Shaken, not stirred: 50 years of James Bond

This weekend Skyfall, the newest James Bond movie, opens in theatres. This is a special year for Britain’s most famous secret agent, as it was 50 years ago in 1962 that the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, was released. If you want to look at the character in print, he was first published in 1953, so it’s more like 60 years of Bond, but who’s counting?

If you’re a fan of the series, you probably have a “favourite Bond,” or maybe a “favourite film” out of the lot. For me, I grew up with  the Roger Moore incarnation so I have a special place in my heart for him, especially in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” But would I say he is my favourite? Hmmmm. The first Bond film I ever saw in the theatre was The Living Daylights and the pre-credit sequence filmed on location in Gibraltar still ranks as a personal favourite of mine. The whole movie? Not so much.

Okay, while we’re at it, here’s my total personal and non-scientific order of Bonds in order of awesomeness.

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Roger Moore
  4. George Lazenby
  5. Pierce Brosnan
  6. Timothy Dalton

I actually had to look up Timothy Dalton’s name. All I could think of was “that villain from Hot Fuzz,” but that’s not very helpful. But enough of what I think. In addition to Ian Fleming’s novels and the 20+ movies out there, why don’t we look at some of the other secret files WPL is keeping on the double-O program?

To start off, Life Books has produced 50 years of James Bond, filled with photographs and interesting facts from Connery to Craig. Speaking of Craig, if you’re like me and love to read all about the “behind the scenes” stuff, I would recommend getting Bond on Set: Filming Skyfall put out by DK.

If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, why not check out his biography? You may be surprised to find a Winnipeg connection to James Bond. Ian Fleming worked with Winnipeg’s Sir William Stephenson during WWII and many believe that the spymaster code-named “Intrepid” was the original inspiration for 007.

“Stephenson. William Stephenson.”

Alastair Dougall has produced four books about the various aspects of the Bond films. They are made up of mostly photos and are very light reading, although lots of fun to flip through. The Book of Bond is a good overall introduction to the films, highlighting the plots, characters and major set pieces of each movie. He has also written three additional books covering Bond GirlsBond Villains and Bond Cars and Vehicles. Not surprisingly, Bond Girls has been the most popular of the four!

James Bond has also been given the graphic novel treatment. A good place to start is the James Bond Omnibus 001 which takes the original Ian Fleming novels as its source material and turns it into  comic panels.

For a different perspective, readers may enjoy The Moneypenny Diaries by Kate Westbrook. Westbrook has written an entirely original story from the perspective of M’s personal secretary. She is no longer the one-dimensional object of flirtation for James Bond, but rather has many secrets of her own.

One of the most popular parts of the James Bond mythology is Q Branch: the secretive technology wing of MI:6 that provides the double O agents with all of their fancy gadgets. We have a couple of books that focus on the technology side of Bond. Barry Parker has taken a look at Bond’s gadgets with a “Mythbusters” approach in his book Death Rays, jet packs, stunts & supercars: the fantastic physics of film’s most celebrated secret agent. Similarly, Gresh and Weinberg have written The science of James Bond: from bullets to bowler hats to boat jumps, the real technology behind 007’s fabulous films.

Finally, you can’t think about James Bond without those psychedelic opening credits montages and the memorable theme songs. A recent CD has almost all of the Bond themes in one collection. Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones really set the tone for how a James Bond theme should sound, in my opinion, and I am happy to hear that Adele’s Skyfall theme sounds like it could have come straight from the 1960’s. Artists as diverse as Louis Armstrong and Jack White have all had a turn at leaving their mark on Bond’s musical memory. What’s your favourite?


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