Battle of the Bonds // Part 001 // Sean Connery

The trendsetter, the template, the original Bond

Photo by 007.com

The Double-O

What more can be said about the man who started it all?

He’s the innovator, he’s the revolutionary, he’s Sean Fucking Connery.

Without Sir Sean Connery (may he rest in peace), James Bond would not be where he is today. That much can be agreed upon. Connery firmly established Bond’s on-screen presence as the coldly-calculated super spy we’ve all come to know and love. He saved the day, he got the girl(s), and he looked good doing it.

He should be remembered and celebrated as such.

Photo by Thunderballs: James Bond Picture Archive

Connery set the Bond bar so high that every actor to follow would operate either in reverence or defiance of the considerable shadow his legacy cast upon the franchise. It can be safely assumed that the majority of Bond fans consider Connery to be the quintessential Bond. For the boomers and traditionalists of the world, there’s no question about it: Connery is Bond.

Which makes the fact that Sir Sean Connery very nearly never landed the role all the more illuminating.

After winning the rights to Ian Fleming’s 007 novels and receiving the green light from production company United Artists to make Dr. No the first full-length Bond feature, producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pursued classic leading man Cary Grant (then already 58-years-old) as their Bond. Grant, however, wouldn’t commit to more than one film, so the producer duo began to look elsewhere.

Broccoli and Saltzman kicked the tires on Patrick McGoohan, David Niven, and model Peter Anthony, to no avail. Dr. No director Terence Young politicked for Richard Johnson; Fleming himself preferred Richard Todd; even future-Bond Roger Moore was considered during the first 007 casting call, but none panned out, at least not initially.

Photo by Thunderballs. Left to right: Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, Sean Connery, Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman

When Connery finally entered the picture, no one was convinced of his ability to fill the tux…no one but the female counterparts of the men in charge.

Dana Broccoli, Cubby’s wife, became one of Connery’s most vocal supporters, noting his considerable sex appeal and on-screen magnetism. And although Fleming intensely fought Connery’s consideration for the role, referring to him as “the working-class Scot” and an “overgrown stuntman,” his girlfriend Blanche Blackwell was quite the fan. Notice a trend?

The men were smart enough to listen to their partners and, sure enough, Connery won the part at thirty-two. But he was still a relative unknown from Edinburgh known more for bodybuilding than his acting resume. The young actor was considerably rough around the edges and in need of a proper polish.

Director Terence Young (just as much a Bond in real life as Connery would soon become on film) served as a “Connery Whisperer” of sorts, taking it upon himself to coach up the young Scot and teach him the ways of a man like Bond. Young introduced Connery to his personal hairdresser, his tailor, taught him how to differentiate between high- and low-shelf vodka and champagne, and immersed the would-be-spy into the lavish London nightlife.

The rest, they say, is history. Any detracting voice was soon silenced after seeing the results on the screen. Even Fleming was won over, going so far as to bestow 007 with Scottish ancestry in You Only Live Twice, the last Bond novel published before the author’s death.

Photo by Thunderballs

Connery became a certifiable movie star overnight following 1962’s Dr. No, taking the first steps towards what would become one of the most distinguished acting careers of the 20th century.

While I love Connery, I can’t help but acknowledge his strange standing within the franchise. Go back and watch Dr. No; isn’t it startling to see him as such a young person? How many versions of Sean Connery do you have in your head? Many of them are probably old, right? Really, this is a testament to the fact that Connery is the greatest example of post-Bond success (so far).

Consider that even while Sean Connery is James Bond, he also became known and loved for so many roles long after he turned in the PPK: from the father of Indiana Jones and an Academy Award-winning turn as Jim Malone in The Untouchables to Alex Trebek’s Celebrity Jeopardy nemesis and whatever the fuck he was doing in Zardoz.

Connery may have kicked off this franchise, but he was in no way beholden to the success of his cinematic creation. Moreso than any Bond to follow, Connery would grow resentful of becoming synonymous with Bond.

I don’t blame him.

Broccoli and Saltzman got richer and fatter off the back of Connery’s hard work and didn’t pay their golden goose his due until the very end. If I were in his position, I’d probably make an unofficial Bond film out of spite too.

Photo by GQ Magazine

The Films

Dr. No (1962)

Photo by 007.com

The Mission

A British agent and his secretary have been murdered in Jamaica. Once news hits the desk of M, head of MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service), secret agent James Bond is dispatched to investigate. As Bond delves into the local mystery, he links up with a boatman-in-the-know (Quarrel) and a CIA agent (Felix Leiter) also on the case. After thwarting several attempts on his life, Bond unravels the motive behind the murders that brought him to the island, discovering the criminal scientist mastermind Dr. No plans to demonstrate the power of his secret organization, SPECTRE, by destroying American space rockets. Only James Bond can stop the dastardly plot in a race against time…

The Highlights

There were a series of substantial hurdles to clear and missteps to recover from before Bond’s film rights could be secured by producers and series shepherds Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; they knew they’d only one shot to get things right. To make sure they came out swinging, the producer duo assembled an iron-clad team of filmmakers, artists, technicians, and designers that helped create a truly unprecedented piece of cinema that still stands today. It can be said without a hint of hyperbole that Dr. No gave birth to the modern action film and that Connery’s franchise-defining turn as 007 remains one of the most iconic performances in film history. Full stop.

The story is grounded, Bond’s usual cast of complementary characters, namely M, Moneypenny, and Felix Leiter are introduced (although Q doesn’t show up until the next picture), and series staples like the Walther PPK, shaken (not stirred) martinis, and that sweet, sweet Bond theme all make their first appearances here. Plus, Honey Ryder is an all-time “Bond Girl” that set the template for all successors to come, just as Connery did for his archetype, and the titular Dr. No is a menacingly intelligent villain doing his fair share of precedent-setting as well. There’s a lot to love in this stripped-down spy story.

The Lowlights

Racism and misogyny and yellowface, oh my! Unfortunately, not all the “firsts” established in Dr. No should be remembered so fondly. It’s no secret that James Bond is a sexual opportunist at best and a full-on misogynistic predator at worst, and Bond’s first film outing establishes that quite clearly. Quarrel, the film’s most prominent Black character, starts off as a strong, charismatic partner helping Bond dive deeper into the island intrigue. As the film progresses, however, Quarrel devolves into a bumbling, superstitious drunkard before being burned to death by Dr. No’s “dragon.” Bond also tells him to “fetch my shoes” at one point. Not great. And why are the meatier roles of Miss Tarot and Dr. No played by actors in yellowface when there are actual Asian actors playing smaller roles in this film? Oh, right. It’s 1962…

The Impact

Naturally, a film chock-full of firsts for a franchise with this kind of longevity is going to be looked upon fondly, but what I find so astounding about Dr. No is that so much of what this film established remains in the franchise’s DNA to this day. The opening gun barrel and title sequences feel off, and there’s definitely a palpable sense of everyone figuring things out as they went along, but there’s something undeniably endearing about the rough edges of Dr. No. You can tell that all involved in the creation of this film were invested in getting it right, stretching a meager “prove it” budget as far as it could go. It’s neither one of the best nor one of the worst Bond flicks, so it tends to get lost in the shuffle a bit, but there’s no denying the impact Dr. No had in establishing the next sixty years (and counting) of cinema that would follow.

Connery Ranking: 4th of 6

From Russia With Love (1963)

Photo by 007.com

The Mission

SPECTRE wants revenge for the death of Dr. No. Working under the treacherous tutelage of SPECTRE big bad Blofeld, chess grandmaster and SPECTRE strategist Kronsteen devises a plan to lure Bond into a trap, dangling a Soviet code-cracking Lektor device as the bait. Knowing full well who they’re dealing with following the events of Dr. No, SPECTRE deploys operative Rosa Klebb to carry out a scheme that manipulates a blonde bombshell into leading Bond toward the trap and recruits a blonde assassin capable of dispatching Bond once the trap has been sprung. Both 007 and M know they’re being played, but the prospect of obtaining the Lektor proves too alluring for the overzealous Brits…

The Highlights

Coming off the heels of Dr. No’s success, Broccoli and Saltzman were keen to maintain their newfound momentum with the same band that kicked off their blossoming franchise. Director Terence Young (AKA The Connery Whisperer), writer Richard Maibaum, cinematographer Ted Moore, editor Peter Hunt, and the immortal composer John Barry were all brought back to have another go. The comfort of continuity definitely comes through in the finished product; the validation of success (From Russia With Love’s budget was double that of Dr. No) took the proverbial edge off the film’s creators to produce a hard-boiled spy story that’s complex without becoming contrived, and tightly-wound without becoming predictable.

A suspenseful, almost Hitchcockian, game of cat-and-mouse lies at the center of this story, anchored by Robert Shaw’s impeccable turn as the stoically sadistic assassin Red Grant. Peter Hunt, already acknowledged as an innovator for his editing on the first Bond film, really shines here, especially in the film’s climax (and best scene) during Bond and Grant’s brutal fight within the close quarters of a train cabin. This film also memorably features the first appearance of Q, the quirky Quartermaster played by the indelibly delightful Desmond Llewelyn, as well as the first peek behind the curtain at the inner machinations of SPECTRE and its classic cat-stroking figurehead Blofeld. Add in one of Bond’s best local allies in Ali Karim Bey and you have all the makings for a franchise-favorite Cold War classic.

The Lowlights

Maybe it’s just my ADD-riddled lizard brain, but I found FRWL to move at a much slower pace than I had remembered during previous revisits. The film’s leisurely speed is definitely more a slow burn than a tepid slog that matches the steadily unwinding plot more often than not, but sections like the assault on the gypsy camp (featuring the literal navel-gazing of a bellydancer and a cringe catfight that, you guessed it, turns into an opportunistic threesome for Bond) add unnecessary diversions from a relatively straightforward story. And then there’s that moment of classic early-60s sexism where Bond ruthlessly slaps Tatiana across the face to “bring her to her senses.” Moments like these offer an unfortunately illuminating glimpse into behaviors deemed culturally acceptable at the time.

The Impact

From Russia With Love lands near the top of many a Bond fan’s film rankings, and for good reason. Connery is operating at the peak of his powers, the shadows of SPECTRE break ever so slightly to reveal the true scale of their sinister nature, and the franchise as a whole feels more fully formed and confident in its second outing. The game is about to be forever changed in the next film (the immortal Goldfinger), but there’s something to be said for the installment that comes right before the big blow-up. In FRWL, you still get the sense that Bond is Fleming’s fallible spy scrapping together his wits, charm, and intellect against forces greater than his own. The super spy we start to see from this point on is great fun, yet no doubt a departure from the author’s original intent. If you’re looking for a gritty, grounded spy story, look no further than From Russia With Love.

Connery Ranking: 1st of 6

Goldfinger (1964)

Photo by 007.com

The Mission

007 is enjoying the sun and sand of Miami Beach following a successful, covert mission in Latin America. His respite is short-lived, however, as Felix Leiter soon shows up to deliver new orders from M. Turns out the resting agent was put up quite purposefully in the same hotel as one Auric Goldfinger, an alarmingly ascendent bullion dealer on MI6’s radar. What begins as an investigation into Mr. Goldfinger’s international gold dealings reveals, over time, the rotund runner’s master plan to detonate a nuclear device within Fort Knox, radiate the United States gold supply, and increase the value of his own gold repository ten times over. Can secret agent 007 stop the crazed capitalist and save America’s cherished coin before it all goes up in smoke?

The Highlights

This is probably your dad’s favorite Bond film. Can you blame him? It could be argued that there are more foundational elements of Bond entertainment established in Goldfinger that reverberate to this day than can even be found in the franchise-opening Dr. No. This is the moment where the Bond film as we know it becomes, well, the Bond film as we know it. 007 the film character is born in Dr. No; 007 the film icon is born in Goldfinger.

Gone are the opening instrumentals; enter Dame Shirley Bassey belting out a stone-cold classic theme that will become the standard for all future Bond songs. Gone are Bond’s factory-issue Sunbeam Alpines and Bentleys; enter Bond’s signature, fully-loaded Aston Martin DB5. Gone are the expositional Major Boothroyd and Q appearances in M’s office; enter the classic Q branch scenes showing off Q and Bond’s playfully contentious relationship. Gone are the streamlined espionage stories; enter the complicated, curiously specific (read: convoluted) villain plots.

Oddjob, Pussy Galore, “Do you expect me to talk?” — “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!” You know these cultural touchstones, your dad sure as hell knows these cultural touchstones. Bond won over the UK with his first two films, but it was this film that Bond won over America, and the world, for good.

The Lowlights

Anytime the words “man talk” are uttered within the first 20 minutes of a film, you should know you’re in for an unenlightened time at the movies. As the first Bond on screen, Connery naturally finds himself in a number of oh-so unfortunate scenarios and line reads. Were they all that uncomfortable for him though? It was the early-60s, sure, but that’s no excuse for Bond’s behavior towards women. Audiences ate this film up and generated the global 007 frenzy we know today. All this despite the fact that secret agent James Bond saves the day by forcing himself onto a woman (who isn’t even interested in men in the first place) in a barn, convincing her to betray Goldfinger through her newfound sexual gratification. Oof. Goldfinger is an undeniable classic, but be ready for some exhaustive sighs and exaggerated eye-rolls when viewed through the modern lens.

The Impact

Do you know how hard it’s been to refrain from referring to this film as “The Gold Standard” of Bond adventures? Goldfinger has long since entered that strange, liminal space where something is so ingrained in the culture that you forget how revolutionary and important it was when it first entered that culture. Watching Goldfinger today is like listening to your local classic rock radio station; if you’re not consciously interacting with the art from a certain zoomed-out perspective, your brain almost goes on autopilot due to the familiarity. Still, there’s something special about putting yourself in the mindset of a 1964 viewer sitting down to take in the third Bond film for the first time expecting another slick spy story, only to witness a culture-shifting moment in cinema history. It sounds self-important and overblown, but isn’t that what this franchise does best?

Connery Ranking: 2nd of 6

Thunderball (1965)

Photo by 007.com

The Mission

Emilio Largo, SPECTRE’s Number Two agent, has stolen a pair of atomic bombs from NATO. Largo and his shadow syndicate have provided clear instructions to the powers that be: pay a ransom of £100 million ($280M) within an allotted amount of time or one of the bombs gets dropped on the major US or UK city of their choosing. Bond sets out to the Bahamas, recruiting the help of best bro Felix Leiter and Largo’s out-of-his-league mistress Domino Derval to thwart the eye-patched Emilio’s quest for nuclear armageddon.

The Highlights

You’ve read quite a few of my words already, so I feel as if I owe you a certain amount of transparency: I don’t like Thunderball. It’s my least favorite of Connery’s films and one of my least enjoyable viewing experiences throughout the entire franchise. And yet, this meandering, underwater-obsessed, hyper-sexually-aggressive adventure killed at the box office, selling the most tickets of any one film in the franchise. Depending on how you measure, Thunderball made more money at the adjusted global box office than all but one other Bond film (Skyfall). That’s nuts to me, yet it makes sense when you consider the film arrived hot on the heels of the genre-defining Goldfinger.

That being said, the film does have its merits, such as our first instance of Q out in the field and the stunning, tropical beauty of the Bahamas put on full display through widescreen Panavision (another first for the series). Thunderball also introduced jetpacks to the general public and captured aquatic action in a way never before seen on camera, adding to the unprecedented nature of what audiences at the time were witnessing and how it was being presented to them. Domino is also an understandable fan-favorite “Bond Girl” and SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe is up there with the best, most beguiling, femme fatales in the series.

The Lowlights

Connery is still in his peak here, but you can sense his mounting disinterest in the series and bubbling resentment for the franchise’s money-grubbing producers. While the underwater scenes are spectacularly shot, choreographed, and must have blown the minds of 1965 moviegoers, we simply spend far too much time below the waves in what was the longest film in the franchise to this point. And to that point, the bloat of Thunderball’s two-hour-ten-minute runtime is painfully palpable.

Emilio Largo is a forgettable villain, as is his straight edge henchman Vargas, the ending is strangely abrupt, and enough can’t be said about how much of a creep Bond is in this film. Thunderball isn’t bad, per se, it’s just a by-the-numbers Bond tale seeking to cash in on Goldfinger’s massive success. Thunderball is neither good enough nor bad enough to stick with you, and the absolute worst thing a Bond film can be is boring or unmemorable.

The Impact

Perhaps fittingly, the most lasting legacy of Thunderball is the extensive legal drama that both preceded and succeeded its release. Ian Fleming’s Thunderball novel was published in 1961 and was quickly embroiled in drawn-out court proceedings carried forth by writers Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. The two claimed the novel liberally borrowed from a screenplay McClory, Whittingham, and Fleming had collaborated on as the basis for what they hoped would be the first feature-length Bond film. The proceedings dragged on, Dr. No, as a result, instead became the first cinematic Bond adaptation, and the lawsuit was settled out of court.

Wary of McClory’s opportunism, Broccoli and Saltzman yielded to him sole producer credit on the eventual Thunderball film. The plot only thickened from that point on, however. McClory fought tooth and nail to retain rights to what he believed to be his original creation (mainly SPECTRE, Blofeld, and the events of Thunderball), resulting in 1983’s unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again (starring Sean Connery in an all-time fuck you move against Cubby Broccoli) and franchise staples like SPECTRE and Blofeld being tied up in legal purgatory until the ultimate resolution with McClory’s estate in 2013. The drama behind the film is frankly far more interesting than anything actually in this film. Moving on!

Connery Ranking: 6th of 6

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Photo by 007.com

The Mission

The mysterious hijacking of a NASA spacecraft stokes tensions between the Americans and Soviets…SPECTRE is at it again. Surmising Japanese involvement in this international affair, the Britsh stage the murder of James Bond, cooling the considerable heat he’s acquired from meddling in the affairs of powerful enemies across four films, then send him to Tokyo in search of answers. Teaming up with the head of the Japanese Secret Service, Tiger Tanaka, Bond soon learns of Blofeld’s involvement and master plan: ignite a full-on Soviet-American war and swoop in as a new superpower once they’ve destroyed each other. It’s up to Bond, with help from Tanaka and his ninjas, to infiltrate Blofeld’s secret volcano base and stop the madman before war erupts.

The Highlights

Space intrigue! Japan! Helicopter dogfights! What’s not to love? Plenty, as it would turn out, but you have to give You Only Live Twice credit for really going for it. No preceding film came close to the amount of bombast and extravagance found in YOLT (a wonderful acronym).

Coming off the success of Thunderball, the Bond production circus seemed like it could do no wrong, and they sure as hell made the most of their well-earned green lights. Lewis Gilbert occupied the director’s chair in his first of three Bond films (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker would follow) and made an introductory splash with a grander sense of scale and excess than had been seen in any Bond film prior.

Like Dr. No and Goldfinger before it, You Only Live Twice provides a heavy dose of pop culture iconography, most notably a facially-scarred Blofeld and a rocket-gun armed ninja assault on the villain’s volcano base. The film has most definitely not aged well, but it would be foolish to downplay the impact YOLT had on the franchise from this point forward.

The Lowlights

It really pains me to have realized over the years that You Only Live Twice is much better on paper than it is in practice. I remember being entranced by this film as a child, only to have that nostalgic facade slowly chip away with the passage of time. The finished product is confoundingly middling for a film with such exotic locales, cartoonish villains, and ambitious plot devices.

Realizing that this film isn’t very good is one thing, but the realization that this film is fuuucking racist is quite another. Written by Roald Dahl (yes, that Roald Dahl), You Only Live Twice bounces from one Asian stereotype to another (In his opening scene, Bond asks, “Why do Chinese girls taste so different from the others?”), culminating in Bond taking on the disguise of a Japanese fisherman by way of yellowface. How could so many people sign off on such a tone-deaf decision, even in 1967?

You get the sense that the producers were in a mad scramble to dish up an adventure that could top Thunderball’s historic successes at the box office. In the end, that desperate line of thinking resulted in a film that failed to live up to the expectations of anyone invested in the franchise; save for the kids, of course.

The Impact

You Only Live Twice didn’t change the course of action filmmaking like Dr. No or throw the franchise into a new gear like Goldfinger. You Only Live Twice did, however, serve a vital role in the Bond canon as a true inflection point for the future of the series. Critics lamented the film’s reliance on gadgetry and over-the-top theatrics (you have this film to thank for Austin Powers) at the expense of effective storytelling. Many filmgoers seemed to agree, as even though the film was another considerable success, the returns were beginning to diminish. Bond fatigue was setting in, and not just for audiences.

Finally fed up with not getting paid his fair share and the massive celebrity Bond had burdened Connery with (the actor was notoriously hounded in Tokyo, to the point where a local paper published a photograph of Connery sitting on the toilet in a public stall), the actor announced, in the middle of production, that You Only Live Twice would be his last Bond film. The next film would feature a new Bond (George Lazenby) and consciously tip the scales away from the fantastical and back towards the austere espionage of Bond’s roots. Connery would return for one last ride after the Lazenby experiment failed, but it would take a full four years and one considerable payday to convince him to come back.

Connery Ranking: 5th of 6

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Photo by 007.com

The Mission

Bond has just tracked down and killed his arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld…or has he? After returning to MI6 following his seemingly successful score-settling, M promptly sends 007 back into the field to investigate a diamond smuggling ring. Bond travels to Amsterdam to meet contact Tiffany Case after assuming the identity of Peter Franks, known smuggler of diamonds and assassin of humans. Meanwhile, the not-so-ambiguously gay hitman duo of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd tie up loose ends through a series of murders killing off several key cogs in the smuggling machine. After taking care of the real Peter Franks, James Bond travels with Tiffany to Las Vegas as 50,000 diamond carats are juggled between interested parties. The final destination for the diamonds is in the hands of none other than the very-much-alive Blofeld and his now fully operational, diamond-powered space laser. Can Bond stop the megalomaniac before he topples the world’s nuclear armaments and maims all who oppose him?

The Highlights

This is where you come to understand me a bit better, reader; I don’t just like Diamonds Are Forever, I absolutely adore Diamonds Are Forever. Make no mistake, this film is straight-up reviled by most for myriad reasons: subpar performances, ludicrous plotting, and an uncharacteristic amount of campiness for a Connery Bond film. And yet it is for these very reasons that I can’t help but love this mesmerizing mess of a movie. I fully understand the objective reasoning for why this film is seen as a lesser entry in the franchise, but there are some unassailable highs in this film that even its detractors can acknowledge.

Take for example the close-quarters brawl between Bond and Peter Franks in the claustrophobic confines of a lift cage, or that thrilling car chase on the Las Vegas Strip. There’s one particularly memorable moment involving Connery looking out on the neon-kissed desert atop a slowly ascending elevator headed towards the top of Willard Whyte’s hideout. In this surprisingly emotional moment, it feels almost as if Connery is absorbed in a beautiful moment of reflection considering his time and legacy as Bond. And say what you will about the treacherous triumvirate of Blofeld, Mr. Wint, and Mr. Kidd, but I simply delight in seeing Bond’s greatest foe dressed in drag and a pair of assassin lovers try and take out the world’s greatest spy with flaming kabobs and a cake bomb. What can I say? I love it when Bond gets silly.

The Lowlights

Everything about this film is absurd. Connery comes back after a four-year sabbatical for $1.25M (in 1971 money, mind you), only to turn in a completely blasé performance (that has become weirdly transcendent in its own right) then use the entirety of his enormous salary to establish the Scottish International Education Trust (props to “the working-class Scot”). The gritty, realistic tone and series-defining events of the previous film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, are entirely ignored in favor of the cartoonish and nonsensical. Blofeld is recast (again), this time played (deliciously) by the exceedingly British Charles Gray chewing on every square inch of scenery. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are both positively offensive and weirdly affecting, Connery steals a janky rover from the set of a fake Moon landing production in the Nevada desert, and sausage baron Jimmy Dean is on screen for like 20 minutes playing the Howard Hughes-inspired character of Willard Whyte. What is happening here? Beautiful madness, that’s what.

The Impact

Many mainstream outlets and opinion-havers put this film near the very bottom of their Bond film rankings. I think they can go blow up their pants. Diamonds perfectly ties the knot on Connery’s Bond tenure, deftly illustrating the grand spectrum of 007 film experiences. What began as a hard-nosed, low-budget spy story in Dr. No steadily mutated into the self-aware silliness and overt camp found in Diamonds Are Forever. Are the events of this film really all that more ridiculous than the films that came before it? The James Bond franchise has always required a certain suspension of disbelief from the audience. Diamonds simply leaned into the disbelief to the point of excess, and I for one applaud its willingness to not take itself too seriously.

Connery Ranking: 3rd of 6

The Legacy

Connery was the arbiter of the world’s introduction to Bond, and coming out first certainly has its perks, yet I continually find myself grappling with Connery’s legacy. His great films are immortal, his lesser films are still iconic, and he routinely ranks as the people’s favorite Bond.

When you go back to those films, however, you can’t help but notice the proclivity of sexual aggression and racist behavior beset by Connery, as well as his steadily declining interest in the franchise and subsequent performance quality. I understand that the world today is much different than the world of 1962–1971, and he isn’t the only Bond put in those positions, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing for the archetypal Bond of old to be held accountable for the societal evolutions of today.

I liken Connery and his films to any great entry point for a medium, genre, or artform that has evolved since it first came onto the scene. You should always educate yourself on the classics, but it’s perfectly alright for your taste and preferences to be colored by the time you’re living in and to be tailored towards more modern interpretations. I know mine have.

Is Connery my favorite Bond? No.

Do I think Connery is the best Bond? Also no.

Do I love, respect, and admire Connery’s contributions to the franchise? Yes.

Is Connery’s Bond legacy the one I ruminate on the most? Also yes.

The only thing I know for certain is that there would be no James Bond today without Sean Connery. And that even in death, Connery forever lives on through the global sensation he helped bring to life.

If that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is.

Photo by Getty Images

--

--

--

Asheville-based writer following the feel and chasing down wonder.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Blake Matson Becker

Blake Matson Becker

Asheville-based writer following the feel and chasing down wonder.

More from Medium

blitface

Baseball is currently in its first lockout since 1990

Screenshot Catch up

A Hackathon’s “Hybrid” Lie