The man with the golden touch

The man who brought Pussy Galore to the screen, gave new meaning to the word "explosion" and made gadgetry the stuff of the big box office died yesterday, not in the violent manner of one of his cinematic bad guys, but peacefully, at his Beverly Hills home.

Albert R "Cubby" Broccoli, producer of 17 Bond films from Dr No to Goldeneye, died in his sleep after a series of heart problems. He was 87.

The film world was quick to praise a man whose titles have grossed more than $1bn in a career spanning 58 years.

Honor Blackman, who played Pussy in Goldfinger, said of him: "He was a lovely man. He was always the gentle, kindly uncle of the Bond films. You always felt you could go to Cubby about any problem and he would understand."

Broccoli himself wrote: "From the first I knew Bond was forever." When Goldfinger, Broccoli and co-producer Harry Saltzman's second Bond movie, broke all box office records, an associate told a calling journalist: "Cubby is dancing in the streets... Harry's on the phone doing a deal."

Saltzman, from whom Broccoli split many years later, once described their relationship thus: "We have a kind of chemistry that gels. We fight with the distributors, we fight with the agents, and we fight with each other. We're real professionals."

Broccoli was born in Long Island, New York, the son of Italian farming immigrants.

He moved to Hollywood in 1938 after abandoning life as, first, a market gardener and, later, a funeral director.

His ancestors are credited with breeding the vegetable that bears his name.

His first job was as an assistant director in Howard Hawkes's The Outlaw at Twentieth Century Fox, but he took more control after moving to Britain in the early 1950s to set up Warwick Pictures with Irving Allen. His first film as a producer was the 1953 Red Beret, starring Alan Ladd.

Broccoli's first big break came in 1962 when he and Saltzman persuaded United Artists to provide backing for Dr No.

His wife, Dana, is reported to have played no small part in the film's success.

While viewing audition films, she is said to have squealed: "Take that one! He's gorgeous!" and the career of an unknown actor called Sean Connery was born.

The film was an instant success and it spawned the longest-running sequence of action movies to date.

Among them, making Ian Fleming's character James Bond a worldwide name, were From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Never Say Never Again.

Among the actors who have played Bond are Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and, most recently, Pierce Brosnan.

Broccoli's company, Eon Productions, said in a statement that he had "passed away peacefully" at his home in Beverly Hills.

A spokeswoman said he had been ill for some time. She added: "He was very much the godfather, in the best sense of the word, in Bond pictures.

"He persuaded Ian Fleming that if he were given the rights to the films they would be in very good hands, and so it's turned out.

"He was very much the father figure of the people who worked on Bond, from the superstars like Sean Connery to the humble plasterer."

Desmond Llewelyn, who has played gadget expert Q in 15 Bond films, said: "He was a wonderful man, he really was. He was responsible for the real fantastic success of the Bond films because he was in control.

"There are lots of stories of Cubby vetoing certain things that people wanted, and people grumbling and saying, 'I'm sure we ought to do this or that', but Cubby said no, and of course he was always proved right."

Broccoli was awarded the OBE in 1987 and was also named Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by France.

In 1982, he received the Irving G Thalberg Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, held by Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B de Mille and Walt Disney before him.

He leaves two daughters, a stepson and five grandchildren.

Obituary, page 14