Over the weekend, iconic actor and first James Bond, Sir Sean Connery, passed away at age 90. Connery leaves an enduring cinematic legacy that isn’t just Bond, James Bond. Having originated the role, it’s impossible to think of Bond without thinking of Connery, arguably the gold standard of the character. However, as director Edgar Wright said on Twitter, “it says something for the extraordinary charisma of this Edinburgh lad to have created the most iconic character in film, and then, rather be typecast by it, become equally famous for just being Sean Connery.”
On screen, Connery embodied a certain type of old-school masculinity. His loutish 007 feels of another era, and Bond has necessarily evolved over the years to keep up with the times. Connery himself made troubling comments about “slapping women” in interviews over the years, in Playboy in 1965 and reaffirmed to Barbara Walters in 1987. While it seemed he eventually learned the error of his words, it is worth noting that his ex-wife, Diane Cilento, made accusations of physical and mental abuse against the actor in her autobiography, “My Nine Lives.”
Connery portrayed Bond starting in 1962 with “Dr. No,” and continuing with the character through 1967 in “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice.” While “Goldfinger” (with that iconic baby blue onesie) is a standout, “From Russia With Love,” “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice” are all now available to stream on Hulu. “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger” are available elsewhere for a $3.99 digital rental on most platforms.
Connery’s 1971 return to the character, “Diamonds Are Forever,” also is now available on Hulu. His final foray into the world of 007, 1983’s “Never Say Never Again,” is available for a $3.99 digital rental.
Connery was a bodybuilder, competing in the Mr. Universe contest before he became an actor, and his physicality has always been a part of his appeal, especially in John Boorman’s trippy, psychedelic sci-fi freakout “Zardoz” (1974), which features Connery in a strappy red bikini unitard for the majority of the runtime (opposite Charlotte Rampling, no less). Rent it for $3.99 on YouTube or iTunes.
In 1975, Connery co-starred with good friend Michael Caine in John Huston’s adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling novel “The Man Who Would Be King.” Connery and Caine played a pair of British rogue ex-soldiers in India who set off for adventures in Kafiristan (present-day Afghanistan), where Connery’s Daniel Dravot is hailed as a god and king. Rent it for $2.99 on most platforms.
Connery was never better than in his only Oscar-winning role, as a tough Irish cop in Chicago in Brian de Palma’s Al Capone v. Eliot Ness epic, “The Untouchables.” He received a standing ovation at the ceremony, where he was presented with the best supporting actor award by Nicolas Cage and Cher. Watch it on Starz or a $2.99 rental elsewhere.
What better way to make one of cinema’s most beloved heroes even more exciting than to add Bond himself? For the third “Indiana Jones” film in 1989, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Connery joined up as Indy’s father, eccentric professor Henry Jones Sr. Since “Jones” creators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas envisioned Indy as a globe-trotting action hero to rival 007, it only makes sense that the original Bond would portray the father of the character. Catch it on Netflix.
You can’t go wrong with the enormously enjoyable submarine thriller “The Hunt for Red October,” John McTiernan’s 1990 adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel, and the first appearance of the popular Jack Ryan character played here by Alec Baldwin. Connery plays rogue Russian sub captain Marko Ramius, facing off with Ryan in a battle of underwater political chess. Jan de Bont (who later directed “Speed”) shoots the film with a startling militaristic beauty and Connery in top form. Rent it for $2.99, or check it out on Sling/Philo or other live TV streamers.
In 1996, Connery co-starred opposite his Oscar presenter Cage in Michael Bay’s 1996 action flick “The Rock.” Connery plays John Mason, the only inmate to ever escape Alcatraz (the titular “rock”), brought in by the FBI to defuse a hostage situation at the famed San Francisco island prison. Watch it on Hulu.
Enjoy your Connery marathon with a shaken, not stirred, martini, of course.
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