While next year marks the 60th anniversary of his literary debut by author Ian Fleming, this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of secret agent extraordinaire James Bond in motion pictures, with the latest Bond film “Skyfall” opening in theaters.
Fleming’s background as an operative in British intelligence during World War II, along with his career as a journalist, aided him in creating the popular series of novels featuring the debonair, womanizing and lethal agent 007, who was “licensed to kill.”
For most of us, the James Bond movie franchise has been a major part of our lives, for those younger it has always been around. My dad took my mom and us three boys to our first Bond film(s) at Richland’s venerable Silver Drive-In. The double-feature was “From Russia with Love” and
“Dr. No.” The next year we attended “Goldfinger,” and we kids were equally blown away by it.
During the ensuing decades, Bond morphed from first film Bond Sean Connery (six times) to Roger Moore (seven) to Pierce Brosnan (four) to current Bond Daniel Craig (three), with George Lazenby (once) and Timothy Dalton (twice) as fill-ins for the official Eon Productions films. Non-Eon films included the first “Casino Royale” (a Bond spoof starring David Niven as Bond) and “Never Say Never,” a film returning Connery as an older Bond.
Of equal interest in the 007 films are the “Bond girls,” including such cinematic beauties as Ursula Andress, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Jill St. John, Jane Seymour, Michelle Yeoh and Halle Berry, among others. The Bond girls could be allies or enemies, but were always love interests.
While the evolution of the films kept current with the times, the familiar comfort points of the Bond canon: The weaponry (Walther PPK), the sports cars (Aston Martin), gadget-laden wristwatches (Rolex, etc.) appear, giving a sense of continuity. Also there are those beloved characters: M (Bond’s supervisor, the head of MI6), Miss Moneypenny (M’s secretary) and Q (the gadget master). And let us not forget the famed catchphrases: “Bond, James Bond” (the introductions); and “Shaken, not stirred,” (Bond’s martinis).
Also anticipated is the music, including the familiar Bond theme song. Equally looked forward to are the title songs, sung by the hottest musical acts of the moment, including Tom Jones (“Thunderball”), Paul McCartney (“Live and Let Die”), Duran Duran (“A View to a Kill”), and currently Adele (“Skyfall”). Also anticipated are those spectacular stunt-laden opening sequences.
I was not a diehard Bond fan, like my cousin Mike or old friend Bud, who can quote chapter and verse from the various Bond films, though I have seen many of them. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet the rarest of Bonds, George Lazenby, at an Atlanta convention about 10 years ago, but missed it. No one was at his table; I would wager that most who passed by him were not even aware of who he was. I felt bad for him, and planned to visit him on my next go-round. Unfortunately he was gone the next time I came around.
I’ll bet my late friend Shawn did not pass him by. Shawn told me about seeing the Lazenby Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Shawn felt the film was better in retrospect.
Shawn enjoyed the opening sequence where Lazenby delivered the line “This never happened to the other fellow,” breaking the fourth wall by making an in-joke reference to former Bond Connery.
The early Bond films came out during the height of the Cold War. As the world stage changed and evolved (or devolved) since then, the Bond films were forced to change with the times to remain relevant, while still retaining the timeless elements that endeared fans to the film franchise.
Given the current state of affairs in the world, one wishes that James Bond really did exist to combat the evil forces today. Boy, do we need him now….
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