Filmgoers say yes to No and a franchise is born.
Since we've already talked about two movies inspired by Bond today, why not discuss the landmark that started it all? There had always been spy movies. Even the James Bond films, with their focus on high concept action and fantastical super villains, had predecessors. But United Artists, director Terence Young, Sean Connery, and the rest took the basic notes of those earlier efforts, wove them into a fresh composition, and cranked the volume up to eleven. This Spanish poster painted by Macario Gomez was made for the first Bond film Dr. No, which played in Spain as Agente 007 contra el Dr. No. Ian Fleming's novel had been published in 1958, and the film hit cinemas four years later. Like From Russia with Love, which we watched recently, we've seen it more than once, but not for years, and decided to screen it with fresh eyes.
We imagine audiences had never seen a spy movie quite like this, with its opulent production values and near-seamless construction. Set in Jamaica, the exotic locations are beautifully photographed, and while the filmmakers' portrayal of the island isn't necessarily authentic, it's immersive, and makes the required impression of a land of mystery and danger. An altogether different impression was made by the ravishing Ursula Andress, and we suspect once word got out certain filmgoers bought tickets just to see her. Joseph Wiseman's villainous Julius No, a few hi-budget gadgets, and a secret lair filled with expendable henchmen complete the set-up—and establish the Bond template for the future. Add the unflappable if occasionally imperious spy himself and the fun is complete.
The Bond franchise's success inspired scores of imitators, as discussed in the two posts above, but with a few exceptions those movies usually work today on the level of unintentional comedy or eye-rolling camp. Dr. No, despite Bond's interjections of humor, took itself seriously. Viewers were supposed to believe its most fantastic elements were possible. In addition, they were supposed to see Bond as the uber-male, a man who fights and loves hard, is virtually immune to sentiment, and never mourns losses for long. That notion of ideal manhood has certainly changed—for the better we'd say—but even accounting for the tectonic cultural shifts in the interim Dr. No holds up like the best vintage thrillers. It's stylish, charmingly simple, and—if one assesses it honestly—progressive for its time. It premiered in England in October 1962, and reached Spain today in 1963.
Yeah! This is so fun! These photos will really make people remember me!
If you look around the internet literally every site from IMDB to Ebay will tell you this is U.S. actress Martha Vickers dancing for a photo series made while filming the 1955 United Artists drama The Big Bluff. But surprise! Everyone is wrong. This isn't Vickers. This is actually Rosemarie Stack. It's pretty obvious. She and Vickers don't look alike anyway, and Vickers is blonde in the film, not brunette, but also, Stack plays a hot-blooded showgirl named Fritzi Darvel while Vickers plays an invalid, so clearly this is Stack doing a little riff on her role as a dancer. What are we the internet police? Hah, no. But we thought the forgotten Miss Stack deserved to have her credit restored for starring in this great series. Make a note. And the movie? Meh.
Update: IMDB has now updated its info. It's nice to have influence.
Only my friends get to call me Corny. And you're not a friend.
This United Artists promo photo was made for the political thriller The Next Man and it shows U.S. actress Cornelia Sharpe, who was actually never known as Corny, at least not professionally. She had a minor career dotted with a few notable movies, including Serpico and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. The Next Man was not one of those notable films, but it did star Sean Connery and was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, who helmed the counterculture classic Vanishing Point. This image dates from 1976.
Better men than you have tried to tame her.
Above is a United Artists promo image of New York City born actress Midge Ware, née Muriel Ware, from the 1952 lost world adventure Untamed Women. In the film three downed World War II flyboys wash up on the shores of an island inhabited by primitive but (of course) sexy women. Sound like your thing? You can watch it online in two parts starting here. The photo is from 1952.
La Lollo gives a child's toy a grown up workout.
The UPI photo above was shot today in 1959 and shows Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida hula hooping between takes on the set of United Artists' biblical epic Solomon and Sheba. La Lollo was apparently a big fan of the hula hoop—according to the info on the back of the photo she owned this one and brought it from her home in Rome. Interestingly, she was costumed almost exactly like this—in a glittery bra and skirt while showing a bare midriff—in 1950's Vita di cani, 1952's Les belles de nuit, and wore a circus performer's outfit of very similar style in 1956's Trapeze. Her most famous physical trait was her hair (lollo rosso lettuce is so named because it resembles the curly 'do she wore for much of her career), but it seems producers preferred her navel. Can't say we blame them.
Welcome to fantasy island.
Spanish model and actress Natividad Abascal, aka Nati Abascal, seen here in a United Artists publicity photo, 1971.
And as far as gentlemen go, they’ll take whatever they can get.
Above is a brilliant poster for the film musical Gentlemen Marry Brunettes starring Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain. Both Brunettes and 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had begun as novels written by Anita Loos, in 1927 and 1925 respectively. Blondes (it was actually the second time the book had been filmed) was of course a smash with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the leads. A year later Monroe was unavailable to reprise her role as Lorelei Lee, so both leads were rescripted into entirely new characters and Jeanne Crain scored the new part opposite Russell. Gentlemen Marry Brunettes appeared in 1955, but the result wasn’t quite as electric as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Same old story—it’s almost always pointless trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice, and a sequel without Monroe was destined to disappoint, at least artistically. But it did become one of the top box office movies of 1955. Amazing, considering it’s almost forgotten today. Seems the audience has stated its preference rather clearly. Well, even if Brunettes fell short of Blondes in the memorability department, there’s nothing forgettable about its Japanese poster.
Diamonds are forever, but Connery wasn’t.
Sean Connery makes as many appearances in sixties and seventies tabloids as just about any celeb of the time, so here he is again in an article promoting his role in Diamonds Are Forever, which would premiere just a couple of weeks after this December 1971 National Police Gazette hit newsstands. Connery talks about his futile struggle to portray James Bond as a balding hero, and quips about making his stylist thin his wigs so there was almost no point in wearing them at all. Connery said about Bond’s aging, “No one is immortal—not me, not you, and not James Bond.” It was a commendable sentiment, but naïve. Seems as though Connery didn’t realize United Artists had already branded Bond well beyond the point where the character was tethered to any concept of aging. The studio proved that when it brought the much younger Roger Moore on the scene for 1973’s Live and Let Die. Moore would later give way to Dalton, who gave way to Brosnan, who gave way to Craig, as Bond himself remained eternally forty-ish through the passing years. Elsewhere in the Gazette you get a report on the hash capital of the world, the world’s greatest racing systems, and the usual assortment of random beauties in bathing suits. All that, plus hashish toasted cheese, below.
The theme song said he had all the time in the world. Never trust a theme song.
We ran across a rare, Japanese-issued James Bond theme song collection and decided to steal a few photos because inside was this brilliant poster of George Lazenby by Frank McCarthy. Lazenby took over the Bond role for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which the character got married only to see his new wife gunned down at film’s end. We’ve been involved in some spirited debates about where Lazenby fits in the Bond pantheon—some of his defenders even say he was the best Bond. We wouldn’t go that far, but he did have one of the best theme songs, Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World,” which opens this compilation. Ironically, Lazenby didn’t have much time—United Artists booted him out of the Bond role the next year when Sean Connery returned to film Diamonds Are Forever. If you haven’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service we recommend it. And you can listen to “We Have All the Time in the World” here.
Putting her on a pedestal.
Above is a United Artists promo image of American actress Thelma Todd, who appeared in many full length and short films beginning in 1926. In December 1936 she was found dead in her car, a victim of carbon monoxode poisoning. The death was ruled a suicide, but today many biographers believe she was murdered. This image dates from 1931.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
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