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Shaken not Stirred!

Nov. 4, 2020, 6:43 p.m. by Dr Gayatri Mohapatra ( 392 views)

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Goldfinger was the first "James Bond" movie I saw at the theatre, in the small sleepy town of Cuttack where I grew up.

One of the best Bond theme songs during the opening credits, courtesy of Shirley Bassey, not to mention one of John Barry's best scores added to the major excitement of finally watching the film on a large screen.

Gold finger was the classic James Bond movie where absolutely everything fell into place with good fun, fast & furious pace from a crazy start to a slick finish. To top it all off, the plot was full of twists and turns what with globetrotting action, beautiful women, a larger than life villain, a memorable henchman, caustic humour!

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As I grew up, I started reading the Ian Fleming novels. The older 007 movies were watched on our video cassette player. Till date, I remain a die-hard 007 fan and movie addict. I have seen all the Bond movies, some several times over, to tenaciously hang on to my addiction through major changes in Bond, M, Q, Bond girls, villains, gadgetry, plots etc.

But Sean Connery as Bond remained my favourite as the original & the real James Bond. "Bond, James Bond” was the character’s familiar self-introduction, and to legions of diehard fans who have watched a bevy of actors play the role — otherwise known as Agent 007 on Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sean Connery remained the original James Bond.

Not Roger Moore, who I found foppish & who usurped the role when Connery walked out on it after Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. And certainly not George Lazenby, the Australian male model who briefly came in as "James Bond" rather disastrously. At that point, the recalcitrant Scot had stubbornly refused to do any more "Bond" films.

Sean Connery became a major movie star at the age of thirty-two when he was cast as the sophisticated secret agent James Bond. Connery went on to distinguish himself in a number of films including his Oscar-winning performance in The Untouchables.

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In 1962, when the producers cast Sean Connery as Bond in the film, Ian Fleming was appalled at the selection of the uncouth 31-year-old Scottish actor, considering him the antithesis of his character.

At that time, refined and suave stars like David Niven, Trevor Howard, Cary Grant, and Richard Burton, whom Fleming himself championed were considered for the role.

However, Connery's physical prowess and sexual magnetism became closely identified with the fictional character of 007 and Fleming ultimately changed his view on Connery and started incorporating aspects of his portrayal into the books. As the story goes, Connery almost didn’t get the James Bond role.

He supposedly bungled his audition, and it was only when someone saw him walking to his car that they called him back, because he walked “like a panther.” Dana Broccoli the wife of the producer Cubby Brocolli also persuaded her husband to take Sean Connery as she sensed his screen presence and Terence Young, the director took it upon himself to groom Connery for the suave Eton look.

The immense success of the film and its immediate sequels, From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964), established the James Bond films as a worldwide phenomenon and Connery as an international celebrity. Connery continued to take other acting roles, notably in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Marnie (1964). The other "James Bond" films he acted in are "Thunderball" (1965) and "You Only Live Twice" (1967), "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971), "Never say never again"(1983)which was his last bond movie. The catchy title is actually an in-house joke reference to Sean's vow to never play 007 again after being lured back once before for "Diamonds are forever". The mere presence of Connery returning as 007 was enough to draw his diehard fans to the theatre.

When Sean Connery was cast in a movie, audiences knew one of two things would happen: he’s either going to charm a lady, or he’s going to make things explode. Sometimes both!

However, Connery felt that continuing with the bond series, lucrative as it was, could only lead to artistic suicide. “I’d been an actor since I was twenty-five,” the actor said, “but the image that the press put out was that I just fell into this tuxedo and started mixing vodka martinis.

James Bond had become, as Connery later observed, “a Frankenstein monster.”

Connery began balding in his early 20s and wore a hairpiece from the first time he played Bond. The way he saw things, aging was inevitable, and he said "better to have a toupee than “18 hairs [growing] a foot-and-a-half long”.

Connery’s career flagged in the immediate post-Bond years, but he came back in the 1980s with three of his most legendary roles.

In 1986, he portrayed Juan Sanchez-Villalobos Ramierez, mentor to Christopher Lambert’s Connor McLeod in the cult fantasy, Highlander.

The next year, he portrayed Malone, a Chicago cop who taught Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness “the Chicago way” to get Al Capone in The Untouchables, a role which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Two years later, in an inspired bit of casting, he portrayed Professor Henry Jones, Indiana Jones’ dad, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Sidney Lumet, who directed Connery in five films—including the gritty war drama The Hill and the star-studded period mystery Murder on the Orient Express—noted in an interview, “Most actors are either leading men or character actors. Sean is one of the few stars who encompass both".

He was voted by People magazine as both the “Sexiest Man Alive" in 1989 and the "Sexiest Man of the Century” in 1999 And "the greatest living scot" by a poll in the Sunday Herald in 2004.

Connery officially retired from acting following his appearance in the film adaptation (2003) of the comic-book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though he went on to perform various voice roles and was knighted by the queen in 2000.

A man known for guarding his private life, the home was an important concept to him which remained off-limits to the papparazi.

Once when returning to Edinburgh for a film festival later in life, Connery impressed his taxi driver who didn't recognise the actor by knowing all the upcoming street names. When the driver asked what he did for a living — he just told the man he'd delivered milk there before.

Well known for his philanthropy towards Scottish causes, he donated the entire money he got from his appearance as James Bond in "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."

One of the most high-profile supporters of Scottish independence, Connery declared in a message: "The people of Scotland are the best guardians of their own future."

Class, Charm & Style is how he will always be remembered! It's fitting that today we say, not 'Oh James' but "Oh Sean" because this marvellous actor literally breathed life into the greatest spy ever!

Rest in peace Sir and thank you for all the wonderful films!

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