Tonight: Sean Connery as Secret Agent 007, with Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman and Jack Lord in Dr. No.
Ian Fleming introduced James Bond to a waiting world in the novel, Casino Royale, in 1953—the same year that I published the first issue of Playboy.
007 was conceived by Fleming while on holiday at his Jamaican estate, Goldeneye, in 1952.
Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVR, is an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more commonly referred to as MI6.
The “007” means he is “licensed to kill.”
The “James Bond” name came from an American ornithologist. He was a Caribbean bird expert who wrote the definitive guidebook, Birds of the West Indies. Fleming, a bird watcher, had a copy of Bond’s book at Goldeneye.
Of the name, Fleming once said in an interview, “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find. … Exotic things could happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure—an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”
Most researchers agree that Bond is a romanticized version of Fleming, himself a jet-setting womanizer. Both Fleming and the fictional Bond attended the same schools, preferred the same food and drink, shared the same notions of a perfect woman and had similar career aspirations. (Both rising to the rank of commander in Naval Intelligence.)
Some also have suggested that Bond’s sophisticated persona was inspired by a young Hoagy Carmichael, author of Stardust and the man who lived across the street from the Playboy Mansion in the 1940s. In Casino Royale, the femme fatale Vesper Lynd remarks, “Bond reminds me of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless about him.”
And in Moonraker (the book), Special Branch officer Gala Brand thinks to herself that Bond is “certainly good looking. He’s rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold.”
Fleming wrote 14 James Bond books, one a year, published between 1953 and 1966. The last, Octopussy, was published posthumously in Playboy following his death from a heart attack.
Fleming’s first Bond movie Casino Royale was made into a live teleplay in 1954, with Barry Nelson as Bond, and Peter Lorre as his nemesis.
The initial movie adaptation of a Bond movie was supposed to be Thunderball, but a dispute between Ian Fleming and the screenwriters led to the decision to make Dr. No instead.
The story was first written for a 1956 TV series called James Gunn, Secret Agent, but it was never made. The episode was titled Commander Jamaica. Fleming later expanded his TV treatment into a Bond novel.
Because it began as a teleplay, with but one major location—Jamaica—Dr. No seemed to present the least difficulties in adapting the property for the screen.
Dr. No was the sixth Bond novel, published in 1958. Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu was one of the obvious inspirations for the character.
Fleming’s original choice to play Dr. No was his cousin, Christopher Lee. Lee had a conflict, but later did appear as Bond’s nemesis in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). He also played Fu Manchu in several Hammer films.
Fleming next asked Noel Coward to consider playing the role. Coward sent a telegram in response that read: “Dr. No? No! No! No!” He didn’t want to wear metal hands.
Max Von Sydow said no to the role so that he could play Jesus Christ in George Steven’s The Greatest Story Ever Told instead.
Producer Cubby Broccoli insisted on an English director, because he felt only the English could understand the cultivated English background of Bond.
Ken Hughes, Guy Green and Guy Hamilton (who later directed Goldfinger) all turned down the assignment. Terence Young accepted the challenge—his first of three Bond films.
Fleming’s first choice for Bond was Roger Moore, and Broccoli liked him too. But Moore was committed to the Saint series on TV. (Moore ended up playing the role in the 1970s, when Connery decided he’d had enough.)
Others considered for that first Bond film: David Niven (who played a parody of the part in the spoof of Casino Royale five years later), Patrick McGoohan, who turned down the role on moral grounds (but later starred in Secret Agent, a TV series inspired by 007), Trevor Howard, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Steve Reeves and Richard Johnson (who would later play Bulldog Drummond in Deadlier Than the Male, hang out at the Mansion and marry Kim Novak).
The producers, Broccoli and partner Albert Saltzman, used Hitchcock’s North By Northwest (1959) for their inspiration for this film. A good choice!Its stars were also offered roles in the Bond franchise. Cary Grant actually considered the role, but wouldn’t agree to more than one film in the series. James Mason wouldn’t commit to more than two. Not good enough!
The producers also looked at several unknown English actors.
And then Broccoli attended Walt Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People. He liked how Sean Connery handled himself in a fistfight. He asked his wife to look at the picture to assess Connery’s sex appeal. She approved!
But Connery nearly lost the part because Fleming objected. Bond was supposed to be English, and Connery was Scottish—a big difference to the English. Bond was upper class and educated; Connery came from working class parents; he was the son of a truck driver and a housecleaner who dropped out of school at 14 to join the Navy.
How could this blue collar, balding, body builder play the dashing secret agent of Fleming’s novels? (Connery wore a toupee in all of his Bond films.) How indeed!!
Swiss born Ursula Andress had made a couple of forgettable Italian films in the mid-1950s. Marlon Brando got her an agent and a screen test at Paramount, but she had trouble with English and married John Derek, who promptly shot her for Playboy—first as a Show Business Beauty and then in an unforgettable nude 10-page pictorial.
Two weeks before filming on Dr. No was to begin, the producers happened to see Derek’s photos of his wife. They sought to sign her without even meeting her! She really wasn’t interested in resuming her acting career, but Kirk Douglas read the script and advised the Dereks to accept the part. Andress was paid $1,000 per week for six weeks work.
Dr. No was shot from January 16 through March 30, 1962, in London and Jamaica. The interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios. When costs exceeded $1.1 million United Artists threatened to abandon the production.
No pre-title sequence was filmed, and this remains the only Bond film without one.
The picture premiered in London on October 5, 1962. Because of the political climate following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the release in America was delayed until May 8, 1963.
The only award the film earned was a nomination for Andress as “Most Promising Female Newcomer” from the Golden Globes.
The worldwide gross for Dr. No was $59.6 million, but only $16 million came from the U.S. For whatever reason, the stylish combination of sex and violence, campy humor, exotic locations and unlikely gadgetry appealed disproportionately to overseas audiences—at least initially.The filmmakers were so confident they had a hit on their hands that the final credit on Dr. No reads: “James Bond will be back in From Russia with Love!”
And was he ever!
So now, the start of the James Bond phenomenon: Dr. No.