Sunday, 9 September 2012

'Cubby' Broccoli: The Godfather Of Bond

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie franchise. Of course, Ian Fleming created the character and wrote the original novels, but without Cubby Broccoli we wouldn't have a franchise celebrating its 50th year.

Albert Romolo Broccoli was born in Astoria, Queens (New York City) on April 5th, 1909. His parents, Cristina and Giovanni Broccoli, raised Albert in New York on the family farm. The family was in the greengrocer business, and Albert claimed one of his uncles brought the first broccoli seeds into the United States in the 1870's. Albert's cousin Pat DiCicco gave him the nickname "Cubby" after a comic strip character named Kabibble.

Cubby worked in a pharmacy and then as a coffin-maker, but a trip to see his cousin in Los Angeles gave him an ambition for a career in Hollywood. His cousin was a talent agent, and introduced Cubby to such stars as Cary Grant and Bob Hope.  In 1946, with his cousin Pat organising the budget, Cubby served as production manager on a project called Avalanche. The film began a partnership between Cubby and director Irving Allen. After Avalanche flopped, Broccoli worked various odd jobs, including selling Christmas trees in California, and eventually took a job as a talent agent, where he represented, amongst others, Robert Wagner. Broccoli and Allen went on to form Warwick Productions, which became a successful production company based in London.

In 1951 Cubby married Nedra Clark. That same year he left the talent agency and, together with his partner Allen, made The Red Beret (1953). The film, released in the US as Paratrooper, was very successful. Broccoli and Allen become the most successful independent producers in England, turning out such hits as Safari (1956) and Zarak (1956). Cubby and Nedra wanted to start a family but, according to the doctor, Nedra was unable to become pregnant. They instead adopted a young baby boy named Tony. Shortly afterwards, Nedra became pregnant after all, and gave birth to a girl whom they named Tina. Unfortunately, Nedra died in New York shortly afterwards. Cubby was now a widower with two children to raise. He spent months trying to get new film projects off the ground and support his family.

Cubby met Dana Wilson at a New Year's Eve party and there was an instant attraction. The two fell in love and, after five weeks, Cubby proposed marriage. Dana flew to London and started a new life with Cubby. However, after producing The Trials Of Oscar Wilde (1960) (which was financed out of his and Allen's own pockets), the two went bankrupt due to the poor box-office returns because of adverse reaction to the subject matter - Oscar Wilde's homosexuality. The film wasn't allowed to be advertised in the US and never made back its production costs during initial release. Cubby and Allen ended their partnership after the failure of the film. On June 18, 1960, Dana gave birth to a baby girl, Barbara Broccoli. One night Dana asked Cubby if there was something he really wanted to do. Cubby replied. "I always wanted to film the James Bond books." This became his new goal!

Cubby met with Harry Saltzman, the man who held the film rights to the books. Together they formed Eon Productions Ltd. and Danjaq S.A. to make the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. The film was financed by United Artists, with a small budget of $1 million, the producers insisted on filming on location in Jamaica and using the then virtually unknown Sean Connery in the title role. The film was a hit, together with Saltzman, Broccoli produced From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969),  Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).
After nine years as partners, Saltzman sold his share of Eon/Danjaq to United Artists and Cubby became the sole producer of the James Bond films. He later brought in his stepson, Michael G. Wilson and his daughter Barbara, making it a true family business. Broccoli's last non-Bond film was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). He had purchased the rights to this Ian Fleming story when he got the 007 film rights.

Cubby's last years were spent at his home in Beverly Hills, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. Despite awards, honors and an amazing film career, the most important thing in his life was his family. Broccoli's last film was Licence to Kill in 1989. He had heart problems throughout the early 1990s; after undergoing a triple-bypass in 1995 he was unable to go to the set of GoldenEye

Cubby Broccoli passed away on Thursday, June 27, 1996, surrounded by loved ones. He was 87 and was one of the best-loved and most respected producers in Hollywood. No one ever had anything bad to say about Cubby and, according to many, he was a gentleman who cared about every one of his cast and crew and was the last true film producer.

Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli's legacy lives on thanks to his daughter and stepson. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson have carried on the tradition of making the James Bond films. Bond is the most successful film series in history and it is because of Cubby Broccoli. Was he frustrated at having to confine himself to 007? His daughter and stepson insist not. "He was happy to make the Bond films. He loved it. He said that he had a tiger by the tail and that he couldn't let it go."


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