
Roger Moore was 45 when he started filming Live and Let Die. Sean Connery was 31 when production began on Dr. No. The novel You Only Live Twice lists James Bond’s year of birth as 1924, so in the book adventures 007 would be in his thirties. While in the movies Bond would get younger as the decades went by resulting in his eventual reboot as a post-9/11 era, rather than Cold War era, super spy in Casino Royale (2006).
James Bond: Allow me to introduce myself. Bond. James Bond.
Solitaire: I know who you are, what you are, and why you've come. You will not succeed.
Roger Moore (1927-) / James Bond
Born in London, England, Roger Moore, unlike Sean Connery, was already a household name before nabbing the role of secret agent 007. He had starred with Tony Curtis in the TV series The Persuaders (1971-1972) and was very popular as Simon Templar in The Saint (1962-1969).
His films include - The Kings Thief (1955), Diane (1956), The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Gold (1974), Shout at the Devil (1976), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The Wild Geese (1978), Ffolkes (1979), Escape to Athena (1979), Moonraker (1979), The Sea Wolves (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), Bullseye (1990) and The Quest (1996).
Jane Seymour (1951-) / Solitaire
Solitaire reads the tarot cards for Mr. Big and is very good at predicting events until Bond has his way with her, she loses her virginity and her powers too, infuriating Mr. Big. Solitaire’s real name is Simone Latrelle.
Born in Middlesex, England, Jane Seymour's films include - Young Winston (1972), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), Somewhere in Time (1980), Lassiter (1984), Head Office (1985) and Wedding Crashers (2005).
Mr. Big: Is this the stupid mother who tailed you uptown?
Bond: There seems to be some mistake. My name is...
Mr. Big: Names is for tombstones, baby! Y'all take this honky out and waste him! NOW!
Yaphet Kotto (1939-) / Dr. Kananga alias Mr. Big
Mr. Big and Dr. Kananga turn out to be the same person. In the book Mr. Big tells Bond that he is the “first of the great Negro criminals.” His henchmen include Tee Hee (Julius Harris) who has a mechanical pincer for an arm and whispering fat man Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown) who isn’t menacing at all.
Born in New York City, Yaphet Kotto's films include - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Across 110th Street (1972), Drum (1976), Raid on Entebbe (1976 as Idi Amin), Alien (1979 as Parker), Brubaker (1980), The Running Man (1987), Midnight Run (1988 as Alonzo Mosely), Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) and The Puppet Masters (1994).
Gloria Hendry (1949-) / Rosie Carver
Inept CIA agent Rosie Carver is secretly working for Kananga and is this movie’s sacrificial lamb.
Born in Winter Haven, Florida, Gloria Hendry's films include - Across 110th Street (1972), Black Caesar (1972), Black Belt Jones (1974) and Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988).
Geoffrey Holder (1930-) / Baron Samedi
Baron Samedi is described as “The Voodoo god of cemeteries, chief of the legion of the dead, the man who cannot die!”. Bond kills him by throwing him into a coffin full of poisonous snakes. But wait, he turns up alive during the end credits laughing maniacally, giving the film a supernatural edge.
Born in Trinidad, West indies, Geoffrey Holder's films include - Doctor Dolittle (1967), Krakatoa - East of Java (1969), Swashbuckler (1976), Annie (1982) and Boomerang (1992).
David Hedison (1927-) / Felix Leiter
Felix Leiter, Bonds CIA pal, appears for the 5th time in a Bond film. In the novel Live and Let Die, Felix is half eaten by a shark and lives, losing a leg and arm. This plot point was later used in Licence to Kill (1989) when Sanchez ties up Felix and feeds him to his sharks.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, David Hedison's films include - The Enemy Below (1957), The Fly (1958), The Lost World (1960), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Ffolkes (1979) and Licence to Kill (1989 as Felix Leiter). TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968).
J.W. Pepper: (To Bond) What are you? Some kinda doomsday machine boy? Well we got a cage strong enough to hold an animal like you here!
Clifton James (1921-) / Sheriff J.W. Pepper
Redneck sheriff J.W. Pepper, Louisiana State Police would reappear in the next Bond film.
Born in Spokane, Washington, Clifton James films include - The Chase (1966), Cool Hand Luke (1967), The New Centurions (1972), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Silver Streak (1976), Superman II (1981), The Untouchables (1987), Eight Men Out (1988), Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and Lone Star (1996).
The film has few similarities with the novel, there is no Kananga in the book only Mr. Big, who is after pirate treasure and not a heroin smuggler. Mr. Big keelhauls Bond and Solitaire in the book, this bit of action was used in the movie For Your Eyes Only when Kristatos keelhauls Bond and Melina. Mr. Big is eaten by sharks in the novel.
Unusually M and Moneypenny come calling at Bonds abode in this movie, and there is no sign of Q. The only gadgets Bond has at his disposal are a wristwatch M gives him with built in buzzsaw and powerful magnet, and a shark gun with compressed-gas pellets, all of which comes in very useful later on.
This was the first Bond film to use profanity, the word “sh!t” is used to comic effect at one point and J.W. Pepper starts to say “What the fu…” but gets cut off.
One of the best gags in the film is the sign on the gates to the crocodile farm – Warning! Trespassers will be eaten – this was a real sign which was left in the film. The owner of the crocodile farm was Ross Kananga, the main villain was named after him.
The films action highlight is an exciting speedboat chase through the Louisiana bayou, but perhaps the most memorable scene in the film is Bond running across the backs of crocodiles to escape from a small island he was trapped on. The stunt was performed by Ross Kananga, the crocs were tied down but on one of the attempts a croc anticipated the stunt and snapped at Kananga's foot, biting his shoe and tripping him over but he survived to complete the stunt.
The music was composed by Beatles record producer George Martin and the theme song written and sung by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, with his group Wings. One of the most popular of all Bond songs, it reached #2 in the States and #9 in the UK. It was the first song in the series to receive an Oscar nomination.
Live and Let Die was one of the big hits of 1973 and the suave, debonair, unflappable Roger Moore was 007, for another six movies anyway. James Bond will return in… The Man With the Golden Gun.
The Critics Wrote -
"The adventures here are splendidly, outrageously entertaining and highly imaginative. Relax, take it easy and feel confident. The new James Bond will do very nicely, thank you." (Daily Express)
"Roger Moore is a handsome, suave, somewhat phlegmatic James Bond - with a tendency to throw away his throw-away quips as the minor embarrasment that, alas, they usually are." (New York Times)
"Killer sharks, poisonous snakes and man-eating crocodiles fail to deter Bond from his mission... plot lines have descended further to the level of the old Saturday afternoon serial." (Variety)
"From this point, the emphasis began to be towards comedy, an emphasis that benefited Moore, but which radically altered the whole Bond mystique." (Stephen Jay Rubin)
"The movie stumbles along most of the way. It’s hard to remember Moore is playing Bond at times – in fact, if he and Seymour were black, the picture could pass as one of the black exploitation films of the day." (Danny Peary)