Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas with the Flemings

The Engadine Valley (By Biovit (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
A letter from Ann Fleming to the author Peter Quennell written on 30th December 1960 reveals that the Flemings spent Christmas that year in St Moritz, Switzerland. In the letter, reproduced in Mark Amory's edited volume of Ann's correspondence (Collins Harvill, 1985), Ann describes how she and Ian ('the Commander') lunched at the resort's Corviglia Club. Reading the letter now, one is struck by similarities with certain passages in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), which Ian Fleming wrote while at Goldeneye the following winter (1961/2). It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Ian drew on his time at St Moritz when he was writing the novel.

Ann Fleming mentions that she and Ian ate with Daphne and Whitney, whom Mark Amory identifies as Witney and Lady Daphne Straight. If these names are familiar to readers of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, it is because they were mentioned in the novel. In chapter 12, Irma Bunt points out to James Bond the “international set” enjoying lunch on the public terrace at Piz Gloria, having been lured away from Gstaad and St Moritz. Ursula Andress is among the notable people there, but so too are “Mr Witney and Lady Daphne Straight.”

Ann's description of the Corviglia Club (“a smart chalet” with a “sunny terrace” and “a helicopter landing ground”) also has a ring of familiarity. The club house of Piz Gloria is a “bogus-chalet type structure with a vast veranda”, and we know Piz Gloria has a helipad. Admittedly this is, as Fleming puts it, “a typical piece of high-Alpine architecture”, and probably describes every resort in the region (as St Moritz, Fleming's Piz Gloria is situated in the Engadine valley), but it is likely that Fleming was recalling St Moritz when he created Piz Gloria.

It is well known that Ian Fleming put many of his experiences, the places he visited, and the people he knew into the James Bond novels. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is no different, and in some of the passages set in Piz Gloria, Ann Fleming's letter suggests that we can find elements of the Flemings' Christmas spent at St Moritz in 1960.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting details there - I wasn't aware of that myself though I do have a copy of Ann's letters!

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    1. Thanks for your comment (and a belated happy New Year!). Yes, Ann's letters continue to yield interesting information. Each time I skim through it, I find something else of relevance to James Bond.

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