A strong and convinicing case can be put forward that On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the best James Bond film ever made.
Sitting in his hotel suite in Japan in the summer of 1966, Cubby Broccoli prepared the world for a Bond without Connery as the BBC's Alan Whicker probed him on this sensitive area. The new film's greatest asset was its director, Peter Hunt, a Bond veteran of the highest calibre who was responsible for editing all the previous Bond films and second-unit work both credited and uncredited on a number of them. By the time of OHMSS Peter Hunt stood for all that was good in the previous Bonds and with the departure of director Terence Young following Thunderball, he was the remaining man most fully aware of what made the Bond series so distinctive and special.
It is salutory to note that even as early as OHMSS, Hunt was trying to halt the movement towards overblown, outlandish gadgetry which was already beginning to dwarf the character of Bond in both Thunderball and, to an even greater extent, You Only Live Twice. His task was made easier by his good fortune to have one of Fleming's very best novels as a starting point. As director, Peter Hunt was obviously a key figure in this quest, the significance of which was keenly felt at all levels. Auditions began in early 1968 with the main emphasis on finding an unknown who would have no associations with any other role, as Peter Hunt continues. Dyson Lovell was working on the casting of the film, as he had on previous films in the series, and he had put together a list of male models that should be considered.
George Lazenby had become one of Britain's most successful male models, earning around £500 a week by the time of the Bond auditions. Since Lazenby would have been an inevitable candidate for at least some level of consideration, there is some confusion as to who actually found him, although initially his agent would have been the first likely person to put his name forward.
A set was constructed to film the fight in the Portuguese hotel room between Bond and Tracy's bodyguard, with Yuri Borienko filling in for the performer who would actually perform the fight in the film. Lazenby and Borienko's inexperience in screen fighting led to some injuries during the fight, including a broken nose for Yuri, as Leech recalls.
It was reputedly this fight sequence that was the final factor that convinced the production team that they had found their new James Bond.
It would be Hunt's first film as first unit director and he would also be breaking in a new Bond, but such a task held no fears for him. As Lazenby asserts, "He'd been the editor on the others so he understood the whole format and already felt that he could direct them better than the other guys. Once Lazenby had been decided upon, the main problem was to keep the press from finding out before the official press conference was held to introduce Connery's replacement, and so he was asked to disappear until that time.
The press conference was a bit daunting for young George, especially when Harry Saltzman gave him a warning which amounted to his only preparation for the imminent appearance.
For the part of Tracy, the girl to whom James Bond would be both husband and widower on the same day, the producers favoured a blonde, continental actress in keeping with Ian Fleming's presentation of the character in the original novel.
They then approached Catherine Deneuve, 'Another one of Harry's, because Harry was very Francophile.
When Diana Rigg's name came up, she seemed an ideal actress to consider with her theatrical experience and her previous involvement with The Avengers TV series, which marked her as an almost too logical choice following on as she does from a previous Avengers girl Honor Blackman into the Bond series. The rest of the casting went smoothly, with Telly Savalas playing Ernst Stavro Blofeld and distinguished Italian actor Gabriele Ferzetti cast as Tracy's father, Marc Ange Draco, a Union Gorse Capo. Those cast as Blofeld's unwitting 'Angels of Death' included, as well as the aforementioned two, Catherina Von Schell, Julie Ege, Anoushka Hempel and Jenny Manley.
The various locations for the filming, which was scheduled to begin in the Autumn, alreadybeen found. The search then moved to Switzerland in the hope that Fleming might have based Piz Gloria on an actual place, but this proved not to be the case. What had been found was a restaurant that was being built on top of the Schiltorn ('Magic Mountain') in the Bernese Overland. Five hundred tons of concrete had to be carried up to the peak in order to construct the helicopter pad.
Since the construction was to be permanent, both interior and exterior, allowances had to be made for the particular conditions on an exposed mountain peak, as Syd Cain notes.
The interior was completely designed by Cain, who had to build it with a view to its being an acceptable design for when it was opened to the public once filming had been completed as well as keeping it manageable as a set to shoot in. The wheelhouse, with it's vast cogs and wheels which operate the cable car, was made out of wood and was an impressive and remarkably realistic set, which also had to have cogs that worked.
One problem that appeared was discovered by Michael Reed when lighting the interior of Piz Gloria. Reed meanwhile went to Ireland for three months to shoot a Disney film, Guns in the Heather, and made contact again. Cain also had to organise the construction of a bobsleigh run for the climactic chase and fight between Blofeld and Bond. Since a basic premise of the plot is Blofeld's snobbery in his desire to be recognised as a Count, which allows Bond to infiltrate his hideout by impersonating Sir Hilary Bray of London's College of Arms as he supposedly researches Blofeld's claim, another task which fell upon Cain was the design of the Blofeld coat of arms, a large scale version of which was mounted in Piz Gloria.
Meanwhile, in London, Richard Maibaum had completed his script, which remained very close to the original book, although with some significant additions which included the scene in Gebruder Gumbold's office in Berne where Bond opens a safe and photocopies documents relating to Blofeld's title claim using a computer unit passed to him by crane from a building site opposite. With Piz Gloria ready, shooting began in October 1968, with Peter Hunt determined to avoid faking any shots with studio inserts if it could be avoided. One of George Lazenby's first scenes as James Bond was at the dining table where, as Sir Hilary he sits among the girls that Blofeld is curing of their various allergies wearing a kilt. There was obviously quite a bit of waiting around as the lighting was set for a scene particularly with the added difficulties up at Piz Gloria. But Lazenby was never at a loose end; "There was a lot of waiting around but I always had things to do. Press interest was intense and dealing with journalists was something that he quickly came to dislike.
He also found himself pestered by the local girls, but he was better able to cope with that.
The stunt crew on the film have nothing but praise for Lazenby and his co-operative behaviour on what was mainly second-unit work, especially as any kind of physical effort took its toll at such a high altitude.
Michael Reed adds, "It was pretty tough for them up there because there's quite a difference.
Lazenby was unfortunately a little too naive to cope with some of the bitchiness that can be found in a film crew.


Lazenby himself recounts one such incident, which was not calculated to endear him to Peter Hunt. Lazenby has claimed that he was given little help with his performance by Peter Hunt and it remains a controversial issue, although it is difficult to credit that there was a total breakdown of communication between director and budding star, as Peter Hunt verifies.
Exterior filming up at Piz Gloria was particularly difficult because the weather was not exactly as expected, as Hunt confesses.
As stunt arranger, one of George Leech's toughest tasks was to work on the scenes involving Bond hanging onto the cables outside Piz Gloria after he has escaped from the wheelhouse.
Lazenby also did the sequence in the wheel house set where he eases himself along the cable. Within this sequence is one of the most satisfying moments in any Bond film as regards showing the character as a resourceful man of action. Peter Hunt's insistence on realism meant that Leech had to get his shots for the cable sequence as it stood.
The stunt required absolute precision as the huge cable car moved towards a very vulnerable stuntman. Despite the lessons of Leech on the cable, one of the stunt men was still convinced that it could be done without any kind of additional support. Peter Hunt remembers Savalas with affection and could see that the actor was relishing his meaty role. Gabriele Ferzetti and Diana Rigg were also on location when Lazenby's confidence was beginning to grate on some of the more experienced cast members.
By a curious set of circumstances, Lazenby had begun shooting the film without having actually signed a proper contract.
George Leech confirms that the crew were aware of the trouble brewing between Lazenby and the producers.
Lazenby's enthusiasm for being the new James Bond was also being subtly eroded due to the influence of one of his supposed friends who was very much keyed into the changing times of the late sixties. While all this was bubbling away in George's mind, Saltzman and Broccoli were getting more and more agitated about whether Lazenby was going to sign a contract.
The good relationship Lazenby had enjoyed with Saltzman and Broccoli began to crumble as the pressure got heavier on him to do something.
As far as I know the publisher doesn't exist anymore so it's hard to get a printed copy of this really good article. Still hoping that Connery may just be bluffing and would ultimately decide to return, he put on a confident front.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service was Hunt's debut as principal director of a Bond film, despite attempts to get the job on the previous outing, You Only Live Twice. When Pauline Kael reviewed the lacklustre Diamonds Are Forever in The New Yorker, she wrote of Connery's return to Bondage after Lazenby's sole appearance in the role 'the only thing missing is Peter Hunt. Enjoyable as both films were, the seeds of the series own corruption were evident and Hunt's answer to this was to return Bond to his resourceful best in a believable setting where vigorous physical action replaces giant volcanoes and space rockets.
The close similarity between book and film shows this determination to return to the closer adherence to Fleming which had made Dr No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger so memorable.
The only thing that happened was that You Only Live Twice should have been made after On Her Majesty's Secret Service by the chronology of the books. Convincing the press, while trying to convince themselves, that the Bond character was bigger than any single actor's interpretation of it, Saltzman and Broccoli began their search to find their new look Bond. When you come down to deciding a new James Bond it wasn't, at that time, just up to the producers or myself You had United Artists involved and they had to agree to it all. We were left with whoever was there at the time and I tested about fifty to a hundred people in various ways. At that time most of the successful male models working in Britain were Australian and were with Scotty's Agency in, of all addresses, New Bond Street, as was Lazenby. He had come to England in 1964 after a couple of years as a car salesman in Australia and began his modelling career at age 25 after fashion photographer Chard Jenkins convinced him that he could do well in the profession.
This confusion has only been added to by the well-known story of Lazenby and his haircut in which Lazenby is supposed to have introduced himself to Cubby Broccoli, who spotted him at a barber shop.
That came about because I went to the barber to get my hair cut like Sean Connery and Cubby Broccoli happened to be in there at the time.
George Leech, who had previously worked as an assistant to stunt and fight arranger Bob Simmons was in control on this film as Simmons had gone off to Spain to work with Sean Connery on Shalako. Borienko was a Russian who began working as a stunt man but graduated to acting parts because of his suitably Russian looks and had been engaged to play Blofeld's chief heavy, Gunther, in OHMSS.
Peter Hunt in particular was pleased with the choice, having been very impressed with him from the start, as Lazenby acknowledges. At the time we got Diana Rigg we were still talking about George Lazenby and my point was that if we were going to have somebody like George Lazenby, who was really not an actor and hadn't done that much, I insisted on having a really good actress. The supporting cast of the film ranks as one of the most impressive of any Bond film, with Ferzetti adding real class with his performance and Savalas being arguably the best screen Blofeld.
For the role of Irma Bunt, Blofeld's assistant, Saltzman suggested Greek actress Irene Papas, but Hunt rejected her as too sympathetic. The script closely followed Fleming's book and most of the locations were not too problematic to find in both Portugal and Switzerland. The design of the building was basically his "so that we brought the mountain round to the viewers and then we elaborated from there on. The cableway had a total length of 22,858 feet (6970 metres), covering an altitude gap of 6,900 feet (2103 metres), but when Syd Cain first visited the peak it was still unfinished, "Originally, when I landed there, I landed by helicopter virtually on the peak. In addition, the film's director of photography, Michael Reed, reckoned that the generator installed was insufficient to provide the lighting for night shooting.
I thought it all went together really well, nice and cheaply really, considering." The total cost was about $60,000, only a fifth of the cost of Ken Adam's volcanic crater for the previous Bond film You Only Live Twice.
They were eight feet by six feet and we had to double them up because of the whole dawn sequence of the attack on Piz Gloria. In the scene Irma Bunt stops Ruby Barlett (Angela Scoular) from giving Sir Hilary her room number. As Michael Reed explains, "Our big problem was, of course, the whole 360 degree interior there was glass and every time we put a lamp up it was reflected in the glass.


I was working with the second unit doing my own stunts and I was always getting fitted out for something or doing interviews. So I thought to myself, 'Well, I've rot all the strength to do this,' but I never reckoned that I would slip and dislocate the arm. He said, 'Oh, I've put on a bid of weight.' So I called the other one - Chris Webb - and he went up there, by which time we got another shot of him.
When Bond decides to attempt to climb along the cable in the wheelhouse, he realises he cannot do it with his bare hands - so tears the pockets out of his trousers to use as a pair of makeshift gloves.
So anyway, we put the hooks on him so he could go and then he just started sliding down the damn thing. With all the waiting around, Telly Savalas was indulging his obsessive passion for gambling, which usually meant he was losing his money as quickly as he was earning it. Despite his inexperience, George was always keen to put forward suggestions for the benefit of the film, but they did not always meet with much enthusiasm, as he recalls. He was working with such experienced actors - Diana Rigg, Gabriele Ferzetti, George Baker - and he finishes up telling them what to do. Lazenby turned to Peter Hunt for his opinion as to what he should do, but Hunt's position was obviously not an easy one since he could not very well compromise his loyalty to Saltzman and Broccoli. OHMSS was certainly the last Bond film that had any solid connection with Fleming, as Peter Hunt explains. But they found themselves in this position of having a director on their books and they had had to pay him.
By the time you had finished you had to get agreement from Cubby, agreement from Harry, I had to agree and United Artists and all their hierarchy there: Arthur Krim and David Picker. His recent television exposure as the crate-carrying 'Big Fry Man' in a well remembered commercial guaranteed that he would have been looked at for the part, as was Gary Myers, the 'Milk Tray Man' who blatantly borrowed the Bond image as he delivered his box of chocolates against impossible odds. Leech and the film's director of photography, Michael Reed, both met on Broccoli's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for which he did the second unit work just prior to OHMSS.
George Leech, still active and one of the very best fight arrangers in the business, recalls the test as done by Lazenby. The one difficulty had been in finding a suitable site for Blofeld's mountain fortress, Piz Gloria. To the north can be seen the Swiss Lowlands, the Jura and the Black Forest, which as you look round give way to the Alpine range dominated by the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. As he recalls, "They had to put a helipad in, so while they were doing that I said to the production manager, 'Look, we're going to need another fifteen hundred kilowatts up here, so that we run totally independent.
The second-unit cameraman, Johnny Jordan, had shot all this stuff with the helicopters flying with the dawn sky and it was marvellous. Undaunted she puts her hand under his kilt and writes her number on his thigh with her lipstick. So we had to flag everything off so that you couldn't see any of the highlights from the lamps itself. The hairdressers used to go to George to get his hair right, comb his hair, and you would actually see a flash from the fingers onto George! Myself and Dickie Graydon went up to the top and hooked him on with these cables and hooks and shot some stuff with him. Always on the lookout for a gambling partner, he even got George Lazenby in on it on one occasion. He was in here at the same time you were.' And he put that Cubby said, 'That guy would make a good James Bond, but he is probably a very successful businessman and wouldn't be interested ' And how wrong he was! Her agent, Dennis Selinger, was around doing other things and when we broached it to him - 'What about Diana Rigg? The building of the restaurant had started in 1961 with helicopters carrying the building materials up to the peak. And so what I did, I got in touch with ICI to discuss a question of neutral densities and colour correction for blue up there - which was a salmon pink. The crew decided that this scene had great potential for a practical joke, as George Lazenby recalls. Obviously that took time and it was quite something, but even then we still kept fairly to schedule.
I tried to trace the test shot that I did on the cable when the cable car was approaching with me hanging on.
Luckily, I had men stationed to catch him on the next big metal tower that they hang on these cables. Although they'll be well mannered, it gets up their noses when he starts suggesting little bits of business with their hands when they're sitting at the table and whatnot. Would she be interested?' - he jumped at it and said, 'Well, let me talk to her,' and when I got her, when she said she would do it, there was no doubt in my mind that we would have her. I'm going to still stay with On Her Majesty's Secret Service.' I always knew that that was a very good story. Harry tried to contact her and get her but I don't think she was keen on the idea." Lazenby confirms that she turned it down. I went up there and we did tests on different colours of gelatine just for experimental purposes. Certainly with a big spectacular action film you really are working all the time at it and certain things present themselves when you start rehearsing them and setting them up, both in dialogue and in the way that you do it. So I prepared a bed underneath of boxes and mattresses in case myself or anyone else fell off. We chose one and I took it to ICI and I said, 'Look, you're going to do the neutral densities for me - give me three stops. I think that he's a bit lacking experience, but other than that I think he could have gone on because he had some very good double-takes in that, with his reactions very similar to Cary Grant.



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