1980s: When 007 fandom grew up

Original cover to The James Bond Films by Steven Jay Rubin

Almost 20 years after Sean Connery’s debut as James Bond in Dr. No, 007 fandom began to grow up.

One of the breakthroughs was The James Bond Films by Steven Jay Rubin, first published in 1981. It was one of the first times that the Bond phenomenon got a more dispassionate examination.

Previously, there had been books that examined the films. John Brosnan’s James Bond in the Cinema amounted to a detailed review of the first seven Bond films (a later edition added to that). Kingsley Amis (who would soon write a 007 continuation novel) examined the Ian Fleming novels in The James Bond Dossier.

The Rubin book, though, included details of the behind-the-scenes conflict. In my own case, it was the first time I read how producers Abert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman ended up alternating as the lead force behind each film. It also spelled out details of the conflict between the duo.

“Live And Let Die was Harry Saltzman’s swan song as a full time James Bond film producer,” Rubin wrote at the start of his chapter about The Man With the Golden Gun. “Since that first meeting in Broccoli’s office in the early 1960’s, their partnership had been a stormy one.”

Not the stuff of what the publicity department had turned out for years.

Rubin didn’t get cooperation from Eon Productions, which began making the Bond movies in 1962. With a lack of film stills, Rubin had to turn to other sources to illustrate his book, including photos from news services.

In a way, at least for me, I had a greater appreciation of what the series had accomplished. The reader got an idea of alternate ideas and concepts that had been considered for different films.

Another key 1980s publication was Raymond Benson’s James Bond Bedside Companion, first published in 1984. It examined both the Fleming novels and the films.

Benson first became a fan in the mid-1960s when Goldfinger came out and Bond had become a phenomenon.

He was not (and still isn’t) a fan of the Roger Moore films that came later for the most part. In a video posted Feb. 20 by The Bond Experience, Benson said: “The movies became something else. They became comedies,” he said. “Once got The Man With the Golden Gun, I was just kind of going, ‘This is not the Bond I know.’…They weren’t my cup of tea.”

Nevertheless, Benson’s interest revived in the early 1980s when both the John Gardner 007 novels began and For Your Eyes Only reached theaters. In the interview, Benson said that’s when he got the idea of doing The James Bond Bedside Companion. “I was really back interested again.”

The book analyzed both the Fleming originals and the films up to that time (a later edition updated the films). In the 1990s, Benson was hired to succeed Gardner as the Bond continuation author. He did both original novels and movie novelizations until 2002.

You can see the Benson interview below.