James Bond Riot

While I have researched many demonstrations, rallies, sit-in, and riots in my time working on the Boston TV News Digital Library, the “James Bond Riot” of 1967 was the most puzzling event I came across, and one of the most rewarding to research. My research began with the book, When in Boston by Jim Vrabel, the most authoritative source I could find referencing the riot. Only through more unlikely sources, like obituaries, was I able to uncover all of the intriguing story.

In 1967 the James Bond spoof, Casino Royale, was released. John Markle, the Columbia Pictures Boston publicist had a “brilliant” idea for the movie launch. Why not let anyone who showed up to the 2 a.m. premiere at the Savoy Theater wearing a trench coat in for free? The offer was broadcast over Boston radio and heard by many people. What Markle didn’t take into account was that the May 6th premiere date was right in the middle of the pre-exam reading period at all of the Boston/Cambridge colleges. Those tens of thousands of students had nothing to do (or at least a much more flexible schedule than usual), and so over 15,000 trench-coat-wearing students showed up at the Savoy. With so many people and obviously not enough room in the theater for all of them, a riot broke out.

Don’t take the fact that this film incited a riot to mean that this is one of the best films ever. It seems like bored students with the option of free movie tickets is more to blame. Even though the film ended up being pretty successful at the box office (the James Bond brand can do that), it was not very well received critically; many thinking it was disorganized and indulgent.

For a look at what a college student at the time thought of the film, check out this review from the Harvard Crimson.


Lardner, James. “Casino Royale: The Moviegoer.” Harvard Crimson, May 8, 1967. Accessed on February 1, 2013. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1967/5/8/casino-royale-pamong-the-holdings-of/

Long, Tom. “John Markle, 97; orchestrated Boston film openings with flair.” Boston Globe, December 3, 2003. Accessed February 1, 2013. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/obituaries/articles/2003/12/03/john_markle_97_orchestrated_boston_film_openings_with_flair/

Vrabel, Jim. When in Boston: A Time Line & Almanac. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Wikipedia contributors, "Casino Royale (1967 film)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casino_Royale_%281967_film%29 (accessed February 1, 2013).