NIRMAL K.BETCHOO

What might be the stereotype of the modern man in the 1960s? How could anybody sketch a portrait of such a person? It might be the formal dark suit, crease-free shirts with thin stripes, a well-tied silk tie and a pair of shiny shoes. That could well be the ‘smoking’ that matinee stars would choose as an outfit. And if it were casual, what would it look like? Possibly, a woven-knit short sleeved shirt, plain white trousers, a pair of nicely crafted suede shoes with a huge lustrous watch on the wrist. This is how the ideal man was portrayed some sixty years ago and all that looks vintage now. Else, fashion comes and goes but the vintage style remains untouched despite waves of changes in taste. Have all these clad on a man who is stout, tall, dark with huge eyebrows, an approbative look and hair delicately sheened with Brylcreem, then you would imagine Bond, James Bond, incarnated by a pure Scotsman, Sean Connery.

Sean Connery was the first actor to play James Bond, a character created by Ian Fleming in the early 1960s during the Cold War period where there was the great divide between the West and the ex-Soviet Union. Accompanied with this was the caricatured image of Japan after World War II. All these situations made it worthy to develop spy novels by imminent authors like Graham Greene, John Le Carre, etc. as well as inspiring film makers like Terence Young or Albert Brocolli. ‘James Bond’, Agent 007 accredited to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, burgeoned as the iconic character fighting back with driven intelligence, magnetic charm and bold power, all those who avowed evil like Dr No., Goldfinger or Octopussy, each character becoming a film title in itself.  This was essentially British phlegm with the actor who should be mandatorily an English citizen born anywhere in the United Kingdom. Sean Connery, from Scotland, fitted both well in the character and the outfit imagined for the ideal secret agent.

The James Bond personality might be the first character in spy movies that drove audiences wild all over the world. The movies themselves were meant for adults and often rated PG since they were brewed with ingredients that made adults enjoy the game the time the reels wound up inside the dark theatres. All James Bond movies had exotic locales, magnificent yet repellent characters played by the villains with, exceptionally beautiful women, who would usually seduce Bond on being first spies and finally fall in love with him. Sean Connery enjoyed great moments in the James Bond character playing six movies namely James Bond contre Dr No. (1962), Bons Baisers de Russie (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Opération Tonnerre (1965), On ne vit que deux fois (1967) and Les Diamants sont éternels (1971). In 1969, Sean was replaced by George Lazenby and as from 1973, Roger Moore played the leading role. Sean Connery came back in an offspring of Bond back in 1984, Jamais plus jamais.

The James Bond image obviously changed through Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and recently Daniel Craig. This image has been under severe threat from Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hawke character in Mission Impossible. Earlier, Spielberg movies with forever young Harrison Ford also challenged James Bond thrillers. Sean Connery imagined that keeping up the stereotype might both create a cliché of him and limit his acting ability. In the 1970s, he went to play other characters in movies that did not really click like Shalako or Zardoz. Very often, when cinegoers saw his name on screen, they would easily recall James Bond.

The actor moved on to character roles in the 1980s and these created a newly-framed image of him. Bald with thinning grey hair, badly shaven cheek and chin, wrinkled with a grin, Sean Connery fitted perfectly in character roles. He was immensely admired for the different roles he played in Highlander (1986), Indiana Jones et la dernière croisade (1989), Medicine Man (1992), including the award-winning role in Les Incorruptibles (1987). The role of Jim Malone played by Sean Connery won plaudits from all concerns as he took the team of ‘untouchables’ along with Kevin Costner to get rid of Al Capone.

The physiognomic change gave Sean Connery the potential to play different characters and explore new avenues like the mysterious monk in Le nom de la Rose (1986) or an adventurer in La ligue des Gentlemen Extraordinaires (2003). His performances in A la poursuite d’Octobre Rouge (1990) and Lancelot (1995) in the role of King Arthur also earned him lots of credits. Sean worked with top actors like Burt Lancaster, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brigitte Bardot, Charlotte Rampling, Harrison Ford, Robert de Niro, Gert Frœbe, just to name a few.

Sean Connery was knighted in 2000 for his outstanding contribution to cinema. He remained an iconic figure for Scotland during the Brexit where he wanted Scotland to be free and independent. Mauritian viewers have seen a lot of his movies and have enjoyed witnessing him both a public figure and an actor. Certainly, the older generation might really feel the void he leaves on departing but will never forget reading his name on blue letterpress printed cinema ‘affiches’ including the iconic posters in Consortium theatres back in the 1970s with a nice pistol very often crossing his cheek. And James Bond obviously was accompanied by the nicest Bond girls of his time like Ursula Andress, Claudine Auger, Margaret Nolan, etc. Such a cliché will never die, and so will be the legacy of a Scotsman later known as Sir Sean Connery with due respect.