Sunday, November 8, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: Dr. No

The Story: It has been more than 53 years since the release of Dr. Nothe first of the Danjaq-EON versions of the Ian Fleming novels featuring James Bond.*

Over 2 billion people worldwide have seen a Bond movie, and the series has made nearly $6.5 billion dollars over 22 films** (SPECTRE is the 24th, officially, and the last, Skyfall, made over $1 billion of that, all on its own). Six men have played Bond since 1962,*** starting with a 32 year old Scotsman named Thomas Sean Connery.

The story has been told countless times. The producers were scouting for their "James Bond," eyeing Cary Grant (who'd been best man at producer Albert Broccoli's wedding), James Stewart (actually Stewart Granger's stage name in Britain), considered Stanley Baker and Roger Moore (although he now swears he was never approached at that time) and talked to Patrick McGoohan (who refused). But, established names would be tough to tie to a multi-picture contract. Connery was approached after being seen in Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People and that talk went well enough that the producers watched him depart from their office window. "He walked down the street like a cat," said producer Harry Saltzman.

But not everyone was enthusiastic. United Artists looked at his tests and wired "We can do better. Keep looking." Bond creator Ian Fleming groused that Connery looked like "a lorry driver."

But Connery was coming up in the ranks from bit player to lead and he could handle comedy (On the Fiddle) and action (a brief part in The Longest Day). He was, in EON's phrase that has passed down through the years, "a diamond in the rough." It fell to director Terence Young—who'd worked with Connery before—to posh and polish him up, teaching him finesse, table manners, etiquette and snobbery. He took Connery to his own tailor, shaved the burly eyebrows, influenced the Edinburgherishianese brogue into a soft purr. The results were extraordinary. When she met him at a Pinewood Studios photo-shoot for You Only Live Twice, actress Karin Dor wasn't impressed. But, onstage with the cameras rolling, he was magnetic. It was Connery's steeliness, burnished to stainlessness. "Terence should have played Bond," said Connery many years later.

But Connery was Bond and his entrance in Dr. No—sitting, obscured, the camera and audience coming to him—was impressive, only seen when he introduces himself.****  One could quibble about him saying it around a cig' dangled from his lips, but the effete hand gesture, blowing smoke out of his nostrils like a dragon, sealed the deal. James Bond was introduced...and quite properly.

The Set-Up: "Jamaica" doesn't respond. Time to bring in the knight-errant of MI-6 (or is that 7?)


MAITRE'D: Excuse me, sir.  Are you a member?
MI6 AGENT: No, I'm looking for Mr. James Bond.
MAITRE'D:   What name shall I say, sir?
MI6 AGENT:  Just give him my card, will you?
MAITRE'D:   Would you like to leave your coat over there, sir?
LE CROUPIER: Deux anno en la banque...
PLAYER: Banco.
SYLVIA: Carde.
LE CROUPIER:  Sept a la banque.
LE CROUPIER: Deux anno en la banque.
PLAYER: Banco.
SYLVIA: Suivi.
 LE CROUPIER: Banco, Suivi.
LE CROUPIER: Huit a la banque.
PLAYER: Banco.
 SYLVIA: Suivi.
LE CROUPIER: C'est Suivi.
SYLVIA: The house will cover the difference?
LE CROUPIER: Yes, Madame. Oui, Monsieur. 
LE CROUPIER: Charger Supreme...
SYLVIA: Carde.
LE CROUPIER: Neuf a la banque.
SYLVIA: I need another thousand.
JAMES BOND: I admire your courage...
SYLVIA:  Trench.  
SYLVIA:  Sylvia Trench.
SYLVIA: I admire your luck...
SYLVIA:  ...Mr...
BOND: Bond.  
BOND: James Bond.
SYLVIA: Mr. Bond, I suppose you wouldn't care
SYLVIA: ...raise the limit?
BOND: I have no objections.

Dr. No

Words by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkley Mather

Pictures by Ted Moore and Terence Young

Dr. No is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Fox Home Video.
* The first Fleming adaptation in any medium was an Americanized TV version of "Casino Royale" on "Climax!," where "Jimmy" Bond (Barry Nelson) wasn't a spy but a card-shark employed to take down the villain LeChiffre (played by Peter Lorre).

** Although more people worldwide have seen a Bond movie, the Harry Potter series took in more money ($6.3 billion) before the kid had his first martini or even got to second base with a girl. 

*** Lots of asterisks, already.  One has to keep saying "officially" because Bond spawned  two "non-canon" films—the 1967 spoof Casino Royale (where Bond was played by David Niven, and impersonated by Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Terence Cooper) and the 1983 Thunderball re-tool Never Say Never Again (where Connery reprised the role).

**** "Bond.  James Bond" ranks 22nd on AFI's "100 years, 100 Quotes" poll and was selected as the "best loved one-liner in cinema" by British audiences.

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