He may not have been Fleming’s first choice for the title role, but there’s little argument he remains the iconic figure that people refer to when they think about James Bond. From Dr. No (1962) to Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Sean Connery starred in six of the first seven official Bond films. For everything he’s done since – and his list of films is extensive and wide-ranging – people will still associate him with this role.
Considered in the context of the ongoing Cold War suspicions between East and West and talk of spies, super spies and double agents Bond entering the film consciousness through Connery blazed a trail that was to be imitated by television shows, other movies, and various other rip-offs and tributes to the thought of having fadgets, being bold and dashing as well as being able to bed all the pretty women.
It is amazing that Fleming’s preferred choice for the role was David Niven because it is unlikely you could have two more contrasting actors playing the action hero than Niven and Connery. Though Connery was not a well-known and established character actor, his personification of the secret agent is one that no one could ever imagine Niven inhabiting. Where Niven is wits and verbal dexterity, Connery is muscle, uncompromising brute force where necessary without subtlety.
Until Daniel Craig, Connery’s portrayal of Bond remained the most rugged, the most macho and most physically aggressive. For all that, the dude could still look smooth in a tuxedo and still conveyed the air of class to request his favourite tipple to be shaken and not stirred. Unlike his successor, Connery’s quips were far more economical. Funny things would happen around this Bond, but although he could have a cheeky mischievous glint in his eye in relations with M and Moneypenny, he was not usually the instigator of amusement. His was the hardened, clinical Bond, on a mission and physically capable to endure the dangers this involved without breaking a sweat or looking in anyway vulnerable to attack physical or mental. Connery’s Bond made you believe that this sort of action was believeable and that he could overcome these villains and get the firl and live happily until the next assignment and girl to save.
This is why I appreciate, as well as being the first one in it who was arguably the most successful, why Connery is still revered among many Bond admirers for being The James Bond. I’m sure if a poll was taken and published tomorrow, Connery would just about win it (although he’s not my choice). Unlike his predecessors Connery’s Bond maybe only suffered one really duff movie (I’ll leave it to you to watch and see which one it was only to say it was neither the first or last of his official ones).
Apparently the franchise is the most successful English-language film franchise of all time and that is in large part because of the power of the central character portrayed by Connery. His Bond set the standard that others would be measured by and actors rose or fell on their ability to deal with that, such is the measure Connery’s mark on the role.