‘Dr. No’ James Bond movie flashback to 59 Years Ago

Actor Sean Connery originated the superspy role in a low-budget thriller that broke box office records

When No Time to Die debuts in the U.S. at last on Oct. 8, after several years of creative and pandemic-related delays, it will mark the 27th film in the James Bond franchise. It also marks the final appearance of Daniel Craig in the starring role of 007, the debonair superspy originated by Sean Connery in the very first Bond film, 1962’s Dr. No.

Believe it or not, that one had trouble getting a green light. American producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and his Canadian counterpart Harry Saltzman had joined forces, rather uneasily, to bring Ian Fleming’s best-selling creation to life. Most studios found the material too British and too sexual, but United Artists chief Arthur Krim offered them a modest budget of $1 million ($10 million today) to make their little adventure film.

Krim wanted Cary Grant to play Bond, but Grant wanted nothing to do with a potential franchise. Instead, they went with a relatively untested Scottish actor whom Broccoli’s wife, Dana, felt exuded animal sex appeal. After hundreds of unsatisfactory lead actor auditions, Albert Broccoli later recalled, Connery marched in, “pounded the desk and told us what he wanted. What impressed us was that he had balls.”

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Director Terence Young, who had worked with Connery on 1957’s Action of the Tiger, was an elegant Englishman who put the working-class Connery through a Bond finishing school. “He took me to his shirtmaker, his tailor, his shoemaker, helped me learn the proper Eton manner,” Connery said.

Dr. No broke box office records for United Artists, as THR reported Dec. 14, 1962.

The film, which shot in Jamaica and at London’s Pinewood Studios, ended up looking far more expensive than it was. (It was an all-hands-on-deck operation: Broccoli even picked up a shovel and dug piles of sand himself.) As Honey Rider, the first Bond girl, Ursula Andress ensured her place in cinematic history the moment she emerged from the Caribbean surf in a daring bikini. And as the title villain, Joseph Wiseman, a Montreal-born Jew playing a half-Chinese character — a casting that likely would never happen today — was wonderfully evil as a bionic-handed terrorist hellbent on destroying the U.S. space program.

The thriller went on to earn $60 million worldwide ($543 million today), and the rest, as they say, is history.


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