60+ YEARS OF JAMES BOND (007)
Posted by Tim Bryce on August 8, 2014
BRYCE ON ENTERTAINMENT
– The characters have evolved and adapted to the times, making it just as relevant today, as when it first debuted.
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My fascination with James Bond, code named 007 of British Intelligence, began 50 years ago with the movie “Goldfinger.” Although author Ian Fleming introduced the character and story line in 1953 in a 12 volume set of books, it was “Goldfinger” that made the franchise. “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love” preceded “Goldfinger,” but it was the third movie in the series which caught the public’s imagination. Maybe it was the Aston Martin DB5 with its bag of tricks that caught our attention, or the girl murdered in gold paint, the henchman “Oddjob” with his steel rimmed bowler, or Pussy Galore and her flying circus. Actually, it was the whole package we found very avant-garde and provocative, thereby making “Goldfinger” a smash hit. So much so, the producers rushed “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love” back into theaters as reruns to capitalize on the Bond hysteria.
James Bond appealed to both men and women. Sean Connery was the perfect candidate to launch the character. Ian Fleming had wanted Roger Moore, but it was Connery who got the nod. For men, Connery had a coolness about him, he had a way with the ladies, knew his way around a casino, got to play with clever tools and weapons (“toys”), and was very resourceful when he had to be, even in how he fought. For women, Connery was great looking, exuded confidence, and as I said, had a way about him which caused women to gravitate towards him, even to this day.
The Bond character invented by Fleming was based on several agents he knew during his tenure in British Intelligence during WW2. However, there really was a James Bond, but he was nothing like Fleming’s character. It is explained in the book, “A Man Called Intrepid.”
There has always been a debate about which actor played the best Bond. For my money, it was Sean Connery. Sure he could deliver a clever line, but it was his coolness under pressure that made him credible in my eyes. His fight scene on the train with actor Robert Shaw in “From Russia with Love” showed his resourcefulness. Bond may have been trained in martial arts, but he broke the rules in defeating his opponent. This was repeated in “Goldfinger” when he fought Oddjob.
Of the six actors who played Bond (not counting the early “Casino Royale” starring David Niven), here is how I rank them:
1-Sean Connery – appealed to both sexes. Established the character and made him believable.
2-Daniel Craig – I wasn’t sold on Craig at first, but I think Fleming would have been proud of his portrayal in “Casino Royale.”
3-Timothy Dalton – a tie. Both Dalton and Brosnan were competent and didn’t overplay the role.
4-Roger Moore – was Ian Fleming’s choice, not mine. Too pretty to be Bond.
5-George Lazenby – succeeding Connery was a hard act to follow, but where did they dig this guy up?
Bond was surrounded by some interesting supporting characters. First, Bond reported to “M” as head of “MI6,” the Secret Intelligent Service. Actor Bernard Lee was the first to play the role capably, as did Judy Dench. Miss Moneypenny was the personal secretary to M and often flirted with Bond. Lois Maxwell owned the character for years. The character of “Q” (for Quartermaster) was concerned with issuing Bond his “toys” for his various assignments. There was always a playful rivalry between the two. Desmond Llewelyn played the character for over 30 years. Someone decided to use Monty Python’s John Cleese in the role, but that flopped (thank God).
As to Bond’s “toys,” I had two favorites; first, the Aston Martin DB5 with ejector seat, twin machine guns, spinning axle blades, oil and nail ejectors, rear window bullet deflector, and smoke screen. I cannot think of too many men who wouldn’t want to take this for a spin. My second favorite toy was “Little Nellie,” the Wallis WA-116 Agile mini-helicopter made famous in the 1967 film, “You Only Live Twice.” Sheer genius. Bond also had a personal fondness for the Walther PPK as his handgun of choice. And let us not forget Bond’s Vodka Martini, “shaken, not stirred.”
As to the best Bond movie, my vote goes to “Goldfinger.” Prior to this, Bond was fighting the evil SPECTRE empire (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). This was all phoney-baloney for my taste. Instead Auric Goldfinger (played by Gert Fröbe) devises a very sophisticated scheme to enhance the value of his gold, while creating an economic panic for the Communists to capitalize on. Even though it meant capturing Fort Knox, Goldfinger’s scheme was truly diabolical as opposed to the plots by the other Bond villains.
James Bond spawned a wave of espionage movies and television shows, such as “Matt Helm,” “Our Man Flint,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “I Spy,” “The Wild, Wild West,” “Get Smart,” and many more. Bond outlived them all and still influences our perception of the world of the secret service.
Fleming died at age 56 in 1964, the same year “Goldfinger” debuted. Although he enjoyed some success, he never realized how his character turned into a cultural institution. After his twelve books had been made into movies, other authors stepped up to fill the void Fleming left behind. By then, it was a formula.
Bond has been described as predictable and iconic. Yet, we still come back for more. Actually, it is the formula that makes Bond work: a rugged and confident operative who is sent to solve a cockamamie plot to conquer the world, and enjoy the perks of life along the way.
Due to age, the actors have had to be replaced more than once, the toys have changed, as had the type of music used in the opening credits, but it will be interesting to see how long the James Bond formula for movie magic will endure. Who knows, maybe 100 years, which is something I do not believe Fleming would have imagined.
The masterminds behind the Bond movies were, of course, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli who formed Eon Productions (Everything Or Nothing). Through their careful planning, Bond has evolved and remained relevant. Both partners passed away some time ago, but Eon remains under the tight control of the family, most notably Barbara Broccoli.
I have debated this subject on more than one occasion. Some people think Roger Moore was the best Bond; young people prefer Daniel Craig. Some like the newer movies, others prefer the classics from the 1960’s. Actually it really doesn’t matter. We all find something of personal interest in the Bond movies we can relate to, be it a toy, a character, or the plot.
And, Yes, I thought the song “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey was the best.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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