Thursday 28 September 2017

When James Bond went cruising

Over the decades, James Bond has been used to advertise a range of products, among them clothes, shoes and tea, that have had no official connection to the books or films. In 1963, James Bond was used to advertise cruises.

A supplement to Tatler magazine in May 1963 included an advertisement for Union-Castle cruises. The advertisement, ‘No pistol packing for James Bond’, features an illustration of James Bond by a swimming pool on board a cruise ship and in the company of a bikini-clad woman. The accompanying text reveals that they are on the Windsor Castle, a cruise ship on its way to Cape Town, and that M is sending Bond there for rest and recuperation. The woman, called Orchid, is an agent too, as she confesses to Bond that M ‘sent me to keep an eye on you’.
Union-Castle advert in the Tatler, 29 May 1963 (c) Illustrated London News Group
Published after the film version of Dr No was released, the advertisement inevitably contains nods to the film. James Bond resembles Sean Connery, and from the text it’s clear that Bond has consumed ‘vodka martinis at shipboard prices’. The books have not been forgotten either; another activity that Bond has enjoyed is ‘bridge at 1d-a-hundred’, the copywriter presumably being aware of the bridge game in Moonraker

The second advert (‘Holiday with pay-off for James Bond’) was published in the Tatler in October 1963. This time, Bond is holidaying on the Blue Lagoon beach near Mombasa, having travelled on the cruise ship the Kenya Castle. Later, Bond will travel on to Durban via Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Beira. Bond’s holiday is again courtesy of M, apparently to thank Bond for his efforts on ‘the Klemanski case’. Bond again has female company, a blonde, bikini-clad woman (not Orchid, it seems). ‘James, promise me you haven’t brought any weapons on this holiday,’ she asks. ‘Only for fishing…,’ he replies as he suggestively clasps a spear-gun.
Union-Castle advert in the Tatler, 16 October 1963 (c) Illustrated London News Group
Again, Bond resembles Sean Connery, and while the advertisement doesn’t include other obvious references to Dr No or From Russia With Love, which had been released in the same month, the scene curiously prefigures the beach scene in Thunderball (1965), in which Bond is with female company (in that case Domino) and armed with a spear-gun.

The Union-Castle advertisements were published at a time when exotic travel was becoming more affordable and cruising was gaining in popularity; the film Carry On Cruising, which poked gentle fun at the industry and its passengers, was released in 1962.

The advertisements also remind us of the part that the novels played in generating James Bond’s advertising power. Over time, the films would come to dominate, and the tropes or memes presented in advertising featuring Bond would derive largely, and probably exclusively, from the films only (though of course these contain memes that can be traced back to the books). In 1963, however, the books were still influential.

After all, the cruise advertisements were published, as they acknowledged, ‘with a bow to Ian Fleming, author of the excellent ‘James Bond’ books, published by Jonathan Cape: and to Eon Productions, whose film ‘Dr No’ is the first of a series based on these books’.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Improve your golf, with Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming was fond of golf manuals. His favourite was How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time by Tommy Armour, which he also placed on James Bond’s bookshelf, along with Ben Hogan’s The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. And The Golfer's Manual; Being an Historical and Descriptive Account of the National Game of Scotland by Allan Robertson is among the volumes that made up Fleming’s collection of books ‘that had started something’.

So one can imagine that, when he himself appeared in some golfing instructions, Ian Fleming was thrilled to say the least.

Henry Cotton’s Golf Notes were syndicated around the world. The pioneering golfer’s notes that were published in Farm and Country on 30th September 1959 focused on the golf swing and the importance of good position of the legs and feet. To illustrate Henry Cotton’s various points, the article includes photographs of golfers in action. Golfer no. 1, for instance, ‘does not know how to use his toes or his hips’, while the legs of golfer no. 2 ‘have worked against his arm swing’.

Golfer no. 3 was none other than Ian Fleming. So what was his golfing malaise? ‘Celebrated author Ian Fleming,’ Cotton wrote, ‘is caught at a later point in his swing, and whilst his arms could be coming to a position of rest, both his feet are firmly anchored on his heels. In all three cases the body is nowhere near completely facing the hole; it is locked by the hips and “dead feet”.’
Ian Fleming's golf swing and 'dead feet'
Despite Fleming’s faults, Henry Cotton admitted that Fleming ‘is quite a golfer’ with ‘a good hard action, which could be put to even better use with some “educated” footwork.’

Rather like James Bond, indeed. Bond shares a nine handicap with his creator, and similarly has trouble with his swing, which we know from Goldfinger (1959) is flat. Bond would do well to take some tips from Henry Cotton, with a little help from Ian Fleming.

Sunday 17 September 2017

How James Bond appears in reviews of Logan Lucky

The actors who play or have played James Bond are so firmly identified with the role that their appearances in other films, especially those at odds with the adventures of the master-spy, provoke interest and excitement, particularly in the media. Daniel Craig in Logan Lucky is no exception, and many media reviews inevitably mention Bond in some way.

In the film directed by Steven Soderbergh, two brothers – Jimmy and Clyde Logan – attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race with the help of an incarcerated explosives expert called Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig.

A trawl through the reviews in the UK newspapers and other media outlets has revealed several references to Bond. Simran Hans focuses on the strangeness of Daniel Craig’s appearance, writing in The Observer that it is ‘bizarre to see Bond with a bleached buzz cut (not to mention a tiny tattoo of a star adorning his left cheekbone)’. Meanwhile, Geoffrey McNab in The Independent highlights Daniel Craig’s Southern accent, remarking that Craig’s ‘drawling accent that reminds you of Sheriff JW Pepper in Live And Let Die’. 

Apart from mentioning Daniel Craig’s famous blue eyes, Andrew Lowry writing for Empire magazine suggests that Daniel Craig’s years as Bond have not allowed Craig to demonstrate his fine acting skills: ‘Those blue eyes of his — so cold as Bond — are here bulging with lunacy. He’s hilarious and totally convincing as someone far from the officer-class stylings of his day job; it’s a pleasure to be reminded of what a good character actor Craig can be.’

The write-up in the Express takes a similar view: ‘That dinner jacket is such a perfect fit, I’d almost forgotten about Daniel Craig the actor.’ 

Other reviewers have detected a certain glee in Craig’s performance in Logan Lucky, which has given him a chance to cut loose from his measured turns as Bond. Rebecca Lewis writes in The Metro that Craig’s casting as Bang flips ‘his most famous role as the cold British spy James Bond on its head’. Charlotte O’Sullivan of the Evening Standard remarks that ‘when in Bond mode he keeps the weirdness under wraps, but for this hillbilly heist comedy he lets it all hang out’. Beyond the UK, Anthony Lane writing in The New Yorker states: ‘so liberated does Craig appear, on a hollering vacation from his stern-visaged duties as James Bond, that his mood exalts the whole enterprise.’

It’s not the first time that reviewers have claimed that, away from the Bond films, actors have been able to flex acting muscles that they rarely have the opportunity to exercise as Bond, as if Bond’s tuxedo is more of a straitjacket than dinner-jacket. What’s more, this comes with a sense of liberation in their performances. For instance, in his review of The Tailor of Panama (2001) in The Guardian, Philip French thought that ‘the cleverest trick… is the casting of Pierce Brosnan, who's never been so good’. Ian Nathan reviewing The Matador (2005) for Empire magazine wrote that ‘we’ve never seen Pierce Brosnan so liberated — he’s a man reborn’. (Mind you, Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as Bond had ceased by this point, so possibly there had been something extra in his performance, just to show the Bond producers if nothing else.)

While Logan Lucky doesn’t appear to have set the box-office alight, the film has generally been very well received critically. Judging by some of the reviews, it has been difficult for the critics to watch Daniel Craig’s performance without having his most famous role in mind. There is a hint in some of the reviews too that by comparison James Bond is something of a lesser role. This seems a little unfair. After all, Daniel Craig’s Bond films have been critically acclaimed and award-winning, as well as box-office smashes, thanks in part to his abilities as an actor.

Monday 11 September 2017

Bond - James Bond: a phrase less ordinary

Which is the best-known three-word phrase in the James Bond films? Licence to kill? Shaken, not stirred? Or Bond, James Bond? To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. All three are so engrained in the popular imagination, they’re probably as well known as each other. What I can be more certain about is that while all three phrases were introduced by Ian Fleming, it was the film series that gave them prominence and cultural weight.

In an earlier post, I discussed the claim that Berkely Mather, one of the screenwriters of Dr No (1962), was responsible for the phrase ‘Bond – James Bond’. Given that the phrase appears in various forms in the Bond novels, starting with Casino Royale (1953), the claim is absurd. However, there’s no denying that its use in Dr No was special. After all, it’s delivered by the impossibly cool Sean Connery and is triggered by the James Bond theme.
'Bond, James Bond' (Dr No, 1962)
Together, these elements give the phrase value, turning what was an ordinary phrase into something memorable and worth repeating, not just in subsequent films, but more widely in the cultural environment.

For Ian Fleming, the phrase ‘Bond – James Bond’ was never intended to be loaded with significance. We can point to two pieces of evidence for this. The first is the Bond books themselves. James Bond uses this form of introduction several times during the course of his adventures. There’s a ‘Bond – James Bond’, or close variant, in, among others, Casino Royale, Goldfinger, Dr No, The Spy who Loved Me, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (although this last example is interesting, as Fleming appears to have been influenced by the nascent film series as he wrote it; possibly he thought differently about the phrase by this time).

But the surname-first name-surname formula is also used in relation to other characters. In Goldfinger, Mr Du Pont introduces himself with the words, ‘My name is Du Pont. Junius Du Pont’. In Diamonds are Forever, Bond’s told of a cab-driver ‘by the name of Cureo, Ernie Cureo’. In the same book, Bond hears about a hoodlum called ‘Budd, “Rosy” Budd’. I’m sure there are other examples.

The second piece of evidence is that the formula is used fairly frequently in other fiction. It’s not often that I don’t have a classic spy novel or thriller (some of which would have been very familiar to Fleming) on the go, and as I read them, it’s not long before I come across another example of the formula.

In Hushed Up! A Mystery of London (1911) by William Le Queux, the hero, when asked his name, replies, ‘Biddulph… Owen Biddulph’. (I was, incidentally, rather thrilled that the novel featured a main character who shared my unusual surname.) There are various examples in the works of E Philips Oppenheim. In The Great Impersonation (1920), we have from the main character a ‘My name is Dominey – Everard Dominey’ (twice, in fact). In the John Buchan novel The Three Hostages (1924), Richard Hannay is told by a friend who is assuming a name that ‘my name’s Thomson – Alexander Thomson’.

It’s a small point, but the obvious conclusion is that the surname-first name-surname form of introduction was a standard one, certainly in some of the older literature. It seems likely that Fleming applied it to Bond – and other characters – simply as a form of everyday speech with no additional significance. Today, with everyone instantly on first name terms, the formula seems somewhat formal and old-fashioned. In a way, too, the phrase is a victim of its own success. Having become so closely associated with James Bond thanks to the films, it can’t be used seriously anywhere else!

Monday 4 September 2017

When James Bond met Bridget Jones

You won’t often find me curled up on the sofa reading the latest chick lit, but when a quotation from a review on the back of a novel by Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary, claimed that the book was ‘a Bond-style romp,’ I was intrigued enough to acquire the book and start reading.

Olivia Joules in Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (Picador, 2003) is a freelance journalist who writes for beauty magazines and the newspaper style supplements, but aspires to be a foreign reporter. When Olivia is sent to Miami for a face-cream launch, she meets a charming and mysterious man who claims to be a movie producer, but whom Olivia suspects to be an international terrorist. Despite the doubts of her colleagues, as well as her own, Olivia follows a trail that takes her to Los Angeles, Honduras, and Sudan, risking her life, as well as her career.

Inevitably, the book contains several nods and references to James Bond. In her hotel room in LA, Olivia dusts the numbers on the combination lock of the safe. ‘Like James Bond,’ she reflects, though ‘James Bond probably wouldn’t have actually given the numbers a silken, light reflecting sheen.’ (Olivia uses Angel Dust face-powder, rather than talcum powder, which Bond uses to dust the locks of his attaché case in From Russia With Love.)

Later, when realising that her room’s been bugged, Olivia makes a call to get the details of the Spy Shop on Sunset Boulevard (‘You know, spies? James Bond? Kiefer Sutherland?’), and eventually is kitted up with the latest gadgets, among them a bug detector, an invisible-ink pen, a tiny digital camera, and a ring with a mirror that allows Olivia to see behind her.

Back in London, Olivia is met by MI6 officers, and is taken seriously enough by MI6 to be taken on as an agent. On a boat on the Thames on her way to a safe house, Olivia’s heart was ‘leaping with excitement, the James Bond theme playing in her mind. She was a spy! She formed her fingers into a gun shape and whispered, “Kpow! Kpow!”.’ At the safe house, Olivia is introduced to Professor Widgett, a veteran spymaster and Arabist described by Scotland Yard’s liaison as ‘the James Bond of his day’.

While there is no Q-inspired character, Olivia is nevertheless equipped with some handy gadgets, cunningly sewn into clothing (the buttons on her shirt, for instance, are replaced by miniature circular saws) or disguised as the typical accoutrements of a handbag (such as a lipsalve that emits a powerful blinding flash). Interestingly, Olivia is also given a belt fashioned from gold coins ‘for buying her way out a mess’, recalling the straps of gold sovereigns hidden in Bond’s attaché case. 

Apart from these obvious references to Bond, there are other aspects that are redolent of elements of Bond books, even if the similarities are coincidental. Olivia Joules is working for the Sunday Times, which is the paper for which Ian Fleming worked. There are shades of Vivienne Michel’s story from The Spy who Loved Me in Olivia’s own backstory. Fed up after a series of bad relationships while in her teens, she vows: ‘I’m not going to give a s*** about anything any more. I’m going to be a top journalist or an explorer and do something that matters.’ And like James Bond, Olivia is an orphan, her parents having died in a road accident when she was fourteen.

More generally, the book is as globe-trotting as any James Bond film, and, like Bond, Olivia is a keen and proficient scuba-diver. (And yes, there are sharks.)

I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Spotting the Bond references are fun, of course, but the book is also an entertaining page-turner. Gadgets, resourceful spies, witty one-liners, narrow escapes, urbane villains, cocktails and romantic entanglements – it's got the lot.