Bond Books Reviews: Biographies
1. Last Man Standing - by Roger Moore.
Published by: Michael O'Mara Books ( 2014 )
Follow up to My Word is My Bond ( still to be read by this reviewer ) Moore recollects in his own style 7 decades of working in show business. He's described on inside cover as 'a tremendous prankster, joker and raconteur'. The last explaining the success of his one man shows that tour the UK. With over 272 pages there are 8 chapters: Leading Ladies, The Pinewood Years, Stage-Struck, On Set Tales, The Good Guys, The Rat Pack, The Creative Geniuses & The Producers plus a foreword, postscript, In Closing, Acknowledgements, Picture Credits and useful end 8 page index. There are many grainy b&w photos featured through out the book about his career and friends plus 2 x 8 pages of colour photos. Within each chapter he tells the tales of friends, some close ones like Niven & Peck seen on cover, and associates in the biz in no particular order. For Bond fans he dips in and out of his 007 connections with stories of Cubby Broccoli & Harry Saltzman like in Bond on Bond still refers to James as Jimmy Bond. The final In Closing covers his work involvement with UNICEF ( 20p of £20 book price going to the UK charity ) since 1991 with pictures visiting different countries ending with thoughtful words by Sam Levenson. If you a big fan of Sir Roger ( you will hear his memorable voice while reading ) this is a book for you. So have to admit to not laughing out loud as suggested but some of each short Tale from Tinseltown did raise a chuckle but this is Roger at his Saint-ly, sorry Knight-ly best.
2. Daniel Craig - The Illustrated Biography - by Tina Ogle.
Published by: Carlton Books ( 2013 )
Earlier review deleted in error but picked up my library copy ( with b&w cover photo of the actor at the Skyfall Premiere ) again to browse through this 'illustrated biography' of Craig's life & career. Most illustrations books have loads of colorful photos with large text. This gladly doesn't with plenty of well chosen photos ( some full and double page ) from his early life ending with stills from Skyfall - the final a page & half one of Dan & Dame Judi in front of Aston in Scotland. The detailed text is small / 2 column on approx 7.5" x 10" pages and gives you plenty of good info about our Bond actor over 12 chapters starting Early Life to Looking Ahead ending with a 'Picture Credits' page. This 176 page book is well recommended for any Craig & Bond fan and buy if a possible sale bargain less than its original price of £14.99/$19.95.
3. Being A Scot - by Sean Connery & Murray Grigor.
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ( 2008 )
If you were expecting an autobiography of our first James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery then this 312 page glossy book priced at £20 isn't it. Instead this book is the actor's "personal quest .. to seek answers to some perplexing questions" about his beloved Scotland and its history. This book starts off after a foreword from the actor reflecting about his life in his "Fountainbridge home in the smoky industrial end of Edinburgh" and his early morning milk round with his horse Tich. Over 15 chapters different Scottish related topics are looked at with the odd photo from Connery's past added. The subjects covered include Scotch Myths and Realities & Brochs, Baronial And Beyond. As the inside cover states the book "is a vivid and highly personal portrait of Scotland and its achievements" and so yes Sean does relect on his film career depending on the chosen subject/topic. There are many personal photos of the young actor and later ones dispersed among the text & historic photos. If you picked the book up without looking at the cover it could be mistaken for a history book not a book about this famous Scot. The reason as always I got the book was to know more of his Bond days ( there's a double page b&w photo of his moon chase in Diamonds Are Forever ) but alas this is hardly covered as proved by the end index which has only 10 page references for our film hero. He looks at different sporting heroes in tennis ( Andy Murray ), motor racing ( Jim Clark/Jackie Stewart ) and of course his love of golf with dialogue & photos from Goldfinger and later with his celebrity chums. His early football days are covered with an amusing celebrity souvenir programme photo of young Sean in a Showbiz XI including tv star/host Des O'Connor.
So much of the historical research for the book must go to his friend & co-author with Connery adding his memories during their "many discussions". I must admit that it's a coffee table book to peruse the odd occasion if interested in Scotland but not for easy reference to his life & career. So if a fan you may be disappointed but worth a library borrow.
4a. Daniel Craig - The Biography - by Sarah Marshall.
Published by: John Blake ( 2007 )
I wonder if our new James Bond ever thought: "One day they'll take all my quotes to mags & papers and thick them in a book.." Well welcome to this biography of Daniel Craig, this 246 page book comes with 16 pages of colour photos. Alas it takes 130 of 236 pages to reach the new Bond material with 10 pages of Filmography starting with Bond 22 ( 2008 ) and ending with awards and one exec producer credit printed twice. There's no end index for references, in fact during the text there's mag & tabloid references but no book references despite "Every attempt to contact ..". One chapter feels like it was taken out of The Making of Casino Royale ( which I haven't read ). The inside summary opens "He's gorgeous, tremendously talented, charming and sexy." and ends "his performance as Bond was an unforgettable cinematic experience" - well don't build him up too much ! I do get the feeling that the author was put in a room with a load of film/lads mags, books & press cuttings to come up with this quick read offering. I don't think she ever met the subject despite the endless quotes with Craig's colorful language. He must be up for membership of the F-Word Club run by chef Gordon Ramsay & tv host Jonathan Ross. Sorry Dan but some of the quotes you wouldn't want your daughter Ella to read ! I have a better understanding of this English actor but I wish he would clean up his language for Press purposes and keep the swearing indoors or with mates. From the book we get the picture of an actor who doesn't like theatre luvvies and wants to earn respect by taking varied film size roles in order to achieve his goal of winning an Oscar. He likes to be criticised/praised for his work after completion and draws the line on his private life. The book with 12 chapters starts with Humble Beginnings with his birth on Saturday, 2 March 1968 wrapped up in old newspaper and ends with Never Say Never Again mentioning plans for Bond 22 . It also states his films after Bond but not a mention for his BAFTA nomination for CR, his Oscar presenting, living in LA or that swear box on The Golden Compass.
This is only book where I would advise my local library to put a sticker on rear cover photo showing the CR Bahamas beach shot of Craig in swimwear stating: WARNING: This book contains strong language and not suitable for young 007 readers.
Worth a read for older Bond fans but unless you worship the ground Dan walks on it's not worth the £17.99 price tag, sorry suggest you borrow it !
4b. Daniel Craig - The Biography - by Sarah Marshall.
Published by: John Blake Books ( Updated 2015 )
This paperback is an update/continuation of the 2007 book reviewed above. If read you will tell that I'm not exactly a big fan of this biography of Bond actor Daniel Craig. It appears that it was re-published as a paperback version in 2011 which I missed ( phew ! ). Now with 4 new chapters from Finding Solace to Bond And Beyond his life & career are told over 284 pages ending with an updated 10 page 'Filmography' ( in reverse order ) and very light in details ( 4 lines per movie ).
A new bow-tie photo of Daniel on front cover and only 8 pages of centre colour photos with a couple of end SPECTRE photos. Under an earlier Skyfall photo ( the one with Dan, Judi & DB5 in Scotland ) there's a caption typo stating "Daniel would appear in Sceptre in 2015" oops ! Another text typo has Defiance co-star Liev Schreiber who becomes Live Schreiber on next page. My earlier review mentioned the over use of F-words by Craig especially if book is read by young 007 fans, thought picked up as one appears with a few inserted *s but later back to full spelling lacking any consideration.
Alas with no change in writing style this remains a collection of magazine & paper quotes stuck together with no depth just a paragraph for this topic and move on to another with no thought. Take Dan's famous Olympic video with The Queen "seen by 900 million viewers" according to this researcher "Daniel collected the Queen from Buckingham Palace in a helicopter .." as we all know he arrived in a black London taxi and left with Her Majesty in a helicopter before that famous stadium jump.
Now just a black back cover with a 4 paragraph summary of white text which opens "The most successful Bond of all time ..." and ends examining "the man behind the legend." Really ? Sorry just cashing in on Spectre's release. With the new content it's now priced cheaper at £7.99 but if a 'real' fan you've probably read most of this before, same place as this author. Either avoid or if Craig fan wait for sale or go to the library.
5. Judi Dench - Scenes from my life - by Judi Dench.
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ( 2005 )
Another book about the acclaimed stage & screen actress who is the current M in the James Bond movies. The inside cover opens "Judi Dench in her own words .." and this is your chance to see her glossy photo album with some "never seen before". The 224 page book priced at £20 opens with a preface by the actress and an introduction by her biographer John Miller who also acts as the editor. Spread over 11 chapter starts with My Family and ends with Some Off-Duty Moments which includes a photo of Judi next to her "very flash car" ( similar to Bond's BMW inTWINE ) which she doesn't drive and "just lean against it" making her "feel about twenty-nine". The photos covers all her life with a large stage content, the only Bond related items are on: page 139 with a stage photo from the play Amy's View with Samantha Moneypenny Bond who played her daughter. On pages 164/5 there is a relaxed cinema stage photo taken at London's Leicester Square Odeon with her next to a Brosnan pointing along the GoldenEye cast line. Above her paragraph recollection is a BLOOPER red heading of The premiere of Tomorrow Never Dies ! She mentions: "It was lovely working with Pierce Brosnan." Later on pages 208/9, she takes her biographer John Miller along to the Oxford Union to talk and answer questions, despite being "good fun .. it was frightening" for her but "the first question from the floor was "Who's your favourite James Bond ?"" After that one everything was ok. One of her life-long stage friends and featured in some photos is Alec McCowen who played Argy aka Q in Connery's Never Say Never Again. The book ends with a Chronology Of Parts listing her theatre, television and film roles and is a very easy read. At the end you feel you know a little bit more about this famous Dame. Shame not more Bond content but a must for fans of her work.
6. Darling Judi - A Celebration of Judi Dench - by John Miller.
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ( 2004 )
Not so much a biography but a collection of tributes from the film, tv and mainly stage world where this actress has excelled over the years. As the back cover states "celebrating the seventieth birthday of one of Britain's greatest actors" with contributions from Billy Connolly to Hugh Whitemore, from a Bond perspective a contribution from say, Samantha Bond who has worked with the great Dame on stage in Amy's View and as her secretary in the 007 movies would have been of interest. This is mainly stage friends & collegues praising her talents, it is a shame the author who wrote the biography and acts as editor to open with a three page introduction didn't spread his invitation wider. Alas to overseas readers a lot of the names will be unknown despite help with an ending note of their connection to Ms Dench. The 195 page book has 24 mixed photos of her personal & career but none as James' boss, M and most of the tributes gloss over her role which is world known despite it's size to the overall movies. The most from contributor, writer Hugh Whitmore who recalled ... "I remember smiling to myself as I watched her in a James Bond film [ TWINE ]. As M - head of the Secret Service - she had been kidnapped by the villains and locked away in a dungeon somewhere off the coast of Turkey ( I think it was Turkey ). Everyone was very distressed. M was in mortal danger! But one look at those Dench eyes glaring defiantly through the bars of the prison told you that it was not she but her captors who were in real danger. She has the eyes and spirit of a survivor. ..."
At the back you find a Chronology of Parts covering theatre ( 1957 to 2003 ), her 5 stage directions ( 1988 to 1993 ), television ( 1959 to 2002 ) and films ( 1964 to 2004 ) work followed by the mentioned contributor notes and helpful index. Inside the front & back cover is her autograph. So if you're a big Dench fan or a theatre luvvie this is right up your street and worth the £18.99 but not for me. Just imagine each contributor standing on tv's This Is Your Life or a tribute show nd watched by a smiling Judi.
Oh Darling Judi, Happy Birthday !
7. Halle Berry: A Stormy Life - by Frank Sanello.
Published by: Virgin ( 2003 )
This book traces the life of Bond actress Halle [Maria] Berry from her birth in Cleveland City Hospital on 14 August 1966 to her Oscar success for her role in Monster's Ball. Halle's name arises from a shopping trip by her mother in Halle Brothers in Cleveland and seeing one of their handbags. The 262 page book is broken down into 19 chapters, an epilogue called Thrive Another Day, filmography ( from Jungle Fever  to X-Men 2  ), television roles, index and 8 centre pages of b&w photos showing her different roles and final photo page devoted to her 2 husbands, baseballer David Justice & musician Eric Bent. For some reason the author seems to list every award - 'good or bad' that her films/tv films have received in the rather over long 20 page section. Her story is covered in the first 227 pages and shows her fight to be the best despite the prejudices against her colour & beauty. The author uses different resources to tell her 'stormy life' like Halle's own website and newspaper quotes from both sides of the Atlantic. It's interesting to read of her hardship to be accepted as a black actress. Her Bond role of Jinx in Die Another Day is covered in a nine page chapter called Billion-Dollar Babe and includes many familiar incidents & quotes including this one from Pierce Brosnan featured on the back cover ... "She's an incredible dramatic actress, but she can also play anaction hero with the best of them. Working with Halle is definitely on top of the list."
In this chapter, the author mentions that "it took another Bond babe, Kim Basinger in NSNA, fifteen years to escape the '007 curse' and win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1998 for Hollywood Confidential" - wasn't it LA Confidential ?
I found the Epilogue chapter amusing with Halle's future film plans and how many have actually come to fruition. For the first time she was fully booked for 2 years but after X-Men 2 she knew what she would not be doing next and is quoted "It won't be being a superhero, I can tell you that much ..". Yes and no mention by actress or author of the upcoming & ill-fated Catwoman.
For all Berry fans this is a 'must read' but alas most of the content will be probably have been previously read about her young life - hey she's not 40 yet ! So if just curious, priced at £17.99 nip down to your library.
8. Pierce Brosnan - The Biography - by York Membery.
Published by: Virgin ( 1997 - updated 2002 )
What I wrote about the 1997 issue of this book ... In this book the author traces the life of the latest 007 - Pierce Brosnan. It reads a bit like tv's This Is Your Life from his birth ( 16/05/53 ) at Lourdes Maternity Hospital in Drogheda, Ireland to his post GoldenEye success. Along the way the author speaks to friends, relatives and acquaintances of Pierce. He also visits locations connected to Pierce's life and describes their past and present condition. The book also includes 16 pages of b&w photos which help chronicle his life. The preface opens at London's Leicester Square for the Premiere of GoldenEye and the 2,000 strong crowd awaiting the star's arrival ( alas from my viewing point I saw nothing ) in November '95. It's proves an interesting insight into his life especially his remarkable love for his late wife Cassie ( real name Sandra Waites ) who died of cancer. I was surprised by her age, many believed 37 but she was actually 50 when she lost the fight against the dreaded disease in December '91. At the end you can't but admire and like the Irish actor for his professionalism in his struggling career and his continued love as a proud parent for his children. He is quoted as wanting to do a re-make of OHMSS ( add Casino Royale to your list for me - sadly not for Pierce ! ). If I ever met him after reading this bio, I would probably jokingly ask "How's your back ?". It's an essential read for Brosnan fans because like the pointing & shouting Papa New Guinea kids that he encountered on a remote beach, he's "James Bond, James Bond". What's been added to this updated 2002 re-issue ... The front cover no longer clashes with Peter Carrick's biography of the Irish star with a different colour photo taken from The Thomas Crown Affair, inside alas no extra b&w photo pages but a couple of newer photos: from on set of the same movie and airport arriving with wife Keely & baby Dylan. Having not purchased the previous issue, the 256 pages now moves on pass GoldenEye right up to the Press Launch of DAD as the author includes narrative of his Bond movies ( why ? ) and claims that DAD "would be so radical that [Rick] Yune's character would re-emerge as the British actor Toby Stephens" .. we now know different. Another new chapter is about his Fairytale Wedding and the final Bond And Beyond ends contemplating forgotten friends from his past and his life ahead with Keely and family. The back end includes a customary filmograghy, television roles ( no mention of The Muppets ! ) and an appendix with a list of all 007 movies with their box office grosses starting with Connery's Dr No earning $60m and ending with TWINE earning $355m. As stated on the cover "a well-researched" book but I'm not sure it's worth £18.99, if you must buy look out for the paperback version ... in a sale or if lucky like me head for your local library.
9. Roger Moore: His Films And Career - by Gareth Owen and Oliver Bayan.
Published by: Robert Hale ( 2002 )
This 336 page biography ( priced at £25 ) is split into two parts by the authors, first part - The Career Biography and the second - Films and TV. There are also appendices about: Television One-offs, Hosting and Narration & Audio Productions. So no stone is left unturned tracing the popular actor's activities. Inside there are 20 colour photos, some showing Roger relaxing on set and one with "a scantily clad girl" for one of Maurice Binder's 007 opening titles. Meanwhile the 70 b&w photos are incorporated into the text, spot one from his 1980 movie Sunday Lovers showing Roger in bed with Lynn Redgrave and Priscilla Barnes wh went to become the short-lived Mrs Della Leiter in Dalton's LTK. Born in Stockwell, South London on 14/10/27, Roger George Moore's life is recalled from his early workings as a junior office/gopher in an animation company to current day activities as a goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF]*. During a varied career he got to work with some of his screen idols like David Niven and Stewart Granger. Alas some of his private life is skipped over like his break-up with wife Luisa. In Part 1, there are eleven chapters about his career and life with one given to The James Bond Years. Later Part 2 details his film & tv work ( on Maverick, Saint & Persuaders ) from his first uncredited film appearance as a "young spear-carrying extra" in Caesar and Cleopatra, made in 1945 up to his next appearance ( when published ) in The Boat Trip. Despite covering every angle, the film reviews are far too long for my liking due to trying to describe too much of each film's narrative. If you are a Moore fan this book will have 'everything' you need to know about the best known Saint turned Persuader turned Bond actor. Wherever he worked, he created a happy and jovial atmosphere recalled by many friends. It was interesting to discover that current 007, Pierce Brosnan auditioned for the role of Simon Templar for the tv series Return Of The Saint but having made a US tv pilot show was contracted if a series was made. The show was Remington Steele, so Ian Ogilvy got the role while Roger was the production company's silent partner during the series.
Finally it's strange that a book with listings of contents & illustrations, acknowledgements, foreword, introduction, afterword and final page - Bibliography doesn't have a helpful [A-Z] end index. Despite this gripe, worth a read from your local library or purchase if a die-hard Rog fan.
* NB. A percentage of the book royalties are donated to UNICEF.
10. For My Eyes Only - by John Glen with Marcus Hearn.
Published by: B T Batsford ( 2001 )
Following a foreword by Bond star Roger Moore CBE, the first chapter called Nobody Does It Better concentrates with the opening TSWLM ski stunt filmed by Glen. Alas the brave skier's reaction to accomplishing the memorable stunt was very unlike 007. This 240 page book explains his career rise from editor to director and each chapter of this biography opens with the famous 007 logo. Mr Glen is very proud ( as stated on the cover ) of the fact of directing "5 James Bond films" and is similar to a football team who wins championship or cups on the trot whom you may or may not like. He does appear to be fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. He reveals some of the actors who tried out for Bond when Moore was negotiating with Broccoli and the period between Moore & Dalton. Surprised that Trevor tv's Shoestring Eve auditioned for 007 and pop star David Bowie was 1st choice for AVTAK's Max Zorin but due to his singing commitments the role went to Christopher Walken. For a biography, his early family life doesn't get much of a mention until later when he met his wife, Janine at EON's office where she worked for Cubby. The 14 chapters gives an interesting insight into the Bond filming world and ends with his film & tv credits. After finishing Bond, he went on to use/direct former 007 cast actors like TLD's D'Abo and LTK's Davi. The book is a must for Bond fans but is a 'one-off ' read from the library especially as priced at £16.99 and only has b&w photos to accompany the black & silver cover.
11. Sean Connery - by Bob McCabe.
Published by: Pavilion ( 2000 )
I have mentioned before that there are many books about the former Bond star when I reviewed Michael Freedland's bio. With no disrespect to the author, this is of the square, glossy, coffee-table size variety. Priced at £19.99, the book traces the life of the famous Scottish actor up to the announcement of his knighthood in 1999. Withi the 168 page book, each chapter opens with a page of double size text and an accompanying right page photo. The 7 chapters start with Thomas of Fountainbridge and end with The Politically Incorrect Sexiest Man Alive. There is a varied range of b&w photos on every other page, many this reader had not seen before. In the centre there is A Celebration section of 8 pages of colour photos of the actor in his films and relaxing. Unlike Freedland's book, there is a Filmography from his unbilled appearance in Lilacs in the Spring ( 1954 ) to Entrapment ( 1999 ). The author has 'sourced' from many film mags and books quotes from the star which helps gives Connery's views on different matters. If you're looking for in-depth reviews of his movies, this is not the book for you as it concentrates on his opinions about film-making and outside legal battles. As we know Connery is a 'private man' and alas there is little about his private life, interesting that he married twice away from the publicity glare in Gibraltar - opening location for Dalton's TLD. On the rear cover there is a colour photo of Sean with an appropriate Steven Spielberg quote ... "One of the five genuine movie stars in the world."
A good researched, lighter but interesting read about most people's favourite 007.
12. Pierce Brosnan - by Peter Carrick.
Published by: Robert Hale ( 2000 )
This 224 page biography uses the same cover photo as Membery's '97 book ( why didn't the publishers use the back TND photo ? ) and moves the Bond star's life along to his aborted wedding to Keely due to son Sean's accident. The book covers most of the same ground as Membery's bio ( he's even given a mention in the references ) and tells of the rise of Pierce Brendan Brosnan from County Lough, Ireland to international fame. The 12 pages of b&w photos cover his film career except the final page which has 2 photos of Pierce & Keely at a film premiere and Pierce visiting a bike store in Somerset, near Sean's school. There's none showing his family life with Cassie and the children. The narrative is well-researched but at times goes off at a tangent like when a director ( e.g. Tim Burton ) or actor/actress ( e.g. Shirley Eaton ) is mentioned. It gives the impression of being 'padded out' - remember the book is about Brosnan. Also the last two of the 15 chapters seems to be added on after a review and summing up in the previous one. The author likes to analyse his films' narrative & production, especially the added-on chapter about TWINE - other writers have already done it. Sorry to read about Thomas Crown co-star Rene Russo & friend being mugged on the island of Martinique - alas all that Lethal Weapon fighting with Mel didn't help ! It ends with a Chronology - year by year highlights of Brosnan's life, a Filmography - from The Long Good Friday ( '80 ) to TWINE ( '99 ) & the unreleased Grey Owl and an index. In the Prologue the writer claim that Pierce "confided to a reporter that he was blown away by Goldfinger : 'It was magic I thought, I wish I was James Bond' " The first part may be true but the star has always denied the latter. This is my gripe with the book, as much as I enjoyed reading a more up-to-date account of Pierce's life, most of the quotes I've read before at the same source; newspapers, magazines & tv programmes. Both authors have no direct contact with the Bond star but at least Membery spoke to friends & relatives. It's a shame that Brosnan didn't contribute with an interview to make the book stand out.
Still worth a read from your local library or a £20 purchase for die-hard Brosnan fans.
13. Q - The Biography of Desmond Llewelyn - by Sandy Hernu.
Published by: S.B. Publications ( 1999 )
Regular readers will know that I picked this up at a London store reduced from £12.95 to around a fiver some while ago and due to other 007 books my reading has been interrupted several times. This soft back book with colour cover has 168 pages of b&w content and photos. The author traces the life of Welsh actor Desmond Llewelyn better known to us as dear old Q. The book reaches his life up to TWINE, just after we sadly lost him in a car accident while promoting this book. Alas the early part of this book I found rather hard going as it traced Desmond's family tree background. This I found confusing with the different generations and not really needed. Despite a colourful life through the War and as a lowly actor with bit parts, my interest perked up when we got to his involvement with 007 at page 73 - this is the reason why many brought the book. His life didn't change too much when he first got the part of Q in FRWL but later with Bondmania he got requests to appear everywhere as Bond's gadget master. His amusing recollection of a night out in Paris with Bernard M Lee gives us a different view of 007's boss. His marriage relationship with wife Pamela, who was never a big Bond fan, is told and especially poignant when visiting her in a nursing home due to her Alzheimer's illness on their 60th Wedding Anniversary. My other memory of the actor was his part in tv's Follyfoot about a horse care farm which I used to watch on many wintery early evenings as a young lad, alas it's glossed over here. Some interviews with the cast or episode guide would have added to the text. Also missing is an end stage, tv & film listing of his mainly, supporting roles during a long career. It's still a must read for Bond fans with a final 11 page chapter devoted to "a comprehensive list of Q's gadgetry" - earlier the author stated Q gave 007 his new Walther in TND - sorry he got it from agent Wai Lin. Alas I never met this well-loved actor, an opportunity missed at a Bond convention, who despite many friends in the industry worked at the 'happy to get a part' end of the industry compared to the glamourous movie life-style of any Bond. His final quote when asked about Bond 20 aka DAD : "Of course, just so long as EON want me and The Almighty doesn't."
Whenever I used to visit his home town of Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex with my mother for a day-out I always spared a thought for an actor fondly remembered in the world of James Bond.
14. When The Snow Melts - The Autobiography of Cubby Broccoli
by Cubby Broccoli with Donald Zec.
Published by: Boxtree ( 1998 )
Many of the books that I review I obtain via my local library but this autobiography of Bond Producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli I purchased over a year ago in a discount book store. It proved to be a bargain reduced from £16.99 to £3.99 but unfortunately my reading was interrupted by other Bond books. I read the 344 page book in two parts, his early Hollywood life and his task with partner Harry Saltzman of getting 007 on to the big screen. The introduction opens at the Sunday morning tribute at London's Odeon cinema ( 17/11/96 ) with 2,500 invited guests including Bonds: Moore, Dalton & Brosnan. The book's prologue opens with Cubby recollecting flyer Charles Lindberg in his plane The Spirit of St Louis. Helped by author & friend Donald Zec, his story starts with the family's arrival in New York and their later farm-life growing broccoli. Albert Broccoli was born on April 5, 1909 in a tenement on Hoyt Avenue, his career took him from the farm to Hollywood to London to create one of the world's most successful film franchises. Along the way Cubby would make and remain friends with some legendary and famous names like Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra & Cary Grant. The book comes with 32 pages of b&w photos tracing his life and includes early photos of Connery posing for the 007 role and Cubby's message to Harry - "Blumofe reports New York did not care for Connery feels we can do better". Broccoli stood firm and the rest as they say is film history. Helped by his wife Dana and later stepson Michael & daughter Barbara he battled to keep Bond on the screen. Each chapter traces his efforts as a film producer to bring his films to the screen from The Red Beret in 1953 to Licence To Kill in 1989. He was around for Brosnan's first 2 Bonds but not as producer. At age 84, Cubby was diagnosed with an aneurism about to rupture, he was told by the doctors that nature could take its course or have a triple heart bypass but with risks. After consulting his beloved family and as a life-long gambler he decided to have the operation on July 7 - as seven was his lucky number. Three years later, he died at his home in the early evening of June 27, 1996. One of first callers at the house was Timothy Dalton who described him "as a friend and a noble gentleman" and days later joined members of the Broccoli family as a pallbearer at the funeral. Bond composer John Barry helped choose the music that ushered the casket into the full church with crowds outside. It is a must read for Bond fans to discover the problems that Cubby faced behind-the-scenes with stars & studios. What comes over most in his globe-trotting life is his love for his family and their achievements. Oh the title ? You'll have to read the book to discover the end of his father's saying.
15. Judi Dench with a crack in her voice - by John Miller.
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ( 1998 )
The author tracks the career of one of Britain's best & respected theatre actresses Dame Judi Dench. Best known world-wide as the latest M, Judith Olivia Dench was born on 9th December, 1934 in York, North Yorkshire and it was not very long before she was treading the boards as a young & upcoming stage actress. Wherever the award winning actress works it results with Judi creating a 'family' atmosphere within the company. She is the one who leads the spirits of the actors plus also playing some funny on & off stage jokes on them. One of Judi's habits was tripping over on first nights. The book is broken down into year segments and includes 4 diary entries when the author visits the actress at work: on the film Mrs Brown, on the BBC comedy series As Time Goes By, on the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and the play Amy's View with Samantha Moneypenny Bond. Unlike some biographies this is written with the actress' consent and contributions plus input by her fellow Thespians. Accompanying the 319 pages of text are 24 pages of b&w photos illustrating her life & career ( one posing as the spy chief in GoldenEye ). For Bond fans there is not a lot of content about her work on her first two 007 movies but the aforementioned 5 page diary entry about filming Tomorrow .. reveals that between takes M gets on with things like embroidery to pass the time. Also one annoying American cameraman calls her 'Judith' on set which she ignores due to the dislike of her name. Later Pierce Brosnan is quoted "I think she was genuinely terrified of playing M, which she does like falling off a log really". While filming Tomorrow Dame Judi has to stand on boxes and walking ramps due to actor Colin Salmon's height of 6 feet. Also her Anthony & Cleopatra co-star Anthony Hopkins reveals that when he heard of Tomorrow's re-writes he decided to do The Mask of Zorro instead of playing Elliot Carver. Re-writes at 9.45 of the night before filming caused not a happy relationship with director Roger Spottiswoode. Pierce tells of her jokey side - "She's got a raunch sense of humour, and I don't know how this is going to look in print, but the raunchier the better for Dame Judi Dench". I was amazed by the different directors & actors she has worked with over the years and the places ( Africa included ) she has travelled to perform. Her career is catalogued at the end along with her tv & limited film work. Due to Kenneth Branagh's suggestion she has also directed plays ( with the actor/director as part of the cast ). The book ends with her trip to The Oscars with her daughter, Flinty for her unsuccessful nomination for Mrs Brown. The final paragraph mentions her next screen role of Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and we all know what followed. The book's title ".. with a crack in her voice" comes from her singing in plays like Cabaret & A Little Night Music. One critic calls it "a funny little cracked voice" and another comments " .. her voice cracks unforgettably in Send in the Clowns as she comforts with genuine despair life's missed chances."
If like me, you're not a theatre lover you may be put off reading this biography but due to the personality of Miss Dench you'll find this book an amusing insight into her theatre world and long career.
16. Ian Fleming - by Andrew Lycett.
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ( 1995 )
This hefty 453 page biography of Bond author Ian Lancaster Fleming takes some reading. Admitting to being not the fastest reader in the world I found this book heavy going especially early on with too much family and friends connections. It became more interesting towards the end with more Bond references. The author covers Fleming's life in great detail and at the end you seem to know everything about his days of travelling, love & work. Fleming who came from a good background could afford to travel the world at a time when most of us could only dream about it. A trip to New York or visits to his Jamaican home of Goldeneye meant no financial hardship. As much as we associate Bond & Fleming with Jamaica the author points out Ian's discovery of The Seychelles as a tourist destination that "if the island's tourism minister only knew, he might erect a pavilion, or at least a plaque, to Ian Fleming". Born on 28th May, 1908 Fleming led an interesting life including many lovers who did not mind his off-handish and sometimes cruel attitude towards them. His mother, Eve kept a firm hand on his career ambitions and interfered with his love interests. The book contains 16 pages of b&w photos showing his life and during the 15 chapters you come across names of friends used by Fleming in his books. You will discover 007 was based on "0070 which was the German diplomatic code used to send the Zimmerman telegram from Berlin to Washington". Other facts include Goldeneye was "a naval intelligence division plan [ never implemented ] to carry out limited sabotage and maintain essential communication with London if the Germans marched into Spain" and the name of James Bond, Fleming explains ... "Oh, that's easy, I think of the first couple of names in my house at school and change their Christian names. In my case the first names were James Aitken and Harry Bond. So you could have Harry Aitken and James Bond".
Later at Goldeneye he looked up from his desk & typewriter and saw James Bond's Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies and this confirmed his name choice. While in Jamaica he met the American ornithologist and introduced him to Canadian tv viewers as "the real James Bond". On meeting Sean Connery at the Savoy after he suggested David Niven & Roger Moore to EON for the film role, another female guest told him that Connery had "it" for the spy role.
Before his death a friend described Fleming as "sadder, gentler and wiser". Shortly after his mother's death, Ian died at the age of 56 on 11th August, 1964, the day of his only son Caspar's 12th birthday ( I also sadly lost my father on my birthday ). His son on reaching 21 wasted Fleming's trust money and died 2 years later in 1975 of drugs overdose after a failed swimming suicide attempt at Goldeneye.
It is a good one-off read from your library and proves an excellent reference book with a bibliography at the end but I would still prefer a more 'condensed' version before purchase.
17. Sean Connery - A Biography - by Michael Freedland.
Published by: Weldenfeld And Nicolson ( 1994 )
There are many books about Connery but I came across this publication in my local library with a relaxed photo of the actor on the cover. The author traces the life of Tommy Connery, born 25/08/30 in Fountainbridge, Scotland to Superstardom. We read how Big Tam tread the boards to become Sean Connery - actor. By using printed quotes and interviews with friends including Mr & Mrs Ken Adam ( Bond Designer ), we discover more about the 'private' Connery. It takes 81 pages to get "into Bondage" - alas this author seems to gloss over the 007 movies. Errors like Sean driving his Aston Martin in the first 2 outings - WRONG, Goldfinger's Shirley Eaton "seen, standing on the balcony" - WRONG and the funniest "'Little Nellie' with a car-carrying giant magnet suspended from it" - WRONG ! Has he seen a Bond movie ? The rest covers Sean's life & movies up to Rising Sun with "plans to play another Scottish doctor in Africa in a movie [ A Good Man In Africa ], and before that, a new film about King Arthur [ First Knight ]". Reminders of when Sean won his '88 Oscar when he joked to the audience "My name is Connery, Sean Connery". As much as it is interesting to read about the other side of the Scottish actor in this 281 page biography with 16 pages of b&w photos there is still something missing - no end career film listing for starters. 007 fans will at least have a better understanding of the first & original movie "Bond, James Bond".