It was part of a number of James Bond-related items personally owned by Jack Whittingham, who died in 1972, and placed in the Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia auction held on December 18. The auction also saw some other 007-related items once owned by Whittingham being sold, including an early Ian Fleming memo setting out some film ideas, and a souvenir brochure for the UK premiere of EON’s version of Thunderball from 1965.
The Thunderball screenplay by Whittingham, which consisted of 133 pages of mimeographed typescript, was a final edition bound script of a screenplay written by the screenwriter in 1959-60, and based on a story by James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
Originally titled James Bond of the Secret Service, then retitled Thunderball, the screenplay was the result of a collaborative project between Irish producer Kevin McClory and Ian Fleming in the late 1950s, who both envisaged it as becoming the very first James Bond movie.
McClory brought Jack Whittingham, a celebrated screenwriter who had worked for Alexander Korda, into the project in 1959 to work on the story, and to develop a full and more polished screenplay for the proposed big-screen movie. Whittingham completed the script after returning from a location recce to the Bahamas.
However, a few months after Whittingham’s screenplay was completed, Fleming, who by then had become rather disillusioned with McClory and the film project, signed a book deal with Jonathan Cape for his 8th James Bond novel, and this became Thunderball. Unfortunately, Fleming had used some of his original story ideas for the proposed movie in his new novel, perhaps not realising what trouble this would cause.
A few weeks before publication of Fleming’s new novel in 1961, McClory got wind of what Fleming had done, and both he and Jack Whittingham consulted lawyers and tried to get the Bond author’s new novel stopped. They were unsuccessful, but continued to pursue the matter legally, and it culminated in a High Court case two years later, which Fleming lost.
Interest in the James Bond items sold at Bonhams was notably high, and various tie-in media stories have appeared in recent weeks. Ironically, as with other Fleming First Editions, the value of First Editions of Fleming’s Bond novel Thunderball has risen dramatically in recent years. A 1961 First Edition Jonathan Cape hardback copy of Thunderball, for example, was sold at Bonhams in London in November, 2010, for £1,080.