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"Is this the stupid mother who tailed you uptown?"
"There seems to be some mistake. My name is..."
"Names is for tombstones, baby!
Mr. Big and James Bond[src]

Live and Let Die is the eighth film in the James Bond film series, and the first to star Roger Moore as Bond. The film was directed by Guy Hamilton and was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. It released in 1973 and earned $161 million at the box office.

The film was released during the height of the 1970s blaxploitation era, and the influence of those films is quite evident. For instance, the film departs from conventional Bond plots (which entailed villainous plots to disrupt world power structures) and instead places its emphasis on drug trafficking, a common hallmark of the blaxploitation genre. The film further deviates from most Bond films, in that it takes place in the African American cultural centers of Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean Islands. Furthermore, the film contains several blaxploitation archetypes, most notably afro hairstyles, derogatory racial epithets (i.e. "honky"), black gangsters, and "pimpmobiles". In addition, the white police officers, especially Sheriff J.W. Pepper, are poorly displayed with several negative stereotypes.

Live and Let Die marked several milestones for Bond films. It was the first time a fictional country would be used as a setting (this would happen again in Licence to Kill), and it was also the only occasion in which 007 commits what amounts to a political assassination, since Kananga is the leader of a nation. Live and Let Die is also the first James Bond film from which Q was absent, though he was mentioned by Miss Moneypenny. Furthermore, Live and Let Die marked the appearance of the first romantically-involved African American Bond girl, Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry, an actress who stars in several blaxploitation films, including Black Caesar and its sequel Hell Up in Harlem). When the film was first released in South Africa, the love scenes between Gloria Hendry and Roger Moore were removed because interracial affairs were prohibited by the apartheid government.

Plot summary[]

Three British agents monitoring the operations of Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island called San Monique, are murdered in mysterious circumstances within the space of twenty-four hours. M sends James Bond to New York, where the first agent, Dawes, was killed and where Kananga is currently visiting the UN, to investigate. As soon as Bond arrives in New York, his driver is killed while taking him to meet Felix Leiter of the CIA. The driver's killer leads Bond to Mr. Big, a gangster who runs a chain of restaurants throughout the United States. It is during his confrontation with Mr. Big that Bond first meets Solitaire, a beautiful tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see the future. Bond follows Kananga back to San Monique where he seduces Solitaire (it had been foretold in the cards but actually was set up by Bond, having created a deck of only "The Lovers" cards), which, by "compelling to earthly love", takes away her power. It transpires that Kananga is producing massive amounts of heroin on the island and is protecting the poppy fields he uses for heroin cultivation through fear of voodoo and mystical powers.


Dr. Kananga as Mr. Big questions Bond and Solitaire

Through his alter ego Mr. Big (Kananga in disguise), he would distribute the heroin from his chain of Fillet Of Soul restaurants for free until the number of drug addicts doubles and his rival drug lords are put out of business, leaving Kananga with a monopoly, allowing him to milk extortionate sums of money out of the addictions he has created. Bond is knocked unconscious when Tee-Hee hits him on the back of the head and is taken to a crocodile farm to be eaten by the American alligator and American crocodile, but he escapes and outruns Kananga's henchmen in a motorboat chase. Bond returns to Sam Monique, rescues Solitaire from a voodoo sacrifice, and kills Kananga with a compressed gas bullet by forcing it down his throat, causing him to inflate and explode after hitting the ceiling of a cave. In the closing scene of the film where Bond battles Kananga's surviving henchman, Tee-Hee Johnson, and throws him out the train window, the central voodoo character, Baron Samedi, is seen perched on the front of the speeding train in which Bond and Solitaire are travelling, in his voodoo outfit and laughing mysteriously, despite having been supposedly killed by Bond via being thrown into a coffin full of snakes during the film's climax.

Cast & characters[]


Vehicles & gadgets[]

Main articles: List of James Bond vehicles and List of James Bond gadgets

  • Magnetic Watch — Given to Bond by M when turned on it could snag any light weight metallic item. In theory, Bond claims it can even deflect a bullet. It also has a saw built into it.
  • Bug Sweeper — Bond uses a handheld device that can sweep a room for electronic microphones.
  • Although not an official gadget, Bond improvises a small flamethrower using a can of after-shave lotion and a lit cigar.
  • Bond has an espresso machine at his home. In 1973, such devices were uncommon for home use (much as Bond in From Russia with Love had a pager and car-based telephone years before cell phones were invented). Bond made coffee using an incorrect method.
  • Similarly, early on in the film, Bond is seen using a Pulsar digital watch, which only entered distribution as recently as 1972. Bond's has an LED display which was activated by pushing a button on the side.
  • Tee Hee's Prosthetic Claw; Used by Tee Hee as a replacement for his missing right arm.


Live and Let Die Characters

Live and Let Die characters.

Film locations[]

Shooting locations[]


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  • The producers made a conscious effort to distance the new James Bond from the character made famous by Sean Connery, perhaps an effort to avoid repeating the George Lazenby fiasco. For example: Roger Moore's Bond never orders a vodka martini (neither shaken, nor stirred), he drinks bourbon whiskey; the mission briefing occurs in Bond's flat (a location not seen since Dr. No in 1662); the armourer Q is dropped from the film (though still mentioned); Roger Moore's James Bond does not wear a hat; he smokes cigars, not cigarettes, in brief: an English gentleman. In time, as Moore grew in to the role, many old Bond-isms returned, and some new elements were dropped.
    • It is also the first film since From Russia With Love where Desmond Llewelyn does not appear as Q, and the only time to date that Bond himself performs a variant of the traditional Q gadget briefing, only this time for the benefit of briefing M and Moneypenny about his latest tools. In parallel to Bond not always taking the briefing seriously, this time M makes a joke when he seemingly mistakes Bond's cappuccino maker for another gadget ("Is that all it does?").
  • Moreover, Roger Moore toned down his famous mannerisms, cultivated in the role of Simon Templar, The Saint, in particular, the cocking eyebrow.
  • It is the first of two films featuring Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper; Clifton James reprised the role in The Man with the Golden Gun.
  • It is the first of two films featuring David Hedison as Felix Leiter, CIA, who reprised the role in Licence to Kill. Despite the numerous appearances by Leiter in the series, Hedison is one of only two actors to have played the character more than once, the other being Jeffery Wright in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and No Time to Die.
  • Taking a temporary hiatus from scoring Bond films, John Barry subsequently passed the baton over to McCartney's producer, George Martin. This was the first James Bond film that Barry has in some way not been a part of.
  • Although never stated in the film, the Jamaican agent, Quarrel Jr., is supposed to be the son of the original Quarrel from Dr. No. Live and Let Die featured the original Quarrel and was set before Dr. No, where the character died. However, as Dr. No was filmed first, Quarrel in Live and Let Die was changed to Quarrel, Jr. to avoid continuity problems.
  • This is the first James Bond film where neither Bond himself nor the British Intelligence physically appear or being mentioned during the remainder of the pre-title sequence. It only contains scenes where three British agents are being murdered on separate occasions, without showing any debriefing scenes in the British Secret Service headed by M or other superiors which are common in most of Bond films' pre-title sequences.
  • The film has similarities with the first James Bond film, Dr. No, in many ways:
    • Both films were shot in Jamaica (with Dr. No itself being mainly set in Jamaican town of Kingston)
    • Both films feature a character named Quarrel who sides with Bond during the entire mission, with the Live and Let Die Quarrel is a supposed son of the Dr. No Quarrel. These characters would end up differently on each story; while Quarrel Sr. gets burned to death by a dragon tank under the orders of Dr. No, Quarrel Jr. survives the story after blowing up Kananga's poppy fields. Both Quarrels have also working together with different versions of Felix Leiter as an informant.
    • Both films do not feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q. In Dr. No, the quartermaster is portrayed by Peter Burton (who is famously responsible for upgrading Bond's signature firearm from a Beretta to the ubiquitous Walther PPK), while in Live and Let Die, the character is absent, despite being referred by Bond and Miss Moneypenny for having repaired Bond's magnetic watch.
    • Both films feature characters blown up to death while riding a vehicle. The Three Blind Mice's car get burned and destroyed as it stumbles to a cliff after Bond evades their pursuit, while one of Mr. Big's henchmen Adam meets his demise as Bond nudges his petrol-soaked boat (with Adam himself being soaked as well) into a derelict tanker containing fuel drums, killing him in the subsequent explosion.
    • Both films have scenes where a lethal animal is dropped into Bond's hotel room, a tarantula in Dr. No and a snake in Live and Let Die, only to be subdued by Bond himself.
  • This is the first James Bond film where a character used the word "Shit." It is uttered by the old woman whose flying lesson is hijacked by Bond (network-television viewers never see this). Even in 1973, that was not enough to have the film rated past PG; viewers would have to wait until 1989, for Licence to Kill (coincidentally also partly based on the novel Live and Let Die) until such language was heard again.
  • The Twin Towers of the old World Trade Center were still being constructed during location filming in New York City. In a zoom-in shot of "CIA headquarters" in New York City, the South Tower can be seen briefly in the background with its upper floors still in an unfinished state.
  • Owing to the complications of shooting in Harlem (at the time it was one of New York City's most dangerous neighborhoods), some scenes were shot in other areas of Manhattan - for example the exteriors of the Fillet Of Soul restaurant (supposedly on Harlem's famous Leroy Ave), was actually located at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 94th St in the Upper East Side. The building in the film has subsequently been demolished - a high rise apartment tower now stands on the site.
  • The one scene that was filmed in Harlem was the outside fight scene between Bond and Mr Big's henchmen. Art director Peter Lamont had the jumble of telephone wires hanging from the buildings cut down and exposed for atmospheric effect, not realising the wires were still live and unwittingly cut off telephone service to the building.
  • This was the first and, to date, only James Bond film to acknowledge the supernatural. Although there are indications that Baron Samedi is simply a magician and showman, and that his "resurrection" after falling into a coffin of snakes could be explained as a trick. Solitaire's psychic abilities are more difficult to rationalize.
  • The film was released during the height of the Blaxploitation film subgenre of the 1970s. A number actors who appeared in Live and Let Die had appeared in several blaxploitation films during this period:
    • One of Kananga's henchmen, Adam (portrayed by Tommy Lane) played a similar role in the classic blaxploitation film, Shaft, released in 1971.
    • Coachbuilder Les Dunham provided a Chevrolet Corvette conversion (the Corvorado) which uses components from a 1971 or 1972 Cadillac Eldorado; this car was briefly seen in the blaxploitation film, Super Fly, released in 1972. He kept the vehicle for several years as a show car. One of the vehicles 007 is pursuing in the film (as a passenger in a taxicab) is a Cadillac Fleetwood Pimpmobile, along with an Eldorado coupe.
    • The film served as an on-screen reunion between Arnold Williams (Cab Driver), Gloria Hendry (Rosie Carver), and Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big) as they all starred together in the blaxploitation film, Across 110th Street, with Kotto playing the role of NYPD Detective Lieutenant William Pope, Hendry playing the role of a woman named Laurelene, and Arnold Williams playing the role of Glenn W. Fears.
  • Solitaire's Tarot cards have 007 printed on the backs of them. The High Priestess card was deliberately designed to resemble Jane Seymour. This deck is also known as the Tarot of the Witches Deck designed by Fergus Hall.
  • Director Guy Hamilton liked the running over alligators stunt so much he named the villain after the stuntman who performed it, Ross Kananga, the owner of the alligator farm where the scene was filmed. The filmmakers discovered the farm while scouting for locations when they saw a sign warning that said "TRESPASSERS WILL BE EATEN."
  • The speedboat jump scene over the bayou was interesting in a number of ways. The stuntman piloting Bond's boat unintentionally set a Guinness world record, and a villain's boat was not intended to destroy Sherriff Pepper's patrol car, which it did. Due to Clifton James's spontaneous character acting in that scene, it was kept.
  • This is the first of (to date) only two James Bond films to be mainly set in a fictional country. It is set in a fictional Carribean island called San Monique and was mainly filmed in Jamaica. The other one being Licence to Kill, which is set in a fictional South American state, the Republic of Isthmus, and was mainly filmed in Mexico (with most of the productions being done in Estudios Churubusco in lieu of Pinewood Studios [which has done most of Bond installments] due to budget issues).
  • Bond evades several police officers when commandeering a double-decker bus - two Chevrolet Novas were seen as police vehicles. Although the Chevrolet vehicles were on loan from GM, this was a few years before the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department experimented with a similar Nova for police duty to which law enforcement agencies ordered them in bulk.
  • Live and Let Die is, to date, the only James Bond film to feature its theme song performed on-screen as part of the movie, namely when Bond and Leiter visit the Fillet of Soul in New Orleans (although the track is played in a different arrangement to that heard over the opening credits).
  • Both Julian Harris and Yaphet Kotto, who played two of the main antagonists in this film, would go on to portray Idi Amin. Julian Harris portrayed him in Victory at Entebbe while Kotto portrayed him in Raid on Entebbe which was directed by Irvin Kershner.
  • As of 2022, Gloria Hendry and Jane Seymour are the only two surviving main cast members.
  • Both Clifton James and Sir Roger Moore passed away in 2017 while Tommy Lane and Yaphet Kotto would also pass away in 2021.
  • Moore was 45 when filming began and continued to appear as Bond until he was nearing 60, making him the oldest actor to date to debut as 007; ironically, Ian Fleming established 45 as the mandatory retirement age for 00 agents, although this has not been consistently applied (especially Bond) in the books.
  • The late actors Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi) and Roger Moore (James Bond) have a fear of snakes in real-life, and refused to do scenes where snakes are present. Both only relented after they learned that the production coincided with a royal visit to Jamaica (the filming location) by Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, and were informed that the aforementioned British royal will be visiting the set and would be watching the filming.
    • Holder declined to perform the stunt of diving into the the snake-filled casket when his character is knocked by Bond into it, but only agreed to do so in order not to dismay a member of the Royal Family.

See Also[]

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