The first film featuring Ian Fleming’s suave anti-hero was Dr No, directed by Terrence Young and released in 1962. The producers thought the plot of an Asian villain interfering with the US space program would resonate with escalating Cold War tensions and set about finding the right actor to portray the British spy.
Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli (the producer) entered into a dialogue with Cary Grant (pretty suave himself in North By Northwest) but the actor declined. Also considered were Roger Moore (too young), David Niven (who did appear in the odd and unsatisfying 1967 non-canon Casino Royale) and Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner). Fascinatingly, McGoohan rejected the role as having too much sex and violence. Sean Connery, a young actor of working class origins, divided opinions pre-casting, but Broccoli trusted his instincts, believing the Scot’s looks and physical presence would work.
All the Bond elements are present and correct in Dr No. The doting Miss Moneypenny, Bernard Lee’s cantankerous M, outrageous gadgetry, exotic settings, and a beautiful companion: the wonderful Ursula Andress whose appearance out of the sea is an iconic 60s film moment. Plus lots of baddies for 007 to dispose of.
There is also the music.
Composer/songwriter Monty Norman was engaged to write the score for Dr No. No doubt objecting loudly he agreed to join the film crew in Jamaica where he wrote several calypso-styled pieces that are used multiple times (the “three blind mice” piece, entitled “Kingston Calypso” and “Jump up”). Another song that appears several times is the jaunty “Under the mango tree” which is unique in being sung by James Bond at one point; the only time this occurs in the entire franchise.
The soundtrack is dominated by the cheery Caribbean flavoured music, though there are other incidental pieces worth noting. “The Island Speaks” for instance, has sinister drone strings, while managing to evoke both the Bond theme and Eastern tonalities. And scattered throughout are a number of tasty guitar solos by an uncredited but clearly accomplished musician. It’s a pleasant soundtrack, having a summery beach-bar feel consistent with the setting, if not exactly dripping with espionage tension.
A word about the famous James Bond theme that appears for the first time here. The same Monty Norman who wrote the score also came up with the theme, borrowing a tune he’d previously written and passing it over to John Barry for orchestration. The result—dramatic, exciting, memorable—was a huge chart hit in the UK and, for those brought up on a diet of Bond excess, still capable of eliciting a tiny frisson of excitement.
Sexist, violent, calculating, misogynist; yet for many of a certain age, the first indelible image of cool.
Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: [looks back, laughing] No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!
Well, Mr Goldfinger, we’re all gonna die. The trick is to have lived first, at least once.
Sir Sean Connery: August 25, 1930 — October 31, 2020