60 years after the premiere of Dr. No with Sean Connery, which marked the time to celebrate World James Bond Day

A scene of Sean Connery playing the first James Bond in ‘Dr. No,’ under the direction of Terence Young, in 1962. (Photo by United Artists/Courtesy of Getty Images)

Since 2012, World James Bond Day has been celebrated every October 5. The date pays homage to the premiere of the first film in the saga in 1962: Dr. No, starring Sean Connery. The films are based on a series of novels written since the early 1950s by Ian Fleming, an Englishman who had been, among other things, a spy in World War II. Why is the secret agent still intact? Why does it continue to generate expectation? Why do we still want it? What is the secret of its validity?

Bond, James Bond. Is it a good line? Is it so ingenious, so forceful to get noticed in the collective imagination of so many generations? The key is not in the sentence, in those three words, in the surname-name-surname. Everything – the magic, the charm – lies in how it is said. The cadence, the look, the exact tone, seductive and necessarily safe. And the blue smoke of the cigarette enveloping everything. She says it effortlessly, without underlining. And that’s all Connery. Every time one of the following Bonds repeated the phrase, he did a Sean Connery cover. Never, after him, could it be said naively. Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig were only imitating their creator.

James Bond achieved a definitive turn in the action cinema. Connery became the archetype of the action actor. Controlled, glamorous, fierce, seductive. The concept of the Bond movies focuses on a few elements: action, elegance, gadgets, fancy cars, women (his view of women as ornamental objects in the early films would not pass the scrutiny of this era. But without Connery it would not have franchise existed.

A poster for the film 'Dr No' (1962) made by British Quad and illustrated by Mitchell Hooks for the first James Bond film starring Sean Connery REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A poster for the film ‘Dr No’ (1962) made by British Quad and illustrated by Mitchell Hooks for the first James Bond film starring Sean Connery REUTERS/Hannah McKay

A senior studio executive asked before the shooting of the first film: “How is a Scotsman who drove trucks as a milk delivery man going to play a distinguished and sophisticated Englishman?. What this man failed to see was that Sean Connery and his not at all aristocratic past gave the character everything he needed: seduction and danger. It was as if to the solvency that the British actor is supposed to have, he had incorporated the rudeness of those from film noir. More Robert Mitchum and less Lawrence Olivier.

From that first screen appearance in The Satanic Dr. No, Sean Connery became the wave parameter in the world, the impossible zenith of cool. There is a balance in his performance that manages to avoid parody, the abyss of ridicule and that we believe deserves the most beautiful women, the best drinks, the best cars and the most exciting adventures.

Few events in the world of entertainment provoke as much anxiety and controversy as the election of a new Bond. If when talking about football it is often said that each inhabitant is a potential technical director of the national team, something similar happens with Bond: we all become casting directors. Naturally, that did not happen in 1962 before the shooting of the first film. But from her The Satanic Dr. No, an actor who lends his body to Bond has to have everything. The perfect combination of poise and warmth, elegance, sensuality and danger; virility and wave; physical prowess and fearlessness; beauty, credibility and a small and inevitable share of evil. That almost impossible standard was set by Sean Connery from the start..

Pierce Brosnan once said: “There are more men who have walked on the moon than we have played James Bond”. The phrase, in addition to its wit, demonstrates the special condition of being Bond. But, without the slightest doubt, beyond the valuable later contributions of Roger Moore to Daniel Craig, the empire was founded on Sean Connery.

Sean Connery had no aristocratic past, but he became the benchmark for English sophistication. (Photo by MGM Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images)
Sean Connery had no aristocratic past, but he became the benchmark for English sophistication. (Photo by MGM Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images)

At the beginning of the sixties, Harry Saltzmann and Albert Broccoli, two film producers proposed to Ian Fleming, author of a dozen novels and as many nouvelles starring a British secret agent named James Bond, to take the character to the cinema. They agreed pretty quickly. What was difficult for them was deciding which story would be the first they would film because everyone’s idea was to create something that hardly existed at the time: a franchise. Thunderball seemed to everyone the best option but they ended up leaning towards The Satanic Dr. Not because it was cheaper to film. They got writers and Terence Young as director. But they lacked the most important thing, the actor, the one who would embody that agent capable of everything.

Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond novels, preferred someone like David Niven for the character: 100% British phlegm. But despite Niven’s elegance, they agreed that he was not going to be able to do that. 007 is British but also a man of action. At some point other names circulated ranging from Richard Burton to Robert Shaw. But the producers finally decided that the protagonist would be a new face. On the one hand, that would ensure that the viewer was only seeing James Bond and not other characters played by that actor; on the other, in addition to budgetary issues, a practical, economic reason was imposed: a consecrated actor would not agree to sign a contract for several films. Both Broccoli and Saltzmann were still with the idea of ​​continuing the character. They already had the material: Ian Fleming’s novels

After ruling out various options, they met with Connery. Seeing him enter the office, everyone realized that this is how James Bond should walk. At the end of the meeting, James Bond already had a face. Though Fleming still wasn’t happy. “Is he the ideal actor for Bond?” he asked. “It’s the best we could find,” they responded urgently about the shooting deadlines.

Sean Connery only opposed the clause that required several films, but in the end he had to give in. His experiences as a contract actor for a major studio in the 1950s had been bad. He had felt enslaved and did not want to repeat the experience. But the charm of the popular secret agent won him over.

Ian Fleming, the English writer who created the James Bond novels
Ian Fleming, the English writer who created the James Bond novels

Sean Connery also left his mark on the literary Bond. Ian Fleming wrote his last three novels after the release of The Satanic Dr. No. So the James Bond of paper adopted some characteristics of the cinematographic one. Not just sarcasm, he even gave it a Scottish origin as a nod to the actor. The writer enjoyed little the success of his character on the big screen. He died in 1964.

Then they came one by one per year. From Russia with love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), thunder ball (1965). One more successful than the other. The collection multiplied with each premiere. Each season the fans awaited the adventures of their favorite characters that were already established and that in each adventure set new rules for action movies.

PBut with success came problems. Connery saw that the producers were full of money but he did not. And the exclusivity contract had him handcuffed. He managed to get permission to act in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie but not much else. The demands on him were increasing. Behind the scenes he wanted Terence Young, the director of the first of the saga. And more money. He couldn’t understand how, for example, Dean Martin with Matt Helm, a lazy copy of Bond, made more money than he did. He got pay raises but at a high cost: two more 007 movies.

It also demanded producer status and decision-making power regarding the script, the director and the integration of the rest of the cast. After all, James Bond was him. But Saltzmann and Broccoli did not want to give up part of the big business they had on their hands. Sean Connery, took advantage of the fact that the filming of We only live Twice (1967) had been problematic (and its box office results had declined for the first time since the beginning of the film series) and he announced that he was leaving. He sent them out to find another James Bond. If they found one.

The search was long and intense but unsuccessful. George Lanzeby only made one film and suffered public ridicule. It seemed that the great franchise of modern cinema had definitely died. One possibility remained: once again to go in search of Connery.

His post-Bond career had not been as successful as he had hoped; however he was an important name in the world of cinema. The mere fact of being called back, that the producers wanted to seduce him despite how badly the relationship had ended, changed the balance of relationships. Sean Connery took advantage of it. He demanded the highest pay ever received by an actor: $1,250,000. But he announced that he would donate them in their entirety to start a foundation dedicated to education in Scotland, his native country. But that was not all. He also secured a percentage of the profits and a vote in the main decisions of the film. This combination made him the highest paid actor for several decades.

Roger Moore and Maud Adams in "octopussy" (1982)Photo by: United Artists/Shooting Star *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***
Roger Moore and Maud Adams in “Octopussy” (1982)Photo by: United Artists/Shooting Star *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

However, Sean Connery kept demanding (and getting what he asked for). He arranged with United Artists that he would have full creative control on his next two projects; which allowed him to lead his career where he wanted. And to round off the best negotiation in the history of show business, he put a final condition that should not be violated under penalty of cancellation of the project: neither Broccoli nor Saltzmann could speak to him or communicate with him in any way. The perfect revenge.

The movie was diamonds are eternal which had good collections but cold critical reception. It was time for a new Bond. Roger Moore would be here to stay for a long time.

The last time Connery donned the Bond tuxedo was in 1983, more than twenty years after his debut. It was a weird moment. During that 1983 “The Battle of the Bonds” took place. On the one hand it was launched octopussyRoger Moore’s sixth as 007. Shortly after, he did Never Say Never Again, an unofficial bond (that is, not produced by Broccoli and Saltzmann) but starring Sean Connery for the seventh time.

Comparisons were inevitable. Connery made an older, self-aware Bond. The two did business. Roger Moore threatened to get off and thus managed to increase the cachet. It would have been suicide to go looking for a new Bond to confront Connery. Though octopussy grossed 20 million more than its rival both exceeded 150 million dollars in grosses.

A) Yes, With this last appearance, Sean Connery abandoned James Bond forever. She had already done with him everything that she had to do. The franchise would continue on its way and remains in force until today in an extraordinary case of longevity and adaptability.

Sean Connery’s legacy remains intact because great actors, like diamonds, are eternal.


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60 years after the premiere of Dr. No with Sean Connery, which marked the time to celebrate World James Bond Day

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