Blame it all on Honey and her white bikini
It was 53 years ago that I stood shivering in a long queue on a miserable wet night outside the Odeon cinema in my home town of Reading. What prompted this uncharacteristically stoic behaviour was the opening of the very first James Bond film, Dr No.
There was considerable excitement amongst us schoolboys as the word spread about the scene in which Ursula Andress, as Honey Ryder, emerges from the sea in her white bikini.
Back in 1962, bikinis were still regarded as a bit naughty.
For the next few months the film became the hottest topic of conversation in our school and anyone who had not seen Dr No was effectively a social outcast.
The film was certainly different to anything I had seen before. Even the James Bond Theme by John Barry was a bit special and those guitar riffs still send a little chill up the spine.
Most importantly, Dr No included what was to become the essential recipe for films — violence and sex, with a dash of humour.
I can’t say I experienced quite the same sense of excitement earlier this week when I sneaked along to the local Bangkok mall to view the 24th Bond film, Spectre. For a start, I wasn’t shivering, although once inside, the air-conditioning was a bit fierce.
I can also unashamedly confess to having observed quite a few bikinis over the years, although none carried quite the same impact as that worn by Ursula.
I quite enjoyed Spectre, although not as much as Skyfall. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t understand the plot — maybe there isn’t one. But that is nothing new with Bond films.
In Quantum of Solace, I couldn’t even understand the title.
For your eyes only
There have, of course, been a lot of Bond women since Ursula Andress. At least in Spectre the ladies aren’t given silly names with appalling puns.
The days of Pussy Galore, Chew Me and Xenia Onatopp have thankfully long gone. Not forgetting Strawberry Fields, May Day, Holly Goodhead and the memorable Plenty O’Toole.
It is of course a different era. After playing the first Bond girl, Andress posed in a state of undress in Playboy magazine in 1965. When asked why she did it, the Swiss actress responded indignantly: “Because I am beautiful.”
You can’t get a more straightforward answer than that.
After Dr No, bikini sales soared, although, sadly not everyone wearing them looked quite like Ms Andress. To think that this original Bond girl is now 79 years old.
But back then, she was a real stunner. In fact, I bet she still is.
Nobody does it better
Everyone has their own opinion on who is the best Bond, but I put Daniel Craig up there with Sean Connery.
He has a great face for a start, a permanent frown looking every bit like he’s just remembered that he left the kettle on at home.
As usual, there is too much action and not enough acting. Bond still has class, however.
Who else would have the nerve to ask a waiter to make sure his white suit was pressed while on a train rattling through the Sahara desert?
Bond still dresses for dinner, even if it is in the middle of nowhere.
The star of Spectre for me is Ben Whishaw, who is really growing into the part of Q with his deadpan delivery. In the absence of Judi Dench, Whishaw’s scenes with Craig are the best in the film.
Most people are probably aware that the bikini was named after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where the US tested nuclear bombs from 1946-58.
Frenchman Louis Reard had just designed a two-piece swimsuit when the first bombs were dropped and quickly adopted the name bikini.
French fashion writer Diana Vreeland gave it a boost by describing the bikini as the “atom bomb of fashion”.
Although the bikini quickly became popular in France, it was frowned upon in the US, where it was regarded as far too risque (even belly buttons were banned in US films).
An article in a 1957 edition of Modern Girl Magazine said it was “inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing”.
Enter Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth, who had no qualms about wearing revealing outfits.
In Europe, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Anita Ekberg all did their bit for the cause.
And once Ursula stepped out of the Caribbean sea, bikinis were here to stay.
Brit meets Britt
One Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun, was shot on location in Thailand.
It is frightening to think that was four decades ago, released in 1974. Roger Moore was 007 and Post colleague Tony Waltham, being the same height and build as Moore, became his stand-in.
He also briefly featured in a long-tailed boat chase scene. I was quite jealous, mainly because Tony got to meet the delectable Britt Ekland, who played Mary Goodnight.
I watched the 007 crew filming a car chase near a khlong on Krung Kasem Road. The adjacent khlong was quite malodorous at the time, prompting the film crew to dub it “Khlong Pong”.
Alas, unlike Tony, nobody thought that Crutch would make a good stand-in for anybody. But the catering crew did give me a couple of nice complimentary 007 sandwiches.
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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