Dr. No’s 60th anniversary Part IV: `The Elegant Venus’

Adapted from a 2012 post

For their first 007 film, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman faced a challenge. Ian Fleming had provided a memorable introduction for Honeychile Ryder in the Dr. No novel.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

The first time Bond sees the novel’s heroine she’s “not quite naked. She wore a broad leather belt around her waist with a hunting knife in a leather sheath at her right hip.” Agent 007 is reminded of “Botticelli’s Venus seen from behind.” The title of chapter is “The Elegant Venus.” The task for Broccoli and Saltzman was to find somebody who could live up to that title.

The producers cast Ursula Andress. Director Terence Young staged her first appearance, coming out of the Carribean in a bikini, rather than naked as in the novel. The scene is one of the most commented aspects of the movie. Young’s technique was simple. Andress (dubbed by Nikki Van der Zyl) walks out of the sea, singing Underneath the Mango Tree. There are no fancy camera angles: first a long shot of Andress, followed by a reaction shot of Sean Connery as Bond, followed by a waist-high shot of Andress.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it made an impact on the audience. Honey doesn’t even appear until after an hour of screen time. Andress, nevertheless, became the first major Bond woman in the series. As noted by the John Cork-directed Inside Dr. No, Ian Fleming was impressed by Andress, even dropping in a mention of the actress into his On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel that he was writing as Dr. No was being filmed.

Decades later, Barbara Broccoli, the current boss of Eon Productions, told the London Evening Standard: “And look at Ursula Andress [emerging from the sea in Dr No]. Yes, she’s the most stunningly beautiful person in the whole world but her look was very different to what had come before. First of all, she had a very athletic body, and she was also incredibly natural — no make-up, no false eyelashes. I think that image of natural beauty is one we appreciate.”

Contrast that with Die Another Day, the 40th anniversary Bond movie in 2002. Director Lee Tamahori tried to emulate the scene from Dr. No with Halle Berry’s Jinx wearing an orange bikini, rather than the white one Andress wore. Tamahori used a couple of slow-motion shots and Berry preens for a moment before she comes out of the ocean. The extra bells and whistles of that scene emphasize how it’s a copy, rather than an original.

NEXT: Ken Adam’s magic

3 Responses

  1. Dr No is full of iconic moments but Ursula’s emergence from the surf, I think ranks 1-2, along with Bond’s famous introduction at the casino baccarat table.
    Yes, Berry’s homage, 40 years later, is just that and no more – a fun, if not a bit cringeworthy, little nod.
    Die Another Day is also marking it’s 20th anniversary this year, along with two other anniversary films, Skyfall (10th) and Tomorrow Never Dies (25th)

  2. The “bikini” was actually a set of female undergarments that the head of wardrobe bought in London, and that she reconstructed into a bikini complete with knife sheath.

  3. And that’s consistent with the character too, who might be inclined to fashion her own bathing suit rather than buy something from a store.

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