James Bond brings many famous names to mind, Ian Fleming, Sean Connery or Grace Jones. The name Kevin McClory is rarely one that people connect with the famous spy. Kevin spent his life pursuing the rights to this character which he helped re-vamp. (2017)
If you mention the origins of the James Bond film franchise to anyone, many names spring to mind: Ian Fleming, Sean Connery or Cubby Broccoli. Rarely would people think of a Dublin man called Kevin McClory.
Kevin McClory was a flamboyant man. He loved adventure, travel, diving and the underwater world. He was fiercely ambitious.
In the 1950’s McClory was getting a name for himself as one of the most sought after and hard-working film producers in the business.
Meanwhile author Ian Fleming had been trying to get film studios interested in a series of books he had written about a secret agent called James Bond. But no-one was interested.
When Kevin McClory read the books he could see why. James Bond was a rather austere humourless character, trudging around London in a bowler hat. But Kevin saw something in the character. "How about we put him in the Bahamas?" he suggested.
Kevin McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham set about writing a completely new story centred around this new re-vamped James Bond character. This story took several years to write and they called it "Thunderball".
In 1960, Ian Fleming was under pressure to write the 9th book in the series. But instead of writing a new book, he gave them "Thunderball".
Everyone was delighted with Thunderball – except Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. Kevin brought Fleming to court. And won.
Kevin McClory produced Thunderball the film and when it was released it was an enormous success. It earned more than any other Bond film to date and would not be surpassed in terms of box office takings until Skyfall in 2012.
Overnight Kevin McClory became one of the richest men in Ireland. He bought Straffan House – now the K Club – and spent money with abandon.
However, though he was gregarious and popular he had a darker side. Screenwriter Jack Whittingham never benefited financially from Kevin’s successes in court. And Kevin’s lawyer would be among many people who were unpaid for their services to Kevin.
Kevin also never stopped pursuing the rights to the character James Bond and it would consume him until he died in 2006.
Documentary On One: 007- The Irish Connection is narrated by Thomas Black. Sound supervision by Ciaran Dunne. The documentary is produced by Thomas Black and Nicoline Greer.
First Broadcast at 1pm Saturday July 29th 2017
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One, the home of Irish radio documentaries.