Sylvia Trench, an appreciation

Eunice Gayson (as Sylvia Trench), Zena Marshall (as Miss Taro), Sean Connery (as James Bond) and Ursula Andress (as Honey Rider) in a publicity still for Dr. No.

The character of Sylvia Trench, as portrayed by the late Eunice Gayson (1928-2018), has a special place in 007 film lore.

Sylvia was the only Bond woman character (aside from M’s assistant, Miss Moneypenny) to appear in more than one of the Bond films made by Eon Productions. Maud Adams appeared twice as two different characters in the Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy.

Sylvia had less than 20 minutes of screen time combined for Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Still, Sylvia was Bond’s first film on-screen conquest. Or was Bond her conquest? In Dr. No, Sylvia is the one who takes the initiative.

Sylvia Trench wasn’t an Ian Fleming character from his 007 novels. The idea was Sylvia, devised for the films, would be a recurring character. Bond would be rushing out to go on a mission but would, eh, spend some quick time with Sylvia before doing so.

At the same time the basic notion behind Sylvia’s character likely would have gotten old had it gone beyond two films.

How would you put Sylvia into Goldfinger? Asking Bond why he was morose after Jill’s death from being pained with gold paint?

Where would you place Sylvia in Thunderball? “Sorry, Sylvia. I have to go to this health clinic. Maybe I can see you when I get back.”

In You Only Live Twice? Maybe she’s sobbing after Bond has faked his death.

What about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Bond (with George Lazenby replacing Sean Connery) already tosses his hat to Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) at his wedding. It’s a small emotional moment. What would he do for an encore for Sylvia?

The Sylvia Trench character actually helps make the first two 007 films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, special. There’s a fair amount of continuity between the two movies without getting bogged down.

What’s more, Bond’s initial encounter with Sylvia in Dr. No  helps establish a lot about the 007 character in a very tight, economical way. The character, as played by Eunice Gayson, was a key part of that.

So with the passing of Eunice Gayson, let us also remember Sylvia Trench. The character was important to getting the film 007 off the ground. At the same time,  she certainly didn’t overstay her welcome.

Sometimes, less is more. But Sylvia stayed around long enough to have an impact.

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Eunice Gayson, 1st Bond woman, dies at 90

Eunice Gayson in a publicity still.

Eunice Gayson, who played Sylvia Trench, the first Bond woman of the 007 film series, died June 8 at 90.

Gayson’s death was announced by her official Twitter feed.

The British actress played Sylvia Trench in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. The character wasn’t in Ian Fleming’s novels but created for the movies.

When first seen in Dr. No, she’s gambling at the same table as Bond. Sean Connery’s Bond initially isn’t seen to build up his introduction to audiences.

The audience witnesses Sylvia Trench losing twice to Bond. She then arranges to get more funds (“I need another thousand.”).

“I admire your courage, miss…” Bond says.

“Trench, Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, mister..”

“Bond, James Bond,” as the character’s face is finally shown. Later, Sylvia surprises Bond in his apartment only wearing a pajama top.

The casino scene “locates Bond in this exclusive environment of high-stakes gambling, but what’s also interesting is that Sylvia Trench is there as an independent woman,” James Chapman, an academic who has written extensively about Bond, said in a sidebar to a 2012 BBC story.

“She’s the one who comes on to him with a double entendre-laden dialogue,” Chapman said. “”It’s 1962 and right on the cusp of sexual revolution. The scene is saying it’s OK for this woman to be unaccompanied in a casino, picking up men.”

Trench again played Sylvia Trench in From Russia With Love but the character was retired from the series after that.

During her acting career, Gayson also appeared in episodes of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Saint.

Here was the post on Twitter announcing her death.

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UPDATE (9:50 a.m. New York time): Eon Productions issued a statement via Twitter by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson about Gayson’s death. “Our sincere thoughts are with her family.”

A look at some 007 #MeToo moments

#MeToo went viral last year as the result of workplace sexual harassment and assault, a lot of it media related such as now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

With the 25th James Bond film (slowly) in development, there has been speculation about how Bond will be affected by the Me Too movement. We won’t know for some time.

However, certain scenes from previous Bond films were cited in THIS ARTICLE from The Scotsman.

“Almost as soon as Harvey Weinstein’s dressing-gown fell open, and the first gruesome revelations of sexual coercion and assault in Hollywood spilled out, a debate was sparked about the future of Bond,” wrote Aidan Smith of The Scotsman.

With that in mind, here are some Bond movie scenes that get cited in #MeToo conversation.

“Dink, say goodbye to Felix.”

“Man Talk” (Goldfinger, 1964)

After the main titles of Goldfinger, the CIA’s Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) makes contact with Bond (Sean Connery).

Bond is with Dink (Margaret Nolan, who also participated in the main titles as the “Golden Girl” of the title song).

Bond sends Dink on her way saying he has to engage in some “man talk” with Felix. As she walks away, Bond slaps her on her buttocks, accompanied by an Oscar-winning sound effect.

Not something you could do in the 21st century.

“You don’t mean…”

“I’d Lose My Job” (Thunderball, 1965)

Bond (Connery again) is almost killed after Count Lippe sets a device intended to stretch the spine on full speed and the agent is helpless to do anything about it.

Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters), a nurse who had strapped Bond into the machine in the first place, returns early and saves the agent’s life.

As he’s recovering, Bond says somebody will regret this day. He’s referring to Count Lippe but there’s no way for Patricia to know that.

She urges Bond to stay silent or else she could lose her job.

Bond immediately seizes upon the situation. “I suppose my silence could have a price…”

“You don’t mean…”

“Oh, yes…”

According to the stage directions of the script:

The steam rises higher and higher making is even more difficult to see anything at all.

This is probably just as well.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. After having sex with Patricia, Bond gets even with Count Lippe. However, the villain doesn’t meet his demise until it is administered by another SPECTRE operative who figures into our next example.

Interplay between Bond and Fiona in Thunderball.

“Would You Please Give Me Something to Put On?” (Thunderball)

SPECTRE executioner Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) uses her sex appeal as part of her work for the criminal organization.

For example, posing as the “social secretary” for a NATO pilot, she arranges for him to be killed so a SPECTRE double can take his place. This enables SPECTRE to steal two atomic bombs.

Later, Fiona has encountered Bond but finally decides he needs to be eliminated.

She’s naked in a bathtub when Bond enters. “Would you please give me something to put on?” Fiona says. Bond hands her a pair of sandals and sits in a chair.

Not much later, they have sex. After they get dressed, SPECTRE thugs enter the hotel room. Eventually, Bond escapes. Fiona catches up, but she’s killed when one of the thugs tries to shoot Bond.

This is stretching things a bit in terms of #MeToo. Fiona knew exactly what she was doing and sex was part of her M.O. Also, Luciana Paluzzi had played a very similar character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fiona absolutely was a strong, independent character. She just came up short going against Bond.

“I like you better without your Beretta.”

Bond and Severine in Skyfall (2012)

This example is one of the most controversial, certainly among recent 007 films.

Severine (Bérénice Marlohehad been forced into the sex trade at a young age. Bond (Daniel Craig) deduces this from a small tatoo of hers.

She tells Bond her bodyguards will try to kill him as soon as she departs. But in case she survives, she tells Bond the name of the yacht she’ll be on, where to find it and that it will be casting off in an hour.

Severine waits in her cabin, with a bottle of champagne on ice. The yacht casts off. But when she decides to take a shower, Bond is there as naked as she is.

However, for Severine, things go downhill from there. Silva (Javier Bardem) has her roughed up. Later, there’s a William Tell bit where Bond and Silva try to shoot a glass of Scotch off her head. Silva doesn’t bother to really try and just shoots her to death.

Bond fights his way out this and helicopters descend to capture Silva.

Why this is controversial: I’ve seen some fans on 007 message boards compare Bond’s encounter with Severine in the shower to rape. But the shot of Severine with the bottle of champagne on ice suggests she was wanting Bond to get to the yacht.

On the other hand, Bond shows no remorse whatsoever that Severine was killed. After he gets the upper hand, Bond gloats to Silva. But he doesn’t acknowledge Severine’s ultimate sacrifice.

By comparison, both Thunderball (with the death of MI6 agent Paula) and You Only Live Twice (with the death of Japanese agent Aki) depict Bond acknowledging the deaths of the women, which is emphasized by John Barry’s music.

James Bond: The tired franchise?

Daniel Craig

Happy 50th birthday, Daniel Craig. You’re only the second cinematic James Bond to make it to 50, after Roger Moore, while in the employ of Eon Productions.

(Sean Connery had passed his 50th birthday when he did Never Say Never Again, but that 1983 007 film was not part of the Eon series.)

Still, the blog can’t help but remember Craig’s remarks in October 2016 during an event sponsored by The New Yorker magazine.

“There’s no conversation going on (about Bond 25) because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at that time.

When Craig said that, he had worked on the movie Logan Lucky, was getting ready to do a stage production of Othello and had other projects. Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions, was producing that Othello stage production, was planning the film Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. And she had other projects in the pipeline.

Physically tired? No.

Tired of making James Bond movies?

That’s the question.

Bond 25, in its early stages, didn’t seem to be making major changes.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, writers on six 007 films, were hired for a seventh. This was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 press release that said the movie would be released in November 2019 in the United States. This was weeks before Craig, confirmed in August 2017 he was coming back to Bondage.

At this point, Bond 25 is mostly murky. There is no announced distributor and no announced director,

Supposedly, Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer want prestige director Danny Boyle to helm the movie, according to stories last month in Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. If that happens, the choice of Boyle would follow the selections of “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

The Deadline story said Boyle would direct if a new story he devised with John Hodge is used. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter said March 1 that Boyle may direct another film as early as this summer.

Mmuch of Bond 25 is unresolved. What’s also unresolved is how enthusiastic Eon is regarding the film future of 007.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool has been described as a dream project of Barbara Broccoli. It’s not a big box office hit. But it wasn’t intended to be.

As the sixth film Bond celebrates his half century, there’s still a lot to be determined in the film world of 007. One of the most important questions is what does “everybody’s just a bit tired” really mean.

Lewis Gilbert, an appreciation

Lewis Gilbert (right) with Albert R. Broccoli, Roger Moore and Lois Chiles during filming of Moonraker

Lewis Gilbert, coming off producing and directing Alfie (1966), was not the most obvious candidate to direct a James Bond movie.

Alfie was a comedy-drama about the emptiness and consequences from pursuing a lifestyle purely for your own enjoyment. It was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.

You Only Live Twice, the 1967 007 film Gilbert signed on for, by contrast was a huge, sprawling film. It teased the possibility of sending James Bond (Sean Connery) into space. It featured a SPECTRE headquarters inside a volcano, with a squad of Japanese Secret Service ninjas squaring off against the minions of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Subtle, it wasn’t.

Yet, Gilbert, with a varied resume of films, was up to the challenge. The movie did away with the plot of Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel. In its place was a thrill ride.

You Only Live Twice promotional art, which provides an idea of the movie’s spectacle

“Well, I was a bit dubious at first,” Gilbert said on an installment of Whicker’s World, the BBC documentary series while the movie was in production in Japan.

“I must say in this case the two of them (producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman), they’ve been wonderful. They’ve let me come in with any ideas that could improve the Bond.

“I don’t think there’s anything on this picture that I could ask for that hasn’t been given,” the director continued. “I said today, ‘Look, I want 5,000 people flown in from Tokyo, I’m sure they would be flown in.”

You Only Live Twice, the fifth film in the series, was a success despite how the 1960s spy craze was starting to wane. A decade later, Broccoli — his partnership with Saltzman now dissolved — came calling again.

This time, the project was The Spy Who Loved Me, the third 007 film with Roger Moore. The franchise was at a crossroads. The previous entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, had a falloff in the box office compared with Moore’s Bond debut, Live And Let Die.

Gilbert brought something of a fresh set of eyes having been away from Bond for so long. He decided Spy should play to Moore’s strengths and not have the actor try to copy Sean Connery.

Again, the movie would be epic: A tanker swallowed British, Soviet and U.S. submarines. A megalomaniac villain (Curt Jurgens) was out to end civilization and start over. Subtle it wasn’t.

At the same time, there was a moment of drama when Bond’s Moore admits to Soviet agent Anya (Barabara Bach) that he killed her lover while on a mission. It was a scene that caught a viewer’s attention amid the spectacle.

Spy was a huge success, revitalizing the series. So it was natural that Broccoli brought Gilbert back to direct Moonraker. The showman producer intended the film would be extravagant.

This time, a Bond film would complete was had been teased in Twice — Bond would go into space for a final showdown with another megalomaniac villain, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale).

The plot of Gilbert’s three Bond adventures are undeniably similar. But the spectacle overwhelms such concerns during viewing. It’s only until the films are over that fans debate such concerns.

When Gilbert emerged from Bondage, he continued directing, working into his 80s.

When news of his death emerged on Tuesday (he had died late last week at the age of 97), a new generation of directors expressed admiration for his work.

“RIP Lewis Gilbert, the great British director who, among his 40 plus credits, directed ‘Alfie’, ‘Educating Rita’, ‘Reach For The Sky’, ‘Shirley Valentine’ and one of my very favourite Bond films: ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’,” Edgar Wright, the director of Baby Driver, wrote on Twitter. ‘”Why’d you have to be so good?”‘

“Lewis Gilbert, director of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER, has passed away,” Peyton Reed, the director of 2015’s Ant-Man wrote, also in a Twitter post. “SPY was the first Bond film I saw in the theater. (And I have a tiny homage to MOONRAKER in ANT-MAN AND THE WASP.) Rest in Peace.”

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.”

Eon’s new normal (cont.): Q’s comments analyzed

Publicity still of Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

So, this week, actor Ben Whishaw, Q in the two most recent James Bond movies, made a few comments to Metro which were deemed news about Bond 25.

“I haven’t had an update for a while. I would imagine, I think they have a release date for next year, so I think by the end of this year we have to have started filming something,” Whishaw was quoted by the website. “Although it has gone strangely quiet, but that’s often the way it goes.”

This was analyzed by Birth. Movies. Death (“Q Is Standing by for BOND 25“) and Screen Rant (“Ben Whishaw Expects Bond 25 To Begin Filming Later This Year“).

And, yes, it was news, at least of a sort. Neither Eon Productions (which makes Bond movies) nor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which controls half of the 007 franchise) have said a whole lot for months. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of a news blackout, a nugget becomes news.

It’s another reminder about Eon’s new normal. The Bond franchise has franchise has transitioned from being a film series to more like occasional events not on a set schedule.

In the 1970s, even 1980s, it probably wouldn’t have been much of a story if Desmond Llewelyn, the longest-serving film Q, commented about an upcoming film.

Imagine in that time period if Llewelyn said, “I guess they’re getting ready. They have a release date. So they’d have to start filming something before too long.” That wouldn’t have been a blip.

Also, consider this line from the Screen Rant story: “Whishaw may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Ralph Fiennes (M) or Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In the 1970s, the equivalent would have been: “Llewelyn may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Bernard Lee (M) or Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In those days, it’s not a question a lot of people would have been asking. The show was James Bond and whoever was playing him. Connery is back! (Diamonds Are Forever) Who will be the new Bond? Can Roger Moore make it as the new Bond? (Live And Let Die)

This isn’t a complaint. The world is as it is. And Eon’s new normal is what it is.