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Blog – Episode 02: Bond, James Bond

Johnny June 8, 2019

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In a follow up to last week’s war movie discussion I mentioned a few other significant films which were based on novels written using World War II as the setting. These books were initial works by authors who went on to have long successful writing careers.

The books and the resulting movies I noted were:

  • Battle Cry by Leon Uris This follows a group of Marine recruits all the way from basic training to and through various Pacific island battles. The film Battle Cry – Raoul Walsh starred Van Heflin, James Whitmore (who is terrific as the sergeant) and Aldo Ray. The film is also significant because it was a star vehicle for the young, Tab Hunter. Mr. Uris is also well known for his book, Exodus, and the subsequent film which details the founding of the state of Israel.
  • The Young Lions – Irwin Shaw resulted in a highly anticipated film The Young Lions – Edward Dmytryk starring Marlon Brando, Maximillian Schell, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin. The story juxtaposes the activities of the Germans and the Americans until there is a final climactic meeting between Brando and the Americans.
  • From Here to Eternity – James Jones set his story of romance and conflicts between US Army soldiers during the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. The film From Here to Eternity – Fred Zinnemann starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Clift served a career boost for a young Frank Sinatra. It is said the character of the singer seeking a key film role in The Godfather is based on Sinatra.

The other author I mentioned was Herman Wouk.  I noted he had penned The Winds of War and War and Remembrance which were both turned into TV miniseries. Wouk, who died just a few weeks ago at age 102, had a prolific career. Unfortunately, I forgot to mention his first and very important book for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951. It is The Caine Mutiny which deals with a troubled captain, despised by a crew that chooses to mutiny and take over the vessel during World War II. The ensuing court martial of two crew members provides a climactic conclusion. The film: The Caine Mutiny, directed by Stanley Kramer, was a star vehicle for Humphrey Bogart, who played the troubled Captain Queeg. Bogart was nominated for Best Actor among several other nominations for the film.

Eddie and I went onto discuss the James Bond film series and the various actors who have personified Agent 007 over the years. I noted that Sean Connery was not only the original Bond but came to be standard by which all later actors taking on that role have been judged.

George Lazenby, a former model and commercial actor, was chosen to follow Connery as Bond. Lazenby was handed the role of a lifetime but his tenure did not last long. His short tenure was not the result of poor performance. On the contrary, Lazenby is the only Bond to be recognized as he won a Golden Globe for his role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Peter Hunt. No, he left on his own accord because he felt his suggestions during the filming were not taken seriously. His prima donna stance led him to toss away a seven film offer at $ 1 million per film. At the time of his decision he said, “I much prefer to be a car salesman than a stereotyped James Bond.” Much later he came to regret that decision.

During the podcast I noted that I liked the film, not necessarily because of Lazenby’s performance, but because the film brought romance into James’s world. He fell in love and married. His wife, played by a vibrant Diana Rigg, brought another dimension to the 007 character. This story line also provided a potential back story that could serve as future motivation for Bond’s actions. That avenue has not fully been explored that I can recall.

Both Eddie and I have liked the more recent iteration embodied by Daniel Craig. To my eyes Craig has brought the edginess and strength back to the character. Although Roger Moore, who took over from Connery, was pretty good in a the first few of his films – particularly The Spy Who Loved Me – Lewis Gilbert and For Your Eyes Only – John Glen – his films began to become almost cartoonish. That was briefly corrected with the introduction of Timothy Dalton, an actor that producer “Cubby” Broccoli had wanted earlier but Dalton, himself, had thought he was too young for the role at that time. Dalton brought back the sophisticated, yet tough element back to the role. But the series faltered and with long delays between projects Dalton departed. Pierce Brosnan stepped in and continued the debonair yet capably violent aspect of Bond.

I liked Brosnan in the role but other than GoldenEye – Martin Campbell I cannot say any of the other stories were as effective as I believe the more recent Craig films to be. Aside from enjoying the return of a physical, gritty and “licensed to kill” Bond in Casino Royale, in which his vulnerable side is exposed with his love for Eva Green, I did not think Quantum of Solace – Marc Forster that followed was exceptional.  Of his last two, as Eddie and I mentioned, I prefer Skyfall – Sam Mendes, primarily because we get a glimpse of his back story, of where it all began as he goes back to his Scottish home to face Javier Bardem’s “twitchy” and twisted villain. Eddie prefers the more recent Spectre – Sam Mendes which harkens back to earlier days in the Bond series. The international criminal organization headed by Christoph Waltz is like those Sean Connery faced.

Eddie noted that Daniel Craig, scheduled for one more appearance, is ready to leave the role. There is much speculation as to who may assume the mantle of Bond once Craig departs. The possibilities as to who will fill Bond’s tuxedo are seemingly endless. Among the names tossed around so far include Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill, James Norton, Aidan Turner, Idris Elba and more.

This speculative topic could provide us more than enough to discuss on a future podcast. We will just have to see what happens.

Until next time.

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