Sunday, 29 April 2012

Women want to be with him, men want to be him – and other phrases

A feature on Vincent Cassel in the Sunday Times magazine of 23rd April 2012 began with the words: 'Vincent Cassel is married to Monica Bellucci, loves his kids and can afford to turn down any film he's offered. Women want to be with him, men want to be him.' The final sentence is a phrase associated with James Bond, and encapsulates Bond's attraction to both men and women. That the feature's writer, Stefanie Marsh, used the phrase, whether knowingly alluding to the world of Bond or not, is testament to its success as measured by its longevity and spread into wider popular culture.

The phrase is often attributed to Raymond Chandler ('Every man wants to be James Bond and every woman wants to be with him'), which potentially dates it to 1959 or earlier, but it certainly appeared in print in 1963. In a review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service published in the Sunday Times in 1963, Raymond Mortimer wrote, 'James Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like between her sheets.'

It is possible that Raymond Mortimer had adapted Chandler's line [but click here to read an update and further discussion about the origin of the phrase], but more likely the writers were expressing variants of a phrase already current in cultural space, and since the 1960s, there have been many more variants expressed. Sean Connery, for example, said in Playboy in 1965 that 'Bond is the invincible figure every man would like to be, every woman is excited by, and is everyone's survival symbol.' Even Ian Fleming had his own version. He told Jack Fishman in c 1963, 'Bond is the kind of man every girl secretly dreams of meeting and leads the life every man would like to live if he dared.'

More recently the phrase was used in Austin Powers (1997), in which Mrs Kensington, played by Mimi Rogers, said, 'Women want him, and men want to be him'. And the response from Bond directors John Glen, Martin Campbell and Michael Apted at January's CES 2012 in Las Vegas when asked why people want to see Bond films was that men want to be Bond and women want to go to bed with him.

Another phrase strongly associated with Bond that does not derive from lines in the Bond books or films is 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'. Around the time of Thunderball (1965), Bond was known in Italy (and/or Japan, depending on one's source) as Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and as a result, John Barry composed a piece with that phrase as the title for Thunderball. As with 'Men want to be him...' type phrases, however, 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' was probably already well established in popular culture. Fleming had used it himself. He also told Jack Fishman, 'I admit that Bond is...the feverish dream of the author of what he might have been – bang, bang, kiss, kiss – that sort of stuff.'

We may also add to our list the phrase, 'martinis, girls and guns', which Cheryl Crow used in her song for 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies. What these examples suggest is that memes such as phrases, which are often attributed to a single origin, may already have existed in some form in cultural space, and because of that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they are expressed in reviews, interviews, articles, films, or song lyrics.


Fishman, J, 1965 007 and me, by Ian Fleming, in For Bond Lovers Only (ed. S Lane), Panther
Jarman, C M, 2009 Licence to quote, Blue Eyed Books

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Moneypenny Diaries and their cover designs

Pulling out the first editions of the Moneypenny Diaries by Kate Westbrook (the pseudonym of Samantha Weinberg) from my bookshelf, it struck me that the design of the dustjacket art for each volume has been influenced by different aspects of Bondian iconography. The Jonathan Cape editions of Ian Fleming's novels, the Pan paperbacks, and the films have all lent something to the artwork.

Let's take the first volume, sub-titled 'Guardian Angel' (2005). The cover is designed to resemble a buff-coloured document file or wallet of the sort that usually sits in filing cabinets. It is an HM Government file – there is a symbol of the Crown at the top – and it is secured by a (pink) ribbon. The file is rubber-stamped with the words, 'Intended for her eyes only'. This, of course, alludes to the phrase, 'For Your Eyes Only', which is so strongly associated with James Bond, but the cover designer (gray318) also appears have introduced a variant on the stamp used on the Pan paperback cover art of the For Your Eyes Only novel, published c 1963/4.

The second volume, 'Secret Servant' (2006), the designer (again gray318) has turned to the Richard Chopping covers of Fleming's novels for inspiration. The ribbon motif (now blue) has been carried through to this volume, but the file device has gone, and instead replaced by a central image of a small handgun with a handle faced with mother of pearl (Ladies' stopping power, as the Armourer in Dr No might say). A lipstick lies next to the gun. The composition of the image offers something of the style of Richard Chopping's artwork, notably for From Russia, with Love, The Spy Who Loved Me, and even John Gardner's Licence Renewed (which, though designed by Mon Mohan, was based on a watercolour by Chopping). The photograph is of real objects, and so mimics the trompe l'oeil three dimensional effect so characteristic of Chopping's work.

The cover art for the third volume, 'Final Fling' (2008), designed by Madeline Meckiffe, is inspired by film iconography. A drawing depicts a woman, who is presumably Moneypenny. She stands, with the lower part of her right leg crossing her left leg, and her gaze is directed at the reader. With her right hand she holds a gun, which points upwards and rests against her left shoulder. Her left hand is tucked behind her right arm. The figure is positioned in front of a white background, but is framed by a red-bordered circle. The circle is clearly an allusion to the gun-barrel sequence that (nearly) always introduces each Bond film, and the figure's pose could be taken from a number of Bond film posters, where Bond is depicted in a similar position, for example on the UK posters used for From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Octopussy.

Bond iconography, whether originating in the books or the films, continues to have an enduring influence on new Bond-related material, including the Moneypenny Diaries. The ideas or memes behind the iconography are sufficiently robust to be recognisable even when adapted to varying degrees, in some cases 50 or so years after they were first introduced.

Monday, 16 April 2012

James Bond in 1969

On 11th April, Ian Fleming Publications announced that William Boyd will write the next James Bond novel. Many of the details are under wraps, but William Boyd has said that he will take Bond back to the 1960s, setting the adventure in 1969.

The book will expand the chronology of Bond's activities in the 1960s. According to John Griswold, Fleming left Bond in February 1964. The events of Devil May Care, by Sebastian Faulks, were set after The Man with the Golden Gun, apparently around 1967. If so, then presumably Faulks disregarded Kingsley Amis' Colonel Sun, which is set in the year that Amis wrote it, 1967/8.

One of the ways in which authors evoke a past period is to refer to contemporaneous events. In Kate Westbrook's first volume of The Moneypenny Diaries (2006), for example, the narrative weaves around the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Modern-set novels (that is, contemporary with the period of writing) tend to lack references to newsworthy events, possibly because the significance of recent events is not clear at the time of writing, or that reading about those events a year later when the book is published can make the book seem dated. In the words of Elvis Costello, yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish and chip paper. There are exceptions, of course, among them The Man with the Golden Gun, in which Fleming referred to Charles de Gaulle's recognition of Communist China in 1964, and Raymond Benson's Zero Minus Ten (1997) in which the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 provided the novel's background.

So to what events might William Boyd refer in his forthcoming Bond novel to root the narrative to 1969? January was a rather momentous month. Given the ongoing furore surrounding the behaviour of the British Press (phone hacking, intrusion, etc.) and the fortunes of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, we could see a reference to Murdoch's purchase of the News of the World in that month. Also in January, Richard Nixon was elected US president, and the Beatles gave their final live performance on the roof of Apple Records.

The Harrier jump-jet entering service in March of 1969 may get a mention, as it's a fondly-remembered plane that was controversially axed in 2010. Or there may be a reference to British troops going into Northern Ireland in April. Charles de Gaulle resigned as president of France in April, and a reference to this would be a nod to Fleming's reference to de Gaulle.

May 1969 provides another Beatles reference – it was the month that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their Bed-In in Montreal. Inevitably, it has been argued that the current situation in Afghanistan finds an echo in the Vietnam War, and a reference to the first US troop withdrawals from Vietnam in July 1969 may be difficult to resist. Also in July, the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong stepped onto its surface. Surely no book set in 1969 can avoid a reference to this momentous event.

A smaller event, at the end of July, is the removal from British legal tender of the halfpenny. One can imagine that being another bee in M's bonnet, and Bond might have some views about a new commercial aircraft, the Boeing 747, which entered service in December. Finally, I wonder whether Bond will walk past a cinema in December, glance up to see what's showing and note that there's another film about that sophisticated and tough secret agent. 'Complete fantasy. Nothing like real intelligence work', Bond might reflect with an almost imperceptible shake of the head.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Reflections in a Mercedes 300 S

I've always had a soft spot for Moonraker, both the film (not least because of its exciting laser battle in space and a villain relaxed to the point of being supine) and the novel. I was aged about 12 or 13 when I first read the novel. The story was a good one – a grotesque villain, a card game as exciting as any gun battle, a rocket targeted on London – but what gave the adventure a particular resonance with me was one of its locations.

In the last third of the book, Drax, his henchman, Krebs, and assistant, Gala Brand, drive in a Mercedes through Kent from Dover to London, pursued by Bond. On the way, Drax drives through the county town of Maidstone. Now, Maidstone was where I grew up and went to school, and it was therefore very familiar to me. So when Fleming describes streets and places, I knew exactly where he meant, and I pictured Drax's journey as if I were in the Mercedes with him.

In chapter 18, Fleming describes Drax waiting at traffic lights at the junction of King Street and Gabriel's Hill. Knowing that he took the A20 from Dover, this suggests that Drax enters the centre of Maidstone from the east on Ashford Road (the A20), which becomes King Street. To get to Gabriel's Hill, Drax needed to turn left at the lights. Instead, he pulls out slightly to overtake a car, and continues westwards into the High Street.

On the High Street, Drax passes the Royal Star Hotel. The hotel, built in the 16th century as a coaching inn, still exists, but is now an upmarket shopping centre. Drax continues westwards (actually towards the south-west), leaves the town centre and turns north-west still onto London Road (still the A20).

The next landmark is the Thomas Wyatt hotel. Gala Brand manages to persuade Drax to stop there so that she can surreptitiously look through Drax's book of Moonraker launching calculations. The Sir Thomas Wyatt is on London Road almost 2 miles north-west of Maidstone town centre. Today, travelling from London, one would leave the M20 at junction 5 and follow signs for Maidstone. The Sir Thomas Wyatt is now a Beefeater restaurant, and indeed I ate at the place a number of times when I lived in Maidstone.

The detailed references to streets and places of Maidstone show that Ian Fleming was familiar with what he was describing, probably because he frequently took the journey himself as he travelled from Dover to his London home in Ebury Street (notably Fleming placed Drax's home on the same street).

Sunday, 1 April 2012

How did the Gleaner cover Dr No?

The arrival of the James Bond team in a region is big news. It generates a lot of publicity, draws in the crowds, and, as we've already seen with the filming of Skyfall, brings economic benefits. This was true back in 1962 with the filming of the first Bond film, Dr No, as it is now. The Daily Gleaner, Jamaica's renowned newspaper, was well placed to record the reaction in Jamaica to the arrival of Eon Productions and the stars of Dr No, Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. Let's look at some of the coverage.

January 16, 1962
The Dr No team arrived in Jamaica on Sunday 14th January. Albert Broccoli was reported as saying that the crew would be in Jamaica for about five or six weeks, and that they'd be filming all over the island. What's more, the film would be a top feature. Sean Connery had already been in the island for about a week. He admitted that 'perhaps I have a little of James Bond in me'. Director Terence Young was to view local artists at the Copacabana Club the Wednesday evening (17th) for the cabaret scenes.

January 17, 1962
The Gleaner reported that cameras started rolling the day before (Tuesday 16 January). The first scenes to be shot were at the Palisadoes airport. It also stated that a number of roles had gone to Jamaicans, among them Miss Jamaica 1961, Marguerite LeWars, who played the photographer in the pay of Dr No.

January 31, 1962
Ursula Andress arrived in Jamaica on January 29. The piece reported that she was to play Honey, and was staying at the Courtleigh Manor Hotel in Kingston. The film crew was about to move to the north coast for filming.

February 7, 1962
The film crew arrived on the 6th January at St Ann's Bay in Ocho Rios on the north coast. It noted that Ian Fleming had a home in Jamaica.

February 8, 1962
The Gleaner published a report on the attempts by locals of the Ocho Rios area to obtain jobs on Dr No. Eon Productions was seeking about 100 people. The report doesn't state whether the work was for extras or production staff. The report notes that there was a sense of a local grievance; councillor Sydney James considered it unfair that most jobs had gone to Kingstonians.

February 27, 1962
A writ on behalf of musicians Carlos Malcolm and Ernest Ranglin was served by their representative, Hugh Levy Jr, on Eon Productions. Levy claimed that Malcolm had been engaged to compose music for the film and supervise the recordings, while Ranglin was employed to look after the arrangements. Levy was seeking to recover £1,064.

September 1963
The film was premièred in Jamaica at the Regal and Carib cinemas. Proceeds from the evening went to the Jamaican Youth Club's Council. The Gleaner's report also discussed Jamaica's importance as a destination for film-makers.

November 1, 1964
The Sunday Gleaner revealed that some cinemas in Kingston were still showing Dr No, and cinema goers were looking forward to Goldfinger. The report focused on the emergence of Bond spoofs and imitations.