Monday, April 29, 2013

Jill St. John - Most Successful Bond Girl

Jill St. John Has Had The Most Fascinating Life of them All

Jill St. John
Bright, young and perky in the 1950s

"Diamonds are Forever" (1971) is the James Bond film that separates the men from the boys. That is, Sean Connery was looking quite manly by this time, as opposed to his boyish good looks in "Dr. No" and the following films. Some fans, with justification, feel that it is a very weak Bond film, with a bad guy who simply isn't that scary and a rather odd set of henchmen. Be that as it may, most would agree that the Bond girls in "Diamonds are Forever," Jill St. John and Lana Wood, are as luscious as any in the entire series.

Jill St. John
Jill St. John and Doug McClure in "The King's Pirate" 1967

Early Life

Jill was born Jill Arlyn Oppenheim in Los Angeles on August 19, 1940 to Betty and Edward Oppenheim. She was a Hollywood kid groomed for stardom from the start, studying ballet and acting at prestigious local schools. Her early classmates included Natalie Wood and Stephanie Powers, both of whom would be linked to her throughout much of their lives.

Jill St. John
Jill St. John, the prototypical '50s starlet

Betty Oppenheim was a classic stage mother, going so far as to change her daughter's stage name at an early age to the more viable "St. John" in order to win parts. By age six, Jill was voicing characters on the radio, and she was on television by age nine. After appearing in some television shows in the early '50s, Jill won a contract with Universal pictures. A rising starlet at a time when that meant something, Jill appeared in a sequence of forgettable films such as "Holiday for Lovers" and "The Lost World."

Jill St. John Adam West
Jill St. John as "Molly" in "Batman, with Adam West"

The most remarkable aspect of these years, though, was her personal life. Obviously an attractive teenager, Jill married first the heir to a linen fortune, then an heir to the Woolworth fortune. Neither marriage lasted more than a few years, but Jill was showing early on that she was a player in the Hollywood power scene.

Jill St. John
Jill St. John was very free-spirited, combining sex appeal with womanly grace

Affairs with some of the heavyweights of Hollywood, such as Jack Nicholson and Frank Sinatra, followed. Throughout this period, she continued acting in low-profile films and television appearances, with the occasional higher-profile project with a major star such as "Tony Rome" with Sinatra. Jill St. John also was widely noticed as the Riddler's girlfriend "Molly" in the popular "Batman" television series.

Jill St. John
Jill certainly never was a shy girl

James Bond Calls

By 1971, the James Bond team was getting worried that the franchise was running out of steam. It was the time of counterculture and hippies, so a tuxedo-clad British superspy seemed a bit out of place. What better way to liven things up for the young Baby Boomers than to cast some exquisitely delightful young lovelies opposite the experienced Sean Connery as James Bond?

Jill St. John
Jill and her very fit form

There were several high-profile young starlets from which to choose, including Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway. Jill, at 31, was a bit older than some of the other girls, but this actually worked to her advantage for a role opposite the ageing Sean Connery. She came in and blew everyone away with her audition. She was offered the part of Plenty O'Toole, with Lana Wood slotted in as the lead Bond girl of Tiffany Case. Jill, however, somehow worked her wiles on director Guy Hamilton, and in the end the roles were reversed, with Jill getting the plum Bond girl role of Tiffany Case. This made her the very first American Bond girl, all of the previous ones having been European and Asian.

Jill St. John
Jill St. John and Sean Connery

Jill did a wonderful turn as Tiffany Case, playing the character as a toxic combination of flippant and worldly. She prances about for the climactic scenes in a bikini that is used to great effect in advancing the plot. Perhaps her greatest moment is when she uses a machine gun to protect Bond as he is busy wreaking destruction on arch-villain Blofeld, comically mishandling the gun while fortuitously taking care of the approaching bad guys. The film ends with the usual Bond seduction of her character, though interrupted by sinister villains who are quickly dispatched.

Jill St. John Diamonds Are Forever
Jill contrives to save the day


Having significantly raised her profile in "Diamonds are Forever," Jill acted steadily throughout the '70s, primarily in television. Probably her highest profile role during this period was as a lead in "Emerald Point N.A.S.," a short-lived television series.

Jill St. John Leonid Brezhnev Richard Nixon
Jill doing her best to start an international incident with Leonid Brezhnev

As usual with Jill, however, her real action was taking place off the screen. The actress has been linked to Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery and baseball player Sandy Koufax. She had worked with Robert Wagner ("RJ") during the '60s, and after the death of RJ's wife Natalie Wood, she and RJ got married. This made former co-star Lana Wood her erstwhile sister-in-law, sort of, showing what a small world it is. Around this time, RJ was starring in a popular television series, "Hart to Hart," with Jill's childhood classmate Stephanie Powers. Small world indeed, Hollywood.

Jill St. John
A seductive beauty

While continuing to take the occasional part thereafter, Jill retired from acting as the '80s ended. Her proud mother, Betty, lived to see virtually all of her successful daughter's career, passing away in 1998. By all accounts, she and RJ enjoy a very happy and loving marriage. As Jill has said, "I believe that personal happiness is still greater than any career," and she certainly appears to have lived by that dictum.

Jill St. John Robert Wagner
Jill St. John and husband Robert Wagner

A loving husband, an iconic career which she was able to leave behind at a time of her choosing, the ability to show her devoted mom her success - all that adds up to tremendous success for Jill St. John. Best wishes to Jill St. John and Robert Wagner, a true Hollywood fairy tale ending!

Below is Jill showing that she still had the bod while filming "The Love Boat" a full decade after filming "Diamonds Are Forever."


Monday, April 22, 2013

Top Five Stunts in Bond Films

Jumping Hornet The Man with the Golden Gun

Bond Films Have Some of the Best Stunts Ever Filmed

While stunt work in Hollywood is in decline because of the over-use of computer graphic imagery, which makes everything easy to fake, the James Bond films are famous for doing real stunt work on an epic scale. No matter how you slice it, seeing a real stunt will always trump a phony computer-generated piece of fluff. The recent Bond films have featured some very good stunts, such as the plane jump in "Quantum of Solace," but very few films in history have topped the epic stunts of the James Bond films of the 1970s.

The stuntwork in James Bond films always was good, and those films also used whatever tricks were available. Even some of the best stunts, such as Sean Connery flying "Little Nellie" in "You Only Live Twice," are marred by weak effects. However, when stunts in a Bond film work, they can change the entire tone of the film from mundane to epic.

Herewith, the top five stunts in the James Bond film franchise.

1. Roger Moore Skis off of a Mountain

Many fans consider "The Spy Who Loved Me" the pinnacle of Roger Moore's tenure as James Bond. The film had a terrific theme song by Marvin Hamlisch sung in winning style by Carly Simon, it introduced the epic villain "Jaws" who was so popular that he was brought back in the subsequent film "Moonraker," and it had perhaps the best title sequence of the entire Bond series.

Even with all those stellar aspects, the real jewel in the crown for "The Spy Who Loved Me" was at the conclusion of the teaser sequence that opened the film. Bond is being pursued by bad guys on skis, and he has nowhere to escape: the mountain down which he is skiing ends in a cliff. He then goes soaring off the cliff, presumably to his doom - until a parachute opens and saves him.

Second-Unit director John Glen, who would later direct Bond films in his own right, headed off to Mount Asgard in Canada to film this scene in July 1976. Under the coordination of Bond stunt coordinator Willy Bogner, stuntman Rick Sylvester was paid $30,000 to perform the stunt. With all related expenses, costs for filming that one brief scene came to $500,000, an epic amount in the 1970s.

Sylvester was chosen because, five years earlier, he had invented the stunt by skiing off El Capitan and parachuting to safety. To film the sequence for "The Spy Who Loved Me," they had to fly by helicopter to Mount Asgard's summit. Despite the fact that they had multiple cameras in operation, all but one malfunctioned, but that was enough.

Sylvester almost did not survive the jump. You can see in the film's final footage that after he releases his skis and opens his parachute, Sylvester almost gets hit by one of his skis. It easily could have tangled in the parachute cords and caused major problems, but instead it fell safely aside and Sylvester landed safely. The scene is enhanced for many fans due to the fact that the parachute is a Union Jack, underscoring the fact that Bond is a British spy.

2. Jumping a Hornet Across a River

In "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), one of the centerpieces of action was a car chase across Bangkok, Thailand. This being a James Bond film, it couldn't be just any car chase, but had to include crazy feats that no sane driver ever would attempt. The highpoint of the chase scene is when James Bond, played by Roger Moore, has to drive across a river without any bridge in sight. Naturally, he manages this in the most unexpected and thrilling way possible.

The stunt had been designed by John McHenry in Buffalo, New York as a way to test vehicle automation software. It was part of a touring carnival before being adopted for "The Man with the Golden Gun."

"Bumps" Willard performed the dangerous stunt, which involved Bond driving his car up a twisting ramp-like structure, flying across the river, and then landing on a similar twisting structure. To everyone's astonishment (and relief), the stunt was planned out so perfectly and performed with such precision that it worked on the first take. It happened so fast that the stunt had to be shown in slow motion in the film, to the accompaniment of a corny slide whistle added by John Barry.

3. Crane Chase in "Casino Royale"

Pierce Brosnan had retired as James Bond, and it was time to introduce the next actor to fill the role, Daniel Craig. What better way than to stage an epic chase through busy city streets, culminating in a do-or-die decision at a construction site. Leaping through the air, Bond lands on a crane just below. It is a breathtakingly authentic stunt that was as dangerous as any performed for the series, and set the continuation of the series off on the right foot. It also proves that thrilling stunts are still possible in the age of CGI.

4. James Bond Flies Through the Air

James Bond has to escape from the bad guys, and he has a car waiting for him outside. The only problem is, how does he get to it? In one of the most ingenious stunts in the entire James Bond series, Sean Connery dons a jet pack and flies up and over a wall, gently descending to the pretty girl attending his tricked-up Aston Martin.

The Bell Jet Pack was a very real device, and worked pretty much as shown. This was one of its few appearances in films, and it was a good one. The stunt also introduced the idea of James Bond dabbling in science fiction that was followed through to fine effect in "Moonraker."

5. Driving a Tank Through City Streets

The scene that most people remember from "Goldeneye" was the tank stunt. While it doesn't get a lot of notoriety, the shots of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond driving a tank through city streets was a highlight of his first outing as James Bond.

The scene took six weeks to film, and was done on location in St. Petersburg, with additional footage shot on a British sound stage. The actual tank was a Soviet T54/55 which the East England Military Museum was kind enough to loan for filming. The tank actually was driven through St. Petersburg, which must have startled some residents, with special tracks fitted to prevent it from destroying the pavement. Pierce Brosnan didn't actually drive the tank, but part of the stunt's charm is that it appears as if he did.

The real fun of the scene, though, is that it realizes a fantasy that many people have - that of simply getting a tank and wreaking havoc with it.

Tank Chase
GoldenEye —

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Daniel Craig - Bond as Superhero

Daniel Craig

Daniel Wroughton Craig has achieved superstar status as the most recent lead in the James Bond franchise. Beloved by fans around the world, Craig was little-known before being chosen for the role, but since then has carved out his own unique niche as the super-sleuth. Beginning with "Casino Royale" in 2006, Daniel Craig has shown that James Bond can be a man of action and intelligence, similar in style to the way that Sean Connery first played the character beginning in 1962 with "Dr. No."
Daniel Craig
Young Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig was born on March 2, 1968 in Chester, England, an old Roman fortress town in the northwest. His mother, Carol Olivia Craig, and father, Timothy John Wroughton Craig, ran the local pubs. An indifferent student, Craig played rugby and acted in school plays. He graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1991.

Early Career

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"

Daniel Craig first appeared on television in 1993, in an episode of "Heartbeat." He took small roles, getting a break by appearing as Angelina Jolie's love interest in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001). Prominent roles followed in "Perdition" (2002) with Tom Hanks, and "Munich" (2005), directed by Steven Spielberg.

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig in "Skyfall"

James Bond

Eon Productions was looking for another James Bond in the mid-2000s, with Pierce Brosnan having held the part of James Bond capably for the better part of a decade. Approached about playing the most prominent British hero of them all, Craig at first was hesitant. However, ultimately he agreed, saying that he wanted to bring "emotional depth" to the character. It turned out that he was a big fan of Sean Connery, and that his favorite James Bond film is "From Russia with Love," the second film in the series. According to Craig:

"I'd never copy somebody else. I would never do an impression of anybody else or try and improve on what they did. That would be a pointless exercise for me."

Fans quickly were captivated by Craig's brawny style and strong, manly handle on the role. Early criticisms of him focused on the notion that he was a "bland" choice, but those quickly died down. All of the previous actors who played James Bond for Eon Productions - Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan - since have voiced their approval of his portrayal.
Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig with Eva Green, co-star of "Casino Royale"

A large factor in winning public support as Bond was the fact Daniel Craig's films were profitable from the start. "Casino Royale," co-starring Eva Green, grossed $594 million, and "Quantum of Solace" (2008) drew in a hefty profit as well, despite some critical reviews. Production of "Quantum" was plagued by numerous problems, including an accident that almost killed a stuntman, and Craig himself lost part of a finger during filming.
Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig striking a pose in "Casino Royale"

"Skyfall" (2012) brought the series to the next level, after several years of uncertainty about whether it even would be made or not. Grossing over a Billion Dollars worldwide after its 23 October 2012 release, "Skyfall" was a fan favorite that received rare rave reviews from the critics. Showing a more vulnerable side of the character, James Bond outwits his enemies rather than out-fighting them, somewhat in the style of Roger Moore. The film was such a success that he producers immediately signed Daniel Craig on to star in two more James Bond films, which would bring his total to five, only two short of the record held by Sir Roger Moore.

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig in "Skyfall"

Life Outside of James Bond

Daniel Craig has been married twice, to Fiona Loudon from 1992 to 1994, and more recently to Rachel Weisz from 22 June 2011. He has one daughter, Ella, from his first marriage. While filming the Bond films, Daniel Craig has found the time to appear in other projects as well. While they have not had quite the worldwide impact of the James Bond films, they generally have been well received and popular. Recent roles have included "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" (2011) and "Cowboys and Aliens" with screen legend Harrison Ford.

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig in "The Girl with the Dragon Tatool"

Many think that Daniel Craig will retire from the James Bond role after he completes his current contract. If so, the world of James Bond will have been enhanced by his ability to capture the imagination of James Bond fans everywhere with his rugged portrayal of the ultimate British screen hero.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Moore: Debonaire But Effective

For Many, Roger Moore Always Will Be James Bond, and a Real-Life Hero as Well

Roger Moore

Roger Moore is perhaps the most debated James Bond of them all. There is no question that he played his most famous character, Bond, in arch fashion, with elements of broad humor and one-liners. Some fans thus think that Roger Moore cheapened Ian Fleming's vision of a manly superhero by not maintaining a more rigid macho pose like Sean Connery or (later) Daniel Craig. However, many, many more fans loved Roger Moore's ironic portrayal of the British super spy and revere him as a British icon.

Roger Moore Shawn Fynn
Roger Moore as Shawn Fynn

For James Bond fans who grew up in the '70s, and even many who came later, the names "James Bond" and "Roger Moore" are practically interchangeable - in the popular media, Roger himself could be confronting some criminals, someone would shout "It's Roger Moore," and the hoodlums would scatter. He had presence and authority, and didn't need to swagger about proving it with every gesture. No James Bond actor can be all things to all people, and you certainly don't have to agree that Roger Moore was the best James Bond - all the James Bond actors were top grade. However, as proven by various polls, most fans do rank Roger Moore above all others, even above Sean Connery. This has led to some unique compliments that no amount of money could buy: Amy Winehouse, for instance, chose Sir Roger, out of everyone, to reference in her classic song "You Know I'm No Good" with the line:
By the time I'm out the door
You tear men down like Roger Moore

Roger Moore Barbara Bach The Spy Who Loved Me
Roger Moore with Barbara Bach in "The Spy Who Loved Me"

Perhaps, even if you are not a Roger Moore fan, you will at least be willing to admit that Roger Moore deserves all the credit in the world for shepherding the James Bond series through a chaotic decade. Suave and stealthy was out, and the James Bond series very easily could have died after any of the films. The previous Bond, George Lazenby, only lasted for one film and reportedly left the series because he (or his agent) didn't think that it would survive. Roger Moore the actor may not actually have saved the world himself, but he saved the James Bond film franchise, and that's no exaggeration.

Roger Moore
Young Roger Moore

Roger Moore's Youth

Roger was born on October 27, 1927 in London, England. His policeman father, George Alfred Moore, and mother, Lillian "Lily" Moore, sent Roger to Battersea Grammar School. He joined the general evacuation of children from London during the Blitz, then went on to take classes, without graduating, at the University of Durham. Shortly after World War II, when most men were being mustered out of the service, Roger was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps as a second Lieutenant. He served in West Germany, perhaps mingling with real spies. He rose to the rank of Captain before joining the entertainment branch as an actor.
Roger Moore
Roger Moore in the Army, already showing his genial charm

Having studied acting before his army service at the Cambridge Arts Theatre Company during 1944, which period included some bit parts, Roger Moore continued that career after mustering out of the service. This period included some modelling, Roger being a handsome young man who could have had a career in that field as well. Roger Moore instead chose to become one of the early television actors during the "Golden Age," first appearing on the small screen in 1950. Based on early success on the small screen, he managed to secure a coveted film contract with MGM. Television, however, turned out to be his particular route to stardom. Returning to it, Moore's early series included "Ivanhoe," "The Alaskans," and the very successful "Maverick" with James Garner.

Roger Moore
A young Roger Moore in "The Alaskans"

The real breakthrough for Roger Moore came in 1962, when he became an overnight success after a hard dozen years of work. Promoter Lew Grade noticed Roger's international success on television and cast him as the lead in "The Saint." The hero, Simon Templar, was a character surprisingly similar to James Bond, and coincidentally (perhaps) the series premiered around the same time as the first James Bond film, "Dr. No." Developed from the novels by Leslie Charteris, "The Saint" followed a suave spy who tossed off light-hearted comments as he battled evildoers. Also directing several episodes, Roger Moore became a true international superstar during the long run of the series (118 episodes over six years).

Roger Moore

Along with "The Avengers," "The Saint" is probably the best-remembered 1960s British television series abroad (Patrick McGoohan's "Secret Agent," while much beloved in England, never achieved quite the same level of renown in America as "The Saint"). Roger Moore was exemplary in the role of Simon Templar, and it made his later career possible. He did regret not having the ability also to play in higher-quality films during this period. "I'd have loved to have been as talented as Peter O'Toole," he would later say in typical self-deprecating fashion. Roger Moore indeed would have demonstrated his range in prestigious films such as "Lawrence of Arabia," but fate had other plans in store for the immensely popular small-screen actor.

Roger Moore
Roger Moore in 1965

After "The Saint" ended, Roger Moore made a few forgettable films, and there was no question that he was typecast as a spy. Then, looking to raise his visibility once again and perhaps missing his fame as a television spy, Moore made another deal with Lew Grade. With nothing guaranteeing any return on his investment but a handshake and a grin, Roger created on his own dime 24 episodes of "The Persuaders." It was another spy series, again with Moore as the insouciant lead character. His co-star was American film star Tony Curtis, who reportedly acted like a big star and did as little work as possible on the series. Roger persevered and, having completed the episodes, finally went back to Lew Grade. The British tycoon honored his casual commitment to Moore and arranged distribution of the short-lived series. "The Persuaders" helped make Roger a rich man despite its lacklustre reception abroad. It never developed a huge following, but it hasn't been completely forgotten, either, and that's a credit to Moore and his vision.

Roger Moore
Roger Moore as Simon Templar

James Bond 007 Calls

Meanwhile, the Ian Fleming-derived James Bond franchise had become a huge hit during Roger's stint on "The Saint," with Sean Connery returning one last time for "Diamonds are Forever" in 1971. It was clear to many that Roger was ideal for the part. However, Roger Moore's commitment to "The Saint" and "The Persuaders," along with the casting of other actors in the James Bond role, made it look increasingly unlikely that he ever would be able to use his preparation of playing super spies to portray the biggest superspy of them all. He was, after all, several years older than Connery, who was rapidly growing out of the role himself. By 1972, though, the James Bond role was vacant for good, and the time finally was right. Roger Moore was a natural successor to Sean Connery, being already the most famous English actor of his generation. Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who along with Henry Saltzman owned the rights to the James Bond franchise, offered Roger Moore the Bond role. Roger, delighted, quickly signed up for and filmed "Live and Let Die" (1973).

Roger Moore
Roger Moore in "Live and Let Die"

The film was a success, with a sterling title tune by Paul McCartney and Wings adding to its popularity. Most fans loved Roger as James Bond, and the producers wanted him back. Not everything was perfect, however. There was a general feeling among some that Roger Moore wasn't tough enough for the role. Broccoli, therefore,  pointedly threw in some fight scenes for Moore in the subsequent films such as "The Man with the Golden Gun" and "The Spy Who Loved Me," and that quieted the criticisms.

Roger Moore Richard Kiel Jaws James Bond
Roger Moore as James Bond fighting Jaws (Richard Kiel)

Each of the films was successful at the box office, and the franchise found a new global audience. Roger's comfort in the role led to a total of seven appearances as James Bond. Rather than swaggering about in the manner of Sean Connery, to whom any James Bond actor must face comparison, Roger Moore carved out his own niche as an almost elegant figure who defeated his rivals with a trick and a joke, showing true British aplomb while inevitably saving the world and the British Empire. Rather than punch his foes, Moore's Bond would usually outwit them. It was a clever take on the character, well-suited to Moore's physical qualities and maximizing his particular acting skills. It is not out of line to say that Roger Moore was the finest actor, in a technical sense, ever to tackle the role.

Roger Moore
Roger Moore taking a break between scenes. It looks awfully hot there.

Roger's James Bond typically would defeat his foes by using their own devices against them. Doing everything with a wink and a shrug, it was almost as if the character didn't care what happened or how he won, which suited the cynical post-Watergate times. James Bond, though, always triumphed anyway. Roger Moore proved that he could mix it up very well when the situation demanded, but a mere gladiator was not what audiences of the '70s were seeking. He gave the people the sort of knowing hero that they wanted, and the films "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), "Moonraker" (1979), "For Your Eyes Only" (1981), "Octopussy" (1983) and "A View to a Kill" (1985) turned the James Bond films into one of the most successful franchises of all time. All fans of James Bond owe Roger Moore a debt of gratitude, whether they realize and acknowledge it or not.

Roger Moore
Roger Moore filming "Moonraker"

Post-Bond Work

While Roger Moore occasionally worked in other films during his James Bond period, they were nowhere near as memorable. After finally cutting the ties to Ian Fleming's spy in 1985, Roger Moore did some more low-key film and television work before calling it quits in the 1990s. After all those years of playing a spy, it was clear that Roger Moore still was typecast, but in a good way. He became the butt of some jokes on British comedy television series, which he took good-naturedly, but the spoofs were not always kind. Perhaps the most notorious of them was a skit in which Roger's head was portrayed as a block of wood which, when called upon to express extreme emotion, raised its eyebrow slightly. Roger's many loyal fans became incensed, and reportedly there were death threats.
You do not mess with Roger Moore.
Roger Moore The Spy Who Loved Me
Roger Moore mixing it up in "The Spy Who Loved Me"

It turned out that many veteran viewers of Roger Moore's 25 years playing a spy had developed sentimental feelings towards him that were offended easily, not least because he always cast a noble light upon his homeland. Many remembered, for example, his parachuting down while proudly unfurling a huge Union Jack as a parachute at the beginning of "The Spy Who Loved Me." The jokes and parodies soon ended. Roger himself, though, has shown he is a good sport about the ribbing by himself participating in light-hearted parodies of his James Bond character, such as in the 2010 film "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore." There are no airs about Roger Moore, he is of the common people and he never will forget it.

Roger Moore
Roger Moore promoting UNICEF with wife Christina Thoistrup

It would have been easy at this point for Roger Moore to find a remote tropical island and while away the rest of his life playing golf. Nothing wrong with that. Roger, though, had seen things during his travels playing James Bond that opened his eyes about the world's less fortunate. In 1991, Roger Moore became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He has continued his efforts on behalf of that charity ever since, much more so than is necessary simply to maintain appearances. Roger Moore also has supported PETA, with some real successes in that field directly attributable to his personal renown and the worldwide and genuine respect that he has earned. It was Sir Roger Moore's charity work, not his acting, that led to the knighthood of this ordinary policeman's son in 2003.

Roger Moore
Sir Roger Moore


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sean Connery: Man's Man

Sean Connery, As Tough as He Looks

Sean Connery
Sean Connery as a wee lad

Thomas Sean Connery, named after his grandfather, was born on August 25, 1930 in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland to Effie Connery, a cleaning lady, and Joseph Connery, a factory worker. His background, however, was mixed. Effie was a Protestant, and his father a Roman Catholic. His father's religion may have been partly due to the fact that his family came from Ireland. "Tommy" soon became "Sean" because of a childhood friendship with someone named Seamus. "There go Sean and Seamus," you can just hear his friends say.
Sean Connery
Sean Connery in the Royal Navy

Sean's first job was as a milkman, but he soon joined the Royal Navy and got some tattoos. Naturally, they were serious, one saying "Scotland Forever," the other "Mum and Dad." After getting an ulcer, Sean was discharged from the Navy and worked a series of odd jobs. During this time, most likely bored, he took up bodybuilding. He developed quickly and participated in the Mr. Universe competition. During it, he auditioned for and won a part in a production of "South Pacific."

Sean Connery
Modelling sportswear for Vince of Newburgh Street, from "Films and Filming," in the 1950s

Modelling became an increasingly important part of Sean Connery's life during this time. It certainly helped to pay the bills. With his muscular build and classic good looks, he sold a lot of clothes for local merchants.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery, Bodybuilder

Edinburgh was a rough town in those days. There was a gang that terrorized working class kids, and they picked on Sean. After a confrontation, Sean took on six of them at once and subdued them.

Sean Connery Mr. Universe
Sean places

Sean also excelled at football, and received an offer to join Manchester United. He turned it down, figuring he had a brighter future as an actor.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery with a friend during his bodybuilding days

Sean had various small stage and English film roles. The parts gradually grew larger, but this drew the attention of Lana Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. Jealous of what he thought Connery might be doing with Turner, Stompanato came after Connery with a gun.

Sean Connery The Molly Maguires
Sean Connery, here in "The Molly Maguires," does look authentically tough

Once again, Connery showed he knew how to take care of himself. He floored the gangster, though he later had to "lie low" to avoid retaliation. Stompanato, of course, was later shot dead "accidentally" by Turner herself.
Sean Connery
Sean Connery in "Darbie O'Gill and the Little People"

Connery's first big role was in "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959), a Disney production involving leprechauns. This led directly to the role for which he is most famous, James Bond.

Sean Connery
Sean  Connery as James Bond in "Dr. No."

Bond, James Bond

Cubby Broccoli owned the rights to most of the Ian Fleming stories about British super spy James Bond, but he wasn't the one who had the most influence in Connery's selection for the part of Bond. Dana Broccoli, Cubby's wife, liked him, and that turned out to be enough even though Ian Fleming himself disapproved. Fleming, in fact, thought of Connery as just an "overgrown stuntman." Fleming actually thought that Cary Grant or David Niven better fit the part. After the success of the first Bond film, "Dr. No," Fleming changed his mind and tailored his subsequent stories about Bond to fit Connery rather than vice versa. That may be a first in the history of film.
Sean Connery
Sean Connery as James Bond in "Goldfinger"

Terence Young, the director of "Dr. No" and several other Bond films, worked with Connery to make him into a more polished actor. The effort worked, and soon Connery was swaggering across the screen with the best of them. After "Dr. No," Connery filmed "From Russia with Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," and "You Only Live Twice." Everything worked to perfection, and Sean Connery's name was on everyone's lips.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery got right down to business as James Bond

He became one of the most famous men in the world, but it all became too much for him to handle. People were hounding him, even in Japan. After filming the 1967 "You Only Live Twice" there, Connery refused to do any more Bond films. However, in 1971, he was persuaded to reprise the role again when Cubby Broccoli agreed to fund Connery's pet project to help struggling Scottish artists with over $1 million - in addition to his huge salary. He simply couldn't refuse the offer. This resulted in the final Connery performance in the "official" line of Bond films, "Diamonds are Forever" (1971).

Sean Connery
Sean Connery in "Zardoz"

A Hollywood Hired Gun

After finally cutting his ties with the James Bond character, Sean moved on to a wide variety of films. His best films are often considered to be "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975) and "The Wind and the Lion" (1975). One could argue that Sean Connery's career peaked in that year, though he had several solid hits in the '80s, too, and no doubt made much more money then. He had a memorable supporting part as Agamemnon in "Time Bandits" (1981). Not all of his films during this period were classics. "Zardoz" is often regarded as an embarrassing footnote to Sean Connery's career, and likely one that, but for the money, he wishes that he had skipped.
Sean Connery
Sean Connery in "Never Say Never Again"

Connery played James Bond one more time, in the 1983 "Never Say Never Again." He received fine reviews, but found the complete experience distasteful. As with "Time Bandits," he returned to form by playing a supporting role in "Highlander." The experience was much more to his liking, and he focused primarily on supporting roles thereafter. "The Untouchables" featured his classic line about "If they come after you with a knife, you pull out a gun," and for that role he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. That propelled the last major surge in his phenomenal career. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "The Hunt for Red October" were perhaps his best films after that win, though he also appeared in many lower-profile pictures.
Sean Connery
Sean Connery in "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"

The role of Allen Quartermain during the early 2000s in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" was a tough one for Sean Connery. He fought with the director, Stephen Norrington, and the location shooting was troubled by horrible weather and other problems. By all accounts, he was very unhappy. While not a particularly bad film, "League" did not do well at the box office. Sean Connery decided that enough was enough, and he decided to retire then and there (Norrington also did not work again as a director for a full decade). Connery even turned down a fantastically lucrative role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" series, another decision he may well regret - but every major star has those kinds of things happen to them. Since then, Sean Connery only has done occasional voice acting, though rumors abound about roles that he agreed to do, but that fell through for one reason or another. That, again, it typical for legendary actors who have retired before their time.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery in his beloved Scotland


Aside from his Academy Award, Sean Connery has been honored as "The Greatest Living Scot." One can only assume that he treasures that award the highest of any that he has received. A bronze bust sculpture of Sean Connery stands in the capital city of Estonia. He has continued his strong advocacy of Scottish independence, and upon occasion returns there. However, he currently lives in the Bahamas, where he is said to play a lot of golf.