So long Mr. Bond; see you on the other side. I realize after I just wrote the previous line, it sounds like an end to a Bond movie. Maybe it should be. When Thomas Sean Connery passed away a great part of my childhood and earliest, most fond memories died.
Some of my most treasure early memories in life and why I am such a pop culture junkie are 007, Batman and The Monkees – my perfect of joy.
I vividly remember as a toddler my mom propping me up at the base of the couch to watch Batman on TV first run, I would watch The Monkees with my sister who was ten years older and just into her teens when all of this was happening.
And James Bond.
It was always a family night out whenever a James Bond movie came out. That was one of the few things my parents agreed on when we moved here from New York. I can vividly remember everyone’s excitement, even my cynical sister when we went to “Diamonds Are Forever”.
Not long after that, my parents divorced, but my father and I kept the tradition going. The last Bond movie I saw with him was “The Man With The Golden Gun”. He passed away before the next Bond film came out. I remember the movie theater that was in the corner of Brainerd Village always showed the Bond movies. I remember always going there to see Bond movies and Pink Panther movies.
Literally the other week through all this pandemic and crap I thought to myself, “At least Sean Connery is still alive”. I knew he was 90, but I truly never thought he would die. To be honest, I had wished that I had died first – not that I have a death wish, but my love for Connery’s talent beginning with Bond and beyond is immeasurable.
I honestly don’t know why Connery was on my mind recently before his death, but he was. I think it has a lot to do with the attacks on what a traditional role model is, having even read somewhere that described the James Bond character as being dated, sexist, misogynist, racist – you name every term of hate towards the white heterosexual male. I even remember reading something a doctor has written about Bond taking into account his drinking and smoking that his lifespan would be short and is nothing to put on a pedestal. Whatever.
Connery’s Bond was the perfect film hero. Back in the olden days you knew who were the good guys and the bad. Modern cinema over the past couple of decades have fallen in love with the anti-hero and often the bad guy unfortunately. The phrase that was coined to describe not only Bond, but Connery himself was that he was the man all women wanted and men wanted to be like. As boys growing up we weren’t jealous of Connery as Bond, we wanted to be like him. In simpler times we looked up to the good guys, wanted to defeat evil, saving our country and the world and make acquaintance of beautiful women. Granted, as a little kid we didn’t know what we would do if we got the girl, but it seemed cool. Connery made it seem that way after all. Before things got complicated all we cared about was God, country and the girl. I wish it was still that way.
For a time there was was a bigger fan of Roger Moore as Bond than Connery. The first couple of Bond films came out before I was born and I wasn’t truly, fully aware of the mystique of James Bond until “Diamonds Are Forever”. I was in my prime age of movie going when Moore was Bond, so I “bonded” easily with his portrayal. I will admit I found the films a little silly at times, as they came across less serious than the Connery ones and seem a dated at times now. And what really endeared me to Moore at the time was when my favorite band at the time, Duran Duran did the theme to “A View To A Kill”.
That was Moore’s last go-round as Bond and the search was on for his successor. I remember they originally announced Pierce Brosnan as Moore’s replacement. Brosnan had come to my attention on the TV show Remington Steele, where his character was kind of like a faux secret agent. Remington Steele had been cancelled by NBC and the announcement was made. When Brosnan was announced as the heir apparent to the 007 throne, NBC brought the series back and marketed it in commercials that “We’ve Got Bond”. Once EON Pictures saw this Brosnan was dropped and Timothy Dalton was pegged as the next 007.
I liked Brosnan on “Steele” and thought before there was even talk of Moore retiring that he would make a great James Bond. He resembled Connery, but was much younger and modern. Still to this day I haven’t watched either of Dalton’s Bond movies although I think I’m finally ready. I wasn’t fond of the choice of him as James Bond. I always thought his hair wasn’t up to James Bond quality. I always saw James Bond as being well-coiffed, and Dalton’s hair seemed a little untamed for my tastes (weird I know). However about ten years ago I saw Dalton in season four of the action/comedy show “Chuck” where he was the villain Alexei Volkoff / Hartley Winterbottom
for the most part of the season before changing into a savior of sorts for the lead character (you have to see the show to understand what I was talking about). I was truly impressed at his acting chops on the show (It doesn’t hurt that it’s my favorite TV show either).
Of course I dug Brosnan as Bond. I thought the franchise was trying to become too politically correct. The character M was betrayed by a woman – although Dame Judith Dench does kill it as M, grant you, and all the Bond girls had extra strong personalities. However, the franchise really lost me when they cast Denise Richards as literally a rocket scientist. That is the equivalent of casting her ex, Charlie Sheen as a minister.
II haven’t been that hip on Daniel Craig’s turn at Bond. I’ve seen maybe one and a half of them. I keep getting interrupted when one is streaming online but I always get distracted and haven’t made it completely through “Quantum of Solace”. I’ve honestly lost interest in the franchise although I would like to see “Skyfall” specifically to listen to Adele sing the theme song. Her theme was a return to glory of the franchise harkening back to the glory days of Shirley Bassey. There was more to a Bond film than just the titular character. There were the villains, the beautiful, exotic women Bond encountered, and of course the theme song and of course the Bond them itself. As far as the Bond girls go I felt like I was getting short changed whenever a TV starlet was chosen as a Bond girl. It doesn’t matter how beautiful Tanya Roberts, Teri Hatcher or even Denise Richards are I saw James Bond films as a way to be exposed to complex and beautiful characters – ones that I wasn’t already acquainted with. And no, it has nothing to do with sex; it has to do with sex appeal, which are two totally different things.
When I was in college I got talked into going to see the movie “The Untouchables”, which starred Kevin Costner. Connery was featured in the film and deservedly won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Jimmy Malone. It was the first film I had seem Connery in since “Diamonds Are Forever”. A lot of his roles between Bond and “The Untouchables” seemed to me to be a lot of costume dramas, something that I’ve rarely been that fond of – the genre, that is. I never watched the Indiana Jones films to this day, even thought it was cool that he was playing Harrison Ford’s dad in the 1989 sequel. I never have been that big a fan of Steven Spielberg films, having only seen a handful because I’m not a big fan of blockbusters, although I love “1941” primarily because of John Belushi and Slim Pickens. To cut to the chase I became a fan of Connery again and would go to his movies once again and backtracked on ones I missed just because of the aura that truly surrounds him.
One of his last films that I love was 1999’s “Entrapment” that saw him co-starring with Catherine Zeta-Jones. He plays a crook who goes after one last haul. The story is more complex than I’m describing and I suggest you see it for yourself. In the movie he was like a criminal James Bond; smooth sophisticated and getting the girl in the end. He even drove a Jag. What more could I ask?
I did see “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” that was crucified by critics. I liked it because… well… Sean Connery was in it. He was great in it, the rest of the film was lacking. It ended up being his last live action film. Rumors swirled or I read (can’t remember which) stated he retired from acting because how bad the film was.
In our current society Bond is frowned upon – at least Connery’s James Bond. Some call it an artifact of a distant past. His Bond isn’t “woke” like Craig’s Bond. First off, I hate the term “woke”. It’s not proper English. The proper term would be awake or awakened. Why we dummy ourselves and our language to appease someone’s feelings is beyond me.
I grew up in a great era. Great music, great movies and great television despite it being described as a vast wasteland. I wonder whomever wrote that could see TV today. The problem with growing up when I did is as I get older my icons are dropping like flies because quite frankly nobody lives forever. I lost Adam West a couple of years ago and two of The Monkees died not long after I saw the 45th anniversary tour. And with the “great pandemic” I worried more about my icons and recollecting on some of my fonder memories of my youth. No, I was never startled or afraid of dying because of this stuff, I was more worried about my heroes growing up. They are dropping one by one – Bowie, Prince, Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens), Diana Rigg, Roger Moore and the list continues with Connery being the latest one added to my list.
I’ve reflected on my childhood growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s and what is “appropriate” now. I remember playing cowboys and Indians as a kid. I’d be crucified if I did that today and some of you may be crucifying me now for recalling it with fondness. It wasn’t long ago in this new politically correct culture we find ourselves in I remembered a toy my dad brought me home. Dad went away on a lot of business trips back in the day and always returned home with gifts for my mother, sister and myself. For some reason not very long ago I remembered a James Bond toy my dad had given me. It would be wroth a fortune today if I still had it. It was a small brief case embossed in gold letters that said “James Bond 007”. Made of hard plastic, you opened up the case and there was a miniature, but working Walther PPK (Bond’s gun) with a silencer and another attachment to convert it into a long rifle. It had orange plastic bullets that you could longs though the barrel and shoot. It also came with a target to shoot. You couldn’t sell or market that today with today’s PC society.
As I got older I started to watch the Bond films over again and Connery rose to the top as my favorite James Bond with Roger Moore falling to second. While I love Moore’s sense of humor that he brought to the character, it is Connery that epitomizes Bond. Connery’s Bond has a more dry sense of humor that made me smile as I rewatched the movies. There’s a brutish sex appeal to him that I understand and don’t feel threatened by. It comes through in all his roles even in old age like in “Entrapment”. Connery is the kind of guy you want with you if a fight breaks out because you know he’s got something up his sleeve to win, and of course the girls will swoon. There’s even more than one that will swoon and I have no problem taking his rejects. He’s the perfect wing man.
I’ve been binge watching his Bond films since his death on Halloween. Rewatching “Dr. No”, his first portrayal of 007 a lot of the criticisms I’ve heard of the character by revisionists are laid to waste and debunked in the first movie. In the movie, two of Bond’s allies are Jamaican. The black characters are portrayed as equals that are both intelligent, well-spoken and well-dressed. They dos not fit the stereotype of what you would expect a film from 1962 being. Nor were they villains, a character in many films of that pre-“woke” era were portrayed. Back then it was either that or over the top Saintly. Connery’s Bod treated them as equals and allies. Sylvia Trench the first Bond girl in the film was a strong character as was Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder character. It really wasn’t until the late ‘70s Bond films that the Bond girls became kind of silly. Beginning with “The Man With The Golden Gun” in 1974 is actually when they started to become silly as well as their names. In this romp Britt Ekland is a Bond girl named Mary Goodnight. Yes, even the names were getting cheesy. Holly Goodhead was another name that even I shook my head out. I remember when “Octopussy” came out. I even giggled at the name just because it had “pussy” in the title – and I was a schoolboy.
The Bond women of Connery’s era were much stronger characters than they were given credit. It was Moore’s Bond that had the silly names and stereotypes, but that was okay because the Bond films of this era were more lighthearted whether they were meant to be or not. After all it’s pure fantasy, something not to be taken seriously. James Bond does not exist, he is a mere character that is portrayed in novels and film and should be appreciated for that and the escapism it allows the reader and view to get enveloped.
Connery’s Bond has obviously influenced the way I carry myself in life. While never a smoker and only drank when in college and a few years after that – and then in social situations, I am fond of smartly tailored suits, although I haven’t worn one in years, seeing I have no reason to dress up any longer or no one to dress up for to impress. I have an Omega Seamaster in my watch collection and at one point had a Rolex Submariner, a love of British cars (I’ve owned Austin Healeys, Jaguars and a Triumph TR-6 in my day), my firearm of choice is a Walther and when the rare occasion comes enjoy intelligent conversation with a beautiful woman. Indeed all women wanted Connery and I wanted to be him – and still do.
Farewell Mr. Bond, and thank you for the non-top hours of entertainment, escapism and saving the world – at least my little world.
– Dave Weinthal