'Dr. No': 'Bond...James Bond' Launched the 50-Year-Old Film Series
It has been fifty years since the James Bond films were launched. Dr. No (1962) was the first with the little known, Sean Connery, and audiences loved it. Cary Grant was the first choice. Patrick McGoohan was considered as well. The film was produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, a partnership that would continue until 1975. Family members still produce the Bond films.
In the popular film, James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the death of a fellow British agent. The trail leads him to the underground base of Dr. Julius No, who is plotting to disrupt an early American manned space launch with a radio beam weapon.
Dr. No was produced with a low budget. Critics didn’t love it, but here we are fifty years and 22 Bond films later with Daniel Craig, a Bond more in the Sean Connery style starring in Skyfall, his third Bond film. He is signed for five more.
Dr. No also launched a genre of "secret agent" films that flourished in the 1960s. James Coburn as Our Man Flint (1966) and Dean Martin in the Matt Helm series were high budget efforts. The Austin Powers films have also been very popular. George Lucas says the Indiana Jones film series was inspired by James Bond. So were TV’s “The Man from Uncle,” “I Spy,” and many others.
Many of the iconic aspects of a typical James Bond film were established in Dr. No. The film begins with an introduction to the character through the view of a gun barrel and a highly stylized main title sequence. Production designer Ken Adam established an elaborate visual style that is one of the hallmarks of the Bond film series.
When Harry Saltzman gained the rights for the James Bond book, he initially did not go through with the project. Instead, Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli wanted the rights to the Bond books and attempted to buy them from Saltzman. Saltzman did not want to sell the rights to Broccoli and instead they formed a partnership to make the James Bond films. A number of Hollywood film studios did not want to fund the films, finding them "too British" or "too blatantly sexual". Eventually the two received authorization from United Artists to produce Dr. No.
Terrance Young, the director of the film, decided to inject much humor, as he considered that "a lot of things in this film, the sex and violence and so on, if played straight, a) would be objectionable, and b) we're never gonna go past along the censors; but the moment you take the mickey out, put the tongue out in the cheek, it seems to disarm."
Although not that well known, the producers turned to 30-year-old Sean Connery for five films. It is often reported that Connery won the role through a contest set up to "find James Bond". While this is untrue, the contest itself did exist, and six finalists were chosen and screen tested by Broccoli, Saltzman, and Fleming. The winner of the contest was a 28 year-old model named Peter Anthony, who, according to Broccoli, had a Gregory Peck quality, but was dropped. When Connery was invited to meet Broccoli and Saltzman he appeared scruffy and in un-pressed clothes, but Connery "put on an act and it paid off" as he acted in the meeting with a macho, devil-may-care attitude. When he left both Saltzman and Broccoli watched him through the window as he went to his car, both agreeing that he was the right man for Bond. After Connery was chosen, Terence Young took the actor to his tailor and hairdresser, and introduced him to the high life, restaurants, casinos and women of London. In the words of Bond writer Raymond Benson, Young educated the actor "in the ways of being dapper, witty, and above all, cool".
Although Connery was reluctant to commit to the Bond series, he played the character in the first five Bond films: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967) – then appeared again as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983). All the films were commercially successful.
Connery at the 1988 Academy Awards
Although Bond had made him a star, Connery did not like the role, saying that he was "fed up to here with the whole Bond bit." Connery starred in other acclaimed films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Apart from The Man Who Would Be King and The Wind and the Lion, both released in 1975, most of Connery's successes in the next decade were as part of ensemble casts in films such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974) with Vanessa Redgrave and John Gielgud and A Bridge Too Far (1977) co-starring Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Olivier.
Here is the original cast of Dr. No:
- Sean Connery as James Bond: A British MI6 agent, codename 007.
- Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder (spoken voice by Nikki van der Zyl and singing voice by Diana Coupland): A native Jamaican shell diver, making a living by selling Jamaican seashells to dealers in Miami.
- Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Julius No: Main antagonist and a reclusive member of SPECTRE.
- Jack Lord as Felix Leiter: A CIA operative sent to liaise with James Bond while he is in Kingston.
- Bernard Lee as M: The head of the British Secret Service.
- Anthony Dawson as Professor Dent: A geologist with a practice in Kingston, who also secretly works for Doctor No.
- John Kitzmiller as Quarrel: A Cayman Islander who was employed by John Strangways to secretly go to Crab Key to collect rock samples; he also worked with Felix Leiter before Bond's arrival.
- Zena Marshall as Miss Taro: The secretary to Mr. Pleydell-Smith at Government House in Kingston.
- Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench (spoken voice by Nikki van der Zyl): Trench first meets Bond from across a Chemin de Fer table at the London club Le Cercle.
- Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny: The secretary to M.
Video clip on Wikipedia: Sean Connery introduces James Bond to the film world with his trademark statement, "Bond, James Bond."
Visit your local library to obtain these resources:
Books by Ian Fleming on WorldCat
James Bond (DVDs) on WorldCat
United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry
Tino Balio, (1987).
Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: the Unofficial James Bond Film Companion
Alan Barnes; Marcus Hearn, (2001).
The James Bond Bedside Companion
Benson, Raymond (1988).
The Politics of James Bond: \From Fleming's Novel to the Big Screen
Jeremy Black, (2005).
Sean Connery; The Measure of a Man
Bray, Christopher (2010).
When the Snow Melts
Broccoli, Albert R (1998).
Shaken & Stirred: The Feminism of James Bond
Caplen, Robert (2010).
Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films
Chapman, James (2007).
Ian Fleming & James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007
Edward P. Comentale; Stephen Watt; Skip Willman, (2005).
James Bond: The Legacy
John Cork; Bruce Scivally, (2002).
Bond Girls Are Forever: The Women of James Bond
John Cork ; Maryam d'Abo, (2003).
1. Article illustration: Dr. No poster.
2. Sean Connery at the 1988 Academy awards.
3. Screenshot: Ursula Andress in Dr. No.