Kevin McClory in 1959
8 June 1926|
Dublin, Irish Free State
|Died||20 November 2006
Dublin, Republic of Ireland
|Occupation||Screenwriter, film producer, film director|
Kevin O'Donovan McClory (8 June 1926 – 20 November 2006) was an Irish screenwriter, producer, and director. McClory was best known for adapting Ian Fleming's James Bond character for the screen, for producing Thunderball, and for his legal battles with Fleming (later United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions).
McClory was born in Dublin and suffered from dyslexia. His grandmother, Alice McClory, was reportedly related to the Brontë family. McClory's parents, Thomas John O'Donovan McClory (stage name Desmond O'Donovan) and Winifred (née Doran) were actors and theatre producers in Ireland.
As a radio officer in the Merchant Navy, McClory endured attacks by German U-boats on two different occasions. The first attack[when?] was while he was serving aboard The Mathilda. A U-Boat surfaced and attacked the ship with heavy machine gun fire. The crew of the ship fired back and the U-Boat retreated. The second attack[when?] occurred when McClory was serving on the Norwegian tanker Stigstead, which was attacked by torpedo from multiple U-boats. The ship sank and McClory and the other survivors made it to a life raft. They survived in terrible conditions for two weeks and traveled more than 600 miles before being rescued off the coast of Ireland. Two seaman died on the raft and a third died soon after they were rescued. McClory suffered severe frostbite and lost the ability to speak for more than a year after the incident. When he recovered his voice he was left with a pronounced stammer. He served out the rest of the war in the British Navy.
McClory started a career at Middlesex's Shepperton Studios as a film boom operator and location manager, where he worked on The Cockleshell Heroes for Warwick Films. He was an assistant to John Huston on films including The African Queen (1951) and Moulin Rouge (1952). He was an Assistant Director on Huston's version of Moby-Dick (1956), and Associate Producer and Second Unit Director on Mike Todd's Around the World in 80 Days (also 1956).
McClory was romantically involved with Elizabeth Taylor. Although McClory and Taylor had plans to marry, Taylor would eventually leave him for her future husband Mike Todd. Todd and McClory fell out over Taylor yet they managed to complete the final cut of the film side by side. The trio would eventually reconcile and they remained friends until Todd's untimely death in 1958.
In 1957 McClory led an expedition of 25 men in an attempt to drive around the world. He filmed a documentary of the adventure, One Road, as well as a series of ads for his sponsor Ford Motor Company. The team completed the journey in 104 days. He later wrote, produced and directed the 1957 film, The Boy and the Bridge, with financial assistance from heiress Josephine Hartford Bryce (sister of Huntington Hartford).
Bryce was a close friend of Ian Fleming. In 1958 Fleming approached McClory to produce the first Bond film. McClory rejected all of Fleming's books but felt that the character James Bond could be adapted for the screen. McClory, Bryce, Fleming and Jack Whittingham developed the new James Bond character through a number of treatments and screenplays. McClory, Fleming and Bryce settled on the screenplay Longitude 78 West (later renamed Thunderball) and went into pre-production. Fleming had assigned his interest in the film to McClory and Bryce's company Xanadu and would make no more money from the project. He conspired with Bryce to force McClory out of the film, denying that McClory had any legal interest in the screenplays and treatments that had been written during their collaboration. Later and without permission, Fleming novelised the draft screenplay Thunderball, his ninth novel, in 1961, which initially did not credit McClory or Whittingham. The two sued, and the case opened to the High Court in London on 20 November 1963.
After nine days, the case was settled. Fleming paid McClory damages of £35,000 and his court costs of £52,000, and future versions of the novel were credited as "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming" – in that order. Fleming and Bryce conveyed to McClory any rights they held in the screenplays and treatments that McClory, Whittingham and Fleming had written during their collaboration. Fleming also conveyed to McClory the worldwide film rights in the novel Thunderball. Harry Saltzman's and Albert R. Broccoli's production company Eon Productions later made a deal with McClory for Thunderball to be made into a film in 1965, with McClory producing. Under the deal, Eon licensed McClory's rights for a period of ten years and in return they assigned to McClory any rights they had in the scripts and treatments. McClory made an uncredited cameo in the film.
1970s and 1980s
In 1975, McClory and Richard Harris took out a full page ad in the Nassau Tribune "demanding an end to internment without trial" in Northern Ireland. Conservative opposition leader Edward Heath who was visiting Nassau at the time called a press conference and advised "Harris and McClory to 'ask their friends to stop murdering people.'"
In 1976, McClory announced he was to produce an original James Bond film to be titled either Warhead, Warhead 8, or James Bond of the Secret Service, but the project was severely hampered as a result of legal action brought by the Fleming Trustees and United Artists. McClory won the case. The Trustees and United Artists appealed to the Supreme Court of Judictature The Senior Courts of England and Wales but again they lost to McClory. Lord Justices Waller, Fox and May affirmed McClory's right to make James Bond films and enjoined the Plaintiffs from taking similar legal action against McClory in the future. McClory went on to licence his rights to Jack Schwartzman. The resulting film titled Never Say Never Again starred Sean Connery as Agent 007 in a highly publicized return to the role after a 12-year absence.
In 1989, McClory attempted to recycle the Warhead script again, retitling the project Atomic Warfare. He approached Pierce Brosnan who had missed out on the role of James Bond to Timothy Dalton due to his contract with NBC's Remington Steele.
1990s and 2000s
McClory subsequently continued to try to make other adaptations of Thunderball, including Warhead 2000 A.D. which was to be made by Sony. MGM/UA took legal action against Sony and McClory in the United States to prevent the film going into production. MGM/UA abandoned the claim after settling with Sony. His rights were untouched. In 2004 Sony acquired 20% of MGM; however, the production and final say over everything involving the film version of James Bond is controlled by Eon Productions, Albert R. Broccoli's production company and its parent company Danjaq, LLC.
Prior to Sony's settlement with MGM in 1999, they filed a lawsuit against MGM claiming McClory was the co-author of the cinematic 007 and was owed fees from Danjaq and MGM for all past films. This lawsuit was thrown out in 2000 on the ground that McClory had waited too long to bring his claims. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed this decision in 2001.
On 15 November 2013 MGM and Danjaq, LLC announced they had acquired all rights and interests of McClory's estate. MGM, Danjaq and the McClory estate issued a statement saying that they had brought to an "amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years."
McClory was married twice. He was survived by two sons and two daughters. His first wife was Frederica Ann "Bobo" Sigrist, daughter of Fred Sigrist. He later married Elizabeth O'Brien, daughter of the racehorse trainer Vincent O'Brien.
He died on 20 November 2006, aged 80, four days after the British release of Casino Royale.
- J.C. Maçek III (5 October 2012). "The Non-Bonds: James Bond's Bitter, Decades-Long Battle... with James Bond". PopMatters.
- Freelance: Autobiography of Winifred Doran
- "The Stigstad - UBoat.net".
- Keegan, Patricia E. "Kevin McClory: James Bond Screenwriter's Washington Connection". Washingtoninternational.com. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- A Valuable Property: The Life Story Of Michael Todd by Michael Todd Jr and Susan McCarthy Todd.
- C. David Heymann. Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor
- "''Thunderball''". Obsessional.co.uk. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- Feeney Callan 2003, p. 188.
- Slide 1988, p. 31.
- Feeney Callan 2003, p. 267.
- "10 Negative Ways Kevin McClory Affected The 007 Franchise". MI6-HQ.com. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "Universalexports.net" (PDF). Retrieved 3 April 2015.
- Kevin McClory at the Internet Movie Database
- Universal Exports webpage
- Obituary in The Independent, 7 December 2006
- Obituary in The Times, 15 December 2006