Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die
British cinema poster for Live and Let Die, illustrated by Robert McGinnis.
Directed By Guy Hamilton
 Produced By Harry Saltzman
  Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay By Tom Mankiewicz
Based On Live and Let Die (by Ian Fleming)
Starring Roger Moore
  Yaphet Kotto
  Jane Seymour
Music By George Martin
Cinematography Ted Moore
Edited By Bert Bates
Raymond Poulton
John Shirley
Production Company Eon Productions
Distributed By United Artists
Release Date June 27, 1973 (United States)
July 6, 1973 (United Kingdom)
Running Time 121 Minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $7 million
Box Office $161.8 million

Live and Let Die (1973) was the 8th spy film created in the James Bond series to be produced by Eon Productions and the first to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent, James Bond. Produced by Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, Live and Let Die was the 3rd of 4 James Bond movies directed by Guy Hamilton. The producers wanted Sean Connery to return after his role in the previous James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever; however, Sean Connery rejected the opportunity, beginning a search for a new actor to play James Bond. Roger Moore was signed for the part.

Live and Let Die was created from the book also called Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming. In the movie, a Harlem drug lord called Mr. Big plans to distribute two tons of heroin for free, an attempt to put rival drug barons out of business. Mr. Big is disguised as the alter ego of Dr. Kananga, who is a corrupt Caribbean dictator, which rules San Monique, the fictional island in the Caribbeans where the heroin poppies are secretly produced. Bond is investigating the deaths of three British agents, which leads him to Dr. Kananga and is soon trapped in a world of gangsters 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 (when the black population was exploited) and many blaxploitation archetypes and cliches are depicted in the film, such as derogatory racial epithets, black gangsters, and pimp mobiles.[1] Live and Let Die departs from the former plots of the Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains and instead focuses on drug trafficking, a common theme of blaxploitation films of the period. Live and Let Die is set in African American cultural centers, such as Harlem and New Orleans, as well as the Caribbean Islands. Live and Let Die was also the first Bond film featuring an African American James Bond girl to be romantically involved with James Bond, Rosie Carver, which was played by Gloria Hendry. The movie was a box office hit and received generally good reviews from critics. Live and Let Die was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Live and Let Die”, which was written by Linda and Paul McCartney and was performed by their band Wings.

Three MI6 agents, including one, which was loaned to the American government, are killed under mysterious circumstances within 24 hours of each other in New Orleans, San Monique, and the United Nations, while monitoring the operations of the island’s dictator Dr. Kananga. Bond is sent to New York City to investigate the first murder. Kananga is in New York as well, visiting the United Nations and representing San Monique. Just after Agent 007 arrives, his driver is shot and killed by Whisper, one of Kananga’s men, while taking James Bond to meet Felix Leiter of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). James Bond, Agent 007, is nearly killed in the ensuing car crash.

Louisiana Boat Chase Live and Let Die
Glastron speedboats in the Louisiana boat chase, which was filmed in the Bayou Des Allemands.

A trace on the killer’s licence plate leads Agent 007 to Mr. Big, who is a ruthless gangster, which runs a chain of Fillet of Soul restaurants throughout the United States. This is where James Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful tarot expert who has the power of the Obeah who can see both the future and remote events in the present. Mr. Big, who is actually Kananga in disguise, demands that his henchmen kill Agent 007; however, James Bond overpowers them and escapes unharmed. Agent 007 flies to San Monique, which is where he meets Rosie Carver, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) double agent. They meet up with a friend of Agent 007, Quarrel Jr., which takes them by boat near Solitaire’s home. James Bond suspects Rosie Carver of working for Kananga. Rosie Carver is shot dead, remotely, by Kananga, to prevent her confessing the truth to Agent 007. Inside Solitaire’s house, Agent 007 uses a deck of tarot cards, which shows only “The Lovers”, to trick her into thinking that seduction is in her future, then seduces her. Solitaire loses her ability to foretell the future after she loses her virginity to Agent 007, then decides to co-operate with him as she has feelings for him and grew tired of being controlled by Kananga.

Solitaire and Agent 007 escape by boat, then fly to New Orleans, which is where Agent 007 is captured by Kananga, which appears that Kananga is producing two tons of heroin and is protecting the poppy fields by exploiting San Monique locals’ fear of voodoo priest Baron Samedi and the occult. Mr. Big, the alter ego of Kananga, intends to distribute the heroin free of charge at his Fillet of Soul restaurants that will increase the number of addicts. Mr. Big intends to bankrupt other drug dealers with his freebees, then charge high prices for his heroin later in order to capitalize on the huge drug dependencies he cultivated.

When Kananga finds out that Agent 007 slept with Solitaire, Kananga turns her over to Baron Samedi to be sacrificed. Kananga is angry because her ability to read tarot cards is gone and he wanted to be the one to take her powers away. In the meantime, Tee Hee Johnson leaves Agent 007 to be eaten by alligators at a farm in the Louisiana backwoods. Agent 007 escapes by running along the animals’ backs to safety. After he sets a drug lab on fire, Agent 007 steals a speedboat and escapes, followed by both Kananga’s men and Sheriff Pepper, as well as the Louisiana State Police.

James Bond travels to San Monique (in the Caribbean islands) and sets timed explosives throughout the poppy fields. James Bond rescues Solitaire from the voodoo sacrifice and throws Baron Samedi into a coffin of poisonous snakes. Agent 007 and Solitaire escape below ground into Kananga’s lair, where Kananga captures them both and proceeds to lower them into a shark tank. Agent 007 escapes and forces Kananga to swallow a compressed-gas pellet, which is used in shark guns, causing his body to inflate and explode.

Felix Leiter puts James Bond and Solitaire on a train out of the country. Tee Hee sneaks aboard and tries to kill James Bond; however, James Bond cuts the wires of his prosthetic arm and throws him out the window. As the film finishes, a laughing Baron Samedi is revealed to be sitting on the front of the speeding train.


  • Live and Let Die Cast
    Promotional image of the cast of Live and Let Die. From left: Julius Harris, Jane Seymour, Geoffrey Holder, Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, and Earl Brown.

    Roger Moore plays James Bond, an MI6 agent also known as Agent 007: A British agent who is sent on a mission to investigate the murder of three fellow agents.

  • Yaphet Kotto plays Mr. Big and Dr. Kananga, who is a corrupt Caribbean Prime Minister, who doubles as a drug lord.
  • Jane Seymour plays Solitaire: Kananga’s psychic and the love interest of Agent 007.
  • Julius Harris plays Tee Hee Johnson, who is Kananga’s primary henchman, with a pincer for a hand.
  • David Hedison plays Felix Leiter, who is James Bond’s CIA colleague. Felix Leiter is also investigating Dr. Kananga.
  • Gloria Hendry plays Rosie Carver, who is A CIA agent in San Monique.
  • Clifton James plays Sheriff Pepper, who is a barbaric Louisiana sheriff.
  • Geoffrey Holder plays Baron Samedi, who is Kananga’s henchman that has ties to the Voodoo occult.
  • Bernard Lee plays M, who is the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service.
  • Roy Stewart plays Quarrel Jr., who is Agent 007’s friend in San Monique and the son of Quarrel from Dr. No.
  • Earl Brown plays Whisper, who is Dr. Kananga’s henchman that only whispers.
  • Tommy Lane plays Adam, who is one of Kananga’s henchmen who follows James Bond through the Louisiana Bayou.
  • Lois Maxwell plays Miss Moneypenny, who is M’s secretary.
  • Lon Satton plays Harry Strutter, who is a CIA agent, which assists Agent 007 in New York.
  • Madeline Smith plays Miss Caruso, who is an Italian agent whom James Bond briefly romances. Miss Caruso only appears in the beginning of the movie. Miss Caruso spends the night with James Bond and hides in the closet when M unexpectedly visits James Bond’s home to give him an urgent mission.
  • Michael Ebbin plays Dambala, who is one of Dr. Kananga’s henchmen and a voodoo priest, which kills his victims with a snake.


While filming Diamonds Are ForeverLive and Let Die was selected as the next Fleming novel to be created because screenwriter Mankiewicz thought it would be daring to use black villains as the Black Panthers because other racial movements were active at this time.[2] Hamilton was selected again to direct and since Guy Hamilton was a jazz fan, Tom Mankiewicz suggested he film in New Orleans. Guy 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, Guy Hamilton 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 practiced, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli escorted Guy Hamilton, Tom Mankiewicz, and production designer Syd Cain to scout New Orleans further and then the islands of the West Indies. Haiti was an important destination[4] and not only did Ian Fleming connect it with the religion,[5] there were many practitioners available to witness. Regardless of viewing actual demonstrations due to political unrest in the country at the time, they 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]


Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman tried to convince Connery to return as James Bond; however, Sean Connery rejected the opportunity.[2] At the same time United Artists (UA) approached both Adam West, who played Batman, and Burt Reynolds. Burt Reynolds told the studios that James Bond should be played by an Englishman, however, rejected the offer. Among the actors to audition for the part of Agent 007 were Jeremy Brett, William Gaunt, John Gavin, Julian Glover, Simon Oates, and John Ronane. The main actor selected for the role was Michael Billington. United Artists (UA) was still aiming to cast an American to play Agent 007; however, producer Broccoli insisted that the part should be played by a British actor and recommended Roger Moore. After Roger Moore was selected, Michael Billington continued to be on the top of the list in the event that Roger Moore would reject to come back for the next movie. Michael Billington ultimately played a brief role in the pre-credit sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Roger Moore, who had been considered by the producers before both Dr. No and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was ultimately selected.[3] Roger Moore tried not to resemble either Sean Connery’s or his own prior performance as Simon Templar in The Saint and Tom Mankiewicz fitted the screenplay into Roger Moore’s personality by giving him more comedy scenes and a light-hearted approach to James Bond.[2]

Tom Mankiewicz had thought of turning Solitaire into a black woman with Diana Ross as his first choice;[1] [6] however, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman chosen to stick to Ian Fleming’s description of a white woman and after thinking of Catherine Deneuve, Jane Seymour, who was in the television series The Onedin Line, was selected for the role.[2] Kotto was selected while doing another movie for United Artists, Across 110th Street.[2] Yaphet Kotto reported one of the things he liked in the role was Dr. Kananga’s interest in the occult, “feeling like he can control past, present, and future”.[3]

Tom Mankiewicz created Sheriff Pepper to include a comic relief character, which was portrayed by Clifton James. Sheriff Pepper showed up again in The Man with the Golden Gun.[2] Live and Let Die is the first of two films featuring David Hedison as Felix Leiter, who regained the role in Licence to Kill. David Hedison said, “I was sure that would be my first and last”, before being selected again.[7]

Madeline Smith, who played Miss Caruso, sharing James Bond’s bed in the movie’s opening, was suggested for the part by Moore after he had appeared with her on television. Madeline Smith said that Roger Moore was extremely polite to work with; however, Smith was very uncomfortable being clad in only blue bikini panties while Roger Moore’s wife was on set overseeing the scene.[8]

This was the only James Bond film until 2006, which did not feature ‘Q’, played at this stage by Desmond Llewelyn. Llewelyn was then appearing in the television series Follyfoot; however, was written out of three episodes to appear in the movie.[9] By then, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli decided not to include the character, feeling that “too much was being made of the films’ gadgets”, then decided to downplay this aspect of the series,[10] much to Desmond Llewelyn’s annoyance.[9]


Principal photography started in October 1972 in Louisiana. For sometime only the second unit was shot after Roger Moore was diagnosed with kidney stones. In November, production moved to Jamaica, which doubled for the fictional San Monique. In December, production was divided between interiors in Pinewood Studios and location filming in Harlem.[2] [11] [12] Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli 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 “encouraged” to leave.[8] Some exteriors were in filmed in Manhattan’s Upper East Side as a result of the difficulties of using real Harlem locations.

Kananga recommended the stunt of James Bond jumping on crocodiles and was enlisted by the producers to perform it.[1] The scene took five takes to be finished, such as one in which the last crocodile snapped at Dr. Kananga’s heel, ripping his pants.[2] They also had trouble with snakes during production. The script supervisor was so afraid that she refused to be on set with the snakes. An actor fainted while shooting a scene where he is killed by a snake and Jane Seymour became terrified as a reptile got closer. 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 delays caused by flooding.[3] 26 boats were built by the Glastron Boat Company for the movie. 17 were destroyed during rehearsals.[13] The scene where the speedboat jumps over the bayou was filmed with the assistance of a specially-constructed ramp, accidentally set a Guinness World Record at the time with 110 feet cleared. The waves created by the impact of the boat caused the next boat to flip over.[2]

The chase involving the double-decker bus was filmed with a second-hand London bus transformed 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, who is a London Transport bus driving instructor.[1]


Dejan's Olympia Brass Band
Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band.

John Barry, who had worked on the past five themes and orchestrated the “James Bond Theme”, was not available during production. Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman instead asked Paul McCartney to write the theme song. 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.[14] “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 UK (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 realizing McCartney intended to perform it himself. Arnau’s version was featured in the film itself, when the singer performed it in a night club which Bond attends.[15]

The Olympia Brass Band played a notable part in “Live and Let Die”, where they lead a funeral march for an assassination victim. 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” (aka “New Second Line”).


Live and Let Die was released in the United States on June 27, 1973. The world premiere was at Odeon Leicester Square in London on July 6, 1973, with general release in the United Kingdom on the same day.[16] From a budget of around $7 million,[17] ($38 million in 2016 dollars[18]) the film grossed $161.8 million ($873 million in 2016 dollars[18]) worldwide.[17]

Live and Let Die holds the record for the most viewed broadcast movie on TV in the United Kingdom by attracting 23.5 million viewers when it premiered on ITV on January 20, 1980.[19]


The reviews were mostly good with praise for the action scenes[20] [21] and Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 66% “fresh” rating.[22]

Ian Nathan of Empire magazine wrote, “This is good quality Bond, managing to reinterpret the classic moves – action, deduction, seduction – for a more modern idiom without breaking the mold. 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.” Ian Nathan concluded that, “Moore had got his feet under the table.”[23]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times stated that Roger 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.”[24] Chris Nashawaty similarly argues that Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big is the worst villain of the Roger Moore James Bond films. 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”.[25] Reviewer Leonard Maltin rated the film two and a half stars out of four, describing it as a “barely memorable, overlong James Bond movie” that “seems merely an excuse to film wild chase sequences”.[26] 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.”[27]

Imagine Games Network (IGN) ranked Solitaire as Tenth in a Top 10 James Bond Babes list.[28] In November 2006, Entertainment Weekly listed Live and Let Die as the third best James Bond film.[29] MSN chose it as the thirteenth best Bond film[21] and IGN listed it as twelfth best.[20]

In 2004, the American Film Institute (AFI) nominated the song “Live and Let Die” from the film for AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs.[30]

Year Result Award Recipients
1974 Nominated Academy Award for Best Original Song Paul & Linda McCartney
Nominated Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture
Won Evening Standard Best Film Guy Hamilton


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  15. Burlingame, J. (2014). The Music of James Bond. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199358854.
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  27. Peary, D. (1986). Guide for the film fanatic (p. 244). New York, NY: Simon et Schuster. ISBN 9780671610814.
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  29. Svetkey, B., & Rich, J. (2006, December 1). Countdown: Ranking the Bond films. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  30. AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs (n.d.). Retrieved July 16, 2017.

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