Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 28, 2014

May 28, 2014

I have zero interest in James Bond, but nevertheless my very being is bound up in the movie and literature series, due that I’m part of the generation that was easily affected by the presence of the films.  Especially when they played in grand beautiful theaters like Grauman’s’ Chinese on Hollywood Bouvelard.  The exoticness of the theater was a perfect match for Sean Connery’s Bond, in significant ways that only a 8 or 9 year old boy can emotionally understand, but never intellectually.   As a rule, my father would take me on the opening weekend to see the new Bond film.  I have no memory of him talking about the film or if even he liked the film series. He just took me to the Bond films, like a father taking his son to the park, or a baseball game.  What impressed me the most in the Bond films, were the opening sequence which was usually action-packed, and of course the stunning animated sequence that starts off as an iris opening up to Bond walking in front of the gun and aiming towards the audience.  In that sense, film hasn’t really changed that much from the days of “The Great Train Robbery.”

For me, the whole package of James Bond was important, not Bond or even Sean Connery.  Ever since I was a little boy, I have been fascinated by the clothing or style of the characters on the big screen.  For instance I always loved the costume of Walt Disney’s “Zorro, ” especially the combination of the mask and the wide brim hat.  Also the fact that Zorro and Bond, in certain aspects, mock their villains or enemies by silently laughing at them.   A sense of justice was very weighty, but the humor had to go along that journey as well.  Sexuality of Bond never entered my head nor the Bond women in the films.  I knew they were big deal, because at the time, Playboy magazine would have a photo shoot of the girls, usually naked, which was… interesting.   Nevertheless to be quite honest, the Bond films became less interesting to me after the opening credits.   The other thing I remember is loving the music.  James Bond music, as heard through the master touch of John Barry, was a world that was beautifully in technicolor.   Also my first sense of travel or the idea of it, is without any doubt was voiced to me through the world of James Bond.

As a writer who struggles on a daily basis to put words on an empty page in front of me, I am usually influenced by other writers, and how they come upon their creation.   James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, took his inspiration from real life, but in a cubist sense, he took parts that he liked and built his own Frankenstein monster, which is Bond.  A lot of the Bond traits are his, but he also based it on people that he met when he worked for the British government.  My favorite in this category is Wilfred (Biffy) Dunderdale, who played a key role in the cracking of the Enigma code during World War II, and was reported that he drove an armour-plated Rolls-Royce, dressed in handmade suits with Cartier cufflinks and dined at Maxim’s.  He was the head spy for the M16 in Paris.   Second-in-line favorite would be Conrad O’Brien-ffrench, who was a British agent as well as an accomplished artist, linguist, mountaineer, skier and author. Another inspiration was Dušan Popov, who was a Serbian double agent for both MI5 and the Abwehr (German military intelligence).  Fleming witnessed Popov playing baccarat, where he placed a bet of $40,000 ($641,357 in 2014 dollars) to cause a rival to withdraw from the table.  With that, plus the thought of the masculine physical beauty of songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, he had his James Bond.  Another curious fact is that Fleming was a huge bird watcher, and he named his character after the author and ornithologist James Bond. He was a Caribbean bird expert and author of the definitive “field guide Birds of the West Indies.” Obviously, Fleming’s favorite book.

The villain gold “Goldfinger” is based on an architect Erno Goldfinger.  Fleming loathed his work, and therefore honored him as one of Bond’s most notorious villain.  So even for such a commercial novelist like Fleming, what he took from real life, bit-by-bit has a deep inspiration with respect to my work.  The universe is out there, but I can reconstruct it in my own fashion and vision.

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