For the past few days, there have been articles about James Bond. They have not been about a new film or some author trying to replicate Ian Fleming’s novels. No, they have been touting serious studies of this fictional characters drinking habit. According to the report, he was an alcoholic. Who cares? What does it matter?
HE WAS A FICTIONAL CHARACTER!
I do not know how anyone can waste their time on thinking about this, writing about this, or reading about this. I wasted time simply glancing at the stupid headlines.
Last night, I finished reading Casino Royale, Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. I bought this, not being inspired by the anniversary of the first Bond film, but because I had not read it and a recent review piqued my curiosity. I have read (and forgotten) most of the series and seen all the films. Those I have seen more that once (out of boredom or lack of appealing alternatives) have been mostly forgotten (although I do remember Sophie Marceau).
On the list of forgettable films (either due to creeping Alzheimer's or weak production) is the fairly recent rendition of Casino Royale. I can recall the scene in which an Aston Martin DB is wrecked, perhaps because Number One Son drives a similar model. Other than that, I remember only that my least-favorite Bond incarnation and Eva Green appeared in the movie.
Because I cannot remember the film, I cannot comment on how well they adapted the novel. Given the track record, I can only assume that little was used from Ian Fleming's output. As I wrote yesterday using Fleming's own words, the Bond character of film is extremely different from the man introduced in the printed Casino Royale. Like with many things in life, I find that the best practice is not to compare. Find enjoyment in each...if at all possible.
For those of you that remember Goldfinger, you will smile at my reading experience. Clever screenwriters demanded that the atom bomb, which was triggered to go off in the Ft. Knox gold vault, be stopped with 7 seconds remaining on the timer. This provided a nice visual of a digital display with 007. When I finished reading Casino Royal, I glanced at my bedside clock. I could not have planned this, and certainly did not ever think about such an outcome, but the clock showed...what else?...007...seven minutes after midnight. How's that for life imitating art?
Nb. To understand the title, one must read the book! Sorry.
Comments below spoken by Ian Fleming during lunch with a New Yorker writer. James Bond on film has turned out to be someone different than the author imagined.
What did he think of his own books? “I don’t regard James Bond precisely as a hero, but at least he does get on and do his duty, in an extremely corny way…. My books have no social significance, except a deleterious one; they’re considered to have too much violence and too much sex. But all history has that.”
“When I wrote the first one, in 1953,” he explained, “I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened….”
The two qualities chiefly required to write a thriller...“The first of them is the overwrought imagination of a sex-starved schoolboy, and the second is an almost total ignorance of the real world and how it works.”
I think I might have mentioned buying Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, which I have begun to read. The book was published in 1953, so much has changed in the world and regarding the image of the hero. This book presents his initial introduction to the world, before Hollywood’s grasp inflicted its (insert own choice of adjective or adjectives) marks.
I have enjoyed what I have read so far (and expect to enjoy the remaining pages) but have not gotten far. I was interested to note that Bond’s trademark martini is different than the one made famous by films. He instructs a barmen how to mix his drink: three parts Gordon’s gin and half part vodka (preferably grain, not potato), which should be shaken with ice and poured into a champagne glass with added slice of lemon rind.
I noted the choice of Gordon’s gin, which seems to have slipped in image since those days. Brands like Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire have for many a greater cache. I, on the other hand, prefer Gordon’s. I am not a big gin drinker, but do enjoy a gin and tonic whenever near the scene of a Somerset Maugham story. Over the years, I have tried many brands of gin, well-known and less well-known (I shudder to recall the amount of jenever I have imbibed “drinking with the boys” in Holland), and keep coming back to the one whose image has faded. I know this, because many of the “better” bars do not stock Gordon’s, and I have noted a hint of disdain, on occasion, when I ask for it by name. I am certain that the odd bartender considers me cheap for not ordering one of the over-priced, chic brands. I do not care: I will stick with my preferred taste. Now, I can bask in the knowledge that James Bond and I have something in common.
I might not share too many of James Bond’s character traits or talents, but we could drink together...
NB. There is a sentence in the book, which suggests that Monsieur Fleming had not met many Americans...or was a poor judge of character. “...Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.” I will forgive him, because this was written well before the of George Bush or Rick Perry stomped on the image of my fellow countrymen...and me.
I found it difficult to avoid James Bond marketing anywhere in London, either for the latest film, product placement promotions, or 50th anniversary celebration.
Ian Fleming started it all, by name favorite products in his books. Sadly for him, he made no money from promotion of those products. Only greedy filmmakers have taken cashing in on product placement to heady heights.
Some are acceptable, but most are either in bad taste, shameless, or ridiculous.
But, enough fools fall for the hype...
The new James Bond film premiered in London today. We decided to try to get seats in the 10 am screening...and were successful. All screenings for the rest of the weekend were sold out
I continue to be of the opinion that Daniel Craig is not a good James Bond. He would be be a better villain. The actor should be masculine and have a twinkle in his eye. The latest manifestation does not come across as being intelligent and talented...or a marksman. The Bourne and Taken films are more believable.
And, I get a little sick of “Hollywood” explosions: they lack credibility for anyone with half a brain. A believably explosion is enough. And, it would be nice if filmmakers understood physics.
This blog allows me to add to the overabundance of commentary about James Bond, which has sprung up during the 50th anniversary of the first film of one of Ian Fleming's books.
First of all, I want to express dismay at what commercialism has done to ruin the franchise, as it has done with other franchises and films. But, we all know that Hollywood runs on money and studios will climb into bed with (ie. change any franchise and/or script) the highest bidder. The best examples of this are replacing the Aston Martin with BMW's and switching Bond's preferred drink from vodka to beer. Beer! Dutch beer! Poor Ian is surely spinning in his grave and dreaming about placing his boney hands around the producers' necks and squeezing for an eternity for selling out to Heineken. (Side note: I recall having my first beer at the Officers' Club, when I arrived in Germany with the Army, many years ago: Heineken. I also recall saying, more or less, "Ah, it's good to have a German beer", because I dislike American beer, only to be laughed at by fellow officers and to be informed of my geographical error.)
Secondly, I want to jump on the bandwagon with people exclaiming certainty about the "best" Bond actor and "best" Bond girl. Of course, my opinion is the only one that matters in both instances. After reviewing all 22 films, I still find Pierce Brosnan to be my favorite. He embodies the correct combination of suaveness, manliness, and humor, which I believe the author attempted to create for his iconic character. Sean Connery is too manly (if there is such a thing), tries too hard to be suave, and lacks humor. Roger Moore is not man enough, is too suave, and unfunny. Timothy Dalton comes close to an Ian Fleming-type character, but lacks stature. The new guy is worthless, so I will not comment again on how casting this actor has ruined the franchise for me. As far as the Bond Girl is concerned, Sophie Marceau (The World Is Not Enough) wins gold, Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) wins silver, and a number of actresses tie for bronze. Case closed. No appeal permitted.
I have read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, except Casino Royale. (I have even read Sebastian Faulk’s James Bond book, because I will read anything he writes, not because it was a James Bond book.)
I have seen most of the movies, but watched On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for the first time today. I recall reading the book many years ago, but remember only that Bond married and his wife dies at the end. Seeing them movie confirmed that sparks of brilliance still lurk in the depths of my memory...but not many.
It was interesting to finally see this film, because I have visited many times Piz Gloria, the villain’s mountaintop lair. This is an actual restaurant atop the Schilthorn, a 3000+ meter alpine peak above Muerren, Switzerland, across the valley (the one the bad guys plummet into) from the more-famous Jungfrau and Eiger. Of course, the town touts its role in the film, despite this being many years ago. Most visitors have surely never seen the film, not least of all because the actor playing Bond was not famous. I have visited this town many times, because I knew someone with a chalet. I have climbed the Schilthorn and taken the cable car (although more often on foot than in a cable car). Many times, we would attempt (and succeed) to make the climb from the town to Piz Gloria in under 3 hours...quite a hike, but a good test of conditioning. James Bond rode the cable car or a helicopter. Now, I would also ride up.
Although George Lazenby was never recognized as a “real” James Bond, I found him to be closer to the image one develops of that character after reading Ian Fleming’s books. He worked better for me than the current “star”, over which too many foolishly drool (none of which have surely read the books).
The “James Bond Marketing Machine” is going full bore, what with a new episode of the franchise to sell and the 50th anniversary of the first film to commemorate. Overall, I find that the stories became increasingly violent, deadly, and destructive, while concurrently being less plausible and/or credible.
Watching Dr. No, I was reminded that I was a very normal teenager. I had a picture of Ursula Andress, torn from a magazine, hanging on my dorm room wall. Of course, she was just one of many illusions I fell into and out of love with over those years. Teenage fantasies in that department were especially bountiful, as opposed to actual romance. And, I, like all healthy males, cannot avoid falling in love with a movie heroine.
The surprising thing is that I no longer find the Honey Chile to be attractive....
Watch The Man With The Golden Gun, one of 22 or 23 James Bond films, and you will get a feel for the problem all filmmakers have with outdoor shots: the weather. I recall spending large sums of money on “weather insurance”, because of huge costs of setting up for filming...and then canceling, when I was in the advertising business.
In the first scene of the movie, when Champagne is served on the beach in Thailand, the sky in the distance is overcast. In the next scene, when a man arrives on the same beach by boat, the sky is bright blue and the sun is shining. Same time, same beach, completely different weather. The production company was forced to shoot different scenes on different days and the editor had to work with the raw film he received.
I doubt that many people noticed. In fact, I have seen this film twice and did not notice the discrepancy. That’s why filmmakers do not worry about such matters. Saving money is more important.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.