When discussing James Bond and Sean Connery the words ‘original’ and ‘best’ are often quoted and today he is unsurprisingly still the most popular actor to play James Bond. I’ve been running a still active poll asking who your favourite James Bond is and the contest for second place is very close indeed.
As I write this (May 2010), Sean Connery is very much in the lead with 39% of the vote but second place is almost a dead heat between Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan with 21-22% of the votes. The current 007, Daniel Craig, is a distant fourth with only half of the votes of Messrs Moore and Brosnan. George Lazenby who starred in only one Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), is the least popular James Bond with only 3% of the votes cast so far.
Contessa Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo (born Teresa Draco) will forever be remembered in James Bond folklore as the only woman who officially married James Bond (Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama) married 007 in You Only Live Twice as part of a mission). The rather troubled Tracy, daughter of the head of the Unione Corse crime syndicate, Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), is superbly played by British actress Diana Rigg in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
When Bond (George Lazenby) first encounters Tracy he rescues her from a suicidal trip into the sea but she runs away. They meet again in a casino and Bond takes care of a bet she is unable to cover.
Tracy: Why do you persist in rescuing me, Mr. Bond? James Bond: It’s becoming quite a habit, isn’t it, Contessa Teresa? Tracy: Teresa was a Saint; I’m known as Tracy. James Bond: Well, Tracy, next time play it safe and stand on 5. Tracy: People who want to stay *alive* play it safe. James Bond: Please, stay alive! At least for tonight.
She invites him up to her hotel room later to say thanks but when he walks in, there is a thug waiting to meet him. 007 deals with this and goes back to his own to find Tracy waiting for him with a gun.
Tracy: Suppose I kill you for a thrill James Bond: I can think of something more sociable to do
Bond manages to defuse the situation and they spend the night together. The following day, after Tracy leaves, Bond is kidnapped and taken to meet with her father who explains about her troubled past (including bad marriage ending) and says that he wants Bond to be with his only daughter.
James Bond: I find her fascinating. But, she needs a psychiatrist, not me. Draco: [abruptly] What she needs is a man… to *dominate* her! To make love to her enough to make her love him! A man like you!
Draco even offers him a million pounds if Bond marries Tracy. James refuses but they negotiate a deal where he will try to romance Tracy if Draco will use his underworld connections to find the location of Ernst Stravro Blofeld (Telly Savalas). Draco invites Bond to his home on his birthday, knowing Tracy will attend, but when she arrives she immediately smells a rat and makes it comprehensively clear she is not impressed, forces Draco to tell Bond what he wants to know (thereby removing 007’s obligation to court her) and then leaves.
James Bond rushes after her and persuades Tracy that he genuinely likes her and they begin to fall in love. However, 007 has to go off on his Blofeld, but later Tracy arrives at a critical time as without her and her rather nifty driving he would have struggled to escape. Look out for the moment when Tracy arrives to help rescue James, the look on her face is pure love, but not in a cheesy way, in a really genuine and sincere way from an exceptional actress.
Whilst on the run, they take refuge in a barn overnight, further cementing and confirming their love for each other. He tells her that he loves her, that he will have to find something else to do as a job and then he asks Tracy to marry him. She agrees and they playfully start to suggest places where Mr and Mrs Bond should live (Tunbridge Wells, Belgravia Square, Monaco, etc.).
The following day Tracy and James continue their escape on skis but Blofeld and his skiing cronies catch up with them and are in hot pursuit. Blofeld uses a flare to start an avalanche which causes Bond and Tracy to get separated and Blofeld captures the future Mrs Bond. James uses the forces of Draco to attack Blofeld’s hideout and rescues Tracy. Tracy using intelligence and her feminine wiles manipulates Blofeld and shows she can handle herself in a fight when the rescue arrives.
The wedding of Tracy and James is a beautiful and joyous occasion, with M (Bernard Lee), Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) there to see how happy they both are. Not long after they head off in the car on their honeymoon they stop to remove the wedding flowers from the car when Blofeld and Irma Blunt do a drive by shooting and Tracy is killed.
Tracy Bond truly deserves her place close to the very top of the definitive Bond Girl list as having a strong and interesting character that is initially troubled and lost but turns herself around and has a true loving relationship with James, not just a fling. She is no ordinary Bond Girl.
You would think that something like the Top 10 Bond Girls has been done to death wouldn’t you?
In a way it has and each new Bond film released helps to resurrect the argument about which of the Bond Girls is best. It’s an easy news article to generate and creates good discussion as it is purely subjective opinion and more often than not, both the most recent and the original Bond Girl will feature highly.
The year is 2010 and so isn’t it long overdue to leave this tired subject alone? Yes … OR?!… we could go the other way and do it better and make the ratings more scientific and geeky?
Guess which way I went.
To rate each Bond Girl I used the following 3 criteria, rather than just the normal one, to determine overall who is best:
1) Character – How good is the Bond Girl’s character, is she just a wet blanket eye candy (e.g Miss Goodnight (Britt Ekland) in The Man with the Golden Gun) or does she have an interesting character that shows depth (e.g. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale)?
2) Hotness – How hot/beautiful/sexy is the actress at the time of playing the part?
3) Impact – The impact of the Bond Girl in the film and over time? Has she or will she be remembered?
Each of the above aspects is important in assessing which is the best Bond Girl, but on their own are not enough to reach a valid conclusion.
To qualify as a Bond Girl, the character has to be in an official James Bond film and has to come into actual contact with 007 at some point in the film (M and Moneypenney have been excluded).
Each Bond Girl character is rated out of 100 for each criteria and then the 3 marks are multiplied together to get an overall definitive Bond Girl score. The combination of these 3 criteria means that a more accurate rating can be obtained. There is still a large element of subjectivity, of course, but this helps minimise its effect and have polled many people to produce this, particularly about ‘impact’.
For example, the character Holly Goodhead in Moonraker (1979) played by Lois Chiles is a great Bond girl, she’s an intelligent and very capable CIA agent as well as being an astronaut pilot and does not succumb easily to James Bond’s charms. She is beautiful and although her character is very strong, her impact is not as strong as many other Bond Girls and so does not make the top 10.
Holly Goodhead scores 82 for character, 83 for hotness and 75 for impact to get a total score of 510,450 and was 16th in the overall placing of Top Bond girls.
There are 3 British, 3 French, 2 American, 1 Italian and 1 Swiss actresses that make up the top ten definitive bond girls.
Here is my personal list, one at a time, of the top ten movie characters ever. However, feel free to agree or offer better choices and argument. SPOILER CAUTION! The content below may give away some of the plot of the film(s) concerned.
The ultimate movie character is, of course, the legend that is James Bond. What other character continues to enthral and fascinate nearly 50 years after his original showing (1962’s Dr. No) through an astonishing record-breaking 22 ‘official’ movies and with 6 different actors. We simply cannot get enough of Ian Fleming’s licensed to kill British secret agent, ‘007’, who risks his life for Queen and country to often save the whole world. Men want to be him; women want to be with him.
No matter how big the problem, no matter how bad and powerful the villain, no matter how dangerous, James Bond is your man. He somehow manages to be suave, charming and sophisticated as well as being tough, cold and brutal. On the one hand he is an English gentleman who will happily discuss the sherry or wine he is drinking and meet you to play a round of golf, but will not even blink if he needs to put a bullet between your eyes.
He is seemingly the classic ‘lone wolf’ character who does not seek out relationships but somehow makes meaningful but fleeting friendships wherever he goes. The only people we see him being friendly with consistently are people he knows through work, Moneypenny (played by Lois Maxwell initially and then by Samantha Bond) and CIA agent Felix Leiter (played by actors Jack Lord (Dr.No), Cec Linder (Goldfinger), Rick Van Nutter (Thunderball), John Terry (Living Daylights), David Hedison (Licence to Kill) and most recently Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale & Quantum of Solace).
His profession, as England’s No.1 secret agent, suits being a loner but he very much maximises any opportunity to seduce a lady as he knows that he or she may not be alive for very much longer. Over the films we see that he has made a couple of attempts at meaningful relationships but they have always ended very badly indeed. In the recent Casino Royale (2006) we see a younger James Bond (Daniel Craig) who has just got his licence to kill and then proceeds to fall head over heels in love with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and even resigns so to be with her. However, she double crosses him and she ends up dying.
In 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond (played by George Lazenby) not only falls in love again, but actually marries Tracy Di Cicenzo (Diana Rigg) only for her to be shot dead at the end of the movie. At the beginning of For Your Eyes Only (1981) we see him lay flowers at her grave. James Bond is so deeply hurt by the tragic end to these relationships that he has clearly decided that he is not going to allow himself to become emotionally attached like that again to anyone.
Vesper: You can switch off so easily, can’t you? It doesn’t bother you, killing those people? Bond: Well, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did.
(2006’s Casino Royale)
Ironically, James Bond’s most interesting relationships tend to be with people who don’t seem to like him very much. His relationship with M (played originally by Bernard Lee and then by Robert Brown, and most recently by Judi Dench) has evolved over the years and began with M generally treating James Bond in the same manner a strict schoolmaster does with a naughty pupil, but by 2002’s Die Another Day we see the relationship has grown much stronger and there is genuine care and respect for each other. However, with Casino Royale going back to Bond’s beginning we are seeing an M who seems to really not like or trust Bond at all, not until he proves himself.
His relationship with Q (originally called Major Boothroyd) is also very amusing and has developed over the 22 films. Played superbly by the much-loved Desmond Llewelyn (although Peter Burton was the original Major Boothroyd in Dr.No) their relationship is first revealed in Goldfinger where Q is clearly quite annoyed by the cavalier Bond who has no respect for the equipment he and his department spend long hours creating. By 1999’s The World is Not Enough (Desmond Llewelyn’s last film) Q is much more of a loving uncle figure to Bond.
Q: I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed. James Bond: And the second? Q: Always have an escape plan.
Each Bond film sees 007 take on a new villain and they normally end up with some sort of encounter where the villain, although wanting to kill Bond, shows respect for what Bond has done. Dr.No has a mostly civilised dinner with James Bond and one gets the feeling he is trying to see if he can recruit him, but realises his unwavering loyalty to his mission and England.
Dr. No: [to Bond] Unfortunately I overestimated you, you are just a stupid police man…
(metal door opens and guards enter) Dr. No: …whose luck has run out.
However, Dr.No, like all the other villains that follow, actually underestimates James Bond who always manages to foil whatever world-domination plan they happen to have. He has several interesting encounters with Auric Goldfinger, with the most memorable one being the infamous scene with Bond strapped to a table with an industrial laser pointing right at him.
In 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond is admired and respected by the villain, the 3-titted expert hitman Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who believes he and Bond are very similar in character. He lures James Bond to his secluded island in Phuket which has now proved so popular with tourists it is actually called James Bond Island. Scaramanga and Bond dine together as gentleman before they get down to their business.
Francisco Scaramanga: You get as much pleasure out of killing as I do, so why don’t you admit it? James Bond: I admit killing you would be a pleasure. Francisco Scaramanga: Then you should have done that when you first saw me. On the other hand, the English don’t consider it sporting to kill in cold blood, do they? James Bond: Don’t count on that.
As they eat, Scaramanga outlines a proposition for him.
Francisco Scaramanga: A duel between titans… my golden gun against your Walther PPK.
James Bond: Pistols at dawn; it’s a little old-fashioned, isn’t it? Francisco Scaramanga: That it is. But it remains the only true test for gentlemen. James Bond: On that score, I doubt you qualify. However, I accept.
James Bond always wins out in the end but not before frustrating his foe who keep failing in their attempts to kill him.
“Mr.Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you”, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), Moonraker (1979)
“Why can’t you just be a good boy and die?” Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), Goldeneye
James Bond also had a curious relationship with the most famous henchman of all the films, Jaws (played by Richard Kiel), who appeared in just two films and although Jaws is committed to his task of killing Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me they both give each other a nod of respect in Moonraker and when Jaws falls in love, he actually ends up helping Bond.
James Bond’s world is a lonely one full of danger and he is someone who definitely has a dark side. However, our enjoyment of this character is the seemingly effortless and fearless way he conducts himself. In particular, his laconic and pithy remarks in the most lethal and precarious moments help define his approach to life.
(Bond has just been discovered in bed with KGB agent Anya Amasova in 1977’s Spy Who Loved Me)
M: Bond! What on earth do you think you’re doing?
James Bond: Keeping the British end up, sir
Tracy: Suppose I were to kill you for a thrill? Bond: I can think of something more sociable to do.
Bond: I tend to notice little things like that–whether a girl is a blonde or a brunette… Tiffany: And which do you prefer? Bond: Well, as long as the collars and cuffs match
Bond:[in bed with Jones] I was wrong about you. Dr.Christmas Jones: Yeah, how so? Bond: I thought Christmas only comes once a year.
There will always be the argument about who is the best Bond with Sean Connery most often winning as the original James Bond. George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton seem to be the least popular Bonds, whereas Daniel Craig’s reputation seems to be growing. I felt Pierce Brosnan was a most excellent and worthy 007, but my favourite has to be Roger Moore. He wasn’t as tough as Sean, but there is something about how he played him, the charm, and the humour and he was somehow more refined and matured than the early Bond.
James Bond simply is the best movie character ever. Carly Simon seems to have found the perfect lyrics in her song from The Spy Who Loved Me: