Sunday 26 January 2020

Double O'Seven: the Irishman who tangled with Bond

Kevin McClory. Photo: Marian ven de Veen-van Rijk
Kevin McClory. Photo: Marian ven de Veen-van Rijk
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

James Bond is still going.

I know, that sounds like a fairly redundant, even axiomatic, thing to say. You're thinking, sure of course he's still going, didn't I see details of the next movie released just the other day: a lame title with "Die" or "Dying" in it, set in Croatia, cool/stupid gadgets, hot tamales with double-entendre names… and, unfortunately, Daniel Craig still the lead - despite being wholly unsuited to the role.

It's just that Bond has been around for so long now: astonishingly, more than six decades. Thomas Black and Nicoline Greer's documentary 007, The Irish Connection (Radio 1, Sat 1pm) told one of the many side-narratives of the Bond phenomenon: that of Kevin McClory.

In the 1950s, as the Bond books were first released, the Dún Laoghaire native was a movie producer in London. He was also a colourful, oversized personality - yes, almost like something you'd find in an Ian Fleming story - who'd even survived U-boat attacks during WWII.

He came across Fleming's books, which he initially found dull - which they are - but then had the rather brillo idea of transplanting the character to a very exotic setting: the Bahamas. He and his scriptwriter called it Thunderball. Bingo bango, a cinematic icon was born, and Thunderball ultimately went on to be, I think, the most successful Bond flick of all time after Skyfall.

Meanwhile, Fleming, under pressure to deliver a new novel, presented his publishers with something called…Thunderball. It ended in a legal battle with McCrory over copyright.

McCrory won, became instantly rich, and proceeded to spend money like it was going out of fashion. And why not? James B would have approved, you feel. A fascinating story, particularly if you're a Bond nut - which I'm not, particularly, but it's hard to ignore such a colossal figure in global post-war pop-culture.

Now if only they'd swap out Craig for Michael Fassbender.

A Bond-themed funeral wasn't specifically mentioned in Melanie Abbott's report on You & Yours (BBC Radio 4, Mon-Fri 12.15pm). But given the meteoric rise of personalised send-offs, it's probably only a matter of time.

So long, prayers and mordant organ music and everyone wearing black; these days, Abbott said: "More than half of us would like our own funerals to be more of a party." So there have been Hallowe'en-themed funerals, fancy dress, comic-book, aerial fly-pasts, even - God spare us - an Only Fools and Horses funeral. Could they not at least have picked a good comedy, like Archer or The Simpsons?

Interestingly, Abbott also said that 90pc of people haven't expressed their wishes for how they want it to go when, you know, they go. I have, though. If you're organising my funeral, listen up: I have but one demand.

Right after the ceremony and coffin-lowering and all that, I want a stunning woman, in sunglasses and film noir-style suit and hat, to push her way through the crowd, accompanied by a lone cellist. Then she sings 'Alto Giove', off the Farinelli soundtrack, with incomparable beauty and power. Finally, as the last notes drift off to heaven, she chokes back a sob, throws a red rose on the coffin and leaves. Nobody knows who she was or where she came from. But nobody will ever forget her. Or me.

Now that's what I call a funeral.

Finally, The Rolling Wave (Radio 1, Sun 9pm) featured part of a concert by trad super-group The Gloaming that was recorded last March at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. I'm no more than a passing fan of both band and genre, but this was great - a real midsummer musical treat.

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