Boys with toys.
They kind of go together, don’t they, the same way that De Niro goes with Scorsese and Smith goes with Wesson.
Or the way that shaken martinis go with James Bond, Ian Fleming’s ultimate boy with a toy.
Take a second and say those two words: James Bond. Better yet, say them with the slight spirit of intentional redundancy that at least six movie actors have affected:
“The name is Bond, James Bond.”
Relish the way that those words capture the very character of the creation himself: terse, to the point, no-nonsense.
And now call up in your imagination other memorable aspects of that creation, as unforgettable a fictional presence as has ever graced the movie screen. And then ask yourself: How many other film characters can be identified by just a number, in this case 007?
Numbers, in fact, are a good way to begin looking at Fleming’s most famous protagonist.
With the newest 007 movie, “GoldenEye,” out in theaters, let’s take an overall look at the Bond phenomenon:
1952 - The year the first Bond novel, “Casino Royale,” was published.
1962 - The year the film series began, with “Dr. No.”
19 - Number of movies to date that feature the smooth English spy with a license to kill.
10 - Times that John Barry has composed the score for a Bond film.
7 - Times that Sean Connery, the Scottish actor who created the role, has played the eminently English Bond (also the number of times that Roger Moore has filled the role).
6 - Number of different actors who have portrayed Bond in the movies, including Connery, Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and David Niven, in the 1967 Bond spoof “Casino Royale.” (We’re not including the 1954 TV version of “Casino Royale” that starred Barry Nelson.)
5 - Number of directors who worked on the movie “Casino Royale.”
4 - The number of Bond movies directed by Guy Hamilton (“Goldfinger,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “Live and Let Die” and “The Man With the Golden Gun”).
3 - Number of actors used to portray supreme bad guy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance in “You Only Live Twice,” Telly Savalas in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and Charles Gray in “Diamonds Are Forever”).
2 - Times that David Hedison has played CIA operative Felix Leiter (“Live and Let Die” and “Licence to Kill”).
1 - Times that former television actor Brosnan (“Remington Steele”) has played Bond.
The fact that a new Bond movie is attracting crowds in an otherwise crowded holiday season (“GoldenEye” opened last weekend with a $26.2 million gross) underscores an important point: Bond, after 33 years, is still a vital presence.
This, of course, is a matter of opinion. As often happens in discussions about art and entertainment, values vary. And some movie fans, not to mention critics, believe that the allure of Bond movies disappeared with the Berlin Wall.
There are others, in contrast, who still indulge in less-filling/tastesgreat-type arguments over the relative merits of Connery vs. Moore (silly, silly … of course, Connery is superior).
When it comes to Bond, some people clearly get touchy.
For example, the main producers of the Bond series, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, refuse even to acknowledge the two Bond films on which Broccoli’s name does not appear - “Casino Royale” and “Never Say Never Again,” the independently produced 1983 variation on “Thunderball” that was Connery’s final appearance.
More immediately, though, some fans of the Bond oeuvre insist that Brosnan, an ex-television actor of all things, is hardly fit to fill the shoes once worn by the great Connery (a bona-fide Oscar winner for 1987’s “The Untouchables”).
But the only appropriate response to this slight of the most recent Bond is, to mutter a British expression (one, by the way, that Bond himself would never use):
Yes, Brosnan has struggled not only to build but maintain a career (check out the 1991 film “Victim of Love” or, even worse, 1988’s “The Deceivers”). Despite this, he slips into the Bond character as if it were a suit tailored for him personally.
We’ve seen Bond in his various forms romance women with such exotic names as Tiffany Case, Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, Fatima Blush, Honey Ryder and Octopussy.
Many of these women seem to be his match, until something occurs - they either underestimate Bond’s abilities or they overestimate their own ability to resist his charms - and then our intrepid hero emerges triumphant, the villain vanquished and the world safe again for queen and country.
But only Brosnan’s Bond must deal with a female M (Judi Dench), one who delivers the line that any Bond film of the ‘90s must include: “I think,” she tells the sharply dressed secret agent, “you are a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.”
Next, Brosnan-Bond is forced to win over a short-tempered woman who accuses him of being juvenile by using the very words that begin this story. “You’re like boys with toys,” she snaps at one point like a peevish schoolteacher.
Brosnan-Bond handles both situations with ease.
He’s equally at home with the other requirements of the Bond persona, too. Being handy with toys is only one requirement; there are also the character’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”-type sensibilities, his self-confidence and obvious joy not only at what he does but, simply, in who he is.
Brosnan-Bond is the perfect 007 for a modern era.
Cinema, and before it drama and literature, have from the beginning offered us heroes with which to identify. From Hercules, Jason and Ulysses to Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock and Eliot Ness, we’ve traditionally looked to the legend, if not the reality, of these heroes as a means of comfort.
Life may be scary, but it’s comforting to think that there’s somebody somewhere willing and able to protect the common good.
In the ‘90s, times have changed - even for a velociraptor like James Bond. The bad guys have taken up new causes, and old friends have now become deadly enemies. And a Jurassic Period attitude toward life in general, and women in particular, can’t be taken seriously.
Even so, the battle is still the same: to protect the status quo from those who would threaten it.
So in “GoldenEye” (the title of which is taken from the name of Fleming’s actual Jamaican estate), you have Brosnan’s Bond bungee jumping, motorcycle riding, skydiving (without a chute), racing cars on mountain roads, flying small planes past mountain peaks and driving tanks through city streets.
In between, of course, he is playing baccarat, checking out his new weapons (an exploding pen!), escaping from prison and getting physical with Russian beauties bearing such exotic names as Natalya Simonova and, believe it or not, Xenia Onatopp.
Working within a well-documented formula, director Martin Campbell keep his movie moving. He knows that if he stops for more than a few minutes at a time, during which breaks in the action he has to provide what plot exposition and character development he can, his audience will start noticing the seams.
Then the spell will be broken and we’ll begin to mutter silly remarks such as, “Ooooohhh, that’s sooooo phony.”
Campbell can’t, and he doesn’t, ever let things get too serious - certainly not the way that some, if not most, recent American thrillers do.
For Bond is not meant to be taken seriously. If you want serious, go rent something based on a John Le Carre novel (1965’s “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” would be a good choice).
No, Bond movies are the equivalent of pre-adolescent males romping on a playground. You may cringe when they make pistols out of sticks, and you may grimace when they jostle the girls who get in their way. But in most cases you smile, too.
Boys, after all, always will be boys.
With or without their toys.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: BIRTH OF BOND The real James Bond was an American ornithologist and the author of “Birds of the West Indies.” Bond creator Ian Fleming adopted Bond’s name for his famous protagonist because, he said, “It struck me that his name - brief, unromantic and yet very masculine - was just what I needed”
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