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"The names Gavin, John Gavin"

Also, in 1967 John Gavin appeared in the big-budget 1920s-era musical Thoroughly Modern Millie starring Julie Andrews and was directed by George Roy Hill. Gavin’s next film was the French/Italian 007 spoof OSS 117 – Double Agent (1968) in which he was cast in the title role. Gavin replaced Frederick Stafford, who had played the part in the two previous OSS 117 films, and who had just signed to star in Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz. OSS 117 is the codename for Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a fictional secret agent created by the prolific French author Jean Bruce. The first novel in the series Tu parles d'une ingénue (Ici OSS 117) appeared in 1949, predating Ian Fleming’s CASINO ROYALE by four years. Several of Bruce’s OSS 117 novels have been turned into films, although Atout coeur à Tokyo pour OSS 117 (Terror in Tokyo) released in 1966 and starring Frederick Stafford as OSS 117, had an original screenplay by three-time James Bond director Terence Young.

Niente Rose Per OSS 117 Italian poster | Luciana Paluzzi & John Gavin - Curt Jurgens OSS 117 - Double Agent

ABOVE: A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME... The original 1968 Italian poster for Niente Rose Per OSS 117, which translates as ‘No Roses For OSS 117’. John Gavin co-starred alongside former Bond bad-girl Luciana Paluzzi [Fiona Volpe in Thunderball (1965)] and future James Bond villain Curt Jurgens [Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)].

In OSS 117 - Double Agent John Gavin starred opposite future James Bond villain Curt Jurgens [Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)], and former Bond bad-girl Luciana Paluzzi [Fiona Volpe in Thunderball (1965)]. Released in Europe in 1968 at the tail-end of the spy boom spawned by the success of the James Bond films, Gavin’s interpretation of OSS 117 was never shown theatrically in the United States, but was broadcast on television in 1972 as Murder For Sale. The film screened in the UK in 1970 under the title OSS 117 Murder For Sale, as the lower half of a double-bill with the comedy Doctor in Trouble, the seventh and final instalment in the popular Doctor series. The plot of OSS 117 - Double Agent had the hero undergo plastic surgery to fool his enemies (and explain why the character doesn’t look like Frederick Stafford who played him in the previous two films), a far-fetched idea that was briefly considered during the development of the script for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but wisely rejected. Returning to the United States Gavin then had supporting roles in The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), and Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970), a pseudo sequel to the 1965 comedy What’s New Pussycat?

Pas De Roses Pour OSS 117 | Doctor in Trouble/Murder For Sale

ABOVE: (left) The original 1968 French poster under the title Pas De Roses Pour OSS 117 (right) Another title change when OSS 117 Murder For Sale is released in the UK in 1970 as the lower half of a double-bill with Doctor In Trouble.

John Gavin was then engaged to appear in a stage production of The Tunnel of Love at the Pheasant Run Playhouse in Chicago, scheduled to run from February 9 – March 7, 1971. John Gavin’s announcement as the new James Bond then appeared in many US newspaper columns in late January and Early February 1971. The February 5th edition of the Chicago newspaper Elk Grove Herald then announced that John Gavin would be replaced in The Tunnel of Love by TV actor Dick Kallman (1933-1980). In another curious James Bond connection, Dick Kallman was also a budding singer and had recorded two albums at EMI in England in the early 1960s; on some tracks the orchestra was conducted by John Barry, with others conducted by legendary composer Ennio Morricone, and popular arranger Geoff Love (who would release his own 007 cover versions album Big Bond Movie Themes in 1975). Richard Kallman retired from showbusiness and formed his own music production company in 1966, later becoming a wealthy antiques and art dealer. Richard Kallman and his partner Stephen Szladek were murdered by three men during a robbery at the couple’s Manhattan apartment on February 22, 1980.

John Gavin signed as James Bond | Thunderball/You Only Live Twice double-bill USA 1970

Although announced as James Bond and all set to start shooting in March in Las Vegas, Diamonds Are Forever distributor United Artists were still not convinced Gavin was the right man for the job. Studio head David Picker, who was involved with the casting of Sean Connery a decade earlier, was sure that after the disappointing returns of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), only one man could guarantee a box-office smash. You Only Live Twice/Thunderball had just been re-released on a double-bill in late 1970 and was the first time Sean Connery’s Bond films had been seen in USA cinemas for over a year. The pair played to enormous success well into 1971, re-enforcing in the public’s mind that Sean Connery was still James Bond.

Sean Connery in The Anderdon Tapes (1971)  Arnold & David Picker in frnot of the Astor Theatre NYC

ABOVE: (left) FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE? Sean Connery in The Anderson Tapes (1971) the film made before his return to Bondage, and his first substantial hit since turning his back on 007. (right) United Artists executive David Picker (right) with his uncle Arnold Picker in front of the Astor cinema on New York's Times Square. The block-long billboard was 260-feet wide by 60-feet tall and dominated the Broadway skyline above the Astor and Victoria Theatres months before the opening of You Only Live Twice (1967).

In February 1971 David Picker informed the James Bond producers that he would authorise the payment of a huge salary to sign Sean Connery. Associate producer on Diamonds Are Forever Stanley Sopel, and a personal friend of the star, was despatched to meet him at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Since leaving Bond in 1967, Connery’s career had faltered but he was still determined to make it on his own and declined the offer to return, seeing it as a step backwards and an admission of failure. Undaunted, Broccoli & Saltzman next asked Ursula Andress, always Connery’s favourite Bond leading lady, to personally persuade him to change his mind. When that didn’t work, David Picker decided to tackle the star himself and flew to London with an unprecedented offer; a staggering basic fee of $1.25 million and a 10% cut of the gross profits. Furthermore, Picker promised Connery that United Artists would financially back, to the tune of one million dollars apiece, any two films of his choosing; to either star in or direct. One of those films turned out to be the gritty police drama The Offence (1972), for which Connery gave one of his best performances; the other project never materialised.

John Gavin | Sean Connery, Jill St. John with Harry & Steven Saltzman
ABOVE: (Right) Sean Connery (James Bond), Jill St. John (Tiffany Case) and James Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman with his son Steven at the start of shooting on Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

To paraphrase Don Corleone (played by Marlon Brando in The Godfather), Sean Connery was literally made an offer he couldn’t refuse and his return as 007 was obviously BIG news. On February 28, 1971 the Chicago Sun Times columnist Irvin Kupcinet broke the story that John Gavin was out and Connery was back as Bond. United Artists formally announced Connery’s return on March 2, 1971. Luckily, John Gavin had made a pay-or-play deal and it was reported in many columns the following week that he had received $50,000 for tearing up his contract. For United Artists this was a small price to pay. On March 13, 1971 the Atlanta Constitution ran a story that not only confirmed Connery’s deal, but also had a dig at George Lazenby and John Gavin.

'Real' Bond coming back

Similar stories filled the US columns in the days that followed. However, the Salt Lake Tribune announced that although John Gavin was to have the James Bond role in Diamonds Are Forever until Sean Connery decided to play it again, he may now play the villain in that film. The piece appeared in the April 1st edition of the newspaper – make of that what you will!

The Derrick newspaper in Oil City, Pennsylvania followed up on April 3rd with the news that “Hard on the heels of the announcement that darkly handsome John Gavin (he starred briefly on TV in Convoy) will be the next James Bond, comes word that things are coming full circle and the next Bond after Gavin (a fine choice, by the way) will be Sean Connery. Again! After all he said about fluff stuff. Connery, a good serious actor, is finding there just aren’t that many good serious opportunities.”