For his very first film appearance, 007 is American spy Jimmy Bond, played by Barry Nelson. Closely following Ian Fleming's original novel, Bond must outwit he Soviet spy, crime bigwig, and card sharp Le Chiffre, played by Peter Lorre. (Gone, though, are some of the torture scenes and the novel's ending.) Le Chiffre has been milking Soviet funds to support his gambling habit, losing several million francs. Bond's mission is to defeat Le Chiffre in a high stakes game of baccarat in Monte Carlo and ruin him.
In a reversal of nations, Bond is a CIA agent and Clarence Leiter (Felix Leiter, in the books), played by Michael Pate, is a British secret agent. The lovely Linda Christian is a former flame of Bond's. Valerie Mathis -- an amalgam of the book's Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis. William Lundigan served as series host and trisd to explain to the audience how baccarat is played.
Filmed live at the CBS studios in Los Angeles, Casino Royale is a striking example of 50s live television with its "dropped lines, missed cues, miss-timed squibs and sound effects...the whole nine yards." Nelson is bland, Linda Christian is gorgeous, and Peter Lorre steals the show (as he so often does). There are no gadgets you associate with a later Bond, no thrilling chases. no over the top action. What you do get is a fairly interesting 50 minutes of 1950s drama and a completely different James Bond from today.
Enjoy this 007 rarity.