Before the 1975 war, Lebanon was a much sought after filming location for international productions. Its original blend of Middle Eastern and European settings made it an ideal location for thrillers and espionage movies.
The trend started in the early twentieth century. Pierre Benoit’s classic 1924 spy novel: “La Chatelaine du Liban” was first adapted in 1927 by Marco de Gastyne, then in 1934 by Jean Epstein, and finally in 1956 by Richard Pottier.
The fifties version featured French existentialist icon, Juliette Greco (video below) and a young Omar Sharif in one of his first international roles.
This trend reached its peak in the sixties. In 1964 and 1965, four international productions were set in Lebanon: "Last plane to Baalbeck" (aka "FBI: Operation Baalbeck") starring Rossana Podera and Georges Sanders, “Where the Spies Are” starring David Niven and Françoise Dorléac, “Twenty-Four Hours to Kill” starring former Tarzan, Lex Barker and “Secret Agent Fire Ball” starring Richard Harrison.
So was Manfred R. Köhler’s German James Bond-like superspy movie: “Agent 505 – Todesfalle Beirut" (trailer below)
A year later, French director George Lautner's chose Lebanon to shoot his romantic comedy thriller “La grande sauterelle”, starring Mireille Darc, the unforgettable sexy spy Christine in the comedy classic “Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire”.
In 1969, the American film “Rebus - Appointment in Beirut", starring the mesmerizing Ann-Margret, was filmed on location at the Casino du Liban (video below)
But as the spiral of unrest started in the country, international productions left Lebanon and went to shoot under more favorable skies. It is said that the producers of James Bond’s “The Man with the Golden Gun”, which was partially set in Beirut, decided not to film in the Lebanese capital due to the burgeoning political problems.
And the rest, very unfortunately, is history…
© Claude El Khal, 2015