Today, we look at the time that Howard Hughes, of all people, was central to the plot of a James Bond film.
This is “My Name It is Nothin’,” a look at when movies and TV shows feature celebrities, characters and/or famous people without featuring the actual celebrity/famous people. You know, changing the names so that you can tell the story without legal issues.
In 1971, Sean Connery was lured out of his self-imposed retirement as James Bond after one non-Connery Bond film to return to the role of the famous spy in Diamonds Are Forever (Roger Moore then took over the role full-time from Connery after this film).
Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, the guy in charge of the company that owned the film rights to James Bond, was having a hard time trying to figure out the plot of Connery’s return to being Bond. One early concept involved introducing the twin of former Bond villain, Goldfinger. Finally, though, the idea for the film’s plot came to Broccoli in a dream and it was about…Howard Hughes?!
Broccoli’s widow, Dana Broccoli, recalled for a DVD feature on Diamonds Are Forever:
“One morning, he woke and he said, “I had the most fabulous dream. It was about Howard Hughes.” He said, “I thought I was outside the penthouse window, and he had his back to me. And I was knocking on the window, and I was saying, ‘Sam!'” That was the nickname that his close friends called him. “And when he turned around it wasn’t Howard Hughes at all. It was a total stranger. He said “And that’s what I’ve been looking for – this fellow he’s kept captive in this penthouse, and everything below is still going on as though he exists.””
So yeah, the plot of Diamonds Are Forever was based on the fact that billionaire (and former movie maker himself), Howard Hughes, had been living a reclusive life in various penthouses in Las Vegas, so here, Hughes is “Willard Whyte,” a reclusive billionaire who hadn’t been seen in years, and the villainous Blofeld has kidnapped Whyte, put a double in his place, and used Whyte’s fortune to finance the creation of a deadly laser satellite in outer space.
When James Bond rescues the real Whyte, the real Whyte helps Bond figure out Blofeld’s plan, and also helps Bond take the satellite down by figuring out where Blofeld must be controlling the satellite.
Singer/actor Jimmy Dean played Whyte, which was a bold move for Dean, seeing as how he was actually working for the real Hughes at one of his casinos at the time!
I don’t know what Hughes thought of the film’s portrayal of him. Broccoli and Hughes had been friends earlier in Broccoli’s career, so I assume Hughes didn’t take it too poorly. Whyte DOES help save the day, ya know?
If anyone else has a suggestion for a future My Name It Ain’t Nothin’, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!