Ian Fleming (1908 – 1964) did not provide readers with James Bond’s birthdate. Thus, one is forced to use John Pearson’s (1930 – ) fictional biography, James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 (1973), that gives it as 1920-11-11. Thus, the publication date of this weblog post is exactly one hundred years after Bond’s fictional birth, despite John Griswold’s attempt, in Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations And Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories (2006), to put the date one year later, 1921-11-11.
Readers expecting a celebration of the life, books or films of James Bond will be disappointed. In this #MeToo age, James Bond films are simply inappropriate, especially regarding relationships between the sexes, and the use of violence to resolve disputes. In addition, there is no need for anyone with less than one million dollars in net worth to support the ultra-rich owners of the film franchise.
Instead, the pods many people are condemned to live in during this pandemic should be encouraged to make (and share) their own fun videos. Hopefully, some will involve suggestions for an improved post-pandemic world, with an emphasis on kindness and solidarity.
Since Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013) and Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004) imposed a libertarian/ neo-liberal experiment on the world, the result has been the creation of a cadre of the super-rich that seem to be living in the spirit of James Bond, taking advantage of the vulnerable economically, as well as sexually. Not infrequently, they have been able to use the police, the courts, and the legislatures to impose their will, and their values that negatively impact the lives of the majority, leaving destitute the people most in need.
Hopfully, when the pandemic is under better control, people will develop their own scripts, find actors to play heros, and other talent to develop a small production team that can make very local films. Another hope is that an informal network will distributing these films freely through cyberspace, for the benefit of the many.
In the commercial film world of the past, the antithesis of James Bond was Harry Palmer. Periodically, I re-watch these films, and have even re-read some of the novels, upon which they are loosely based. Michael Caine (Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr., 1933 -) portrays a realistic character that is capable of living by his wits. Wikipedia writes, “Len Deighton [(1929-)] introduced the lead character in The IPCRESS File, his first novel, published in November 1962…. Deighton’s spy is described as working class, living in a back street flat and seedy hotels, and shopping in supermarkets. He wears glasses, is hindered by bureaucracy, and craves a pay rise.”
Who could ask for a better hero?
In the British espionage novel/ spy fiction genre, Ian Fleming ranks no higher than the ninth best author, on my personal list. In addition to Deighton, other notable authors ranking above him are John Buchan (1875 – 1940), Compton Mackenzie (1883 – 1972), Graham Greene (1904 – 1991), Elleston Trevor (Trevor Dudley-Smith, 1920 – 1995), Alan Stripp (1924 – 2009), John Le Carre (David John Moore Cornwall, 1931 – ), Robert Harris (1957 – ). At the top is Erskine Childers (1870 – 1922), especially The Riddle of the Sands (1904). There are also worse authors in the genre, including Sapper (Cyril McNeile, 1888 – 1937).
James Bond works for MI6, which is concerned with overseas threats. Its retirement age is 60. This means that Bond should have retired in 1980. It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine if the world would have been a better place if he had.
Note: Since this post was written, Sean Connery (1930 – 2020), who portrayed James Bond in seven films from 1962 to 1983, has died. I will now admit that From Russia with Love (1963) is my favourite James Bond film. Perhaps, I should also confess that I was more enchanted by Ursula Andress (1936 – ) in her role as Honey Ryder in Dr No (1962), than I was by Connery.
Connery’s childhood in working-class Edinburgh probably had more in common with the fictional Palmer than the fictional Bond. In his autobiography, Being a Scot (2009), he recalls: “When I took a taxi during a recent Edinburgh Film Festival, the driver was amazed that I could put a name to every street we passed. ‘How come?’ he asked. ‘As a boy I used to deliver milk round here,’ I said. ‘So what do you do now?’ That was rather harder to answer.”
Connery was pre-deceased by; Barry Nelson (of Norwegian ancestry, born Robert Haakon Nielsen, 1917 – 2007), an American actor, who had the first Bond role, in the CBS television production of Casino Royale (1954); David Niven (1910 – 1983), who appeared as Bond in Casino Royale (1967); Roger Moore (1927 – 2017) who played Bond in seven films from 1973 to 1985; Honor Blackman (1925 – 2020) who depicted Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964); and, Diana Rigg (1938 – 2020), who had the role of Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, James Bond’s wife, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
Amendment: 2020-11-12. Only seven authors of Spyfi are listed as being better than Fleming. Alan Stripp (1924 – 2009) is missing in action. However, some people may regard William Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965) and Alistair MacLean (1922 – 1987), as more appropriate for the list.