Get out the bunting, it’s a jubilee year. That’s right, it is 60 years since the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published, and 50 years since the first James Bond film, Dr No, was released. After Ian Fleming finished typing Casino Royale, he went on to publish a further 13 James Bond books, including two short story collections. Since his premature death in 1964, distinguished writers such as Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver have continued Bond’s literary legacy.
James Bond’s greatest triumph has been in the cinema, where he has starred in the longest running film series in history, as well as one of the most profitable. Six actors have fired down the gun barrel in 22 films, with a 23rd to be released in October this year.
First was Sean Connery, still widely considered to be the greatest Bond of all, and still voted sexiest man alive long after he finished his sixth, and last film, Diamonds Are Forever, in 1971. Connery quickly perfected Bond’s characteristic nonchalance in the face of death, turning tension to laughter with a deadpan quip. Though many fans debate whether From Russia With Love or Goldfinger was Connery’s best Bond, if not the best of all time, perhaps one of the most enduring legacies of the Connery era was the iconic villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Famous for his Mao suit, Persian cat and scarred face, his image was revived in the 1990s by the Austin Powers spoof films, starring Blofeld-inspired super-villain, Dr Evil.
Following Connery was the Australian model, George Lazenby, appearing in only one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Contrary to popular myth (that he was sacked because his film was a failure) Lazenby was actually offered contract for seven films, an offer he turned down, believing Bond would struggle to survive beyond the 1960s. Though many criticised Lazenby for many years, this opinion has been revised in more recently, with the film’s focus on traditional spying and Fleming’s novel, rather than gadgets and the fantastical, arguably setting a precedent for some of his successors. The most memorable feature of his solitary film was seeing the infamously promiscuous Bond finally settling down to marriage (even if the honeymoon didn’t work out well … )
After Connery’s brief return in Diamonds are Forever, fans saw Roger Moore for the first time in 1973’s Live and Let Die, the first of Moore’s seven Bond adventures. Though Moore occasionally tried to toughen his image up, he is best remembered for making light of the role, with more innuendos than a Carry On film. Moore was a safe pair of hands until his last Bond film in 1985. A View To A Kill, with the star 57 years of age, produced disappointing ticket sales.
By the mid-1980s, Bond had powerful rivals in the action-adventure genre, ranging from Indiana Jones and Rambo to The Terminator and Die Hardfilms. Timothy Dalton, Moore’s successor, felt that taking the series back to Fleming would boost Bond’s success. His two Bonds took the character in a darker direction, with some of the violence so graphic in his second film, Licence To Kill, that it was classified as a 15, the highest classification of a Bond film to date.
In the six years after 1989’s Licence To Kill, James Bond fans were left wondering whether their favourite British agent would ever bless the screens with his presence again. There was speculation that the hero of the Cold War whose oldest rival, the Soviet Union, had dissolved since the last film, was also finished. Nevertheless, in 1995 Goldeneye proved James Bond was still a force to be reckoned with. Depicted by Pierce Brosnan, he displayed the right combination of all his predecessors’ qualities in the role. Instead of the criminal organisation SPECTRE or agents from the Soviet Union, Brosnan’s Bond was combating international terrorists and traitors within MI6 itself. Whilst 2002’s Die Another Day was a big hit, it stimulated widespread criticism that Bond was concealed by too much gadgetry (a tricky task considering invisible cars were involved).
Consequently, after a four year break and the acquisition of the rights to the first Bond novel, Daniel Craig took over as 007, with Casino Royalesweeping away Moneypenny and the gadgets, not to mention 44 years of dubious continuity. Nevertheless, though the gamble paid off, the sequel,Quantum of Solace, failed to meet expectations and was followed by the biggest gap in Bond history without a change of actor. Now, four years after Quantum of Solace, the Bond team are determined to make Skyfallworth the wait. They’ve promised a modern action film that will also pay homage to the classic Bond ingredients which sustained the cinematic icon for 50 years. James Bond will return.