James Bond: From England with Love
Just for fun, recently I have been watching, in order, all of the James Bond films. I have been a fan of the debonair yet deadly English spy ever since I was a child, and played with my brother's model gold Aston Martin DB5 car with its ejector seat, based on the silver car Sean Connery drove in Goldfinger. As luck would have it, when I went to London last year, I found myself walking in front of the former house of James Bond's literary creator, Ian Fleming. His house at 22 Ebury Street was brought to my attention by one of English Heritage's famous blue plaques, and I just had to take a picture of it!
James Bond is such a big part of popular culture, it is estimated that half of the world's population has watched at least one James Bond film. Even former American president, the late John F. Kennedy endorsed the books, and the film Dr. No, thus boosting their popularity even more. What I enjoy most about James Bond, and what I find makes the novels and films so entertaining are:
The author of the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming, really based his famous character on himself. Fleming worked for Britain's naval intelligence division during World War II, set up an intelligence-gathering commando unit, and got to know the world of espionage firsthand. Thankfully, Fleming did not name his spy character with his first choice for a name -- Peregrine Maltravers! Instead, when he was writing the first of his novels, Casino Royale, at Goldeneye, his bungalow in Jamaica, he noticed a copy of Birds of the West Indies on his desk, written by noted ornithologist James Bond! Ian Fleming thought this name was perfect, and a fictitious spy was born.
James Bond Actors
Everyone has a favourite actor who has played James Bond, whether it is Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig. Of all the actors so far, Sean Connery has been my absolute favourite, especially in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, from 1962. Fleming had considered his friend David Niven for the role, but he did not possess the rugged looks, suaveness and ruthlessness necessary to make a believable James Bond. With each passing decade since the first film, the actors, fashions and locations have changed with the times, and James Bond is still fighting crime on an international scale, thus making the films enduringly popular. People keep guessing who will play James Bond in the next film? I think Idris Elba or Clive Owen would make a perfect James Bond, but only time will tell who will star in the next film.
Strong Bond Women
Handsome, independent (his Scottish father and Swiss mother died in a climbing accident when James Bond was 11), speeding around the world in many types of vehicles or vessels to fight crime, "licensed to kill" Agent 007 is irresistible to women.
On top of that, this international spy's family motto is, "The World is Not Enough," he always looks stylish, often in a well-tailored suit, and he is an expert on any required subject (James Bond even makes a quiche in A View to a Kill!). I have been impressed by some of the strong female characters in the James Bond films. I was fascinated to find out that James Bond was married (albeit briefly) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, to a crime boss's free-spirited daughter Teresa di Vicenzo (Tracy), played by the inimitable Diana Rigg. In Die Another Day, Halle Berry played Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson, James Bond's counterpart at the National Security Agency, and Dame Judi Dench played the formidable M, the administrative head of MI6, seven times, from GoldenEye to Skyfall.
The theme for the James Bond films, with its distinctive guitar riffs, was composed by Monty Norman. Of all the composers who have contributed towards the James Bond films, John Barry is considered "the" composer. His score for Goldfinger, with Shirley Bassey singing the title song, is widely considered to be the perfect trademark Bond sound. Other popular singers who have recorded a Bond song include: Tom Jones with "Thunderball;" Paul McCartney and Wings with "Live and Let Die;" Carly Simon with "Nobody Does it Better" for The Spy Who Loved Me; Rita Coolidge with "All Time High" for Octopussy; Tina Turner with "GoldenEye;" and the Bond song I remember best, "Skyfall" by Adele, who won an Academy Award for best original song.
Cars and Gadgets
From the ridiculous (the Venetian gondola hovercraft in Moonraker, for instance) to the sublime (the Aston Martin cars) to the necessary tools of his trade (the weapons), James Bond gets to try them all out, thanks to the ingenuity of Q, head of the research and development division for the British Secret Service.
With 24 James Bond films and six actors playing James Bond so far, a huge supporting cast, numerous fast-paced plots and far-flung locations, there is a lot of trivia associated with the world's longest-running film series. One of the more amusing bits of trivia I have read about concerns actor Richard Keil. When Keil played Jaws in Moonraker, he had to bite through a steel cable with his trademark steel teeth. He did so with relative ease, since the cable was actually made of licorice!
It is a tribute to the popularity of the James Bond film series, and its longevity, that there have been several spoofs of it over the years. Canada's very own Mike Myers played Austin Powers in his trilogy, modelled on James Bond films of the Sean Connery era. You can see Mike Myers in person at Toronto Reference Library on October 21 at 7:30 pm. Johnny English, played by Rowan Atkinson, is a minor member of the British Secret Service M17, who gets his big break when all the other agents are assassinated at a funeral. In Kingsman: The Secret Service, an unrefined but promising street kid, Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, played by Taron Egerton, is recruited into a super-secret spy organization.
You may have noticed at your local library that we are promoting popular culture and highlighting these subjects. Click on the links for great suggestions for books to read and DVDs to watch:
- Pop Culture for Children
- Pop Culture for Teens
- Books about Pop Culture Films
- Books about Pop Culture Television Shows
- Books about Pop Culture Music
- World Cinema Films