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Court rules on 007 theme

The distinctive 007 theme -- and a bikini-clad Ursula Andress -- made 'Dr No' a success and set a standard for Bond films  

LONDON, England -- Award-winning composer Monty Norman has won 30,000 ($45,000) libel damages after a court rejected a claim that he did not write the James Bond theme.

The theme, which was written for the first Bond film, Dr No, became the signature tune for all subsequent Bond movies.

It has become one of the most successful movie tunes of all time

But Norman said a Sunday Times newspaper article in October 1997 questioning his authorship of the tune "rubbished" his whole career.

The libel award came at the end of a two-week hearing, on Monday, in the High Court in London.

The legal argument centred on whether the composer of the theme -- described in court as "one of the most famous pieces of music in the world" -- was 72-year-old Norman or fellow composer John Barry.

Times Newspapers, owners of The Sunday Times, denied libel and argued that Barry was the composer of the tune.

Norman, who has the work registered with the Performing Rights Society and has always received the royalties, said he was "devastated" and "distressed" by the article which he described as "cruel."

Barry, 67, whose soundtracks include Born Free, Zulu, Midnight Cowboy and several Bond films, told the jury that Norman's claim that he, and he alone, wrote the tune was "absolute nonsense."

Barry said he was brought in to write the theme at a late stage -- six months into the project -- because Norman had run out of inspiration and there was a crisis.

He said he was paid 250 pounds as a flat fee, and would be given future involvement in other Bond movies if Dr No was a success. Norman would receive credit for the tune.

Norman has written the music for stage and film musicals such as Expresso Bongo, Irma La Douce, Songbook and Poppy, and won Ivor Novello, Evening Standard and Laurence Olivier awards.

He argued the article damaged his reputation not just by saying that he did not write the Bond theme but by suggesting that he had been dishonestly taking the credit -- and the royalties -- for a composition that was not his.

After the decision, Norman said: "The Sunday Times always said that they were only interested in the truth. Now we have got the truth and I am delighted."

The Sunday Times said: "This was always going to be a difficult case for a jury given the complexities of the expert musical evidence."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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James Bond
Royal Courts of Justice
Dr. No (1962)
James Bond Music
Monty Norman
The John Barry Resource
The Sunday Times

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