“The name’s Bond, James Bond.” (007, born November 16)
AROUND this time of year 60 years ago former journalist Ian Fleming was writing up to 2000 words each day which would, just a few weeks later, come together to bring to the world Bond, James Bond.
And a decade later, on January 16, 1962, filming started on the first James Bond movie Dr. No.
“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” is the opening line to Casino Royale – the first in Fleming’s series of adventures featuring 007.
The tome was published in 1953 and within a month nearly 5000 copies were sold in the midst of rave reviews.
Live and Let Die came out a year later, followed by Moonraker in 1955.
Fleming, who worked for Reuters and the Sunday Times, subsequently published a book a year until his death at the age of 56 in 1964.
Dr. No, which transferred Bond’s escapades from the page to the screen, was written in 1958.
And it was in part down to US President John F. Kennedy – a huge 007 fan – who helped get Bond onto film.
JFK loved Fleming’s books and he promoted the character to his friends in Hollywood, including Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman who bought the rights.
Originally Cary Grant was wanted but it was Sean Connery (now Sir) who eventually slipped on the tuxedo.
In Dr. No, Connery walked onto the screen as the dashing secret agent with a penchant for vodka martinis shaken not stirred and intoxicated fans with his charisma.
The film saw Bond investigating a colleague’s disappearance in Jamaica.
He happens upon Bond girl Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress, who emerges from the ocean wearing a racy white bikini in what would become one of cinema’s most iconic scenes.
The duo are capture by shady SPECTRE organisation scientist Dr. No who is sabotaging the US space programme.
Bond of course makes a daring escape and ends up sailing away with Honey as the villain’s lair explodes.
French actresses Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve were both in the running to play Bond’s ill-fated wife Tracy in that film but it ultimately went to Diana Rigg.
What else makes a quintessential Bond movie?
Baddies, of course, who are usually the owner of a fluffy white cat (Blofeld), a set of metal gnashers (Jaws) or rather lethal footwear (Rosa Klebb).
And it could have been a very different story if David Bowie had accepted the role of Max Zorin in A View To A Kill rather than Christopher Walken.
Then there’s the gadgets, a selection of which Q gives to Bond who miraculously uses them all in the course of his mission.
How about the Bell Textron jet pack from Thunderball? According to Bond, “No well-dressed man should be without one.”
The crocodile submarine from Octopussy? Brilliant.
And some gizmos have multiple uses – like the magnetic Rolex that can deflect bullets and unzip a lady’s dress. Genius.
And what about the cool motors like the white Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me? Or the cars in The Man With The Golden Gun. Not only is the AMC Matador one of the coolest things on four wheels, it also transforms into a plane. And the AMC Hornet performs one of the most stunning stunts in movie history – a corkscrew twist over a river during a high-octane getaway.
There’s also the peerless Aston Martin DB5 which comes with an array of modifications across several Bond movies including revolving number plates, tyre shredders, rocket boosters and a glove box that keeps the Bolly on ice. Of course.
It’s Bond’s jet-set lifestyle that keeps fans hooked too.
If he’s not wooing a beauty inside an iceberg submarine in Siberia (which was actually Iceland), he’s in the French Quarter in New Orleans trying to outwit Kananga. If he’s not in the Monsoon Palace in Udaipur in India surrounded by a bevy of babes, he’s in Thailand playing a lethal game of hide and seek with Scaramanga.
Another key element to a Bond movie is the theme tune.
Many artists wrote and recorded songs for Bond bosses to consider as theme tunes – if only Saint Etienne’s version of Tomorrow Never Dies had been used…
Paul McCartney & Wings’ Live and Let Die was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Academy Award and should have won.
Vocal vamp Shirley Bassey was so good she did it three times – Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.
And Carly Simon summed Bond up when she crooned, “Nobody Does It Better.”
Why does nobody do it better than Bond?
It’s been said time and time again that men want to be him and women want to be with him. If you’re a fan it’s more like a mixture of the two, whether you’re male or female.
He’s exciting, adventurous, intelligent, quick-witted, dapper, charming and very old-school British.
It’s why Miss Moneypenny can’t resist telling him in You Only Live Twice: “Bond, the password chosen for this mission is ‘I love you.’ Say it back to me so I can be sure you’ve got it.”
He’s certainly got it. He’s a human Swiss Army knife – he has something for everyone in every situation.
In From Russia With Love, Fleming wrote: “Name: Bond, James. Height: 183 cm, weight: 76kg; slim build; eyes: blue; hair: black; scar down right cheek & on left shoulder; all-round athlete; expert pistol shot, boxer, knife-thrower; does not use disguises. Languages: French and German. Smokes heavily (NB: special cigarettes with three gold bands); vices: drink, but not to excess, and women.”
This year, the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Bond movie, is set to be something special.
Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said last week: “We have a whole programme of exciting activities planned for our 50th anniversary year.”
According to reports, all six Bonds will come face to face for the first time after the autumn premiere of the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall.
MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are launching BOND 50, featuring all 22 Bond movies on Blu-ray for the first time.
Even the Royal Mail are marking the occasion with a set of commemorative movie poster stamps.
Craig recently told how he’s lining up a treat for Bond fans in Skyfall.
He said he and director Sam Mendes were planning something of an homage to the hit movie franchise.
He said: “He’s a huge Bond fan like me. We’ve been working on it quietly for two years.
“We’ve been taking all the favourite bits of our favourite Bond movies and putting them together so we can reintroduce them in this movie.”
Sounds like a licence to thrill!
“We have all the time in the world.” (James Bond to wife Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
* Sir Roger Moore is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. If you were shaken and stirred by this prose, please visit unicef.org