Live and Let Live

If you think 007 is the new international dialling code then get a life! 007 is part of the British national consciousness: heroism, patriotism and self-parody. 007 is James Bond - with a licence to thrill...

In the 20th century, the film industry played a major role in our lives via the cinema and, ever more pervasively, via television, in particularly through home videos. Most people love watching films and often want to follow the fortunes of a particular hero or heroine. However, in the history of the big screen, few film characters have endured for long. The popularity of superheroes such as Superman and Rambo has faded after a few years. Batman is much more resilient, but only one character has enjoyed prolonged success, namely 007 (pronounced double-oh seven). James Bond is a permanent figure on the film landscape.

After almost 40 years on cinema screens around the globe, Bond is perhaps more popular than ever. But Ian Fleming’s novels, the inspiration for the Bond films, have all been used! Ian Fleming is dead, his typewriter is silent. Yet for certain Bond will live on for many years to come! A remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is being planned. And what about some sequels: Dr Yes, To Russia with Hate, Golden Nose, You Only Live Thrice?

A whizzkid with computers, gadgetry, and the latest weaponry - who needs little instruction from his elderly, technical mentor, “Q” - Bond can do anything! From walking on crocodiles to jumping onto planes, 007 is ready to accept any challenge. On top of that, he never fails to impress any woman he desires, even his enemies’ agents, always having the right words for any situation. A master of several languages, Bond is not only a British figure, but an international one as well as he travels the globe. His ultimate success is that he never fails his Queen and country, but at the same time he is usually saving the world!

So far, 19 Bond films have been made - at a rate of one every two years - starting with Dr. No in 1962. Bond was let loose upon the world at the same time as The Beatles, and his fame has almost been as widespread as theirs. Wherever you might be in the world, it is likely that the natives have heard of James Bond. He could be the 20th Century’s legendary equivalent of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes.

What’s the reason for his popularity? After all, there have been many other super screen agents: Napoleon Solo in The Man from Uncle, Roger Moore (later one of the most “British” Bonds) as the hero of The Saint. A more recent example, of course, is Ethan Hunt of Mission Impossible fame, played by the ultra-popular Tom Cruise. Bond films are successful largely due to the essential Bond character and fine character acting, not to mention the consistently high standards of stunts, special effects, photography and soundtracks. Bond adventures always manage to leave audiences thrilled at the awesome action and exotic locations. And a typically topical touch from the film producers of the last Bond film, The World is Not Enough, was to use London’s Millennium Dome.

Moreover, only top-class actors and actresses are recruited. The Bond Babes are not only beautiful and bright, but usually already have excellent reputations. Sophie Marceau (of Braveheart fame) gave The World is Not Enough extra box-office appeal, as well as credibility. The famous Polish export Izabella Scorupco showed in Goldeneye that she was more than just a sex symbol: for many she was the real strength of the film.

The recent head of MI5, the British intelligence service, was for the first time a woman. And, imitating real life, Bond’s boss, M, is nowadays played by a woman, Judi Dench, the Grand Dame of British theatre and an Oscar winner for her role of Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love. Everyone, it seems, is keen to appear in a Bond film! Likewise, the best musical performers are also willing to give their services to the Bond cause. Paul McCartney produced a haunting theme for Live and Let Die; Tina Turner was at her passionate best for Goldeneye; and all older fans will never forget Shirley Bassey’s powerful vocals in Goldfinger.

Above all, it is the contribution of the six actors who have played James Bond that has made 007 the institution that it is. Sean Connery was the first and best Bond. Even to this day he is adored by young fans, too, and has finally been honoured by the Queen with a knighthood! Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore also score highly in the popularity polls. Of the other three actors, there was the Australian George Lazenby, who appeared in only one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is to be re-made, incidentally, before he disappeared. He was a bit too serious. Timothy Dalton was, like Judi Dench, recruited from the Royal Shakespeare Company; and David Niven, the oldest Bond, was Ian Fleming’s personal choice to play 007. Niven only appeared in the spoof Casino Royale, arguably the one Bond flop.

In spite of the different styles of the six actors, 007 is a clearly identifiable character in the eyes of audiences. Ian Fleming, a master spy himself during the Second World War, created a largely autobiographical character. Polish students surveyed have very definite views about Bond. They described him as “immoral”, “a cold-blooded, ruthless killer”, and “unemotional”. On the other hand, they declared that his good points far outweighed his bad ones!

So what do they like about Bond? Well, his humour and charm, as well as his manners and his patriotism. The most impressive feature is his intelligence. His handsome looks and sex appeal were not seen as so important (that’s what they say anyway). Bond is an old-fashioned sexist living in a “politically correct” world, a man who combines confidence with the traditional stiff upper lip! Above all, the students regard 007 as a “true Brit” and saw this as part of his charm. Is Bond’s Britishness the main reason for his international success and appeal? Will he change at all in the 21st Century? His enemies will, yes, but Bond’s Martinis will, as ever, remain shaken, not stirred, and 007 himself stirred - but never shaken.

by Peter Whiley


get a life! - used to tell sb you think they are boring or not "with it" (pot. obudź się!)
pervasive- influential because it is everywhere (rozprzestrzeniający się)
(to) endure - (here:) last, survive with time (prze/trwać)
(to) fade - (here:) become less noticeable or important (z/gasnąć)
resilient- consistently popular; long-lasting, hard-wearing (prężny, odporny)
sequel- follow-on to a film or book with some of the same characters (dalszy ciąg)
hizzkid - sb really good at sth, sb very clever with things (magik, ekspert)
gadgetry- clever, useful technical inventions (gadgets) (nowinki techniczne, nowoczesne urządzenia)
widespread- known by or affecting a lot of people (rozpowszechniony)
soundtrack - recorded music for a film, esp. the lead song (ścieżka dźwiękowa)
credibility- (here:) quality you can trust, "bankability" (wiarygodność)
(to) imitate - copy, mimic (naśladować)
knighthood - rank or title given by King or Queen of Britain with the title 'Sir' (Sir Sean Connery) (tytuł szlachecki)
incidentally- by the way, as a matter of fact (nawiasem mówiąc)
spoof - humourous, satirical copy of film, theatrical, musical or literary genre (parodia)
flop - failure (e.g. a film, theatre play) (klapa)
ruthless- without feeling, calculatedly nasty (bezwzględny)
(to) outweigh sth - (idiom:) be more important than sth (przeważać)
(to) keep a stiff upper lip - (idiom:) keep calm and not show one's emotions: e.g. sadness, fears (nie tracic fasonu, trzymać się)
shaken - (drinks:) mixed in a cocktail shaker; also: frightened or shocked (wstrząśniety/roztrzęsiony)
stirred - (drinks:) mixed with a spoon; also: roused, excited, have strong emotions (rozbełtany/poruszony)