Have you ever wondered how government agencies react to seeing their employees portrayed in big-bucks movies? It’s an intriguing question. And so is the answer. In 2015, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI declassified its file on the creator of the world’s most famous secret-agent: James Bond, 007. We’re talking about none other than author Ian Fleming. The 25-page file makes for eye-opening, interesting, and entertaining reading.
An FBI document dated January 23, 1964 – and prepared by J. Edgar Hoover himself, for the Los Angeles and Miami offices of the FBI – states that one Harry Saltzman “…today contacted a representative of the Department of Defense in Washington requesting the use of military aircraft in connection with a movie based on the Pocket Book entitled quote Goldfinger unquote by Ian Fleming. Stated FBI would be depicted in movie in favorable manner.” And who, you may ask, was Harry Saltzman? None other than one of the leading figures in the production of such James Bond movies as Dr. No, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, Live And Let Die, and The Man With The Golden Gun.
The dossier on Fleming and his work continues: “Bufiles contain no derogatory information concerning Saltzman. Fleming is writer of paperback novels concerning spy stories in which his fictional character, James Bond, is the star, and they are generally filled with sex and bizarre situations. Los Angeles is instructed to advise the Bureau regarding any information in their possession regarding this proposed movie.”
Hoover added: “Miami is instructed to contact Saltzman who is residing at the Fontainebleau Hotel and vigorously protest any mention of FBI or portrayal of its agents in his proposed movie. You should bring forcefully to his attention the provisions of Public Law Six Seventy which prohibits the use of the words quote Federal Bureau of Investigation unquote or its initials in any manner without my written permission.” Clearly, Hoover was far from happy with the plans for Goldfinger.
The files show that a fair bit of background research into Saltzman and Fleming was undertaken: “Bufiles reflect one Harry Saltzman, a photographer for the ‘Saturday Evening Post,’ came to the Bureau in July 1951, and took several pictures in the Laboratory for use in illustrating a highjacking article in which we were cooperating. It was not possible to determine from our files if this photographer is identical with captioned individual.”
And then there’s this about Fleming’s books: “His stories are generally filled with beautiful women presenting themselves to [Bond] in scanty attire…It was reported in ‘Life’ magazine in August, 1962, that President Kennedy was one of [Fleming’s] most avid readers.”
The FBI also noted: “Our files reflect that one Ian Fleming was at one time associated with the British Intelligence Service, and in 1953 was allegedly engaged in planning for the successful theft of a Russian MIG plane which was flown from Poland to Denmark. Limited descriptive data in the reference failed to establish whether he was identical to captioned writer.” For the record, they were indeed one and the same.
There was also the following: “The type of book written by Fleming is certainly not the type where we would want any mention of the FBI or a portrayal of FBI agents, no matter how favorable they might look in the movie.”
Summaries of the script for Goldfinger also appear in the file, as does the revelation that on January 23 1964, Harry Saltzman was visited at his place of residence in Miami Beach, Florida, by FBI agents. Files state that Saltzman was told the FBI “vigorously protests” any kind of Bureau-themed portrayal in the movie.
Saltzman, when faced with Public Law 670, reported the FBI, “…said his representative is [deleted], United Artists, 729 7th Ave., New York City, telephone Circle 5-6000 and that he was going to immediately contact [deleted] concerning this contact and to furnish him a copy of Public Law 670 for his knowledge. Saltzman said [deleted] would undoubtedly put into motion the proper procedure at the correct high level of contact to resolve this matter in the immediate future because of huge investment made in connection with the movie.”
A few semi-related documents aside, it seems that the FBI had no further involvement in the matter. This suggests J. Edgar Hoover’s finest were satisfied with the outcome – of both the situation and of the completed movie version of Goldfinger itself. As for us, we get to peek into a world in which movie-moguls and agents of government occasionally cross paths.