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Happy birthday, mr bond

As a new documentary shows, the real story behind the James Bond film franchise is almost as dramatic as the 007 fantasies themselves, full of twists and turns, personality clashes, heroes, villains, beautiful women and narrow escapes.

Everything Or Nothing was released yesterday -- branded Global James Bond Day -- to mark 50 years since the world premiere of Dr No which introduced author Ian Fleming's suave, sophisticated secret agent to the masses.

An anniversary Blu-ray box set, a swanky charity auction at Christie's and the new "007" fragrance for men are some of the ways in which Bond is being celebrated, underlining the lasting appeal of a character who has been constantly reinvented.

Latest Bond Daniel Craig's first two outings on her majesty's secret service both earned around $600m at the box office and Skyfall, the 23rd official Bond film, hits theatres in a few weeks.

But the new documentary, directed by Stevan Riley and featuring interviews with five of the six official Bond actors, underlines how the series was not always so secure.

"We've been through two bankruptcies of the studio, and we've been through various attacks by competing series so we've had our ups and downs," said long-time Bond producer Michael G Wilson.

Alongside Fleming, the two most important figures in Bond movie history were producers Albert "Cubby" Broccoli of the US and Canadian Harry Saltzman.

Their shared passion for the character and novels was what got Bond to the big screen, and after Dr No in 1962 came From Russia With Love in 1963 and Goldfinger in 1964.

By that time James Bond was an international cultural phenomenon, providing audiences with adrenalin-fuelled escapism.

Sean Connery, the first Bond, eventually tired of his global celebrity, so after the fifth Bond movie You Only Live Twice he stepped down. His departure was to be the first of several major casting choices for the producers that could make or break the series. George Lazenby was hired for a single film On Her Majesty's Secret Service before Connery returned with Diamonds Are Forever and Roger Moore took over for the next seven films.

Playing the role of 007 was not always easy.

Five Bonds -- Connery was notable by his absence -- were interviewed for the documentary, with Pierce Brosnan bluntly recounting the phone call he received informing him he was sacked, while Craig said he was "knocked for six" by the negative reaction to his appointment in 2005.

It was during Moore's tenure that Saltzman invested in new ventures, landing him with huge debts and forcing him to sell his share in the Bond franchise.

The fact that he sold to United Artists, the Hollywood studio, and not his long-term partner was a major blow to Broccoli and the two men fell out.

In 1983, a face-off between Octopussy starring Moore and Never Say Never Again starring Connery and made by rival producers became known as the "battle of the Bonds", and again could have seriously dented Broccoli's franchise.

Pierce Brosnan's 1995 debut GoldenEye proved to be a hit, and with Broccoli's health deteriorating, he handed over the reins to Wilson and daughter Barbara who still control the franchise today. Broccoli died in 1996.