FASCINATING 1959 TYPED LETTER ADDRESSED AND SIGNED BY IAN FLEMING TO PLAYBOY EXECUTIVE EDITOR RAY RUSSELL THANKING HIM FOR HIS LETTER AND AN ISSUE OF PLAYBOY , DISCUSSING THE FILM INDUSTRY'S PURCHASES OF CASINO ROYALE AND MOONRAKER, AND JOKINGLY PROMISING TO ENCLOSE (FULLY CLOTHED) PHOTOGRAPHS OF HIMSELF
FLEMING, Ian. Typed letter signed. London, September 29, 1959. Single sheet of letterhead, measuring 8 by 10 inches; p. 1. $15,000.
Humorous 1959 typed signed letter from Ian Fleming to Ray Russell, the executive editor of Playboy, thanking him for his letter and for sending an issue of Playboy; discussing the film industry's limited purchases of rights to his books (confined to "Casino Royale," "Moonraker," and one original story); and promising to send self-portrait photographs, but apologizing for their waist-up nature.
The letter, typed on "Kemsley House London, W.C. 1" letterhead and addressed and signed by Fleming in blue ballpoint pen, reads: "29th September, 1959. [autograph] Dear Ray Russell, [end autograph] Thank you very much for your letter of September 25th and for the splendid copy of Playboy. I am delighted to be in such riotous company. Of course the film industry ought to have bought all my books but in fact, though they have bought 'Casino Royale' and 'Moonraker', they have not plucked up enough courage to have a bash. Now I have done an original Bond story for an independent company, 'Xanadu Films', and the world will, I hope, shortly benefit. I haven't got all that number of photographs but I enclose a couple which I hope will suit. I have had to scrap the nude ones because of a 38" waist built up by royalties and charitable people like yourself. It really is kind of you to send me the magazine. [signed] Yours sincerely Ian Fleming." That slow sale of the rights to Fleming's works was not particularly surprising. Media interest in the James Bond stories was lukewarm, though readers happily led the Bond books to great commercial success. Casino Royale, the first of the James Bond series, was published in 1953, but its film rights were not sold until March of 1954 for a mere $6,000. Production soon stalled. Moonraker was published in the spring of 1955, with radio and comic strip serialization rights selling between 1956 and 1959. Because there was no interest in adapting Fleming's stories into a franchise, Fleming (along with Kevin McClory, Ivar Bruce, and Ernest Cuneo) formed Xanadu Productions in the late 1950s. A confidential telegram that resurfaced in 2012 reveals that Fleming unsuccessfully courted Alfred Hitchcock as a director of Bond pictures around the same time. The "original Bond story" referred to in this letter was likely a screenplay called Thunderball, scrapped after disputes over story credits. Fleming served as the Foreign Manager of the Kemsley newspaper group, parent company of the Sunday Times, between 1945 and 1959. In this capacity, he supervised and facilitated all of the newspaper's foreign correspondents—and occasionally interacted with his stateside counterparts like Ray Russell at Playboy. It was while working this day job that Fleming conceived of James Bond and wrote the first installment of the series, Casino Royale, while on vacation in Jamaica. In 1959, Fleming took a tour of the world's most cosmopolitan urban centers for serial feature in the Sunday Times. Fleming wrote to Ray Russell, the executive editor at Playboy, seeking out the "seamier side" of Chicago, and his ensuing discoveries doubtlessly informed his future spy stories. Russell, Fleming's Chicago contact, was a writer in the Gothic tradition and horror sub-genre, in addition to his work at Playboy. Russell's most famous short story, "Sardonicus," was published in Playboy in 1961. This letter is from the estate of Ray Russell.