Tag: Ian Fleming

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

If Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, he would still be remembered as one of our most impressive actors. Except…

… Except if Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, it’s very doubtful that he ever would have been given the chance to make such movies as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Robin and Marian, and The Wind and the Lion. Great actors are like great guitar players: for every Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy on stage, there are a thousand equally gifted musicians who never get out of the garage. It takes commitment, determination, and a very thick skin in combination with off-the-scale talent that brings about the possibility of success. Even then, the odds are against you.

Well, that’s show biz.

Prior to taking the James Bond gig, Connery had done a handful of appearances in movies and television shows, none that are well known. In 1957 he made his American media debut in a very brief appearance on The Jack Benny Program – “Jack Hires Opera Singer in Rome,” where he played a hotel porter. It’s in the rerun package and continues to be aired on one or more of those nostalgia decimal channels. It was Dr. No that brought him to the attention of the masses, to the surprise of the producers, to the studio, and to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who saw his master action hero as more of a Hoagy Carmichael type. After seeing the finished film, Fleming changed his mind… after counting his change.

(Note: In my opinion, singer/songwriter/actor Carmichael would have made an excellent James Bond, but he would have been a bit too old for the part in Dr. No and most certainly too old by the time United Artists made Thunderball. “What if” is the dross of all fandom.)

Cleverly, Connery parlayed his success as 007 into a career that proved he deserved to be in a paragraph that contained Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, and Steve McQueen. He was courageous enough to take on roles that many found confounding – Zardoz, for example – and others where the “hero” proved to be less-than-heroic (my favorite Connery flick, The Man Who Would Be King). He showed his gentle side in Time Bandits, another of my favorites, and his age – something rarely seen from big movie stars – in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He had no problem performing with actors who were equally gifted such as Michael Caine and Harrison Ford, and he never squeezed their screen presence.

Contrary to the position held by many otherwise reasonable people, James Bond is not an ideal. He’s a hero only because he takes his job seriously, thereby saving us from extinction. Bond is a killer; it is in his job description. His attitudes towards women, which mirrored those of his creator, were obnoxious from the very outset and ugly even in its time. Yet Bond is not a conflicted character. He knows who he is and how he’s supposed to execute his responsibilities to his employer and to his nation.

It took a very secure performer to make James Bond work on the screen, to get the point across where so many other talented actors in similar roles could not. Damn near each and every actor who succeeded Sean Connery in the role echoed the studio’s advertising claim – “Sean Connery IS James Bond.”

In Connery’s hands, 007 was the effective artifact the world needed to get through growingly conflicted times. It is very difficult to evaluate our past through contemporary standards, although it is vital we do so.

At the end of the day, Sean Connery’s varied roles were mostly strong, well-centered men who were slightly out of their time but, at that very instant, desperately needed. It’s heroic fantasy, folks, and heroic fantasy is very tough to make believable.

Sean Connery did just that.

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

I like a lot of detective heroes found in books, movies and TV shows. Part of the fun of an adventure with any of Philip Marlowe, Jim Rockford, Pete Fernandez, Spenser, or Myron Bolitar is that I think it would be fun to hang out with that guy.  Even the heroes who are a bit prickly, like Sherlock Holmes or Stumptown’s Dex Parios, would still be a riot to run around with for an adventure or two. They are all so likeable.

But I never used to like Mike Hammer, the toughest of the tough guy detectives.  I knew he was a big deal and his novels, written by Mickey Spillane, were successful. I would learn later that, at one point, Spillane was the world’s best-selling author, having written seven of the top ten best-selling novels. It turns out that it happened was when he had only written seven novels.

Yes, this guy Spillane was seven for seven. Incredible, right?

I think that, initially, the character Hammer was just too brutal for me. He gave the bad guys what they deserved, however gruesome.  He always “colored outside the lines” of both the legal system and good taste. Unlike that classical 1930s and 1940s detective who would walk down those mean streets like a modern day knight of the round table, adhering to a personal code of honor, Spillane’s Mike Hammer took it way over the edge.

But my perception changed when I started reading the “new” Mike Hammer novels.  After an incredible writing career, and second act in a long-lived Miller Lite advertising campaign, Mickey Spillane left behind a treasure trove of partially-finished stories, and story ideas, that he only trusted one man to finish – Max Allan Collins.

Max Allan Collins has emerged as one of the top mystery writers in his own right. He’s incredibly prolific, and it’s astounding that he never seems let his level quality slip; not in any of his novels (Nate Heller, Quarry), comics (Ms. Tree, Batman), adaptations (CSI, Criminal Minds) and comic strips (Dick Tracy, Batman.) You might also know he was the guy wrote the brilliant graphic novel, The Road To Perdition, which also became a movie starring Tom Hanks. Continue reading “With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)”

Brainiac On Banjo #076: King Of Fame

Brainiac On Banjo #076: King Of Fame

There’s a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt / There’s a rich man sleeping on a golden bed / There’s a skeleton choking on a crust of bread / King of pain • “King of Pain,” written by Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner CBE, a.k.a. Sting. Fun Fact: Sting wrote this little ditty while staying at Ian Fleming’s former Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. If you don’t get the connection, hang on … you will.

As one can determine from my frequent incursions into Earth-Ether, when it comes to Tom King I’ve been a fan since “A Once Crowded Sky.” His work on The Vision, Mister Miracle, Batman, various incarnations of Robin, and a whole lot more screams for itself, to borrow from civil rights activist Clara Luper.

Because of these acts of commotion, I have had more than a few inquiries as to the heat of my appreciation for his brand spanking new Strange Adventures series, which is all about Adam Strange, who has been one of my very favorite DC characters since I first encountered Showcase #17. Seriously – I had just finished a check-up from my pediatrician back in 1958, and my mother had to fill a prescription at the drug store downstairs. No, I did not drive there. I took the bus. C’mon; I just turned eight. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #076: King Of Fame”