‘Name: Bond, James. Height: 183cm, weight: 76 kilograms; slim build; eyes: blue; hair: black; scar down right cheek and on left shoulder; signs of plastic surgery on back of right hand; 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. Not thought to accept bribes.’
My first Bond movie was Moonraker. Jaws, evil billionaires, space and girls chased down by dogs. It made an impression on my nine-year old mind. Roger Moore was my favorite Bond for a long time, debonair with a bit of tongue in cheek. I never really liked Sean Connery, his was a grim, serious Bond. However, I have learned to appreciate Connery’s wry wit as I got older.
I have always loved Bond films. I am an action junkie in both my books and my movies. Sad wanderings through a psychological landscape doesn’t appeal to me, I need a plot that goes somewhere with action! Bond movies certainly have that.
One of the most marvelous things about the Bond films is how they form a cultural path from the 1960s to today, and, presumably, beyond. Although the books were written between 1953 and 1966, the screenplays span decades and of course were changed to make the stories “modern”. In doing so, they changed the mores of the films to fit as well.
Some things have never changed; Bond is a dapper spy who men wanted to be and women just wanted. And even after all these years, Bond still has disdain for any help from the “Americans”–as the films are american made, I get a secret kick out of that. There’s Moneypenny, still longing over 007. And his toys! Better and more inventive with every movie.
Things that did move with the times: Bond villains. They slowly transformed from SPECTRE, to the USSR and/or Red China, to corporate bad guys intent on ruling the world, to N. Korean when Russia was no longer an acceptable target. It is an interesting swing from Communists to untrustworthy corporations and back to communism.
SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is a fictional global criminal syndicate and terrorist organisation**
Fleming created SPECTRE because at the time it was thought that the Cold war wouldn’t last long enough to bring the film out (roughly 2 years), and he didn’t want the film to look dated. One thing Bond movies have never been. It is nice that there was optimism in the late ’50s that the cold war would be over so quickly. But when it wasn’t, SPECTRE would be seen to be working for Communist powers in later films. The loyalty and depth of Bond villains to their ideology carries through the decades, regardless of why they were the villain.
“It was a naked girl, with her back to him. She was not quite naked. She wore a broad leather belt round her waist with a hunting knife in a leather sheath at her right hip. The belt made her nakedness extraordinarily erotic. She stood not more than five yards away on the tideline looking down at something in her hand. She stood in the classical relaxed pose of the nude, all the weight on the right leg and the left knee bent and turning slightly inwards, the head to one side as she examined the things in her hand.”*
Bond women. They have changed extraordinarily throughout the movies. Although Honey acts tough when she first meets Bond, it is left to 007 to save her in the end. But Bond women became more and more independent as the role of women changed in society. It could be considered the largest influence on the Bond films, more than world politics.
Although, many of the early female villains were tough women–even if they fell victim to James’ charms
In the early films, Sean Connery slapped women, pushed them around, had to rescue them, then loved them and left them (different them) several times during the course of one movie. Roger Moore also had his share of shrinking violets–Tanya Robert’s shrieking “James!” was beyond annoying in View to a Kill. Not until Goldeneye do we meet a woman, Natalya, who can hold her own and is a partner in the action rather than a damsel in distress. Interestingly, it is also the first film not based on a Fleming book, or a female character he wrote. And while some of his critics were harsh on Fleming’s books, particularly Dr. No,
Paul Johnson’s review “Sex, Snobbery and Sadism”, called the novel “without doubt, the nastiest book I have ever read”***
I am not sure it is Fleming’s views on women that were truly reflected in the previous films. Not only did the women change from the ’70s into the ’80s, but the amount of loving was changed. Whereas Connery’s Bond had a good time just about everywhere, Moore’s Bond had less. As times changed and a man was held to higher standards (I know, I know, no mean emails please!), Bond had more romance in his romantic entanglements than entanglement.
By the time poor Timothy Dalton’s Bond came along in Licence to Kill, he didn’t even get lucky. It was implied at the end that of course Bond would get lucky, but it was an actual 007 film with no sex. Like George Lazenby’s Bond, it is a one of a kind.
Another factor in the lack of loving in the 1980s films was AIDs. No one would suggest going out and having multiple partners would be good for anyone at that point in time. As the scare of STDs, large and small, was reduced Bond went back to his more carefree ways. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was freed to have several different partners again in his films, but he still had to be romantically connected to them for public approval.
Daniel Craig’s Bond reminded me greatly of Connery’s, possibly because they went back to Fleming’s books. He seemed like someone who could slap a woman, but wouldn’t. A nice tip to modern feelings and Ian Fleming.
James Bond movies have continuity over 50 years that is not shown in many other pop culture phenomena. It is a neat thing to see the social changes through that time. Now, I am not being scientific about this, this is merely a theory I think of when I catch Bond week on TV. Feel free to disagree with me, just please do it nicely.
I also should say I have not read the books themselves. I tried in my teens and it wasn’t working for me. I have definitely seen all the movies.
And another interesting social improvement: they are thinking of Idris Elba for the next 007. He would be marvelous. And a black James Bond. I don’t think Fleming ever saw that coming.
Things I didn’t know about Ian Fleming:
he wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his son Casper’s bedtime story; he was in British Navel Intelligence, and was involved in Operation Goldenye; he used real names with impunity when naming characters (and villains) in his books; Bond himself was named after an ornithologist whose book Fleming used for his own bird-watching; and he wrote his first Bond book in two months.
*See more at: http://www.ianfleming.com
*** April 1958 New Statesman