My favourite cinematic James Bond lasted for one film- George Lazenby in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. I was a teenager when this new confident Bond burst onto the screen with a performance of charisma in which Bond found love and even marriage. It was a watershed film in the franchise and Lazenby’s short career- as he said himself, “This never happened to the other fella”.
The film contains some of the most touching scenes of any Bond film, with a love soundtrack from the late Louis Armstrong which you can view below. But Lazenby only managed one film because he didn’t conform to what was expected from the character. He wasn’t even a career actor; he turned up to the premier wearing a beard and his performance was felt by some critics to be wooden and lacked the menace of Sean Connery. People had an image of their Bond and Lazenby didn’t match it it every respect. Why couldn’t Lazenby be himself and why couldn’t Bond love? When does the image our heroes have to maintain get in the way of their potential to be different and touch us with surprise?
Recently I re-read the novel and was touched by how the death of Bond’s new wife Tracy was handled by Ian Fleming:
“Bond turned towards Tracy. She was lying forward with her face buried in the ruins of the steering-wheel. Her pink handkerchief had come off and the bell of golden air hung down and hid her face. Bond put his arm round her shoulders, across which the dark patches has begun to flower.
He pressed her against him. he looked up at the young man and smiled his reassurance.
‘It’s all right’, he said in a clear voice as if explaining something to a child. ‘It’s quite all right. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry. You see-‘. Bond’s head sank down against hers and he whispered into her hair- ‘you see, we’ve got all the time in the world.’
The young patrolman took a last scared lok at the motionless couple, hurried over to his motorcycle, picked up the hand-microphone and began talkin urgently to the rescue headquarters.”
Thanks George for making Bond different and keeping faith with what the author intended.