Friday 30 December 2011

For Maugham's Eyes Only

In an earlier post, I explored the similarities between 'Quantum of Solace', the short story published in Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only, and 'The Ambassador', a story by Somerset Maugham that appears in Ashenden. Reading the Ashenden collection in its entirety, it struck me that For Your Eyes Only as a whole is rather 'maughamish' (to use Kingsley Amis' description), and that the complete volume, not just 'Quantum of Solace', could be regarded as a homage to Somerset Maugham.

What is the evidence? The obvious similarity between Ashenden and For Your Eyes Only is that both are a collection of short stories. This form was a departure for Fleming, who had up till the preparation of For Your Eyes Only produced full-length novels. Both also have a sub-title of sorts – 'The British Agent' (Ashenden) and 'Five secret occasions in the life of James Bond'. That said, Fleming doesn't strictly follow the structure of Ashenden, as the stories in Maugham's volume are connected to each other to lesser or greater extents, while those by Fleming are stand-alone.

One of the themes of Ashenden is the morally ambivalent nature of an agent's work. We see this in 'The hairless Mexican', in which Ashenden accompanies an agent to Italy in order to effect an assassination. Then, in 'Flip of a coin', Ashenden decides, on the toss of a coin, whether to authorise an operation which could result in the deaths of innocent people, but be beneficial to the wider aims of the war effort (that is, of the First World War). And in 'The traitor', Ashenden befriends an Englishman and known traitor in Switzerland and contrives to return him to England to face capital punishment.

Moral and ethical dilemmas are found in Fleming's stories too. In the title story, 'For Your Eyes Only', M implicitly orders James Bond to find and kill the man responsible for the death of his friends, the Havelocks. There is no SIS connection – this is to be murder sanctioned by M. In 'The Hildebrand Rarity', Bond, sailing with three companions, finds the dead body of one of the party (a boorish and violent man). He suspects one of the other two, but is sympathetic to their motives and is unlikely to say anything at the coroner's enquiry which would prevent a verdict of death by misadventure.

'The Hildebrand Rarity' joins 'Quantum of Solace' (and in a sense 'For Your Eyes Only') as a story that is not about the Secret Service. The inclusion of stories that are set outside the world of espionage is again reminiscent of Ashenden, which also combines both spy and personal stories. 'The Ambassador' is, of course, a non-spy story, and it joins others, like 'Love and Russian literature', in which Ashenden recalls his past relationship with a member of the Russian intelligentsia, Anastasia Alexandrovna.

With the exception of 'Quantum of Solace', it is unlikely that Ian Fleming set out to imitate Somerset Maugham when he wrote all the stories that would be collected in For Your Eyes Only. For example, 'For Your Eyes Only' and 'Risico' were originally conceived as plots for an aborted TV series. However, the result of the collection, by accident if not by design, is a volume that stands as a whole in tribute to Maugham's Ashenden.

Monday 19 December 2011

A Bondian Christmas dinner

Bored of the usual turkey? Fancy a change from the traditional trimmings? This year, how about surprising your family and guests with a James Bond-themed Christmas dinner? A flick through the books shows that there's lots of dishes to choose from. Here's what I might cook up this Christmas.

After an aperitif of a vesper, or maybe a bourbon, I'd have to start with caviare. Serve chopped boiled eggs or shallots as accompaniments, and make sure you have plenty of toast to hand. For those who aren't so keen on caviare, you could serve a prawn cocktail, as consumed in The Man with the Golden Gun. Try smoked prawns for a twist to the classic ensemble.

For the main course, I'd stick with a bird of some kind (although beef comes a close second), and almost certainly choose a partridge, one per person. Cook it in a French country style, the way that Bond likes it (On Her Majesty's Secret Service). Season well, cover with bacon, thyme and butter and roast for up to one hour. Simple country fare. Ian Fleming doesn't have much to say about vegetables, so I'd have the standard roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts (for the sprouts, try par-boiling them, then fry them in butter, fresh herbs and a glass or two of champagne – sprouts fit for James Bond).

If you prefer to follow the meal with something lighter than Christmas pudding, then the Bond novels have a few options. Bond likes savoury flavours, so I'd perhaps serve a cheese soufflé, which Bond eats in Goldfinger. If the idea of a soufflé is terrifying (especially on a high-pressure day like Christmas Day), try angels on horseback (Dr No) instead. Wrap each oyster (for convenience, use tinned smoked oysters) with a strip of bacon, season, and gently fry. For something sweet and more exotic, and with a taste of Jamaica, you can't beat guavas and coconut cream, which Bond eats in Live and Let Die. For an extra-special Christmas treat, serve coconut sorbet, rather than cream.

Recipes for everything mentioned here (except the sprouts) can be found in my book, Licence to Cook. But whatever you eat this Christmas, have yourself a very Bondian Christmas.

Friday 9 December 2011

A real-life James Bond

He was an Old Etonian who spent his war years with the Secret Intelligence Service in Malta and Italy. After 1945 he was posted to Vienna where he was appointed SIS station head. In a long career, he served successively as station head at Berlin, Bonn and Beirut. Throughout his life he was a devoted skier. He learnt to ski in 1916 aged 2, and he captained the British skiing team in the 1936 Winter Olympics. During his retirement, he returned each year to Mürren in Switzerland.

War-hero, skier, spy. Peter Lunn, who died in November aged 97, could have been the model for James Bond. I don’t know whether Ian Fleming knew him, but I wonder whether Peter Lunn made his mark on the world of 007 in another way.

One of Peter Lunn’s achievements while working for SIS was to pioneer the excavation and use of tunnels to allow the intelligence service to eavesdrop on the KGB. In Vienna, he arranged for tunnels to be dug which would intercept communication cables between the Soviet embassy and the city’s airport. The operation lasted from 1948 to 1951. In Berlin in 1955, a tunnel was excavated deep into East Germany and enabled Soviet communications to be tapped. The ruse was exposed in 1956, but not before years’ worth of useful material had been gained.

Given the success of the tunnelling operations, what must SIS chiefs have thought when they turned to chapter 16 of From Russia, with Love (1957) and read a description of a tunnel extending from SIS Station T in Istanbul to the Soviet embassy? The details do not match entirely – Fleming’s tunnel allows Kerim Bey to physically spy on the Russians with the use of a periscope, rather than to tap their communication cables – but the general idea is the same.

At this time, Ian Fleming still had connections in the intelligence community, and it is possible that he heard of Peter Lunn’s tunnels and thought it worth adapting for his latest novel. If so, then, to paraphrase M in his obituary of James Bond in You Only Live Twice, if the degree of the description's veracity had been any higher, Fleming would certainly have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

Saturday 3 December 2011

The ship that Fleming dug

As an archaeologist, I've long been fascinated by Ian Fleming's brushes with archaeology. He attempted, for instance, to explore the prehistoric caves of the Pyrenees with the French caver Norbert Casteret, and metal-detected the grounds of Creake Abbey in Norfolk. These would form the basis of articles for the Sunday Times. For his most exciting adventure, though, Fleming dived with Jacques-Yves Cousteau to excavate an ancient wreck in the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseilles.

In 1954, Ann Fleming noted that 'Ian was to write of Commandant Cousteau who was exploring the wreck of a Greek trading vessel off the coast. Cousteau's ship was in harbour listing to one side with its weight of amphorae and other terracotta objects strewn on the deck'. She adds that diving to the depth required was difficult for Fleming and that he suffered headaches from the pressure for days afterwards.

The wreck that Fleming explored was in fact two Roman ships, one superimposed on the other. They lay at a depth of 32-45m off the north-east point of Grand Congloué, a small island south of Marseilles. Cousteau directed the underwater excavation, financed by the Campagne Océanographiques françaises and supported by the Director of Antiquities of Marseilles, between 1952 and 1957. His floating base for the excavation was his research ship, the Calypso.

Both wrecks were trading vessels or merchantmen. The lower vessel sunk in the late 2nd century BC. It was carrying at least 450 amphorae, among them Greco-Italic and Rhodian amphorae that both contained wine. Some of the amphorae were stamped with the name of a merchant, Ti. Q. Iuventus. The ship's cargo also included some 7000 pieces of Campanian pottery, fine tableware from the Pompeii region of Italy. The upper vessel foundered on the rocks about a century later. It was dated to the 1st century BC and carried a cargo of about 1200 Italian wine amphorae (the so-called Dressel 1A type) from Campania. Stamps on the vessels show that these were being traded by members of the prominent Sestius family.

When Fleming dived down to the wrecks, he had already written Live and Let Die, and so the details of Blackbeard's treasure and James Bond's underwater activities could not have been inspired by Cousteau's excavation. However, in Moonraker (1955), as Bond gazes out into the English Channel from the Kentish coast, Fleming tells us that Julius Caesar landed there 2000 years ago, a remark that possibly reflects Fleming's recently-boosted interest in the past. And in Thunderball (1961), descriptions of Bond's scuba-diving and underwater pursuit of Largo, complete with technical details about his equipment, has an authenticity that derives from Fleming's own experiences, which doubtless included diving with Cousteau.


Amory, M (ed.), 1985 The letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill
Benoit, F, 1961 L'épave du Grand Congloué a Marseille, XIVe Supplément à Gallia
Lycett, A, 1996 Ian Fleming, Phoenix
Rauh, N K, 2003 Merchants, sailors and pirates in the Roman world, Tempus

Saturday 26 November 2011

Quantum of Solace: when 007 met Somerset Maugham

Kingsley Amis described 'Quantum of Solace' (the short story published in For Your Eyes Only in 1960) as 'Maughamish'. Henry Chancellor saw similarities between 'Quantum of Solace' and Somerset Maugham's short story, 'His Excellency', which appears in Ashenden (1928). There is little doubt that Ian Fleming wrote his story in homage to Maugham, as stylistically and structurally the stories are close. More generally, Fleming's cultural environment – the two authors knew each other socially, and Fleming avidly read Maugham's work – made Fleming susceptible to pick up 'Maughamisms' (or Maugham-memes). Let's explore some of the evidence.

'His Excellency' starts, like 'Quantum of Solace', with the main protagonist, Ashenden, reflecting on his invitation to a social meeting with the ambassador of an unnamed country (rather than Fleming's governor of Bermuda) and the prospect of a dull evening. The evening livens up a little when the conversation between Ashenden and the ambassador turns to the subject of Byring, a promising diplomat who is obliged to resign in view of his impending marriage to a woman – a former dancer – ostracised by polite society due to her reputation for a voracious appetite for men and expensive things. There is more than a nod to this in 'Quantum of Solace', which, in its tale of Philip Masters, contains similar themes of a society scandal and a diplomatic career ruined by the actions of a woman from a 'working' background.

The story of Philip Masters is told to Bond by the governor. This device recalls Maugham's story, in which the ambassador goes on to recount to Ashenden the story of another tragic affair of the heart. This story has little in common with that of Masters other than general aspects of love and misery and breaking convention with society. But both the ambassador and the governor draw lessons on life from their tales. The governor devises his law of the Quantum of Solace. When all humanity between a couple has gone, the quantum of solace (the amount of comfort) is at zero and the relationship cannot survive. The ambassador concludes that a relationship based on love is worth pursuing, even if it lasts only a few years, and is preferable to a lifetime of regret within a loveless marriage.

Fleming's short story mirrors Maugham's in one other curious way. As he listens to the ambassador's tale, Ashenden wishes he had moved to a sofa, rather than stay on a hard chair. Bond, on the other hand, is uncomfortable on the sofa, and takes the opportunity of a refill of his brandy glass to move to a hard, upright, chair.

Both stories may also have expressed something of their authors' own turmoils. The law of the quantum of solace could have applied to Fleming's turbulent relationship with his wife, Ann, while Maugham's story could have been a metaphor for his homosexual relationships (forbidden in society and law).

That Ian Fleming would be so familiar with Maugham's work, and therefore think highly enough of it to want to imitate it, is unsurprising, given that the two authors were friends. In a note concerning her travels through Europe, Ann, who spent much time at Somerset Maugham's villa (Villa Mauresque) in the Antibes, south of France, recalls that, in 1954, Ian joined her at the villa and delighted in Maugham's company. Ann thought the two were much alike, not just in their enjoyment of martinis and food, but through 'a basic sadness and a desperation about life.' What is more, Ann thought they both 'regarded women with mistrust'.

Andrew Lycett writes that Fleming and Maugham often played bridge together at the Portland Club in London, and Fleming's Sunday Times colleague, John Russell, thought Fleming had a 'schoolboy idolisation' of Maugham. At one stage, Fleming even offered to run delicate errands for Maugham and become his 'homme de confiance'.

A minor postscript: it occurred to me that, given his penchant for naming his characters after his friends and relations, Ian Fleming did not name the false identity (Mr Somerset) that Bond takes for the train journey in From Russia, With Love (chapter 20) after the English County, but his friend and idol, Somerset Maugham.


Amis, K, 1965 The James Bond dossier, Jonathan Cape
Amory, M (ed.), 1985 The letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill
Chancellor, H, 2005 James Bond: the man and his world, John Murray
Lycett, A, 1996 Ian Fleming, Phoenix

Friday 18 November 2011

Drinking for England: analysis of 007's alcohol consumption

Back in 2009 I analysed the food and eating habits of the literary James Bond. I ignored drinks then, but there's no reason why Bond's drinking habits couldn't be examined using similar statistical methods. David Leigh's Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond provides a quick and comprehensive reference to all Bond's drinks, both in the films and books, and I've been able to turn the information into a useful database.

Let's start with some basic drinking facts. There are a total of 48 individual types of alcoholic drink; 39 of them a
re mentioned in the books, 22 appear in the films. Bond drinks on 147 occasions: 89 type of drinks are consumed in the books, while 58 drinks are taken in the films (not including repetition of the same drink in a single film). The most popular drink in the books is whisky (appearing in 12 books); in the films, the most popular drink is (yes, you've guessed it) vodka martini (12 films), closely followed by Bollinger (11 films, although champagne as a whole is drunk in 19 films). If we include gin martinis and vespers, martinis as a class are consumed in 13 books and 17 films.

The literary Bond takes a more varied range of drinks than the cinematic Bond. An average of 6.8 types of drinks are consumed in the books, compared with 2.6 types of drink per film. This does not necessarily mean that the book Bond is a heavier drinker; the film Bond could simply be drinking the same type of drink on more than one occasion in the same film. Arranging the books in publication sequence, the trend in terms of drinks-per-book is upwards. In Casino Royale (1953), Bond takes 7 types of drink, in From Russia with Love (1957) he takes 9 drinks, and in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), he has 12 types of drink. The number falls back for You Only Live Twice (1964) and The Man With the Golden Gun (1965), at 3 and 2 drinks respectively. The profi
le for the film series is generally flatter. The rate starts low with 2 drink types in Dr No (1962), increasing to 4 drinks in You Only Live Twice (1967). Most films between 1974 and 1999 have one or two types of drink only, but the number jumps to 5 in Casino Royale (2006).

Sometimes there is a run of the same drink in a sequence of novels or films. For instance, the vodka martini appears first in Live and Let Die (1954) and is mentioned in the next five books. Whisky has an unbroken run in the first four novels, then appears intermittently thereafter. There is a short run of whisky in the film series. Dom Perignon has a good film run from Dr No (1962) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) (with three gaps), but is replaced by Bollinger, which has an unbroken run from A View to a Kill (1985) to Quantum of Solace (2008). Presumably thi
s reflects product-placement deals. As noted above, the vodka martini does not feature in every film. However, it appears in every film from GoldenEye (1995) to Casino Royale. For its appearance in GoldenEye, it may have been used to reassert the Bond character after a gap of six years, and it's possible that the martini was used to the same effect in The Spy Who Loved Me. The drink hadn't appeared since Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and the film was released after a three-year gap in Bond films.

Looking at broader drinks categories (beer, champagne, cocktails, spirits (including fortified wine) and wine), cocktails take the highest share of drinks both in the books and films. Thirty-five per cent of drinks consumed in the books are cocktails, compared with 36% in the films. Champagne is the next highest in the films (33% of drinks), but accounts only for 13% in the books. Spirits make a larger contribution to the books (31%), but a relatively small one in the films (19%). Some 15% of drinks consumed in the books is wine, which takes a 9% share in the films. The proportion of beer is small in both the books and films (6% and 3% respectively).

These differences between the books and films are evident when we analyse these data using correspondence analysis. The end product of analysis is the scattergram. Films or books that are similar in terms of the drinks that they contain will occupy more or less the
same space on the plot. Those that are different with regard to their composition tend to be set apart from the others.

On that basis, most of the films are in the top right quadrant of the plot and are strongly associated with champagne and cocktails (mainly martinis). Most of the books are on the left-hand side of the plot and have a much stronger association with wine and spirits than do the films. There are exceptions; a number of films, notably Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, have a similar composition to books in terms of drinks represented and, matching the profile of the literary Bond most closely, are grouped with the books We can also note a group of books and films in the bottom right quadrant that are more strongly associated with beer, compared with other books and films.

What the correspondence analysis shows is that the film Bond and book Bond have separated in terms of their drinking identity. With the use of the vodka martini and champagne, the film Bond's drinking habits clearly derive from the books, but the dominance of cocktails and champagne, at the expense of spirits and wines (which have a stronger emphasis in the books), shows that those drinking habits have diverged from the habits of the literary Bond. And with each film, which nearly always inherits the martini and champagne memes from the previous film, this identity becomes increasingly deeper rooted, fixing these drinks associations firmly into popular culture.

Mind you, the exceptions are interesting too. The classes of drinks represented in the films Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service very closely match the drinks represented in the films' literary counterparts (as shown on the scattergram). It's probably no coincidence that for both films, the film-makers deliberately returned to the novels to bring the films back to Fleming basics. From the evidence of the alcoholic beverages, they succeeded.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Skyfall: would Ian Fleming have approved?

The title of the 23rd EON-produced Bond film was revealed on Thursday 3rd November at the official press-conference. As producer Michael G Wilson observed, the title was the worst kept secret in London, as fan sites and the media were already buzzing with the rumour that Skyfall was the name of the film. And so it was. With little of the plot details revealed, Skyfall has induced an amount of head-scratching among commentators about its meaning, but on the face of it seems Bondian enough. The name is not taken from a Fleming work, but would Ian Fleming have approved of it nonetheless?

Skyfall is the first one-word title since GoldenEye (1995). Does this and the other one-word titles give us a clue about Skyfall's meaning? Skyfall could be a villain's name in the manner of Goldfinger, or perhaps it's the name of a secret service operation, like Thunderball. Or SkyFall could be a McGuffin, a piece of technology, say, like GoldenEye and Moonraker that drives the plot.

I wonder, though, whether we'd be better thinking about literary allusions for an insight into the title's meaning. I was reminded, for instance, of Stuart Little. Today the story has been made familiar through the 2005 Disney animation, but the original is older than that, appearing in print as a fable in the 19th century. The character of Chicken Little, or Henny Penny, is a variant of the boy who cried wolf. His frequent cries of 'The sky is falling!' warn of a imminent disasters without justification.

Then there's the reputed belief of the ancient Gauls that the sky may fall on their heads, heralding the end of the world. The origin of this story is uncertain (Julius Caesar doesn't mention it in his Gallic Wars, while the Gaulish sky-god Taranis seems to have been a relatively minor deity, judging by literary sources and inscriptions). But whatever its origin and however old it is, the meme is now well-established and familiar to us (chiefly through the Asterix books).

Of course, the name Skyfall may have a more recent origin. Falling Skies is the name of a Spielberg-produced sci-fi series broadcast in 2011 on TNT. Following an alien invasion, the drama charts the fortunes of a band of survivors as they attempt to fight back. The possibility that the Bond screenwriters were inspired by the series' name, though, is perhaps less likely given that an earlier reported title was Red Sky at Night, from which Skyfall could well have derived.

What connects all 'sky falling' stories is the theme of impending doom and the world as we know it collapsing. And the few plot details we have of Skyfall – Barbara Broccoli spoke about the title having some emotional context, and we know that 'Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her' – do seem to suggest an earth-shattering revelation that turns Bond's world upside down. For James Bond, who, in Fleming's novels, idolises M and views M as a parental figure (or indeed a spouse), the sky has fallen in.

I think Ian Fleming would have liked the title, certainly when seen in the context of dramatic twists (rather like the explosive beginning of The Man with the Golden Gun, when a brainwashed Bond attempts to assassinate M). I have to admit, I was ambivalent about the title when I first heard it, but Skyfall is growing on me.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Does Chitty Chitty Bang Bang take off?

It must have been a challenge for Frank Cottrell Boyce to write a sequel. After all, there are two Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs. There's the film incarnation, which appeared on screens in 1968 and starred in a magical musical adventure. Then there's Ian Fleming's original Chitty, which began life as a children's book in 1964. Less well known than the film version, the story takes Chitty and the Pott family on adventures in England and France, where they foil a gang of burglars and villains. Boyce's solution is to embrace both Chitties, and the result – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies again – is a wonderful testament to the book's cinematic and literary ancestry.

In his latest adventure, Frank Cottrell Boyce introduces us to the Tootings. Dad, an inventive engineer, loses his job, but ever the optimist, sees it as an opportunity to explore and visit new places. Excited at the prospect, Mum acquires a rusty VW camper van, much to the embarrassment of children Lucy, Jem and Little Harry. Jem soon changes his mind, though, when given the chance to restore the van with Dad.

A visit to a scrapyard brings more excitement as they encounter an old engine – once the power behind the racing car of Count Zborowski. That's when the magic begins. The Tootings quickly find out that it's the van, not them, who's driving, as it takes them from England to France, then to Egypt for reasons that slowly become clear. On the way, they encounter a glamorous nanny, and the mysterious Tiny Jack, who has his own interest in the flying van.

The story is imbued with the spirit of Ian Fleming. The author gives the Tootings the same 'never say no to adventure' philosophy shown by the original Potts, and skilfully weaves in interesting facts, just as Fleming did. The name Jem, short for Jeremy, and an allusion to the original children, Jeremy and Jemima, is a nice touch too. The illustrations, by Joe Berger, recall the art of Fleming's illustrator, John Burningham. The film is not forgotten either. There is more than a hint of the childcatcher, and fantastic toys are an important feature of the book, just as they are in the film, while descriptions of Tiny Jack's hideaway could come from the drawing board of Ken Adam. There's even a cameo role for James Bond's most famous car.

At the end of the book, the author acknowledges that there are questions concerning some of the plot details that remain unanswered. But then again, the bigger question of how a car came to fly at all is one that even Fleming never addressed. Neither book, old and new, is the worse for this – we accept the magic, which papers over all the holes. Despite the nods to the past, readers of the latest adventure don't need to be familiar with earlier incarnations to enjoy the book. It stands on its own four wheels, and serves as the perfect introduction to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the next generation.

Sunday 23 October 2011

James Bond cornered

I saw the film Cornered the other day. It's an old film – released in 1945 – and stars Dick Powell as Laurence Gerard, a demobbed pilot who goes on the hunt for the man who ordered the killing of a group of French resistance fighters, among them Gerard's war-bride. What struck me as I was watching it is how like a James Bond film it is, especially the early films, such as Dr No (1962).

Dick Powell plays a character that is Bond-like. He is ruthless, determined, and tough. This is a character hewn from his experiences in the second world war. Gerard is handsome, too, and proves to be quite the attraction for the women he encounters.

The plot follows the trajectory that is typical of a Bond film. In London Gerard is assigned a mission (in this case a self-appointed one) to track down one Marcel Jarnac, a Vichy collaborator. He follows a series of clues that sees him travel from London to Paris, then to Argentina, where he meets a man who acts as a guide and go-between (a charismatic roguish man, a little like From Russia With Love's Kerim Bey). Gerard meets the 'widow' of Jarnac, and the key players of an active group of neo-Nazis, of which Jarnac is the head. He also gets tangled up with the local anti-Nazi operatives, who are sympathetic to Gerard, but have their own goals, and aren't happy at the distraction. Later Gerard is exposed and captured, and receives a beating. Tied to a chair, he comes face to face with Jarnac, but escapes and finally Jarnac is killed.

In its basic structure, the film is reminiscent of Dr No or From Russia With Love (1963). There is the globe-trotting, contacts and operatives whose loyalties are not always clear, beautiful women (one good, the other bad), sophisticated surroundings, wisecracks, fist-fights and gunfights, a torture scene, and a villain (Jarnac) who rivals Dr No or Blofeld.

The scene in which Gerard is tied to a chair and, between beatings, is forced to listen to Jarnac's plans for his neo-Nazi group is especially Bondian. And when Jarnac shoots Melchior Incza (Gerard's go-between) with all the rounds in his gun, I thought of Bond shooting Dr No's agent, Professor Dent, six times.

The plot is generally fast-moving and its style could be regarded as forerunner to the technique of quick cuts perfected by editor Peter Hunt on Dr No.

There are no obvious links between Cornered and Dr No (for example in terms of scriptwriters), although no doubt Dr No screenwriter Richard Maibaum was very familiar with Dick Powell's films and his style of action thrillers. But this may have been enough for Cornered and other films of the same style to have imprinted themselves on Maibaum's mind, and for elements of them to be expressed, probably unknowingly, in the screenplay for Dr No.

Sunday 16 October 2011

The many faces of James Bond

How many James Bond have there been? There are the film Bonds, of course, and there have been six of those (seven if you count David Niven in Casino Royale (1967)). What about the illustrated Bond? Well, there have been many more times the number of Bonds.

Artwork that accompanied the serialisations of Fleming's novels in the Daily Express is among the earliest to depict James Bond. The serialisations began with Diamonds Are Forever in April 1956, and continued most years in March or April with subsequent novels. The last serialisation was Kingsley Amis' Colonel Sun in 1968.

All illustrations were by Andrew Robb (usually known by his surname only), who was a long-standing fashion illustrator for the Daily Express. His drawings, like his fashion art, were economical, but realistic, and gave a clear sense of movement and expression. Robb's Bond had what might be termed by anthropologists as a dominant face – a large square chin, and prominent cheekbones and brow ridges. His hair was disciplined, except for a loose curl above his right eye, as specified by Fleming. Robb's Bond was not fixed, though; the Bond drawn for On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1963, for example, veered from a well-built man of danger to a public school master with floppy hair. The next serialisation was You Only Live Twice (1964). For this, Robb turned to the films, and drew a different Bond, this time one that looked rather like Sean Connery. A Connery-like Bond was also depicted in The Man with the Golden Gun and Colonel Sun.

Other early illustrations of Bond were appeared on the covers of the paperback editions of the novels. Both the UK and US paperback editions of Casino Royale were published in 1955. The Bond of the UK edition, published by Pan, bore little resemblance to Fleming's Bond – brown hair, rather than black, and no comma of hair over the right brow – and gave the overall impression of a travel-weary businessman, rather than a spy with cruel looks. The Bond of the US edition, published as You Asked for it, was better, albeit Americanised in terms of clothes and attitude.

Subsequent Pan editions of the book and later novels up to the end of the 1950s fitted more closely with Fleming. In editions of the early 1960s, Bond was shown at the bottom of the covers of all novels published up till then as a standard motif. Curiously, Bond appeared to be much older – in his late 40s or 50s. Perhaps the artist had aged him in keeping with the veterans of World War II at that time.

I won't dwell on the cartoon strips – I recommend Alan J Porter's History of the illustrated 007 for an excellent account of the history of James Bond in newspaper strips, comics, and graphic novels – but it is worth remarking on the general influence of the film series. Newspaper strip adaptations of the Bond novels appeared in the Daily Express from 1958. John McLusky drew the strip until 1966, with subsequent strips being drawn mainly by Yaroslav Horak. The strips were collated, translated and published in other countries. Usually in these cases different artists were commissioned to provide covers. The film Bond was very influential here. For example, the Danish edition of 'Octopussy', published in 1969, showed a Connery-like figure, and had no reference to Horak's artwork inside. Both the Swedish and Danish versions (published in 1972 and 1974 respectively) of 'The Isle of Condors', an original strip by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak, also depicted a Connery-like figure on the cover (the films of George Lazenby and Roger Moore apparently not being enough to dislodge Connery as the face of Bond).

More recently, the presentation pack that accompanied Royal Mail's issue of James Bond postage stamps in 2008 included an illustration of James Bond. This was by Mike Bell. There is something a little Daniel Craig-like about his depiction. If the artist was influenced to some extent by Craig's Bond, then this is not surprising, given the enormous success that Casino Royale (2006) enjoyed.

From the mid 1950s, Bond has been depicted in cartoon strips, comics, cover artwork, serialisations, and advertisements. Each artist has introduced a new face of Bond. But while they have usually turned to Ian Fleming's description, the film Bond has also influenced the way Bond is drawn.


Bond Bound: Ian Fleming and the art of cover design, the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation
A J Porter, 2008 James Bond: the history of the illustrated 007, Hermes Press

Tuesday 11 October 2011

James Bond and Alligator

I recently read I*n Fl*m*ng's Alligator. This is the James Bond parody published by the Harvard Lampoon in 1962. In the book, J*mes B*nd faces his most dangerous adversary, Lacertus Alligator, who, as head of TOOTH, an organisation of ex-Nazis, steals the Houses of Parliament, along with its members, and demands a huge ransom for its release.

In a similar manner to the way that, more recently, Sebastian Faulks prepared for his Bond book, Devil May Care, the authors of Alligator have replicated certain aspects or memes seen in Fleming's novels to produce a composite Bond thriller, although the memes have been adapted, typically by means of exaggeration, for comic effect.

Food and drink feature heavily. The 'Vesper' martini of Casino Royale is alluded to as Bond invents an elaborate cocktail and names it after Alligator's companion, Anagram le Galion. (Jeffrey Deaver also picked up on the 'Vesper' when writing Carte Blanche, and invented another cocktail.) There are also nods to Bond's heavy alcohol and cigarette consumption (at least to modern eyes). B*nd routinely orders triples, and has a 120-a-day cigarette habit, up from the 70-a-day habit in the original books. And as with the original books, none of this appears to affect B*nd's ability to perform his duties. B*nd dines regularly, and is quite exact about his requirements.

In recognition of Moonraker's bridge game, and Goldfinger's golf match, in Alligator, B*nd meets the villain across the card table as he tries to outwit him in the high-stakes card game, Go Fish. Fleming's use of facts and technical detail is frequently parodied ('The I G Farben Co., a German concern, was the first corporation to make purple aniline dye products on a large scale').

The villain, Alligator, is an amalgam of Goldfinger, Blofeld, Drax, and to a lesser extent Mr Big. He loves purple, and sprays everyone he meets with a purple dye. Physical characteristics include doll-like eyes, a football-sized head, red hair, and, curiously, metal teeth. (One wonders whether the scriptwriters for the film, The Spy Who Loved Me, had read the book, with the detail re-emerging in the characterisation of Jaws. Similarly, Alligator features wrist-activated darts, which were also used in Moonraker – a film, like The Spy Who Loved Me, penned by Christopher Wood.)

There are other aspects of Fleming that readers would recognise. Alligator has a Korean on his staff, who is adept at performing karate chops, Oddjob style. In Bermuda, to where the action moves, B*nd engages the services of a Caribbean islander, Squabble (as opposed to Quarrel in Fleming). Bond's Scottish housekeeper, May, is now Llewylla, who is Welsh. In the latter stages of the book, B*nd dines with Alligator, giving Alligator the opportunity to lecture B*nd on his origins and his dastardly plans. All very Dr No. And, as in Dr No, B*nd attempts to secrete some tableware about his person for use as possible weapons. In the original, Bond manages a bread knife; in Alligator, he manages a steak knife, then a candlestick.

In general, then, the authors of Alligator have been most inspired by Dr No, Moonraker, and Goldfinger. The Nazi origins of Alligator, his cheating at cards at his London club, Glades, and his desire to bring down the British government recall Drax and Moonraker, while the Caribbean location, and B*nd's dinner with Alligator bring to mind Dr No. The doses of Goldfinger are apparent in the Korean manservant and the obsession with purple (rather than gold).

What is also interesting is the books that aren't referenced to any great degree – Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, and Diamonds Are Forever, among others. Although strong entries in the Bond series, and bestsellers, it is possible that they provided fewer targets for parody. Alternatively, Drax, Blofeld, Dr No and Goldfinger, along with associated plot details, so quickly established themselves as the archetypal Bondian memes, that they overshadowed any other elements. Consequently, parodies focus on these at the expense of others. This continues to be the case. The Austin Powers spoofs, for example, have tended to parody the same targets as the authors of Alligator – Dr No, Goldfinger and Blofeld – though in this case, it was the film versions that were spoofed.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Guide to collecting James Bond books

As I was flicking through Previous Convictions, Cyril Connelly's collection of essays and short articles, to find his Bond parody, 'Bond strikes camp', I came across a piece about collecting modern first editions. It got me thinking. What would be my advice for collecting James Bond novels and books about Bond?

I have well over 300 items in my Bond library, not including magazines or articles from newspapers. The library includes first edition novels, books about the film series, film tie-ins and annuals, academic tomes and criticism, parodies, graphic novels, biographies, and Fleming-related material.

I've amassed the library slowly. It grew out of a uniform set of paperback Flemings, published by Panther/Granada, which were the ones that happened to be in the shops when I started reading Bond. Initially, I wasn't interested in first editions, but I did start to buy books about Bond, and subsequent purchases tended to be devoted to building up that aspect of my library in my pursuit of Bondian knowledge. My first Fleming first edition was Goldfinger, bought from a secondhand bookshop near Inverness. It had no cover and was rather battered, but knowing that first editions were rarely seen, I was thrilled by the find. I was hooked, and over time, I acquired more first editions, including the prize of Casino Royale (admittedly a library edition). Now, I am something of a completist, and will buy any Bond-related book in order to build a very good Bond library.

My tips for collecting Bond-related books are as follows. If you have a limited budget, concentrate on one or two aspects, such as paperbacks and their various editions and covers, or graphic novels. Expand your collection when funds allow.

If you're buying secondhand books, buy the best copies you can afford. Trade up when you have the chance. The battered Goldfinger was all I could afford at the time, but later I had some money, and was able to buy a better-quality first edition with dustjacket.

Look for first editions, whether you're buying Fleming novels, graphic novels or books about the Bond phenomenon. New books will usually be first editions, of course, but take care you have the first printing. Popular books, like the latest Young Bond, quickly went to a second and third printing, even though the book was still 'just out'.

When you're buying new books, have a look for signed copies, or watch out for special author-signing events. There is some debate about whether personlised dedications made by the author detract from the value of the book; some collectors look for the author's signature only, and avoid any that say, 'To Edward, all the best, Raymond', or similar. I don't worry about this. I always ask for a dedication (it's so cold and calculating otherwise), and I'm happy buy books with such dedications in them.

Shop around. Ebay doesn't always have the bargains, and I always compare prices at Amazon marketplace and Abebooks. But with the success of online auction sites, the days of finding a first edition Fleming at jumble sales or charity shops are long gone. And if a first edition is donated to a charity shop, it rarely gets as far as the shelves, as the staff have already put it into auction. Not that it stops me from wandering hopefully into the shops just to check.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Some men who the press thought would be Bond

In the 1970s and '80s, the same names appeared in newspapers in connection with the role of James Bond. The part seemed to be up for grabs before filming of a new Bond film commenced, as the incumbent Roger Moore would often claim to be giving up the role. However, until A View to a Kill (1985), this was a negotiating tactic for an improved contract. This did not stop the speculation in the papers, and the names that were usually put forward included Ian Ogilvy, David Robb, and Tevor Eve. A few years ago, I spoke to these actors about their 'brush' with Bond.

Ian Ogilvy told me that he was never considered for the role, and certainly never screen-tested. He did, however, narrate a set of audio versions of Fleming's novels, which he supposed were an attempt by the producers of the recordings to cash in on his connection with Roger Moore via the Saint (both actors having played the role).

Trevor Eve, again, was never screen-tested, but did have an informal meeting with Barbara Broccoli, and occasionally dined with Cubby.

David Robb admits that there had been a flurry of interest in him with regard to the Bond role in 1979. He was prominent on television at the time, and was about to embark on the series, 'The Flame Trees of Thika'. Robb, however, had no meeting with the Bond producers. He mentioned, though, that later, in 1987, he was filming The Deceivers with Pierce Brosnan. They got talking about Bond on one occasion by the pool. Brosnan lamented the fact that he had been prevented from playing Bond in 1987 by the producers of Remington Steele. Robb remembers consoling him by saying that the Bond franchise was a dead duck and that Brosnan was well out of it.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Going for a Bond song

Have you noticed that the theme song that accompanies a new Bond film sounds a little bit like the song that preceded it? The rule is not an absolute one, but it happens with sufficient frequency to suggest that the previous theme tends to be influential, even in a slight way, to its successor. Then Linkthere’s the Shirley Bassey factor. Just as every so often the Bond producers ‘reset the clock’ and make a back-to-basics Bond film, the choice of artist regularly returns to the Bassey prototype seemingly at times of renewal.

It took three films for the film’s song to be used as the accompaniment to the opening titles and the musical break between the pre-title sequence and the start of the film proper. The original theme song, Monty Norman’s James Bond theme, is played straight after the opening gun barrel in Dr No (1962), while Matt Monro is heard crooning ‘From Russia with Love’ at the end of its film (1963). The film makers may not have recognised necessarily that they had found the ideal placement with the use of Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ (1964) with the opening titles, but repeating the trick with ‘Thunderball’ (1965) certainly helped to establish the formula.

The song ‘Goldfinger’ – a big and brassy number – was very different from Monro’s ‘From Russia with Love’ (although Anthony Newley’s subdued version of ‘Goldfinger’ is closer to it). However, ‘Thunderball’ by Tom Jones is reminiscent of ‘Goldfinger’ (as is, to a lesser extent, Dionne Warwick’s alternative theme song, ‘Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’). Probably the Bond producers wanted to repeat the success of ‘Goldfinger’ with the same sort of sound, but ‘Goldfinger’ was such a big hit, it would have been difficult not to think of it when writing the next Bond song. The love song returned in 1967 in the next film with Nancy Sinatra’s ‘You Only Live Twice’, and was retained for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), although ‘We have all the time in the world’, sung by Lois Armstrong, accompanied a mid-film romantic montage.

For the return of Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), the Bond producers looked again to Shirley Bassey to reassert a familiar Bond sound. However, a new Bond, in the form of Roger Moore in Live and Let Die (1973), permitted a new type of theme song, and Paul McCartney delivered with an explosive and rockier number. This seems to have influenced the next song. Lulu’s ‘The man with the golden gun’ (1974) certainly took the dramatic tone of McCartney’s effort, despite the innuendo-laden lyrics.

Cubby Broccoli needed The Spy Who Loved Me (1976) to re-launch Bond after the disappointing returns of The Man With the Golden Gun and a host of legal battles, and the theme song helped to achieve it. ‘Nobody does it better’ was loud and proud, and the singer Carly Simon evoked Bassey’s confident tones. By now Bond themes were strongly associated with solo female artists, rather than male solo artists or groups. The association was reinforced with the next three films. If you had to think of potential artists to sing a Bond song, the chances were you’d turn first to a female singer.

A View to a Kill (1985), though, marked a change, as the group Duran Duran was chosen to perform the title song. It was so successful (it reached no. 1 in the USA and no. 2 in the UK), that the next song, ‘The Living Daylights’ was also by a group, a-ha, and was something of a clone of its predecessor.

Timothy Dalton’s second Bond film, Licence to Kill (1989) was intended as a return to Fleming’s Bond, and fittingly Gladys Knight’s theme song returned to the Bassey’s prototype; its opening bars are especially reminiscent of ‘Goldfinger’. Inevitably, after a six-year gap, the next film, GoldenEye (1995), also had a Bassey-esque theme song, sung this time by Tina Turner. Female singers were chosen for the next three songs, although Garbage’s ‘The world is not enough’ could be described as hybrid of ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘A view to a kill’.

Given the four-year wait, and the desire to again film Fleming’s Bond, Casino Royale (2006) should have had a Bassey-style song. Instead, it was accompanied by a rock number, by Chris Cornell. It was a great song, and also influential. ‘Another way to die’ by Alicia Keys and Jack White, which featured in Quantum of Solace (2008), has the same rocky style. For the next film, if media reports of Adele singing the next theme are true, then the Bond producers appear to have turned once again to the Shirley Bassey prototype.

Bond title songs are to some extent influenced by the song that preceded it. ‘Another way to die’ sounds a bit like ‘You know my name’. ‘The man with the golden gun’ sounds a bit like ‘Live and Let Die. ‘Thunderball’ sounds a bit like ‘Goldfinger’. Also we can detect that, usually at times of renewal, the Bond producers turn to Shirley Bassey, or a Shirley Bassey-type singer to help put the audience back into the world of James Bond.

Friday 2 September 2011

Another anachronism in the BBC's The Hour?

The writer of the TV drama, The Hour, shown on BBC Two and BBC America, has admitted that the script contains anachronisms. Abi Morgan employed phrases such as ‘bottled it’ and ‘note to self’ that wouldn’t have been heard in 1956, the year in which the drama is set. But there may be another anachronism – repeated references to the relationship between James Bond and Miss Moneypenny – that has slipped by unnoticed.

The Hour focuses on two journalists, Bel Rowley, played by Romola Garai, and Freddie Lyon, played by Ben Whishaw. They join the team of new current affairs programme The Hour – Freddie as reporter, Bel as producer – and become involved in a plot involving communist spies at the BBC. Freddie is Bel’s soulmate, but for Freddie, who’s in love with Bel, the relationship is more than that. Freddie identifies himself as James Bond and calls Bel ‘Moneypenny’, alluding to the flirtatious relationship, with its hint of unrequited love, between Bond and M’s secretary.

By 1956, four Bond novels had been published. Miss Moneypenny is a peripheral figure in all of these, and in none is there a suggestion that Bond is in love with Moneypenny or has a relationship other than one involving friendly work-place banter.

In Casino Royale (1953), Bond shares no pages with Moneypenny, and so we learn nothing of their relationship. The follow-up was Live and Let Die (1954). Bond and Moneypenny share a scene, but it is very brief. In Chapter 2, Moneypenny gives Bond an encouraging smile as he enters M’s office, and Bond admits that Moneypenny is desirable. Chapter 2 of Moonraker (1955) reveals that Moneypenny knows that Bond admires her, and Bond seems to confirm this by commenting on her new dress. However, we have a briefer exchange in Diamonds Are Forever (1956). Bond ‘smiled into the warm brown eyes of Miss Moneypenny’ as he leaves M’s office.

I suspect that the writer of The Hour had the film-series version of the Bond-Moneypenny relationship (or meme) in mind when she wrote the script. In the films, Bond pursues a romantic relationship with Moneypenny, who gently fends off his advances, content, it seems, to be just good friends (although in Die Another Day (2002), we see Moneypenny enact a fantasy of a sexual relationship with Bond). The Freddie-Bel relationship appears to mimic this version better than it does the books. Given that the first film, Dr No, was released in 1962, the references in The Hour must be anachronistic.

Admittedly Fleming develops the relationship in later books, and if The Hour was set in 1961, when Thunderball was published, then the Bond-Moneypenny references would be more apt. Even so, in Thunderball it is Moneypenny who desires a relationship with Bond, not the other way round (‘Moneypenny... often dreamed hopelessly about Bond’ (Chapter 1)), although Bond does offer to give Moneypenny a spanking.

Thursday 25 August 2011

James Bond - licensed to model

We’re used to seeing the actors who’ve played Bond advertising products in character or surrounded by text or images to tie the product in with the Bond films. For example, Sean Connery advertised Jim Beam whiskey in 1967 during the release in America of You Only Live Twice. The product doesn’t feature in the film, but the film’s title shown at the top of the advert was enough to make a connection. The sub-text was that this was a drink that James Bond would choose. (Actually, the literary Bond, fond of Bourbon, certainly might.)

George Lazenby continued to trade into the 1970s and 80s on his single appearance as Bond and advertise, in the guise of a Bond-like character, products as diverse as Sony electronics and Benson and Hedges cigarettes. An advert for the Montblanc company and featuring Roger Moore, Desmond Llewelyn and Vijay Armitraj promoted the use of its pen in the film Octopussy (1983). More recently, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig became ambassadors for Omega watches, which capitalised on Bond’s loyalty to the brand.

What is less well known is that even before Sean Connery hit the screens as James Bond, the first model to trade on the Bond image was James Bond himself. In 1961, a set of advertisements for Courtelle menswear was placed in the Daily Express. The model was James Bond (as depicted by an artist) and the content suggested in no uncertain terms that these were the clothes to wear if you wanted a James Bond lifestyle.

The first advert, published in March 1961, showed Bond in a city apartment. He has his back to us, and an attractive woman, seemingly having fainted, is draped over his arms. The text asks, ‘Where would you find James Bond?’ The answer? He’s the man being hustled through US customs (yes, I can see that). He’s the man driving the Bentley (certainly). He’s the man in white tie and tails at the embassy reception (sort of; Bond doesn’t really wear tails, but go on). He’s the man in the rough clothes of a sailor in a waterfront dive in Vladivostok (er...). Ah, I see. Courtelle is selling comfortable, good-looking, easy-care and rugged clothes in a new acrylic fibre which it thinks fit the active, outdoor lifestyle of James Bond. And to prove the point, in the advert Bond wears a rugged ‘Snowdon’ sweater.

In the second advert, dated April 1961, Bond wears trousers in Abrelle fabric; they're casual, but keep their crease. Just as well, since Bond is shown negotiating a moving train as he enters a carriage compartment occupied by a beauty, bound at the wrists and gagged. A captured enemy or a damsel to rescue? The text isn't clear on the matter.

The third advert appeared in May. 'How do you see Bond?', it asks. Panther-dark and dangerous as his plane flies over Tokyo? Or sipping a vodka martini, stirred, not shaken (sic) in tropical Goverment House? Or perhaps pulling on a soft, cool shirt? Yes, Bond is modelling a shirt - Courtelle by Holyrood, to be precise. Its rugged and comfortable qualities are well able to cope with what Bond is shown doing: shooting from the back of his Bentley at an unseen enemy as he protects a woman in the passenger seat.

Bond models another shirt in September's advert, this time in a lightweight knit, along with slacks in Abrelle. We see that the easy movement afforded by the combination helps in his close-quarter fight in a Caribbean cabin with a thug armed with a machete. The final advert appeared in November. Bond’s up against it. He’s looking at the wrong end of a loaded automatic pointed with determination by a female enemy agent. Bond doesn’t have many options, but at least he’s wearing a Stamford sweater by Byford, and his usual slacks in Abrelle fabric.

Across the set, the text (‘Bond wears...’; ‘James Bond is featured here with acknowledgement of Ian Fleming’) gave James Bond the tone of reality that gave credibility to the adverts. Bond was as real a model as, say, Roger Moore was when he advertised knitwear in the 1950s. By 1961, James Bond had been identified as an aspirational figure. Readers too could enjoy the James Bond lifestyle – a mixture of action, a little danger, sophistication, and a lot of cool – that Ian Fleming had described with frequent references to up-market products, food and drink among the adventure.

Today there are websites and books devoted to the James Bond lifestyle. These have been inspired largely by the films. However, the notion, or meme, of an attainable James Bond lifestyle emerged before start of the film series in 1962 and was adapted from the the pages of Fleming. There are few fictional characters who have achieved this degree of reality.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Bonding with Dirk Pitt, Lucifer Box, Archie Noble and Asterix

Evidence of the significant place James Bond has in popular culture is found in a number of novels that cannot be called James Bond parodies – Bond is not the subject of the books, which instead usually feature a well-established character of their own – but contain allusions to Bond in tribute to Ian Fleming’s character and hint at the influence that Bond has in the shaping of the authors’ works.

For example, there is Clive Cussler’s Night Probe!, published in 1981. The hero of the novel is Dirk Pitt, a marine adventurer who works for the US National Underwater and Marine Agency. Pitt is dispatched to locate and retrieve the only copies from a shipwreck of an old, but potentially dangerous, treaty between Great Britain and the United States. Meanwhile, the British Government has brought the legendary spy Brian Shaw out of retirement to make sure the documents never get into American hands.

That Brian Shaw can be identified as James Bond is clear from Cussler’s descriptions. We meet Shaw at a funeral of, we learn, his old boss. ‘There were times I wanted to kill him, and there were times I could have embraced him as a father.’ A neat summary of the love-hate relationship between M and Bond. We also meet his chief’s old secretary (Moneypenny?) who lets slip that Brian Shaw is a pseudonym. Then there is reference to SMERSH, Shaw’s former enemy, and to the death of his wife, and Shaw’s home in the West Indies. At the end of the novel, Dirk Pitt thinks he’s discovered Shaw’s true identity. ‘James Bond would be proud of you’, he says. Shaw replies that Bond only exists in fiction. ‘Does he?’, Pitt asks. Cussler’s ‘Bond’ is largely the Bond of the books, but the cinematic Bond creeps in. ‘The same old flatterer’, the elderly secretary says when Bond tells her how sensual she looks. We can hear Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny utter that line.

Dirk Pitt is something of a Bondian character himself, and Clive Cussler has acknowledged the influence of Bond in Pitt’s make-up: ‘I began researching and analysing all the series heroes, beginning with Edgar Allan Poe's Inspector Dumas. Next came Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, and all the other fiction detectives and spies: Bulldog Drummond, Sam Spade, Phillip Marlow, Mike Hammer, Matt Helm, and James Bond. I studied them all.’

Black Butterfly, by Mark Gatiss and published in 2008, is the third novel to feature the bisexual secret agent, Lucifer Box. In the novel, he investigates the unexpected deaths of members of the establishment, which, he discovers is caused by a poison deriving from the black butterfly.

Bond references come thick and fast. On the cover of the hardback edition, the lettering of the title and author’s name is stencilled, and very much like the tea-chest font used in the Richard Chopping covers of Ian Fleming’s later novels. The cover art shows, in the manner of the cover for The Spy Who Loved Me, a commando knife piercing a playing card and the wood beneath. The artwork is a fine tribute to Richard Chopping. There is even a fly, Richard Chopping’s trade mark. Incidentally, the paperback cover nicely mimics the Pan covers of the 1960s.

The allusions to Bond continue inside. The action is set in 1953 (the year that the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published), and moves from England to Istanbul, then Kingston, Jamaica. The prologue, describing a dream of Lucifer Box, is a good Fleming pastiche, featuring expensive branded products (a Siebe Gorman wetsuit), the taking of Benzedrine tablets, and appearance of a Blofeld-like villain, Gottfried Clawhammer. Further into the novel, we meet Whitley Bey (a nod to Kerim Bey of From Russia, With Love) and Dr Cassivellaunus Fetch, the Man with the Celluloid Hand. There is even a reference to Jamaica’s Undertaker’s Wind, something that Fleming often mentioned in his books.

There are fewer Bond references in The Reavers, by Octopussy screenwriter, George MacDonald Fraser, but those that are present reveal the work of a Fleming aficionado. The novel, published in 2007, is a comic historical adventure set in the world of the Border reivers or raiders on the Anglo-Scottish border in the 16th-century. As usual with his novels, Fraser intersperses the narrative with factual snippets, among them the fact that ‘the original “M”’, Sir Francis Walsingham was Elizabeth I’s espionage chief. The hero of the novel is the spy, Archie Noble. He moves with ‘cat-like agility’ (a reference, perhaps, to how Harry Saltzman thought Sean Connery moved), is head of Station B for Border, ‘licensed to slay’, and a ‘double-nought operative’.

Finally, Asterix and the Black Gold (published in English in 1982), is a comic book adventure by Albert Uderzo, and features the indomitable Gaul on a mission to secure a supply of ‘black gold’ or rock oil, which is an essential ingredient in the druid Getafix’s magic potion. A wandering druid, who is really a Roman spy, joins an unsuspecting Asterix, and tries to sabotage the mission. The druid is Uderzo’s tribute to the early Bond films. The character’s name is Dubbelosix, and looks like Sean Connery. He drives a chariot, which, like Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin, hides many gadgets (for example retractable scythes on the wheels).

It is no surprise that Uderzo incorporates the cinematic Bond in his work. The comic strip medium is, of course, cinematic, but Uderzo is also a film buff who often references aspects of French and American cinema in the Asterix books. For example, Laurel and Hardy are portrayed as Roman soldiers in Obelix and Co, and Kirk Douglas, in Spartacus mode, has a role in Asterix and Obelix All at Sea.

All these works are testament to the continuing influence of both the literary and cinematic James Bond in popular culture, and it is a rare spy or adventure novel that features a spy that does not make a reference to Bond. Ian Fleming said that he wanted to write the spy novel to end all spy novels. The genre didn’t end, but the landscape of the spy novel was undoubtedly altered, with Fleming creating an archetype to which other novelists inevitably turn.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Carry On Bond

It occurred to me last week as I discussed the Bond traits or memes in Carry On Spying that there are other connections between the Bond and Carry On films. Both are enormously popular long-running series (although the Bond series is still a few films short of the 31 films produced by the Carry On team) whose production is based at Pinewood Studios. And some of the humour in the Bond films, especially that of Roger Moore, wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On film either. The longevity and the fact of working out of the same base have inevitably meant that both series have shared actors and production staff. Here are a few of them.

An iconic image of the Bond films is Shirley Eaton covered head to toe in gold paint in Goldfinger (1964). The image may have been somewhat shocking to British film-goers, as Shirley Eaton was well known to them mainly as an actress in comedy films. Three of those films were Carry Ons. Her first was Carry On Sergeant (1958). Eaton played Mary Sage, who, on being deprived of her husband on her wedding day (he's been called up for National Service) joins the NAAFI (the forces' catering service) to be with him. Eaton followed this with Carry On Nurse (1959), taking a leading role as accident-prone nurse Dorothy Denton. In her third film, Carry On Constable (1960), she has the smaller part of Sally Barry, a victim of a burglary.

There have been other Bond girls who have also been in Carry On films. After appearing in Goldfinger as Dink, Margaret Nolan was seen in a minor role in Carry On Cowboy (1965).This was followed by appearances in a further five Carry On films, most memorably as Dawn Brakes in Carry On Girls (1973), who, in the course of her bid to be crowned Miss Fircombe in a seaside beauty pageant, has a scrap with Hope Springs, played by Barbara Windsor. Then there is Valerie Leon, who took roles in six Carry On films before featuring in The Spy Who Loved Me (1976) as a hotel receptionist. As a Carry On alumnus, she more than matches Roger Moore for suggestive dialogue and knowing looks in her exchanges with him. Eva Reuber-Staier had a small but notable role in three Bond films as General Gogol’s secretary, Rublevitch (or Rubelvitch). Before her first Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, the actress and former Miss World 1969 had appeared in Carry On Dick (1974) as a member of a troupe of saucy 18th-century entertainers.

Some of the production crew had also worked on both series. Alan Hume was one. The director of photography on For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985) was first a camera operator, then the director of photography for the Carry On series. He worked on twenty films, beginning with Carry On Sergeant, and finishing with the final Carry On film, Columbus, in 1992. Anthony Waye, executive producer on the Bond series and currently working on the forthcoming Bond 23, was the assistant director for Carry On Jack (1963), a naval romp set on board HMS Venus in the early 19th century. Another important Bond regular who was involved with the Carry Ons was Peter Lamont. The Oscar-winning production designer was assistant art director on Carry On Matron (1972).

Incidentally, apart from Carry On Spying, there is another Bond reference, albeit a small one, in a Carry On film. In Carry On Loving (1970), Sophie Bliss, one half of the Wedded Bliss marriage agency, has a private detective, Bedsop, played by Charles Hawtrey, follow her husband, Sidney Bliss (Sid James), who she suspects of infidelity. Bedsop ineptly disguises himself as an Indian gentleman, and is rumbled by Sidney Bliss. Bedsop tries to maintain his cover, much to Bliss' amusement, who calls Bedsop a ‘Bombay Bond’.


Webber, R, 2005 The complete A-Z of everything Carry On, Harper Collins

Monday 8 August 2011

Two early James Bond spoofs

The release of Dr No in 1962 and From Russia With Love the following year immediately brought imitations and spoofs from films producers eager to cash-in on the success of the Bond films, or inevitably responding to the (re-)gain in momentum in popular culture that the spy genre was enjoying. In Britain, two early British responses to the Bond films, both released in 1964, were Hot Enough for June, starring Dirk Bogarde, and Carry On Spying, the ninth film in the popular Carry On series produced by Peter Rogers. Let’s take a look at some of the traits or memes from the Bond films that found their way into the films.
Poster for Hot Enough for June, clearly inspired by Bond (Image: The CinemaScope Cat)

Hot Enough for June was a Rank film directed by Ralph Thomas, who was best known for directing the series of Doctor comedies, four of which also starred Dirk Bogarde. In the film, Bogarde plays Nicholas Whistler, an unemployed writer, who, as a Czech speaker, is persuaded to take a job in an industrial company as its representative in Prague. Unbeknown to Whistler, the company is actually a cover for British Intelligence. Whistler is told to meet a contact in Prague to receive legitimate information, but unwittingly is acquiring industrial secrets. He realises the truth when he is identified as a spy. A pursuit follows, as Whistler attempts to evade capture and reach the British embassy (but not before falling in love with the daughter of the chief of the Czech security service).

Most of the references to James Bond are made early on in the film. As the opening credits end, an intelligence officer, played by John le Mesurier, returns items to the store clerk (the armourer of Q Section?) that belonged to the agent 007, now deceased. Among the items are multiple passports, a shoe with a hidden compartment in the heel, a case of poison capsules, a handgun, and a garrotte wire attached to a watch. With the exception of the wire, which is used in From Russia With Love, these items are not specific to Bond (a trick heel featured in Goldfinger, which was released after Hot Enough for June was made), but generally allude to the spy craft of a dynamic, Bond-like, agent. This sequence also serves to identify Whistler as 007’s replacement.

The scene featuring the chief of British intelligence, played by Robert Morley, and his secretery (Amanda Grinling) is also reminiscent of Bond’s scenes with M and Moneypenny. The poster too recalls From Russia With Love. It depicts in the foreground a gun-holding Whistler and a heroine in a relaxed pose beside him, and in the background the domed buildings of an exotic location (certainly not Prague).

Despite the Bondian iconography, and the fact that the film is generally viewed as a Bond parody (the BBC presented it in such terms in its recent schedule listings), Hot Enough for June is not so much of a Bond spoof than a spy film that contains nods to the Bond films to acknowledge their existence (a measure of how significant the Bond series had become after just two entries). The film is otherwise not dependent on the Bond films, and would not have suffered if the references were removed. This is because the film was based on a book (Night of Wenceslas, by Lionel Davidson) that pre-dated Dr No – it was published in 1960 – and therefore contained no references to the Bond films.

In contrast, Carry On Spying was written with the Bond films very much in the scriptwriters’ mind. Peter Rogers commissioned Talbot Rothwell, who brought Sid Colin to share writing duties, to give the Bond series the Carry On treatment. The film follows the exploits of a team of bumbling recruits, led by Kenneth Williams’ Simkins, as they search for a top-secret formula that has been stolen from a government laboratory. The trail takes them to Vienna, and then to Algiers. The agents are captured, though not before they recover and destroy the formula. In the course of escaping, Simkins presses the self-destruct button inside the villain’s lair, which, as they soon discover, is below their own headquarters.

Carry On Spying doesn’t limit itself to parodying Bond; films such as The Third Man and Casablanca are also referenced, but the Bond films remain the principal target. The organisation behind the theft of the formula is STENCH, headed by Dr Crow, obviously alluding to SPECTRE and Dr No. The recruit played by Charles Hawtrey is called Charlie Bind and has the code name, 000, or Oh Oh Ohhh (it would have been 001½ , but the Bond producers apparently wouldn’t allow it). There are references to gadgets, including Bond’s attaché case in From Russia With Love, and Dr Crow’s lair and its destruction recalls the base and demise of Dr No. Again, the poster is contains Bondian iconography, and overall is a good imitation of the poster for From Russia With Love.

Curiously, the uniformed female personnel of STENCH reminds us of Goldfinger and Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, but Goldfinger (September 1964) was released after Carry On Spying (June 1964) and can’t have been influential. Modesty Blaise may have been the influence here, although no doubt it was quite natural for film makers to think that a troop of women on the staff of a villain must be attired in tightly-fitting uniforms. Also of note is Dr Crow’s over-elaborate plan, involving a conveyor belt and crushing machine, to kill the bumbling agents. It has shades of Bond, but it isn’t taken from the two Bond films, as they don’t feature such a sequence. These aspects (along with the trick heel of Hot Enough for June) show that the Bond films also had a lineage, taking ideas and memes from other sources or more generally present in cultural space.


Bright, M and Ross, R, 2000 Mr Carry On: The life and works of Peter Rogers, BBC
Webber, R, 2008 Fifty years of Carry On, Century

Sunday 31 July 2011

The first Bond girl

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, claims that Ian Fleming's heroines were inspired by Playboy bunnies. The magazine was first published in 1953, the same year as the publication of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Hefner suggests that Fleming read the magazine, and was inevitably influenced by the women who featured in it. The claim is arguable to say the least, but might Hefner be right in another way? Did Playboy coin the phrase, 'Bond girl'? And once established, how did the phrase become so successful that it forms part of the title of at least three books and many articles and academic papers?

The relatively slow take-up of Bond novels in the United States (sales of the books didn't significantly increase until 1961, when John F Kennedy included From Russia, with Love in his top ten books) meant that Playboy discovered James Bond relatively late, and not until the film series had been well established. The first issue to feature James Bond was that for November 1965, which included the article, 'James Bond's girls'. This showed actresses from the first four Bond films in recreations of some of their scenes, though wearing little of their original costumes.

Although the phrase 'James Bond's girls' groups all the actresses together, it is unlikely that the shorter and more succinct 'Bond girls' phrase evolved from it. In fact, the term, 'Bond girls' was used before then. One of the earliest accounts of the Bond phenomenon was O F Snelling's 007 James Bond: a report, first published in 1964. The term appears in the book, but is used sparingly. For example, Snelling suggests that Patricia Fearing, on the staff at Shrublands health farm in Thunderball, is a rather unusual Bond girl for remaining decently clothed (Snelling 1965, 105). A year later, Kingsley Amis, in The James Bond dossier (1965), used 'Bond-girl' (without definite or indefinite article) as a label for an archetype of a component of the Bond novel. It is unlikely that Amis had been influenced by Snelling's use of the phrase. The meaning of Amis' phrase is in contrast to the 'Bond girl' used by Snelling and of later popularity, which is meant as a general description for the actresses who featured in the Bond films.

In any case, the phrase has an earlier origin, as a search through the archives of the Daily Express reveals. The first use of the term in that paper dates to 1st February 1963. A story, headlined 'Perfect Bond girl' was about one Joanna Hare, a daughter of Labour minister John Hare, and undergraduate at Oxford University. She'd been identified by Oxford University's James Bond Club as the university's answer to the type of women James Bond meets.

The term was used in the paper subsequently, but for most of its early use it was confined to headlines and captions. It also had to compete with the alternative 'Bond's girl'. For example, an article published in March 1963 about Daniela Bianchi, who had just secured the role of Tatiana in From Russia With Love, is headlined, 'Colonel's daughter puts 199 in the shade as... Bond's girl'. An article dated from February 1965 carries the headline, 'Looking for Bond's girl: Now – the final gorgeous line-up'. In September 1965, a caption accompanying a photo of Shirley Maclaine introduced her as 'The new Bond girl' (for the spoof Casino Royale).

Curiously, 'Bond girl' was used rarely in the main text of these and other articles; instead, the description 'James Bond's girlfriend' was preferred. Indeed, 'Bond girl' was still largely reserved for captions and headlines until the mid 70s. A caption in a piece published in February 1973 invited readers to 'Meet a Bond girl from the film Live and Let Die'. However, in September 1974, the main text of an article referred to 'the former Bond girl' Jenny Hanley, and Barbara Bach, in piece from January 1977, was described as 'just what a Bond girl should be'. The phrase 'James Bond's girlfriend' continued to be used (for instance in an article about Jane Seymour from October 1976), though it was gradually disappearing.

Still, the 'Bond girl' phrase took a while to escape the confines of the media. It appears just once in The James Bond films (1981), by Steven Jay Rubin, and then as a caption requiring the same sort of conciseness which newspaper headline writers needed. It appeared in the main text of Raymond Benson's James Bond's bedside companion, first published in 1984 – we read that Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) 'serves not only as the Bond-girl in the film, but also as the ally' (Benson 1988, 220) – but the term competed with 'Bond heroine'. However, by 1987, 'Bond girl' was dominant. Peter Haining (1987) included a chapter on 'The Bond Girls' in his book, James Bond: a celebration, and Sally Hibbin (1987) had the standard heading, 'The Bond girl' for each film she described in The official 007 movie book.

That dominance has continued. At least three books have incorporated the phrase in their titles (Graham Rye's The James Bond girls (1989), Maryam d'Abo and John Cork's Bond girls are forever (2003), and Alistair Dougall's Bond girls (2010)). And few academic papers on the women of Bond's world leave out a reference to 'Bond girls'.

In this short review, we have identified three phases of use for the term 'Bond girl'. It emerged in 1963 (at least in the Daily Express) as convenient shorthand for newspaper headline and caption writers, but was not regarded as a term that was deemed appropriate for the main text of the reports. This changed in the 1970s, when it graduated as a proper term to the main text. It was still very much a newspaper term, though, and this continued until well into the 1980s. Only then had it become sufficiently well established in popular culture for it to appear in more serious and academic treatments of the James Bond phenomenon (its use by Amis and Snelling in 1964/5 appearing to not to be very influential).