James Bond Wiki
James Bond Wiki
Casino Royale (BW Small) (3) NovelFilmGraphic NovelSoundtrackSongCharactersLocationsReleases
Other Versions Tab (1)

Casino Royale is a television adaptation, released in 1954, of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. Its main significance to Bond fans is that it represents the first attempt at a screen adaptation of a James Bond novel, around eight years before EON Productions took up the reins with Dr. No. It is also the first of three screen adaptations of Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale, with two cinematic versions succeeding it: the psychedelic comedy version of Casino Royale in 1967 and a more serious, updated Eon version in 2006, over fifty years later, marking Daniel Craig's debut.

Though Casino Royale is regarded as the first onscreen appearance of the character James Bond, it changes the nationalities of many of the main characters and he becomes an American agent with "Combined Intelligence". However, it is worth mentioning that the other two adaptations of Casino Royale also diverge significantly from the novel, albeit in very different ways. Despite these changes, the 1954 Casino Royale is by far the closest to the novel in terms of the time it was set.

The programme was originally broadcast live and in colour, however the only two existing versions are both in black and white due to recording methods.

The show was low key, an installment in a longer series of TV plays called Climax! and was more or less forgotten about after its initial showing. 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 around the same time that they gained the rights for the 1967 film version of Casino Royale. This would clear the legal pathway to enable them to make an Eon productions version of the same name in 2006. On December 1st 2020 MGM would officially release the film for free through YouTube Movies. It has also been released by itself on both VHS and DVD and as a bonus feature on some DVD releases of the 1967 film.


Act I Casino Royale

Like many TV dramas of the 1950s, Casino Royale is divided into acts.

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.

Leiter tells Bond that Le Chiffre is the chief Soviet agent in France, and a high ranking Communist there. However, he has a weakness for gambling, and has lost a great deal of the funds which Soviet intelligence has furnished him with. Le Chiffre has to win back that money by gambling, if he doesn't, then his Soviet spymasters will be forced to "retire" him to make him an example to others. If Bond can pull this off, this will prove a massive blow to Soviet subterfuge in western Europe.

Bond then encounters a former lover, Valerie Mathis who is Le Chiffre's current girlfriend; he also meets Le Chiffre himself. Bond suspects that Valerie is a Communist spy, or at least in league with the opposition.

Bond talks to Valerie and they renew their acquaintance. They do not know however that Le Chiffre has bugged the room and is aware of what has happened.

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

Bond is told that if he wins, Valerie's life will be at stake. Bond continues to play, and loses. However, a mystery donor gives him some more stake money and he is able to beat Le Chiffre completely.


Zoltan threatens James Bond with his bespoke cane-gun.

Valerie has gone away. Zoltan, one of Le Chiffre's henchmen threatens Bond with a gun disguised as a walking cane, and Bond is forced to return to his room.

Bond is able to hide the cheque just before Valerie reappears. He learns that she is a French agent and that the mystery donation in fact came from her. Then they are both captured by Le Chiffre's men.

Le Chiffre tortures Bond

Le Chiffre tortures Bond

Act III Le Chiffre wants to know where Bond has hidden the cheque for his winning, so he has Bond tied to a bath, and proceeds to torture him by pulling out his toenails with pliers. Bond does not cave in under pressure, and does not reveal where the cheque is.

Valerie tells Le Chiffre where the cheque is, in order ro help Bond. However, she also allows Bond to reach the razorblade in Le Chiffre's cigarette case, which he has left on the bath. Bond manages to escape but has to fight one of Le Chiffre's guards.

Le Chiffre comes into the bathroom wielding a gun, and both he and Bond shoot each other. Le Chiffre reaches for another razorblade, hidden in his hat.

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 the 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 once again.

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 Americanised for its paperback issue. Fleming also needed money at the time. 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

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), with huge divergences from the source material. Casino Royale would not be made as an EON Productions film until over fifty years late with 2006's version — with the setting transferred to the Balkans and the 21st century.

Cast & Characters[]

Other cast (uncredited):

William Lundigan's rôle as narrator was reprised through much of the Climax! series.


Barry Nelson and Linda Christian (Casino Royale, 1954)
  • The decision to make Bond an American results in several characters changing nationalities. Felix Leiter becomes British agent Clarence Leiter and takes on some of the characteristics of René Mathis, who does not appear, though his surname is given to Valerie Mathis, who replaces the original novel's Vesper Lynd and also takes on some characteristics of the original Mathis.
  • Two major set-piece moments in the original novel play out considerably differently in the TV version. The infamous "rug beater" torture sequence is replaced with Bond being tortured (mostly offscreen) in a bathtub (fully clothed), and the death of Le Chiffre involves Bond directly (unlike the novel and both films where other parties kill the villain).
  • This is, to date, one of only two James Bond adaptations (the other being 1981's For Your Eyes Only) in which a character called M does not appear.
  • 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 been broadcast over two years. Fleming had written between three to seven outlines for the series by the time 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. It was over fifty years before Eon adapted Casino Royale.
  • 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 conclusively disproven when a mostly complete version of production was unearthed. As Lorre is also associated with horror films, it's believed this rumour may have been confused for the urban legend of fellow horror icon Lon Chaney Jr. around the same time walking through a live TV production of Frankenstein thinking it was a rehearsal.
  • 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.
  • The composer Jerry Goldsmith would go on to bigger and better things, notably writing the score to five of the Star Trek films, Tora Tora Tora, Patton, Total Recall etc. While Casino Royale's music does not represent his best work, it is a notable early example of it.
  • The first onscreen Bond adaptation does not feature many of the tropes that later Bond films became famous for, such as visiting multiple countries, advanced technology, gadgets, or villains and henchmen with strange physical abilities. Instead Casino Royale, much like the source novel, is centred on the eponymous location and has villains who rely on mind games and natural brute force. One exception is a villain carries a gun disguised as a cane.
  • The story establishes that Bond already knows Valerie from a previous mission and as such they have history together. Notwithstanding encore appearances by Sylvia Trench and Madeleine Swann, something like this doesn't happen again until Bond encounters Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies.

External links[]