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50 Years of James Bond

On the 5th October 1962 the world was introduced via the silver screen to the world of espionage through the eyes of one daring British spy… James Bond.

Bond had been around through Fleming’s books for nearly ten years with his first appearance in 1953 in Fleming’s novel, ‘Casino Royale’. The film rights for Fleming’s Bond novels (excluding ‘Casino Royale’) were bought by Albert R. Broccoli and his partner, Harry Saltzman in 1961. Nobody really wanted to take on the film as they thought it too British and wouldn’t be a money spinner! Broccoli and Saltzman finally got a film deal with United Artists and started Eon Productions. Now all they had to do was find their Bond.



Their first choice was Richard Burton who turned the role down and Patrick McGoohan also declined the part. It has also been said that Alfred Hitchcock turned down the option of directing the first Bond film. There was six months of speculation as to who would play Bond and a contest was held to ‘…find James Bond’. The winner was a 28 year-old model called Peter Anthony. However, his Bond never made the big screen as the producers quickly saw that he wasn’t up to the role. Finally, the role was accepted by Sean Connery who was not too sure he was the right actor to play James Bond.

After seeing the preview screening of ‘Dr. No’, Ian Fleming is alleged to have stated it as ‘Dreadful! Simply dreadful!’. The reviews when the film was released were not complimentary either with many savaging the film. However, Broccoli was not to be deterred and soon production of the second Bond movie, ‘From Russia With Love’ was in production. Throughout the rest of his life, Broccoli produced the Bond films until his daughter, Barbara took on the mantle. The twenty-third official film, ‘Skyfall’ will premiere in late October, the first bond film in four years since ‘Quantum of Solace’ in 2008.

For anyone who has seen the films but not read the books, they are totally different beasts, with the books being more acerbic, observant and definitely with a British tongue stuck firmly in cheek! My favourite Bond novel is ‘Live and Let Die’ which finds Bond dealing with drugs and voodoo. For me, Fleming was not worried what people would say and wrote books that were ahead of their time and have stood the test of time. Bond is the sort of character that spawned the Jack Reacher’s and Jason Bourne’s of today. And still, fifty years later Bond is still going strong. For many Bond is the original hero: he can get out of a tough situation, has style, humour and obviously a great chat up line with the girls… and Fleming, despite his initial reaction to ‘Dr. No’ and Connery’s casting must have seen that Bond was being immortalised in front of his own very eyes as he gave his Bond a Scottish ancestry. I am sure that for Sean Connery and Broccoli that was enough to confirm the great writer himself could see Bond was here to stay.

It would have been interesting if he had lived longer than 1964 (sadly never to see ‘Goldfinger’, the film most consider the jewel in the Bond crown) and hear what he thought of the different incarnations of Bond from Connery to the brief outing by George Lazenby to the comedic turn of Roger Moore and the others that followed. I am sure that Fleming would have had plenty of criticisms but would have been pleased as punch to see Bond still regaling our screens fifty years on. I am sure he would have been anything but ‘shaken, not stirred’.

 

Ian Fleming - Live and Let Die

"‘Live and Let Die’ is an amazing novel with light and dark shot through with colour that can only be found amongst the Jazz scene of Harlem."

Synopsis:
Mr Big is brutal and feared worldwide. Protected by Voodoo forces and the psychic powers of his prisoner Solitaire, he is an invincible SMERSH operative at the head of a ruthless smuggling ring. James Bond's new assignment will take him to the heart of the occult. From Harlem's throbbing jazz joints to the shark-infested waters of Jamaica, enemy eyes watch Bond's every move. He must tread carefully to avoid a nightmarish fate.

Review:
I remember years ago reading ‘Live and Let Die’ and being totally blown away by it. It has also remained my favourite Bond film with Roger Moore making his debut as Bond and being quite good in it. (Moore only really got ridiculous in the later ones where every other sentence was a double-entendre). However, saying that, the film is not a totally faithful portrayal with all the elements of the book (some scenes from this book were not used in the film of the same name but in subsequent Bond films) – however, it is nowhere near as dark as the book.

I will say now that there are terms and phrases that were used towards the black community that were acceptable in those days and not now. However, to take this out would also tamper with the integrity of the novel itself. Agatha Christie is another prime example of using these expressions but her books still have these words within the text. Besides, it adds another layer to the novel and Fleming does not use it in a derogatory way – in fact Mr. Big is portrayed as a smarter and more entrepreneurial individual than Bond could ever hope to achieve.

As mentioned before, Fleming’s Bond was shot through with British wit and lifts the story from being completely engulfed by the shadows. Mr. Big is a very impressive villain; personally I feel he is up there with Goldfinger. Yes, some of the attitudes towards women are also dated, but in some ways it is good to see how much simpler things were back then without an electronic gizmo for every single thing, but at the same time good to see how much further we have come down the path with regards to attitudes towards other races and the opposite sex.

‘Live and Let Die’ is an amazing novel with light and dark shot through with colour that can only be found amongst the Jazz scene of Harlem. Brilliant!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

 

 

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