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February 14, 2013

Book looks at 50 years of James Bond movies

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — When I was in elementary school, James Bond was all the rage. For some reason I didn’t see any of the early films with Sean Connery playing the infamous 007 British spy, but my siblings and several friends certainly did. There was something for everybody in Bond movies. They had chase scenes, clever gadgetry, spectacular scenery, sadistic geniuses, and, of course, gorgeous women. 

There has to be something uniquely appealing about a character that has lasted more than 50 years with six different actors.

Connery set the standard for the ultimate Bond. This was a man who was incredibly sophisticated, never lost his cool, wore perfectly tailored suits, and attracted women like ants to a picnic. He traveled the globe for the British secret service and tried to rescue the world from the most evil of madmen. Along the way he survived death-defying stunts and always got the girl. It’s no wonder he never lost his appeal.

I actually didn’t start watching James Bond until Roger Moore took over the role from Connery, but I was immediately hooked. Moore seemed ideal for the part since he played a similar character, Simon Templar, in the television series “The Saint.” Connery had made six Bond films with a relatively unknown actor named George Lazenby taking up the role once in-between Connery’s fifth and sixth appearances. For you sports buffs, Lazenby may be better known as the ex-husband of former tennis star and current ESPN analyst Pam Shriver.

Moore made seven Bond pictures between 1973 and 1985. By the mid-’70s Bond movies were a staple of Sunday night movies on ABC. I saw enough of those to realize how entertaining they were and have missed few since on the wide-screen. “Moonraker” was the first for me and it would be hard to match that one for excitement, comedy, adventure and just pure fun. But somehow they all manage to come close or exceed it.

The opening scene of every Bond film has basically become a game of “Can you top this?” The most memorable came in Moore’s third entry, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Bond is being chased and shot at as he skis down an Austrian Alp. He manages to kill his assailant, but flies over a cliff a la Wiley Coyote. As he drops thousands of feet to the ground a parachute suddenly opens depicting the Union Jack. James Bond survives once again!

The popularity of Agent 007 is wonderfully captured in a new book by Roger Moore (who else?) titled “Bond on Bond: Reflections on 50 Years of James Bond Movies.” Anyone looking for behind-the-scenes sniping or illicit affairs between co-stars will be sadly disappointed. This coffee-table size book is simply a celebration of all-things Bond.

The most amazing thing about the series is that the six actors who portray Bond all get along well. In fact, for lack of a better term, there seems to be a bond between Connery, Moore, Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and, current Bond, Daniel Craig. They all want to protect the character’s image.

The next 50 years of James Bond adventures has just begun with the release of “Skyfall.” It’s different than past Bond movies in that it’s completely serious from beginning to end. Most past films in the series have had some comic relief along the way. That was an essential element in the seven versions with Roger Moore. Even without the fanfare “Skyfall” is a terrific film.

With Daniel Craig apparently settling into the role for the long haul, James Bond could not be in better hands. Combining the blockbuster popularity of “Skyfall” with the publication of “Bond on Bond,” the future of Agent 007 is limitless. The next generation of Bond lovers has yet to be born.

David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at co.david@4cls.org.