Casino Royale is a television adaptation, released in 1954, of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. This show was to be the first attempt at a screen adaptation of a James Bond novel. Though this is regarded as the first onscreen appearance of the character James Bond, this film's character is an American agent with "Combined Intelligence".

The show was low key and was more or less forgotten about after its initial showing until it was rediscovered in the 1980s by film historian Jim Schoenberger, with the ending and credits found later. The rights to this adaptation were eventually acquired by Metro Goldwyn Mayer at the same time as they gained the rights for the 1967 film version of Casino Royale. This would clear the legal pathway to enable them to make a canonical film of the same name in 2006.


Act I "Combined Intelligence" agent James Bond comes under fire from an assassin: he manages to dodge the bullets and enters Casino Royale. There he meets his British contact, Clarence Leiter, who remembers "Card Sense Jimmy Bond" from when he played the Maharajah of Deauville. While Bond explains the rules of baccarat, Leiter explains Bond's mission: to defeat Le Chiffre at baccarat and force his Soviet spymasters to "retire" him. Bond then encounters a former lover, Valerie Mathis who is Le Chiffre's current girlfriend; he also meets Le Chiffre himself.

Act II Bond beats Le Chiffre at baccarat but, when he returns to his hotel room, is confronted by Le Chiffre and his bodyguards, along with Mathis, who Le Chiffre has discovered is an agent of the Deuxième, France's external military intelligence agency at the time.

Act III Le Chiffre tortures Bond in order to find out where Bond has hidden the cheque for his winnings, but Bond does not reveal where it is. After a fight between Bond and Le Chiffre's guards, Bond shoots and wounds Le Chiffre, saving Valerie in the process. Exhausted, Bond sits in a chair opposite Le Chiffre to talk. Mathis gets in between them and Le Chiffre grabs her from behind, threatening her with a concealed razor blade. As Le Chiffre moves towards the door with Mathis as a shield, she struggles, breaking free slightly and Bond is able to shoot Le Chiffre.

Ownership of Casino Royale

Barry Nelson

Barry Nelson as Bond in 1954.

Producer and Director Gregory Ratoff bought the rights to the Ian Fleming novel Casino Royale in May 1954. It was a six month option and Ratoff took this to CBS whom produced and broadcast this one hour episode for Climax!. Before the sale, the Casino Royale novel had not been very successful, and was even retitled and Americanized for its paperback issue. Fleming also needed money. Twelve months later, and after the TV screening, Ratoff bought Casino Royale outright in perpetuity for an additional $6000. Both sales including the option and the buy-out are considered to have been sold too cheaply and were two sales that Ian Fleming later regretted. With the money from the larger sale, Ian Fleming bought a Thunderbird car at the cost of £3000. Gregory Ratoff passed away on 14 December 1960. His widow in 1961 sold the rights to Charles K. Feldman for $75,000. Feldman would go on to make the James Bond spoof, Casino Royale (1967). It would not be made as an EON Productions film until Casino Royale (2006).

Cast & Characters


Barry Nelson and Linda Christian (Casino Royale, 1954)
  • Three years after this telemovie was broadcast by CBS, this company offered Ian Fleming a James Bond television series. The deal has been reported to have included either thirteen or thirty two episodes which were to have run over two years. Fleming had written between three to seven outlines for the series when CBS axed the project. Several of these stories ended up as the final four short stories in the 1960 book, For Your Eyes Only. Bond did not return to the screen until 1962 with the film Dr. No.
  • A longstanding myth related to this live production is that, following his death scene, Peter Lorre was caught on camera getting up and walking away. This was debunked when the production was unearthed.
  • Coincidentally, the opening credits of Climax!, the anthology series that hosted this production, feature a camera looking down an aperture not too dissimilar to the gun barrel seen in the opening of the EON Production Bond films nearly a decade later.

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