Casino Royale 1953



For clarity, all book titles and plays are displayed in small caps (Casino Royale), and short stories are shown in quotes and capitalized accordingly (“For Your Eyes Only”). Film titles, on the other hand, are italicized and shown with the capitalization used by the filmmakers (For Your Eyes Only). Quoted passages contain the styles used in the original source.
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Let us recall the finale of Casino Royale to underscore the praise of the fans: somehow, after surviving torture and a bunch of explosions, and after witnessing the collapse of a building into the canals of Venice, the Craig-Bond—at almost age 40—undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis in the space of an instant.


  • Directed by Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston. With David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles. In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH.
  • Casino Royale is a television adaptation, released in 1954, of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. This show was to be the first attempt at a screen adaptation of a James Bond novel. Though this is regarded as the first onscreen appearance of the character James Bond, this film's character is an American agent with 'Combined Intelligence'. The show was low key and was more or less.
  • When Ian Fleming's Casino Royale was first published by Jonathan Cape on April 13, 1953, it was a sensation. In England the first printing of 4,750 copies sold out in the first month of publication.

“To thine own self be true” babbles the courtier Polonius to his son Laertes in Act I, Scene iii of Hamlet. It's a welcome bit of sagely advice, except that it's offered by a windbag who, we gather, keeps a one-hitter stashed in his robe, the only credible explanation for his delusion to subvert the royal court of Elsinore. Still, the line harks back to the ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself,” two words etched in stone at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi and uttered by the likes of Heraclitus and Socrates, most likely during potted musings of non-material abstract forms. Hollywood, too, has offered the same wisdom in countless coming-of-age films—for example, films such as Hannah Montana: The Movie (based on a Joseph Conrad novella), where a young girl struggles to come to terms with her pop star alter ego, and Peter Jackson's King Kong, where a giant ape reaches that moment of self-recognition when he realizes he's too heavy to ice skate; and, of course, the recent trend of superhero-origin stories, which depict the main character coming to terms with his true identity as he reaches full superhero statehood.

The theme also returned in Casino Royale, the 2006 classic adventure featuring a bulldozer demolishing an embassy in Madagascar and exquisite cinematography of poker tables in a casino in Montenegro. It's all, however, mere surface gloss to the underlying character development of the hero: a young fledgling James Bond—portrayed by the prematurely aged Daniel Craig—transforms, by film's end, into full 007 superspy stature. As director Martin Campbell explains in early 2005, during preproduction:

“In the new film, Bond is essentially starting out in his career, and has just recently become part of the double-0 section,” says the man who last reinvented Bond in Goldeneye . “The idea is to put a bit of the dash back in Bond. By the end of the movie, the character will have been forged into the wiser, harder Bond we know.” (“Bond To The Beginning”)

Ian Fleming Casino Royale

I personally had thought that CR (as known to its fans) was a film about a geriatric bodybuilder who goes hunting for caribou with a high-powered rifle in the vicinity of Lake Como—a place of deep solitude and primal forces in nature. Man versus nature, man versus his own alienation in a hostile universe—these were the themes that I thought were unfolding on screen. I am deeply guilty of such unpardonable error. Indeed, when I denounced the movie in my lengthy review, I received a number of emails from fans admonishing me for misreading the film and for neglecting to note the character transformation that occurs at the finale. For example, somebody claiming to be a journalist in beautiful bankrupt Greece wrote to gloat that my lack of refinement is the reason why I don't understand Casino Royale:

You are unable to appreciate a fine work of art because you belong to the lowest order of moviegoers. Casino Royale is the exemplar of fine filmmaking in modern times. It easily belongs to the category of greatest films such as those from Eisenstein, from D.W. Griffith, from Welles, from Godard. This is art film. Can you comprehend what that means? I'll give you a hint: This film traces the biography of a man until he reaches his true identity to complete himself. No where has such a biography of a character been expressed as it has been in Casino Royale in recent times. This movie is not just an action film. It's a character study. The movie speaks to me and to so many others. It expresses the eternal quest for oneself. It conveys the human spirit, and its intelligence fills the void in our hearts. Now we have something worthy to carry with us. You know, I find myself dedicating most of my free time to this movie. I find myself roaming the Internet, joining forums and blogs to defend this movie against your ilk.
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In a similar theme, a chap in beautiful bankrupt California expressed, rather eloquently, that Bond's character development in Casino Royale is a dramatic masterpiece:

Dude, you got it all wrong. CR is just too awesome. It's like, you know, a masterpiece, you know, like a painting hanging in an art museum. It's like light years away from all that crap like invisible cars in Die Another Day, so you got it all wrong. CR is just way too awesome, dude, you gotta wake up to that fact. Daniel Craig is just this badass and he, like, changes, you know, at the end. It's like, dude, he becomes this awesome badass like never before, and he's got an attitude, like you don't want to mess with this guy. I'm telling you, dude, that's just too awesome.

It's like, I get it this chap is a communications consultant. Nevertheless, the alleged character development is quite scant in Casino Royale: the film gives the impression that the action sequences consumed the filmmakers, requiring so much concentration, that they forgot about the Bond-Begins angle. Fortunately, they do cram something at the end to address their original intention, which we can only assume reflects the wretched efforts of screenwriter Paul Haggis—a full 5-minute contribution to the production for which he probably received $40 million, or whatever it was he got paid, and for which the film receives an awkward finale that struggles to bring the story back to the origin-reboot premise.

Let us recall the finale of Casino Royale to underscore the praise of the fans: somehow, after surviving torture and a bunch of explosions, and after witnessing the collapse of a building into the canals of Venice, the Craig-Bond—at almost age 40—undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis in the space of an instant. It is a metamorphosis that involves an existential makeover, completing his transformation into the statehood of “Bond,” which is reflected in his new but ugly suit. In this state of enlightenment, he visits Mr. White (a middleman of a terrorist organization) at a villa near Lake Como and starts the conversation with rational discourse by shooting the elderly man in the leg with a high-powered rifle. When Mr. White looks up to see the shooter, he's stunned to see that the Craig-Bond looks older than him, has a bowl haircut, and is wearing an ugly suit. The Craig-Bond strides with confidence and proudly tells Mr. White that his name is “Bond, James Bond,” implying that he has moved beyond common humanity, that in the very depths of his being he holds all the Bondian superspy powers, and that he looks forward to joining The Fantastic Four. The circle is complete. The aged, craggy but young novice secret agent has grown to be the aged, craggy, mature, experienced secret agent. We have, before our eyes, another bildungsroman in the spirit of Nicholas Nickleby. Or it's simply a movie that causes mild nausea.

In Search: The Contemporary Interpretations

So the film's finale, with all its farrago of nonsense, might bear some scrutiny. As my humble contribution to Craig-Bond studies, I contacted Professor Avenarius Basescu, a literary expert renowned for cataloging the imagery of horse flies in post-modern Romanian literature. Unfortunately, our brief phone conversation revealed that the great man was too avant-garde in his interpretation of Casino Royale, leaving me even more befuddled. “In the casino scenes,” he explained, “the poker cards represent the horse fly fauna of Montenegro.” He offered to recite the 62 species belonging to ten genera, but I had a plane to catch.

At Basel University, Switzerland—where Nietzsche served as Chair of Classical Philology at age 24—I consulted Professor Otfried Götz. A senior lecturer of Dialectic Over-Inflated Linguistic Analysis, Professor Götz is highly respected in his field, considering that he was appointed Lucasian Facility Operations Chairman in 2008, the post originated by the janitor who occupied the office next to Nietzsche's in 1877. The professor's office was decorated with Bob Marley posters, and a collection of colorful glass bongs graced his desk. He leaned back in his chair and explained the ending of CR:

“James Bond shoots Mr. White, and their conflict symbolizes the breakdown of communication in modern life. We can conclude, from an ontological perspective, that their conversation is based on violence, suggesting the alienation of man in a violent society. Also, the conversation suggests a deeper mystery, the enigma of the individual's concrete presence in the world. Mr. White attempts to discern The Other, asking him to clarify his identity--to which the man in the suit, clutching the rifle, responds by declaring his presence in the world: ‘Bond, James Bond,’ says The Other.”

The professor was about to reinforce his thesis from the perspective of logical positivism, but he spilled some bong water on his notes and spent the next 15 minutes questioning whether the spill was accidental or something preordained yet detectable only in patterns of fractals in nature. Of course, I had a plane to catch and left the venerated intellectual with his bongs.

Royale

Undeterred by the frazzled style of Professor Götz, I traced the next expert who could offer elucidation on the ending of CR. She was none other than Madame Aurélie Tussaud-Leveque at the University of Jena, yet another professor—nevertheless, a professor noted for her groundbreaking work on something about international relations, but even more renowned for remaining on campus since Napoleon's invasion of Jena in October 1806. Now preserved as a wax figure (she had inspired her sister, Madame Toussaud, proprietor of the famous wax museums) and mechanized by built-in animatronics, Madame Aurélie, ever political, gave a succinct interpretation of the film's ending in relation to the war on terror: “Mr. White represents Santa Claus, and Daniel Craig's Bond is analogous to Homeland Security, which shoots down Santa from the sky.” She closed her eyes, reminiscing the night Napoleon marched into the city, and offered to read her account of that glorious event in history, but I had a plane to catch.

007 Casino Royale 1953

Casino royale 1954 dvdTrailer

Upon arriving at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, I received a text message from alert Bond fan Wendell Fahrkenour, which suggested that an inquiry into the finale's location would clarify Casino Royale's ending—in particular, a hotel in the Lake Como area, the Grand Hotel di Red Barchetta, and that its doorman, a certain Licio Lucchesi, would be an ideal source. This most fortunate of men had the privilege of seeing the Casino Royale shooting script, complete with director Martin Campbell's handwritten notes scribbled along the margins. It all happened when, late one night in early 2006, director Campbell got drunk in the hotel's bar and made paper airplanes from pages of the script. Fortunately, Mr. Lucchesi had the foresight to donate the paper airplanes to the aviation museum in Dimock, South Dakota. Pressed for time and faced with logistical matters, I was unable to visit the glorious museum, so the next best thing was to track down the elusive doorman. In a striking coincidence, he now resides in Lake Como, New Jersey and happily works as a snowplough operator.

During a snowstorm earlier this month, I caught up with Mr. Lucchesi on Route 71, and he offered some insights into the finale of CR:

It took three weeks to film. From what I saw on the director's notes in the script, the idea was to capture the change in Bond at this stage in his life—that is, to show him as the Bond we've all come to know. The problem was, they couldn't come up with a way to do this. So they had a life-size animatronic puppet of Roger Moore, molded in the way Sir Roger looked in Moonraker, roughly in the late seventies, I would think. It had an opening at the back so Daniel Craig could stand inside and operate the controls. For some reason, Daniel thought he was in the Aston Martin and panicked at having to drive stick-shift. He lost control of the figure and got it to run into the lake.

Mr. Lucchesi mentioned that Martin Campbell's notes were quite detailed. He recalled that on page 78, the director jotted hardware specifications for adding special effects to Daniel Craig's voice. As the former doorman explained:

The other tactic involved a small voice device inserted in Daniel's shirt collar, which played back the sound of Sean Connery's voice—and all Daniel had to do was lip-sync the dialogue. The idea was to give the illusion that Daniel sounded like Connery when he said, “Bond, James Bond” at the very end. But somebody at the lab mistakenly sampled Julie Andrews' voice singing “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music. At first, Daniel was perplexed when the device played the song; but he got into the part quickly, skipping along the shores of Lake Como and waving his arms to the rhythm of the song.

Feeling dejected and still lacking a solid understanding of Casino Royale's ending, I returned to my hotel room, fell on the bed, and had a bizarre dream: I was at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, under the guise of Polonius, the great windbag; and Professor Otfried Götz, who was now convinced he was Plato, confronted me at the entrance and demanded that we discuss the ending of Casino Royale in a series of dialogues. Let this part, then, be apropos of a winter dream.

A Winter Dream: The Dialogues at Delphi

[SCENE: The courtyard of the Temple of Apollo]
Plato: Dawn is breaking, like the birth of a new identity. It was probably on such a moment that the
filmmakers of Casino Royale were inspired to dramatize the life of a secret agent and his growth
into his true self.
Polonius: Do you really have an answer to the ending of Casino Royale?
Plato: More than an answer. I bring Truth. The film must be looked upon as a work-in-progress,
the shaping of a man—his sensibilities, his personality traits—into the wholeness of the Bondian essence.
Note, for example, how Mr. Bond doesn't care about fine winemanship—what are his words
when the waiter asks him if the famed vodka martini should be shaken or stirred? He simply disregards
the waiter, saying “Do I look like I give a damn?” In subtle ways, the filmmakers are showing the minutiae
of characteristics, the coming of the personality traits of this man—he is growing, maturing,
like the way a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. As the rebooted series unfolds, we will come to see
him care about the intricacies of the vodka martini.
Polonius: If that truly were the intention of the filmmakers—to show a work-in-progress for Bond's
personality—then I'd say this is a big problem that they face. The big question for them is, Why bother?
Plato: In Quantum Of Solace, we see more subtle character developments. I say, the two films of Daniel Craig
must be viewed in series to see such small details, to see the development of the famous Bondian traits.
His films, above all, are epic portrayals of the un-Bond who is changing, transforming, and bringing us
the Bond we have all come to know. His films depict the coming of Bond, if you will.
[At that moment, the voice of Daniel Craig's James Bond thundered from the clouds.]
The Voice of The Craig-Bond: Whatever is left of me, whatever I am—I'll always be half-monk, half-hitman.
Polonius: Again, why is it important for audiences to see this Bond develop the traits that we have come
to know? Is it even realistic for Craig's Bond, a 40-something guy (who looks about 60, by the way), to
have a complete overhaul in personality traits at this age? I can see this approach working if the
filmmakers had cast a very young actor, a 20-something fledgling agent just starting to develop
professionally and growing existentially—then we'd have a true character arc about the age-old quest for
identity. That would make it interesting for audiences to see.
Plato: Are you suggesting that the origin-story motif was not fully developed?
Polonius: No, I'm saying the filmmakers botched the overall approach.
Plato: Give me an example. How should the filmmakers have approached this angle?
Polonius: John Favreau's Iron Man (2008) is a fine example of how the Bond makers should have approached
the Bond-Begins angle with Craig's maturity. Robert Downey, Jr. is a 40-something guy, but notice how
the change in his Anthony Stark is not about developing new personality traits. Instead, the change in his
character has to do with his outlook on life. This is far more dramatic and interesting. We first see him
as a wealthy munitions manufacturer, arrogant and hedonistic. Yet the ordeal he has in Afghanistan
changes him. He returns to America, realizing the horror behind the weapons he's been making. He's still
wealthy, he's still immersed in his extravagant lifestyle, but his outlook is different. Again, it's not his
character traits that have developed; instead, the change occurred within him—he has a different
view of himself, and with that knowledge, he moves into a new phase in his life. And director
Jon Favreau was able to do all that in just one film! For a superhero movie, Iron Man has a credible
character development.
Plato: But doesn't Craig's Bond undergo torture, which changes him? He also falls in love with Vesper Lynd,
which changes him. He tells her, “I have no armour left. You've stripped it from me. Whatever is left
of me—whatever I am—I'm yours.” That is the mark of a man who has changed.
Polonius: Mr. Plato, somebody has got to take your bong away. The sequence you are praising is poorly
adapted from Fleming's novel. The key to the literary character lies in his description of how heroes and
villains are interchangeable in the world. Sadly, the filmmakers dropped the line from the film. But in the
book, Bond tells Rene Mathis (his contact at the Deuxième Bureau) that he is unable to see his role
clearly, because it's difficult to distinguish the difference between heroes and villains: “When the hero Le
Chiffre starts to kill the villain Bond and the villain Bond knows he isn't a villain at all, you see the other
side of the medal. The villains and heroes all get mixed up” (134).
Plato: So, in other words, the absolute values have collapsed. Nothing is concrete, or real, for Mr. Bond.
Polonius: Yes, and Fleming's Bond is disturbed by that lack of meaning, substance, in the world (or at least, in
his world). So he no longer finds value in what he does and he tells Mathis that he wants to resign and,
secretly, he wants to marry Vesper. He's in love with her, or he thinks he's in love with her, thinking that
that is what will provide some kind of foundation in his life.
Plato: So he turns to love. In a sense, he retreats inwards, to his own self, the only thing he can rely on.
Polonius: Previously, all that mattered was his job: “It's a confusing business,” he tells Vesper over dinner,
“but if it's one's profession one does what one's told” (59). Call it stoicism, but clearly this is not the
inexperienced view of an agent at the start of his Double-O career; rather, it's the credo devised by a
mature individual in order to make the grim reality of his profession bearable. But when the “absolutes”
collapse, he retreats inward, as you say, to the self. Love is the only certainty left for him—of course,
that turns out to be an illusion, too, considering how the romance with Vesper leads to devastating
consequences. Then he's forced to go back to his profession: he vows to fight against the spies of
SMERSH and to hunt down the “threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy” (179). So again,
Bond clings to something that serves as a foundation to his life, he has something to act upon and seek a
meaning to his life, to struggle for a cause. It's precisely when a person's interior world changes shape
that he makes himself different, makes himself more of an individual. Fleming, then, is not concerned
about the development of Bond's personality traits, the minutiae of attributes that constitute the
Bondian persona; rather, it's the change within the character that interests him.
Plato: The dialogue about the confusion of good and evil appears in Quantum Of Solace, but it's Mathis
(played by Giancarlo Giannini) who recites the line. By doing so, the filmmakers omit any inner change
that we would have seen in Craig's Bond. In this way, the filmmakers never touch upon the character's
realization of things. I now see your point. Had the filmmakers read Fleming's novel correctly. . .
Polonius: We'd have a much better film.
Plato: Suffice it to say, the film Casino Royale—with the rushed transformation of Craig's Bond,
at the finale, into the 007 we all know—is very stupid indeed.

Casino Royale 1953 First Edition



Casino Royale 1954 Watch

“Temple of Apollo.” Online Photograph. Ancient-Greece.org. 21 Dec. 2010
<http://www.ancient-greece.org/architecture/delphi-temple-of-apollo.html>.
“Daniel Craig with Rifle.” Online Photograph. The Hindu. 10 Dec. 2010
<http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2006/11/17/stories/2006111702390100.htm>.
“Snowplough.” Online Photograph. The Charlotte Observer. 21 Dec. 2010
<http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/12/20/1924606/its-cold-and-wet-122110.html>.

Casino Royale Macmillan 1953


Casino Royale. Dir. MartinCampbell. Perf. Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi
Dench. 2006. Blu-ray DVD. Sony Pictures, 2007.
Fleming, Ian. Casino Royale. 1953. New York: Berkley, 1986.
Nunziata, Nick. “Bond To The Beginning.” Chud.com. 24 Feb. 2005 10 Dec. 2010
<http://www.chud.com/articles/articles/1687/1/BOND-TO-THE-BEGINNING/Page1.html>.
Shakesepeare. Hamlet. Penguin Books, 1980.

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