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The Telegraph inspects Christopher Bray's 'Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man'

05-Sep-2010 • Collecting

For a man who has been a major movie star for five decades, remarkably little is known about Sean Connery -- writes Anne Billson for the Telegraph. He played James Bond, likes golf, is a member of the SNP and notoriously litigious, but over the course of his career he has given few interviews, and an autobiography has never materialised. As Britain’s biggest movie star turns 80, Christopher Bray valiantly tries to fill in the gaps in our knowledge with an unofficial biography which takes as its starting-point the author’s contention that 'every other guy born in the past half-century or so’ has wanted to be Sean Connery, and that 'two generations of young girls’ have fantasised about 'the movies’ ur-sexual sadist having his way with them’.

I was never one of those girls. Connery may be, as Bray claims, the epitome of rufty-tufty masculinity, but I have never found him as sexually attractive as the author evidently does. Then again, it’s useful to be reminded of his sheer physical grace, which Bray does time and again as he works his way diligently through the filmography. His modus operandi is to compare every role Connery has ever played, before or since, to that of Bond – although, oddly, the writer doesn’t seem to care for the Bond films much. Even high points such as From Russia With Love and Goldfinger get short shrift; Bray contends that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is 'the only Bond movie of any distinction’, which is odd since it was the first time 007 was played by someone other than Connery. Nevertheless, Bray provides a public service by pointing out that Connery would have had trouble pulling off OHMSS’s tricky final snivelling-over-the-death-of-his-wife scene as effectively as the much reviled George Lazenby.

He also reminds us that while Connery filled Bond’s shoes with an apparent lack of effort, it was still a performance, albeit one the public has since had trouble separating from the actor’s offscreen personality, and which inevitably haunts subsequent performances in everything from Marnie to the mid-1970s historical trilogy (The Wind and the Lion, The Man Who Would Be King, Robin and Marian) which redefined his screen persona and paved the way for the third phase of his career – that of grizzled mentors, starry cameos and an apparent unwillingness to push the limits of his screen persona.

Elsewhere, Bray does what he can with what must have been limited source material and provides an entertaining resumé of the man’s career, while occasionally pulling this particular reader up short with eccentric assertions that, for example, Hell Drivers is 'a lamebrained homage to On the Waterfront’ (it’s nothing of the sort) or that Tippi Hedren is an actress who 'is now all but forgotten’ (she’s not). And I’m sorry, but you cannot drop a phrase like, 'having written a ballet that had impressed no less than both Kenneth Macmillan and George Balanchine’ into a biography without offering further elucidation. Connery wrote a ballet? Well, strike me pink. But alas, further elucidation is not forthcoming.

Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man
By Christopher Bray
FABER, £20, 340pp

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