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`Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began` television review

19-Oct-2008 • Media Alert

"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 “this man who created this most mesmeric hero” 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 “the screwable fluff that is a Bond girl”.

Now here was Lumley telling us that the “enduring sheen of Bondism still sticks to me now”. 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 “all women love semi-rape”.

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 “mere pornography”. His stepdaughter remembered the two arguing “like billio” and her mother, driving off in a huff and putting a “big kiss” 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 “all life was nothing more than a heap of 6-4 against”. 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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