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Maibaum, Richard



  • Existence: 1909-1991


Richard Maibaum was born in 1909 in New York City. In 1930 he came to The University of Iowa's Speech and Dramatic Arts Department, where he studied under E.C. Mabie. He was graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1931, and in 1932 he received a master's degree. During this time, Maibaum was writing plays and acting. He was only twenty-two and still at the University when his anti-lynching play, The Tree, became a 1932 Broadway production. After graduating, Maibaum returned to New York where he spent a year as an actor in a Shakespearean repertory company on Broadway. He appeared in fifteen different roles in many productions. He was the youngest actor ever to perform the role of Iago on Broadway. He also continued to write plays, including Birthright and Sweet Mystery of Life both of which were produced on Broadway.

In 1935, Maibaum married Sylvia Kamion. The couple soon moved to Hollywood, where Maibaum had been engaged as a screenwriter by M.G.M. He later worked as a screenwriter or producer and was involved in more than sixty films besides television projects. (See list appended.)

Maibaum joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and was commissioned as a captain in the Signal Corps, eventually achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During his four and one-half years in the Army, he produced war morale films, assembled and disseminated combat film footage, and oversaw a documentary history of World War II. This experience as a film producer led to a post-war job at Paramount as a producer and screenwriter. His first assignment, O.S.S., which Maibaum produced and wrote, was the beginning of his association with actor Alan Ladd. Maibaum also produced and wrote for The Great Gatsby film in which Ladd starred.

In 1951 Maibaum turned to freelance writing. Through Alan Ladd, he became associated with Albert (Cubby) Broccoli and wrote screenplays for Broccoli's British film company, Warwick Productions. He also began writing for television, including short teleplays for The Kate Smith Evening Hour, and the critically acclaimed Fearful Decision, which he co-wrote with Cyril Hume. Fearful Decision was the basis for the 1956 screenplay Ransom. Maibaum returned to The University of Iowa in 1954 for one semester to teach and supervise the Footsteps of Freedom project, a teleplay writing course.

Maibaum became executive producer at M.G.M.-TV in 1958. But his strong ties to the Writer's Guild and the writing profession led him to resign in 1960 during a writer's strike. Around this time, Cubby Broccoli contacted Maibaum and asked him to write the first screenplay for a James Bond film, based on an Ian Fleming book. Dr. No began a long and successful film series, the longest running film series in history. It is estimated that more than two billion viewers have seen the James Bond movies. Maibaum is credited with adding the essential ingredient of humor to the James Bond stories and continued writing them into the last years of his life. Some of his own favorites among his thirteen Bond screenplays were From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and For Your Eyes Only. Maibaum also continued work on other film projects, such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and wrote movies for television such as S.H.E. and Jarrett, which he also produced.

In discussing the collection, Sylvia Maibaum said about her husband: Besides his other attributes and accomplishments, he was also innovative. Among his works are 'firsts': The first anti-lynching play on Broadway, The Tree; the first anti-Nazi play on Broadway, Birthright (1933); the first movie that dealt with the problem of medication abuse, Bigger Than Life, written in 1955, released in 1956; the first movie that dealt with the ethical and moral decisions in kidnapping cases, Ransom; the first movie that introduced the American public to the importance of training airmen for the defense of the United States in a war many recognized as coming, I Wanted Wings (Spring, 1941); and Diamonds Are Forever, begun 1970, the first film that discussed the use of laser-like satellite mounted weapons for global warfare. The above record reflects Richard Maibaum's keen knowledge of many subjects and his lifelong ready awareness of contemporary affairs.

He died on January 4, 1991 at the age of 81, survived by his wife, Sylvia (who died in 2006), two sons, Matthew and Paul, and a granddaughter, Shanna Claire.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Richard Maibaum Papers

Identifier: MsC0149

American screenwriter, producer and actor. Personal papers contains an actors file, clippings and correspondences.

Dates: 1931-1991