Dr. No: The First James Bond Movie

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

October 5, 1962 stands as a red letter day in the history of American pop culture. That is the day the Beatles' first record "Love Me Do" was released. It is also a landmark day in the history of motion pictures. Coincidentally, the fifth of October in 1962 happens to be the date the first-ever James Bond movie was released.

Dr. No was originally turned down by several film studios, on grounds of being "too British" and "too blatantly sexual." After United Artists finally decided to take a gamble and finance the film, the casting of Agent 007 was the most important matter to be taken care of.

Reputedly, Cary Grant was the first choice to play James Bond, but he would only commit to one film, and this, combined with his being a rather awkward 58 years of age, took him out of the running. Several other famous actors were also considered for the Bond role, including Rex Harrison, Stewart Granger, Trevor Howard, and Richard Burton, none of whom, for various reasons, passed muster. There was even a "find James Bond" contest, six finalists were chosen, and a 28-year-old named Peter Anthony was chosen, but Anthony lacked the acting chops and was ultimately rejected too.

Finally, a relatively unknown former milkman, coffin polisher, and Mr. Universe named Sean Connery was thrown into the mix. Producer Albert Broccoli had seen Connery in the 1959 film Darby O'Gill and the Little People and was impressed, particularly by the climactic scene in the film where Connery takes on, beats up, and dispatches the film's villain. Although Broccoli approved, he asked his wife, Jean, to watch the film, to get a female barometer of Connery's sex appeal.

When Connery went in to formally meet with the producers, he was dressed rather shabbily, in unpressed clothes, but he "put on an act and it paid off" i.e. Connery put on airs by acting sophisticated and conducting himself in the meeting with masculine confidence and a devil-may-care attitude. As the producers watched Connery leave the meeting and walk to his car -from the vantage of their office window- they knew they had found their James Bond.

Terence Young took the Dr. No helm as director, it was also he who introduced the uninitiated 32-year-old Connery to fancy restaurants, swanky parties and the beautiful young ladies of early '60's London. Young was a clever director and decided to direct the film in a humorous vein, realizing that the sex and violence in the film would otherwise be deemed too objectionable and would never get past the censors.

For the first "Bond girl," Julie Christie was considered for the role of Honey Ryder, but her breasts were considered to be too small. The producers only had to see a photo of Ursula Andress, posed in a wet t-shirt, and she was hired, without even meeting her in person. Andress was paid the paltry fee of $6,000, but her soon-to-be iconic role was to immediately catapult her onto Hollywood's A-list- as well as a place in annals of film immortality. Besides being the initial Bond girl, Andress's appearance in her white bikini helped bikini sales to skyrocket the world over.

Bond creator Ian Fleming wanted his cousin, Christopher Lee to play the title role, but Lee refused.
He also wanted Noel Coward to play Dr. No, but Coward sent him a telegram- "Dr. No? No! No! No!" (Coward didn't want to wear the character's metal hands.)

Joseph Wiseman was soon settled upon to play Bond's first nemesis. He was the first and only one of the early Bond villains not to have his voice dubbed in. Lois Maxwell was give the choice of playing Bond's sexy girl friend or secretary Miss Moneypenny, she opted for Moneypenny because she objected to wearing only Bond's shirt when he greets her in his apartment.

Reggie Carter got his place in cinema history, playing Jones the chauffeur- the first character James Bond ever kills in a movie.

Dr. No was the first Bond film, but it was not the first Bond novel. It was chosen to be the inaugural 007 movie because the source novel was the most straightforward, it had only one main location (Jamaica) and only one big, special effects set piece (Dr. No's base).

For the record, the first official James Bond scene ever filmed took place at Pinewood Studios at 11:25 AM on February 26, 1962, and was a scene with Sean Connery, Bernard Lee (M) and Peter Burton (Q) in M's office. It was a harshly cold day with inclement weather, which caused several members of the cast and crew to arrive on the set late.

Sean Connery had two toupees made for the film, a dry toupee and a wet toupee (for when the water went over Bond's head in the tunnel).

In the film, Connery briefly sings "Under the Mango Tree," making it the only time 007 ever sings in the 24 Bond films.

(YouTube link)

The sets and furniture in Dr. No were all made slightly smaller than normal size, in order to make Bond look bigger.

In real life, Sean Connery was morbidly afraid of spiders. The scene where the tarantula crawls into Bond's bedroom was filmed with a sheet of glass between him and the arachnid. For close-ups in the scene, where the spider is seen actually crawling on 007, stuntman Bob Simmons replaced Connery. (Simmons called it the most terrifying filming of his entire career.)

James Bond plays three different card games in Dr. No (bridge, patience, and chemin de fer/baccharat)- a feat still unmatched in 007 annals.  

One last interesting bit of trivia: in the scene where Bond and Honey are inside Dr. No's base, Honey notices Bond's hands are sweating. This is probably the only time in the James Bond cinematic oeuvre that agent 007 admits to actually being scared. It was a rare moment where the audience saw Bond as a real man, not invincible. it also increased the film's tension.

The legendary opening shot of Bond seen through the barrel of a gun was actually a shot of Bob Simmons, not Sean Connery.

James Bond first appears at the eight-minute mark in Dr. No. His iconic introductory opening line "Bond. James Bond" has now become a part of the American lexicon. This line was to become the most famous line in James Bond's filmography. In 2005, the American film institute voted the line as number 22 on their list of "Greatest Movie Quotes."

Filmed on a budget of just $1 million, Dr. No ran $100,000 over budget and United Artists originally wanted to cut their loss and pull the plug on it. Fortunately, they recanted and Dr. No was completed. The filming lasted 58 days.

Dr. No was to introduce several now all-too-familiar James Bond devices, including M, Q, the Bond girls, the criminal organization Spectre, Bond's luck and skill, his Walther PPK, and villains, their henchmen, and allies, plus the slightly humorous question of "Why, if they have Bond captured and at their mercy, does the villain not just simply shoot him and get it over and done with?"

Composed by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry, the legendary and now immediately familiar "James Bond theme" music is still often used in 007 films, lo, these 50-odd years later.

Dr. No opened to very mixed reviews, but fortunately, made a nice profit at the world box office. After initially seeing the film, author Ian Fleming called the film version of his Dr. No "dreadful. simply dreadful." He was later to change his mind and admit that Sean Connery was the perfect James Bond.

Dr. No was only the first. The two dozen James Bond films are now considered the most successful franchise in motion picture history.

(YouTube link)

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The very first James Bond movie I saw as a kid was "Goldfinger". It's amazing how young I was when I saw it (with all the sexual overtones in it) , but it hooked me. The car was the most interesting thing that captivated me... not the girls (to me they were so MUCH older).
The United Artists Theater in Pasadena, CA had one of the actual Aston Martin cars sitting outside the theater in front of the ticket booth with big signs "Don't Touch!".

Ever since then, I saw ever single James Bond movie that would come out... well, until 2008's "Quantum of Solace". By that point in life, I missed going to the theatre to catch the movie. Maybe the novelty wore off a bit, but since then I have acquired all of the movies, from the first until the last, on DVD. It was just in the last five years I was able to go back and watch Dr. No (which I never saw on the big screen).
Eddie's article is very fascinating indeed! From who was really in the "opening title shot" to the music lasting 50 years later! Even the fact that Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming's cousin! Very Interesting!

Let's hear more inside scoop on some of the other Bond films!
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I've been making the same observation for fifty years now: The preview, and the movie, shows Bond using a Browning Model 1922 with the silencer, to kill the assassin. Not a Walther. Kind of a tradition with me, I guess.
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I had read the book before I saw the movie. In the book Dr.No was dispatched in a more interesting way. The movie had to do it with its typical lame way.
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