Forty years ago this week a film opened in London that immortalised the image of the British secret service. It was called "Doctor No," and its star was an almost unknown Scottish actor called Sean Connery. He played Bond. James Bond. The rest is a whole lot of history.
This Fall, the twentieth Bond movie hits the screens – "Die Another Day," it’s called. And Bond, of course, shows no intention of doing any such thing.
hat’s extraordinary about the character, the films and the books that inspired them is how they continue to thrive in these politically correct times. For a start James Bond is not exactly a nice guy. He may treat his women with charm, but they’re all expendable and an awful lot of them end up dead. Then there’s the nature of the job. Licenced to kill. Taking on international villains with an array of lethally clever gadgets. Do you remember that Aston Martin DB5 with the retractable wheel razors and the ejector seat? Come on - what real secret service in the world can afford those sort of gizmos?
Bond was written by a spy, an officer in British military intelligence, the author Ian Fleming. Fleming knew perfectly well he was romanticising a nasty – if necessary – trade. But it worked on paper and it still works on celluloid. That first movie, made like sixteen others that followed, by the late legendary Cubby Broccolli – yes his Italian family crossed a cauliflower and a cabbage to create a brand new vegetable, but that’s another story - cost a mere 900,000 dollars. Today we’re talking twenty or thirty millions. Because Bond movies need the most exotic locations, the most voluptuous women and the most civilised anglicised beefcake for a star.
There’ve been five Bonds, one or two forgettable, but all six foot plus. The current one, Pierce Brosnan, is 6’2”. Mind you, Sean Connery was 6'3", but we won’t quibble. Ian Fleming set out to find the most anonymous and forgettable name for his hero. The story goes he was browsing through an illustrated book of West Indian Feathered Birds. Its author, a long dead ornithologist, was professor James Bond.
Incidentally my name’s Boyle, Ed Boyle for CBS News in London.
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