Friday, 5 September 2014

This never happened to the other fellow

Today is actually the 75th birthday of the only chap to play Ian Fleming's James Bond only one (if you discount the numerous James Bond imitators in the original Casino Royal). Yes George Lazenby the Australian who appeared in On Her Majesty's Secret Service reaches three quarters of a century today.

The film itself debuted just before I was 3 months old, and while it kept more closely to the novel (yes it was one of the adaptations rather than original stories in the franchise) it to me was rather ruined by the constant references back to the Sean Connery films. In fact the major breaking of the illusion that this is the same Bond comes at the end of the opening sequence when Lazenby's Bond breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera and audience directly with the line "This never happened to the other fellow". Followed by the title sequence showing images of previous instalments, finding certain objects from previous films in Bond's office as well as the whistling of Goldfinger's theme by a caretaker take away from the excellence of the following of the novel. The fact that Doctor Who had already regenerated once by this time and about to undergo a second and played it straight showed how such things should have been done.

It is also rather unique in the Bond franchise of not having all the gizmos and gadgets. Of course he is also the only Bond to have married but of course to lose his wife as they drive off at the end of the film towards their honeymoon. But even before the release in December 1969 Lazenby who had agreed to sign a seven film deal to replace Connery had decided he was walking away from the franchise. His co-star Diana Rigg said this about his decision:

"The role made Sean Connery a millionaire. It made Sean Connery ... I truly don't know what's happening in George's mind so I can only speak of my reaction. I think it's a pretty foolish move. I think if he can bear to do an apprenticeship, which everybody in this business has to do - has to do - then he should do it quietly and with humility. Everybody has to do it. There are few instant successes in the film business. And the instant successes one usually associates with somebody who is willing to learn anyway."

He was an ex-model who had landed the lead in what now over 50 years after its inception is the longest running biggest grossing film franchise in history. Without his walking away from the role we probably would never have seen Roger Moore who like Lazenby would occasionally play Bond mocking characters in further projects.

He has three children with his second wife the tennis player Pam Shiver with whom we was married from 2002-8. But until another actor fails to repeat their lead role in a Bond film it will indeed be something that never happened to the other fellows in only playing the role once that Lazenby will always be remembered for.

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