Who is Bond? When you hear the name, you see his face. He is the ’00 agent, who exudes confidence as he walks into the room, catching the eyes of all the dames with a single flash of his cigarette. His low voice rings calm and stern. His figure is potent and strong, evincing a prowess that is, one might say, “positively shocking.” He is a man with a taste for martinis and crippling international criminals. One man brought this kind of Bond to its fullest potential. Sean Connery isn’t the best James Bond. Sean Connery is James Bond.
Connery brought Bond out of the page and onto the big screen. His escapades were no longer bound in Fleming’s novels but were experiences to be shared by all in a more accessible format. These epic stories embodied western excellence and liberty as he combatted the evils of eastern communism and terror. As purveyors of this excellence, agents were made heros, shown breaking the bad guys and getting the girl. When Dr. No premiered in 1962, none of this was lost in translation. If there is a man to attribute the success of the film it is Connery in his embodiment of Bond—the character that mattered most. James Bond is good at what he does, which is why his foes wince at the mention of the ’00. This is precisely the reason Connery does it best. His posture, attitude, swagger and speech indicate a man as sure of himself as he is of everyone else in the room. Connery not only represented the virtues of the West (license to kill and all) but of the idealized man, dressed to the nines, working for country, and still able to relish the finer qualities of life. His presence on screen was a honed masculinity that was as mature as it was smooth and witty. The ideas of professionalism and play blended together seamlessly in Connery’s performances because it looked as though he was having fun as a spy and saving the world.
Because of Connery’s effortless portrayal of 007, the Bond films in which he starred are some of the most iconic. As they were the first three, and in many ways, the best and most unadulterated Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), and Goldfinger (1964) remain among the most entertaining and fun Bonds to date. Drama interlaced with action and romance were was done so in engaging ways in each installment, making for a progressive adventure with new sights, sounds, and girls.
Handled by Connery, the action was made fun and witty, as he dismantled his foes with words as well as his PPK pistol. As a point of comparison, the action by stars like Daniel Craig, though exciting to watch, is much more centered on the hyper realistic violence. Craig give us little more than a smirk, leaving us with a Bond of a more stoic persuasion. Connery by comparison makes his near-death experiences humorous as well as enthralling. The train scene from in From Russia With Love, Goldfinger’s ejection from the plane, and the elevator fight in Diamonds are Forever, evoked feelings of tension, but always left viewers confident that this SIS agent will make it out in extravagant fashion.
And it’s always believable, at least more so than a Bond who survives a rifle wound to the body, off a moving train, over a bridge and into a lake.
Because these are the older Bond films, they feel so much more distinct and different than all the others. The time in which they were made was unfettered much of the box office craziness that appears today and “politically correct” had not yet entered the public lexicon. The time in which these films were made give them an aesthetic of an older mentality. And a more fun one at that.
What the other Bonds will never have is the feeling of superstardom, or a man so confident that he can deliver any line, to any person, at any moment. If you still have any reservations, simply watch the moment where it all began: as he was introduced in Dr. No.
If you look closely you will see something interesting. The birth of a man named Bond.
Cue the music. And thank Connery.
Featured Image by Columbia Pictures