Broccoli, Albert Romolo (“Cubby”)
Broccoli, Albert Romolo (“Cubby”)
The younger of two children born to Giovanni Broccoli and Christina Vence, immigrants from the Calabria region of southern Italy, Broccoli was born in the borough of Queens in New York City. When he was a young child his cousin Patrick DiCiccio started calling him “Kabbible,” after a popular comic strip character of the day. The nickname was soon shortened to “Kubbie,” then changed to “Cubby,” the name that family, friends, and acquaintances called him for the rest of his life. Broccoli and his older brother attended P.S. 107 in Queens. Later, he attended elementary school in suburban Rye, New York, and public schools in Astoria, Queens. His mother was employed as a cook and housekeeper. His father, a laborer who worked on construction projects, eventually obtained promotion to supervisor. When Broccoli was in high school, his parents purchased a twenty-five-acre farm at Garden Lake on Long Island. He dropped out of high school to work full-time on the farm. Later, Broccoli and his brother purchased their own farm in eastern Florida. After two years the venture failed. He returned to New York and found employment selling coffins.
In 1934 DiCiccio, now a Hollywood agent, invited Broccoli to stay with him in Los Angeles. On his first day in Hollywood, Broccoli met Cary Grant, who became a lifelong friend. The following evening, a chance meeting with Howard Hughes led to a more influential friendship. Through his friendship with Hughes, Broccoli became a fixture at social events in Hollywood, Palm Springs, and the new resort of Las Vegas. He remained in Hollywood for the next eighteen years, pursuing a career in the film industry. Starting as an assistant director at Twentieth Century—Fox, he worked in various capacities on several Fox productions prior to World War II. His connections within the Hollywood community further improved during the war. Enlisting in the navy, he spent the entire war booking America’s most popular entertainers in benefit shows. By 1948 he had acquired a position of influence in the industry, working as an agent for the Famous Artists agency. He left the agency in 1952, however, to form a production company with the filmmaker Irving Allen.
Taking advantage of tax incentives offered by the British government, Broccoli and Allen based their new venture, Warwick Films, in the United Kingdom. For the next twenty-five years, Broccoli was an independent filmmaker based in London. The producers scored a major coup by signing Alan Ladd to star in their first three films. While profitable in its early years, the company foundered when Broccoli and Allen attempted to distribute their own films. In 1960, the commercial failure of The Trials of Oscar Wilde (U.S. title: The Man with the Green Carnation), a critical success but a box-office disaster, ended the Broccoli-Allen partnership.
Broccoli married three times. He married his first wife, Gloria Blondell, in 1940; their brief union ended in divorce. In 1951 he married a widow, Nedra Clark. The marriage produced two children. Nedra Broccoli died of cancer in 1958. In 1959 Broccoli married a divorcee, the writer Dana Wilson. The marriage made her son, Michael Wilson, a member of Broccoli’s family, and the couple’s daughter, Barbara, was born in 1960.
In 1961 Broccoli teamed with the Canadian producer Harry Saltzman to bring Ian Fleming’s suave master spy, James Bond, to the screen. Naming their new company Eon Productions, the producers obtained the backing of United Artists for an initial Bond film. Despite the objections of United Artists executives, they cast a then little-known Scottish actor, Sean Connery, as Bond. Both Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963) provided United Artists with major hits; the third Bond film, Gold-finger (1964), made James Bond an international phenomenon. Broccoli and Saltzman’s escapist entertainment, a mixture of sex and violence, exotic locales, beautiful women, megalomaniacal villains, and implausible technological gadgets, inspired a host of imitators on movie and television screens for the next several years. The fourth Bond film, Thunderball, ranked number one in U.S. box office receipts for 1965.
Eon Productions released twelve more Bond films between 1967 and 1989. Four different actors portrayed Bond during this period, with the English actor Roger Moore proving the most durable of Connery’s replacements. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership ended in 1976. Investment failures forced Saltzman to sell his half of Eon to United Artists, which became Broccoli’s new partner in the series. After the Broccolis moved to Beverly Hills in 1977, Michael Wilson began to play a prominent role in Eon Productions. By 1985 Broccoli was coproducing films with his stepson, and in the late 1980s he also started grooming his daughter Barbara, an associate producer on The Living Daylights (1987), as his replacement.
At the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony, Broccoli received the Academy’s highest honor, the Irving G. Thalberg Award. In 1986 Queen Elizabeth II named him a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The following year the French government named him a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres.
In 1990 the series was discontinued while Broccoli sued a new partner in Eon, MGM-Pathé, over the proposed price of international television rights. In 1994 an out-of-court settlement made it possible to start production on a new Bond movie, GoldenEye. Broccoli cast the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan as Bond and named Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli as the film’s producers.
In May 1994 Broccoli was diagnosed with an aortal aneurysm. An operation repaired the damaged blood vessel, but continuing coronary problems left him an invalid. He died at his home in Beverly Hills on 27 June 1996. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.
At the time of Broccoli’s death, the Bond films had grossed more than $2 billion, and it was estimated that half the world’s population had seen at least one Bond movie. The Bond films remained the most profitable series in the history of motion pictures, and the genre that Broccoli pioneered, the big-budget action film, had become a Hollywood staple. Although Ian Fleming created James Bond, Broccoli’s films made Bond one of the best-known fictional characters of the twentieth century.
Broccoli’s posthumous autobiography, When the Snow Melts: The Autobiography of Cubby Broccoli (1998), written with the British journalist Donald Zee, remains the only full-length account of the producer’s life. Other sources include Raymond Benson, The James Bond Bedside Companion (1988); Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia (2d ed., 1994); and Grace Jermoski, ed., The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (1997). In addition to wire-service obituaries published by Reuters and the Associated Press (both 28 June 1996), obituaries of Broccoli are in the London Times, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times (all 29 June 1996).