`Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began` television review
"Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began" review by The Times
Joanna Lumley had slightly better credentials for presenting Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began. She had, she said, been fascinated by âthis man who created this most mesmeric heroâ ever since she had appeared as a minor Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Lumley is fascinated by many things - it was the Arctic the other week on Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights - but I was surprised by this one. In 1978 I interviewed her for my university magazine and distinctly remember her saying how keen she had been that Purdy in The New Avengers would not be âthe screwable fluff that is a Bond girlâ.
Now here was Lumley telling us that the âenduring sheen of Bondism still sticks to me nowâ. To be fair to Lumley, she did gush this semi-ironically in front of Samantha Weinberg whose Moneypenny Diaries novels seem to be some kind of female response to Bond and she did remind us of Fleming's notorious line in The Spy Who Loved Me, a novel told from a female perspective, that âall women love semi-rapeâ.
It was Weinberg's view that Fleming's sadomasochistic fantasies could probably be blamed on his domineering mother. I began to feel quite sorry for Fleming, who later fell in love with another strong woman who dismissed his thrillers as âmere pornographyâ. His stepdaughter remembered the two arguing âlike billioâ and her mother, driving off in a huff and putting a âbig kissâ on his beloved Thunderbird. Ann Fleming could have out-philandered Bond. Her most notorious affair, not mentioned in the documentary, was with the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell.
Where Bond began, it was this programme's thesis, was precisely where Fleming, the wartime intelligence officer and foreign correspondent, ended. The documentary drew convincing links between the books and the highs of his playboy life. Even more impressively, it found that his downs had worked their way in too. His first love, Muriel Wright, was killed in an air raid in 1944 and Fleming was called from the card table to identify her body. The death of Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service could have been an account of that awful moment. Later, dying from heart disease, Fleming wrote his depression into Thunderball. Bond had begun to think that âall life was nothing more than a heap of 6-4 againstâ. Louise Hooper's programme was as impeccable as one of James Bond's suits. Lumley looked every inch the Bond girl.
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