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An Oxford Companion to James Bond

How well do you know your A-Z of James Bond?

‘Ah’, he says stroking a white fluffy cat, ‘we’ve been expecting you’.  Leave Ms Moneypenny with a peck on the cheek, stash your Walther PPK in your back pocket and jump into our Aston Martin so you can join us as we speed through an A to Z of Bond fun, fact, and fiction. We have stories about Roger Moore’s penchant for love-making, tales of fictional islands, and even anecdotes about crocodile jumping. We’ve devoured OUP’s online reference works to bring you a delicious helping of double 0 heaven. Welcome to the world of Bond, James Bond.

A: Aston Martin

The Aston Martin is a car which has become synonymous with the film figure of James Bond. Appearing in six films, the sleek, smooth, and very sexy Aston Martin DB5 projects many of the same characteristics as its driver. In 2012, the original 1964 Aston Martin DB5, which featured in Goldfinger and Thunderball, sold for £2.6 million to a collector. Some of the special features of the car included revolving licence plates, an ejection seat, and a bullet-proof shield. It may surprise you to know that in the James Bond novels Ian Fleming chose the Bentley as Bond’s favourite vehicle, but the seductive design of the Aston Martin won over film makers.

B: Bond, James Bond

With his quick quips, timeless good looks, and irresistible charm, the character of James Bond has global appeal. The brain-child of Ian Fleming, ‘007: License to Kill’ has become one of the most recognised fictional characters in world literature and world cinema. The infamous Bond quote ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond’ can be found in The Oxford Essential Quotations but there are so many “Bond-isms” that have helped colour the character of Her Majesty’s most dangerous spy. Many a young gentleman, me included, have walked into a cocktail bar and ordered a vodka martini, shaken not stirred.

However, in the life of Bond, two motifs remain invariable. Firstly, Bond will get the girl. With his enviable euphemism-laden one-liners and piquant wit, coupled with a dapper dress-code, Bond’s seduction knows no boundaries. Secondly, he will inevitably triumph over his foe, usually after an epic battle. Such battles have taken place in remote locations such as the ice-plains in Iceland, the fictional island of San Monique, and a space shuttle! James Bond even appears in Oxford Dictionaries Online!

C: Crowley as Le Chiffre

Le Chiffre, the antagonist in Casino Royale, is one of the most deranged villains in the history of Bond. The only thing more terrifying than his delight in torture is the fact that he is based on a real life character: the early twentieth century occultist Aleister Crowley. Dubbed the ‘wickedest man in the world’ by British periodical John Bull, death stalked Crowley in his meanderings around the globe. First, he shot two assailants in India. Then, he dragged his wife and daughter to visit him in Asia: his daughter contracted a virus and died in Burma. Several years later, several of his ‘disciples’ died in mysterious sexual and occultist rituals in Sicily which led the Italian Government to expel him and the rest of his cult. Fleming’s Le Chiffre shares many of Crowley’s characteristics. Like Crowley, Le Chiffre’s wanderings around the globe mean that nothing is known about him except the number in his passport – hence the name ‘Le Chiffre’ which translates as ‘the number’. He also has a reputation for practicing dark magic and using forms of sexual torture: remember the scene that led to the simultaneous crossing of millions of men’s legs worldwide as Le Chiffre repeatedly whipped Bond in the testicles with a knotted rope? Thought so.

D: Dr. No

In 1962 the first James Bond film Dr No hit cinema screens, starring the fantastically debonair Sean Connery. In his first film mission, Bond is sent to solve the mysterious death of his fellow agent. His assignment takes him to Jamaica, where he meets the beautiful Honey Ryder and faces battle with the evil Dr. No. The film was based on Ian Fleming’s sixth Bond book of the same name which published in 1958 and was directed by Terence Young, a British screenwriter and film director who also went on to direct From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

E: Erotic

From the moment that Ursula Andress walked out of the sea in her very small bikini in the film Dr. No to the latest sensual scene between Javier Bardem and Daniel Craig in Skyfall, viewers have come to expect sexual tension, amorous affairs, and charming one-liners from James Bond. Erotic scenes and sexual tension, , are expected in every Bond film and have resulted in Bond being known as one of the longest running onscreen Lotharios, having slept with 52 women over the course of 22 films. Famous sex scenes have included notorious stars such as Grace Jones as May Day in A View to A Kill and also some bizarre sexual turn-ons, such as the sadomasochistic tendencies of Xania Onatopp who brings herself to orgasm by crushing her lovers between her thighs.

F: Ian Fleming

It’s been 50 years since the Casino Royale book was published and the Bond franchise continues to go from strength to strength. However, it wasn’t always obvious that Fleming would be a successful writer. Floundering in the shadows of his ‘brilliant’ elder brother, Peter, Ian Fleming struggled to make an impact at Eton and, unlike his brother, was deemed unfit to study at Oxford. After contracting a venereal disease, his mother sent him off to a finishing school in Austria. He stayed in Europe for several years, studying at Universities in Munich and Geneva but he became more famous for his ‘extra-curricular activities’ than his intellectual prowess. He developed a reputation as a playboy that stayed with him until he married Ann Rothermere in 1952 (only after having an affair with her during her second marriage). It was this year that Casino Royale was published. His closest friends urged him to publish under a pseudonym. He had been a respected officer of the naval intelligence division during WWII and they worried that this type of novel would sully his reputation. Indeed, many journalists dismissed the ‘obscene’ and ‘sadistic’ content of the first Bond books. Yet, the sales figures disagreed and Fleming sold 30 million copies of Bond books during his lifetime and this figure doubled in the two years after his death. His legacy as the author of the James Bond books will last long in the annals of crime fiction; not bad for a University drop-out dismissed as a playboy.

G: Goldfinger

It is a widely circulated urban legend that the actress Shirley Eaton died from asphyxia during the production of Goldfinger in 1964 when she was painted head to toe in gold paint. It was believed in the 1960s that the pores in our skin aid our intake of oxygen and that being painted in metallic paint would result in death by suffocation. This was later disproved. However, although Shirley Eaton survived, the producers of the film were so cautious about the rumours of asphyxiation by paint that they made sure a small patch of her skin remained untouched during the filming process. One of the most memorable elements of the film Goldfinger is the soundtrack and, particularly, Shirley Bassey’s theme song. Bassey was chosen to perform three of the Bond theme songs and her contribution to British show business was recognised by the award of a CBE in 1993 and a DBE in 2000. You can discover more about this theme song in this book by Jon Burlingame: The Music of James Bond.

H: Heineken

James Bond and a vodka martini: one is a potent cocktail with dangerous ingredients and the other is an alcoholic beverage. For many a vodka martini, shaken not stirred (naturally), has become synonymous with James Bond. However, in an ambitious marketing campaign Heineken has secured one of the largest product placement packages in history. Heineken has a history of successful advertising campaigns, having coined the phrase ‘Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’ in 1975, which has since gone onto become one of the most recognised advertising slogans in the food and drink industry.

I: Intelligence

MI6, the secret intelligence service, is responsible for dealing with matters of internal security and counter-intelligence overseas. As James Bond’s employer, the Secret Intelligence Service provides the complex plot and missions for the character, while also supplying him with an array of new gadgets and weaponry. 

If you are interested in MI6 and the Secret Intelligence Service you might enjoy The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence ed. Loch K. Johnson.

J: Jaws

You would think that being smiled at is a good thing. Not so if the person doing the smiling is Jaws. Crammed with steel plated teeth, Jaws’ mouth is both a dentist’s nightmare and a formidable weapon. Seen biting through cable cars in The Spy Who Loved Me, actor Richard Kiel casts an intimidating presence at over seven feet tall, and has many brutal battles with Bond. The storyboard initially had Jaws die at the end of this film but because he was such a well-loved character (particularly by the director’s grandson) the producers and the director, Lewis Gilbert, changed the story to bring him back for Moonraker. In this film, he became more of a comedic figure and even helps Bond kill the evil Drax in the film’s finale. If you find yourself biting through metal or see people run away when you flash your pearly whites then maybe this is the book for you.


The national security agency for the Soviet Union from 1917-1991, the KGB produced many operatives that either worked as Bond’s allies or worked against him during this period. First mentioned, fittingly, in From Russia With Love, the KGB are harbouring a Lektor Decoding Machine that Bond needs to steal for the MI6. The KGB became most active during the Cold War and real-life KGB sleeper spies are still active and being found in Britain and the USA today. If you would like to learn more about the history of the KGB and Russian intelligence then try Russian History: A Very Short Introduction by Geoffrey Hosking.

L: Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die is the eighth film in the James Bond film series, and the first to star Roger Moore as Bond. This film marked several milestones for Bond films. It was the first time a fictional country would be used as a setting; in this case it was the fictional island of San Monique. It is also the only film which features a political assassination as Bond kills Kananga, leader of the fictional nation of San Monique, and the only Bond film not to feature the character of Q. The filming for Live and Let Die was done in a mixture of places to re-create the island of San Monique – Jamaica, Harlem, and Pinewood studios.

Live and Let Die also features a bizarre scene that nearly caused a stuntman to lose a leg in a spot of ‘crocodile jumping’ (don’t try this at home), Bond seemingly hops, skips, and jumps his way across a river filled to the brim with snappy-toothed crocs. The production team immediately rushed to the aid of the stuntman whose leg was trapped in the crocodile’s mouth. Indeed, the director liked the stuntman so much that he named the film’s baddy after him – Kananga. This scene was a long time before the phrase ‘no animals were harmed during the making of this film’ was used; if you are interested in animal welfare try Why Animal Suffering Matters by Andrew Linzey.

M: Miss Moneypenny

Another character Ian Fleming based on a real-life person, Vera Atkins, Miss Moneypenny represents the most significant dichotomy between the Fleming novels and the Bond films. Her role in the books is to provide information to Bond, as Atkins did for the British secret service during WWII, and she is portrayed as a discreet and professional character in the books. In the films however, Miss Moneypenny is the racy secretary of M, Bond’s boss, and the underlying sexual tension between her and Bond is palpable in almost every scene they share. They often only speak in euphemisms and the scenes between them normally end in Moneypenny staring lustfully after Bond as he leaves the room. In reality, Vera Atkins was a field agent who worked for the Special Operations Executive in war-torn France during WWII and met Ian Fleming shortly after the war ended. Perhaps the only similarity shared between the real-life Vera Atkins, the book version of Miss Moneypenny and her depiction in the films is her striking beauty and short blonde hair.

N: Ninja

In You Only Live Twice, the fifth spy film to star Sean Connery, Bond travels to Japan to work with the Japanese secret service ninja force. Ian Fleming’s use of ninja is the earliest recorded example of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as ‘a person trained in the feudal Japanese art of ninjutsu or a modern version of it’.  Tiger Tanaka explains to Bond that his ‘top secret’ Ninja fighters not only provide ‘the art of concealment and surprise’ but also hold spiritual strength to match their quick speed. Find out more about Japanese martial arts on Oxford Reference.

O: Olympics

The 2012 Olympic opening ceremony held in the UK provided many surprises and moments of awe for those viewing the opening of the games. However, nothing matched the sense of shock and overarching joy of seeing Her Majesty the Queen escorted by 007, played by Daniel Craig, from Buckingham Palace to a waiting helicopter. The Queen and Bond then parachute into the London Olympic opening ceremony and provide the world with a royal entrance like nothing that has ever been seen before. Read the OUPblog’s Oxford Companion to the London 2012 Opening Ceremony.

P: Pussy Galore

The names of many of the Bond girls would be enough to make even the most crude man on the planet blush. When Pussy Galore tells Bond her name in Goldfinger, Bond can only reply with ‘I must be dreaming’. But he meets many interesting girls throughout his career with equally interesting names. Kissy Suzuki, Honey Ryder, Plenty O’Toole, Holly Goodhead and Octopussy are all examples of Bond girls. They are all euphemistic, and the allusions don’t stop with the names. Oh no. Some of the best bits of Bond dialogue are built on a smutty foundation of sexual suggestiveness. See this exchange in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me:

M: ‘Miss Moneypenny, where is 007 now?’

Moneypenny: ‘He’s on a mission, sir. In Austria.’

M: ‘Well, tell him to pull out immediately!’

How does that primary school joke go again? ‘If you look up the word euphemism in the Oxford English Dictionary you would see the James Bond films.’ Actually, you wouldn’t. You would see this:

Q: Q

Another long-running character in the Bond books and films that was based on a war-time colleague and friend of Ian Fleming’s, “Q” has become known for his ability to create ingenious spy gadgets. Officially, Charles Fraser-Smith was just a temporary civil servant working at the Ministry of Supply during WWII. However, this didn’t stop him creating gadgets for the intelligence services, from shoelaces that concealed saw blades to golf balls that encased compasses. Fleming was influenced by Fraser-Smith in his creation of the character of Q as well as the art of deception throughout WWII. Many British secret service operations during WWII were based on deception and perhaps most famous of all of them is the intriguing tale of Operation Mincemeat. To uncover a world of deceit, mystery and espionage then read Deathly Deception by Denis Smyth.

R: Roger Moore

Sir Roger Moore is a well-loved British actor who is best known for his suave portrayal of James Bond between 1973 and 1985. Moore played Bond in seven films and is the longest-serving actor to have played the role of 007. Moore doesn’t take himself too seriously and recently described his portrayal of Bond as a ‘lover and a giggler’ in comparison to Daniel Craig’s image of a cool killer. Apparently, Moore got the role of Bond because he was a gambling friend of the producers of the Bond films Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Sultzman.

S: Soundtrack

The Bond soundtrack is often the first topic of conversation before the film is released. This year, it was the turn of Adele whose powerful, soulful voice is the backdrop for Skyfall. There have been many controversies throughout the history of Bond soundtrack, not least the story behind the first ever Bond film soundtrack. According to the producers the theme music for Dr. No was written the day before the film finished in production and this song quickly became the subject of a libel court case which lasted nearly 40 years. You can read more about the story behind the soundtrack for Dr. No. in Jon Burlingame’s new book The Music of James Bond.

John Barry was also the creative visionary behind eight classic Bond soundtracks that ranged from Goldfinger to Thunderball, yet he didn’t receive one Academy Award nomination for his all-action adventure music. Read more about the composer John Barry.

T: Tuxedo

The formal black jacket of the Tuxedo, combined with a crisp white shirt and dickie bow, is the iconic wardrobe of Bond.  The Tuxedo was born at the end the nineteenth century, when men desired clothing to accommodate the casual nature of leisure time. The Tuxedo jacket provided a new level of formality that sat between full white formal wear and the lounge suit. The word Tuxedo derived from Tuxedo Park, the site of a country club in New York where it was first worn. The Jacket is usually identified by the single button joining the front.

U: Ursula Andress

In Dr. No, the fantastically named Honey Ryder is played by Swiss actress Ursula Andress. However, due to Andress’s heavy accent, Honey Ryder was actually dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl. Not surprisingly, Honey Ryder is a double entendre for a sexual position. The scene involving her emerging from the sea in a white bikini has frequently been voted the sexiest ever James Bond scene…

V: Villains

From Scaramanga to Kananga, Bond villains are often pretty darn evil. The despicable nature of these villains and henchmen is one of the main reasons why Fleming’s novels are still popular 50 years after their inception and why the films still pull in billions at the box office. Perhaps the most famous of all the Bond villains, and the one to appear the most in both the films and Fleming’s books, is Ernst Blofeld. This super-villain was the head of the global criminal organisation SPECTRE and was Bond’s enemy for many years. If you ever catch yourself thinking about an evil bald man stroking a white cat on a swivel chair then immediately seek help; but this is the image of Blofeld that remains entrenched in Bond legend. Charles Dickens is another well-loved British author who was fond of villains; why not check out the first major study of the wicked and deviant in Dicken’s Villains by Juliet John.

W: Weapons and Bond’s Walther PPK

Bond’s issued firearm has not changed throughout the history of Bond films or books. Although his other weapons and gadgets have evolved and got even more ludicrous (invisible water car anyone?) his trusty Walther PPK remains a constant in his tuxedo pocket. Usually only used on henchmen fodder and on the baddies listed in the credits as ‘Bad Guy 1’ etc., this is the standard James Bond gun of choice. The Walther PPK is traditionally a blowback-operated semi-automatic pistol which features an exposed hammer, a traditional double-action trigger mechanism, a single-column magazine and a fixed barrel which also acts as the guide rod for the recoil spring.

X: Xenia Onatopp

Xenia Onatopp is the seductive and lethal femme fatale of Golden Eye. Played by actress Framke Janssen, Onatopp uses sexual violence as her deadly weapon and finds gratification in her murders. According to the OED, a femme fatale is ‘An attractive and seductive woman, esp. one who is likely to cause risk to or the downfall of anyone who becomes involved with her’. Onatopp seems to match these criteria, especially in the scene where she murders admiral Chuck Farrell during intercourse by crushing him to death with her thighs. If she was to eat him afterwards you could call her a Praying Mantis.

Y: You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice is the fifth film in the James Bond series to star Sean Connery as the MI6 agent James Bond. In the film, Bond is dispatched to Japan after American and Russian spacecraft disappear mysteriously in orbit. With one side blaming the other, Bond goes undercover on a remote Japanese island to find the perpetrators, bringing him face to face with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE. This film reveals the features of Blofeld, who was previously a partially-unseen character. You Only Live Twice became the quintessential example of the spy film particularly with the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, his aspirations of world domination, and his extravagant lair in a volcano. As a result the film has been parodied greatly, perhaps most prominently by the Austin Powers series and the scar-faced Nehru suit wearing Dr. Evil.

Sean Connery starred in seven Bond films and was the first actor to play James Bond in a feature length film. He admits that this role kick-started his acting career even though he initially didn’t want to commit to acting in a film series. He now accepts he made the right decision! You can find out more about Sean Connery’s acting career in Who’s Who.

Z: Zao

Zao is one of the recent henchmen to join the list of ‘James Bond baddies’. Played by Rick Yune, Zao works for Colonel Tan-Sun Moon in the 2002 film Die Another Day. The most striking characteristic of the character – the embedded diamonds in his face – are caused by Bond when the case of diamonds he is using in a trap blows up in Zao’s face. Diamond is actually the hardest known mineral and is an allotropic form of pure carbon. It is also known as a ‘girl’s best friend’, but that probably didn’t make a difference to Zao.

Image credits: (1) Aston Martin: photograph by Patrick Hutter via iStockphoto. (2) Skyfall movie poster from 007.com used for the purposes of illustration. (3) Dr. No movie poster used for purposes of illustration. (4) Golden girl still from The Music of James Bond (OUP, 2012) under the Fair Use policy. (5) Live and Let Die movie poster used for purposes of illustration. (6) Definition of ‘ninja’ courtesy of OED Online. (7) Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth II still of BBC footage via BBC, used for purposes of illustration. (8) Chris Lee and Roger Moore still from The Music of James Bond (OUP, 2012) under the Fair Use policy. (9) Ursula Andress behind the scenes of Dr No from The Music of James Bond (OUP, 2012) under the Fair Use policy. (10) Praying Mantis eats male after mating: photograph by fotofrankyat via iStockphoto. (11) Diamonds on black surface: photograph by Chatabox via iStockphoto

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