007 in New York (exhibition) opens in March

Skyfall’s poster image

Driven: 007 x Skyscape, a New York James Bond exhibition, will open on March 8, the official James Bond film Twitter feed announced today.

Here’s the description from the website of Spyscape, a New York spy museum:

Discover 007 from a different perspective in this brand new exhibition. The multi-sensory experience explores the creative process behind the 007 movies while revealing the secrets of James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin DB5.

Investigate gadgets in Q’s lab, examine original concept art in Oscar®-winning Production Designer Sir Ken Adam’s studio and peek behind the scenes of Skyfall’s explosive finale.

The exhibition originally was announced in December, with details yet to come. American Express cardholders can buy tickets starting today through Jan. 30 ahead of the general public.

Irony of the day: Daniel Craig’s training regimen for Bond 25

Daniel Craig’s 007 enjoys a few (hic) Vespers.

In Ian Fleming’s novels and short stories, James Bond was known to smoke as many as 70 cigarettes a day and gulp down double bourbons (followed by martinis and pink champagne) not to mention having 11 whiskeys and soda while paying a friendly game a bridge.

Meanwhile, the Mirror, weighs in with a story that begins thusly:

Daniel Craig may well be gasping for a vodka martini after a strict regime to ensure he is fighting fit for his next outing as 007.

With seven weeks till he begins shooting Bond 25, I hear he has been shunning booze and calorie-rich food at this week’s ­Hollywood bashes to stay trim.

The star, 50, even skipped the BAFTA Tea Party at the Four Seasons – babysitting his four-month-old daughter in a suite upstairs while wife Rachel Weisz had some fun.

The cinematic Bond hasn’t had a cigarette since Timothy Dalton retired from the role after 1989’s Licence to Kill. But he’s had plenty of booze, even if it was far less than the literary Bond.

All of this, of course, has been part of the 007 film fantasy. The literary Bond’s drinking and smoking habits mirrored his creator, who died at the age of 56 on Aug. 12, 1964 — just before the Bond phenomenon took off.

In 2012’s Skyfall, Craig’s chiseled 007 supposedly is on his last legs. There’s a scene where he can’t finish doing chin ups.

Granted, Craig’s appearance likely was the result of a training program. But viewers of the film don’t see that. They have to draw their own conclusions. That’s similar to the stars of recent super hero movies (Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and others) who underwent similar training before the cameras rolled.

The Mirror story passes for 007 news these days. When production starts on Bond 25, the situation will change.

Forever and a Day: Mixing 1950 with 2018

U.K. cover image for Forever and a Day, Anthony Horwitz’s second James Bond continuation novel.

Yes, there are spoilers. Stop reading if you don’t want to see them.

Art reflects the time when it was produced. So it is with Forever and a Day, the second James Bond continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz. The story mixes a 1950 setting with 2018 sensibilities.

When the novel was announced, Ian Fleming Publications emphasized how it would be a prequel to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. (Horowitz’s first Bond novel, 2015’s Trigger Mortis, was set in 1957 after the events of Goldfinger.)

Specifically, IFP’s marketing emphasized how the new novel would show Bond being promoted to the Double-O section and depict his first mission with the code number 007.

Horowitz’s story emphasizes the time period. It’s just five years after World War II ended and there’s plenty of uncertainty. The reader is treated to a bit of M’s philosophy in managing the Double-O section and how it reflects what’s occurring in 1950.

At the same time, there is a 2018 mind-set present.

The female lead, Joanne Brochet, aka Sixtine, aka Madame 16, is introduced as a mysterious character. Before the novel ends, she’s like a more subtle version (at least in personal style) of Jinx from the Eon 007 film Die Another Day. Just to be clear, Sixtine is a much more developed character than Jinx. But they’re comparable in their abilities to inflict death.

By the time I finished the novel, I imagined what it would be like if Sixtine were a character in an Eon 007 movie. She’s Bond’s equal in every way. She takes her destiny in her own hands. She’s not passive.

In Forever and a Day, it turns out Sixtine is even better at killing than Bond is. She makes clear to Bond they will only make love on her terms. And she’s older than Bond.

Bond himself changes because of their relationship. When he first meets Sixtine, there’s this passage: “She was about ten years older than him and, for Bond, that made her at least fifteen years too old to be truly desirable.” The agent feels considerably differently when they part ways.

Horowitz utilizes two villains. With one, Horowitz describes Fleming-style physical characteristics. It’s a Horowitz take on a classic trope. The other villain, however, reflects current-day U.S. politics despite the 1950 setting This occurs when this character gives his “big villain speech.”

Just to be clear, I enjoy big villain speeches when done well. The one Horowitz writes keeps you reading. But I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to what’s happening in 2018 with talk (via the villain) of why the U.S. should be more isolationist.

One other note: Whether intentional or not (my guess is not), the plot of the villains has a strong resemblance to a villain’s plot in a certain Roger Moore 007 film. The dynamics aren’t identical. The movie villain expects to get even richer; Horowitz’s villain expects the opposite but is doing it for a far different reason.

This, of course, doesn’t figure into the theme of 2018 creeping into Horowitz’s 1950 tale. But it is there.

Happy holidays 2018 from The Spy Command

Our annual greeting

The accompanying graphic has been the blog’s annual Christmas/holiday season greeting since 2011. It’s a tradition and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack (1957-2017). It’s just one sample of his artistic handiwork. He designed it when the blog was part of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (1997-2014).

To the blog’s readers: Thanks for being here. If you’ve got some time off, enjoy it.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone.

Marion ‘Oatsie’ Charles, Ian Fleming friend, dies at 99

Marion “Oatsie” (Leiter) Charles

Marion “Oatsie” (Leiter) Charles, a friend of Ian Fleming who helped inspire the surname of Felix Leiter, died earlier this month, according to an obituary in The Washington Post.

She died on Dec. 5 at the age of 99, the newspaper said. The Post described her as “among the last of the grande dames of Georgetown and Newport, R.I.,… She broke bread with President John F. Kennedy and drank with spy novelist Ian Fleming.”

She married Thomas Leiter in 1942, who she later divorced.

Here’s an excerpt from The Post’s obituary about the creator of James Bond.

During World War II, she made a passing acquaintance of Fleming, the future author of the James Bond British spy novels. They met again in Jamaica in the winter of 1949 during the social season there.

“I’d gone to a party, and a great friend of mine was very much in love with Ian, or thought she was,” she recounted to a Fleming website. “And he was treating her in the most atrocious way. And with the arrogance of youth, I walked up to Mr. Fleming when I was introduced to him and said, ‘Mr. Fleming, I consider you’re a cad.’

“And he looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. Leiter, you’re indeed right. Shall we have a drink on it?’ ”

She said she was taken aback by his charm, and they became friends. When Fleming published his first Bond novel, “Casino Royale,” in 1953, he partially named the CIA agent, Felix Leiter, after her husband.

John Cork, director of a number of James Bond documentaries for home video, wrote a story for the website of Ian Fleming Publications (the same one cited in The Post obit) about Charles.

It described Fleming attending a 1960 dinner party at John Kennedy’s home in Washington. The future president invited Fleming after seeing him with Marion Charles. Others present at the dinner party were Joseph Alsop, a columnist “and part-time CIA operative” and John Bross, a future deputy director the agency, according to Cork’s article.

At the gathering Fleming was asked for ideas for how the U.S. might deal with Fidel Castro in Cuba. One of Fleming’s ideas was for the CIA to drop leaflets promoting the notion “that nuclear fallout was collecting in men’s beards” on the island nation, Cork wrote. Men wearing beards would become impotent. That would prompt men to shave their beards, and beards had become part of the image of the Castro revolution.

Marion Charles was interviewed for some of the Cork-directed documentaries.

UPDATE (6:50 p.m. New York time): I rewatched the Cork-directed Ian Fleming biography documentary that’s on the home video release of The Living Daylights. In it, Charles provided this anecdote:

“I think I made Ian Fleming in a curious way. Jack Kennedy rang me up one morning and said, ‘Oats I’m sick. Have you anything to read?’ ‘Yes, so you like spy stories?'”

The book, according to the documentary, was From Russia With Love. That book, in 1961, turned up in a list of Kennedy’s ten favorite books published in Life magazine. That, in turn, greatly helped sales of Fleming’s novels in the United States.

007 in New York: Bond exhibition announced

Skyfall’s poster image

A James Bond exhibition will be held in New York City some time in early 2019, according to an announcement posted on Eon Productions’ official 007 website.

The exhibition is being organized by Spyscape, a New York spy museum, Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. An excerpt from the short announcement:

The exhibition will be held at SPYSCAPE’s 60,000 square foot HQ in midtown. SPYSCAPE is open every day for would be secret agents to discover their Spy Role and receive their own personalised Spy Profile developed by top psychologists and a former Head of Training for British Intelligence.

Spyscape describes itself as providing “a fun and fascinating outing for friends and families…SPYSCAPE was developed by a world-class team of curators, designers, gamers, hackers, intelligence professionals, investigative journalists and psychologists – who all want to inspire you!”

Spyscape has set up a registration page “for early access to information and tickets for our new 007 exhibition & experience.” No information, for now, on precise dates.

UPDATE (1:50 p.m. New York time): Reader (and sometimes guest writer) Gert Waterink posted on Facebook there have been previous 007 exhibitions in New York. His example: A 1987 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art featuring donations from Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

UPDATE II (2:30 p.m. New York time): The Bond experience produced a video about Spyscape in April. Here it is.

About those James Bond alcohol studies

Daniel Craig’s 007 enjoys a few (hic) Vespers.

There’s nothing like using a popular entertainment figure (James Bond) to draw attention to a serious subject (alcohol abuse).

This month saw a study about Bond’s alcohol consumption in the 24 Eon Productions films get a lot of publicity.

That study, published by the Medical Journal of Australia may have sounded familiar to 007 fans. Its conclusions were pretty much the same as a 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal about the literary Bond.

Summary of the 2018 study: “James Bond has a severe chronic alcohol problem. He should consider seeking professional help and find other strategies for managing on-the-job stress.”

Summary of the 2013 study: “James Bond’s level of alcohol intake puts him at high risk of multiple alcohol related diseases and an early death. The level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol.”

The new study says Bond has 109 “drinking events” in the 24 Eon films combined, or more than 4.5 per movie.

According to the 2013 study, the literary 007 puts his cinematic twin to shame. “After exclusion of days when Bond was unable to drink, his weekly alcohol consumption was 92 units a week, over four times the recommended amount. His maximum daily consumption was 49.8 units. He had only 12.5 alcohol free days out of 87.5 days on which he was able to drink.”

That was based on an analysis of the Ian Fleming novels and short stories. The Spy Who Loved Me novel was excluded because ” as it is written in the first person by a waitresses involved with the criminal underworld, and Bond appears for only eight hours as a peripheral figure.” The collection of the Octopussy and The Living Daylights short stories was excluded ” as it is not one coherent detailed story.”

While writing about a serious subject, the two studies do engage in a bit of humor now and then.

2013 study: “In fact, the author Ian Fleming died aged 56 of heart disease after a life notable for alcohol and tobacco excess. We suspect that Bond’s life expectancy would be similar…We conclude that James Bond was unlikely to be able to stir his drinks, even if he would have wanted to, because of likely alcohol induced tremor.”

2018 study: “Similarly, the workplace culture needs to change; to start with, M should no longer offer Bond drinks in workplace settings. Further, MI6 management needs to redefine Bond’s job to reduce his stress levels. More field support and a stronger team approach are needed so that his duties do not weigh as heavily upon him. This may reduce his need to take excessive individual responsibility for mission success, and lessen his drive to pursue missions when off duty (ie, as a rogue agent) and personal vendettas.”

A final thought: When you’re an academic, getting your research published in scientific journals is important. This may not be the last time that 007’s drinking habits become part of academic studies.