Dr. No’s 50th anniversary part IV: `The Elegant Venus’

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 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 Monica 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, but 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.

A half-century later, Barbara Broccoli, the current co-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

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station. As noted in a reader comment below, she was holding a clipboard. But she’s neither helpless nor ditzy.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

How British are Jaguar and Land Rover?

A publication called Car magazine has a story about how the Land Rover Defender will appear in Skyfall. Here’s a passage:

Land Rover Defender

(Skyfall co-producer Andrew) Noakes says the production company, EON, is delighted with the support of Jaguar-Land Rover. ‘The films may be made with American money and producers, but James Bond is British and we try to make associations with British companies. Land Rover is one of the oldest and most well-known. We’ve had offers from other companies but we’d prefer not to take James Bond out of a British environment.’

It’d probably be more accurate to call Jaguar-Land Rover a British subsidiary of an Indian company. The brands are owned by Mumbai, India-based Tata Motors Ltd., which acquired them in 2008. Jaguar hasn’t been British *owned* since 1989, when it was acquired by Ford Motor Co. Land Rover hasn’t been British owned since it was bought by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, better known as BMW, in 1994. BMW sold Land Rover to Ford in 2000. Ford sold both brands to Tata four years ago.

While they still emphasize their British heritage, Jaguar and Land Rover aren’t really part of a British company. Models are still made in the U.K. (though Motor Trend wrote last month the Defender may be built in India.)

Then again, the literary Bond preferred Bentley, a brand that has been owned by Volkswagen AG since 1998.

A decade ago, Ford had a product placement deal with Eon Productions where Die Another Day would feature the European luxury brands the U.S. company then owned, including Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. Die Another Day also included a Ford Thunderbird (since discontinued) which was driven briefly by Jinx (Halle Berry). Prior to that, BMW had provided cars for Bond in Pierce Brosnan’s first three 007 films.

In 2006’s Casino Royale, a Ford Mondeo, a model sold in Europe and not the U.S., appeared as did an Aston Martin model, both driven by Daniel Craig. Ford sold off Aston the following year. Ford models appeared in 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Skyfall is emphasizing Tata’s U.K. models and the nearly half-century-old Aston Martin DB5, which originally appeared in Goldfinger. The DB5 has been making appearances periodically in the series since 1995’s GoldenEye (including Casino Royale, as a car Bond wins in a poker game).

ZOO’s Top 10 Sexiest Bond Girls

British-based ZOO.com has a list of their picks for the top 10 sexiest of the James Bond girls.  Whether or not you agree with the list, the piece is striking in that it features some pretty rare photographs of the women in question.  The one of the perpetually underappreciated Mie Hama (Kissy Suzuki of You Only Live Twice) being a prime example.

Check out ZOO for the photos.