By Declan Fitzwilliam
Albert R. Broccoli, the man who brought James Bond to the Silver Screen, grew up on a farm on Long Island, New York State. Nicknamed ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, he helped his father Giovanni on the farm, selling their fruit and vegetables on a stall in Harlem Market. When his father died, Cubby and his brother farmed land in Florida. Unfortunately, a hurricane totally wiped out their crops. The enterprising Cubby then became a coffin salesman with the Long Island Casket company. He also sold hair products.
Around this time his cousin, an entertainment agent in Los Angeles, invited Cubby to join him. He landed a job with Twentieth Century Fox, where he met such famous stars like Bing Crosby and Errol Flynn. Cubby Broccoli got his first big break in the movies when he secured the job of assistant director to Howard Hughes on the film ‘The Outlaw’ (1943) starring Jane Russell. “The excitement of being with the famous Howard Hughes was never knowing what was going to happen,” he recalls.
During the war Cubby Broccoli served in the US navy. After his discharge he sold Christmas trees and racing cars, before securing a job with the acclaimed Hollywood agent Charles Feldman, who introduced him to Cary Grant, Elisabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.
In the early 1950s Cubby Broccoli set up his own film production company, Warwick Films. In 1953 it released ‘Hell Below Zero’. Set aboard whaling ships in the Antarctic, the film crew sailed to the Antarctic to film real-life whale hunters. Other Warwick productions included ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ (1956) starring Christopher Lee and ‘How to Murder a Rich Uncle’ with Michael Caine.
In 1960 they released ‘The Trials of Oscar Wilde’ with Peter Finch and Lionel Jeffries. Sadly, the film wasn’t a success in America, even though it received rave reviews and earned a BAFTA for Peter Finch. Not surprisingly, Broccoli was devastated. He decided to quit the film business. However, his wife Dana firmly believed in his talents and persuaded him to persevere. “He’d a good reputation in films,” she said. “I knew he’d go from strength to strength.”
Then, after reading some of Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories he thought they’d make great movies. He formed a successful partnership with producer Harry Saltzman, who made ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’. Their first Bond movie was ‘Dr No’. They’d originally considered Cary Grant and Michael Redgrave as 007 but finally they chose an unknown actor, Tommy Connery, who Broccoli spotted in the 1959 movie ‘Darby O’Gill’. Broccoli was immediately struck by Connery’s dynamic screen presence. And when his wife first set eyes on him she exclaimed without reservation: “That’s our James Bond!”
Tommy then changed his name to the good old Irish Seán … and the rest is Hollywood history.