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The Actors Who Almost Played Bond

Secret Weapons

10 Most Kick-Ass Bond Gadgets

Along with beautiful cars and dangerous women, his trademark “shaken, not stirred” drink order and his iconic self-introduction (“Bond, James Bond”), Agent 007’s futuristic gadgets are a staple of the pre-Daniel Craig James Bond films. See 10 of the best, most useful, and sometimes weirdest tools ever used in the films.

It’s been 50 years since Ian Fleming’s James Bond burst onto the screen in Dr. No in all of his tuxedoed, womanizing, Sean Connery glory. Since then, steel-jawed villains have been vanquished, Aston Martins have been demolished, and, most awesomely, a ton of hyper-futuristic, life-saving (and sometimes hilariously absurd) gadgets have been used by both Agent 007 and his foes. Here we pick 10 of the best.

Jet Pack in Thunderball (1965)

In 1965’s Thunderball, after breaking the evil Col. Jacques Bouvar’s neck with a fire poker, Connery-as-Bond escapes some surviving lackeys by taking flight in the utterly coolest way possible—with a jetpack. Never mind that it appears to go no faster than 15 miles an hour, is deafeningly loud, and kicks up more dust than a pack of rampaging horses—it fits conveniently into the trunk of your car!

Oddjob’s Bowler Hat in Goldfinger (1964)

After dispatching one of his own cowardly henchmen by pushing him over a railing, Goldfinger villain Oddjob sets his sights—and his bowler hat—on Bond. The hat’s brim concealed a razor-sharp metal disc and slices through stone, wires, metal, and even a person’s neck.

Cigarette Rocket in You Only Live Twice (1967)

Cultural Milestones

James Bond & the Beatles

Today marks 50 years since the world was introduced to the music giants and the movie spy. Both have stood the test of time, but while the Bond films—the latest, ‘Skyfall,’ lands Oct. 23—accommodated themselves to change, the Beatles changed music forever.

Fifty years ago today, the world was introduced to the first James Bond movie and the first Beatles single on the same day. Both Dr. No and “Love Me Do” debuted Oct. 5, 1962. The world was about to change, although no one probably knew it at the time.  

Dr. No inaugurated a movie franchise so successful that it would last through 22 films over half a century, weather several changes in its leading man, and hardly break stride. Fans may have preferred one or more 007 incarnations over the others, but it really doesn’t seem to have mattered who says “Bond, James Bond” or “Shaken, not stirred.” It’s the character, not the actor, whom people cotton to, and they’re still clamoring for more of him. Daniel Craig will fill Bond’s shoes for the third time—in the 23rd Bond movie—when Skyfall opens Nov. 9.

bond-beatles-50th-tease

“Love Me Do” was a hit not once, but three times. When first released in Britain, it rose to No. 17 on the pop charts. In the U.S. it went to No. 4, and when it was rereleased in 1964, it went to No. 1. By then the Beatles were well on their way to becoming not just an insanely popular rock-and-roll band, but a band so successful that their breakup and the subsequent deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison did little or nothing to dent their popularity. It’s a safe bet that there’s no other band so beloved by 5-year-olds and their grandparents and an awful lot of people in between.

Success, however, is just about the only thing the Bond movies and the Beatles have in common. 

Agent 007 is more or less immutable. He has adapted to a changing world only to the extent that the lapels of his tuxedo have narrowed or widened to remain in style, and he’s perhaps a little less misogynistic today than when Sean Connery first brought him to life.

The Beatles, on the other hand, were about nothing but change. In less than a decade, they remade the entire landscape of popular music. They spearheaded the British invasion of American pop, introduced psychedelia, made household words out of “peace and love,” and made it the rule rather than the exception that rock stars would write and perform their own songs. And for better or worse, they also made the studio, not the stage, their natural home. Without them, we might never have had the concept album (OK, so they weren’t perfect).

License to Thrill

Nine Best Bond Openers

Agent 007 celebrates his 50th year on film this week—a month before the opening of ‘Skyfall.’ To mark the occasion, we count down the best of a Bond staple: the opening action scene. From the snow-bunny double agent to the lassoed plane, watch all nine.

License to thrill?

After 50 years, the world’s most debonair secret agent is showing no signs of age, still jumping out of planes, surfing the tops of high-speed trucks, and, generally kicking ass. So on the occasion of James Bond’s 50th anniversaryIan Fleming’s suave action hero first hit the big screen in 1962’s Dr. No—it’s only fitting to pay tribute to what’s become a tradition of the classic franchise: the high-octane, pulse-pounding, pre-credit opening action sequences.

From Daniel Craig’s swashbuckling brandishing of a gun to Sean Connery’s iconic delivery of a pun, here are nine of the most memorable James Bond opening scenes—007 of the undeniable best, plus two more divisive sequences that stick out for other reasons.

001. ‘Goldeneye’ (1995)

Filling out 007’s tux for the first time in 1995’s Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan announces his arrival in heart-stopping fashion, in what remains not only the most thrilling Bond stunt of all time, but one of the best action-film openings ever. Despite the franchise’s inextricable ties to music, the Goldeneye opening begins a capella, with Bond taking a breathtaking bungee jump off a 750-foot dam, soundtracked only by the sound of the cord unraveling. The pre-title sequence concludes with Bond pursuing a plane off a cliff in a motorcycle, flying through the air, landing on the aircraft, and navigating it to safety as the first beats to Tina Turner’s theme song kick in.

002. ‘Goldfinger’ (1964)

50TH ANNIVERSARY

The Evolution of the Bond Girl

From their punny names to their youthful beauty, Bond girls are the epitome of man’s plaything. Their extreme objectification is never hidden, and they often seduce and distract the suave spy. Fifty years after ‘Dr. No,’ and as we await the November premiere of ‘Skyfall,’ how has the Bond woman evolved?

Xenia Onatopp, Holly Goodhead, Pussy Galore, and Honey Ryder might sound like porn stars, but these women are famous for being in more ... “legitimate” movies.

Said ladies, along with 48 other women whom author Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond has slept with on screen (and the dozens more he merely fooled around with) all fall under a singular title: Bond Girl. Beginning with the first film in 1962, Dr. No (starring Sean Connery) and continuing through the latest Skyfall—which premieres in November—Bond has taken to bed an abundance of women over the last 50 years.

The women may be aesthetically different, and range from femmes fatale to shapely sidekicks, but they share one purpose: to inject sex and danger wherever Agent 007 may lay his head at night. For Bond, their presence is an accessory to the main course, a dessert he knows not to eat but looks too seductive not to take a bite of.

MSDGOLD EC011

GOLDFINGER, Sean Connery, Shirley Eaton, 1964. (Everett Collection)

But how hazardous can a bikini-clad woman with a heaving bosom and moderate knowledge of operating a handgun be to a special agent anyway? Apparently, very. Fleming’s Bond girl often sings her siren song, frequently sleeping with 007 to get what she—or her typically male employer—wants. The films represent one of the original pairings of violence and sex, classic masculinity and a media-embraced concept of the overly sexualized female. But even Bond knows stereotypes are dangerous. Never fully trusting a sexual partner, he sleeps with a gun under his pillow, wouldn’t hesitate to take out a woman if she is suspect, and knows that a pair of spread legs can be equally as deadly as a loaded pistol.

Many of the Bond women are scripted as seemingly villainous, but they often have dark pasts—frequently involving sexual violence. In 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, diamond-robber Tiffany Case reveals she was gang-raped as a teenager, an incident eventually translated to a hatred of men. All men, it seems, except Bond, who ultimately beds her. Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder, the first of Fleming’s leading ladies to be represented in film via Dr. No, is first seen emerging from the ocean in a white bikini, and when Bond approaches her she says, “Stay where you are!” He responds coyly, “I can assure you my intentions are strictly honorable.” Later it is revealed that she was beaten and raped as a teen, but the knife she once wore around her waist as protection against 007, is soon replaced with his slightly more literal phallic object. Bond’s women, while hurt by men in the past, can’t resist him for more than a few scenes. This truism is most accurately embodied in 1964’s Goldfinger. Honor Blackman plays Pussy Galore, a practicing lesbian, who has sex with Bond. While in bed, he says, “They told me you only liked women.” To which she replies, “I never met a man before.”

Then there’s the character of M. Written as a man by Fleming, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6) has been portrayed by Dame Judi Dench in the most recent adaptations. In her first film, 1995’s GoldenEye, Dench’s M says Bond is a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.” M holds her own against Bond, and she’s not easily manipulated by the suave 007. Yet she is cold, callous, and has zero sex appeal. When M is portrayed as a woman, she is the anti-Bond girl—another opposite but equally extreme representation of a woman in Bond’s world.

Spoiler Alert!!!

OK, so here’s what the Royalist hears is happening at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony on 27 July.

Daniel Craig

Ian Gavan / Getty Images

It’s all top secret, hush-hush under wraps, so if you don’t want to ruin the big surprise, then perhaps it would be better to stop reading now rather than write in the comments box later what a miserable curmudgeon I am, ruining people’s fun etc etc. Just an idea, but hey, whatever turns you on.

So sources say that as the lights go down for the big opening ceremony a week on Friday, a short film will begin, which will be shown on giant screens at the Olympic stadium and on TV at the same time. It features everybody’s favourite special agent, James Bond aka Daniel Craig, arriving with a crunch of gravel at Buckingham Palace. He makes his way inside, and the next clip is THE QUEEN HERSELF tapping Mr Craig on the shoulders and uttering the immortal words, “Arise Sir James”.

This is the first time the Queen has ever enaged in a fictional scenario on camera.

Sir James is then given a special mission, to open the London 2012 games. He heads outside and jumps into a waiting chopper, emblazoned with a Union Jack. This then speeds up the Thames,  flying underneath Tower Bridge (the footage was filmed in sunny June).

Back at the stadium, the air is filled with the sound of whirling helicopter blades, as the very same chopper now magically appears above the stadium in real time, assuming it is not shot down by the surface to air missiles located on a nearby London tower block. A hatch opens. A rope drops.

AND DANIEL CRAIG ABSEILS INTO THE STADIUM!!

Arise, Sir 007

James Bond Knighted!

A lifetime of sterling service to Q&C justly rewarded

Arise, Sir 007.

Buckingham Palace sources have told the Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary that James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, has secretly received the honor of a knighthood from the Queen, in recognition of long and dedicated service to Q&C, and footage of the Monarch tapping 007 on the shoulder with a sword will form part of a film for the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Daniel Craig

Ian Gavan / Getty Images

The event’s artistic director, Danny Boyle, has been filming at the Palace. There has been speculation that, as part of the film, the Queen gives Bond a mission to open the Games and that he will be parachuted into the east London stadium.

Craig was seen at the Palace with a film crew last month.

“Daniel Craig was here in black tie one morning in early April,” a source told the Standard. “Judi Dench [who plays M, the head of MI6] was also here, and the talk of the Palace was that Bond was going to be knighted that morning.”

A spokesman for the Palace said it was involved in a number of filming projects for the Jubilee, but would not discuss specific projects.

Spy vs. Spy

Meet Boyd, William Boyd

The acclaimed British novelist is the next to bring James Bond to life, but in the meantime he has a spy novel of his own, 'Waiting for Sunrise,' just out in the U.S. He talks with Lucy Scholes about espionage and his Viennese obsession.

Last week it was announced that James Bond was coming back to life under the pen of William Boyd. He’s setting the new novel in 1969, only five years after Ian Fleming’s death, so there’s a sense, Boyd tells me, that “it is still closely linked with the Bonds Fleming wrote, inhabiting the ‘classic’ milieu of the originals, still picking up on their reverberations as it were.” In returning to this period, Boyd’s also distancing the novel further from the cinematic counterpart—a franchise that has, he argues, “inevitably confused” the image of Bond in the world: “The literary Bond is a far more nuanced and intriguing character than the screen Bond,” he explains, something, he admits, that in itself was one of the attractions of writing a Bond novel as opposed to a Bond screenplay. 

William Boyd

“Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel.” By William Boyd. $25.99; Harper (Colin McPherson / Corbis)

“I hoovered the Bond novels up in my early teens,” he continues, but interestingly, given his interest in espionage fiction, he explains that his fascination is more directed at the author than his now famous character (a factor that accounts for Fleming’s appearance in his novel Any Human Heart). “Fleming isn’t in the same league as an author like le Carré—as Fleming would be the first to recognize,” he tells me, “and Fleming wasn’t an intellectual, but he somehow managed to create an almost mythic, emblematic fictional figure that is as enduring as, say, Sherlock Holmes or Philip Marlowe. Quite how such a man managed to do this is something of a mystery, but there’s no doubt that the (literary) Bond strikes a chord in readers that is profound. It’s a most enticing challenge to have a chance to add to the myth.”
 
Boyd’s latest novel, Waiting for Sunrise, begins in Vienna in 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor who has traveled to the Austrian city in the hope that psychoanalytic treatment will cure his anorgasmia, is soon swept up in the currents of history as, with the advent of the First World War, he finds himself embroiled in the duplicitous realm of espionage, on the hunt for a spy that takes him from the trenches of the Western Front to Geneva and finally the corridors of Whitehall.

Although the novel spans Europe, with much of the action actually taking place in London, it is the Vienna Boyd conjures that remains with the reader throughout. “I have these obsessions with cities,” Boyd tells me by way of explanation, recalling the short stories he wrote in the ’70s about Los Angeles, through his interest in Berlin and then Lisbon. But right now he’s clearly fascinated with pre–World War I Vienna and talks enthusiastically of his “curiosity” about the city. “There was a great coming together of human endeavor there in the years between 1913 and 1919,” he explains, talking passionately about the era’s architecture, politics, design, satire, journalism, art, literature, and music. “The entire future history of Europe was bubbling up there,” he continues. “I’m not just thinking of Hitler, but Stalin was there in 1913, and Trotsky was living there; Tito too, working as a chauffeur. It’s a very strange congruence.”

Similarly in the novel, Lysander’s wartime adventures can all be traced back to his time in the city; indeed the entire espionage plot has a distinctly Viennese tinge to it, a fitting inflection given Boyd’s thoughts on the central role played by Vienna at this particular historical moment. “Here we are, virtually a hundred years after Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, still living with the consequences of that random encounter in the streets of Sarajevo—the creation of Poland and the Balkan states, the dismantling of the [Austro-Hungarian] Empire, and the subsequent Paris Peace Treaty that itself contributed to the rise of the Nazis. It’s slightly stretching the facts to fit the thesis,” he acknowledges, “but somehow Vienna was the fulcrum of everything that has happened subsequently.”

As Boyd admits, this period is rich ground for a novelist, as the world was changing with such dramatic speed, but he didn’t set out to write a “historical” novel as such. Instead the initial inspiration hit him as he stood on the steps to Freud’s old apartments while visiting the city to research a piece about the artist Egon Schiele. “I was thinking about what it must have been like coming here 100 years ago. It must have been the riskiest thing to do. I mean, we’re all Freudians now; the science of the mind is taken for granted. But I wondered who would be the person standing on these steps then?” The subsequent plot was driven by this early conception of the main protagonist.

Boyd sees psychoanalysis as one of the key markers of what he calls the “shift in human sensibility” that took place during the period, as “we became modern people with all our neuroses and uncertainties,” and Lysander is an “exemplar of this change from innocence to caution, paranoia, and suspicion.”

This sense of how public events affect private lives is a theme he returns to over and over again in his work. His interest is in “how we brush up against history.” This is something he traces back to his own childhood experiences. “If I hadn’t been born and raised in Africa and seen at relatively close hand upheavals, military coups, mass demonstrations, and then a civil war,” he says, “I might not have the same sense of how one is buffeted or not by the forces of history. I remember tear gas drifting through our garden in Nigeria during a massive student riot as I stood there with my father. These experiences have given me a slightly different perspective—I was in the country for the Nigerian civil war of ’68–70, so I can look at other events I wasn’t at and imagine the same disconnect or connect.”

Bond's special assignment

James Bond to Open London 2012 Olympics

Daniel Craig

Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images

On Her Majesty's Orders

Daniel Craig has shot a short film in character as James Bond which will be screened on the BBC  as part of the Olympics opening ceremony.
The London 2012 artistic director Danny Boyle and the 007 star were given access to film at Buckingham Palace.
The short is called The Arrival, and features 007 traveling to Buckingham Palace to be informed that his latest mission is to launch the 2012 games. He is then taken by helicopter to the Olympic stadium in Stratford, east London, where he parachutes into the arena.
Boyle and Craig were reportedly given unprecedented access to the palace and its private rooms last week after the Queen personally sanctioned the idea.

007

The Real James Bond

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming (Horst Tappe / Hulton Archive-Getty Images)

A new book relates the remarkable story of Ian Fleming’s daring commando group during World War Two and how they inspired the story of the greatest spy ever: James Bond. Michael Korda finds his own family story in its midst.

I only met Ian Fleming once, at a party given by my father’s friend the director Carol Reed, at his house at 211 King’s Road, Chelsea, the garden of which he shared with Peter Ustinov. The party, given in honor of the American actor Sonny Tufts of all people, was star-studded and noisy, the noise level increased by the fact that one whole wall of the Reeds’ drawing room consisted of a floor to ceiling aviary full of angrily squawking, chattering and screeching exotic birds, cockatoos and parrots, outraged at this invasion of their privacy. This was well before Ian Fleming became a household name as the author of the James Bond books, probably in 1951, shortly after I had joined the Royal Air Force, and I was conspicuous only by my youth and my uniform. I was undergoing training at the time for radio (or, as we call it in the U. K., “wireless”) intelligence work involving a knowledge of Russian, about which I was forbidden to speak. The press of famous people shouting “Dahling!” at each other at the top of their voice forced us together briefly by accident, and I introduced myself shyly. He raised an eyebrow at the presumption of an Aircraftman Second Class introducing himself, and mumbled his name. The only part of it I heard was “Fleming,” and I was thrilled. Peter Fleming was a famous English traveler, explorer and adventurer, whose non-fiction books were hugely successful. My father owned signed copies of all of them—he and Peter Fleming had become acquainted over some detail of set design at the Korda film studio in Shepperton—and I had read each of them with breathless adolescent excitement. He was immensely glamorous, a tall, handsome old Etonian who won a First at Oxford and married the beautiful actress Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter), one of those Englishmen who had traveled everywhere, however dangerous and remote, and wrote about it all in neat, epigrammatic prose: “São Palo is like Reading, only much further away.” He and T. E. Lawrence were then my favorite writers and role models (it was because of Lawrence that I had joined the R. A. F. in the first place), and much as I aspired (in vain) to emulate Lawrence of Arabia, I also longed to travel in Peter Fleming’s footsteps over the Hindu Kush, or up the Amazon in pursuit of the legendary Colonel Fawcett. “I loved Brazilian Adventure,” I said. “I read it three times.”

He looked at me coldly, and blew a cloud of cigarette smoke from his nostrils towards me (I was still trying to do that without sneezing or coughing). His cigarette, I could tell, was something special, not a brand you could buy from the corner tobacconist. “Did you now?” he asked, in an unmistakable, clipped Old Etonian accent. Without being in any way “gay,” au contraire, one could see how attractive he must be to women, he reminded me a bit of a tougher version Noel Coward: the cool, fishy, challenging stare, the elegant way of smoking a cigarette, held nonchalantly between the index finger and forefinger of the right hand, the sleek hair, the faultless clothes, the sense he gave of being not so much upper-class as beyond class. “That,” he said, “was written by my older brother. I am Ian Fleming. I would not have guessed that my brother’s books were so popular among other ranks in the air force.” With that, he turned on his heel and left me to stare at the bird life.

“Other ranks” was of course a put-down, the British equivalent of “enlisted men” in the U. S., and whatever else he was Ian Fleming was definitely of the officer class. “Air force” was also a put-down since the correct way to refer to my service was “the R. A. F.” but then Ian Fleming had been a Commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during the war, and the Royal Navy is “The Senior Service,” whose members look down with undisguised contempt on those who wear khaki or R. A. F. blue. Ian Fleming, as I soon learned, had been famous in the war as a member of secret naval intelligence, had been a founder of the Commandoes, was involved in everything from code-breaking to gun-running, and knew virtually everybody who was worth knowing in society, politics, journalism and academia, and was said to be profoundly jealous of his brother Peter’s literary success. I had “dropped,” as we used to say in the R. A. F. in those days, “a tremendous clanger.”

By the time I left the R. A. F. Casino Royale had transformed Ian Fleming into a far more famous figure than his brother, and a rich man as well, and as I read his novels I soon came to appreciate that James Bond was not a literary invention, like John Buchan’s Richard Hannay, but a magnified reflection of what Ian Fleming was as well as what he would like to have been, mixing his slightly snobbish and fastidious taste for perfection and his amazing gift for detail with his admiration for swashbuckling, gun- and dagger-carrying types and his schoolboy taste for lurid intelligence schemes, part practical jokes, part murderous. Singlehandedly he changed the image of the Englishman from a seedy and sedate type with bad teeth to a glamorous combination of trained thug and sexual adventurer, approaching both casual violence and sex with a slightly mocking air, an elegantly raised eyebrow and a lit cigarette nonchalantly poised. For a brief moment Ian Fleming made being an Englishman seem sexy, even to the French. He should have been awarded a knighthood, even possibly the Garter.

For those of the right age who remember the James Bond novels, and his earliest film incarnation Sean Connery, with fondness, this book, Nicholas Rankin’s Ian Fleming’s Commandos, to borrow a friend’s famous comment on Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls which compared reading the novel “to masturbating while eating M&Ms,” will be the equivalent for those who like their war history on the rare side, instead of being cooked up into a story filled with appealing and heroic Allied characters fighting monstrous buffoons and sadists in jackboots. It is, first of all, chock-a-block full of wonderful stories and odd characters, and secondly awash in wonderful, arcane knowledge of the seamy and secret side of World War Two (this is not the war that Band of Brothers or The Great Generation told you about), in addition to its being a combination of three separate books, suavely blended, like one of Bond’s Martinis: first, a brilliant portrait of Ian Fleming, then a history of British secret intelligence in World War Two and the part he played in it, and finally a kind of war diary of his brainchild, the ubiquitous 30 Assault Group, some of it told in the voice of an official war history, much of it in the much funnier voice of Evelyn Waugh in his fictional war trilogy Officers and Gentlemen, part of which was based on Waugh’s own experience with the commandoes.

When I tell you that one of the first of Fleming’s bright ideas for breaking Germany’s war codes was to borrow from the R. A. F. a downed and repaired Heinkel He111 bomber, fit a British aircrew out in German flying kit, build into the aircraft a smoke-making machine, then have the crew perform a fake crash-landing of the smoking bomber in the North Sea, where they would hopefully be picked up by a German high-speed rescue launch, upon boarding which they would overcome and kill the boat’s crew, dump them over the side, and bring it back to England with its Enigma code machine and code books intact, this will give you some idea of the bold inventiveness of his mind, and also of the link between James Bond’s fictional exploits and Fleming’s own extraordinary war-time plans and operations. It neatly combines a gift for melodrama, a taste for dirty tricks, a powerful imagination and an important objective. Fleming was a great salesman of such far-fetched schemes—in this case, he actually succeeded in getting the R. A. F. to provide the aircraft and the crew, and was ready to go until somebody pointed out that there was no way to guarantee that a German motor torpedo boat would be around to pick up the crew when they crash-landed the aircraft in the sea. It did not hurt that Fleming knew admirals, generals, and senior statesmen by their first names, and had the same unbreakable self-confidence as his older brother Peter, who returned from the failed British expedition to Norway in 1940 with important information, found that he had missed the last train to London from Inverness, in Scotland, and although he was only wearing the three “pips” of an Army captain, simply told the station-master to get him a special train, like a man ordering a taxi from the doorman at Claridge’s late at night, got it, and turned up early the next morning to report to the Admiralty in London, only to be waylaid by the then First Lord, Winston Churchill, smoking a pre-breakfast cigar in his silk pajamas. About to light his pipe, Peter Fleming asked Churchill if he minded, who replied, “Yes, I bloody well do.”

Rankin has a good ear for the class differences of England, as well as an eye for the idiosyncrasies of the English (and Scottish) upper class. Peter Fleming’s authoritative and superbly self-confident style was very much what his brother Ian Fleming aspired to, and achieved. Rankin is wonderful at all the details of the clubby world of the rival secret services: we learn that Ian Fleming was working as a stockbroker and flâneur-around-town, looking very much like “somebody out of a Wodehouse novel,” according to Cyril Connolly, when no less a mandarin than Sir Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, recommended him as a likely assistant to the new Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Sir John Godfrey. Godfrey invited Ian Fleming to lunch at the Carton Hotel Grill [Where else?], where Godfrey and another admiral “liked the cut of his jib,” and brought him on board to learn the deepest of Britain’s secrets, and to act on them. He was the proverbially smooth young man looking to get ahead, and he did. In return, Fleming would immortalize Admiral Godfrey as “M” in his Bond novels—one letter IDs were de rigeur in the intelligence game: “C” was the ailing head of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI-6, and the question was who would inherit his role, Stewart (“Jock”) Menzies, or Claude Dancey, “fifteen years older. . . more of a rough diamond (‘an utter shit; corrupt, incompetent, but with a certain low cunning,’ according to Hugh Trevor-Roper [the Oxford historian, wartime intelligence officer and future Lord Dacre], who ran the covert Z network of agents and. . . used Alexander Korda’s film company as a front.” Thanks to Rankin, I now know that coveted bottle of green ink was by tradition the sole prerogative of “C”, and that Menzies was expected to get it, and so he did, although many people thought he was only the window dressing for Dancey. As a boy I actually met some of these people, who were friends of my Uncle Alex’s, like Graham Greene, who was for a time “Our Man in Monrovia” for MI-6, and Trevor-Roper, whose lectures I attended at Oxford, and numerous louches, polyglot European film makers, still photographers, and screen writers, who slipped seamlessly into intelligence work in Britain.

Nicholas Rankin is terrific at this kind of thing, his brief sketches of the intelligence chiefs are wonderful, and he can do it for page after page, one anecdote after another, without pausing for breath, as he can about clandestine warfare, whether it’s the story about the melons filled with high explosive, or the tragic Dieppe raid in 1942, which was at once the coming of age of the commandoes and the vital, if costly learning process about amphibious landings without which TORCH (North Africa) and OVERLORD (Normandy) might have failed. He describes combat very well indeed, but he is also very skilled at boiling down the whole story of Bletchley and the breaking of the German Enigma code system (the crown jewel of British intelligence in World War Two) into manageable form, about which whole vast books have been written, and also good at explaining inventions like the proximity fuse, or airborne radar. He would have been a terrific person to have around SIS, or DNI, in World War Two himself, very good at fulfilling Winston Churchill’s constant demand to explain even the most complicated things “on one piece of paper only.”

'Skyfall' Zooms In

James Bond returns after a long awaited hiatus. In this new trailer, Daniel Craig brings a whole lot more than just his gun.

  1. The Newest Bond Girl: Queen Elizabeth II Play

    The Newest Bond Girl: Queen Elizabeth II

  2. Designing Bond's Look Play

    Designing Bond's Look

  3. Bond Returns in ‘Skyfall’ Play

    Bond Returns in ‘Skyfall’

The Spy Who Loved Me

007's Leading Ladies

The Evolution of the Bond Girl

The Evolution of the Bond Girl

Agent 007’s women have always been associated with sex and beauty, but has the modern-day Bond Girl evolved to being more than a man’s toy? By Anna Klassen.

Watch This!

License to Thrill

Nine Best Bond Openers

Nine Best Bond Openers

As 007 celebrates his 50th year on film, The Daily Beast counts down his best opening action scenes.

Watch This!

Bond, James Bond

10 Most Kick-Ass Bond Gadgets

10 Most Kick-Ass Bond Gadgets

From a rocket-launching ghetto blaster to a collapsible, flamethrowing plane, James Bond’s best gadgets.

Adele Goes Bond

The superstar vocalist has entered the 50-year franchise with the debut of her fantastic new single, 'Skyfall.' Listen here to the latest Bond anthem.