Dana Broccoli

Wife and aide of Cubby Broccoli

Saturday 06 March 2004 01:00

Dana Natol, actress and writer: born New York 3 January 1922; married first Lewis Wilson (one son; marriage dissolved), second 1959 Cubby Broccoli (died 1996; one daughter, one adopted son, one adopted daughter); died Beverly Hills, California 29 February 2004.

Dana Broccoli helped not inconsiderably in the creation of cinema's most enduring character, James Bond, although her name was never listed among the credits.

Her contribution to the Bond film series, according to her husband, the 007 producer Albert ("Cubby") Broccoli, was "invaluable from the start". It was Dana who noticed the sex appeal of Sean Connery and urged her husband to cast him as the first Bond. She was also pivotal in the choice of Timothy Dalton as Roger Moore's successor in the 1980s.

In her capacity as unofficial adviser to Cubby during the making of the Bond films, Dana Broccoli sat in on most of the production discussions, read the early screenplays and, being a writer herself, made practical and important suggestions. "Dana is just as involved with the Bond pictures as I am," Cubby Broccoli once said. "Her input has always been valuable, often crucial."

She was careful not to impose herself too much on the creative team, fearing it might cause resentment. Nor did she claim media attention or recognition for her efforts, happy instead to stand beside her husband at countless gala Bond premieres.

Born Dana Natol, to a well-to-do New York family of mixed Irish/Italian heritage, in 1922, she grew up with a film-star beauty that hid a self-confessed bloody-mindedness. She began her career as an actress on the New York and Boston stage, having studied at the celebrated Cecil Clovelly's Academy of Dramatic Arts at Carnegie Hall in New York.

She met and later married Lewis Wilson, a struggling actor who would later find fleeting fame as the screen's first Batman. She gave birth in 1942 to a son, Michael. But, when Wilson joined the US Army to serve in Europe during the Second World War, the long separation proved detrimental to their marriage. Upon his return it became inevitable that they would divorce.

Dana Wilson moved to Beverly Hills, where she became a screenwriter and took small film parts in Once a Thief (1950) and Wild Women (1951, as Queen Bonga Bonga). Quite by chance, in 1959 at a Hollywood party she met Cubby Broccoli, then a widower with two children. Both swore they had seen each other somewhere before, and then it dawned on them. Twelve years previously, when he had been working as a Christmas-tree salesman during a slump in his film fortunes, she had stopped to buy a tree from him in the street. Broccoli felt that some kind of cosmic destiny had drawn them together again. In his words, "There are some customers you just cannot forget."

Cubby Broccoli wooed her relentlessly for six weeks and they were married that June in Las Vegas, with Cary Grant as best man. Marrying Cubby changed Dana's life utterly. She left her home, her country, her family and friends, everything that was familiar to her, to follow Cubby to London and a new way of life. She also adopted his two children.

Throughout Cubby's sometimes traumatic pre-Bond producing career Dana proved a resourceful ally, and a constant source of encouragement. Soon after the marriage, the couple faced financial catastrophe when Cubby's movie The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) failed to get a general release in America due to its homosexual theme. The producer fell into a depressive slump, despite Dana's optimistic promise that something was bound to turn up. Something did. On the day of their second wedding anniversary Cubby signed a deal with United Artists to make the first James Bond movie, Dr No (1962).

With his producing partner Harry Saltzman Cubby Broccoli turned Ian Fleming's spy thrillers into a global phenomenon. Four decades on, the films continue to earn an average of $400m each worldwide. It is an achievement unmatched in entertainment history. In the 1970s Dana stood beside Cubby in a financial dispute with Saltzman that threatened to derail the entire Bond enterprise. Cubby later claimed, "But for Dana's fantastic resources and devotion I might have thrown in the towel. As it was, we took on the battle of a lifetime - and won."

Not unnaturally, when Cubby died in 1996 Dana felt duty-bound to take over as chairman of the company. Her children, Michael and Barbara, are now firmly positioned as the current Bond producers, and it seems likely that the legacy of James Bond will stay firmly within the Broccoli family.

Dana Broccoli wrote two novels, Scenario for Murder (1949) and Florinda (1977), a story set in medieval Spain which in 2000 she adapted into a musical, La Cava, for the West End. It starred Oliver Tobias, who had himself been a candidate for the role of James Bond in the early Eighties.

Robert Sellers

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