When James Bond came to Las Vegas — PHOTOS

As a movie, “Diamonds Are Forever” is mediocre at best. Based on critics’ scores, Rotten Tomatoes ranks it as the 16th best of the 23 official James Bond movies leading up to Friday’s release of “SPECTRE.” (“Dr. No” finished first, “A View to a Kill” last.)

But as a Las Vegas time capsule, it’s a gloriously kitschy hoot. Filmed in eight hotels and, thanks to an iconic car chase, throughout the streets of downtown, “Diamonds Are Forever” is a must-see for locals who weren’t living here — or weren’t living period — in the spring of 1971.

“We had tremendous cooperation from Las Vegas, because Cubby (Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli) had very good connections and friends in Vegas,” director Guy Hamilton says on the “Diamonds Are Forever” DVD commentary track. Chief among those friends was Howard Hughes, who would serve as the inspiration for the movie’s reclusive casino owner, Willard Whyte (portrayed by Jimmy Dean). Once Broccoli’s pals were convinced that the filming would benefit Las Vegas, Hamilton says, “the town absolutely opened up for us.”

The movie finds Bond (Sean Connery) investigating a diamond-smuggling ring and, in particular, smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). After stops in South Africa (for which the desert outside Las Vegas doubled), Germany and Holland, the movie finally comes alive 30 minutes in when Bond arrives in Southern Nevada.

He barely escapes incineration at the Slumber Inc. Mortuary, the exteriors of which were portrayed by Palm Mortuary, 800 S. Boulder Highway in Henderson.

Later, Bond hops in a lunar rover and outruns ATV-riding security guards in a ridiculous chase through the desert after having infiltrated Whyte Tectronics. The top-secret facility was housed at what’s now the Pabco gypsum plant, 8000 E. Lake Mead Blvd.

Those scenes are fine, but they don’t exactly scream Vegas. Thankfully, though, a large chunk of “Diamonds Are Forever” showcases the city in all its pre-disco glory.

“We shot at several Vegas hotels. We lived at the Riviera,” Tom Mankiewicz, the movie’s co-writer who recalls gambling away four weeks of his $1,500-a-week salary, says on the commentary track. “To shoot in the casino at the Riviera, you had to shoot between 3 and 6 in the morning. (It) was the only way they’d let us shoot, on a weekday morning.”

By most accounts, the seven weeks of local filming made for a grueling schedule.

“The first week I didn’t get any sleep at all,” Connery told the Montreal Gazette during a break in filming at the Riviera. “We shot every night. I caught all the shows and played golf all day. On the weekend I collapsed — boy, did I collapse. Like a skull with legs.”

The results of those efforts, though, are fantastic.

While the International stood in for The Whyte House casino — matte paintings obscured the surrounding buildings and made the hotel’s location look positively remote — scenes set in the hotel’s lounge and on the casino floor were filmed at the Riviera. That’s where Bond, looking dapper in a white dinner jacket and black bowtie among the tourists’ plaids and loud prints, met the buxom Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood): “Hi, I’m Plenty.” “Well of course you are.”

To film the scene of Bond sneaking into The Whyte House penthouse, Connery rode atop the exterior elevator at the Landmark.

The Tropicana played itself when Bond checked into room 831, after uttering an endorsement so valuable — “I hear that the Hotel Tropicana is quite comfortable.” — it’s surprising it still isn’t being used in commercials.

The Dunes served as the office of villainous Whyte House casino manager Bert Saxby (Bruce Cabot), and a deleted scene included on the DVD and Blu-ray shows Bond and Plenty dining in the hotel’s Dome of the Sea restaurant.

But for sheer nostalgia, it’s hard to top the scenes at Circus Circus, with its vintage aerial acts and slot machine-playing elephant.

Director Hamilton says on the commentary track that Jay Sarno, the casino’s legendary founder, “was a Bond fan and said, ‘You can use Circus Circus, but I gotta be in the picture.’ “

Look for Sarno as the mad scientist assisting in the transformation of “Zambora, strangest girl ever born to live” into a “ferocious 450-pound gorilla” — a feat that, for a separate 50-cent admission, sent small children screaming out into the casino. (“Vee must varn you,” Sarno camps it up, “that in every scientific experiment is alvays a danger.”)

As great as the casino scenes are, “Diamonds Are Forever” is mostly remembered for Bond and Tiffany being chased in her red Ford Mustang Mach 1 throughout downtown.

“They said, ‘Whatever you want, Guy,’ ” Hamilton reveals of his conversations with local authorities in the “Inside ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ ” documentary. “And I said, well, I’ve heard that before. I don’t really believe it. Let’s try on for size, ‘Could you close downtown Vegas for five nights?’ “

They could and did.

After Bond was recognized by the sheriff (Roy Hollis) from his Whyte Tectronics break-in, the chase was on. Bond led deputies past plenty of downtown sites, including the glorious neon marquee of the Las Vegas Club’s Dugout restaurant and the construction sign for the soon-to-open Union Plaza, as crowds lined the sidewalks.

It all culminated in a series of smash-ups in The Mint’s parking lot — or at least a Universal Studios backlot designed to look like The Mint’s parking lot.

That’s one of the few Las Vegas scenes, along with those taking place in Willard Whyte’s home and The Whyte House’s honeymoon suite and penthouse, that wasn’t actually shot here.

The rest, though, are part of an impressive legacy that may not last forever but should come pretty close.

— Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch

Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like