In 1952 Ian Fleming publish the novel “Casino Royale”. Its main protagonist was James Bond. The Bond character was modeled after some allied spies during World War II, and Fleming himself. Ian Fleming went on to write a series of books with James Bond as the main protagonist. These books were popular and the most famous fan was President John F. Kennedy. On October 21, 1954 an episode of the American anthology “Climax!” aired an episode titled “Casino Royale”. Barry Nelson played James “Jimmy” Bond. This film debut was unremarkable. This article contains spoilers and digressions.
Connery, Sean Connery
Dr. No opened in theaters in 1962. It was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman with associate producer Stanley Sopel. The Broccoli and Saltzman movies are considered the official James Bond movies. With a production cost of about $1.1 million United Artist worried the film wouldn’t break even. It grossed over $16 million in the U.S. It had some dismissive reviews.[i]
Dr. No opens to a reggae version of “3 Blind Mice”. Two murders and 8 minutes later James Bond (Sean Connery) appears. He is playing Baccarat at a casino. Only his hands are shown before he utters his first words, “I admire your courage Miss.?” The woman (Eunice Gayson) answers, “Trench, Sylvia Trench”. She continues; “I admire your luck, Mr.?” His face appears on screen as he is lighting a cigarette. He says the now immortal words, “Bond, James Bond.” Arguably this scene also introduced the “Bond Girl”. There are multiple definitions of what qualifies a character to be a “Bond Girl”.
In the Alfred Hitchcock movie Marnie (1964) Sean Connery played opposite Tippi Hedren (Marnie). Tippi Hedren commented to Alfred Hitchcock “Marnie is supposed to be frigid, have you seen him?”[ii] Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) flirts with James Bond before he goes to see M. (Bernard Lee), the director of MI7.[iii] M insists James Bond turn in his Beretta 418 and carry a Walther PPK or else give up being a double 0 agent.[iv] The Walter PPK and a Geiger counter, later in the movie, are the only 2 items 007 got from Q branch. He completed this mission with no special gadgets.
Dr. No lands in Jamaica. It is the only venue besides London in the movie. Being in color gave the setting a more attractive look than previous spy movies. In Jamaica the audience is immediately drawn into the world of James Bond. Everyone is a possible enemy. Is the woman behind the hotel’s front desk admiring his looks, possible, or up to something sinister?
We are introduced to James Bond’s favorite drink; a vodka martini shaken, not stirred. In 1962 martinis were made with rum. It was the James Bond character who invented the vodka martini. Asking it be shaken is odd. A real bartender wouldn’t stir the martini ingredients. It would seem a good way to discover a fake bartender.[v]
CIA Agent Felix Leiter, a recurring character in James Bond movies, appeared in this movie. Jack Lord played the role. Unlike other recurring roles the franchise never settled on an actor to play the Felix Leiter role.
Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) is Pleydell-Smith’s (Louis Blaazer) secretary. James bond immediately suspects her. He asks her on a date which she changes to a meeting at her place. On the way the 3 assassins from the beginning of the movie chase after James Bond’s car in a hearse. The hearse runs off the road and has a fiery, but unspectacular, crash. When a construction worker asks what happened James Bond says: “I think they were going to a funeral.” The wisecrack after a kill was born.
At Miss Taro’s house James Bond and Miss Taro tried not to give away what they knew. Miss Taro wasn’t convincing. Her orders were to keep James Bond busy for a couple of hours. After a bedroom scene, cut short on film by a ceiling fan, James Bond insists they go out to dinner. He calls for a car to pick them up. Miss Taro didn’t realize James Bond called Superintendent Duff (William Foster-Davis) and Miss Taro was going to jail. James Bond was going to stay behind to deal with the would-be assassin (Anthony Dawson).
James Bond and Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) go to an island owned by Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman). Soon after they arrive on the island James Bond sees another arrival, Honey Rider (Ursula Andress). Her name is a double entendre, typical of women’s names in James Bond movies. She is an “innocent”, someone who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. She makes a living by collecting and selling seashells. While she isn’t much more than a damsel in distress in the movie her backstory shows a stronger character. A man she trusted raped her so she killed him by putting a black widow spider in bed with him.[vi] Dr. No’s security captures James Bond and Honey Ryder, and kill Quarrel. Capturing Bond and killing someone he cares about becomes part of the franchise’s formula.
There is the meeting with Dr. No. Dr. No lost his hands to radiation exposure. He has metal hands which are more powerful than human hands. Dr. No informs James Bond about an international criminal organization called SPECTRE. This is a departure from other spy movies which involve country vs country. SPECTRE was the nemesis organization in James Bond movies until copyright issues caused the franchise to drop the name. In the climactic fight between Dr. No and James Bond, Dr. No’s metal hands work against him. Having an enemy’s special weapon work against him is another recurring element in the James Bond movies.
[i] International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055928/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv, last accessed 11/12/20.
[ii] International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058329/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv, last accessed 11/12/20.
[iii] It’s not a typo, they deliberately called the organization MI7 instead of MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
[iv] PPK stands for Polizeipistole Kriminalmodel, it was designed for police officers.
[v] He exposed 2 assassins in Diamonds are Forever by asking a trick question about wine.
[vi] Spiders got a bad rap in this movie. An assassin put a tarantula in bed with James Bond. A tarantula bite is roughly equivalent to a bee sting. While a black widow spider bite can be fatal, it rarely happens.
The Second James Bond Movie in the Franchise
From Russia With Love opened in the U.S. on May 27, 1964. It has a Romantic theme song. It had a budget of $2 million and grossed over $24.8 million. It is the closest of the James Bond movies to an actual spy story.
The movie opens with Donald ‘Red’ Grant (Robert Shaw) apparently garroting James Bond. The garrot is inside a wristwatch was a novel idea in 1964. The murder was part of an exercise, the victim was wearing a James Bond mask. Wearing a mask that looks just like someone else was another, soon to be popular in other movies, plot device.
SPECTRE wants to steal a Soviet encryption machine so they can sell it to the highest bidder.[i] Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) devised a plan that involves a Soviet cryptographer, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) and James Bond (Sean Connery). Tatiana and Bond are to steal the device, called a Lektor, then SPECTRE agent Donald ‘Red’ Grant was to kill them and take the Lektor. Their death was to be such that it would be a scandal for the British Secret Service and revenge for Bond’s killing of Dr. No.
Bond gets an attaché case for the mission. It has a couple of trick low-tech features. The Adventure starts in Turkey and ends in Venice, with a ride on the Orient Express in between. The movie included a “cat fight” where the women (Martine Beswick & Aliza Gur) were very aggressive for 1964. A gunfight interrupts the fight. This is a precursor to the climactic battles in subsequent Bond movies.
The movie introduced Ernst Stavros Blofeld[ii] (Anthony Dawson) SPECTRE’s leader. It also introduced his habit of calling out 2 operatives on a failed assignment and executing one of them.
Tatiana falls in the category of an “angel with one wing down”. An angel with one wing down is a woman who isn’t evil but is an enemy agent, a criminal, or a woman who would willingly stay with a rogue. Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) is a villainess. After the climax Rose Klebb fights James Bond to a standstill. The post climax fight is part of the Bond Movie formula. The ending depends on Tatiana’s actions. This shows the advantage of an angel with one wing down. It’s uncertain what they’re likely to do next.
[i] In reality, at the time an example of a coding machine would be of little advantage to a foreign government.
[ii] His face is not shown in From Russia With Love. The closing credits bill the actor as “?”. Numerous actors played Blofeld. James Bond movies had to discontinue the character and SPECTRE because of copyright issues.
Goldfinger is the movie that introduced James Bond to a much wider audience. Goldfinger had a $3 million budget and grossed almost $125 million.[i] Shirley Bassey’s theme song, reached number 8 on the Billboard hot 100 chart. An instrumental by Billy Strange was also on the hot 100. Goldfinger was the cover story of LIFE magazine’s November 6, 1964 issue. The cover photo was of a gold painted Shirley Eaton. This introduced many who hadn’t seen any of the James Bond movies to the franchise.
The film opens with James Bond blowing up a complex, kissing a woman, and electrocuting an attacker. The scene was unrelated to the plot. Subsequent James Bond movies had opening scenes that had little or nothing to do with the plot.
Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), is cheating at cards with the help of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). James Bond forces Goldfinger to lose. Goldfinger’s chief henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), gives James Bond a karate chop that knocks him out for hours. When he wakes up, he finds a gold painted Jill Masterson. Arguably she is the most iconic cadaver in movie history.[ii] It was significant for the franchise because it showed a woman with James Bond can die.
Q (Desmond Llewelyn) gives James Bond a specially modified Aston Martin. This was the beginning of outlandish gadgets Bond gets in 007 movies. He gets to use all the car’s gadgets before he crashes it into a wall thanks to a well-placed mirror.[iii]
Goldfinger decides against killing Bond and flies him to Kentucky in a plane piloted by Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Pussy Galore is anti-social. It’s not revealed if she’s anti-social enough to kill thousands of people or a not-so-innocent dupe. James Bond reforms her, after a couple of judo throws.[iv]
Oddjob had a derby with a metal rib that he uses to chop the head off a statue and break a woman’s neck.[v] James Bond made the derby Oddjob’s undoing.
Goldfinger has gangers deliver parts to him. He offers to give each them 1 million immediately or much more later. One gangster wants his money immediately. Oddjob takes him to a junkyard, shoots him, and puts a car with the gangster in it in a car crusher. Meanwhile Goldfinger tells his plot to the other gangsters. Then he kills the other gangsters. James Bond just happens to be in the right place to hear the plot. It makes sense a supervillain would want to boast about his master plan. Telling it to people he’s going to momentarily kill seems safe from an operational standpoint. The problem is Goldfinger lies about the plan.
Goldfinger’s plan is to use aerial spraying to kill everyone at Fort Knox. Then set off a nuclear explosion inside the gold vault. This would increase the value of Goldfinger’s gold. The People’s Republic of China supports the plan.
The climax is a full-scale battle between Chinese and American soldiers. The battle happens while the timer is ticking on a nuclear explosive. James Bond stops the timer at 007 seconds.
The movie makes a good time capsule. As with previous James Bond movies many of the voices are dubbed. The camera is speeded up for at least one of the judo throws. Goldfinger remarks that Golf is not yet the national sport of Korea, Oddjob’s nationality.[vi] True in 1964 but today golf is popular in Korea. When James Bond is with Jill Masterson, he quips drinking Dom Perignon above the ideal temperature is like “listening to The Beatles without earmuffs”. In 1964 The Beatles music wasn’t popular with many adults.
[i] International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058150/reference, last accessed, 11/17/20.
[ii] Margaret Nolan was the golden woman in the title sequence. She played Dink in the movie. International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058150/trivia, last accessed 11/17/20.
[iii] Bond was playing chicken with himself and lost.
[iv] This is what is shown on screen viewers can read more into the relevant events.
[v] Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet).
[vi] Oddjob is not a Korean name.
Bond and the Knockoffs
Thunderball (1965) is mostly set in Nassau. A television commercial for Nassau used that fact. The opening scene, unrelated to the main plot, involves Bond using a jet pack. A vehicle out of science fiction that became reality. Its short endurance made the vehicle functionally useless, except for entertainment purposes.
Largo (Adolfo Celi) of SPECTRE steals 2 atomic bombs from the Royal Air Force for extortion purposes. A key character in the plot demands more than twice what he agreed to. Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) agrees to the new price. Why not, they probably intended to kill him anyway. Fiona orchestrates assassinations. She also engages in a personal assassination, albeit a deliberate fratricide. Domino (Claudine Auger) is Largo’s mistress. During a chase scene there is parade, which James Bond uses to his advantage. A chase scene during a parade has been used in many movies since then. Fiona unintentionally takes a bullet meant for Bond. Other movies and TV shows have had similar scenes.
The climactic battle takes place on and under the sea. Someone from out of nowhere helped Domino. Largo is about to shoot Bond when Domino kills Largo. This became a popular way to get good guys out of certain death situations.
Copyright issues enabled a replaying of the plot in the unofficial James Bond movie, Never Say Never Again, starring Sean Connery.
There was an explosion of James Bond type movies:
- Modesty Blaise – A female version of James Bond.
- Our Man Flint – An American version of James Bond. There was a sequel, In Like Flint.
- Matt Helm – The first Matt Helm movie was, The Silencers. The movies are a spoof of James Bond movies and the lifestyle of Dean Martin, who played Matt Helm.
There was a string of Eurospy movies. Some Kaiju movies had a spy story. Toho company produced a James Bond type movie, Key of Keys, in 1965. In 1966 Woody Allen dubbed in gag dialogue and released it as What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? Television shows started having episodes that involved a 007 type plot. Television networks had James Bond type series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, and Get Smart.
Unofficial and Official
In 1967 Columbia released the James Bond spoof, Casino Royale. The movie has an all-star cast that included comedic greats Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. The movie had too many 007s to count. The James Bond 007 actors included; Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven Daliah Lavi, Woody Allen, and Terence Cooper. It is one of those late ‘60s movies that begs the question; “Were the writers and directors on drugs or did they expect the audience to be on drugs?”
The official 1967 James Bond movie release was You Only Live Twice. This was scheduled to be Sean Connery’s last James Bond movie. The movie’s trailer showed him being pronounced dead. In the opening scene there is a cleverly staged assassination of James Bond.
A space ship captures an American and a Soviet space capsule. The method is similar to a 1965 episode of the TV series Lost in Space. This is similar to the submarine capturing ship in The Spy Who Loved Me. The U.S. and the USSR blame each other for the incidents. James Bond goes to Japan where he meets M’s Japanese counterpart, Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba). Tiger, is a good-humored character. There are two Japanese women who are agents, Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama). They are both capable agents. There is also villainess Helga Brandt (Karin Dor). She tries to kill Bond with an overly complicated method. This leads to a dramatic escape for Bond. The featured car in this episode is a Toyota 2000GT. It was Toyota’s first attempt at a sportscar. It was a flop. Part of the reason is shown in the movie. The 2000GT’s roof was removed for the movie.[i] The vehicle couldn’t comfortably fit someone taller than 5’8” (173cm). At 6’2” (188cm) Sean Connery couldn’t fit in the 2000GT except for comedic effect. It does have some secret agent modifications. Aki does the driving. James Bond’s special vehicle is a Wallis WA-116 auto-gyro. [ii] He uses it for a recon mission where he shoots down 4 SPECTRE helicopters.
You Only Live Twice has James Bond disguised to look Japanese. The climactic battle scene is fought with Ninjas on James Bond’s side. There are some uses of traditional Ninja weapons.
[i] International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062512/trivia, last accessed 11/19/20.
[ii] International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062512/trivia, last accessed 11/19/20.
Television shows with a 007 related episode
The Spy Who Came in from the Cool
Not quite passing the torch
The James Bonds franchise closed out the ‘60s with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. George Lazenby played James Bond. Diana Rigg played Tracy, Bond’s love interest. Diana Rigg was very popular because of her role as Mrs. Emma Peel in the TV Series, The Avengers. Diana Rigg was the action hero In, The Avengers.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has chases on skis, bobsleds, and in cars. Its climactic action sequence that involved an airborne helicopter assault. There was an international cast of Bond Girls.[i] It seems to have more of the major elements of previous Bond movies. Many fans considered it a disappointment. Much of the criticism was pointed at George Lazenby. In an interview before Roger Moore’s first Bond movie was going to be released, he proposed George Lazenby was acting too much like Sean Connery. Roger Moore decided he wouldn’t try to imitate Sean Connery’s version of James Bond.
There may have been other issues that put the fans in a bad mood. Diana Rigg played a smart and confident woman in The Avengers. Tracy was a woman who had serious emotional problems. Tracy’s introduction was as a woman trying to commit suicide. Diana Rigg used some martial arts in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but she seemed underutilized. Killing Tracy Bond right after she marries James annoyed many fans. Tracy’s death is a factor in subsequent Bond movies.
[i] The cast included Joanna Lumley (The English Girl), who played Purdey in The New Avengers.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on November 21, 2020:
Thank you all for reading and commenting:
Liz Westwood - Yes. I hoped to include up to the reboot in this hub but there is too much to write.
Pamela Oglesby - Sean Connery seems to be the favorite of those young enough to remember the first 6 Bond movies in the theaters.
Peggy Woods - Yes, those were, and still are, fun movies to watch. When they first came out they were really something different.
MG Singh emge - Yes, he was a man's man and a lady's man.
RoadMonkey - I presume you also read "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"?
RoadMonkey on November 21, 2020:
A great article on the Bond films with Sean Connery. I loved reading the Bond books as a teenager but didn't see all of the films. The ones I did see, were probably on TV at a later time, though you miss getting the full effects of any exciting bits. Ian Fleming had an amazing imagination and I liked reading his other books too.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on November 21, 2020:
James Bond is the character I love, A wonderful chap and real he-man and lover.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 21, 2020:
Those James Bond movies were all so much fun to watch. May Sean Connery, who recently died, rest in peace.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2020:
This was an excellent review of the James Bond movies, Robert. I particularly liked Sean Connery and the movies were exciting and fun to watch.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 20, 2020:
There is no doubt that the Bond franchise has been extremely successful. This is a good overview of films from the 1960s. I heard that George Lazenby regretted not continuing in the role. I wonder what would have happened if he had done more Bond movies? I look forward to your next installment. Will you be doing the 1970s?