Connery in Oscar In Memoriam

Sean Connery in From Russia With Love

Sean Connery, who died in October at the age of 90, was prominently featured in the “In Memoriam” segment of the 93rd Oscars.

The Scottish-born actor won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Untouchables. He had a long career that included being the first screen James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No. He played the character seven times, in six movies made by Eon Productions and 1983’s Never Say Never Again in 1983, which wasn’t part of the Eon series.

Connery was shown near the end of the segment in a still from Goldfinger.

Diana Rigg, who also died in 2020, was also part of the “In Memoriam” segment. Rigg was a versatile actress who appeared in films, television and the stage. Earlier this month, the U.K.’s BAFTA left Rigg out from the “In Memoriam” segment of its movie show. The organization said Rigg would be part of its television awards show later this year.

Rigg played Tracy, James Bond’s ill-fated bride in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She was also famous for playing Emma Peel on The Avengers television show in the 1960s.

Others with Bond connections featured in the segment included Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kanaga in Live And Let Die), director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) and production designer Peter Lamont.

Also, after Chloe Zhoa won the Oscar for best director (Nomadand), the theme from Live And Let Die (1973) played.

UPDATE: Others included in the segment were veteran actor Max Von Sydow, whose many roles included Blofeld in Never Say Never Again; stunt driver and performer Remy Julienne; actor Earl Cameron, who appeared in Thunderball; and actress Helen McCrory, who appeared in Skyfall.

However, Honor Blackman, who died in August at the age of 95, wasn’t included. She played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Also not included was actress Tanya Roberts (A View to a Kill), who died in January at age 65.

UPDATE II (April 26): Also not making the cut was French actor Michael Lonsdale, who played Drax in Moonraker.

Here is the segment:

Spy entertainment in memoriam

In the space of 12 months — Dec. 18, 2019 to Dec. 18, 2020 — a number of spy entertainment figures passed away. The blog just wanted to take note. This is not a comprehensive list.

Dec. 18, 2019: Claudine Auger, who played Domino in Thunderball (1965), dies.

Jan. 8, 2020: Buck Henry, acclaimed screenwriter and co-creator of Get Smart (with Mel Brooks), dies.

Feb. 8, 2020: Anthony Spinner, veteran writer-producer, dies. His credits include producing the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and a 1970s version of The Saint.

Feb. 8, 2020: Robert Conrad, star of The Wild Wild West and A Man Called Sloane, dies.

March 8, 2020: Actor Max von Sydow dies. His many credits playing a villain in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Blofeld in Never Say Never Again (1983).

April 5, 2020: Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale in The Avengers and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), dies.

Sept. 1, 2020: Arthur Wooster, second unit director of photography on multiple James Bond movies, dies.

Sept. 10, 2020: Diana Rigg, who played Emma Peel in The Avengers and Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), dies.

Sept. 21, 2020: Michael Lonsdale, veteran French actor whose credits included playing the villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979), dies.

Oct. 5, 2020: Margaret Nolan, who was the model for the main titles of Goldfinger and appeared in the film as Dink, dies.

Oct. 31, 2020: Sean Connery, the first film James Bond, dies. He starred in six Bond films made by Eon productions and a seventh (Never Say Never Again) made outside Eon.

Dec. 12, 2020: David Cornwell, who wrote under the pen name John le Carre, dies. Many of his novels were adapted as movies and mini-series.

Dec. 18, 2020: Peter Lamont, who worked in the art department of many James Bond films, including production designer from 1981-2006 (excluding 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies), dies.

About a possible ‘in memoriam’ title card for NTTD

No Time to Die poster

For a long time, James Bond fans have debated whether No Time to Die should have some kind of “in memoriam” title card for Roger Moore (1927-2017), the first film Bond in the Eon series to pass away.

In the past year, Father Time has caught up with the 007 film series. Sean Connery, the first film Bond, died in October. Before that, actresses who played the lead female characters in the Eon series (Claudine Auger, Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg) all passed away.

And this week, news came of the death of a major contributor, art department stalwart Peter Lamont, who worked on 18 Eon-made Bond films, at age 91.

That’s just for openers. Ken Adam, whose set designs on 007 Bond films established the look of 007 movies, died in 2016 at the age of 95.

So should No Time to Die have some kind of major “in memoriam” title card?

The Bond film series doesn’t do this very often. The end titles of GoldenEye noted the passing of special effects wizard Derek Meddings, who had worked on that film. But it didn’t note the deaths of Richard Maibaum (a 13-time Bond screenwriter) or Maurice Binder, who designed many Bond main titles.

1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies noted the death of Albert R. Broccoli, who co-founded Eon.

What would a big “in memoriam” title card look like?

Here in the U.S., there was a long-running Western series titled Gunsmoke (1955-75). In 1987, there was a reunion TV movie called Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge. In the end titles, there was a mammoth “in memoriam” title card noting key crew and cast members who had died in the intervening years.

Would such a thing even be a possibility for No Time to Die? Hard to say. It hasn’t been that much of an issue until now.

The nature of fandom

Daniel Craig as James Bond

The past few weeks have been rough for James Bond fans. They’ve witnessed the passing of key actors such as Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Michael Lonsdale.

All three had long careers that extended beyond James Bond films. But some Bond fans say something to the effect that they represent OUR Pussy Galore, OUR Tracy, OUR Drax.

However, fans of The Avengers TV series might counter something like, yes but that’s OUR Cathy Gale or OUR Emma Peel.

This extends beyond Bond fandom.

I’ve seen some fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. say having an American and a Russian as partners was BIG AND BOLD.

Meanwhile, fans of the original I Spy television series counter that having a White and a Black man as equal partners was a lot more controversial in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Undoubtedly, there are many other examples. Many fans, though, don’t want to examine all that. They are concerned with their fandom. No more, no less.

No criticism is intended in any of this. It’s the way of the world. It’s also the nature of fandom.

Honor Blackman dies at 94

Goldfinger/Dr. No double feature poster featuring images of Honor Blackman, Ursula Andress, and Sean Connery

Honor Blackman, who made an impression with audiences as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, has died at 94, The Guardian reported.

She “died of natural causes unrelated to coronavirus,” the newspaper said.

Blackman’s Pussy Galore was the lead female character in the 1964 Bond film that turned the gentleman agent into a global phenomenon.

She made her mark in his very first scene. Sean Connery’s Bond sees Pussy Galore’s face after waking up from a drugged dart.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Pussy Galore,” she responds.

“I must be dreaming,” Bond says.

In the film, Blackman’s character is working as the personal pilot for Auric Goldfinger. She tells Bond that the agent can “turn off the charm” because she’s “immune.” It was a veiled reference to how the character was a lesbian in Ian Fleming’s original 1959 novel.

Pussy Galore displays judo skills, capturing Bond after he’s been observing Goldfinger conducting a briefing about Operation Grand Slam. This sets up a later scene where the two characters throw each other around before Bond gets on top of her. As the scene ends, she is enthusiastically kissing him but for some audience members, it’s too close to rape.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” director Guy Hamilton said on a commentary track for a Criterion laserdisc that was recalled. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

The movie helped launch the 1960s spy craze, Within a year of Goldfinger’s release there were new spy TV shows such as I Spy (relatively realistic spies), The Wild Wild West (spies in the Old West) and Get Smart (comedy spies). Other spy film series, such as Matt Helm and Derek Flint would go into production.

Prior to Goldfinger, Blackman played Cathy Gale on The Avengers. Like Pussy Galore, the character was independent. After Blackman’s departure, Diana Rigg came aboard as Emma Peel.

One episode depicts John Steed (Patrick Macnee) receiving a card from Cathy Gale. He wonders aloud why it was sent from Fort Knox. Both Rigg and Macnee would later appear in Bond films (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and A View to a Kill respectively).

Blackman’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 100 acting credits. One of the highlights, for American audiences, was a 1972 Columbo episode, Dagger of the Mind.

The story was set in London and featured Blackman and Richard Basehart as Shakespearean actors who commit murder. Unfortunately for them, Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) happens to be in London and assists Scotland Yard in the case.

UPDATE (1:50 p.m., New York time): The official social media accounts of Eon Productions published a tribute to Blackman.

 

Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

(snip)
The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

Uncomfortable moments in early 007 films

Close captioned image from Dr. No

Over the past few days, there have been three stories (in LAD Bible, the Daily Mail and the Express) about how millennials (people becoming adults in the early 21st century) find early James Bond films lacking.

The stories rely heavily on posts on Twitter from those who complain that Bond is a rapist or comes across as “rapey.” There are also complaints about racism as well.

But many of the tweets don’t get into specifics. With that in mind, here are some scenes that might be generating that reaction.

In selecting these three examples, they’re about Bond himself. In the stories linked above, some of the posters on Twitter objected to, for example, Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), who appeared in Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The sheriff clearly was racist, but was devised by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz for the audience to laugh at and ridicule.

“Fetch my shoes” (Dr. No): While on Crab Key, Bond (Sean Connery) instructs Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) to, “Fetch my shoes.”

Quarrel, a Jamaican native, had been assisting MI6 operative Strangways. The latter’s disappearance spurred M to assign Bond to find out what happened to Strangways. That put him on the trail of Dr. No.

Anyway, Bond telling Quarrel to “fetch” his shoes wasn’t a major plot point. Bond, Quarrel and Honey are getting ready to hide out in Crab Key.

While Bond’s line doesn’t have good optics in the 21st century, it wasn’t so great in the 1960s, either. The U.S. civil rights movement already was well underway. The Montgomery bus boycott began in December 1955.

In 2014, a website called The Complainist  did a detailed analysis of Dr. No. Concerning “Fetch my shoes,” it said the following:

“Oh goddammit. Fetch you’re own shoes JB. Gross. Gross gross gross.”

Bond and Kerim laugh lecherously (From Russia With Love): In From Russia With Love, Connery’s Bond is talking to Pedro Armandariz’s Kerim about whether Tatiana’s offer to deliver a Soviet decoding machine is genuine.

Bond and Kerim enjoy a laugh together in From Russia With Love

Kerim is skeptical. “My friend, she has you dangling.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Bond replies. “All I want is that Lektor.”

“All? Are you sure that’s all you want?”

“Well…” Bond says. The two then laugh lecherously for about five seconds before we cut to the next scene.

The thing is, this is a big difference from Ian Fleming’s novel. Bond was afraid he might actually be falling for Tatiana. In the film, at least in this scene, there isn’t nearly as much emotion involved. It’s an example of the different worldview of the novels and films.

Bond’s roll in the hay with Pussy (Goldfinger): This is likely the source of the “rapist” and “rapey” comments.

Auric Goldfinger instructs Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) to show Bond around his horse farm to reassure CIA agents who are keeping an eye on the place.

Bond and Pussy eventually go inside a barn. They demonstrate their skills in self defense. After Bond throws Pussy to the ground, the agent says, “Now, let’s both play.”

Pussy resists for a while before embracing Bond.

Bond tries to secure Pussy’s cooperation in Goldfinger.

As depicted in the film, she appears to have been wooed over by Bond but it’s not until the very end of the scene.

It’s not just millenials who’ve commented about this sequence over the years. I’ve had discussions with first-generation 007 film fans who feel the scene gets very close to rape.

Just a year later, in Thunderball, the filmmakers allude to Goldfinger. Bond has gone to bed with SPECTRE killer Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). But she stays loyal to SPECTRE.

“What a blow it must have been,” she says to Bond.

“Well, you can’t win them all,” Bond says.

In the 1990s, director Guy Hamilton recorded comments about the film for a Criterion laserdisc home release that got recalled.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” the director said on the commentary track. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

Patrick Macnee dies at 93, BBC says

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Macnee, debonair actor best known for playing John Steed on The Avengers, died today at 93, according to the BBC, WHICH CITED MACNEE’S SON RUPERT.

There was also a statement ON THE ACTOR’S WEBSITE that said Macnee “died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California…with his family at his bedside.”

Macnee enjoyed a long career, playing dozens of characters. Still, The Avengers and his character of John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, became Macnee’s career trademark. The show first went into production in 1961. Its greatest popularity came when he was paired with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

The actor saw two of his co-stars — Honor Blackman and Rigg — leave the series to take the lead female role in James Bond movies (Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Another Majesty’s actress, Joanna Lumley, was Macnee’s co-star in a 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Macnee finally got his turn at a Bond movie, A View to a Kill, in 1985, playing an ally of Bond (Roger Moore) who is killed by henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee, years earlier, had played Dr. Watson to Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in a made-for-television movie. Macnee also made a properly dignified chief of U.N.C.L.E. in 1983’s The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: For the second time this month (Christopher Lee’s death was the other), Roger Moore bids adieu to a colleague:

Groundhog Day: 007, U.N.C.L.E. fan comments

SPECTRE teaser poster

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE teaser poster

Like the movie Groundhog Day, some things in spy fandom happen over and over.

In the James Bond world, even though Daniel Craig was cast as 007 almost a decade ago, you can still find fan debates about the 47-year-old actor.

For example, a story IN THE U.K. MIRROR reported Honor Blackman said that Craig, and not Sean Connery was now the best film Bond.

“I’m sorry to say he’s a better actor – but I think Sean would acknowledge that,” the Mirror quoted Blackman, who played Pussy Galore oppose Connery in Goldfinger. “I think Dan is terrific. He’s capable of so much more.”

Naturally, on social media, Craig fans and supporters noted the story and got into it with critics of the actor.  It happens the other way round, of course, when someone famous — say Ursula Andress in a DAILY MAIL STORY — says Craig isn’t the best Bond (“‘Hes a great actor, but not James Bond.”) Fan critics seize on comments such as that and try to rub it in the nose of Craig fans.

Then again, maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. There are still 007 fans who harshly criticize Roger Moore — who hasn’t done a Bond movie in 30 years — for taking too light a tone with his Bond films.

At the same time, Blackman’s comments were totally comfort food for 007 fans.

“Now it’s no longer like Ian Fleming, it’s more like The Bourne Identity,” Blackman said about current Bond movies. “It’s a different kind of film.” A lot of Bond fans don’t like the comparison with the Bourne films.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

Meanwhile, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. continue to have variations on a the same theme: Namely, should a movie version of the 1964-68 spy show have been made at all?

There are some fans of the original show who never wanted it made in the first place and view it as garbage four months before it’s due out in theaters.

Among the reasons: it changes the U.N.C.L.E. timeline (the movie depicts the beginning of U.N.C.L.E. in 1963, whereupon in the show it began sometime shortly after World War II); there’s no way the stars (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) can possibly compare to Robert Vaughn and David McCallum); and the movie has lost the “everyman” dynamic of the show because it with two leads over 6-feet tall, including the 6-foot-5 Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, originally played by the 5-foot-7 McCallum.

As details dribble out, such as the movie Solo has a history as an art thief, that debate intensifies.

Nevertheless, other U.N.C.L.E. fans, having gone without an official U.N.C.L.E. production since a 1983 television movie, are looking forward to the film and want to give it a chance.

Both are spy entertainment’s version of Groundhog Day. No doubt somebody will again gear up one or the other debate sooner than later.

Brian Clemens, mastermind of The Avengers, dies

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Brian Clemens, a mastermind of the television series The Avengers, has died, according to an obituary on the INQUISITR WEBSITE.

Clemens, born in 1931, had a lengthy career as a writer and producer. But he is perhaps best known for his work on The Avengers (1961-69) and The New Avengers (1976-77).

In a 2008 U.K. television interview, Clemens said The Avengers “had a curious logic all its own.” Ideas that might work elsewhere could work on The Avengers, he said. “The Avengers had unwritten rules” which were “in my head,” Clemens said.

Of suave John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, Clemens said in 2008: “He is the manipulator of the all the girls he’s ever been associated with. He gets them into situations for his own benefit.”

Eon Productions, maker of the James Bond film series, used The Avengers as a farm club. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers, was signed to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. After bringing aboard Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, the series even made a joke about Mrs. Gale sending Steed a card from Fort Knox.

Rigg, of course, ended up playing Tracy, Bond’s doomed bride, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Macnee finally made his 007 appearance in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Going the other way, Joanna Lumley, who had a small part in Majesty’s, was the female lead in The New Avengers.

Here’s the 2008 interview with Clemens: