Life in Rustic Canyon

James Bond Screenwriter Richard Maibaum Lived on Greentree Road

By MICHAEL OLDHAM | Contributing Writer

Screenwriter and playwright Richard Maibaum, known for his screenplay adaptations of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, spent nearly four decades in Pacific Palisades—writing and raising a family.

Maibaum started his life on the East Coast; He was born in New York City in 1909. He earned a master’s degree while penning plays and doing some acting.

Greentree Road today
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

In his later years, while living in Pacific Palisades, Maibaum sported a shock of combed-backed, menacing-looking head of white hair. He roamed around his Rustic Canyon neighborhood with his chiseled-looking face and a stocky physicality.

And if Maibaum’s hair color had been red-blond instead stark white, he would have resembled the famous James Bond movie villain Auric Goldfinger whenever stepping out of his Greentree Road home to, say, fetch a Thursday copy of the Palisadian-Post.

But instead of playing any Bond-film villain, Maibaum wrote them into his multitude of screenplay adaptations of Fleming’s novels.

Maibaum took the English author’s 007 novels, perfecting them by adding humor to the script lines. And out came finished James Bond films such as “Dr. No” (1962), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971), “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) and “Licence to Kill” (1989).

Maibaum once explained how he wrote his Bond screenplays: “The real trick of it is to find the villain’s caper. Once you’ve got that, you’re off to the races and the rest is fun.”

Maibaum said that writing for the Bond series is “a case of Walter Mitty. I’m law-abiding and non-violent. My great kick comes from feeling that I’m a pro, that I know my job, and that I have enough experience that I can write a solid screenplay.”

Maibaum wrote all 13 of his Bond screenplays during the time he spent living in his Greentree home with his wife, Sylvia, and their two sons, Matthew and Paul. Maibaum purchased the ranch house in 1952.

Sean Connery in “Diamonds Are Forever”
Photo courtesy of United Artists

And while Maibaum’s Palisades house was pricier than the average American home, the screenwriter could have lived in much more expensive digs. But, living extravagant was not his style.

“I think it’s better to live simply and I’ve never been interested in any kind of ostentation,” Maibaum once explained. “Except for one period of six weeks, I’ve never had a publicity agent.”

Cinematographer Paul Maibaum, the son of Richard, is currently a Palisadian himself. Paul has been the director of photography on numerous television movies, series and projects.

“My parents, Richard and Sylvia Maibaum, purchased the property at Greentree Road in Pacific Palisades in 1952,” Paul shared. “The house was built on the site of one of Will Rogers’ (who originally owned the property as part of his estate) old polo fields, thus the slight drop off in the backyard as a result of the placement of a grandstand from which to watch the polo tournaments.”

Paul explained that his parents had previously lived in Westwood. The move to the Palisades was too far to travel for some of their industry friends to attend weekly bridge games.

The former house on Greentree Road
Photo courtesy of Paul Maibaum

“My father loved the home … he had a large office, which was referred to as his ‘den’ where he would write and which had a very large plate glass window which looked out onto the nearly quarter-acre backyard with its expanse of grass and fruit trees,” Paul continued. “Even though my father was always provided with an office when he was working in Los Angeles (the 13 James Bond screenplays were mostly written by my father when residing in London), he preferred to write at home and my brother and I, growing up, were frequently but gently admonished to be quiet when my father was working in his ‘den.’”

Maibaum died in 1991 and Sylvia continued to live in the home until her passing in 2006, at which time the brothers decided to sell the home, which was torn down and replaced by a much larger house, Paul explained.

Michael Oldham, the author of the novel “The Valentino Formula,” and can be reached at hollywoodlandings@sbcglobal.net.