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Topic: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

The James Bond films that were never made, cancelled, or abandoned could fill an entire book of their own. On that note, here's a summary of my researches concerning the surprising history of the Rank Organisation and James Bond- and how Patrick McGoohan almost played James Bond for Twentieth Century Fox in 1959...


Before Eon Productions’ successful release of Dr. No in 1962, several attempts by other studios were made to exploit the screen rights to James Bond. One of the most interesting ventures involved the efforts of the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, founded in April 1937 and a strongly recognisable brand in British cinema until the company’s eventual decline and twilight years in the 1970s, its presence aided by its famous marketing symbol of a man repeatedly striking a gong.  In the late 1950s, Rank executives made a play to secure the ability to make at least two James Bond films.



According to Raymond Benson’s authoritative tome, The James Bond Bedside Companion (1988), in June 1955 the Rank Organisation negotiated the purchase of film rights for Moonraker, during direct discussions between Ian Fleming and the corporation’s representative Ian Hunter. Fleming ultimately walked away from the deal with a lucrative reimbursement of £10,000, while Rank now owned the rights to the original Moonraker storyline.



Then, in 1959, the Rank Organisation moved to put into action serious plans for a James Bond film series. They already possessed the rights to Fleming’s Casino Royale, and it was this novel which was intended to open a potential franchise. The cast and crew were swiftly decided on, with Danger Man star Patrick McGoohan set to play Bond alongside Robert Morley as Le Chiffre. McGoohan’s Danger Man colleague and staff writer, Robert Banks Stewart, would pen the script with Gregory Ratoff acting as producer. This script was suitably modified to remove the gritty carpet-beater torture from the novel, replacing this sequence with another where Bond had to avoid exploding bumper cars at a deserted funfair. Rank and Twentieth-Century-Fox agreed to distribute the film, with the release date presumably intended as 1959 or 1960. At this point, the project fell apart. The producer, Ratoff, died later in 1959, and his championed Casino Royale screenplay was dropped. In spring 1959 Rank allowed Moonraker’s rights to lapse back to Fleming, while Casino Royale’s film rights fell into a protracted legal limbo. Thus, the Rank Organisation’s flash-in-a-pan dalliance with Bond ended almost as quickly as it began.



From my own above research into this early attempt at filming Bond, the only question is…why? If Rank could see the financial possibilities in Bond, why did they let the rights return to Fleming? Equally, if their own version of Casino was relatively late in production with cast and crew settled, how was it then abandoned so easily? There are a lot of mysterious ‘what ifs’ here. Can anyone else shed any light on the intriguing matter of the Rank Organisation’s brushes with Bond? What do others think of the project in general? Could it have succeeded in the screen landscape of the late 50s, compared to Eon’s achievements in the early 60s?

Last edited by SpectreOfDefeat (27th Jun 2020 23:50)

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

Perhaps Dirk Bogarde could have played Bond with James Robertson Justice as M: "What's the bleeding time, 007?"

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

ajb007/lol  One shudders at the directions Bond could so easily have gone...

In all seriousness, though, the casting of McGoohan as Bond shows Rank would at least have tried to make a relatively faithful spy thriller, had they gone through with the attempt...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

It's certainly fun to speculate on what might have been.

Patrick McGoohan's contract with Rank started in February 1956, when he was offered a five year contract after visiting Rank's film studios at Pinewood, and after the studio heads had seen him in Zarak and High Tide at Noon. He was certainly a rising star at Rank and made a number of features including a standout performance in Hell Drivers. By late 1958, however, sometime between the end of August and December, his contract was terminated by mutual consent. It's possible that Rank considered McGoohan at that stage as a contender for Moonraker in '57 or 'early '58, but by the beginning of 1959 he was no longer with Rank.

Television Impresario Sir Lew Grade saw McGoohan in The Big Knife on 30th December 1958 and began talks with him about playing the title role in Danger Man. These talks progressed during 1959, and McGoohan having accepted the role, filming started in late '59 with the first episode airing in British TV on 11th September 1960. It was Harry Saltzman who offered McGoohan the role of Bond at the end of the first year of Danger Man. How different Bond would have been if McGoohan had taken the role!

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

I really can’t picture McGoohan as Bond. He would have been known as the ‘family-friendly Bond’.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

good WhatIf! keep'em coming!

was the above info all from Benson's Bedside Companion?
I hadn't realised that the same company held the rights to Casino Royale and Moonraker at the same time, nor that Mcgoohan had been considered for the part so early. When did EON get the rights to Moonraker?


I really like Danger Man, and could see a similar approach being used for a James Bond series had EON not got there first.
The 1958-ish proposed tv series especially would have looked more like Danger Man than the EON films we know.
And I think the first hour of Dr No is much like a typical Danger Man plot (all that detective work hanging round the embassy and the private club).

But McGoohan never would have shot Dent, or even made a quip when the car was on its "way to a funeral".
And he never would have got so far as to pick up Sylvia Trench, let alone peel off Miss Taro's towel and "just look" at Honey in her bikini. All the sex and most off the violence we appreciate in the series never would have made it to screen if McGoohan had the role.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

Interestingly, in the credit sequence of the first two seasons of Danger Man, McGoohan's voiceover ends with "Oh yes, and my name is Drake.... John Drake." It's often credited as the inspiration behind "Bond.... James Bond".

I've been a fan of DM and The Prisoner even longer than of Bond - watching DM is one of my earliest memories, and I joined Six of One in 1979, soon after it was founded. Roger Langley's excellent biography of McGoohan is my source for the above, and it's a great read for McGoohan fans. But I tend to agree, his Bond would have been very different, and Connery's portrayal can imho never be bettered.  ajb007/martini

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

shall we link to The Prisoner thread?
I added a lotta discussion of Danger Man to that thread over the last year or so, and there's some speculation about McGoohan-as-Bond in there, as well as unfounded rumours I've found round the net that Fleming was somehow involved in the creation of Danger Man

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

"was the above info all from Benson's Bedside Companion?
I hadn't realised that the same company held the rights to Casino Royale and Moonraker at the same time, nor that Mcgoohan had been considered for the part so early. "

Its a mixture of Benson's Bedside Companion and a 2012 interview with the 1959 Casino's intended scriptwriter, Robert Banks Stewart.

"nor that Mcgoohan had been considered for the part so early. "

I wonder why McGoohan was willing to play Bond in 1959, but not when he was under consideration in 1962? I understand he had moral objections to the Bond character, though surely this would have applied when he was asked the first time around?

I read that McGoohan was considered again as late as 1972 alongside Moore, with both actors coming from a similar pedigree of playing sophisticated spy characters. Can't remember where this originated though...

While I haven't yet seen Danger Man, I do enjoy the Prisoner, and think McGoohan could have made an excellent Bond in the late 60s or early 70s; smoother than Connery but tougher than Moore, with a dash of quirkiness in contrast to the slightly wooden Lazenby. What do others think?

"He would have been known as the ‘family-friendly Bond’."

I thought the 'family-friendly Bond' tag could equally apply to Roger Moore...

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The complete series of Danger Man is easily available on dvd, under its American title of Secret Agent.
...but until you can get a copy, the dvd company Shout Factory has the whole series available for free streaming on their website, as well as the Prisoner and The Saint!
This is all essential viewing we should all be taking advantage of!

and no I could not imagine McGoohan doing Moore-era nudge-nudge-wink-wink humour. Even in the Saint, Templar is always staring at ladies bottoms as they wiggle by, then looking at the camera and making comment, so that's our Rogers More.
In contrast, there is always at least one beautiful woman in every episode of Danger Man, but Drake respects them all as individuals and rarely even accepts a kiss.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

"The complete series of Danger Man is easily available on dvd, under its American title of Secret Agent.
...but until you can get a copy, the dvd company Shout Factory has the whole series available for free streaming on their website, as well as the Prisoner and The Saint!"

Thanks caractacus potts, will check that out.


I remember there's almost no womanising to be found in The Prisoner, with the exception of one episode where Number Six isn't even played by Patrick McGoohan. At other times Number Six coldly rejects female attention throughout the series, emphasising his coolly suspicious and distrustful persona.

In contrast, as said Roger Moore tended to play characters with much more of a louche, playboy edge- The Saint and also his later role in The Persuaders. This definitely fed into his' 'softer'  interpretation of Bond- whereas OHMSS and DAF open with gritty fight scenes, LALD opens on Bond asleep in bed...

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Charmed & Dangerous wrote:

Interestingly, in the credit sequence of the first two seasons of Danger Man, McGoohan's voiceover ends with "Oh yes, and my name is Drake.... John Drake." It's often credited as the inspiration behind "Bond.... James Bond".

Though Fleming has Bond do that in the novels- making less a point of it than in the movies, admittedly.

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SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

I wonder why McGoohan was willing to play Bond in 1959, but not when he was under consideration in 1962?

McGoohan had never been wiling to play Bond, and was quite disparaging about 007. Additionally, in Spring '59 Rank sold the Moonraker rights back to Fleming via MCA. By that stage, Rank hadn't done anything with Moonraker, and McGoohan was no longer with Rank. If Rank had ever entertained the notion of making Moonraker, it must have been prior to '59. Rumours that they'd considered Dirk Bogarde are often repeated, though I'm unaware how true they might be.

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

"McGoohan had never been wiling to play Bond..."

I took another look at this, and things get a bit muddled here. While McGoohan did make some fairly disparaging comments about Bond, the 2012 interview with Banks Stewart straightforwardly asserts that his casting in the Rank version of CR was a certainty:

"Twentieth-Century Fox hired me to write the screenplay for Casino Royale...McGoohan was going to play Bond...I met Ian Fleming very briefly at a hotel in London and he told me I could feel free with my adaptation..."

Robert Banks Stewart quoted in the January 2012 issue of Doctor Who Magazine, no. 443 Panini Publishing 2012.


While the 2012 interview is pretty definite- the interviewer doesn't challenge the casting claim- there don't appear to be many other sources backing it up. I feel there are a lot of missing details here, and Bond is slightly skated over in a rush to get to the main parts of the piece (Doctor Who and Bergerac.) The jury is out on the casting question...


The plot thickens...does anyone else know anything about this esoteric realm of Bond history?

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

Esoteric indeed, SoD, and tricky to pin down what exactly happened.

It’s a little more likely that McGoohan’s name could have come up in connection with a Fox/Casino Royale film, than a Rank/Moonraker film, but still difficult to pin down when it could have happened.

Mr Banks Stewart’s obituaries in The Scotsman and elsewhere note “… he became a leading writer on Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan, which led to him being hired by Twentieth Century Fox to script the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, to star McGoohan as Bond. Alas the producer, Gregory Ratoff, died midway through the pre-production and the project was shelved. Dr No, with Sean Connery, came first and that was that. Stewart remembered, ironically, that he and Connery had been acquaintances in Edinburgh”.

Banks Stewart had co-scripted two DM episodes in 1960, the first of which was aired in the US on 4th December 1960, some 10 days before Gregory Ratoff died of cancer. Of course it’s possible that the newspapers have their timelines a little confused and that this event happened before his involvement in DM, although Mr Banks Stewart's career as a scriptwriter had only begun (according to IMDB) in 1959. It’s also claimed that Ratoff commissioned Lorenzo Semple Jr to write a script for Casino Royale but both men thought Bond was somewhat unbelievable (according to Semple, Ratoff considered the project needed Bond to be female and wished to cast Susan Hayward as 'Jane' Bond). Ratoff was unable to find backing for the film before his death and his widow sold the Casino Royale rights to Charles K. Feldman, whose own plans to make Casino Royale only began to take off after the EON films became successful.

In the excellent “The Battle for Bond”, Robert Sellers notes that in July 1960, a newspaper had announced that Twentieth Century Fox was making Casino Royale under the direction of Gregory Ratoff, with Peter Finch as 007. Fleming also read about Fox’s plans in the newspaper, according to Sellers. In letters between Kevin McClory and Ivor Bryce in July 1960, Bryce noted “Ian (Fleming) is under the impression Casino Royale wouldn’t be made and wasn’t worth buying back. Ian has said that we have the rights to do the first one*, and has said that twice over”. (*which would become Thunderball).

Pinning down the timelines is difficult, and it does sound a little unlikely - though not impossible - that Fleming had been talking to Fox and Mr Banks Stewart in '59/'60, given Fleming's involvement with the rival production. Nevertheless, at the end of 1960, McGoohan had read a script for Dr No sent to him by Harry Saltzman, before turning it down, noting he didn’t think it was a very good script.  ajb007/martini

I'd also be interested if anyone knows anything more about this.  ajb007/martini

Last edited by Charmed & Dangerous (29th Jun 2020 09:23)

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: The Rank Organisation and James Bond

Well, that's an excellent post C&D, and seems to cover most of the ground.

Just one unworthy thought- if we had had a "Jane Bond" starring Susan Hayward, the torture scene might have been interesting...  ajb007/amazed

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haven't read Moonraker but if the novel is anything like the movie it's hard to imagine in 1959. Happy to be educated here guys, i mean did Moonraker the movie bare any any resemblance to the novel?  ajb007/confused

ive smelt that aftershave before and both times ive smelt a rat

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Welcome, silvertoe-  to answer your question Fleming's Moonraker is quite unlike the 1979 film, where Bond goes into space. In the novel Drax plans to fire a single rocket at London from a base in the South of England, not an orbiting space station.


"In the excellent “The Battle for Bond”, Robert Sellers notes that in July 1960, a newspaper had announced that Twentieth Century Fox was making Casino Royale under the direction of Gregory Ratoff, with Peter Finch as 007. Fleming also read about Fox’s plans in the newspaper, according to Sellers. In letters between Kevin McClory and Ivor Bryce in July 1960, Bryce noted “Ian (Fleming) is under the impression Casino Royale wouldn’t be made and wasn’t worth buying back. Ian has said that we have the rights to do the first one*, and has said that twice over”. (*which would become Thunderball)."


Thanks for the info C&D, helps a lot. By 1960, then, McGoohan's contract with Rank had definitively expired- in 1958, according to Rupert Booth's biography. Peter Finch could have been the first Australian Bond, nine years early! Very interesting...

As this quote from the original interview implies
"I met Ian Fleming very briefly at a hotel in London and he told me I could feel free with my adaptation..."


Fleming somewhat approved of Rank's plans, but was also craftily manoeuvring to write Thunderball for the screen at the same time. Keeping his options open...

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Ironically, McGoohan, who was born in Astoria Queens, NY was technically an "American" (the family did move back to Ireland shortly after Patrick was born). If McGoohan would have been Bond, the first two Bond actors would have been Americans.  ajb007/insane