Saturday 29 November 2014

James Bond - the menswear model

We tend to associate the marketing of James Bond-branded lifestyle accessories with 'Bondmania', a period roughly spanning 1964 and 1967 when Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice attracted huge audiences and Bond-related goods were all the rage. Consumers had the choice of a range of 007-branded products, including 007 shoes by Norvic, 007 toiletries by Colgate, and children's lunch boxes depicting Bond's Aston Martin DB5.

While this period saw the peak of the Bond-product industry, it did not represent the start of it. Even before the release of the first Bond film, Dr No (1962), manufacturers recognised the value of James Bond as a brand and marketing tool. In 1961, a series of advertisements published in the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror displayed a range of Courtelle menswear – modelled by James Bond, or at least an artist's depiction of him. That James Bond had sufficient cultural weight before EON's film series commenced to sell goods was down to the increasing success of Ian Fleming's novels, aided by spin-offs, such as the Daily Express comic strip.

In the first, 'Diplomatic Passport 0094567–Bond J.', published in March 1961, Bond wears a rugged 'Snowden' sweater by Courtelle inside his city apartment. The second, 'Inform All Agents–Bond Must Die', was published in April 1961. Within the setting of a train compartment, Bond wears trousers in Courtelle's Abrelle fabric. 'James Bond–Special Agent' was the third advert and printed in May 1961. Bond wears a Courtelle shirt as he fires his gun at a villain obscured behind a tree.

In the fourth, 'Death in the Caribbean', published in September 1961, Bond sports Courtelle slacks as escapes from a machete-wielding heavy. The fifth advert was published in October 1961, this time in the Daily Mirror. 'M is Worried–Send for Bond' sees Bond hanging by his fingertips to a cliff face as he attempts to rescue a woman, his Courtelle cotton shirt no doubt helping his reach. The final advert, printed in the Daily Express in November 1961, was 'Lady With A Luger', and depicted Bond facing the wrong end of a gun held by a femme fatale. Bond may have been grateful he was wearing Courtelle's slacks.

The advertisements are interesting, because they took elements from the novels, but also introduced scenarios not described by Fleming. They provide an example of how the image was perceived in a cultural environment uninfluenced by the film series, and show that character was becoming a significant brand before Bondmania.

I discuss these adverts in detail in 'Modelling Bond: the cultural perception of James Bond on the eve of the Eon production films', an essay published in James Bond and Popular Culture, a book edited by Michele Brittany of essays that examine the Bond phenomenon and the impact of Bond on popular culture. The book is available to buy now, and can be ordered from the publisher, McFarland, as well as other retailers.

The Courtelle brand is owned by Rowlinson Knitwear Ltd. I am grateful to the company for allowing me to reproduce advertisement text and images in my essay.

Friday 28 November 2014

Further thoughts on Bond 24

I was honoured to be invited by David Leigh of the James Bond Dossier website to contribute to a questionnaire which gauged the views of Bond bloggers and writers about the Bond 24 with questions such as “What are you most looking forward to on Bond 24?”. For the final question, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”, I put forward my prediction for the title. The answer I gave was The Property of a Lady, but even as I made the suggestion, I wasn't convinced. In this post, I thought I'd explain my reasoning and consider other options. I should add that this post more or less represents a re-post of an article of mine written just before the title of Bond 23 (Skyfall) was announced.

I opted for The Property of a Lady, not because I thought it the best of the unused Fleming titles – indeed, I consider it rather weak – but because it seemed less likely that any of the others would be used. However, from a memetic perspective, I think two of the other titles are stronger.

Let's start with Risico. Till now, the title has remained unused apparently because of its meaninglessness. Indeed, it's been reported that Michael G Wilson dislikes Risico because the word is Fleming's invention. However, it is precisely its meaninglessness that gives it an advantage over the other unused titles and potentially makes it so useful. Risico is very adaptable. In a Bond film that obviously cannot now be based on Fleming's story of Risico itself, the title could be a corporation, an organisation, a code word, the name of an operation, or a personal name. The possibilities are endless. And if the word is meaningless in English, it is equally meaningless in any other language, which has advantages from economic and marketing points of view.

While I think there are good reason for using Risico, I do have a fondness for The Hildebrand Rarity. Admittedly, this title has the same awkwardness about it as Quantum of Solace. But it is an interesting title which might intrigue potential audiences (what is 'The Hildebrand Rarity'?), and, while it doesn't seem particularly Bondian, it has the ring of an old-fashioned, Cold War, spy tale, such as The Quiller Memorandum or The Internecine Project. Though elements of the original story was used for Licence to Kill, the central plot was not. It could still be filmed, but even if the title only was taken, The Hildebrand Rarity is reasonably adaptable, and could refer to a MacGuffin – a document or a piece of technology, perhaps – that Bond and others would be after.

Of course, it's quite possible, even likely, that Bond 24 will be given an original title. But there is merit in the unused titles of Ian Fleming, and if we are to see a significant element of Fleming's work (particularly Octopussy) in the film, then a Fleming title would be rather fitting.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Young Bond in Shoot to Kill - a review

Given the debt the James Bond novels owe to American pulp-fiction and detective fiction – Ian Fleming acknowledged the influence of the masters of the genre, notably Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett – it was only a matter of time before James Bond would find himself in the world of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. Steve Cole's first Young Bond novel, Shoot to Kill, takes Bond to 1930s Hollywood in an adventure packed with the sort of danger and excitement that would put even the hardest-boiled of detectives through their paces

In Shoot to Kill, James Bond is between schools, at least those we knew about from his obituary in You Only Live Twice. Having been expelled from Eton, he has a year to wait before being sent to Fettes. In the meantime, his aunt has put him into Dartington Hall, a progressive school that might have suited Bond's rebellious nature, except that Bond is through with adventure and is trying his best to avoid trouble. A can of film containing footage of someone being beaten up soon puts paid to that, however, and he soon finds himself dodging bullets fired by people attempting to retrieve the film. The ultimate school trip – a flight to Hollywood on an airship – gives Bond little chance to relax, as danger follows him all the way to Los Angeles. James Bond finds that it is down to him to save fellow pupils, not to mention himself, from a maniacal Hollywood producer whose plan for making films brings a new terrifying meaning to method acting.

Steve Cole's novel is a superb and thrilling page-turner, full of the sort of ingredients we expect from a Bond novel. Readers familiar with the older Bond will have the added pleasure of spotting the nods to Ian Fleming's novels. Among those I noticed are allusions to the Ama divers of You Only Live Twice and Hoagy Carmichael, whom the adult Bond is described as resembling. The title of the first chapter lifts the title of the first paperback edition of Casino Royale published in the US. I was also reminded by passages in the novel of Bond's reminiscences in On Her Majesty's Secret Service of his childhood, and his reflections at the beginning of Goldfinger of the nature of death. There is even a reference to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (not including the use of Boudicca as a character name, which, as with the use of Caractacus in Fleming's children's book, is taken from the history of early Roman Britain). It is in this novel that Bond has a character-forming experience (“I could get a taste for cocktails”) and is introduced to judo (we know from his obituary that he founded a judo class at Fettes). In addition, the staples of the Bond novel – a loquacious villain and descriptions of food consumed – are present and correct.

Steve Cole has met the challenge of bringing us Fleming's character while retaining his own voice and style with considerable success. The task is made all the more difficult by the fact that Steve Cole is writing historical fiction (Ian Fleming, of course, was not), and inevitably there is the occasional anachronistic phrase (“a big ask”, “get over it”, “paramedic”). But this is not my main concern. In places, I admit Shoot to Kill was very gritty and a little tough to read. Some of the scenes could have come from the pages of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. Such violence and persistent threat stretches the plausibility of the Young Bond novels (and others like them, for example the Alex Rider series). With six adventures under his belt, and with three more still to come, I am beginning to worry about Young Bond's psychological and physical health. How many more near-death experiences can a teenager take? Fortunately, under Steve Cole's care, Young Bond is in good hands.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Where does James Bond live?, and other observations from Bond in Motion

Where does James Bond live? We know where the literary James Bond lives – in a ground-floor flat in a house located in a square lined with plane trees off King's Road, London. Fleming and Bond biographer John Pearson identifies the square as Wellington Square, while John Griswold suggests that Markham Square is equally likely. Griswold notes, however, that neither possibility fully matches the details in Fleming's writing, which instead may have described a fictitious location inspired by real places.
Me, about to enter Bond in Motion
It is less certain, at least from the action on the screen, where the cinematic Bond lives, despite audiences seeing the inside of his apartment twice (in Dr No and Live and Let Die). That is not to say, however, that the film makers have not given Bond a home address. When I visited the Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum recently, I was interested to see some of the props prepared for some of the more recent films on display. These included passports, driving licences, and even a car rental contract, all prepared by or with the support of government agencies and commercial companies. They were in many respects genuine documents. Such attention to detail never ceases to impress me, especially considering that the props are barely seen on screen, if at all.

What especially intrigued me was the fact that the same home address was used in all documents on display from Pierce Brosnan- and Daniel Craig-era films: 61 Horseferry Road, Westminster, London, SW1. There were occasional variations – the Avis car rental agreement produced for Tomorrow Never Dies misspelled the first line of Bond's address as 61 Horsen Ferry Road, and gave the postcode as S1 – but essentially the same address has been used for some years through different Bond actors and changes in prop department staff.

Horseferry Road is not far from Bond's literary residence – King's Road is about two miles west – but fans wishing to add the address to their Bond-tour itinerary will not find the property. As Gary Giblin notes in his comprehensive reference work, James Bond's London (2001), 61 Horseferry Road does not in fact exist, which is just as well for a spy. The closest visitors can get to Bond's home is 65 Horseferry Road, which is the Westminster Coroner's Court, and, on the other side of the road, 62-64 Horseferry Road, which is home to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Incidentally, while the passports produced for the Bond films were no doubt prepared with the help of HM Passport Office, some of them do not meet its strict official requirements. The passport prepared for Casino Royale's (2006) Vesper Lynd, on display at Bond in Motion, carries a photograph of Eva Green, who is smiling and has her head turned slightly to the side; the rules state that the individual must be facing forward, looking straight at the camera and wearing a neutral expression.

There were two other points of interest from my visit to the exhibition. One concerned the manual for the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, which is also on display. This is the thick document that Bond 'shoots through' in a second or two in Die Another Day (2002). The front of the manual bears the words MI6 Q Division. I am not sure why or when Q Branch became Q Division (possibly the change reflected organisational realities in MI6), but the change does not appear to have survived the long absence of Q in subsequent films, which obviously precluded any replication of the term 'Q Division' either in the script or on props, or competition from the term 'Q Branch', which remains more culturally prominent. In Skyfall (2012), which reintroduces the character of Q, Daniel Craig's Bond shows Raoul Silva “the latest thing in Q Branch. It's called a radio”.

Something else that caught my eye was the two pairs of skis on top of Tracy's Mercury Cougar from On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). These were made by the Franz Kneissl ski company and, as the legend on the skis proclaim, are from “the world's first factory for plastic skis”. This is an interesting detail, and adds to the types of skis that James Bond uses. In the novel (published in 1963), Bond borrows a pair of aluminium skis made by Head, and reminisces about the steel-edged hickory skis he used in his youth.

The Bond in Motion exhibition was fascinating not just because of the many Bond cars it had on display (as exciting as they were), but also because of the props and other items of incidental interest on show. These gave an insight into the care and level of detail given to the production of props, and revealed intriguing information about James Bond.


Giblin, G, 2001 James Bond's London, Daleon Enterprises
Griswold, J, 2006 Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming's Bond Stories, Author House
Pearson, J, 1973 James Bond: the authorized biography of 007, Sidgewick and Jackson

Sunday 9 November 2014

Ian Fleming introduces Yardley's 'The Education of a Poker Player'

When scriptwriters looked to update Ian Fleming's Casino Royale for the twenty-first James Bond film, they decided to replace the game of baccarat, which is played in the novel, with poker. Producer Michael G Wilson explained that while baccarat was no longer popular and few people would understand it, poker has worldwide recognition and is played as international tournaments online and on television. This is indisputable, but even so, given that Bond never plays poker in the books, is there something a little, well, un-Bondian about the game? Perhaps not. The literary James Bond may not play poker, but his creator did.

In 1958, Ian Fleming wrote an introduction to a slim volume by American author Herbert O Yardley called The Education of a Poker Player, which was first published in America in 1957. Fleming read it and was so taken with it, that he urged his publisher, Jonathan Cape, to issue the book in Britain. Cape agreed (the book was published in 1959), but on the condition that Fleming pen an introduction, presumably hoping that the attachment of Fleming's name to the book would boost sales.

Ian Fleming revealed in his introduction that he enjoyed playing poker, but confessed that he wasn't a good player. He claimed not to understand poker's myriad variations (at least, before he had encountered Yardley's book), and admitted that he drank and smoked too much to win at the game. Yardley advises poker players to “never drink while playing”, as “drinking leads to carelessness in cards”, advice, incidentally, that most of the players in the poker tournament that featured in the film of Casino Royale fail to heed, James Bond included. Herbert O Yardley would not have been impressed.

Apart from the intricate descriptions of games of Five-Card Draw (Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild with the Joker, Lo Ball), Five Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud (Hi-Lo), what particularly struck  Fleming was the tone of the book, which in his view was as tautly-written and as full of zest, blood, sex and wry humour as any Raymond Chandler novel (qualities, indeed, that filled the pages of Fleming's own writing).

Ostensibly a guidebook to how to win at  poker, Yardley's book is an autobiographical account of his own experiences playing poker, from his time learning the game as a teenager under the tutelage of James Montgomery at Monty's Place in Washington around 1905, to his games against Chinese officials while engaged between 1938 and 1941 by China to break Japanese codes during the Second Sino-Japanese war. All this time, Yardley writes that he never lost more than three sittings in a row.

Despite his enjoyment of the game, Ian Fleming never has James Bond play poker in his novels. Poker isn't excluded altogether, however, as Fleming made several allusions to the game, usually by way of metaphor. In 'The Hildebrand Rarity' (1962), for example, when Milton Krest goads Bond with aspersions about Britain's influence in the world, he says that the three remaining powers of America, Russia and China represented “the big poker game and that no other country had either the chips or the cards to come into it.”

Ian Fleming was fascinated by card games, and poker was no exception. That the game merits only passing references in the Bond books seems a little surprising, but may reflect Fleming's poorer understanding and experience of the game compared with baccarat, canasta and bridge, with which he was far more familiar  and which consequently found significant places in the Bond novels (Casino Royale, Goldfinger and Moonraker respectively).


Chowdhury, A, 2007 Bond Reborn, in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 3, 26-33
Gilbert, J, 2012 Ian Fleming: The Bibliography, Queen Anne Press
Yardley, H O, 2002 The Education of a Poker Player, High Stakes

Saturday 1 November 2014

James Bond or Iron Man? Cultural references in jetpack-related stories

Think of jetpacks, and chances are the image of James Bond from Thunderball (1965) leaps to mind. Or maybe, at least for the younger generation, an image of Iron Man leaps rather higher. Judging by a number of recent jetpack-themed stories in newspapers and other media outlets, Iron Man is now competing with James Bond as the main cultural reference for journalists reporting on developments in the jetpack industry.

The most recent jetpack-related story to receive widespread coverage concerned Martin Aircraft Co. Ltd, a New Zealand-based company that's planning to become listed on the Australian stock exchange to raise capital to develop its jetpack prototype, the Martin Jetpack. This was essentially a business story, and much of the coverage was characteristically dry as one might expect from the business pages.

Some of the articles, for example in the Sydney Morning Herald and the New Zealand Herald, contained no cultural references, but there were a few nods to popular culture in others. The Australian Financial Review, for example, ran the headline, “Martin Jetpack Brings James Bond to Life.” ABC Online commented that the jetpack was “every child's fantasy, with imaginations fuelled for decades by film and television,” including, it suggested, Thunderball. The Wall Street Journal's article, in contrast, focused on inventor Glenn Martin's own inspiration, The Jetsons, and other American science-fiction shows of the 1960s.

As with buses, one waits ages for a jetpack story, then two stories come along as once. A few days before the Martin Jetpack story hit the news, media outlets were excited by the craze for water-powered jetpacks, which are being offered as tourist experiences around the world. The Telegraph reported on the Jetlev-Flyer, a jetpack experience based at Wyboston Lakes, near Bedford, UK, with the headline, “Unleash your inner James Bond: strap on a jetpack,” which was described as “part 007 gadget, part oversized garden sprinkler.” Co-owner of the franchise, Catherine Wheeler, asked as she strapped reporter Ben Saunders into a jetpack, “So do you want to be James Bond or Iron Man?”

Another water-powered jetpack experience, run by Jetpack America, is available near Las Vegas at Pahrump, Nevada. The Los Angeles Magazine reported on the facility and alluded to “Rocketeer” fantasies. Last year, Yahoo News reported on a similar facility in Hawaii, though its story focused on concerns raised by Hawaii's fishermen, marine biologists and state officials. The story's headline stated, “'Iron Man' jetpacks spark concerns in Hawaii,” and asked, “Want to fly like George Jetson or Iron Man?”

In May this year, another type of jetpack, the 'Go Fast Jet Pack', was featured in the Daily Mail with the headline, “Travel like Iron man! Mini wingless jet-pack lets man zoom around at speeds of 77mph (but only for half a minute).” There was a second Iron Man reference within the article: “The 'Go Fast Jet Pack' may not be a sleek as Iron Man's but it allows people to fly after 100 hours of lessons, much like the fictional super hero.” The absence of references to Thunderball in this case is curious, as the jetpack's manufacturer, Jet PI, based the design on the model developed in the 1960s by Bell Systems, which was responsible for James Bond's jetpack. 

It is reassuring, and testament to the significance of James Bond, that after almost 50 years, the Thunderball jetpack meme retains cultural currency. But Iron Man is nipping at James Bond's heels, and it is to the superhero that editors are beginning to turn in their jetpack stories. The likelihood of there being an allusion to James Bond also appears to depend in part on where the story is published. A US-based media outlet is perhaps more likely than a UK-based one to refer to American aspects of culture, while British outlets will lean more strongly to British cultural memes. In other places, such as Australia, there might be more of a mix, though in the case of jetpacks, James Bond remains important.