Casino Royale 1954 James Bond

'Casino Royale'
Climax! episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 3
Directed byWilliam H. Brown, Jr.
Written byAntony Ellis
Charles Bennett
Story byIan Fleming (novel)
Presented byWilliam Lundigan
Produced byBretaigne Windust
Featured musicLeith Stevens
Jerry Goldsmith
Original air date
  • October 21, 1954[1]
Running time50 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
  • Barry Nelson as James Bond
  • Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre
  • Linda Christian as Valerie Mathis
  • Michael Pate as Clarence Leiter
Episode chronology
'The Thirteenth Chair'
'Sorry, Wrong Number'
List of Climax! episodes
  1. Casino Royale - Wikipedia
  2. Casino Royale 1954 James Bond Movie

'Casino Royale' is a live 1954 television adaptation of the 1953 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. An episode of the American dramatic anthology series Climax!, the show was the first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel, and stars Barry Nelson, Peter Lorre, and Linda Christian. Though this marks the first onscreen appearance of the secret agent, Nelson's Bond is played as an American spy working for the 'Combined Intelligence Agency', and is referred to as 'Jimmy' by several characters.

In 1954, roughly one year after James Bond’s debut in Ian Fleming’s introductory novel Casino Royale, CBS paid the author $1,000 to acquire the right to adapt the book into a teleplay. Casino Royale became a 50-minute live “episode” of Climax! Mystery Theater. Casino Royale is the first novel by the British author Ian Fleming.Published in 1953, it is the first James Bond book, and it paved the way for a further eleven novels and two short story collections by Fleming, followed by numerous continuation Bond novels by other authors. 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. Barry Nelson in Casino Royale (1954), the 1st ever James Bond. James bond actors, James bond, Casino royale Oct 17, 2018 - A complete list of all the James Bond actors, from the official series, and unofficial films and spoofs. From Barry Nelson, to Sean Connery, to Daniel Craig.

Most of the largely forgotten show was located in the 1980s by film historian Jim Schoenberger, with the ending (including credits) found afterward. Both copies are black and white kinescopes, but the original live broadcast was in color. The rights to the program were acquired by MGM at the same time as the rights for the 1967 film version of Casino Royale, clearing the legal pathway and enabling it to make the 2006 film of the same name.


Act I 'Combined Intelligence' agent James Bond comes under fire from an assassin: he manages to dodge the bullets and enters Casino Royale. There he meets his British contact, Clarence Leiter, who remembers 'Card Sense Jimmy Bond' from when he played the Maharajah at Deauville. While Bond explains the rules of baccarat, Leiter explains Bond's mission: to defeat Le Chiffre at baccarat and force his Soviet spymasters to 'retire' him. Bond then encounters a former lover, Valerie Mathis, who is Le Chiffre's current girlfriend; he also meets Le Chiffre himself.

Act II Bond beats Le Chiffre at baccarat, but, when he returns to his hotel room, is confronted by Le Chiffre and his bodyguards, along with Mathis, who Le Chiffre has discovered is an agent of the Deuxième Bureau, France's external military intelligence agency at the time.

Act III Le Chiffre tortures Bond in order to find out where Bond has hidden the check for his winnings, but Bond does not reveal where it is. After a fight between Bond and Le Chiffre's guards, Bond shoots and wounds Le Chiffre, saving Valerie in the process. Exhausted, Bond sits in a chair opposite Le Chiffre to talk. Mathis gets in between them, and Le Chiffre grabs her from behind, threatening her with a concealed razor blade. As Le Chiffre moves towards the door with Mathis as a shield, she struggles, breaking free slightly, and Bond is able to shoot Le Chiffre.


  • Barry Nelson as James Bond
  • Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre
  • Linda Christian as Valerie Mathis (a composite character of Vesper Lynd and René Mathis)
  • William Lundigan as Host/Himself
  • Michael Pate as Clarence Leiter
  • Eugene Borden as Chef De Partie
  • Jean Del Val as Croupier
  • Gene Roth as Basil
  • Kurt Katch as Zoltan
  • Juergen Tarrach as Schultz
  • Herman Belmonte as Doorman


In 1954 CBS paid Ian Fleming $1,000[2] ($9,520 in 2019 dollars)[3] to adapt his first novel, Casino Royale, into a one-hour television adventure[4] as part of their dramatic anthology series Climax!, which ran between October 1954 and June 1958.[5] It was adapted for the screen by Antony Ellis and Charles Bennett; Bennett was best known for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, including The 39 Steps and Sabotage.[6] Due to the restriction of a one-hour play, the adapted version lost many of the details found in the book, although it retained its violence, particularly in Act III.[6]

The hour-long Casino Royale episode aired on October 21, 1954 as a live production and starred Barry Nelson as secret agent James Bond, with Peter Lorre in the role of Le Chiffre,[7] and was hosted by William Lundigan.[8] The Bond character from Casino Royale was re-cast as an American agent, described as working for 'Combined Intelligence', supported by the British agent, Clarence Leiter; 'thus was the Anglo-American relationship depicted in the book reversed for American consumption'.[9]

Clarence Leiter was an agent for Station S, while being a combination of Felix Leiter and René Mathis. The name 'Mathis', and his association with the Deuxième Bureau, was given to the leading lady, who is named Valérie Mathis, instead of Vesper Lynd.[10] Reports that toward the end of the broadcast 'the coast-to-coast audience saw Peter Lorre, the actor playing Le Chiffre, get up off the floor after his 'death' and begin to walk to his dressing room',[11] do not appear to be accurate.[12]


Four years after the production of Casino Royale, CBS invited Fleming to write 32 episodes over a two-year period for a television show based on the James Bond character.[4] Fleming agreed and began to write outlines for this series. When nothing ever came of this, however, Fleming grouped and adapted three of the outlines into short stories and released the 1960 anthology For Your Eyes Only along with an additional two new short stories.[13]

This was the first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel and was made before the formation of Eon Productions. When MGM eventually obtained the rights to the 1967 film version of Casino Royale, it also received the rights to this television episode.[14]

The Casino Royale episode was lost for decades after its 1954 broadcast until a black and white kinescope of the live broadcast was located by film historian Jim Schoenberger in 1981.[15][16] The episode aired on TBS as part of a Bond film marathon. The original 1954 broadcast had been in color, and the VHS release and TBS presentation did not include the last two minutes, which were at that point still lost. Eventually, the missing footage (minus the last seconds of the end credits) was found and included on a Spy Guise & Cara Entertainment VHS release. MGM subsequently included the incomplete version on its first DVD release of the 1967 film Casino Royale.[1]

Casino Royale - Wikipedia

David Cornelius of remarked that 'the first act freely gives in to spy pulp cliché' and noted that he believed Nelson was miscast and 'trips over his lines and lacks the elegance needed for the role.' He described Lorre as 'the real main attraction here, the veteran villain working at full weasel mode; a grotesque weasel whose very presence makes you uncomfortable.'[6] Peter Debruge of Variety also praised Lorre, considering him the source of 'whatever charm this slipshod antecedent to the Bond oeuvre has to offer', and complaining that 'the whole thing seems to have been done on the cheap'. Debruge still noted that while the special had very few elements in common with the Eon series, Nelson's portrayal of 'Bond suggests a realistically human vulnerability that wouldn't resurface until Eon finally remade Casino Royale more than half a century later.'[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abBritton 2004, p. 30.
  2. ^Black 2005, p. 14.
  3. ^Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. 'Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–'. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  4. ^ abLindner 2009, p. 14.
  5. ^Lycett 1996, p. 264.
  6. ^ abc'Now Pay Attention, 007: Introduction and Casino Royale '54'. Retrieved September 30, 2011.
  7. ^Benson 1988, p. 11.
  8. ^Andreychuk 2010, p. 38.
  9. ^Black, Jeremy (Winter 2002–2003). 'Oh, James'. National Interest (70): 106. ISSN0884-9382.
  10. ^Benson 1988, p. 7.
  11. ^Lycett 1996, p. 265.
  12. ^Mikkelson, David (April 13, 2014). 'Dead Character Walks Off Stage'. Snopes Media Group Inc. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  13. ^Pearson 1967, p. 312.
  14. ^Poliakoff, Keith (2000). 'License to Copyright - The Ongoing Dispute Over the Ownership of James Bond'(PDF). Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. 18: 387–436. Archived from the original(PDF) on March 31, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  15. ^Benson 1988, p. 10.
  16. ^Rubin 2002, p. 70.
  17. ^Debruge, Peter (May 11, 2012). 'Revisiting 'Casino Royale''. Variety. Retrieved May 20, 2012.


  • Andreychuk, Ed (2010). Louis L'Amour on Film and Television. McFarland. ISBN978-0-7864-3336-0.
  • Balio, Tino (1987). United Artists: the company that changed the film industry. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN978-0-299-11440-4.
  • Barnes, Alan; Hearn, Marcus (2001). Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: the Unofficial James Bond Film Companion. Batsford Books. ISBN978-0-7134-8182-2.
  • Benson, Raymond (1988). The James Bond Bedside Companion. London: Boxtree Ltd. ISBN978-0-88365-705-8.
  • Black, Jeremy (2005). The Politics of James Bond: from Fleming's Novel to the Big Screen. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN978-0-8032-6240-9.
  • Britton, Wesley Alan (2004). Spy television (2 ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN978-0-275-98163-1.
  • Chapman, James (1999). Licence To Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films. London/New York City: I.B. Tauris. ISBN978-1-84511-515-9.
  • Cork, John; Scivally, Bruce (2006). James Bond: The Legacy 007. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN978-0-8109-8252-9.
  • Lindner, Christoph (2009). The James Bond Phenomenon: a Critical Reader (2 ed.). Manchester University Press. ISBN978-0-7190-8095-1.
  • Lycett, Andrew (1996). Ian Fleming. London: Phoenix. ISBN978-1-85799-783-5.
  • Macintyre, Ben (2008). For Yours Eyes Only. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN978-0-7475-9527-4.
  • Pearson, John (1967). The Life of Ian Fleming: Creator of James Bond. London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Pfeiffer, Lee; Worrall, Dave (1998). The Essential Bond. London: Boxtree Ltd. ISBN978-0-7522-2477-0.
  • Rubin, Steven Jay (2002). The James Bond films: a behind the scenes history. Westport, Conn: Arlington House. ISBN978-0-87000-523-7.

External links[edit]

  • Casino Royale (1954) on IMDb
  • Casino Royale 1954 Trailer on YouTube
Retrieved from '!)&oldid=1000245845'

Leiter: Are you the fellow who was shot?
Bond: No, I’m the fellow who was missed.

Release Date: October 21, 1954
Directed by: William H. Brown, Jr.
Produced by: Bretaigne Windhurst
Screenplay by: Charles Bennett and Anthony Ellis, based on the novel by Ian Fleming
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith (wait…REALLY?)
James Bond: Barry Nelson
The Girl: Linda Christian as Valerie Mathis
The Villain: Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre
Supporting Villains: Gene Roth as Basil, Kurt Katch as Zoltan
The Allies: Michael Pate as Clarence Leiter
Filming Locations: Hollywood, CA
Story Locations: Royale-les-Eaux (France)
Running Time: 48 minutes
Rating: Not Rated (US), U (UK)
Budget: $25,000 (2015 inflation: $219,471)
Box Office: NA
Rotten Tomatoes Score: NA
Best Line: “You won’t have to [kill Le Chiffre], he’ll die anyway…if you play your cards right.”

Fan Made Trailer

The phony props and wooden dialogue and piss poor budget of a live television studio are nauseating in 1954…

Origin and Background

One has to be careful when their James Bond knowledge is tested with the question, “What was the first Bond film ever made?” Sure, Dr. Nowas the first full-length entry in the officially sanctioned film series, the first to feature Sean Connery, the first to be filmed in color, the first to be released in cinemas, and the first to introduce the overall style of everything that followed, but it was not the first time James Bond appeared onscreen.

In 1954, roughly one year after James Bond’s debut in Ian Fleming’s introductory novel Casino Royale, CBS paid the author $1,000 to acquire the right to adapt the book into a teleplay. Casino Royale became a 50-minute live “episode” of Climax! Mystery Theater. Airing on October 21, 1954, Casino Royale was primarily targeted toward American audiences, as that was where it was broadcast. This led to the gutting and bastardization of the character and the world he lived in. Nationalities within the story were switched around; leaving no room for the suave British agent with a license to kill. In his place is “Card Sense” Jimmy Bond, an American spy working for Combined Intelligence. Barry Nelson, who a few decades later would play hotel manager Stuart Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, was cast as the first actor to bring Ian Fleming’s iconic creation to life. When he’s not stumbling over lines or looking oddly conspicuous in his ill-fitted, very un-Bondian tan (I assume it’s tan) tuxedo jacket, Barry Nelson’s Jimmy Bond is arrogantly strutting his stuff in the casino, or explaining the game of baccarat to the obviously perplexed British Intelligence agent Clarence Leiter. But hey, at least Bond smokes in this one.

Is this your card?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Getting back to the history of this little known piece of James Bond lore, the television episode went largely unnoticed for years, even after the launch of the official Bond film franchise. In fact, the film itself was widely thought to be lost until 1981, when Jim Schoenberger (yeah…I don’t know who that is either) was rummaging through a garage full of old film canisters and stumbled upon what he thought was a copy of the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale. Old Jim was in for a surprise after firing up the projector to take a look. What he found was the first James Bond film ever made. A few pieces were missing, including bits of the final scene, but those have since been recovered elsewhere and the full picture was subsequently made available on VHS (and later DVD/Blu Ray).


Opening and Title Sequences

The opening title sequence consists of the classic 1950’s era narrator voice-over and the series’ title staring us down in all caps:

Don’t worry, I laughed too

There is no clear cut theme song, or much music throughout the rest of the film for that matter. What little music there is consists of stereotypical brassy and incoherent riffs that are as unmemorable as they are infrequent. After the brief title sequence, we cut to some gumshoe television series host, William Lundigan, playing with a deck of cards in a shoe (not of the foot variety, but that of the casino). In this brief prologue, Lundigan comes across as fairly smooth and confident. So why didn’t he play James Bond? Anyway, he briefly explains some casino card playing basics before introducing tonight’s game, which will be played for “the highest stakes of all” in an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale

William Lundigan explains the purpose of a casino shoe…but forgets to mention why we should care


Characters and Plot

Act I opens up on the casino’s exterior. Or to be more specific, the front door. Don’t get excited about any exotic locations, though. This is the closest we get to any exterior scenery. The quick-minded Jimmy Bond narrowly avoids a rather low-key assassination attempt when a couple of drive-by thugs take pot shots from their car. This is meant to draw us, the audience, into the exciting and dangerous world of espionage. Does it work? Well……no comment.

After the opening sequence, we learn of Jimmy Bond’s reputation thanks to the timely introduction of Clarence Leiter, who more or less serves as the voice of the plot, meticulously explaining everything as we go along. Clarence, played by Australian actor Michael Pate, is nothing like his Felix Leiter counterpart. He’s the savviest character in the film and has that British air of class that the Bond character is sorely missing. He becomes more likable as the film progresses, but doesn’t come across as smart and resourceful until he briefs Bond on Le Chiffre’s situation. This is the point where the character becomes more grounded, initially having come across as a flustered fanboy of Bond’s. I was a little surprised when he didn’t ask for an autographed photo. The role is one of the many elements of the film that foreshadows ingredients which would be crucial to the formula of the official Bond series. The ally is always a bit slower and less talented than James Bond and largely plays a subservient role, even when said ally is supposed to be in a higher ranking position, such as Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice, but we’ll leave him for another discussion.

Clarence Leiter (left) threatens the concierge

Leiter nips at Bond’s heels until they sit down to discuss the two most important things the audience needs to be able to follow in order to prevent them from turning the TV off halfway through the teleplay. Bond explains the baccarat side of things: how to play, what the cards mean, etc. Leiter explains the story’s premise, which, when discussing the high points, one finds that it is quite faithful to the original novel. Le Chiffre, or Herr Ziffer as he is known in some circles, is the “toad-like” creature (hahahahahaha!) whom Bond has been assigned to bankrupt at the baccarat table, thus preventing him from clearing his debt with the Soviets. SMERSH, the KGB death squad found in almost all of Fleming’s early novels, is never mentioned.

Le Chiffre is played by classic bad guy actor Peter Lorre, who acted in a variety of the era’s memorable films such as The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Despite all the things wrong with this picture, Lorre would be right at home as a Bond villain in the official series. Although I’ve always looked at his portrayal as more of a henchman role than a leading bad guy. Nonetheless, he is the best part of the film and is in fact the closest incarnation to Ian Fleming’s original creation out of the three actors who played the character over the years. His voice and demeanor are genuinely creepy, but the low production values and choppy script are extremely limiting.

Go fish, Mr. Bond

Before Bond and Leiter have their little chat about the plot, a discussion unfolds on the casino floor between the villainous Le Chiffre and the lovely Valerie Mathis (I’m serious, she’s pretty hot - see below). Valerie is a hybrid between the novel’s Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis, but in a departure from the source material she is immediately shown in cahoots with the villains. Played by Mexican actress Linda Christian, Valerie turns out to be an old flame of Jimmy’s and her true allegiance remains ambiguous throughout the film as she dabbles with the likes of Le Chiffre while almost simultaneously flirting and/or making out with Bond. In the end, her association with the French Deuxieme Bureau is revealed and she clings to Bond for the rest of the film in typical “damsel in distress” fashion, more or less foreshadowing the role that most Bond girls would play in the forthcoming film series. There’s also a bit of rough-housing in which Bond slaps her around…something that would never fly in this day and age but would become a recurrence throughout the early Bond flicks. With having no template to go off of, Linda Christian does a fair job as the first Bond girl, but unfortunately good looks don’t always make up for wooden personality, which she has a lot of, especially in her interaction with Barry Nelson. Ah well…one can’t place much blame on the actress herself when she’s in a situation involving an underwritten character in an underwritten live teleplay.

At least they got one thing right…

Apart from the four major characters (Bond, Le Chiffre, Valerie, and Leiter), there is very little by way of characterization for the remaining actors. The whole MI6 crew, including M, Miss Moneypenny, etc., are absent from the story. The supporting cast mainly consists of Le Chiffre’s three lackeys, which resemble in absolutely no way the quirky, larger than life henchmen that would come to fruition in the coming decade. Instead we have Basil, Zoltan, and Zuroff. Who played them is of no importance, but it’s interesting to note that in my brief glance at Wikipedia, I found that Zuroff is played by “Unknown actor.” Basil is physically imposing, but otherwise the trio is neither threatening nor memorable. I guess you can only do so much with a strict 50 minutes to tell your story.


Production Values

As one might deduce from what we’ve reviewed so far, the majority of the film takes place in the casino. Seeing as how it’s a sound stage, the set is very obviously cramped, leaving Bond and Leiter to discuss their plans while sitting no more than eight feet away from the enemy. No wonder they’re whispering!


If things aren’t happening in the casino, then they’re happening in the hotel room. Oddly enough, I found Bond’s snooping and checking for bugs extremely reminiscent not only of passages in the novel, but scenes in the first couple EON produced Bond films where Sean Connery’s 007 does pretty much the same thing.

The card game itself isn’t terribly hard to follow if one has some sort of concept of how baccarat works (although I’m convinced that nobody actually knows how to play it). It takes up the majority of Act II and the outcome is faithful to the novel, complete with Bond losing it all before Leiter swoops in with a convenient monetary donation to help him buy back into the game and defeat Le Chiffre once and for all. The interaction between hero and villain is actually convincing on some levels, both here and in the rest of the film, which can largely be attributed to Peter Lorre’s acting chops. It’s immediately following the game that one of the sequences adapted directly from the book occurs. Zoltan, one of Le Chiffre’s bodyguards, silently approaches Bond with the first Bond gadget ever depicted onscreen: a gun hidden inside a walking stick. Barry Nelson channels his inner Daniel Craig by displaying brute physicality to avert the attack! Don’t believe me? Then watch this:

I…don’t know what to say

The final third of the novel is condensed (and I’m talking CONDENSED) into Act III of the teleplay, where Bond is tortured at the hands of Le Chiffre. The novel’s epic car chase was omitted and in its place is a quick elevator ride up to the hotel room where Le Chiffre is waiting. No, he doesn’t have a carpet beater and carving knife in hand (or a knotted rope for those of you who have only seen the 2006 film adaptation). Instead he throws Bond in a bathtub and goes to work on removing his toenails with a pair of pliers. None of it is actually depicted onscreen, of course, but I felt that this was a clever way to depict a brutal and crucial part of the story in a manner that retains some sense of macabre and still get past the censors of 1950’s broadcast television. It also includes Barry Nelson’s best bit of acting and he actually seems to be trying, at one point stating, “Pain and killing’s part my job.” A line that slightly hearkens back to the darkness of the books. This sequence segues into the denouement of the film. I won’t reveal what happens (not that there’s much to give away), but I’m sure you could’ve guessed that things don’t end quite as tragically melancholy as the novel.

Jimmy and Valerie

There’s a longstanding rumor that since the teleplay was presented live with little room for serious error, actor Peter Lorre can be seen standing up after his death scene (that’s not a spoiler – he’s a James Bond villain and therefore doomed from the start) and walking off camera, presumably to his dressing room. This rumor is actually false, but it did happen during the previous Climax! episode, which was an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.


Release and Aftermath

The film’s reception and exposure was underwhelming and even Ian Fleming was disappointed. Fleming quickly turned around and sold the full rights to Casino Royale to producer Gregory Ratoff for $6,000, ultimately paving the way for the biggest sacrilege in James Bond history (the 1967 spoof). As for the stars, Barry Nelson went on to appear in a whole lot of movie and television roles that nobody remembers, occasionally willing to comment on his stint as the world’s most famous secret agent, but rarely in a positive light. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 89. Peter Lorre was at the twilight of his career when he starred as the world’s first Bond villain, and spent his few remaining years battling illness and addiction. He died of a stroke in 1964 at 59 years old. Linda Christian was more famous for her off-screen relationships than she was for any of her film roles. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 87.

All in all, this was a very rough start to the James Bond film franchise and that’s if you even want to consider it the beginning. I wouldn’t blame you if you’d prefer to start counting in 1962. It is, however, an extremely interesting and rarely acknowledged chapter in the history of 007. For what little they had to work with and all the changes made to the essence of the James Bond character, there are elements of the film which are surprisingly faithful to the original novel. For die-hard Bond fans, I would highly recommended watching it in its entirety. And best of all, it can be found all over the internet. As for everybody else, which encompasses the majority of the world’s population, there’s really nothing to see here. If you want to see Barry Nelson in a role that better suits him, stick with The Shining and watch for his paper tray boner.

Yes, according to Room 237 this is an actual fan theory


Final Verdict

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 10

It gets some cool points for its history as well as at least making an effort with very little to work with.

Better than the Book? No

Copyright © 2014 by Peter Nordgren


James Bond will return in Dr. No

Casino Royale will return in 1967


Posters and Fan Art

VHS cover


DVD/Blu Ray cover

Casino Royale 1954 James Bond Movie


Fan made DVD cover


Jeff Marshall poster

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