14th January 2018
MI6 remembers those the Bond canon has sadly lost in 2017, and their unique contributions to the world of 007, on screen and off
By MI6 Staff
Dick Bruna (1927-2017): Dutch author, artist, illustrator and graphic designer Dick Bruna was born on August 23, 1927, in Utrecht, Netherlands. His father, A.W. Bruna, ran a successful publishing company with his brother. His father wanted Dick to enter the profession but his drawing was to art. Over the course of his career, he created over 2,000 book covers and 100 posters for his family business, A.W. Bruna & Zoon. The James Bond novels fell under the Zwarte Beertjes (English: little black bears) series of books that also included The Saint, Simenon, and Shakespeare. He died age 89 in Feburary.
Alec McCowen (1925-2017): Alec McCowen was born in Tunbridge Wells on May 26th, 1925 and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He performed in London and New York through the 1950s before joining the Old Vic Company alongside Dame Judi Dench before moving on to the Royal Shakespeare Company. He performed two notable one-man stage shows: one about the writer Rudyard Kipling also went to Broadway in the 1980s, and another where he memorized a large chunk of the New Testament and turned it into an acclaimed performance of 'St. Mark's Gospel.' As well as the gadget-master in , he also memorably played a detective in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Frenzy.' McCowen's partner, Geoffrey Burridge, died in 1987. He is survived by his sister and several nieces and nephews.
Vic Fair (1938-2017): Artist and designer Vic Fair brought his unique style to the world of movie posters for almost 40 years. Born in Chadwell Heath, Essex in March 1938. For most of his childhood, he was raised by his mother after his father died when Vic was only 5 years old. In 1976, Fair designed (in just one night) one of the posters he is most famous for, the David Bowie headlined 'The Man Who Fell To Earth.' He went on to produce countless posters for the British film industry, including many of the Hammer horrors and 'Confessions' series. Fair's first brush with James Bond came in 1985 when he was invited to design the British one-sheet for Roger Moore's final outing as 007, . The final poster designed by Fair was painted by Brian Bysouth and approved by Danjaq in London. Unfortunately, United Artists in America did not like the work and nixed the poster.
Clifton James (1920-2017): James was born in 1920 in Spokane, Washington but grew up closer to Portland, Oregon. He is a decorated World War II veteran, U.S. Army Combat Infantry Platoon Sergeant Co. "A" 163rd Inf., 41st Div. He served for four and a half years in the South Pacific from January 1942 until August 1945 and was decorated with a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantry Badge and six battle stars. After leaving the military, he starting acting in college at the University of Oregon. As well as his role in Roger Moore's first two outings as 007, James also appeared as a lawman in 'Silver Streak' (1976), 'Superman II' (1980) and 'The Reivers' (1969). His other film highlights include 'The Last Detail' (1973), 'The Untouchables' (1987) and 'Eight Men Out' (1988). He did from complications of diabetes on Saturday 15th April 2017 at the age of 96. He is survived by his two sisters; his five children Cory, Winkie, Hardy, Lynn and Mary; fourteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Sadanoyama Shinmatsu (1938-2017): Shinmatsu was born on February 18, 1938 in Nagasaki, Japan. He rose to prominence in Japanese sumo wrestling in the mid-1950s and reached the second division, Sekitori, within four years of fighting professionally. He won the third tournament he entered and by 1961 he was competing at the height of his discipline. He made a film cameo, fighting Sean Connery in the Far East adventure, ‘You Only Live Twice’. He became the sport’s 50th Yokozuna in 1965, the highest possible rank of wrestler. Yokozunas wear a ceremonial rope (not dissimilar to the rope that encloses their ‘playing-field’) weighing up to 20 kg as part of the ceremonial process. Despite two consecutive wins, Shinmatsu announced his retirement suddenly in 1968. He married the daughter of his mentor and ‘stable’ boss Dewanohana Kuniichi. As a stable boss himself he mentored a number of successful wrestlers until the mid-1990s. He passed away suddenly aged 79 from pneumonia on April 27th, 2017.
Tim Pigott-Smith (1946-2017): Born in May 1946, Tim Pigott-Smith is known to James Bond fans for playing the Home Secretary in the 2008 adventure 'Quantum of Solace,' where he had meetings with M about 007's excursions. He was a personal friend of Dame Judi Dench. Pigott-Smith also appeared in the Bond spoof 'Johnny English' as MI7 chief Pegasus, as well as an episode of 'Spooks'. He made his screen break appearing in 1984 mini-series ‘Jewel in the Crown’ also starring James Bond alumnus Art Malik. The series chronicles the last days of the British rule in India, during World War II. He completed work on the movie '6 Days' based on the true events of the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980, as well as Stephen Frears' 'Victoria and Abdul' alongside Judi Dench before his passing. He was awarded an OBE for services to drama in the 2017 year's New Year honours list. He passed away in April 2017 aged 70.
Chris Cornell (1964-2017): Cornell grew up in Seattle, Washington. He formed Soundgarden alongside guitarist Kim Thyail and bassist Hiro Yamamoto in 1984. The band was launched at the heart of the grunge movement. Audioslave sold more than 10 million albums in the US alone and was nominated for 9 Grammys, winning two. The band split in 1997 but reformed in 2010. In 2001, Cornell formed Audioslave, which he fronted alongside former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk. Cornell was considered somewhat of a leftfield choice when he was announced as the artist for the 2006 Bond-reboot, but he performed the title track to ‘Casino Royale’, titled ‘You Know My Name’, to much fan and critical acclaim. His representative, Brian Bumbery said his death was “sudden and unexpected.” Just hours earlier, Cornell had played a full, 20-song Soundgarden gig at the city’s Fox Theatre venue.
Sir Roger Moore (1927-2017): Sir Roger Moore KBE, the longest serving actor in the role, played James Bond a record seven times and for a generation, will always be the definitive incarnation. Roger Moore, born 14 October 1927, grew up in Stockwell, South London. Following a stint in graphic design, he attended RADA before beginning his career as a model appearing most notably in knitwear commercials. He took on brief acting roles and in 1954 secured a contract with MGM and headed to California. Moore had been a contender from the very beginning when the producers were casting Dr. No. Later, in 1967 he had passing discussions with them following Sean Connery’s departure. Live and Let Die was an international smash hit, outgrossing its predecessor Diamonds Are Forever. Moore admitted he was nervous right up to premiere night, comparing the press and public reaction to giving birth. At the age of 57 Roger Moore gracefully bowed out with his seventh Bond picture, A View To A Kill in 1985. His Bond films were interspersed with action adventure pictures; Gold (1974), The Wild Geese (1978), Escape To Athena (1979), North Sea Hijack (1980) and The Sea Wolves (1980). Moore died in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer. He was 89.
Mollie Peters (1939-2017): Peters grew up in Suffolk, England. She lived with her parents on the family farm before she left to come to London. She worked first as a shop girl, then she began modelling, which led to a brief career in film. One of her earliest roles was a bit-part in ‘The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders’ (1965) directed by Terence Young. Peters’ agent knew EON Productions were casting the next James Bond movie, ‘Thunderball’, and put herself forward for an audition. She remembered being nervous and being asked to dye her hair for the role of nurse and physical therapist Patricia Fearing. She appeared on set with Terence and Sean Connery and then travelled the world promoting the film, attending premieres as far away from home as South Africa. The cause of her death is unknown, however, she had previously suffered a stroke in 2011. She died age 78 in May 2017.
Joe Robinson (1927-2017): Joe Robinson was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on 31st May 1927 and would follow in his father and grandfather's footsteps into professional wrestling before finding further success on the silver screen. His wrestling career saw him grapple under the name 'Tiger Joe Robinson' and he won the European Heavyweight Championship in 1952. Whilst his wrestling career was progressing, Robinson also began to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After suffering unfortunate back injury whilst wrestling in Paris, Robinson decided to retire from the squared circle and shift his focus to the screen. Robinson's first screen credit came in 1955 in 'A Kid for Two Farthings' A string of television roles (including 'The Avengers' and 'The Saint') kept Robinson busy through the 1960s. Robinson's biggest, and final, screen appearance would be as Peter Franks, the smuggler that James Bond fights in 'Diamonds Are Forever'. Known at that time as 'The Blond Beefcake', Robinson landed the part through his friendship with Sean Connery.
Blanche Blackwell (1912-2017): Blanche Blackwell was the mother of the record mogul Chris Blackwell, the mistress of Ian Fleming and one of the last survivors from the age when some 20 families ran Jamaica. She was, perhaps, the last living person who knew Ian Fleming intimately. Blanche Blackwell was only four years younger than Fleming but outlived the 007 creator by 54 years. Blanche first met Ian Fleming at a Kingston dinner party in 1956. At first they did not get on. Fleming didn’t appreciate that she didn’t fall immediately for his charms. Fleming is supposed to have modelled lesbian pilot Pussy Galore after Blackwell and named the fire dragon tank in ‘Dr. No’: ‘Blanche’. At the time Fleming was married to Ann the former Viscountess Rothermere. The relationship between Fleming and Blackwell was a well-known secret and Ann became increasingly jealous, referring to Blanche as his ‘Jamaican wife’. She passed away on August 8th, 2017 at the age of 104.
Bernie Casey (1939-2017): After graduating from East High School in Columbus, Ohio, Berie Casey studied at Bowling Green State University on a football scholarship and became a record-breaking track and field athlete, and then earned All-America recognition and a trip to the finals of the 1960 US Olympic Trials. After earning his masters in fine arts, Casey was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers as the 9th pick from the first round in 1961. His professional football career as a wide receiver spanned eight NFL seasons, all with the 49ers except for his final two years with the LA Rams. Casey was cast as 007's friend at the CIA, Felix Leiter, in the ‘rogue’ Bond film, ‘Never Say Never Again’. Connery spoke with Casey about the role, saying that as Leiter was never remembered by audiences, using a black Leiter might make him more memorable. A resident of Los Angeles throughout his career, Casey died following a brief illness on September 19th, 2017 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at the age of 78.
Albert Moses (1937-2017): Born in Sri Lanka in December 1937, Albert Moses was actor of theatre, television and film, who rose to prominence in British TV in the 1970s. Before immigrating to the UK he produced and starred in a number of pictures in his native Sri Lanka and even produced a documentaries overseas. One of his earliest English language roles was alongside Sean Connery and Michael Caine in ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1975), before appearing in his first of two 007 adventures alongside Sir Roger Moore. In ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, Moses appeared as the bartender in Kalba’s club, before returning for the John Glen adventure, ‘Octopussy,’ in which he played Saddrudin, chief of MI6’s own Section I. The same year as 1977 saw the release of ‘Spy’ but also Moses’ casting as Sikh teacher in an adult ESOL college, Ranjeet Singh, in ‘Mind Your Language.’ He had a thirty year-long career in British film and television with credits as diverse as ‘The Bill’ and ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ and ‘London’s Burning’. Moses passed away peacefully in London, the city he had made his home for some 40 years, on September 15th, 2017.
Paul Baack (1957-2017): Back in the late 1990s, the online world for James Bond fans was a very different place. Active and in-depth sites covering the world of 007 were few and far between. When MI6 launched in January 1998, the other leading James Bond sites included Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Kimberly Last's James Bond page, Absolutely James Bond (AJB), and HMSS. HMSS was founded by 007 aficionados Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski in 1997. Rather than covering the latest news and rumours, HMSS was a bastion of the 'long read,' with an ezine format that containing insightful articles from a number of contributors. One of those contributors was Bond continuation author Raymond Benson. The author later named a character in his 1999 novel 'High Time To Kill' after Paul. Baack died age 60 after health challenges in November.
Karin Dor (1938-2017): Born Kätherose Derr on 22nd February 1938 in Wiesbaden, Germany, Karin Dor has an impressive resume as an actress with numerous film and TV appearances, many seen only in her native country. Her career began at the early age of 15 when she landed her first small role in the 1954 film 'Rosen-Resli'. After her US breakthrough appearance in the 1967 James Bond film 'You Only Live Twice', Dor went on to star in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Topaz' (1969), each of which afforded the actress a spectacular death scene. For the last twenty years of her career, Dor focussed extensively on stage work and did not have many major screen credits. After a heavy fall last year, Dor failed to fully recover. She died in hospital in Munich on Monday 6th November 2017 at the age of 79.
Get Bond in Your Inbox
Sign up for occasional email updates from MI6. Get notified of breaking Bond news, and digests of recently releases features: