Were a person to exist who could resist the charms of James Bond, he or she could not hope to be immune from those of his creator, Ian Fleming, as engagingly portrayed in Tuesday's Ian Fleming, Bond Maker, History Channel.
A docu-drama based on the dashing writer's life, the programme illuminated the inevitable parallels between himself and his alter-ego.
Something of an action man himself as a young intelligence officer during World War II, and an adventurous journalist later in life, he was also a prodigious womaniser and a hedonist.
He's portrayed with plummy wolfishness by Ben Daniels, and remains very much the one-off product of a bygone era. No writer today could survive the infamy of writing lines like: "For Bond, women were for recreation," let alone of living by that sort of code in real life.
Fleming once made the observation: "Most marriages don't add two people together. They subtract one from the other." It helps explain why he resisted marrying even the love of his life, Ann, for many years – and continued having affairs even after they were married.
The chain-smoking, stiff-drink-quaffing adventurer is memorably quotable, and it's these lines that form much of the sparkling and revealing dialogue.
"Bond was born as a counter-irritant, or an anti-body to my getting married at the age of 43. I invented him to take my mind off the appalling business of marrying so late in life ... to sort of insulate myself against the shock."
Bond at least was to remain the confirmed bachelor that Fleming had fancied himself to be.
"I did get him married off in On His Majesty's Secret Service ... but I speedily wrote out his wife. I killed her. I enjoy being able to remove his women whenever I feel like it."
The programme portrays Fleming's initial ambivalence about Bond, thinking his writing amounted to mere adolescent fantasy. But when a literary chum suggested toning down its "strong meat" – such as the description of Bond getting a psycho-sexual charge from being tortured– he rallied to his creation's defence. He had, after all, been in the thick of naval intelligence during the war, commanding a group of "rude toughs".
Though escapist, the Bond stories were not wholly unauthentic. Perhaps their truest reflection was of Fleming, who was repelled by normality, to the point where it became a disability.
This is as appealing and vivid a bio-pic as they come.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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