007

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

19 comments

  1. When my son was about 10 he wanted to watch a bond movie. I picked Goldfinger. The misogyny was horrid. I spent the whole movie feeling embarrassed for my generation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure. Much of it is ghastly and cringeworthy. I waited a little longer (the boy was 14) and we had an interesting conversation about changing attitudes and what men (and women) should aspire to in the 21st Century. Much the same as the conversation we had about racism, in some ways.

      Like

  2. Connery is yet another loss in this year of too many losses. (One of my favorite pieces of Goldfinger trivia is that Gert Frobe, who played Auric Goldfinger, also played the child-hating Baron in the movie adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.) I think this is the first time I’ve ever read an informed consideration of the music in a Bond film, and I loved it! Thanks for getting my November off to a fun start…with Election Day looming, I need all the fun I can get!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my friend, I am not the only one down ‘ere thinking of you and other sane adults in the US. I’ve offered to be a Downunder Realtor for any friends who need assistance re-locating should the unthinkable happen. Think about it. I’m told Melbourne is a bit like Boston, but with more waterfront.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Stay tuned!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    That’s good Bruce. I like the ending of this especially. Thanks…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice one. That first film, cardboard amphibious tank aside, is a cracker, tough and mean – I preferred my Bond that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve haven’t watched any of that era’s Bond movies – – I’ll always associate him with the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movies, and a childhood Disney favorite, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” where he played a gamekeeper from Dublin. And of course, given Hollywood logic, they used a Frenchman as the Scotsman, and he was cast as a Spaniard, Don Juan, for “Highlander.” And an excellent cameo in “Time Bandits” as a Greek king.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for broadening the range, Robert. Like you, I loved him as Indi’s dad and agree his brief turn as Agamemnon was fun.
      This being a music blog, I stayed with the obvious role, even though a part of me was drawn to explore the ambivalence I feel about the rampant misogyny of the early Bond films.
      Thanks for your contribution, once again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Bruce — I just checked, because I thought I remembered Connery singing in Darby O’Gill, and he did quite nicely with “She’s my dear, my darlin’ one”. He was no Shirley Bassey, but sounded pretty good!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The “James Bond Theme”
    is truly signature and one of the coolest film scores, IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is! Written by Monty Norman, orchestrated by John Barry, with the guitar part played by the wonderfully named Vic Flick.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. 365musicmusings · · Reply

    Fitting tribute! 😞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers, Christian.

      Like

  8. Good one Bruce. I cant help thinking of a few things you noted with Bond. Gert is one of them. I loved that guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Best Bond baddy ever!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But did u see him in ‘Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines’?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I did, but it was a very very very (etc) long time ago. I seem to vaguely recall Gert had a problem or two with his helmet.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes the helmet was a problem. It was his demise over the cesspool.

            Liked by 1 person

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