Wolf of West Cork – the screenwriter who brought Bond to the big screen
On a bend in the road at Ahakista in West Cork, between the Arundel pub and the Graham Norton front doors, stands an old stone house. It was in such an environment that the man who started the James Bond franchise, Wolf Mankowitz, lived and died.
As the world awaits the long-delayed release of the new Bond film, No time to die, Mankowitz’s connection to the multi-The billion dollar franchise has faded into everything but the memories of a few moviegoers and the eerie whisper in this part of the county that the colorful Londoner who settled among them was once a KGB agent.
Early attempts to bring 007 to the big screen failed for a variety of reasons until Mankowitz hosted a lunch in New York City and introduced producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli to fellow Canadian Harry Saltzman., who had the opportunity to shoot Ian Fleming’s book Bond, Doctor No, in a movie.
After a number of fights between the two producers, they eventually struck a cooperation deal, formed EON Productions and, with $ 1 million in funding from United Artists, turned James Bond into cinematic gold. Broccoli also signed Mankowitz as the project’s screenwriter, saying, “He was a good writer and had acted as a marriage broker in our partnership.”
Mankowitz was teamed up with another veteran writer, Richard Maibaum, but Broccoli was horrified by their first draft and other writers were recruited. In his autobiography, Broccoli stated that at the beginning of the scriptwriting process, Mankowitz decided the movie was a “piece of crap” and insisted his name is removed from the credits.
“When he saw the rushes, Mankowitz asked Broccoli if he could get his name back in the credits,” says Anthony J Dunn in his book, The worlds of Wolf Mankowitz. “Broccoli agreed, on condition that Mankowitz pay the considerable costs involved.”
To hell with that, Mankowitz said – and with that, he threw one of the best deals in movie history.
Since its release on October 5, 1962, Doctor No grossed over $ 60 million (€ 51 million). The team of screenwriters involved, including Mankowitz, had created the iconic spy figure in James Bond (played by Sean Connery) and his first Bond girl, Ursula Andress.
“Broccoli himself does not criticize Mankowitz for his decision and notices this error in judgment in his autobiography. of public reaction is a professional risk in the film industry, ”says Dunn.
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Dr. No, it is said, “created the modern blockbuster,” and Mankowitz missed out on a small chunk of the Bond windfall, which has so far brought in $ 7.04 billion in box office revenue.
Born in 1924 to a Jewish family in the East End of London, Wolf Mankowitz, after a series of jobs, became known as a screenwriter with credits including One kid for two farthings and Espresso bongo. His private life was almost as colorful as his public personality.
Ironically for the man who helped create the ultimate British secret agent, Mankowitz himself was under surveillance for years by M15.
They suspected him of being a Soviet agent because he was married to a member of the Communist Party and had regular contact with the editor of TASS., the news agency of the Soviet Union. He also planned to visit the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, but canceled it when his career was threatened.
In 1969, following various disputes with the British Inland Revenue Service, Mankowitz, “completely exhausted and practically penniless”, arrived in Ireland, taking an apartment in Simmonscourt Castle, an exclusive Ballsbridge development built by John Byrne, who was also responsible for O ‘Connell Bridge House in central Dublin. Besides the “slower pace of life” that attracted Mankowitz, there was also the Charlie Haughey’s artists tax exemption.
This, introduced in the budget of the same year, would continue to attract a large number of writers including Frederick Forsyth, Irvine Welsh and Michel Houellebecq; musicians Def Leppard and Lisa Stansfield and local writers, artists and musicians like U2, who took advantage of what was then a total tax exemption on their work.
Mankowitz later told TP O’Mahony in the Irish Examiner: “I don’t even like Jeffrey Archer or Freddie Forsyth. It’s a crappy way to make a living, and who wants all that money anyway?
He seemed to take his Irish attachment more seriously than most. He did not buy a house in the “Gold Coast” enclave of Dalkey on the outskirts of Dublin, but a secluded cottage in West Cork called The Bridge House, which included about five acres of adjoining woodland.
“He was very direct and to the point,” said a local, who worked for him, keeping the place tidy. “He told you what he wanted, and if it was done right, he was happy. If it wasn’t, he told you.
Mankowitz was active in literary and film circles in Dublin and Cork, and during his 25 years living in the remote region of Ahakista, he was appointed Honorary Consul of Ireland to Panama., which probably didn’t involve a lot of work but gave it extra status.
“He had considered Ireland and Ahakista to be his true home ever since he had settled there,” Dunn writes in In the world by Wolf Mankowitz.
“As a writer and a Jew he had always been accepted by the Irish. The Irish, unlike the English, never questioned his class or his culture. It was probably his sense of relieved freedom that allowed him, less than a year after moving to Ireland, to write two of his most astute and witty screenplays.
In the early 1970s, through a series of articles in the Independent Sunday, Mankowitz campaigned for the founding of a viable Irish film industry and asked for £ 1million from the Film Board for Irish companies to make Irish films. He was instrumental in founding the Dublin Film Collective and in 1972 won the Irish Critics Award at the Cork International Film Festival for a short film, Hebrew lesson, which starred Milo O’Shea.
“He has been described in the many interviews he has given as a leading author and intellectual who would enrich Irish cultural life,” writes Dunn. “Hickeys, for the Independent Sunday, depicts him as a man with a fierce writing schedule and a shrewd, cheerful sense of movement, wherever he lives.
In various interviews, the writer has recounted his love for Ahakista, the views and the peace of his home on the shore of Sheep’s Head Peninsula, overlooking Dunmanus Bay with West Cork stretching out in the distance.
“The great charm of Cork is that it is nowhere the capital of itself,” he said.
After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he largely gave up writing and devoted himself to making collages, artistic cutouts glued on board, which were exhibited at Davis Gallery in Dublin in May. 1990.
The gallery, on Capel Street, was run by Gerald Davis, a Joycean Jewish figure and artist from Dublin, and the two became friends.
In an interview with Davis in 1996, Mankowitz described himself as a forgotten writer, “an elephant graveyard of ancient stories” living his last days in a remote corner of Co Cork.
He died there, in the nearby town of Durras, on on May 20, 1998, at the age of 73 and was cremated at Mount Jerome in Dublin before his ashes were brought back to Golders Green in London.
The Bond he helped create in the early 1960s is a far cry from the high-tech agent played by Daniel Craig, who would strut into the $ 300 million mark. No time to die.
The 25th Bond film was produced by Broccoli’s daughter, Barbara, and will have its premiere in London on Tuesday after various delays caused by the pandemic and artistic challenges.
Those familiar with the mercurial world of Wolf Mankowitz would like to think that, 60 years after playing a leading role in bringing Bond to the big screen, there is still something left of his creation.