BROCCOLI, Albert R.
Producer. Nationality: American. Born : New York City, 5 April 1909. Military Service: US Navy, 1942–47. Family : Married Dana Natol Wilson; sons, Michael Wilson and Anthony; daughters, Christina and Barbara. Education: City College of New York. Career : Worked as an agronomist before landing a job in 1938 with 20th Century Fox, first as a messenger, then as a publicist, and finally as an assistant director in 1941–42; 1947–48—assistant director for RKO; 1948—became a successful theatrical agent with Charles Feldman, then moved to London where he founded Warwick Pictures with Irving
Films as Producer:
The Black Knight (with Irving Allen and Phil C. Samuel); Hell Below Zero (with Allen and George W. Willoughby); Paratrooper (with Allen)
The Cockleshell Heroes (with Allen); A Prize of Gold (with Allen and Samuel)
Zarak (with Adrian D. Worker); Odongo (with Islin Auster)
How to Murder a Rich Uncle (with John Paxton); Fire Down Below (with Allen); Pickup Alley (with Allen)
The Man Inside (with Allen and Harold Huth); Tank Force (with Allen)
The Bandit of Zhobe (with Allen); Idol on Parade (with Huth)
Killers of Killimanjaro (with John R. Sloan); In the Nick (with Huth); Jazz Boat (with Huth); Let's Get Married (with Sloan); The Trials of Oscar Wilde (with Huth)
Johnny Nobody (with Sloan, released in 1965)
Dr. No (with Harry Saltzman)
Call Me Bwana (with Saltzman); From Russia with Love (with Saltzman)
Goldfinger (with Saltzman)
You Only Live Twice (with Saltzman)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (with Saltzman)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (with Saltzman)
Diamonds are Forever (with Saltzman)
Live and Let Die (with Saltzman)
The Man with the Golden Arm (with Saltzman)
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View to a Kill
The Living Daylights (with Michael Wilson)
Licence to Kill (with Wilson)
On BROCCOLI: articles—
"25th Anniversary of James Bond," in Variety (New York), 13 May 1987.
Brown, C., "Golden Boy," in Premiere (Boulder), April 1996.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 1–14 July 1996.
Calley, J., "Letters: Bitter Suite," in Premiere (Boulder), July 1996.
Obituary, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), July 1996.
Obituary, in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1996.
* * *
Albert "Cubby" Broccoli is the subject of what is perhaps the film industry's greatest rags to riches story; a down at the heels producer of low budget action films in the early 1960s, he became in a few short years the genius behind the James Bond films, the most financially successful and popular series ever produced by the commercial film industry. As a result, from a marginal figure, Broccoli became one of the most important figures in international filmmaking. Always eager to enter film production, Broccoli had worked his way rapidly up the industry ladder with an impressive display of energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence. Starting as a messenger boy at Fox, he talked his way into assistant directing within three years, only to be interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Broccoli served for the duration of hostilities and beyond, attempting in the late 1940s to resume his work behind the camera. However his career took another direction as he became associated with Charles Feldman, a noted theatrical agent and producer (who was responsible for, among other notable successes, bringing largely intact to the screen Elia Kazan's stage production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire ). Working with the highflying Feldman gave Broccoli a yen for deal making and production, but the economic woes of the industry at the time in America made breaking into this area, even as an enterprising independent, no easy task. Broccoli saw better possibilities in England, which was also experiencing a downturn in exhibition, but where, because of currency regulations, a good many American-financed, mostly low budget films were being shot, with a view toward exhibition in the US as well as in the UK.
In partnership with another emigré deal maker, Irving Allen, Broccoli set up Warwick Films, which planned to make largely low-budget action and/or costume films. Some of these are eminently forgettable: Zarak , Odongo , and The Bandit of Zhobe stand out in this category. Others are rather interesting "small" films, especially two World War II productions, Paratrooper and The Cockleshell Heroes . The Trial of Oscar Wilde , though in some sense an exploitation film, also offers a sensitive and often profound treatment of a difficult subject. In any case, the years with Warwick gave Broccoli a good deal of insight into what aspects of British cultural mythology could be sold to American audiences. He also developed a feel for British popular culture. Making war and adventure films taught Broccoli how to tell an exciting story on a limited budget, and he was not slow to realize the importance of cheesecake and "love interests" to energize and eroticize the narrative.
Warwick Films was not doing well by the end of the 1950s. One of Broccoli's last productions for the company, the appropriately titled Johnny Nobody , could not even secure an American release until 1965, when Broccoli had become the darling of exhibitors and distributors. Because he was used to mining pulp and popular literature for source materials, it is hardly surprising that Broccoli discovered and subsequently reworked one of Ian Fleming's James Bond narratives. This is a project he began after entering into partnership with Harry Saltzman, an experienced deal maker in his own right who had clear ideas about popular taste. Beginning with Dr. No , whose huge financial success fueled the series of Fleming adaptations, Broccoli and Saltzman invented a formula that had mass and sustained appeal at a time when other producers were wondering what kind of films to make for an Anglo-American culture in the throes of profound and far-reaching changes. Broccoli and Saltzman remade James Bond into the very epitome of a cultural icon born in 1950s America—the playboy. Like the implied reader of Hugh Hefner's magazine of the same name (a cultural product that achieved the same kind of phenomenal success as the Bond films themselves), Bond was single and single-mindedly devoted to pleasure in the forms of expensive clothes, food, liquor, fast cars, and faster women. If he was still to some degree an action hero of the old school—good with his fists, quick-witted, physically daring, and cool under fire—James Bond, under the careful shaping of Broccoli and Saltzman, became a very different kind of male figure, one whose selfishness and emotional shallowness suited a generation brought up on the idea of unending consumption. It is a tribute to the genius of Broccoli and Saltzman that they recognized early the necessary connection of their James Bond to Hefner's new masculine ideal, striking a deal with the magazine that effectively "tied inrdquo; each new Bond film to a Playboy special issue in which some or all of the female stars were featured in various states of tasteful undress.
The Bond films, in many ways, are very similar to the adventure/action productions Broccoli oversaw for Warwick early in his career—the difference is an artful and highly effective expansion of production values. The Bond films of the 1960s featured what were, for the time, unusual and elaborate special effects and scenes of spectacle; they emphasized visual beauty in terms of exotic locations, sumptuous interiors (particularly for the villains, who are always rich), and of course a gallery of attractive women, the most important of whom is the "Bond girl," for whom James develops a special affection since she always belongs to the villain. Under Broccoli and Saltzman's careful generalship (these were never directors' pictures in any true sense), the Bond films developed a well-deserved reputation for excess—mostly in terms of visual spectacle—that always far out-weighed any emphasis on theme or even ideas. Even more so than Fleming's novels, which relate complexly to the fact of the Cold War, the Bond films ignore the real world of politics for the more enjoyable one of pure escapism. Thus they retained their popularity even in the face of immense cultural change, proving eminently adaptable even to twists and turns in gender politics (the later "Bond girls" are provided with a more feminist inflection).
Though all of Fleming's novels have been filmed and new scripts must be devised for each production, the series pioneered by Broccoli and Saltzman has entered its fourth decade of popularity, becoming a phenomenon unparalleled in screen history.
—R. Barton Palmer