For a guy who’s pushing 60 years old, James Bond is going as strong as ever. Maybe even stronger. And he’s about to flex his muscles in Skyfall, his 23rd motion picture.
In 1953, Ian Fleming published Casino Royale. It was to be the first in one of the most successful series in publishing history. It also led to one of the most profitable English language movie franchises, only surpassed by a young bespectacled wizard named Harry. (Interesting that the most popular heroes in movies are both British.)
Calling on his experience in British naval intelligence, Fleming created James Bond, the British Secret Service agent. Larger than life, Bond is not only a tough, brilliant agent, he seems unconquerable in all that he does. Over the years, he’s fought the most diabolical, megalomaniacal villains and faced vicious henchmen and indestructible weapons – and always emerges victorious. And do I even need mention that women find him irresistible?
The incredible popularity of the James Bond novels naturally got the attention of the film industry. Americans were the first to jump in, adapting Casino Royale for TV in 1954. Starring Barry Nelson, British spy James Bond became American spy Jimmy Bond. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. Then, in 1962, the first of the Bond movies was released. Dr. No was a big success, making its Scottish star Sean Connery a household name and an enduring favorite. In fact, even 50 years later, Connery consistently ranks as the most popular Bond.
When Connery left the series, Australian actor George Lazenby took the role for only one movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Connery himself returned for one more film, Diamonds Are Forever. Then Roger Moore, an English actor popular on TV as The Saint, began his tenure as Bond, making seven films before leaving the series.
Enter Timothy Dalton. Part English, part American, Dalton was first approached to play James Bond after Connery exited. Only in his mid-20s and feeling that he was too young, Dalton declined the role. By the time Moore left, the producers were interested in Pierce Brosnan, an Irish actor working in America. When Brosnan was unable to join the franchise, Dalton won the part, portraying Bond in two movies.
Finally Pierce Brosnan was able to take on the role of Bond. Brosnan’s popularity brought new life to the franchise and he made four very successful films before deciding to leave the series. A well-publicized search was on for the new James Bond, with the role finally going to English actor Daniel Craig.
Craig’s entry into the franchise gave us a reboot to the series, ignoring all previous adventures seen on the screen – although Judi Dench, playing Bond’s superior ‘M’, made the transition from Brosnan to Craig. Once again, a new actor as James Bond generated new interest and drew new fans. Today Daniel Craig often ranks second in favorite Bond portrayers. (And I confess that he’s definitely my favorite. I’ll be going to see his new film Skyfall next week.)
How long will James Bond continue? Different actors play the role and we still look forward to the next movie. Ian Fleming’s passing in 1964 did not end the series of novels. They go on, with various authors taking up the challenge of writing a well-known, extremely popular character. And, frankly, I rather like that idea. Some characters are just too great to let go of.
If you need to catch up on the adventures of James Bond, check our collection for your favorite actor or movie.
Sean Connery – Dr. No ; From Russia With Love ; Goldfinger ; Thunderball ; You Only Live Twice ; Diamonds are Forever
George Lazenby – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Roger Moore – Live and Let Die ; The Man with the Golden Gun ; The Spy Who Loved Me ; Moonraker ; For Your Eyes Only ; Octopussy ; A View to a Kill
Timothy Dalton – The Living Daylights ; License to Kill
Pierce Brosnan – GoldenEye ; Tomorrow Never Dies ; The World is Not Enough ; Die Another Day
Daniel Craig – Casino Royale ; Quantum of Solace ; Skyfall