Looking back, it’s almost impossible to imagine that Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman didn’t know that, with Dr. No, they were establishing a film franchise to become the second longest-running in the world. At fifty-nine years the only thing that’s outlasted it is Godzilla, which began in 1954 and is still going.
When you see the gun barrel opening in a 007 film, your first thought is, “oh, they’re still using that old thing,” until it dawns on you that Dr. No is the first time it was ever seen. It’s the same for everything about the film…the theme, the catchphrases, the weapons, the women, the cars, and the people.
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Dr. No had an, estimated, budget of $1.1million and made a worldwide gross of over $16million. If it had flopped I wonder if we would have seen From Russia With Love and all the others.
But Dr. No was a success, From Russia With Love got double the budget, and the rest, as they say, is history, with the Bond franchise going on to make $16,315,134,284 (adjusted) which, well…I’d bend down and pick that up if I saw it on the pavement.
So, twenty-four films, six Bonds, four hundred and five dead villains, fifty-eight romantic liaisons, and a whole A&E department of injuries, both fictional and actual, later — and we have a franchise that seems unstoppable despite numerous changes in society, politics, morality, sexual mores, and any number of other conventions which were touted as the final nail in its coffin.
I Was Born With This Unlucky Sneeze
First off, I’d like to reassure everyone that I’m not having a stroke! The now-legendary James Bond “dum di-di dum dum” theme was recycled from another project.
It was originally a song called “Good Sign Bad Sign,” part of a musical based on VS Naipaul’s novel A House For Mr. Biswas, and was played on sitars. Ludicrous as that may sound, it is relatively easy to find; just Google “bond theme original Indian” or something like that and you’ll find a video clip of QI that has a karaoke version.
Anyway, it is the Bond theme that starts Dr. No; big-name theme songs didn’t start until Matt Munro sang From Russia With Love, and only an instrumental version was played over the opening titles. Having said that, the Bond theme is only played for the first half of the credits before it segues into a calypso version of Three Blind Mice.
More Bond Firsts
Other firsts include the first car driven by Bond (Sunbeam Alpine Series II), the first appearances of all the regulars (M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix Leitner, etc.), first appearance of Universal Exports, first issuing of the Walther PPK, first card game, first extravagantly designed villain’s lair, and so on and so forth.
Of course, everything that appears in Dr. No is, by definition, a first — even though bizarrely, Dr. No was the sixth novel in the series and the novel series does benefit from being read in order. But the first thing most often misattributed is the first Bond girl.
When asked, most people would give that honour to Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder. That is understandable, as she is the one that the story pivots around in the second half — introduced with the iconic walking out of the sea scene. However, she was only the third to indulge in gland-to-gland combat; the first was Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) and the second was Miss Taro (Zena Marshall).
Incidentally, originally Eunice Gayson was to play Miss Moneypenny and Lois Maxwell was to play Sylvia Trench, but they switched roles. Director Terence Young had said that when he looked at Eunice Gayson she seemed to smell of sex whereas Lois Maxwell seemed to smell of soap.
The Name’s Bond…James Bond
Whenever there is a poll of “who was the best Bond,” Sean Connery is always within the top two. With an average Metacritic score of 71.6, his films are the highest-rated to date. Daniel Craig edges him out for adjusted global box office; $924.9 million against $776.1 million. How much of that is due to him being the first Bond is impossible to tell without a time machine and something to persuade/convince/blackmail Cubby Broccoli with. What you’d need is something very persuasive/convincing/compromising, as a lot of things were moved around to make sure that Connery worked as Bond.
For instance, even though at 1.88m (6’2”) Connery was the tallest actor to play Bond, all of the sets and furniture were slightly smaller than they would be in reality, so that Bond would look larger. Maybe that wouldn’t have been necessary if Ian Fleming’s original choice for Dr. No had been taken up. He wanted his cousin, Christopher Lee, for the role, but at 1.96m (6’5”), he would have seemed enormous with the oversized sets. Fortunately, Joseph Wiseman was a relative midget at a mere 1.83m (6’0”).[Editor’s note: Happily, in The Man with the Golden Gun we see Christopher Lee anyway, as the suave Bond villain Mr. Scaramanga. There’s an actual midget too — Hervé Villechaize — as his henchman.]
Yes to No
Contrary to popular belief, Sir Sean Connery was not wearing a hairpiece in his first two outings as James Bond. Although he was already balding by the time Dr. No was in production, he still had a decent amount of hair and the filmmakers used varying techniques to make the most of what was left. By the time of Goldfinger (1964), Connery’s hair was too thin and so various toupees were used for his last Bond outings.
Despite that, unlike some of his successors, Connery didn’t need a couple of movies to figure out the character. He had the role of Bond sorted within a few minutes of Dr. No. He also contributed to the Bond franchise’s signature sense of humor using the sly, subtle self-awareness which laid the groundwork for much more on-the-nose winks to the audience in later Bond films. At the time, it offered a fun counterpoint to the dreary, self-serious spy thrillers audiences had become inundated with such as The Thirty Nine Steps, Carve Her Name With Pride, and The Manchurian Candidate.
Movie Grade: A
There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Dr. No. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)
|Genres:||Action, Adventure, Thriller, Bond 007, Spy|
|Starring:||Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord|
|Writer(s):||Richard Maibaum (screenplay by), Johanna Harwood (screenplay by), Berkely Mather (screenplay by), Ian Fleming (based on the novel by)|
Remembering James Bond — Seeing Goldfinger live in the theater
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!