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London Launches Behind-The-Scenes James Bond Photography Exhibition
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London Launches Behind-The-Scenes James Bond Photography Exhibition

Picture of Simon Leser
UK Literary Editor
Updated: 5 January 2017
Despite being the biggest film franchise in history, James Bond has maintained a remarkable amount of coherence between its different incarnations. The contrast with its longest-running TV counterpart, Doctor Who, couldn’t be any more striking. While the latter has, throughout its run, oscillated wildly between the dramatic and the whimsical, the former has largely kept to a fixed formula: Charm, wit, action, and an occasional absurd situation – all qualities on display at The Name’s Bond, an exhibit of never-before-seen set photos from the franchise.
English film star Roger Moore, well known for his roles as James Bond and the Saint, downs a martini | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.
English film star Roger Moore, well known for his roles as James Bond and the Saint, downs a martini | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.

Whenever you look at the older Bond movies, those from the 1960s until the mid-1980s (with Sean Connery, George Lazenby, or Roger Moore in the lead role), a certain nostalgic reaction sets in: things just seemed to be a lot more fun back then. Sure, the plots were even more outlandish than they are today, and the ‘playboy’ persona was often turned to an uncomfortable maximum, but you always got the feeling that Bond himself was in on the joke. Whether it was Connery’s smirk, Lazenby’s perpetual looseness (and remember, for once HE was the one objectified in most of his movie) or Roger Moore’s wit, things weren’t all exactly kiss kiss bang bang.

Stripped to the waist, Australian actor George Lazenby offers co-star Helena Ronee a light, whilst filming the new James Bond film 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' in the Swiss Alps | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.
Stripped to the waist, Australian actor George Lazenby offers co-star Helena Ronee a light, whilst filming the new James Bond film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ in the Swiss Alps | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.

Of course, the plots lent themselves to this more debonair interpretation, and certainly took liberties with the viewer’s imagination: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, now a cult favorite (and partly so for its amazing score), managed to take 007 to a hidden alpine retreat full of beautiful – and deadly – female henchmen… all the while actually getting the spy married! Likewise, Live and Let Die’s ‘voodoo’ themes and tarot card reading, or Diamonds Are Forever’s general creepiness, should be seen in the same vein… None are exactly conducive to complete seriousness, now are they?

Shirtless Scottish actor Sean Connery holds Swiss actor Ursula Andress while she does a handstand on a beach in a white bikini on the set of the film, 'Dr. No' | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.
Shirtless Scottish actor Sean Connery holds Swiss actor Ursula Andress while she does a handstand on a beach in a white bikini on the set of the film, ‘Dr. No’ | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.

Timothy Dalton’s arrival in 1987 darkened the atmosphere a bit, taking the character closer to writer Ian Fleming’s version and preparing the ground, somewhat, for Craig’s current brooding. Yet that act didn’t last, and before long the lighter Pierce Brosnan made a series of successful appearances. The franchise’s slow push towards the action-packed had of course made 1990s and early 2000’s 007 more serious, yet a spark of fun definitely remained: GoldenEye’s legendary sex-killer (as played by Famke Janssen) can only but prove it.

A scene from the James Bond film 'Thunderball' with Sean Connery, Claudine Auger and Adolfo Celi | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.
A scene from the James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ with Sean Connery, Claudine Auger and Adolfo Celi | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.

It is with Daniel Craig, then, that James Bond’s biggest mood change took effect. Not for him the gentle charm and ironic touches of the original movies, but rather the melancholy madness of the modern action star. A look at these pictures should make it plain enough for anyone: you just don’t quite see these things happening in the modern Bond productions, do you? He’s simply less in on the joke, if there’s any joke left; what we have now is more of a ‘real’ spy, and a more sinister movie. Call us old fashioned if you must, but something nice was surely lost there. Why would anyone want to take James Bond seriously? After all, it’s really not as fun.

American actor, weightlifter and wrestler Harold Sakata (1920-1982) posed in character as Oddjob from the James Bond film 'Goldfinger', holding Hilton Hotel secretary Dawn Dunger in London in 1965. Sakata has one foot resting on James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.
American actor, weightlifter and wrestler Harold Sakata (1920-1982) posed in character as Oddjob from the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’, holding Hilton Hotel secretary Dawn Dunger in London in 1965. Sakata has one foot resting on James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 | Courtesy of Everyman Theatre and Getty Images.

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