Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

(March 21, 1913–July 8, 1997): American production executive who, as a vice president with United Artists, made an early, unsuccessful attempt to bring Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels to the big screen. A native New Yorker, Youngstein was turned on to the idea by an English filmmaker named Victor Saville. Saville had been a successful producer/director with MGM when he left the studio to join United Artists in the early 1950s. Youngstein and UA brought him aboard because they were looking for low-budget productions that had a guaranteed audience, and Saville held the rights to a series of pseudoerotic, slam-bang Mickey Spillane thrillers. Saville eventually produced several Spillane films for UA, including I, the Jury (1953) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). But the lack of a bankable lead kept the films from becoming the sort of hits Youngstein was hoping for. “We could never find the right Mike Hammer,” he recalled. “We had Ralph Meeker and Biff Elliot. Some of the productions were better than others—Robert Aldrich directed one—but they were B movies without a name lead.”[1] A personality conflict with UA president Arthur Krim eventually proved the end of Saville’s relationship with UA.

Yet Saville did approach Youngstein with one more possible project for the studio. “He walked into my office,” Youngstein remembered, “and said, ‘Did you ever hear of James Bond?’ He then pulled out a paperback of From Russia with Love and we started to talk about the cinematic potential of the books. I knew about James Bond, because I had close contacts with every book editor in New York. I had read the Fleming books and found them to be terrific, but I didn’t have the money for an option. I told him to take the books in to Arthur and see what kind of result he would get.” Unfortunately, Krim wasn’t interested.

Youngstein left United Artists in the early 1960s, and another Bond fan, David Picker, was promoted to head of production. Then, in 1961, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman set up a meeting with Picker and Arthur Krim to pitch a James Bond film series—and the rest is history.

[1] Youngstein, Max, telephone interview by Steven Jay Rubin, February 15, 1990.


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