Malay Mail Columnist Daniel Chan's second article, celebrating 50 years of James Bond and the upcoming release of Skyfall, reflects on a half century of Bond Girls:
Bond Girls Are Forever
Reflecting on the best Bond babes in the 50 years of the screen 007
Every Wednesday With DANIEL CHAN
SIX decades ago, on March 25, 1952, a day after getting married, London-born Ian Fleming (1908-1964), then aged 43, began typewriting his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale that would be published in 1953. In the story, British secret agent Double-O-Seven falls in love with Vesper Lynd, a double agent who betrayed him and then killed herself.
Fifty years ago, when the first Bond movie Dr. No premiered in the UK on Oct 5, 1962, movie-goers had their breath taken away when Ursula Andress rose up from the ocean in a white bikini as Honey Ryder — a vision likened to Sandro Botticelli's 1486 painting depicting the birth of Greek goddess of love Venus emerging full-grown and naked from the seas — giving rise to an enduring cinematic phenomenon known as the Bond Girl.
By definition, the Bond Girl can be a lover, ally or enemy of 007 in the course of his missions. The latest Bond Girl, in the new movie Skyfall (opening in cinemas here on Nov 1), is French-born Berenice Marlohe and her role as Severine is apparently that of an ally of the new Bond villain, the openly-homo-sexual Raoul Silva played by Spanish-born Javier Bardem. Severine is remindful of Domino Derval, the mistress of one-eyed nuclear blackmailer Emilio Largo in the 1965 movie Thunderball, in which Domino switched over to Bond's side.
With the casting of Marlohe (born in Paris on May 19, 1979), the number of the principal Bond Girls from France has risen to five, the first four being Claudine Auger (who played Domino), Carole Bouquet, Sophie Mar-ceau and Eva Green (who played Vesper).
Americans lead the pack among the Bond Girls, with six, namely, Jill St John, Barbara Bach, Lois Chiles, Tanya Roberts, Carey Lowell and Halle Berry. Surprisingly, there have been merely four British (Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Jane Seymour and Maryam dAbo), along with two Swedish (Britt Ekland and Maud Adams) and one each from Switzerland (Ursula Andress), Italy (Daniela Bianchi), Japan (Mie Hama), Poland (Izabella Scorupco), Malaysia (Michelle Yeoh) and Ukraine (Olga Kurylenko).
When it comes to profession, the principal Bond Girls can be broadly categorised as governmental agents (Tatiana Romanova, Kissy Suzuki, Mary Goodnight, Major Anya Amasova, Pam Bouvier, Natalya Simonova, Colonel Wai Lin, Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson, Vesper Lynd), scientists (Dr Holly Goodhead, Melina Havelock, Stacey Sutton), mistresses (Domino Derval, Solitaire, Camille Montes, Severine), heiresses (Tracy di Vicenzo, Elektra King), musician (Kara Milovy), self-employed (Honey Ryder) and criminals (Pussy Galore, Tiffany Case, Octopussy).
Looking back, there's no doubt that the cream of the crop of Bond Girls were in the 1960s. After the inspired casting of Ursula Andress, excellent choices were those of Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg, both of whom proved themselves as first-rate actresses and action-orientat-ed heroines in popular 1960s British secret agent series The Avengers, as Cathy Gale and Mrs Emma Peel respectively. And though they had little prior acting experience, beauty queens Daniela Bianchi (she was Miss Italy and 1960 Miss Universe first run-ner-up) and Claudine Auger (Miss France and 1958 Miss World first runner-up) acquitted themselves well.
The next best crop of Bond Girls came consecutively during the tenure of the fifth Bond, Pierce Brosnan, starting with Michelle Yeoh (who already established herself as a Hong Kong martial arts queen), and followed by Sophie Marceau (she won the Cesar Award for Most Promising Actress in 1983 when she was 17; Cesar is the French equivalent to the Hollywood Oscars) and Halle Berry (who won an Oscarfor Best Actress for 2001 's Monster's Ball while she was in the midst of filming Die Another Day).
For this writer, the most outstanding Bond Girls have been Honey Ryder (a self-made outdoor-type who knows how to fend for herself, and the movie was true to the novel in her characterisation except for the fact that she was actually nude when Bond first encountered her on the beach), Tracy di Vicenzo (the only one the love-them-and-leave-them Bond married, though she was slain on their wedding day). Colonel Wai Lin (convincing as a Chinese secret agent on par with Bond, unlike Soviet secret agent Major Anya Amasova with Barbara Bach miscast in that role), and Pussy Galore (Fleming had a soft spot for lesbians), in that order.
Of the numerous supporting actresses who have Bond Girl on their resume, the most unforgettable remains Shirley Eaton by virtue of her being painted from head to toe in gold, becoming one of the most iconic images in not just Bond lore but cinema history. Eaton played Jill Mas-terson, a mistress of criminal mastermind Auric Goldfin-ger and because she helped Bond and then became his lover, Goldfinger exacted terrible revenge by having his bodyguard Oddjob kill her (in the novel, Fleming mentions that the gold-obsessed Goldfinger had a penchant for making love to his mistresses by having them first painted in gold).
The best Bond female fatale has to be Elektra King (with Sophia Marceau superb in the role) who, in an unexpected twist towards the end, turned outto bethe real Bond villain: she seduces Bond, beds him, then almost strangles him on a torture rack, and fittingly. Bond shoots her dead.
Among the modern-day titans of fiction, Sherlock Holmes is singularly enamoured with the already-married singer Irene Adler, Tarzan of the Apes alias Lord Grey-stoke is eternally faithful to his wife Lady Jane Porter, and costumed superhero Superman's girlfriend will always be fellow reporter Lois Lane, but thanks to the after-marriage sexual fantasies of Fleming, Ian Fleming, Bond Girls are many and... forever.
The Bond Girls
1. Dr. No (1962): Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder
2. From Russia With Love (1963): Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova
3. Goldfinger (1964): Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore
4. Thunderball (1965): Claudine Auger as Domino Derval
5. You Only Live Twice (1967): Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki
6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969): Diana Rigg as Tracy di Vicenzo
7. Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Jill St John as Tiffany Case
8. Live And Let Die (1973): Jane Seymour as Solitaire
9. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974): Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight
10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Barbara Bach as Major Anya Amasova
11. Moonraker (1979): Lois Chiles as Dr Holly Goodhead
12. For Your Eyes Only (1981): Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock
13. Octopussy (1983): Maud Adams as Octopussy
14. A View To A Kill (1985): Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton
15. The Living Daylights (1987): Maryam d'Abo as Kara Milovy
16. Licence To Kill (1989): Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier
17. Goldeneye (1995): Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova
18. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): Michelle Yeoh as Colonel Wai Lin
19. The World Is Not Enough (1999): Sophie Marceau as Elektra King
20. Die Another Day (2002): Halle Berry as Giacinta 'Jinx'Johnson
21. Casino Royale (2006): Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
22. Quantum of Solace (2008): Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes
23. Skyfall (2012): Berenice Marlohe as Severine
Photos: BEST BOND GIRL: Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, BEST FEMME FATALE: Sophie Marceau as Elektra King, HONOR BLACKMAN as Pussy Galore, SHIRLEY EATON as Jill Masterson, DIANA RIGG as Tracy di Vicenzo, MICHELLE YEOH as Colonel Wai Lin, LATEST BOND BABE: Berenice Marlohe as Severine
[Source: Malay Mail, October 17th, 2012, P.24-25. Copyright © 2012 Malay Mail Sdn. Bhd.]