It won’t have escaped the eagle eyes of the film buffs among you that 5 October was the 50th anniversary of the release of Dr No, the first big screen outing for the most popular secret agent ever, James Bond (trivia fans will already know he’d been played by Barry Nelson on TV). Celebrations have taken place and special screenings abounded over the weekend.
We at Treasure Hunt Towers love nothing more than an anniversary and if it involves films, all the better. So it’s a good time to have a look at all things 007 on the web.
First up is the Official James Bond 007 site, which has a counter ticking off the minutes to the release of Skyfall later this month plus news and videos. As so often, the official site is a bit dull but there’s no shortage of much more fun unofficial ones. Check out Bond Lifestyle if you want to live the life of a secret agent, with a list of Bond-style gadgets, food and drink, cars and gift ideas plus a useful bibliography. Or The Ultimate James Bond Resource, a comprehensive guide to all the films.
But how can the Westminster Libraries Gateway to Websites help to find out more about 007? Well, in the Biography section is our old friend, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (available from anywhere if you log in with your Westminster Library card). You can look up author Ian Fleming who was born at 27 Green Street in Mayfair in 1908, and after an inauspicious career at Eton, a brief spell at Sandhurst, a short career as a journalist and a brief spell in the City, he found his niche in naval intelligence during WWII. After he was demobbed he was able to negotiate a somewhat cushy newspaper contract that allowed him to spend 3 months a year in Jamaica (coincidentally celebrating its own 50th anniversary this year).
He used his leisure time wisely and, between 1953 and his death in 1964, produced 12 Bond novels and 2 collections of short stories, as well as the children’s novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, all of which can be borrowed from Westminster Libraries.
By 1962, the Times was describing him as a ‘cult’ who ‘resembles a blend of dazzling (but masculine) Dorian Gray and Dangerous Dan McGrew brought up to the last ticking second of the present’ and President Kennedy was reputed to be an early fan.
Check out other contemporary views by looking through our newspaper archives or look up Contemporary Authors for a critical summary of his work (one critic described them as ‘like life, sexy and violent, but I have never thought them corrupting’).
There was worldwide interest in the casting of the lead for Dr No, and Cary Grant, James Mason. Richard Burton, David Niven and Trevor Howard were just some of the actors approached. Finally Sean Connery was cast despite what The Guardian somewhat surprisingly called his ‘slightly Irish, slightly American accent’. For the Daily Mirror critic though, it was love at first sight for ‘this joyful piece of hammed up hokum’. But the mostly lukewarm reaction of the critics didn’t stop the series becoming the second highest grossing of all time (the adventures of a certain boy wizard are number one, as if you didn’t know).
Why not borrow some DVDs of classic Bond to get you in the mood before Skyfall’s release? Or visit the Naxos Music Library to listen to the Best of James Bond while you catch up with Charlie Higson’s excellent series about Bond’s boyhood. Or, you could simply chill out with a Martini… well, you know the rest.