Live and Let Die (film)

Live and Let Die is a 1973 spy film based on Ian Fleming's novel of the same name and directed by Guy Hamilton. The eighth film in the James Bond series to be produced by Eon Productions, it was the first to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond, and was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Although the producers had wanted Sean Connery to return after his role in the previous Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, he declined, sparking a search for a new actor to play Bond; Moore was signed for the lead role.

Live and Let Die
Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byGuy Hamilton
Produced byHarry Saltzman
Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay byTom Mankiewicz
Based onLive and Let Die
by Ian Fleming
Music byGeorge Martin
CinematographyTed Moore
Edited by
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • 27 June 1973 (1973-06-27) (United States)
  • 6 July 1973 (1973-07-06) (United Kingdom)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$7 million
Box office$161.8 million

In the film, a Harlem drug lord known as Mr. Big plans to distribute two tons of heroin for free to put rival drug barons out of business and then become a monopoly supplier. Mr. Big is revealed to be the alter ego of Dr. Kananga, a corrupt Caribbean dictator, who rules San Monique, a fictional island where opium poppies are secretly farmed. Bond is investigating the deaths of three British agents, leading him to Kananga, and is soon trapped in a world of gangsters and voodoo as he fights to put a stop to the drug baron's scheme.

Live and Let Die was released during the height of the blaxploitation era, and many blaxploitation archetypes and clichés are depicted in the film, including derogatory racial epithets ("honky"), black gangsters, and pimpmobiles.[1] It departs from the former plots of the James Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains, and instead focuses on drug trafficking, a common theme of blaxploitation films of the period. It is set in African American cultural centres such as Harlem and New Orleans, as well as the Caribbean Islands. It was also the first James Bond film featuring an African American Bond girl romantically involved with 007, Rosie Carver, who was played by Gloria Hendry. The film was a box office success and received generally positive reviews from critics. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Live and Let Die", written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by their band Wings.


Three MI6 agents are killed under mysterious circumstances within 24 hours in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, New Orleans and the Caribbean nation of San Monique, while monitoring the operations of the island's dictator, Dr. Kananga. James Bond, Agent 007, is sent to New York to investigate. Kananga is also in New York, visiting the United Nations. Just after Bond arrives, his driver is shot dead by Whisper, one of Kananga's men, while taking Bond to meet Felix Leiter of the CIA. Bond is nearly killed in the ensuing car crash.

A trace on the killer's licence plate eventually leads Bond to Mr. Big, a ruthless gangster who runs a chain of restaurants throughout the United States. It is here that Bond first meets Solitaire, a beautiful tarot reader who has the power of the Obeah and can see both the future and remote events in the present. Mr. Big demands that his henchmen kill Bond, but Bond overpowers them and escapes unscathed. Bond flies to San Monique, where he meets Rosie Carver, a CIA double agent. They meet up with Bond's friend, Quarrel Jr., who takes them by boat near Solitaire's home. Bond suspects Rosie of working for Kananga and she is killed by Kananga to stop her confessing the truth to Bond. Inside Solitaire's house, Bond uses a stacked deck of tarot cards that show only "The Lovers" to trick her into thinking that fate is meant for them; Bond then seduces her. Solitaire loses her ability to foretell the future when she loses her virginity to Bond, and she decides to cooperate with Bond, based both upon her attraction to him as well as her having grown tired of being controlled by Kananga.

Bond and Solitaire escape by boat and fly to New Orleans. There, Bond is captured by Mr. Big, who removes his prosthetic face and is revealed to be Kananga. He has been producing heroin, and is protecting the poppy fields by exploiting the San Monique locals' fear of voodoo priest Baron Samedi, as well as the occult. Through his alter ego Mr. Big, Kananga plans to distribute the heroin free of charge at his restaurants, which will increase the number of addicts. He intends to bankrupt other drug dealers with his giveaway, then charge high prices for his heroin later in order to capitalise on the huge drug dependencies he has cultivated.

Angry at her for having sex with Bond and that her ability to read tarot cards is now gone, Kananga turns Solitaire over to Baron Samedi to be sacrificed. Meanwhile, Kananga's henchmen, one-armed Tee Hee and tweed-jacketed Adam, leave Bond to be eaten by crocodilians at a farm in the Deep South backwoods. Bond escapes by running along the animals' backs to safety. After setting a drug laboratory on fire, he steals a speedboat and escapes, pursued by Kananga's men under Adam's order, as well as Sheriff J.W. Pepper and the Louisiana State Police. Most pursuers get wrecked or left behind, and Adam does not survive Bond's strike.

Bond travels to San Monique and sets timed explosives throughout the poppy fields. He rescues Solitaire from the voodoo sacrifice and throws Samedi into a coffin of venomous snakes. Bond and Solitaire escape below ground into Kananga's lair. Kananga captures them both and proceeds to lower them into a shark tank. However, Bond escapes and forces Kananga to swallow a compressed-gas pellet used in shark guns, causing his body to inflate and explode.

Leiter puts Bond and Solitaire on a train leaving the country. Tee Hee sneaks aboard and attempts to kill Bond, but Bond cuts the wires of his prosthetic arm and throws him out the window. As the film ends, a laughing Samedi is revealed to be perched on the front of the speeding train.


  • Roger Moore as MI6 agent James Bond 007: A British agent who is sent on a mission to investigate the murder of three fellow agents.
  • Yaphet Kotto as Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big. A corrupt Caribbean Prime Minister who doubles as a drug lord.
  • Jane Seymour as Solitaire: Kananga's psychic and the love interest of Bond.
  • Julius Harris as Tee Hee Johnson: Kananga's primary henchman who has a pincer for a hand.
  • David Hedison as Felix Leiter: Bond's CIA colleague. Leiter is also investigating Mr. Big.
  • Gloria Hendry as Rosie Carver: A CIA agent in San Monique.
  • Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper: An uncouth Louisiana sheriff.
  • Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi: Kananga's henchman who has ties to the Voodoo occult.
  • Bernard Lee as M: The Head of the Secret Intelligence Service
  • Roy Stewart as Quarrel Jr.: Bond's ally in San Monique and son of Quarrel from Dr. No.
  • Earl Jolly Brown as Whisper: Kananga's henchman who only whispers.
  • Tommy Lane as Adam: One of Dr. Kananga's henchmen who pursues 007 through the Louisiana Bayou
  • Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny: M's secretary.
  • Lon Satton as Harry Strutter: CIA agent who assists Bond in New York.
  • Madeline Smith as Miss Caruso: An Italian agent whom Bond briefly romances and only appears in the beginning of the film.
  • Michael Ebbin as Dambala: One of Kananga's henchmen in San Monique and a voodoo priest of sorts who terrifies and kills his victims with a snake.



While filming Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die was chosen as the next Ian Fleming novel to be adapted because screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz thought it would be daring to use black villains, as the Black Panthers and other racial movements were active at this time.[2]

Guy Hamilton was again chosen to direct, and since he was a jazz fan, Mankiewicz suggested he film in New Orleans. Hamilton did not want to use Mardi Gras since Thunderball featured Junkanoo, a similar festivity, so after more discussions with the writer and location scouting with helicopters, he decided to use two well-known features of the city, the jazz funerals and the canals.[2][3]

To develop a better feel of how Voodoo was practised, Saltzman and Broccoli escorted Hamilton, Mankiewicz and production designer Syd Cain to scout New Orleans further and then the islands of the West Indies. Haiti was an important destination of the tour[4] and not only did Fleming connect it with the religion,[5] there were many practitioners available to witness. Despite viewing actual demonstrations, due to political unrest in the country at the time it was decided not to film in Haiti.[4]

While searching for locations in Jamaica, the crew discovered a crocodile farm owned by Ross Kananga, after passing a sign warning that "trespassers will be eaten". The farm was put into the script and also inspired Mankiewicz to name the film's villain after Kananga.[2]

Richard Maibaum later claimed he was asked to write the film, but declined, because he was too busy. He disliked the final film saying "to process drugs in the middle of the jungle is not a Bond caper."[6]


Broccoli and Saltzman tried to convince Sean Connery to return as James Bond, but he declined.[2] At the same time United Artists approached actors Adam West and Burt Reynolds. Reynolds told the studios that Bond should be played by a Briton and turned the offer down. Among the actors to test for the part of Bond were Julian Glover, John Gavin, Jeremy Brett, Simon Oates, John Ronane, and William Gaunt. The main frontrunner for the role was Michael Billington. United Artists was still pushing to cast an American to play Bond, but producer Albert R. Broccoli insisted that the part should be played by a British actor and put forward Roger Moore. After Moore was chosen, Billington remained on the top of the list in the event that Moore would decline to come back for the next film. Billington ultimately played a brief role in the pre-credit sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Moore, who had been considered by the producers before both Dr. No and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, was ultimately cast.[3] He tried not to imitate either Connery's or his own prior performance as Simon Templar in The Saint, and Mankiewicz fitted the screenplay into Moore's persona by giving more comedic scenes and a light-hearted approach to Bond.[2]

Mankiewicz had thought of turning Solitaire into a black woman, with Diana Ross as his primary choice.[1][7] However, Broccoli and Saltzman decided to stick to Fleming's description of a white woman, and after thinking of Catherine Deneuve, Jane Seymour, who was in the TV series The Onedin Line, was cast for the role.[2] Yaphet Kotto was cast while doing another movie for United Artists, Across 110th Street.[2] Kotto reported one of the things he liked in the role was Kananga's interest in the occult, "feeling like he can control past, present and future".[3]

Mankiewicz created Sheriff J.W. Pepper to add a comic relief character. Portrayed by Clifton James, Pepper appeared again in The Man with the Golden Gun.[2] Live and Let Die is also the first of two films featuring David Hedison as Felix Leiter, who reprised the role in Licence to Kill. Hedison had said "I was sure that would be my first and last", before being cast again.[8]

Madeline Smith, who played Miss Caruso, sharing Bond's bed in the film's opening, was recommended for the part by Roger Moore after he had appeared with her on television. Smith said that Moore was extremely polite to work with, but she felt very uncomfortable being clad in only blue bikini panties while Moore's wife was on set overseeing the scene.[9]

Live and Let Die was the only Bond film until Casino Royale (2006) not to feature "Q", played at this stage by Desmond Llewelyn. He was then appearing in the television series Follyfoot, but was written out of three episodes to appear in the film.[10] By then, Saltzman and Broccoli decided not to include the character, feeling that "too much was being made of the films' gadgets", and decided to downplay this aspect of the series,[11] much to Llewelyn's annoyance.[10]

Lois Maxwell had only been included in Diamonds Are Forever during filming as a late addition, as she had asked for a pay increase.[12][13] For Live And Let Die, she returned for the same fee, but due to a technical error, the filming of her scenes in Bond's home at the start of the movie extended to two days, costing the production more than if they'd paid the increase she requested. Roger Moore later wrote that Maxwell celebrated the double-pay-day by purchasing a fur coat.[14]


Principal photography began in October 1972, in Louisiana. For a while, only the second unit was shooting after Moore was diagnosed with kidney stones. In November production moved to Jamaica, which represented the fictional San Monique. In December, production was divided between interiors in Pinewood Studios and location shooting in Harlem.[2][15][16] The producers were reportedly required to pay protection money to a local Harlem gang to ensure the crew's safety. When the money ran out, they were forced to leave.[9] Some exteriors were in fact shot in Manhattan's Upper East Side as a result of the difficulties of using real Harlem locations.

Yaphet Kotto later stated "There were so many problems with that script ... I was too afraid of coming off like Mantan Moreland ... I had to dig deep in my soul and brain and come up with a level of reality that would offset the sea of stereotype crap that Tom Mankiewicz wrote that had nothing to do with the Black experience or culture." Kotto said he did this by drawing "on a real life situation I was going through and that saved me ... but the way Kananga dies was a joke ... The entire experience was not as rewarding as I wanted it to be."[17]

Ross Kananga suggested the stunt of Bond jumping on crocodiles, and was enlisted by the producers to perform it.[1] The scene took five takes to be completed, including one in which the last crocodile snapped at Kananga's heel, tearing his trousers.[2] The production also had trouble with snakes. The script supervisor was so afraid that she refused to be on set with them, an actor fainted while filming a scene where he is killed by a snake, Jane Seymour became terrified as a reptile got closer, and Geoffrey Holder only agreed to fall into the snake-filled casket because Princess Alexandra was visiting the set.[2]

The boat chase was filmed in Louisiana around the Irish Bayou area, with some interruption caused by flooding.[3] 26 boats were built by the Glastron boat company for the film. 17 were destroyed during rehearsals.[18] The speedboat jump scene over the bayou, filmed with the assistance of a specially-constructed ramp, unintentionally set a Guinness World Record at the time with 110 feet (34 m) cleared.[19] The waves created by the impact caused the following boat to flip over.[2]

The chase involving the double-decker bus was filmed with a former London bus adapted by having a top section removed, and then placed back in situ running on ball bearings to allow it to slide off on impact. The stunts involving the bus were performed by Maurice Patchett, a London Transport bus driving instructor.[1]


John Barry, who had worked on the previous five themes and orchestrated the "James Bond Theme", was unavailable during production. Broccoli and Saltzman instead asked Paul McCartney to write the theme song. Saltzman, mindful of his decision not to produce "A Hard Day's Night" was especially eager to work with McCartney.[20] Since McCartney's salary was high and another composer could not be hired with the remainder of the music budget, George Martin, who had been McCartney's producer while with The Beatles, was chosen to write the score for the film.[21] "Live and Let Die", written by McCartney along with his wife Linda and performed by their group Wings, was the first true rock and roll song used to open a Bond film, and became a major success in the United Kingdom (where it reached number nine in the charts) and the US (where it reached number 2, for three weeks). It was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to "The Way We Were". Producers hired B. J. Arnau to record and perform the title song, not realising McCartney intended to perform it. Arnau's version was featured in the film, when the singer performs it in a night club that Bond visits.[22]

The Olympia Brass Band has a notable part in "Live and Let Die", where they lead a funeral march for a soon-to-be assassination victim. Trumpeter Alvin Alcorn plays the killer. The piece of music the band plays at the beginning of the funeral march is "Just a Closer Walk with Thee". After the agent is stabbed, the band starts playing the more lively "Joe Avery's Piece", a.k.a. "New Second Line".


The film was released in the United States on 27 June 1973. The world premiere was at Odeon Leicester Square in London on 6 July 1973, with general release in the United Kingdom on the same day.[23] From a budget of around $7 million,[24] ($40 million in 2018 dollars[25]) the film grossed $161.8 million ($913 million in 2018 dollars[25]) worldwide.[24]

The film holds the record for the most viewed broadcast film on television in the United Kingdom by attracting 23.5 million viewers when premiered on ITV on 20 January 1980.[26]


The reviews were mostly positive, with praise for the action scenes,[27][28] and Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 67% "fresh" rating.[29]

Ian Nathan of Empire wrote "This is good quality Bond, managing to reinterpret the classic moves — action, deduction, seduction — for a more modern idiom without breaking the mould. On one side we get the use of alligators as stepping stones and the pompous pitbull of rootin' tootin' Sheriff Pepper caught up in the thrilling boat chase. On the other, the genuine aura of threat through weird voodoo henchman Tee Hee and the leaning toward — what's this? — realism in Mr Big's plot to take over the drug trade from the Mafia." He concluded that "Moore had got his feet under the table."[30]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that Moore "has the superficial attributes for the job: The urbanity, the quizzically raised eyebrow, the calm under fire and in bed". However, he felt that Moore wasn't satisfactory in living up to the legacy left by Sean Connery in the preceding films. He rated the villains "a little banal", adding that the film "doesn't have a Bond villain worthy of the Goldfingers, Dr. Nos and Oddjobs of the past."[31] Chris Nashawaty similarly argues that Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big is the worst villain of the Roger Moore James Bond films.[32] BBC Films reviewer William Mager praised the use of locations, but said that the plot was "convoluted". He stated that "Connery and Lazenby had an air of concealed thuggishness, clenched fists at the ready, but in Moore's case a sardonic quip and a raised eyebrow are his deadliest weapons".[33] Danny Peary noted that Jane Seymour portrays "one of the Bond series's most beautiful heroines", but had little praise for Moore, whom he described as making "an unimpressive debut as James Bond in Tom Mankiewicz's unimaginative adaptation of Ian Fleming's second novel ... The movie stumbles along most of the way. It's hard to remember Moore is playing Bond at times — in fact, if he and Seymour were black, the picture could pass as one of the black exploitation films of the day. There are few interesting action sequences — a motorboat chase is trite enough to begin with, but the filmmakers make it worse by throwing in some stupid Louisiana cops, including pot-bellied Sheriff Pepper."[34]

IGN ranked Solitaire as 10th in a Top 10 Bond Babes list.[35] In November 2006, Entertainment Weekly listed Live and Let Die as the third-best Bond film.[36] MSN chose it as the-thirteenth best Bond film[28] and IGN listed it as twelfth-best.[27]

In 2004 the American Film Institute nominated the song "Live and Let Die" from the film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.[37]

Year Result Award Recipients
1974NominatedAcademy Award for Best Original SongPaul & Linda McCartney
NominatedGrammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture
WonEvening Standard Best FilmGuy Hamilton

See also


  1. Live and Let Die Ultimate Edition DVD (Media notes). 2006.
  2. Inside Live and Let Die: Live and Let Die Ultimate Edition, Disc 2 (DVD). MGM/UA Home Video. 2000. ASIN: B000LY209E.
  3. Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary – Live and Let Die Ultimate Edition, Disc 2 (DVD). MGM/UA Home Video. 1973. ASIN: B000LY209E.
  4. Field, Matthew; Chowdhury, Ajay (2015). "Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films". Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  5. Anderson, Jeffrey E., ed. (2015). "The Voodoo Encyclopedia: Magic, Ritual, and Religion: Magic, Ritual, and Religion". p. 104. ISBN 9781610692083. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  6. Goldberg, Lee (1983). "Richard Maibaum 007's Puppermaster". Starlog. p. 63.
  7. Tom Mankiewicz and Robert Crane, My Life as a Mankiewicz, University Press of Kentucky 2012 p 155
  8. David Hedison Interview Archived 10 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine,
  9. Roger Moore. Live and Let Die Audio commentary 1. Live and Let Die, Ultimate Edition, disk 1.
  10. "Llewelyn's last interview (with reference to ''Follyfoot'' and ''Live and Let Die'')". 19 December 1999. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2010.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  11. "Memories of "Q"". Her Majesty's Secret Servant. Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
  12. Chapman, James. Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films (Cinema and Society) Pages 101-102. I.B.Taurus Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1845115159
  13. D'Abo, Maryam & Cork, John. Bond Girls are Forever: The Women of James Bond Page 87. Harry N. Abrams Books 2003. ISBN 978-0810943025
  14. Moore, Roger & Hedison, David. The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die. The History Press, June 2018. ISBN 978-0750987592
  15. Exotic Locations. Live and Let Die, Ultimate Edition, disk 2.
  16. "Live and Let Die – Location Guide". Archived from the original on 26 May 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  17. Tate, James M. (12 October 2012). "Yaphet Kotto Kills Live and Let Die". Cult Film Freaks.
  18. Sorensen, Eric (25 January 2007). "Big, gaudy and Bond-like, Seattle Boat Show exhibit cuts to the chase". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011.
  19. Pearsall, Bill (28 January 1973). "Jumping Boats: James Bond Film Goes to Any Length". The New York Times.
  20. "James Paul McCartney". MI6 Confidential, Issue 5 (2018)
  21. Lindner, Christoph (2003). The James Bond Phenomenon: a Critical Reader. Manchester University Press. pp. 130–1. ISBN 978-0-7190-6541-5.
  22. The Music of James Bond. Jon Burlingame. Oxford University Press 2014. ISBN 978-0199358854
  23. "Live And Let Die (1973)". Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  24. "Live and Let Die". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  25. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  26. "TV's jewels fail to shine in list of all-time winners". Electronic Telegraph. 7 February 1998. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  27. "James Bond's Top 20". IGN. 17 November 2006. Archived from the original on 6 November 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  28. Norman Wilner. "Rating the Spy Game". MSN. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2009.
  29. "Live and Let Die (1973)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Archived from the original on 12 June 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
  30. "Live and Let Die at Empire online". Archived from the original on 11 December 2015.
  31. "Live and Let Die". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 27 October 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  32. Chris Nashawaty, "Moore ... And Sometimes Less: A look at the most — and least — memorable bad guys, babes, and Bonds in Roger Moore's 007 oeuvre," Entertainment Weekly 1025 (12 December 2008): 37.
  33. "Live and Let Die (1973)". BBC. Archived from the original on 22 June 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  34. Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Simon & Schuster, 1986) p.244
  35. Zdyrko, Dave (15 November 2006). "Top 10 Bond Babes". Archived from the original on 25 July 2008.
  36. Benjamin Svetkey & Joshua Rich (15 November 2006). "Ranking the Bond Films". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 30 September 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2008.
  37. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2016.

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