The new installment of the James Bond movies, in line with the fiftieth anniversary of the series, has brought to light some sweet nostalgia. There have been twenty-three Bond movies, but what many people may not realize is that there have been six different James Bonds, almost three whole generations of one man. That is one elderly British spy and sex symbol. Our history lesson for today will explore the evolution of Bond through the years.
Though 2012 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Bond we know — the British Bond — there was an American Bond at one point. “Jimmy Bond” was the star of the 1954 Casino Royale, an LA production. Barry Nelson played Bond, but unfortunately he did not produce enough Bond-power, and the film flopped at the box office.
The first “recognized” Bond film came eight years later. Sean Connery starred in the 1962 movie Dr. No. A huge hit at the box office, the film launched the Scottish actor’s career. Originally, Ian Fleming, author of the Bond books, thought that Connery would not be able to pull off the sexual, yet dangerous prowess of Bond. How wrong he was. Connery proceeded to star in six more Bond movies, breaking hearts and exploding Russian spy planes for over twenty years. Connery is the iconic Bond, and he without a doubt set the bar high for the subsequent Bonds. What made Connery such the perfect Bond was his playful, flirty style — both in the bedroom and mid-battle. He made Bond less of an action hero and more of a dangerous comedy act. Not to mention that Scottish accent; my knees are weak just thinking about it.
Sean Connery took a one-movie hiatus in 1969, and the role of America’s favorite British spy was played by an Aussie. George Lazenby played a sexualized Bond in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Director Peter Hunt quipped that, “We wanted someone that oozed sexual assurance…just wait ‘til women see him on screen.” Lazenby was the only Bond to ever get married. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?), Mrs. Bond was ultimately killed. Lazenby refused to make any more Bond movies, claiming that he was treated with condescension for not having had a longstanding film career before Bond.
After it became clear that Connery had given up the role of Bond for good, British actor Roger Moore became the new Bond. Though he is not as famous as Connery, Moore had the longest career as James Bond (twelve years), and was voted Best Bond at the 2004 Academy Awards. The directors created a more tech-savvy Bond out of Moore. He is the source of Bond’s famed gadgetry. This is very different from Fleming’s books, but has been a defining factor in how the newer Bond movies are being compared to the old ones. I prefer the gadgetry as opposed to the endless nonsensical violence of the newer movies. At least the old movies had terrible special effects so that the violence looked cheesy enough, but still was able to be understood and appreciated.
After his twelve-year reign, Moore passed along the role to Timothy Dalton. Dalton played the role of 007 closer to the original creation by Ian Fleming. He was more hesistant, and less of the thrill-seeking, careless character that later Bonds, and even Connery and Moore played. The role morphed back into the handsome, devilish playboy with a gun with Pierce Brosnan — the shockingly hairy and tan Brit. He is by far my least favorite Bond. His banter with other characters, especially the female ones, comes across as sleazy and misogynistic, as opposed to the playfulness of Connery and Moore.
Now we’ve reached 2006 with the new and (hopefully) last Bond. A couple of interesting facts about Daniel Craig: he is the only Bond to have been born after the Bond series began; he was born in 1968; he is the only one to play Bond after Ian Fleming’s death. He was a pretty controversial choice for Bond due to his appearance; 007 is generally tall, dark and handsome, whereas Craig has Aryan features like blonde hair and blue eyes.
Craig’s Bond is the most distinct from past Bonds, including Timothy Dalton. Craig has morphed 007 from flirty, surface-level Connery, who was all smoothness and sex appeal, to a focus on self-examination and emotional angst. With Craig, there also seems to be excessive violence, torture and car chase scenes, taking the perfectly proportioned violence from past Bond films and multiplying it to same level as ‘M’ rated videogames. Thank you, Atari, for contributing to the Bond series’ lack of plot. For many, however, the thought is that there are still plenty of explosions and naked chicks, so who cares?
Along with the evolution of James Bond comes the evolution of the Bond girls. They now have personalities, backstories and emotions beyond mere lust. Shocking though it may be, women in Bond movies have somewhat evolved, but they still have a long way to go to be considered anything but sexualized objects. Is that the point of the Bond girl? Or should Bond and his relationship with women evolve just like Bond himself?
With the latest addition to the Bond series, it is interesting to look back at the films that came before it and consider the past fifty years of the same spy who has yet to age. I think we can all agree that he’s done, both as a spy and a sex icon.