50 years of Bond: Franchise has accomplished history

A look at the past James Bond movies and the actors who have played British agent “007”; “Skyfall,” starring Daniel Craig, is the first Bond movie in four years and the 23rd film in the 50 year run of the series. (Image credit MCT 2012)

Men want to be him and women want to be with him. He has been in more movies than Harry Potter, Freddy Krueger and Spiderman combined and even made an appearance at the 2012 Olympics. His name is Bond, James Bond, and Agent 007 will be making his epic return to theaters in one of history’s longest continually running film series for his 23rd film, “Skyfall.”

“Skyfall” marks Bond’s 50th year in film. The series’ total revenue adjusted to inflation is the highest grossing film franchise of all time. The feeling remains though that not many people know facts on Bond’s personal history other than his drink preference.

Bond was created by British Naval intelligence officer and journalist Ian Fleming in 1952 in his first book of the series “Casino Royale.” Fleming used many people and references from his naval career to help shape the character. The 1995 movie “GoldenEye” was actually named after Fleming’s summer house in Jamaica known as the GoldenEye Estate, where he wrote many of the books.

The name James Bond came from an ornithology book about birds in the West Indies that Fleming had in his personal study.

“I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened,” Fleming told The New Yorker in 1962, “When I was casting around for a name for my protagonist, I thought by God, James Bond is the dullest name I ever heard.”

In 1962 Bond first appeared in theaters with the first film in the series, “Dr. No,” with Sean Connery being the first man to play Agent 007. Connery would go on to play the role seven times (with a short “interruption” by George Lazenby) before handing it off to Roger Moore, who also portrayed the character seven times.

A theory many fans have believed in is that Bond isn’t just a single man but actually a code name. The first ever “007 agent,” John Dee, actually came from the 16th century and was the first spy ever for Queen Elizabeth. Dee would sign all his letters to the queen 007 with the seven stretching over the zeroes, which meant “for your eyes only.”

So each time a new Bond takes over in the films, which is currently Daniel Craig, they are actually just taking on the code name and becoming the new 007.

Only six actors: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, have ever donned the tuxedo in film to play Agent 007, not including the 1967 David Niven spoof. This has spurred much debate over who truly is the greatest Bond.

Each Bond tends to be a representation of the time period in which the film is from. Connery’s Bond is the most true to the Fleming novels by appearance, while Dalton’s Bond of the 1980s is far darker and more violent. Brosnan’s Bond was by far the most popular Bond because he was set in the 1990s in a time of excess, and the current Bond, Daniel Craig, is a post 9/11 terrorism-fighting Bond.

The latest film, “Skyfall,” has already opened in some countries, grossing roughly $80 million in its first weekend and is being called one of the best films to date.

“Suffice to say, ‘Skyfall’ is one of the best Bonds in the 50-year history of moviedom’s most successful franchise,” said James Adams of The Globe and Mail.

Very few things have aged with such grace, but Agent 007 will continue to be one of them. Professor John Cooper from Eastern Michigan University’s Communication, Media and Theatre Arts Department gave his take on why the character has survived so long.

“Great source material from the Fleming books has really kept the series going,” Cooper said, “I have read about four of the books and in a lot of respect, I think people will always be attracted to a hero.”

Skyfall opens in the U.S. Nov. 9 to continue on the legacy that is 007.

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