Fifty years ago, the film “Dr. No.” was released, sparking a global fascination with Agent 007, James Bond that has never really receded.
The craze for all things Bond was a prominent feature of 1960s pop entertainment and dovetailed perfectly with the obsession for British pop culture that later exploded with the success of musical groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Of course, Bond had nothing remotely in common with long-haired young men and hippies carrying guitars – indeed, Bond (or at least the character that author Ian Fleming created in the famous novels) was a throwback to an imperial age when Britannia ruled the waves and the Union Jack practically blanketed the whole world.
Bond appealed to millions of people around the world (both men and women) because he was stylish, elegant, handsome, cool, aloof, fearless, rich and rather amoral.
He was also the quintessential upper-class British gentleman… yet the man who is best known for portraying 007 was light years removed from this image.
Sean Connery was working-class Scotsman (of part-Irish descent) from a hardscrabble Edinburgh neighborhood – his father was a factory worker and his mother cleaned peoples’ homes.
Connery grew up a hard-drinking, womanizing, football-loving brawler who sported tattoos and was employed at a number of dead-end jobs as a laborer.
Thus, Connery came from origins completely alien to Bond’s privileged, refined background.
Fleming himself had grave reservations about the casting of the burly, muscular Scotsman as his suave agent.
He's not what I envisioned of James Bond, Fleming complained.
I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man.”
In addition, unlike the gentlemanly and discreet Bond, Connery has a reputation of violence against women – his wife Diane Cliento wrote extensively and damagingly about his predilection towards physical abuse of the fairer sex.
She wrote in her autobiography, 'My Nine Lives' about an incident in 1962 in Spain: He was waiting for me to return to the hotel room. I felt a blow to my face and was knocked to the floor and passed out for a few seconds. I got to my feet and tried to fight back, but another blow sent me flying. I was shocked and confused. I was bruised all over my face, a huge black eye, and a big blood clot. We never spoke about it, things were different back then. I don't know why he did it.
Connery himself even declared to Playboy magazine: “I don't think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman --although I don't recommend doing it in the same way that you'd hit a man. An open-handed slap is justified, if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a b_tch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I'd do it.”
If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, he later told Vanity Fair: “There are women who take it to the wire. That's what they are looking for, the ultimate confrontation. They want a smack.”
Can one imagine the erudite, debonair Bond ever making such statements?
In addition, Bond, who likely was a staunch supporter of the British Conservative Party, would have been appalled by Connery’s fierce embrace of Scottish independence. Connery is a passionately devoted member of the Scottish National Party and has vowed never to return to his homeland until it is an independent nation.
Of course, it’s an actor’s job to create fantasies and fool the public – and Connery was fabulously successful at depicting a fictional character who was the polar opposite of the man he was in real life.