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

HMSS nominations for underrated 007 moments

What we’re about to discuss aren’t necessarily the *best* James Bond film moments but they may be the most *underrated.* So let’s get right into it:

Most underrated score by somebody not named John Barry: John Barry composed the score for half of Eon Productions Ltd.’s 22 007 movies. He also worked on Dr. No, helping to arrange The James Bond Theme composed by Monty Norman. Barry has earned a special status in the 007 film canon. But what of the other composers in the series?

It’s a hard call. By sheer volume, David Arnold gets notice (the only non-Barry composer to do more than one 007 film). But George Martin, composer of the score for Live And Let Die gets the nod here. Martin, producer of the albums of the Beatles, helped Paul McCartney sell his title song to Eon. And Martin made use of the song by Paul and Linda Martney in his score. It may not be the best non-Barry 007 score, but Martin’s score is a major plus for Roger Moore’s 007 debut.

Most underrated voice dubbing: Robert Rietty dubbed Adolfo Celi’s Largo in Thunderball, Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and (sort of) Ernst Stavro Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only. Monica Van der Zyl dubbed Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder in Dr. No, and possibly other roles.

However, Shayne Rimmer may get the nod, dubbing a doomed CIA agent in the pre-credits sequence of Live And Let Die. That’s because Rimmer (who had appeared on-screen twice before LALD and would do so again in The Spy Who Love Me is perhaps the least obvious dubbing job.

Most underrated screenwriter not named Richard Maibuam: Maibuam worked on 13 Bond films as a writer. Often his work would get re-written by others but the fact that producer Albert R. Broccoli repeatedly turned to Maibuam indicates the U.S.-born writer (1909-1991) had a special status.

So who earns the most underrated screenwriter title? The Neal Purvis-
Robert Wade duo is a distant second to Maibuam at four films. Tom Mankiewicz has three 007 writing credits (though he may have contributed to two other films on an uncredited basis) and Bruce Feirstein has three Bond film writing credits. Roald Dahl was an accomplished writer but his one Bond screenplay, You Only Live Twice, is a writing equivalent of painting by the numbers.

For the moment, we’ll give the nod (and this is very tentative) to Mankiewicz. His commentary on the DVD of Live And Let Die provides a clinic on how to write a screenplay (you may disagree with his choices but he explains how the choices were made; plus he’s an entertining presecen on DVD documentaries).

Your mileage may vary.