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Felix Leiter
Character from the James Bond franchise
OfficialFelixLeiters.jpg
The many faces of Felix Leiter: from top-left: Jack Lord, Cec Linder, Rik Van Nutter, Norman Burton - from bottom-left: David Hedison (LALD), John Terry, David Hedison (LTK), and currently, Jeffrey Wright.
Affiliation CIA
Relatives Della Leiter (Licence to Kill) (wife, deceased)
Cedar Leiter (Novels) (daughter)
Portrayed by Various

Felix Leiter is a fictional character created by Ian Fleming in the James Bond series of novels and films. In both, Leiter works for the CIA and assists Bond in his various adventures as well as being his best friend. In further novels Leiter joins the Pinkerton Detective Agency and in the film Licence to Kill he transfers to the DEA. The name "Felix" comes from the middle name of Fleming's friend Ivor Bryce while the name "Leiter" was the surname of Fleming's friend Marion Oates Leiter Charles, then wife of Thomas Leiter.

In the 1954 Climax! television adaptation of Casino Royale, which featured Barry Nelson as CIA officer Jimmy Bond, his opposite number became British secret agent Clarence Leiter rather than Felix, played by Australian actor Michael Pate.

Contents

Novel biography

Felix Leiter makes his first appearance and introduction to James Bond in the first Bond novel, Casino Royale. He is a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, now working for the CIA and stationed in Paris: a tall, lanky, blond Texan. He quickly befriends Bond, and provides some much needed backup at a crucial moment during Bond's secret mission to bankrupt SMERSH paymaster Le Chiffre by outgambling him. When Bond loses a decisive Baccarat hand and is "cleaned-out", Leiter provides Bond with additional capital, allowing him to complete his mission which, thanks to Leiter, he does successfully.

In Live and Let Die, the second Bond novel, Leiter teams once again with Bond early on in the story, this time to crack down on the illegal operations of Mr. Big, a master criminal and known member of SMERSH who is smuggling gold coins into the U.S. After escaping Mr. Big's kidnapping together, Leiter goes alone to investigate a warehouse in Florida, where Mr. Big's henchman "The Robber" feeds him to a shark; Leiter survives, but loses an arm and a leg. He remains unconscious for the rest of the novel, and subsequently leaves the CIA because "with my shooting arm gone, they could only offer me desk work."

After a brief absence in Moonraker, Leiter returns once more, on crutches and wearing a prosthetic hook, in Diamonds Are Forever. He is now employed as a private detective by Pinkertons Detective Agency. With the aid of Leiter and his ally Ernie Cureo, Bond tackles diamond smuggling in Las Vegas and brings down the Spangled Mob.

He returns in "Goldfinger," where he leads an Army contingent in foiling Auric Goldfinger's attempt to rob Fort Knox after getting an S.O.S. note Bond leaves in a bathroom at Idlewild Airport.

By the time of Thunderball, Leiter is called back to the CIA. Together with Bond they research Emilio Largo in The Bahamas and fight an underwater battle under his yacht. Leiter suffers minor injuries during the battle, and Largo is killed by his mistress, Domino.

Leiter's last appearance is in Fleming's final novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. Leiter has apparently been kept a position in the CIA, and helps Bond in Jamaica, this time around to tackle Francisco Scaramanga. Posing as a hotel clerk, Leiter and Bond infiltrate Scaramanga's train and jump out of it before finally derailing it (along with Scaramanga, who survives to have a last duel with Bond in the swamps).

Leiter is lastly seen with Bond at the hospital, along his recovering friend.

After John Gardner took over writing the James Bond novel series, Leiter made an occasional appearance. The novel For Special Services introduces his daughter, Cedar Leiter, who is also a CIA officer (and briefly Bond's romantic conquest), while in Win, Lose or Die U.S. President George H. W. Bush (making a cameo appearance in the novel) mentions working with Leiter in his previous capacity as CIA director.

Leiter also makes appearances in Raymond Benson's continuation Bond novels, The Facts of Death, in which he helps Bond substantially with a mission in Texas, and Doubleshot. Benson has Leiter sometimes making use of an electric wheelchair, in reference to the deterioration of his legs following the shark attack, but Leiter is still capable of walking with the aid of a cane. In later novels, Leiter has also found a Hispanic girlfriend, Manuela.

Film biography

In the films, Leiter is a CIA officer in all appearances except in Licence to Kill, in which he works alongside the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The cinematic Bond and Leiter meet for the first time in Dr. No, the first Bond film. EON Productions had originally planned to film Thunderball, where Leiter featured prominently, as the first film in the series. However, the controversy over Thunderball led the filmmakers to film Dr. No instead and so the character of Leiter was added to the novel's plot.

The film version of Live and Let Die does not contain the sequence with the shark, and Leiter survives intact to help Bond again. Leiter's confrontation with the shark would later be used in Licence to Kill where he is fed to a shark by the villain Franz Sanchez. The film version of Leiter loses only one leg at the knee to the shark, although one arm is seriously injured. Although severely mutilated, Leiter would still remain alive. His new wife, Della, is raped and murdered by Sanchez's henchmen. These atrocities would send Bond on a quest for revenge, which forms the film's central plot.

In the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, the character Jack Wade appeared as the regular representative of the CIA, ostensibly because the producers did not want to feature a disabled Leiter. It is hinted in GoldenEye that he is friends with Leiter, though Leiter is never mentioned by name. Leiter appeared in the 2006 adaptation of Casino Royale. As the film is a reboot, Leiter once again works for the CIA with no mention of the shark encounter.

There is no visual continuity between Leiter's film appearances. In Dr. No he is depicted as being somewhat suave and mysterious and roughly the same age as Bond; the very next appearance of the character in Goldfinger depicted him as middle-aged and grey-haired and a more typical American policeman type or an American counterpart of M; in the very next film, he was once again depicted as being about Bond's age and more physically active than the Goldfinger Leiter. Also, while usually portrayed by white actors, Leiter has on three occasions (one in a non-EON production, twice in EON productions) been portrayed by African American actors.

According to screenwriter Richard Maibaum, it was Jack Lord's demand for co-star billing, a bigger role and more money to reprise the Felix Leiter role[1] in Goldfinger that led the producers to recast the role.

Dr. No

Felix Leiter is sent to Jamaica to work with British agent John Strangways to investigate radio jamming of NASA rockets. Strangways is murdered by henchmen of the mysterious and secretive Dr. No and Leiter enlists the aid of Jamaican fisherman Quarrel to investigage Dr. No's island, Crab Key. When Bond arrives in Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of Strangways, Leiter and Quarrel assist him in his pursuit of Dr. No.

Goldfinger

Leiter is sent to tell James Bond not only about Auric Goldfinger, but also what M wants Bond to do with Goldfinger. Felix interrupts Bond while he is being massaged by Dink. They arrange to have dinner for a better briefing, but Bond reschedules to breakfast as he is enjoying time with Goldfinger's girlfriend Jill Masterson. When Masterson is killed, Felix is asked to come to Bond's room.

Later Felix calls M, telling him Bond is going to Kentucky. M asks Felix to follow and keep an eye on him but not to "drop" in on him. Felix and one of his allies tail Bond (using the homing device in Bond's shoe) to a farm, where they spy on him. When Bond takes his homer out and puts it in the car of Oddjob and Mr. Solo, Felix follows. Oddjob destroys the car and Mr. Solo and the homer device and Felix must return to the farm, fearing Bond is dead. After spying on the farm, he sees that Bond is in apparent control of the situation, but does not know that Bond is actually being held captive.

On the day of "Operation Grand Slam", Felix is warned in advance by a reformed Pussy Galore of Goldfinger's plan, and the CIA changes the contents of the gas canisters in Pussy's airplanes from nerve agent to a harmless gas. Felix then waits for Goldfinger to arrive at Fort Knox, faking death along with the stationed garrison and, when the plot is put into action, these forces and Bond manage to stop Goldfinger. Leiter is last seen waving his friend off on a private plane to Washington, to be received by the President (and then noting in alarm that the plane is crashing!).

Thunderball

Felix Leiter is sent to the Bahamas to investigate two stolen nuclear missiles with Ml6 agent and old friend James Bond. Felix follows Bond several times without him noticing, and when he goes to Bond’s room, Bond opens the door and punches him. Bond quickly brings him inside and tells him to be quiet while he deals with an intruder in his house. Bond later apologises for punching him. Felix and Bond investigate Emilio Largo, who has stolen the weapons. Felix later saves Bond when he is trapped and helps him find the missing plane.

Diamonds Are Forever

Felix Leiter appears, undercover, as a customs inspector who enables Bond to smuggle in a cache of diamonds, using the corpse of Peter Franks (a smuggler who had died while battling Bond in an earlier sequence). When James arranges for the exchange of diamonds to Tiffany Case (hidden in a stuffed animal), Leiter and his men lose her in a parking lot. Leiter later escorts James to a remote hideout where hotel magnate Willard Whyte is being kept. Leiter grows flustered when James subdues Whyte's two bodyguards, 'Bambi' and 'Thumper' (two athletic women who attack their opponents with kicks), by dunking them in a pool, complaining about Bond "giving breast-stroke lessons" while trying to find Whyte. Leiter then assists Bond and Whyte in tracking down the satellite operating center and makes another appearance on one of the helicopters leading the assault on the center. He is finally seen with Whyte bidding farewell to Bond and Tiffany on their cruise at the end of the film.

Live and Let Die

Leiter acts as the CIA liaison as Bond operates in New York City, investigating the deaths of British agents who were the victims of Mr. Big. When Bond arrives in New York, Leiter wants some information about Big's henchman Whisper, who had killed Bond's taxi driver. In this film, Leiter and other CIA officers also operate out of a hotel room overlooking the residence of Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a small island called San Monique. Leiter, while investigating Kananga for corruption in the United States, goes with Bond to a Fillet of Soul restaurant, under the guise of finding out more information about Mr. Big, a notorious drug dealer. However, Bond is removed from the restaurant and captured by Mr. Big by a descending floor, and Leiter appears to have no idea what happened to Bond. When Bond later escapes, Leiter assists him in handing him a series of bombs to explode the poppy fields that Mr. Big/Kananga is growing. He's last seen in the film escorting Bond and Solitaire to their train.

Never Say Never Again

In this non-Eon Productions remake of Thunderball, Leiter aids Bond in an attack on the underground fortress of villain Maximillian Largo. In this film, the character was played by Bernie Casey, which marks the only time Leiter was portrayed as an African-American until the relaunch of the franchise with Casino Royale in 2006.

The Living Daylights

Felix Leiter is investigating Brad Whitaker in Tangier, trying to determine why Whitaker had not made any arms deals after receiving a huge sum of money from General Leonid Pushkin. He sets up cameras around Whitaker's estate to spy on him. When Bond comes to Tangier, and after Bond (with Pushkin's connivance) fakes Pushkin's assassination, Leiter captures Bond using two girls to seduce him; they hold him at gunpoint until he realizes they are working for Leiter. Bond and Felix discuss Pushkin and Whitaker. Later he is seen when Bond was breaking into Whitaker's house; Leiter helps Bond enter the house undetected. Unlike most recent interpretations of Leiter (and the one to follow), Leiter is depicted here as young and something of a ladies man, more in keeping with the youth-oriented portrayal of the character in Dr. No and Thunderball.

Licence to Kill

Felix Leiter is going to be married, to Della Churchill, but on the way his friends from the DEA catch up with him. They tell him that drug lord Franz Sanchez is nearby. Felix insists that they go despite his wedding. Felix and Bond, leaving Sharkey to explain to Della, go by helicopter to a house in the Bahamas. When they land, Felix tells Bond to stay in the helicopter, while he and several DEA officers find Sanchez. Sanchez's men try and distract Felix by shooting at him and his officers. Bond is brought in the action, saying "if I don't get you back to the wedding, I am a dead man for sure." Felix and Bond can’t find Sanchez but realize he is escaping in an airplane, so quickly get in the helicopter and chase. Bond helps Leiter get Sanchez and both parachute down to the wedding, where Leiter and Della wed.

Later, when Sanchez is traveling from the Bahamas to a prison, Ed Killifer, an agent, betrays his friend Felix and helps allow Sanchez to escape for US$2 million. This indirectly allows Sanchez to find Leiter.

Leiter and Della are enjoying their post-wedding party, cutting the cake, opening presents and giving Bond a present (a lighter which becomes crucial at the end of the film). Leiter and Della say good-bye to Bond and go inside. When they enter their bedroom, Perez and Braun are waiting for them. Leiter insists they let Della go but is knocked out from behind by Dario. The three then (it is implied) rape Della before killing her, they then bring Leiter to Sanchez at Milton Krest's marine lab. Leiter realises that Killifer has betrayed them and thinks that Sanchez is going to kill him. Sanchez then feeds Leiter to the shark. He is brought back to his house for James Bond to find with a note reading, "He disagreed with something that ate him" (Note: this is all from Ian Fleming's Live and Let Die). Leiter is rushed to hospital and, after weeks in intensive care, recovers with his damaged arm saved, though he has lost a leg.

Bond goes after Sanchez, nominally losing his licence to kill in the process when he resigns from MI6 rather than follow M's orders to drop the matter. Much of the plot of the film is based around 007's dogged pursuit of and revenge on Sanchez, whom he tricks into distrusting his own people and eventually kills, after destroying the drug lord's empire and, finally, revealing the reason for his vengeance. Leiter is last seen at the end of a telephone conversation with Bond, who promises to come and see him soon. He looks grave, but forces a smile when a nurse plumps his pillows, signing off by telling Bond that M wants him back.

Casino Royale

In the reboot of the James Bond series, Felix Leiter is re-introduced as working for the CIA against Le Chiffre. He is entered in the major poker game that Le Chiffre must win.

When Bond is knocked out of the tournament, Felix reveals himself to him on a stairwell as "a brother from Langley," and proposes a plan for Bond to win against Le Chiffre. He says that he is "bleeding chips" and will not last much longer against Le Chiffre. Felix stops Bond's attempt to assassinate Le Chiffre and gives him $5 million to buy back into the tournament. In exchange, Felix wants the CIA to take Le Chiffre in if Bond wins. Bond agrees.

Leiter is knocked out of the poker game not too long after, but Bond wins the final hand (and with it a $120 million pot) to defeat Le Chiffre and the two other remaining players. It is stated later that Felix makes contact with Le Chiffre and will extract him at dawn, but this is revealed to be a ploy by the villains to kidnap Vesper Lynd.

Quantum of Solace

Leiter appears again to help Bond in Quantum of Solace, working as a senior officer under CIA Section Chief of South America, Greggory Beam. Leiter and Beam are tasked with working with the film's villain, Dominic Greene, to secure oil sources in South America for the United States. Leiter believes that working with Greene is wrong and warns Bond about a CIA black ops team coming into a Bolivian bar to kill him. Bond escapes thanks to Leiter's warning. Before Bond was forced out the bar, Leiter gave Bond Greene's rendezvous point with his Bolivian clients, allowing him to intercept Greene and put a stop to his plans. After meeting Bond, however, Leiter talks to Beam and confirms that he passed along the message he was assigned to (though whether he actually did is left ambiguous). It is revealed at the end of the film, after the death of Greene and the collapse of Greene Planet, that Beam was fired and Leiter has become the CIA's Section Chief of South America, a significant promotion.

Actors

While Leiter appears in a number of Bond films, he has almost always been played by different actors in each, and hence has not achieved the memorable status of other Bond characters such as M, Q and Miss Moneypenny. Leiter appears in nine official films and one unofficial film, played by eight different actors, who vary dramatically in age, physical characteristics and even race; for example, Leiter was portrayed as an African American by Bernie Casey in the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again and by Jeffrey Wright in the 2006 film Casino Royale and 2008's Quantum of Solace.

David Hedison and Jeffrey Wright are the only actors to play Leiter more than once; Hedison was recast in Licence to Kill having previously played the role in Live and Let Die. The producers decided that due to the events of LTK, with the entire plot being driven by Leiter's crippling and Bond's resultant quest for revenge, the producers would need someone who was already established in the role to resonate with the audience, even though Hedison had last played the part 16 years earlier. Wright became the first actor to play Leiter in consecutive films when he appeared in Casino Royale and its direct sequel, Quantum of Solace.

Actors who have played Felix Leiter in the films (in order of appearance):

In the "official" films

In the "unofficial" films

Other appearances

Leiter is mentioned, but does not appear, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (he is referred to as 'F. Gordon Leiter', presumably a reference to G. Gordon Liddy). In it, the British Industrialist Sir John Knight (father of Emma Peel) has been granted a lucrative United Nations contract to arm and equip the newly formed intelligence organization U.N.C.L.E.. Since John Knight was a childhood friend of Al Waverly, UNCLE's director, the CIA believes that favoritism had prevented an American company from landing the contract. In retribution, the CIA through Leiter recruits Bond to assassinate Knight, using the story of No as both a way to lure Bond to Jamaica and to provide him with an alibi.

Reception

A 2002 feature article in the Styles section of The New York Times compared Leiter's relationship with Bond to that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ Goldberg, Lee The Richard Maibaum Interview p. 26 Starlog #68 March 1983
  2. ^ Thomas Vinciguerra (2002-11-17). "Holmes Had Watson. Why Can't Bond Keep Leiter?". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05EFD81530F934A25752C1A9649C8B63. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 

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