Happy birthday, 007.
Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first James Bond movie. “Dr. No” starred Sean Connery as the British superspy, and he went on to play Bond five more times through 1983.
He was followed in the role by George Lazenby (one film), Roger Moore (seven), Timothy Dalton (two), Pierce Brosnan (four) and Daniel Craig (two, going on three).
The franchise is the longest and one of the most financially successful in movie history. Every one of the 22 official James Bond movies produced by Albert Broccoli’s EON Productions has made money.
To mark this monumental date, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer has declared Oct. 5 to be Global James Bond Day, launching events around the world.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present “The Music of Bond: The First 50 Years” at a Beverly Hills theater, saluting the memorable title songs and scores that have been an integral part of Bond lore.
My favorite is Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger.” Other memorable performers over the years have included Nancy Sinatra (“You Only Live Twice”), Paul McCartney (“Live and Let Die”), Carly Simon (“Nobody Does It Better”), Sheena Easton (“For Your Eyes Only”) and Duran Duran (“A View to a Kill”).
Notable scores were composed by Bill Conti, John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch and David Arnold. Vic Flick played the famous guitar lick that will always be identified with Bond.
A documentary, “Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007,” will also debut. It focuses on Broccoli, producer Harry Saltzman and author Ian Fleming, whose books started the whole thing.
Fleming, who worked in British naval intelligence in World War II, wrote the first 007 novel, “Casino Royale,” in 1952, which makes the Bond character 60 years old. Eleven novels and two short-story collections followed, and they’ve sold more than 100 million copies.
What has made Bond so popular? Sex, for one thing. Every movie had busty, scantily clad Bond girls for him to chase and bed after a vodka martini or two.
High-tech gadgets, for another. His sleek, expensive Aston Martin was loaded with high-tech gear that got him out of more than one scrape.
A tradition of nasty villains, from Dr. Julius No straight through to Dominic Green in 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” the most recent Bond movie, is a third reason the Bond formula works, along with a sense of humor. (Bond in “Thunderball,” as he lowers his dance partner to a chair after she’s been shot: “Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.”)
And every Bond movie finds him caught at some point, cornered and about to die in some exotic location around the globe. 007 movies often have had eye-rolling plots, but they’re rarely boring, thanks to hallmark action sequences emulated by many.
But Bond has changed with the times.
He’s not as overtly sexist, and some Bond girls now get more substantial roles, beyond being sex objects.
The Bond missions are no longer rooted in the mindset of the Cold War, though plots of world domination still regularly rear their ugly heads.
But the basic formula is the same.
And there’s no end in sight.
“Skyfall,” starring Daniel Craig in his third outing as James Bond, opens Nov. 9. It boasts Oscar nominee Javier Bardem as the latest villain, Raoul Silva; Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe as new Bond girls; and Oscar winner Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) directing. Oscar nominees Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney are also in the cast.
The story line tests Bond’s loyalty to his boss, M (Oscar winner Judi Dench, her seventh time in the role), whose past somehow comes back to haunt her. I hear Miss Moneypenny and Q will be back this time and Bond will have a beard.
Shooting locations included Instanbul, Turkey; and Scotland – two locations featured in “From Russia With Love.”
And the movie’s budget? About 200 times greater than the $1 million cost of the first James Bond film.
Inflation, you know.