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Thunderball Was A Legal Landmine For James Bond Author Ian Fleming


To be fair to Kevin McClory, he did have a point. As he explains in “Nobody Does It Better”: “I knew [Ian Fleming] was writing a novel, but I didn’t know he was writing a novel on ‘Thunderball.’ And the next thing I know, it’s published, with no credit for Whittingham or myself.”

McClory and Jack Whittingham tried to prevent Fleming from publishing the book, which led to a lawsuit that finally ended in the London high courts in 1963. McClory won the film and TV rights to the story, allowing him to legally produce James Bond movies based on the novel. Furthermore, the book was required to state that it was based on a screenplay by McClory and Whittingham in all future publications. As McClory recalled:

“I was assigned all the film and TV rights to ‘Thunderball.’ I said to Fleming, ‘You have the literary rights; you wrote the novel, I don’t want you to part with that. But you put in every novel that this is based on a screenplay by us.’ This is the legend it’s supposed to have; some publishers do, some don’t.”

By 1963, Fleming was struggling with his health, and had even suffered a heart attack during the court case, so it was somewhat in his interests to wrap things up. But even after the author passed away from another heart attack in 1964, the Bond franchise would be haunted by the fallout from this legal battle.


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