Bond On Bond Street

Bond On Bond Street

When Dr No first flickered onto cinema screens back in October 1962, the debonair figure of James Bond began a 60-year reign, as steely-eyed hero of a vast cinematic universe. As Sotheby's prepares to celebrate the indomitable spy with a sale of rare and covetable memorabilia, Bond historian, author and Professor of Film Studies at Leicester University, Dr James Chapman raises an eyebrow across a selection of lots featuring in the sale, Bond On Bond Street.
When Dr No first flickered onto cinema screens back in October 1962, the debonair figure of James Bond began a 60-year reign, as steely-eyed hero of a vast cinematic universe. As Sotheby's prepares to celebrate the indomitable spy with a sale of rare and covetable memorabilia, Bond historian, author and Professor of Film Studies at Leicester University, Dr James Chapman raises an eyebrow across a selection of lots featuring in the sale, Bond On Bond Street.

I maintain that, although James Bond has been played by six actors (or eight if we include the ‘non-canonical’ Barry Nelson and David Niven), there are really only two Bonds – the literary Bond and the cinematic Bond. On the one hand, Ian Fleming’s hero was very much a product of the Britain of the 1950s, a period that marked the height of the Cold War, the transition from postwar austerity to a culture of affluence, and saw the start of the long, inexorable decline of British power. On the other hand, cinematic Bond transformed Fleming’s conservative figure into a hero for the swinging sixties, emphasising the glamour, increasing the prominence of sex, and infusing the films with a detached, parodic sense of humour that indicated they were meant to be understood as fantasy.

Dr. No (1962) Poster, British ESTIMATE: 20,000 - 30,000 GBP

This sale, coinciding with the sixtieth anniversary of the release of Dr No, which opened at the London Pavilion on 5 October 1962, includes examples of both the cinematic and literary Bond. And, in the copies of The Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights signed by Roger Moore, lots where the literary and cinematic Bond coincide. Moore played Bond seven times, including The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), which bore little relation to Fleming’s last Bond novel, and Octopussy (1983), which used Fleming’s short story only as backstory for the title character.

Octopussy, as regular auction-goers will know, is the film in which Bond visits Sotheby’s to observe the sale of a stolen Fabergé egg, an incident borrowed from Fleming’s story The Property of a Lady, written originally for Sotheby’s yearbook The Ivory Hammer in 1963.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Christmas advance, US ESTIMATE: 400 - 600 GBP

Bond collectors will be especially interested in the rare first editions signed by the author: Fleming was an avid bibliophile and knew the value of his own signature.

These offer us several insights into Fleming’s Bond. The inscription to John Hayward in the advance copy of Diamonds Are Forever (‘For John & his blue pencil’) provides trace evidence of the editorial process and suggests that the first draft may have been racier than the published text. The Bond novels attracted controversy at the time for their erotic descriptions of undressed or partially dressed women, which some critics felt verged on the pornographic. Paul Johnson wrote a particularly vitriolic review of Dr No in which he accused Fleming of peddling ‘sex, snobbery and sadism’. [1]

Ian Fleming Diamonds are Forever (1956) first edition, presentation copy inscribed by the author to John Hayward ESTIMATE: 20,000 - 25,000 GBP

Fleming, at least in public, was not too upset by such criticism of his books, which he maintained were ‘very much the author’s pillow fantasy… bang, bang, kiss, kiss – that sort of stuff’. [2] The copy of You Only Live Twice inscribed to his colleague Robert Harling (‘To Robert – But not to read!’) indicates Fleming’s self-deprecating attitude towards his work. Fleming always liked to give the impression that he did not take Bond at all seriously, famously writing that ‘I am not an angry young, or even middle-aged man. I am not “involved”. My books are not “engaged”... They are written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains, airplanes or beds.’ [3]

Fleming died in August 1964: he had seen the first two films, Dr No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963), and contrary to some accounts approved of the casting of Sean Connery, even to the extent of writing a Scottish heritage for Bond into the later books – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun, all represented in this sale. The original UK poster for Dr No (‘The First James Bond Film!’) attests to the confidence that Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli had in Fleming’s hero. The early films, indeed, maintained much of Fleming’s plots, though added humour in the form of Bond’s throwaway one-liners.

It was the early Bond films that turned Bond from a British hero into a global phenomenon. The film posters included in the sale not only demonstrate the extent of Bond’s international appeal but also highlight the marketing strategies adopted for different territories.

In Italy, for example, Dr No became Agente 007 Licenza di Uccilare (‘Agent 007 Licensed to Kill’), suggesting that the character of Bond carried more recognition value than the title of Fleming’s book, while the French poster for the second film, Bons Baisers de Russie, translates quite charmingly as ‘Good Kisses from Russia’.

Terry O’Neill’s on-set photographs for Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Live and Let Die (1973) cover the transition from Sean Connery (the first and for many aficionados still the best Bond) to Roger Moore, a process that one critic likened to ‘the substitution of the head prefect for the school bully’. [4]

Dr. No (1962), Lobby cards numbers 4 and 6, US ESTIMATE: 700-1,000GBP

Moore is regarded as a more lightweight Bond, less ruthless than Connery but with greater charm. However, Neill’s portrait of a mean, moody Moore with a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum (the weapon of choice of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’), suggests an ambition to harden up his image.

Tom Mankiewicz Live and Let Die shooting script (1972) Signed by Thomas Pevsner ESTIMATE: 1,000 - 1,500GBP

My personal pick of the items offered here is not on the face of it one of the most obviously collectable artefacts such as the first editions or original posters. As a film historian, what interests me is the process of film-making that turns a story into a motion picture.

For that reason the shooting script of Live and Let Die is a fascinating and culturally valuable document, not just because it highlights minor differences between the script (representing the original intent) and the film (the finished outcome), but also in this case having belonged to associate producer Tom Pevsner, whose handwritten annotations illuminate the day-to-day practicalities of shooting a James Bond film.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Paul Johnson, ‘Sex, Snobbery and Sadism’, The New Statesman, 5 April 1958, p. 431.

[2] Jack Fishman, 0’07 and Me, by Ian Fleming’, in Sheldon Lane (ed.), For Bond Lovers Only (Panther, 1965), p. 15.

[3] Ian Fleming, ‘How to Write a Thriller’, Books and Bookmen, May 1963, p. 14.

[4] Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties (Harrap, 1985), p. 58.

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