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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bonds

The various actors who have played James Bond are a perfect illustration of the fact that it is not enough for a man to have good features -- to be really good-looking, he must look tough as well. A couple of the Bonds have been abysmal failures on this score. Roger Moore had all the machismo of a clothing store mannequin -- and a fussy one at that. Moore, like all the actors who portrayed Bond, came from a working class background; his portrayal of Bond as an upper class twit never sat right. Had the series originated with him, it probably wouldn't have continued.

Somehow it seems only fitting that Moore's body was as soft as his face. And that he seemed to think his moobs quite the thing.

Timothy Dalton was masculine enough, but not really tough. His background as a Shakespearian actor kept showing through: he played Bond as if he had a license to equivocate rather than kill. A real Bond would have known that he was to be, and his enemies not to be -- no deliberation needed.

Producer Cubby Broccoli first offered Dalton the role of Bond in 1968, when Dalton was only 22. But Dalton turned it down in favor of playing Philip II of France in The Lion in Winter.

Pierce Brosnan's Bond always came across like an aging preppy. Brosnan's own background was much more hardscrabble: he grew up Catholic in Ireland, never knew his father, and was raised mostly by his grandparents while his mother worked as a nurse in England. Yet he still managed to come across as if he were extremely pleased with himself for having landed the title role in his prep school production of a James Bond play.

Maybe Brosnan, like Moore, was trying so hard to come across like someone who'd been educated at Eton and Oxford that he forgot he was supposed to act macho as well. Or maybe it just wasn't in him. Is it possible that working class Brits will overdo a plummy accent in the same way that in the US most Northerners will overdo a Southern accent? Personally, I'd prefer a good-looking Cockney Bond who knew how to be a hard case. (Vinnie Jones?)

Daniel Craig plays Bond with a gritty intensity that makes you believe that he is actually engaged in a life and death business. Feature by feature, he's not classically good-looking; but because he's tough-looking, he's more appealing to watch.

I keep hearing rumors that Craig is a homosexual. But at least he comes across like the kind of guy you'd want on your side in a gay bar fight. And even if he's obviously on steroids, he manages not to seem overly pleased with his store-bought muscles. Verdict: second best Bond ever.

This bring us to the foregone conclusion of this post. Sean Connery is not only the template for James Bond, but for manliness in general, the perfect amalgam of male beauty and toughness.

Perhaps the reason Connery was able to play tough onscreen is that he was that way offscreen as well. My two favorite Connery stories:

In 1957, the 27 year old Connery was cast in Another Time, Another Place along with Lana Turner. Rumors quickly reached Turner's boyfriend back in the US, Johnny Stompanato, that the two were having an affair in London. Stompanato, a small time hood with Mafia connections, flew to London to break up the romance.

Stompanato arrived on the set and waved a gun in Connery's face. Connery knocked the gun aside and then knocked Stompanato out with a right cross.

Many years later, Connery was at a comedy club in Los Angeles with his friend Michael Caine. According to Caine, they were listening to a comedian who wasn't very funny, and there was a group of guys sitting behind Connery and Caine who kept heckling him. Finally Connery lost his patience. He turned around, lifted their ringleader up by his lapels, and snarled, "Give the bloke a chance or I'll knock the lot of you through the wall."

They shut up.

In 1953 -- the pre-steroid era -- Connery placed third in the Mr. Universe competition in the tall division.

Somehow that, too, seems only fitting. 


BigBlackRod said...

Sorry, dawg; time marches on, and Pierce Brosnan is a better Bond than Daniel Craig...PEACE.

John Craig said...

Time may march on, but each of the Bonds was immortalized on celluloid, so fair comparisons can be made on that basis.

And I know these comparisons are subjective, but Brosnan?