Monday, September 27, 2010

Felix Leiter and the CIA

With all the movie channels I get now on FiOS, it is difficult to surf without finding a James Bond film somewhere.  That's a good thing.  It's also a guy thing.

Yesterday was Live and Let Die (1973).  The character, Felix Leiter was featured.  Felix is the CIA contact for Bond in America.  I knew that Felix was played by several actors over the years, but when I did some research, I was amazed at how complicated it became.

Leiter is featured in ten Bond films, from 1962 to 2008.  In those ten films, he is played by eight different actors.  Keep in mind that in those ten films, James Bond is played by four different actors.

The first Leiter is Jack "patch me through to McGarrett" Lord (1920 - 1998), in Dr. No released in 1963.  Of course, nobody remembers anything he did except "Hawaii Five-0," in which he starred from 1968 until 1980.  He was in other things.  He has 68 roles listed on IMDb, starting in 1949, but mostly as guest stars on TV.  Jack Lord worked with Sean Connery as Bond.

Jump to 1964, Goldfinger, still Sean Connery in the lead, Cec Linder (1921 - 1992) plays Leiter.  Linder has 124 roles listed.  A true Bit Actor.  He was in many famous films, in small parts.  Do you remember him as the doctor in Lolita (1962) or as the hospital president in Atlantic City in 1980?

Next up, Rick Van Nutter (1929 - 2005) in Thunderball (1965).  He only made 13 films and half of them were foreign.  Not a household name in America, but he did get to work with Sean.  I put "Rick Van Nutter" in Google images, and the first picture was Dick Van Patten.

Diamonds are Forever (1971) brings Norman Burton (1923 - 2003) to the Leiter role with Connery.  78 roles in movies and on TV.

In 1973, Live and Let Die sees the first of two David Hedison (b. 1927) Leiters.  Roger Moore (b. 1927) is now Bond, and has the honor to pull the microphone/cigar lighter out of the car and say, "A genuine Felix lighter (Leiter)."  91 roles listed on IMDb, including "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea."

1983, Never Say Never Again, and we are back to Sean Connery as Bond.  Did you know that he hated playing Bond?  I bet he liked the income.  Bernie Casey (b. 1939) played our first African/American Felix Leiter.  Casey has 78 roles and quite a few good movies listed.  Lots of manly, action parts.

The Living Daylights in 1987 and Timothy Dalton (b. 1944) is Bond.  Probably the worst of all the Bonds.  John Terry (b. 1950, just two days before me) plays Leiter, and we are back to a Caucasian.  Terry has 59 roles listed, with quite a few recurring TV roles.  His latest was on the hit series, "Lost." 

License to Kill (1989) again with Dalton as Bond, and a reprise of David Hedison as Leiter.  I Hope these guys had name tags so they could keep it straight.

Finally some continuity comes with the new millenium.  Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) both with Daniel Craig (b. 1961) as James Bond and Jeffrey Wright (b. 1965) as Felix Leiter, once again of color.  Wright has a very good career going already with 38 roles listed, including playing Colin Powell in W. (2008). 

In my opinion, Craig and Wright should demand being kept together in all future 007 films.  Think of what the Sherlock Holmes series would have been like if Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce kept changing partners, or where would Captain Kirk be with a different science officer on every episode of "Star Trek?"  Many of the truly successful pairings in any series increased the quality of the production, simply because the actors knew what to expect of each other.  James Bond could only improve for it.  (Maybe!)

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