What did James Bond really look like?

Thursday, 11 February 2010 By Repoman

Reading a book, one cannot perhaps fully visualise the physiognomy of the characters outlined by an author. Though some readers might build a kind of etheric body of the character in their mind, something almost tangible as a physical entity, but without clearly definable structures, more a feeling of what a character's presence might exude.

These visualisation about a character brought from reading are perhaps not so obviously registered in one's internal library until one is confronted with the same character portrayed by an actor in a blockbuster movie.

The comment "I didn't see him looking like that" after a movie is often heard. In fact if the actor is so far removed from one's own perception of the character it can downright spoil a movie, the whole time the movie watcher not able to resolve the visual appearance and mannerisms of the actor with the inner picture of the character in the reader's mind's eye.

The phenomenon of the internal mind eye character is further highlighted when it happens that a movie representation of a character influences, modifies, distorts and possible replaces the character previously built within one's exclusive and private consciousness.

What did the dwarf Gimbly or Samwise Gamgee or some of the other characters look like in your mind before you saw the Lord of the Ring's trilogy? What does Sam look like now? Did Frodo look anything like that to you before you saw the movie? What does he look like now?

Which brings me to 007.

James Bond 007

I had always thought of Bond as a rugged, tough yet sophisticated looking character. I always thought that Sean Connery was not rugged enough, Roger Moore I thought might have looked a little more like my internal picture for Bond though was a bit too smarmy. The other's I have no great recollection of except for Daniel Craig, who I enjoyed immensely in Casino Royale, despite him looking nothing like my Bond, except for his delightful ability in that movie to exude that special mix of ruggedness and class.

So what did James Bond really look like I asked myself recently.

Reading Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel, Vesper, Bond's female companion, is said to have remarked to Bond's associate, that he reminded her a little of Hoagy Carmichael! Bond reflects on the statement a little dubiously while looking in the mirror.

So to try and pin down Bond I decided to look at some pictures of Hoagy.

Hoagy Carmichael

I was a little surprised, and for some unknown reason I thought that I should look up some pictures of the author Ian Fleming.

Ian Fleming

And bingo -  Hoagy and Fleming definitely share a resemblance. Looking at the photos it becomes patently obvious (if it wasn't already) that Fleming was fantasising about himself as a secret agent, and that Bond contains not only some of the physical appearances of the author but character traits and life experiences. (Who was the women (or 'bitch' as Bond would have remarked), that had mentioned Carmichael in relation to Fleming?

This conclusion is not so fantastic, the idea of a fictional character being an extension of a writer's own fantasy persona is quite commonplace if not an obvious conclusion however the Hoagy Carmicheal reference and photos do appear to confirm this theory outright in the case of Fleming and Bond

Sean Connery is actually a closer match and even Daniel Craig scores better after this explanation, though the Bond in my mind's eye still remains a kind of Roger Moore on steroids.

Next in this series I examine the Bond girls in detail.

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