Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Doctor No (1962) | Women

I'm a little uncertain about how I want to approach this aspect of the Bond films, so I may make some changes as we go through the series. I know I want to talk about a couple of things pertaining to the main female character in each film, but I'm not sure how much focus to give to other women in the movies. I'll keep talking about Moneypenny in the Story and Bond sections, but I'm less interested in characters like Sylvia Trench and Miss Taro.

For example, Trench was created merely to be a running gag through the series, but was dropped the first time actor Eunice Gayson's friend Terrence Young wasn't the director. The humor in Bond's trying to maintain a regular girlfriend in London is extremely limited, so it's no loss that that plotline fell by the wayside. As an alternative, the film series could have done some dramatically interesting things with that relationship, but that was never the intention and would have clashed with the overall tone of the series.

As for Miss Taro, she's little more than a plot device. She's a bit character in the novel who was expanded in the film to add some color and detail to No's operation in Jamaica. She doesn't have much personality and her "romance" with Bond is forced and unbelievable, but even though she's just there to pad out the film I kind of like her. It's fun to watch her and Bond try to manipulate each other, even though I know she's never going to get the best of him.

You know who I really like though? The photographer who tries unsuccessfully a couple of times to get Bond's picture and ends up in an uncomfortable meeting with Bond, Quarrel, and Felix. She's got no bigger role in the film than she does in the book, but Margaret Le Wars sells it with the perfect combination of hatred and fear. I want to know more about her, which is the highest compliment I can pay to an actress of a bit character like that.

Then we come to Honey Rider. Out of all the women in the Fleming novels I've read so far, she's my favorite (keeping in mind that I just started On Her Majesty's Secret Service). It was always going to be tough to create a film version of Honey that lived up to the character from the novel. And sure enough, they didn't. Ursula Andress is drop dead beautiful and conveys Honey's innocence pretty well, but she doesn't get at the character's competence and self-sufficiency.

That's largely a script problem. Movie Honey doesn't get to save herself from Dr No, much less Bond, but also her back story has been revised from Book Honey's so that she hasn't been living on her own as long. Instead of losing her parents in a tragic fire as a young teenager, Movie Honey lived with her scientist father until he was killed (she suspects) by Dr No. The timeline isn't specific, but including Dr No makes it seem like it only happened in the last couple of years or so. She simply hasn't had as much time as Book Honey to become tough.

Adding to the issue is Andress' looking way more mature than Honey is described in the book. In the novel, Honey's innocence is all about her youth and lack of social training. Andress was only 25 or 26 when Dr No was shot, so it's not that she was too old to play Honey. The problem is that she's a bombshell and when she acts childlike, she comes across more simple than innocent. And unfortunately, I think she comes across that way whether you've read the book or not.

My Favorite Bond Women

I'll finish this section each time with a running list of my Top Ten favorite female characters from the Bond movies. As new favorites get added with each film, less favorite characters will drop off. (I'll do the same for gadgets and opening stingers once the movies start having those too. And for bad guys and music, but that's tomorrow and Friday.)

1. Honey Rider
2. The Photographer from Dr No
3. Miss Taro
4. Sylvia Trench
5. TBD
6. TBD
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD


snell said...

I'd like to note the interesting way that Sylvia Trench was portrayed here--especially interesting for 1962.

She's there at the club, smoking and gambling, just like Bond. She's even the one to introduce the "Last name, first name last name" phrase--007 is just parroting her use of it when he delivers the first "Bond, James Bond." And she's very much the aggressor in the "relationship." Bond doesn't chase her--she wants him, she found at where he lived and broke into his room and greeted him in enticing attire. And there's no ulterior motive or sinister plot behind her seduction--she just saw a man she fancied, and went out and got him.

As I said, pretty surprising from a 1962 movie. And it does help establish early on that James Bond is desirable. It's not all about him being a hound dog or using sex for the missions--in his private life, the ladies want him just as much as he wants them.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Sylvia may have the best facial take in the history of ever though. Plus she shows up at his room in nothing but that shirt. Thats a whole level of sexy that our scientists haven't even charted yet!

However I'm right there with you Honey, she comes off as kind of dumb given her education via the encyclopedia. Then she mentions killing a man, which comes off really creepy.


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