Okay, the plot is as mad as a 16 year old on cheap speed. So yes, a loony Russian looker does decide she would like to hand over a vital decoder on the condition she gets to bang Britain’s top not so secret agent. But unlike most Bond films, it is a plot.
And who is ever going to forget the false opening where Robert Shaw seems to garrotte Sean Connery? Or the expression on Chess Master Kronsteen’s face when he realises it is he how is about to die? Or Rosa Kleb’s shoes? Or the first appearance of Q?
And Bond, James Bond himself, doesn’t even bother to make an entrance until 17 minutes into the action. This is urgent, confident movie making. Despite a few Connery quips, there’s a lot of grit in the oyster here.
But that was 1963. And with Sean Connery recently claiming to be ‘too old’ to travel to a court case in Spain, the one thing the intervening decades have shown us is that time is far more cunning than any Spectre agent. And far more deadly.
This is how they died …
Robert Shaw – Grant – 28 August 1978, Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo, 51. It is sobering to observe the physical deterioration between the sleek homicidal fitness fanatic in ‘From Russia With Love’ and the grizzled shark expert who delivers the Indianapolis speech in ‘Jaws’. Also, a successful novelist Shaw caused controversy with ‘The Man in the Glass Booth’ about a Nazi war criminal who poses as a Jewish industrialist. In later life Shaw lived in Ireland. One day while driving with he complained of chest pains. He got out of the car and collapsed. By the time the ambulance arrived he was dead. Heart attack.
Pedro Armendariz – Kerim Bey – 18 June, 1963, Los Angeles, 51. Like Robert Shaw, Armendaris is an unforgettable screen presence. So much so that I’ve often wondered why he didn’t go on to become a big player. Sadly, Pedro was diagnosed with incurable cancer during filming. He was in terrible pain during the later scenes, but he did achieve cinematic immortality. Still think he’d prefer to be alive though. Cancer.
Vladek Sheybal – Kronsteen – 16 October 1992, London, 69. ‘From Russia With Love’ was Polish actor Sheybal’s first major English feature. As well as playing sleepy eyed villains Sheybal also starred in ‘UFO’, was a favourite of director Ken Russell, and worked with everyone from Omar Sharrif to Orson Wells. Once said about acting: ‘It’s like giving birth to somebody. When I wake up in the morning and know I’m going to play somebody like Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ … the whole day is ruined.’ His favourite actor was Ralph Richardson. His wife predeceased him by six days. Ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Lotte Lenya – Rosa Klebb – 27 November 1981, New York, 83. The actress behind the poison-shoed killer was an also an accomplished dancer and singer. She married composer Kurt Weill in 1926 and inspired his biggest hit ‘Mack the Knife’. Lotte left Nazi Germany in 1933, divorcing Weill, but the couple were reunited and remarried in the US four years later. Weill died in 1950. Lotte remarried twice more, but dedicated the rest of her life to keeping Kurt’s music alive. She is buried beside him in Mount Repose Cemetery, Haverstraw, New York. Cancer.
Bernard Lee – M – 16 January 1981, London, 73. That instantly recognisable voice, and reassuring no-nonsense acting style kept Bernard Lee constantly busy for nearly 50 years. It’s easy to forget that as well as M, Lee also nailed the part of Sergeant Paine ‘The Third Man’ and the troubled father in ‘Whistle Down the Wind’. Was hired to star in ‘For Your Eyes Only’ but his last illness proved terminal. Stomach cancer.
Lois Maxwell – Miss Moneypenny – 29 September 2007, Fremantle, Western Australia, 80. When her husband suffered a heart attack in the early sixties actress Lois Maxwell badgered the producers for a part in the new Bond franchise. She went on to star in fourteen Bond films though her total screen time amounts to no more than 20 minutes and 200 words. Bowel cancer.
Desmond Llewelyn – Q – 19 December 1999, Firle East Sussex, aged 85. First appearance from the outrageous gadget man who suffered one of the more interesting Bond cast deaths by … Car crash.
Walter Gotel – Morzeny – 5 May 1997, London, 73. Later appeared as General Gogol in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, ‘Moonraker’, ‘For Your Eyes Only’, ‘Octopussy’, ‘A View to a Kil’l and ‘The Living Daylights’. Later starred as a grumpy terraformer in ‘Star Trek: the Next Generation’. Cancer.
George Pastell – Train Conductor – 4 April 1976, Dade City, Florida, 53. Did the grand tour of 60s ITV shows from ‘The Champions’ to ‘Department S’. Also appeared in ‘Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen’. Heart attack.
Richard Maibaum – screenwriter – 4 January 1991, 82. Arguably the man who did most to shape our perception of Bond, Maibaum wrote the screenplay for nearly every Bond film from ‘Dr. No’ to ‘Licence to Kill’. Cancer.
Albert R. Broccoli – producer – 27 June 1996, Beverly Hills, 87. Teamed up with Harry Saltzman in the early 60s to create a billion dollar franchise. Effectively devoted the rest of his life to the Bond empire, making only one non-Bond film – the wonderful ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ – also written by Ian Fleming. Heart failure.
Harry Saltzman – producer – 28 September 1994, 78. As a theatre promoter in the 1950s Saltzman popularised the ‘kitchen sink’ movement with ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’, ‘Look Back in Anger’, and ‘The Iron Petticoat’ . Also produced the anti-Bond ‘Ipcress’ trilogy starring Michael Caine. Heart attack.
Terence Young – Director – 7 September 1994, Cannes, 79. After directing a few films for Broccoli and Irving Allen in the 50s, Young was asked to direct the first two Bond films. In the end he also directed ‘Thunderball’. Post-Bond Young’s career petered out. By the end of his life he was directing propaganda films for Saddam Hussein. Heart attack.
Lionel Bart – composer – 3 April 1999, London, 68. Wrote ‘Living Doll’ for Cliff Richard, ‘Little White Bull’ for Tommy Steele – who he discovered – and of course went on to write the book, lyrics and music for ‘Oliver!’ Cancer.
Matt Monro – singer – 7 February 1985, London, 54. Rated by Frank Sinatra no less as one of the top three male vocalists in the world, Monro also voiced ‘Born Free’ and the opening scene from ‘The Italian Job’. Liver cancer.
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