Thursday, 7 November 2019

Atticus and Bond: the inspiration for Rosa Klebb?

Atticus and Bond: the most beautiful money in the world

Sunday, 13 October 2019

James Bond in Biarritz?

During the summer, I took a road-trip from Le Touquet on the north French coast to Coppet in Switzerland, just north of Geneva, following the route that James Bond takes in the novel of Goldfinger (1959). At various points, James Bond consults a Michelin guide, and so to give me further insight into Bond's journey, I acquired a copy of a vintage edition of the guide, specifically the 1958 edition, the year in which Fleming wrote the novel.

When I returned to England, I watched On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), having also visited Piz Gloria while in Switzerland. It was then that I noticed for the first time that the book that Bond (George Lazenby) has on the passenger seat of his Aston Martin at the beginning of the film is the Michelin guide to France. Presumably, the edition used in the film is a more recent edition than mine, but it was nevertheless instantly recognisable. 

The Michelin guide, as seen on On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that the guide is open at a town plan that extends across two pages. Obviously, the map could not be of Estoril in Portugal, where the hotel scenes were shot and where Bond was presumably heading to in the film. Nor is the map that of Le Touquet or any other coastal town on the north French coast that inspired the fictional seaside resort of Royale-les-Eaux that appears in Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. So, what place does the map show?

After consulting my Michelin, carefully studying the maps that cover two facing pages and comparing them with a screenshot of the Aston's passenger seat, I can reveal that the map is of... Biarritz, the fashionable resort on France's south-western coast that has long been popular with the international jet-set. 

The plan of Biarritz, from the 1958 edition of the Michelin guide

While Biarritz the sort of place where James Bond would feel at home, it's unlikely that he's making his way there in the film. That said, Biarritz is not without a Bondian connection. In his biography of Ian Fleming, Andrew Lycett records that during a holiday there in the 1950s, Fleming decided to write a piece about casinos. The resulting article, 'How to win at roulette with only £10' was published in various forms, appearing, for example, along with references to James Bond, within the Monte Carlo chapter of Thrilling Cities.

Returning to OHMSS, I imagine that the set dressers simply required a town plan - any plan would do - that covered two pages and had relatively little text. They chose well. It's impossible to make out the name of the town on the screen and none of the other text is legible. And though film viewers can see that the book is open at a plan, the shot is gone in a blink of an eye. Details can only be made out after pausing the film.

Whether intentional or not, the appearance of the Michelin guide in the film provides a nice link to the literary 007, serving as a nod to James Bond's adventures in France in the novels. 

Monday, 15 July 2019

A proto-Q?

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

James Bond Food website launched

A website that explores the food of Ian Fleming’s James Bond has been launched. James Bond Food accompanies the James Bond cookbook, Licence to Cook, which is packed full of recipes inspired by the food James Bond eats in the novels of Ian Fleming. 

The website contains Bondian recipes not in the book, as well as articles about Bond’s food from the books and films. The website is being updated constantly, so be sure to visit regularly to read the latest post, find out how to eat like James Bond, or to get inspired for your next recipe idea.

Click here to visit James Bond Food.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

On location: a visit to the College of Arms

Last week, I was privileged to visit the College of Arms in London. The principal roles of this world-famous institution are to grant coats of arms, investigate rights to existing ones, and undertake genealogical research. However, to Bond fans, it is best known as a location in both the book and the film of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. James Bond visits the college to learn about Blofeld’s request for its services to support his claim to the title of Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp (or Comte Balthazar de Bleuville, as it is in the book). Naturally, I took the opportunity to investigate the some of the spaces that inspired Fleming’s writing and the college scenes in the film.
The College of Arms
In the film, we are introduced to the college by means of an exterior shot of the front of the building, which is on Queen Victoria Street; Bond arrives in his Aston Martin and parks in the courtyard. This scene was shot on location and the building today is little changed.

The film cuts to an interior view of a hall, where Bond meets a porter in a cherry-red uniform (still worn today, a real-life porter at the college told me), who takes him through a side door to Sable Basilisk’s office. The hall is in fact the Earl Marshal’s Court, which may still, in theory, sit in order to hear and resolve heraldic disputes. The court in the film is a studio recreation, but apart from being larger and having more doors (through the long walls), it is a fair depiction of the real thing. The throne, enclosing rail, wall panelling, portraits, and flags present in the actual court are all represented on screen. The attention to detail is such that the screen court even depicts the crests and other devices above the doors and the radiators along the wall.
The court room in the College of Arms (top) and as depicted in OHMSS (below)
In the novel, Fleming describes the hall as gloomy, with ‘dark panelling…lined with musty portraits of proud-looking gentlemen in ruffs and lace’, and flags of the Commonwealth hanging from the cornice. Clearly, Fleming had visited the college himself.

During my visit, I got talking to one of the officers of the college, the York Herald. We chatted about the film, and he revealed that part of what would become the rooftop chase scene that was later deleted was filmed inside the college. A smaller room off the hall has a door in the corner. In the missing scene, Bond goes through this door ultimately to reach the roof.
Bond goes through this door on his way to the roof
The York Herald also pointed out that a few pages of the original script are on display in the corner of the court under a window. I eagerly went over to have a look and found that they featured dialogue from the deleted scene. (Photography of these pages is, incidentally strictly forbidden.)

Returning to the film, the porter leads Bond through a corridor to the door of Sable Basilisk. It is an ornate door, with an even more ornate name plate to the side. As I discovered as I explored some of the corridors after answering a call of nature, all the heralds’ office doors are rather elaborate. The office of Portcullis, for example, has a golden portcullis within a carved rosette-type device above the door. In the novel, Fleming describes the decoration above Sable Basilisk’s ‘heavy door’ as a nightmare black monster with a vicious beak, accompanied by a name plate in gold.
Doors of the heralds' offices
Today, the College of Arms is open to public enquiries, and I’m told that tours are occasionally given. The Bond connection is very much alive. Apart from the script, Bond-related books are on display on a table in the court room and available to purchase from the receptionist. The York Herald also told me that the college receives regular enquiries from Bond fans.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Casino Royale - before Casino Royale?

Picture the scene: a high-stakes baccarat game at the casino. At the table sits our hero, who has come to the gambling resort to ruin his arch-enemy, who now faces him. The game is observed by the hero’s female companion, with whom he has fallen in love and to whom he has explains the rules of the game. The game proceeds, during which our hero wins several coups and his enemy limps off, a little wounded, after losing a lot of money and declining the challenge of our hero’s substantial bank.

Sound familiar? I could, of course, be describing events in the novel of Casino Royale (1953), but in fact this comes from the E Phillips Oppenheim novel, Prodigals of Monte Carlo, published in 1926. Monte Carlo provides the casino (obviously), Sir Hargrave Wendever is the protagonist, Violet is his beautiful companion, and his arch-enemy is called Andrea Trentino (or ‘Trentino – Andrea Trentino’, as Wendever tells Violet). As for their characters, we read that ‘Hargrave, if he lacked the other’s almost flamboyant insouciance, was nevertheless in his way emotionless.’

The novel itself is more romance than thriller, but it shares some of its elements – the contest across the baccarat table, the sophisticated location, the impassive hero, the captivating woman – with Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel. Oppenheim was among the authors whom Fleming admired and credited as providing inspiration for his Bond books.

The similarity of the gambling scene may be coincidental, but it provides a connection between the two books and, it could be argued, places Casino Royale at a point of transition in the evolution of the thriller, being a novel that is set in the world of Oppenheim and others, but one whose outlook and style, shaped by Fleming’s wartime experiences, was distinctly modern.