May 5, 2011  |  Film
007 at MoMA

Film canisters holding 35mm print of Dr. No

James Bond took up residence at MoMA 25 years ago this June. You might have thought a posh London apartment or a secluded villa on the Caribbean island of Mustique might better suit the suave international man of intrigue, but in fact Bond—well, the 35mm films at least—resides in Hamlin, Pennsylvania, zip code 18427. Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig—they all room together at The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, which houses a complete, pristine collection of  35mm prints produced since the 1962 inception of the Albert R. Broccoli/Eon Productions franchise.

Sean Connery and Ursula Andress grace a poster for Dr. No (1962), the first in the Bond franchise

On June 1, 1986, MoMA celebrated the 25th anniversary of the sensational series with a gallery exhibition and film series titled 25 Years of James Bond: Gift of Albert R. Broccoli. Producer Broccoli, known as “Cubby” in the film industry, had just donated to MoMA new 35mm prints of Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985). Further, Mr. Broccoli arranged for a long-term gift to MoMA consisting of a new 35mm print of each future Bond film yet to be produced. This remarkable and incredibly generous gift ensures that MoMA will continue to be the archival repository of all James Bond films produced by Eon Productions.

Since the initial 1986 gift, The Museum of Modern Art has added 35mm prints of The Living Daylights (1987), Licence to Kill (1989), GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002), and Casino Royale (2006) to the film collection. Each new print is delivered to MoMA from the Pinewood Studios offices of Eon Productions once the next production begins. For example, a new 35mm print of Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace arrived at MoMA when production of the newest film, temporarily titled Bond 23 and set to be released in November 2012, began production. In early May the Museum’s film acquisition committee will meet and decide if Quantum of Solace is an appropriate addition to the collection; I have a feeling, given the previous 21 Bond films in the collection and this newest film’s great merits, it will be a relatively quick vote.

Poster for 2008's Quantum of Solace

As you notice, I have made it very clear that the James Bond films donated to MoMA are those produced by Eon Productions—Albert R. Broccoli and now Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Other films featuring James Bond as a character have been produced, but are separate from the Broccoli franchise. An early version of Casino Royale, an episode of the series Climax!, was broadcast on October 21, 1954, on the CBS Television Network and starred Barry Nelson as James Bond and was directed by William H. Brown, Jr. In 1966 a second Casino Royale was produced, but this time it was a spoof of the James Bond character, starring David Niven, Peter Sellars, and Woody Allen as various incarnations of 007. In 1983, while Roger Moore was portraying James Bond in the Broccoli-produced films, Sean Connery put his tuxedo back on and was outfitted with spy gadgetry in Irvin Kershner’s Never Say Never Again, now known as an “unofficial James Bond film.”

Even the most mundane of tasks becomes a matter of trickery and intrigue when James Bond is involved. Each time Eon Productions dispatches a new print of the next James Bond film to MoMA, it is transported under a fictitious title—this is Eon’s way of guarding against the possibility of any foul play while in transit to the United States. The code name for Quantum of Solace was quite cheeky and perfectly fit James Bond’s fondness for bespoke tuxedos.

Would you like to know what the code name was? Sorry, can’t tell you…or otherwise I’d have to…