Reflections on the Various James Bonds

The Greatest Bond of All: Sean Connery, turned 90 on August 25th

During this challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic, when so many pleasures in life have been curtailed–including going to movies at the theater–my wife Laurice and I have spent some of our evenings watching through the Bond movies from Dr No (1962) all the way to Spectre (2015). There have been some unexpected pleasures and surprises along they way, chief among which is just how good Timothy Dalton was in his two films as 007. Despite being two of the poorest-performing Bond films at the Box office, The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989) hold up very well today as complex spy films with a charismatic performance by the Welsh-born actor. What I like about Dalton’s interpretation of Bond is his ability to show the dark side of James Bond—his abrupt turn to hostility towards Kara (Maryam D’Abo) when he suspects her of conspiring with the villain Koskov in The Living Daylights is a case in point. Even darker is his portrayal of Bond in Licence to Kill, where his close friend and CIA colleague Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is mauled by sharks, leading Bond to go rogue in pursuit of a personal vendetta against the drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). And yet Dalton also has a charm and capacity for gentleness, especially in his relationships with women, that provides balance to the character.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, in terms of an individual film, was re-watching A View to a Kill (1985). I had remembered this as Roger Moore’s worst outing as Bond, largely to to his being too old for the role, and the less-than-stellar Bond girl, Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts). However, the film has a compelling villain in Christopher Walken’s Max Zoren, an amazing henchwoman in May Day (Grace Jones), and a brilliant cameo as Bond’s “valet,” Sir Godfrey Tibbet, by Patrick Macnee. The film also has outstanding locations in France and the San Francisco Bay Area, and a topical (at the time) plot featuring a plot to destroy Silicon Valley.

Sean Connery remains the best incarnation of James Bond, for me. It’s worth remembering that, having secured the long-desired film deal with Eon productions, Ian Fleming wanted his friend David Niven for the role of Bond. That gives you an idea of the “English gentleman” style Fleming had in mind. He also would have preferred Cary Grant to Sean Connery. But Fleming was won over by Connery’s charm, virility, and toughness, and was inspired by the casting of the Scottish Connery to create a Scottish background for Bond, outlined in the last two novels he published in his lifetime, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) and You Only Live Twice (1964). Even Connery’s last “official” outing as Bond, in Diamonds Are Forever, (1971) has great appeal as a camp, tongue-in-cheek crowd-pleaser.

Another surprise was how the brutality, lack of humor, and relative downplaying of any romantic charm in Daniel Craig’s Bond films seemed disappointing on this most recent journey through the Bond film archive. Although I still greatly admire Craig as an actor, I think it is time for a change of style in the leading actor. Like all Bond fans, I am excited to see Bond 25—No Time To Die—whenever it can finally be released in these Covid-afflicted times. But I am also excited to discover who the next actor will be to utter the legendary line, “My name is Bond, James Bond.”


SAMLA 92 Panel: “Agent Provocateur: James Bond and Scandal”

I have sent out a call for proposals for a panel on James Bond and Ian Fleming to be held at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Jacksonville, FL, from November 13-15, 2020. This promises to be an exciting opportunity to address the conference theme of “SCANDAL! Literature and Provocation: Breaking Rules, Making Texts.” I am co-chairing the panel with my friend and leading Bond expert Matthew B. Sherman.


The call for proposals is below:


From the first publication of Fleming’s James Bond novels in the 1950s, up to the troubled and controversial production of No Time To Die, the 25th Bond film, the persona and milieu of Bond has attracted scandal. Lambasted in 1958 by Paul Johnson for “sex, snobbery, and sadism,” Fleming’s novels attracted still more notoriety when they were adapted into film starting with Dr No in 1962. On the one hand, James Bond has been kept relevant by linking him to contemporary crises and scandals such as international terrorism, cyberhacking, and corporate corruption. On the other, the persistence of Bond’s heavy drinking, womanizing, and violence have themselves been provocative, leading to such dismissals as Bond being a “sexist, misogynist, dinosaur,” a notorious verdict uttered by Judi Dench in Goldeneye. Bond always breaks the rules, and his “licence to kill” also makes him a scandalously violent figure. The theme of this year’s SAMLA conference, Scandal! Literature and Provocation: Breaking Rules, Making Texts, is an ideal opportunity to reflect on ways in which the character and actions of Bond continue to shock, upset and offend—as well as enthrall and entertain—readers and viewers. We invite papers on any aspect of sexual, political, or other “scandal” in Fleming’s novels and/or the Bond films. Please send 300-word paper proposals, brief bios, and A/V requirements to Professor Oliver Buckton at Florida Atlantic University ( and Matthew B. Sherman ( by May 15, 2020.


My friend Tom Cull, who runs the fantastic website Artistic License Renewed: The Literary James Bond Magazine, has included a post featuring our call for proposals


Please send your proposal for a paper to Matthew or myself, following the guidelines above!