With a last name like Bond, you just knew I was going to jump on board to celebrate Ian Fleming’s birthday. Thanks to Fleming, my last name has always been the greatest ice breaker. As a kid it was, “Is your dad James Bond?” And now it is, “Is your husband James Bond?” I suppose eventually it will become, “Is your son/grandson James Bond?” But for now I laugh (and roll my eyes) at the number of folks who think he might be my husband…and truly believe that they are the first to crack that joke!
Ian Fleming was born on May 28, 1908. He began his career as a journalist and naval intelligence officer, who then became an author when he created the iconic British Secret Service agent, 007. Fleming actually named Bond after an American ornithologist and expert on Caribbean bird species of the same name. He chose the name, frankly, because he thought it “was the dullest name he’d ever heard” and his original idea for Bond was that the character would be “an extremely dull and uninteresting man to whom things happened.” With the initial success of the first Bond book, “Casino Royale,” followed by the overwhelming success of the movie franchise, Fleming allowed his character to morph and change into the endlessly cool and rather droll iteration we all now associate with James Bond. In fact, it was because of Sean Connery’s portrayal of Bond in the first film adaptation “Dr. No,” that Fleming chose to give Bond a sense of humor in the novels as well, as is evidenced for the first time in the book “You Only Live Twice.” In addition to naming Bond after a real person, Ian Fleming often named his iconic characters after people he actually knew. So, yes, there really was a Scaramanga and a Goldfinger. In fact, Fleming named his estate in Jamaica “Goldeneye” and the house, grounds, cottages, etc. are all now known as the Goldeneye Hotel and Resort, located coincidentally, on James Bond beach. And, no, there isn’t a Bond-themed gift shop on the property. While there are a few nods to the movies on site, the kitsch stopped there.
By the time Ian Fleming passed away in 1964 from heart disease (he was, no surprise, a heavy smoker and drinker), he had penned eleven Bond novels (two of which were published posthumously), two short story collections, and the children’s classic “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Various authors have taken over the franchise since his death and there have been 26 Bond movies (and counting!) featuring seven different actors.
As a connoisseur of all things Bond, I am always asked my favorites, so here goes:
I have read every Bond book written by Ian Fleming, and a couple written by other authors. His are still my favorite, particularly “Casino Royale.”
Favorite Bond movie? “Diamonds Are Forever,” of course. And while we all know that Bond favored the Walther PPK and preferred his vodka martinis shaken, not stirred, choosing a favorite Bond actor is always controversial. I adore Sean Connery as Bond, but to be honest, Daniel Craig plays Bond much as Ian Fleming portrayed Bond in the original books. While James Bond was mysterious, he was also edgy and flawed. I think that Craig captures that angst perfectly and I truly hope he continues with the franchise in the future. Worst Bond? That’s tough too. While George Lazenby was pretty bad, he only portrayed Bond once. Why they let Pierce Brosnan play Bond four times, I will never know.
And for those of you trivia buffs who can’t get enough of James Bond, you simply must read John Pearson’s 1973 novel, “James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007.” This fictional biography of a retired, middle-aged 007 is incredibly entertaining. This novel is cleverly written as if Pearson has discovered that Bond is a real person and hunts him down to interview him. He finds Bond living peacefully on a beach with Honeychile Ryder (yep, from “Dr. No”) and convinces Bond to tell him his life story. Filled with all sorts of references to the novels and movies, this is a thoroughly absorbing read for any fan of Ian Fleming and James Bond. A real tribute from one fan to another.
“You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.” Ian Fleming