During my extensive research I read the two screen treatments for
Thunderball written by Ian Fleming and the trio of scripts from Jack
Whittingham, an experienced screenwriter brought in by McClory. All are
fascinating in the evolution of the Thunderball story.
Fleming’s first script opens with Bond practising at a firing range.
Watching him is the armourer who rebukes his choice of a Beretta as a
weapon for being nice and light, in a ladies handbag. To which Bond
reveals that he’s never missed with it yet. This exchange is
remarkably similar to the one in the film of Dr. No.
Fleming’s grand scheme for his villains is nuclear blackmail, but he has
them stealing a bomb from a secret rocket installation in, of all
places, Shoeburyness, hardly very exotic. And not very probable either.
It was McClory who suggested that the baddies hijack an aircraft in
flight and steal the bomb that way. It took some persuasion to get
Fleming to agree.
Fleming also planned to dramatically kill off Felix Leiter. During a
reconnaissance of Largo’s yacht, Felix approaches in a speedboat, acting
the tourist. Taking no chances Largo has him machine-gunned to death.
Jack Whittingham was also just as keen to see poor old Felix dead, in
his script having him captured along with Domino as the two break into
Largo’s beach house. Largo’s thugs throw Leiter into a swamp and as his
head disappears under the surface, “Domino, who is sinking more
slowly, screams with terror.” Whittingham wrote.
Later, Bond is thrown into the same swamp but manages to drag himself
out, escaping the predatory gaze of hundreds of crabs encircling him.
Before the main action Whittingham’s script includes a bizarre short
prologue that takes place in 1945. We see the famous White House in
Washington and then former US President Harry Truman sitting at his desk
in the oval office warning the audience about the nuclear peril. It was
actually hoped that Truman himself could be persuaded to record the
Whittingham’s scripts are quite dark and violent. Early on Largo kills
an informant and has his body stripped and fed to sharks. There’s also
the rather perverse notion that Largo is turned on by the thought of the
dead man being ripped apart because he immediately demands sex from
Domino, paying for it with money retrieved from the corpse.
In the climax Whittingham also has Domino set the atom bomb to explode
as Largo attempts to escape in his yacht. She accuses him of murdering
her brother. “I hope you rot in hell.” Largo just laughs and
draws a gun. But Domino doesn’t care; she’s beyond any further hurt.
Boom!! The screen is enveloped in a mushroom cloud. The End. What a
great climax, the kind of Bond girl self-sacrifice that May Day would
later execute in 1985’s A View To A Kill. And, with the possible
exception of Bond’s dead wife over the rolling credits of On Her
Majesty’s Secret Service, would have been the most downbeat ending
to any 007 film.
One interesting note, as in Fleming’s previous script the villains are
the Mafia (not SPECTRE). At a Mafia meeting in Sicily, Whittingham
stresses the point in his script that the audience should not see the
Capo Mafiosi’s face. One wonders if this is where the idea came from not
to reveal arch villain Blofeld’s identity until the fifth film in the