For Our Eyes Only

by Thomas Vinciguerra ’85CC, ’86JRN, ’90GSAS
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P.7. British-American Intelligence is electrified when spy-sergeant puts in for transfer to Caribbean U.S.O., and marks his base preference, Nassau. His request is, of course, instantly granted. Nassau is about to fete U.S. Marines on their first scene of action. Miami entertainers will fly over for the evening — biggest U.S. show names.

P.8. Bond discovers (now in civvies) that a mysterious new company has ordered a fleet of Bahamian fishing boats — for Iron Curtain country — with very peculiar hulls for Grand Abaco trawlers. He studies plans, and discovers that hulls of new small vessels would be water tight — even if trapdoor opened from bottom of ship. A-bombs are to be delivered from enemy subs ...

P.11. CLIMAX: As Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Diana [sic] Shore, etc. etc., pile into plane to take them to Nassau from Miami, British frogmen are dressing for battle. Contrast is maintained throughout underwater fight in Nassau harbour: light and gaiety at the Casino and death struggle under water 100 yards away ...

The outline was a far cry from the eventual patented 007 formula. At one point, Cuneo suggested that our hero pretend to be a USO entertainer as his cover (“Bond’s efforts to imitate until he finds his métier can be amusing”). Still, Fleming wrote in a memo that Cuneo’s work — the first-ever outline for a James Bond movie — was “first-class” with “just the right degree of fantasy.” Over the ensuing months, Fleming refined it with McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham, even venturing that Cuneo should play the chief villain, Largo, because “he has a more fabulous gangster face than has ever been seen on the films.”

Unfortunately, the necessary financing never came through. For that reason, as well as his growing distrust of the mercurial McClory, Cuneo sold his rights to the memo to Bryce for one dollar.

And there things might have rested had not Fleming appropriated much of the material for his ninth Bond book, Thunderball (which he dedicated “To Ernest Cuneo — Muse”). Following a messy legal battle, in which McClory won the film rights to the book, Thunderball became the fourth Bond movie, in 1965. Five writers received onscreen credit. Cuneo was not among them.

“I think he would just laugh it off,” said Cuneo’s son, Jonathan ’74CC, an attorney in Washington, DC. “He was always giving things away for a dollar. For him it was easy come, easy go.”

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