Al-Ahram Weekly Online   25 October - 31 November 2012
Issue No. 1120
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Lubna Abdel-Aziz

Diamonds are forever

Only one man on earth can look so devilishly handsome, so seductive, so debonair at age 50... and his name is BOND -- James Bond! There he stood, larger than life, 50 years ago on our big screens, the envy of every man the dream of every woman! The British film, "Dr. No" premiered in London on October 5, 1962, and the world fell head over heels over the English spy identified as 007.

Click to view caption
Sean Connery Bond -- James Bond

The super spy was the creation of author Ian Fleming, himself a man of many talents, including spying for his homeland.

In this deep, dark hole we now live in, there is room for levity and relief. This invitation to fly away to a fantasy world filled with excitement and enchantment is heartily welcomed as we join in the year-long celebration of Bond's 50th birthday on the screen. The 65th Cannes Film Festival initiated the festivities by offering a bouquet of five classic Bond films, screened at 'Cinema de la Plage' last May. This was the first time in history that a Bond film was presented at the Cannes Festival. For die-hard fans, a collectible box-set featuring all 22 films, "BOND 50", in Blu-ray disc, for the first time, is now available and can be ordered online. Film No. 23, "SKYFALL" had its world premiere yesterday (Oct. 25), in London.

Six actors have portrayed Bond on the screen during the last half century, but it seems to matter little. Physical traits are a minor detail. Bond is Bond! He remains dapper, debonair, sublime and very British!

Author Fleming and Bond have so much in common, it is unclear whether Bond was Fleming's alter-ego or vice-versa. Fleming's real life rivals that of his fictitious hero on many levels. Born in 1908 to wealthy Scottish nobility, Ian lost is father in WWI, when he was barely 9. Winston Churchill wrote the obituary for Valentine Fleming for 'The Times' of London. Ian, together with his mother and older brother Peter lived on the vast estate they inherited. Ian attended Eton, Oxford and Sandhurst, then he left for Europe in search of his identity. There he became known as the rakish, handsome, cultured Etonian, "with a rapier wit and a certain lack of shyness with women". As a journalist at Reuters he distinguished himself by reporting on a spy trial in Russia. He tried his hand at Banking, but soon tired of it and returned to the Soviet Union to report for The Times. It is believed that throughout it all, he was secretly employed by the British Secret Service. By 1939, it became official when he was assigned as assistant to one of Britain's spy masters, Admiral John Godfrey.

WWII gave Fleming the opportunity to prove his greatest strength in Naval Intelligence. Furthermore, his memos became pleasurable reading to his superiors who relished his elegant style and colourful humour. On a trip to Jamaica, he declared he found his Paradise. There he settled after the war, built his fabulous villa, "Goldeneye", perched on the edge of the Carribean, where he leisurely chased tropical sunsets, dined and romanced the beauties of the colonies. At 44 he married Lady Anne Rothermore, and for the next 12 years transformed his elite existence and acid wit into some of the greatest thrillers ever written. It was there that he gave birth to the immortal Bond.

Unfortunately Fleming never lived to witness the screen's re-incarnation of his dashing spy, and the immense popularity of the product of his imagination.

The screen persona is the product of another man's imagination, Albert R. Broccoli, (Cubby), who initiated the series and developed the phenomenon of Bond, the longest, most enduring, most envied film franchise in history. Legend has it that it was Broccoli's wife Dana who picked little known, Scottish actor Sean Connery out of several aspirants: "Take that one. He's gorgeous!" Connery became the quintessential Bond, and we never quite got over him.

Matching Bond with the world's most dazzling women, exotic locations, diabolical villains, mind-boggling gadgetry and haunting theme songs was nothing less than genius. The women are gorgeous but do you remember their names? The locations are exotic, but do you remember where? Bond alone is unforgettable, everything else is a wondrous backdrop to the fantasy world of romance and adventure, often the subject of our daydreams.

Whether it was Connery, who made 6 films, or George Lazenby who made 1, the suave Roger Moore , 7, Timothy Dalton, 2, Pierce Brosnan, 4, and now, Daniel Craig, 3, they are all stunning British actors, who have left their mark as the 007 secret agent. It is that magic number that counts and even if the face behind it varies, the enchanting character endures.

SKYFALL promises to be another Bond classic, with a cast that reads like a Who's Who in contemporary cinema. Despite its $4 and1/2 billion dollars intake through the years, Bond has never been associated with Oscar, but SKYFALL has a non-customary string of Oscar winners attached to it. Apart from the venerable Judi Dench, actors Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney star, not to mention prominent British director Sam Mendes. What more can any movie lover ask for?

In this our time of toil and trouble, what a welcome invitation to a fantasy world of beaches and bikinis, elegance and opulence, fast cars and villains, celebrities and bullets, brilliantly dazzling diamonds, to enchant and entertain forever and ever.

"Bond is what every man would like to be, what every woman would like to have."
-- Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)

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