MI5 suspected Bond screenwriter was communist agent

By Kayte Rath
BBC News

image captionWolf Mankowitz was said to discuss Marxist theories with friends

The man who wrote the screenplay for a James Bond film was himself suspected of being a communist agent, newly released Security Service files show.

The MI5 file on Wolf Mankowitz, a "convinced Marxist," shows he was monitored for more than a decade.

Mr Mankowitz wrote the screenplay for the unofficial Bond film Casino Royale in 1967 and was also involved in the film Dr No.

Mr Mankowitz, who died in 1998, introduced film producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to each other.

He was subsequently involved in writing the script for their first Bond film together, Dr No.

Born in London's East End, Mr Mankowitz attended the University of Cambridge where he joined the university's Socialist Society and met his wife Ann, a Communist Party member.

'Highly strung'

MI5 first became interested in Mr Mankowitz in 1944, when the couple were living in Newcastle.

A letter mentioning the pair from suspected communist David Holbrook was intercepted by MI5, prompting the agency to ask Newcastle police to investigate them.

Mr Holbrook wrote that the couple were "avoiding National Service and doing themselves well" earning £6 a week lecturing for the left-wing Workers' Educational Association.

Reporting back to MI5, Newcastle police said Mr Mankowitz "is known to frequently discuss the theories of Marxism with his friends whilst in lodgings".

Despite surveillance by the authorities, Mr Mankowitz was able to enlist with the Territorial Army.

His commanding officer described him as a "highly strung individual of nervous temperament" who was awaiting an interview with a psychiatrist.

image captionThe MI5 file contained surveillance photos of Mr Mankowitz

But he doubted he was a subversive influence.

"Even if he possesses communist views I do not think he has the personality or strength of character to pass them on to his fellow soldiers," the officer wrote.

"There is no evidence that he has attempted to air these views whilst with this unit," he added.


In 1948 Mr Mankowitz applied for a job with the Government Central Office of Information but was blocked from joining the organisation.

In a letter, MI5 told the COI he was "known to be the husband of a Communist Party member and himself a convinced Marxist".

In 1951, Mr Mankowitz was commissioned by the BBC to translate the Chekhov play The Bear. MI5 warned the corporation of Mr Mankowitz's communist past but suggested his working on the translation did not pose a threat.

Mr Mankowitz was still of interest to the security agency into the mid-1950s, particularly after he visited Moscow in 1956 as a guest of the Soviet Union.

He visited the World Youth Fair in Moscow during a 10-day visit and announced to the press on his return his ambition to set up a "British Soviet co-film production".

But interest in Mr Mankowitz tailed off after he cancelled a follow-up visit to Moscow, choosing to go to the West Indies instead on film location.

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