Bond bang on target

2012-01-13 11:35

It was always the same recipe that made James Bond one of the biggest success stories in film history.

Fifty years after the gorgeously handsome and seemingly infallible Agent 007, in the service of
Her Majesty, made his Hollywood debut, he is still drawing millions of film fans into cinemas around the world.

The start of the shooting of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in Jamaica, on January 16 1962, launched one of the most exhilarating chapters in the history of cinema.

The spy, world saviour and womaniser has not lost any of his attractiveness, with the 23rd Bond movie, Skyfall, due to hit cinemas later this year.

Daniel Craig will be starring in his third Bond film as the man with the “license to kill”. He is the sixth actor to play James Bond, following Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.

Bond takes his vodka martinis “shaken, not stirred”. His flirts with secretary Miss Moneypenny are legendary, just like his affairs with the attractive Bond girls and the refined technology specialities from the workshop of Q.

In the end, of course, good wins over evil. All that makes up a recipe which has survived for half a century in the fast-moving film industry.

When producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman initially secured the film rights to the character created by novelist Ian Fleming, success was anything but expected.

Many in Hollywood thought Bond was “far too British”. Even the search for actors and other staff proved difficult.

Neither leading actor Connery nor his adversary Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No was the first choice. Broccoli and Saltzman also had four directors turn them down before Terence Young said yes.

The film’s music, which eventually became legendary, was reportedly written by composer Monty Norman in just two minutes. John Barry then arranged the composition, which led to years of dispute between the two musicians.

As the director, Young came up with the idea of building some jokes into the storyline, to help the film’s sex and violence scenes pass through censorship.

Actor Richard Johnson who, like Richard Todd, turned down the Bond role which eventually went to Connery, believes that this is the secret of the films’ popularity.

“Sean made things funny, and that is what boosts the success,” Johnson said.

To what extent female sex appeal has to do with the success, remains unknown.

The performance of Swiss actress Ursula Andress as Jamaican shell diver Honey Rider – with a bikini and knife belt – made film history in itself.

So much so that Halle Berry essentially replayed the scene 40 years later in the Bond film Die Another Day.

Bond’s cars have also become iconic. Britain’s National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, near Southampton, is displaying a selection of 50 cars that have played an important role in the films over the past 50 years.

The budget for Dr. No was rather modest by today’s standards, with the film studio United Artists providing only $1 million (about R8.1 million: this week’s rand-dollar exchange).

That was not enough for real leather on the soundproof door of Secret Service head M’s office. And the paintings were made of cardboard.

“I painted a (Spanish romantic painter Francisco de) Goya over the weekend,” Ken Adams, who was responsible for special effects, recently recalled in The Guardian. The painting hung in the apartment of villain Dr. No.

The British subsidiary of United Artists provided an additional $100 000 for the scene in which Dr. No’s Jamaican private island base explodes at the end of the film.

Broccoli’s children – stepson Robert G Wilson and daughter Barbara – have taken over the production team for the Bond films. Wilson played in 11 Bond movies as an extra before becoming a producer, while his stepsister worked as a directoral and production assistant.

Agent 007 will undoubtedly be there for many more years to come, introducing himself with the legendary line: “My name is Bond, James Bond”.

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