Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ursula Andress, Honey Ryder in "Dr. No"

Ursula Andress, Two-Time Bond Girl

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress

Though it wasn't actually the first James Bond film (there was a television production in the 1950s), "Dr. No" (1962) generally is considered to have begun the James Bond phenomenon. Of course, one could say that they got the idea for spy films from Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" with Cary Grant, but let's not split hairs. Nothing arises full-born from the sea - unless it is Swiss actress Ursula Andress (born in Ostermundigen, Canton of Bern) in her iconic white bikini majestically appearing in front of a bemused Sean Connery as James Bond.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress sizing up a conch shell

Andress herself is pure star royalty, but her family is a different matter. Her father, Rolf Andreas, disappeared under somewhat murky circumstances during World War II. He was a German diplomat in Switzerland who was expelled for undisclosed "political" reasons. Spy films? Bah! Try the real thing!

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress slouching a bit

Dr. No

Honey Ryder is a simple shell diver with not-so-simple curves in "Dr. No." Unlike so many later Bond girls, who had to be made to look "smart" or "professional" or whatever, absolutely no pretence was made about Honey Ryder - she was as dim as the shells she was collecting. However, the character was quite wise in setting up two enduring themes of the James Bond series: 1) she was the very first Bond girl who set the mold for all who followed, and 2) she set up many of Sean Connery's one-liners that solidified his interpretation of the character's flippant and insouciant attitude when confronted by a sexpot.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress in a Grecian gown

There is absolutely nothing wrong with portraying a simple girl - in fact, Andress won a Golden Globe for the performance. Though the award probably was more for the skimpy white bikini than it was for any stretch of her acting muscles.

Ursula Andress
Two very nice shells. "Are you looking at my shells?" "No, I'm just looking."

Andress didn't even voice the character herself. She had a thick Swiss accent, so her voice was provided by Nikki van der Zyl (her song sung by Diana Coupland). That was a mistake - Andress had a very pleasant, seductive voice - but it worked. If anyone can be said to have kept the James Bond alive after the somewhat standard spy drama "Dr. No," it was Andress and her statuesque, athletic figure.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress running down a beach with Sean Connery

Andress wasn't some poor exploited little vixen. She knew exactly why she was cast, and loved every moment of it. She posed for Playboy a few years later. Asked about that choice and why she would pose nude, she was quite direct and to-the-point: "Because I'm beautiful." I challenge anyone to come up with a better response than that. You may see many more long-lost behind-the-scenes pictures of Ursula Andress from "Dr. No" here.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress posing on a Roulette wheel

Casino Royale

Andress was so stunning in "Dr. No" that it became her signature role, even though her career continued for another thirty years. not long after the 1965 Playboy shoot, she was asked to play another Bond girl. This time, it was Vesper Lynd in the satire/parody "Casino Royale" (1967).
Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress and Peter Sellers
Ursula Andress plays Lynd as a wealthy former spy who is talked into teaming up with James Bond and Mata Bond. It is a fairly brief role, but memorable nonetheless. Her scenes with Peter Sellers are the best in the, unless you are a die-hard devotee of high camp. Some of her scenes were left on the cutting-room floor, whicis tragic.

Ursula Andress Casino Royale
Ursula Andress on the set of "Casino Royale"

Unlike in "Dr. No," Andress spoke for herself in "Casino Royale," and undeniably did an excellent job. Her seduction scene with Peter Sellers is a classic of '60s cinema, their lingering passage behind a huge fish tank one of the iconic images of the decade. Two iconic images from one girl - if you think that's easy, try thinking of someone else who managed that.
Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress in "Casino Royale"

As Vesper Lynd, Andress played an occasional spy who persuades Evelyn Tremble aka James Bond to undertake a perilous mission. The film was a financial success despite being a mess creatively, but what there is to savor from it is largely attributable to Ursula Andress.

Ursula Andress
Playboy Magazine cover, France, 1981

John Derek

Throughout this period, Andress was married to John Derek. This is a truly fascinating guy who was also later married to Linda Evans and Bo Derek. This dude understood tall, Nordic beauties! Interestingly, he also was married to the grandniece of Leo Tolstoy - yes, that Leo Tolstoy - before becoming the discoverer of so much pulchritude. He photographed his three actress wives for Playboy Magazine, something all other men can only dream look back upon with awe.

Ursula Andress

Later Career

Ursula Andress showed an amazing amount of staying power for someone who established herself portraying bimbos in spy thrillers. Her last big role was in "Clash of the Titans" (1981) as Hera opposite Laurence Olivier of all people. She still looked fine, twenty years after her debut rising out of the sea.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress

Andress also has created headlines with her relationships. She had a well known affair with French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, for instance. She also had a son with American actor Harry Hamlin, who was much younger than she. Clearly Ursula Andress is a strong, confident woman.

Ursula Andress

Additional Info