Photographer Terry O’Neill has been snapping shots of James Bond behind the scenes since his arrival in 1962. This book, tied together with essays written by journalists, cultural historians and interviews with Bond girls is a collection of O’Neill’s finest and most revealing work. Though many of the images have not been widely published, O’Neill’s work is easily recognisable by his eavesdropping, yet highly artistic style. Surely you have seen that classic shot of Bond creator Ian Fleming close-up in dotted silk cravat smoking a cigarette? O’Neill took it.
Despite some perfunctory text, All About Bond wisely focuses on O’Neill’s photographs. The best feature Sean Connery goofing about on set, primarily on Diamonds Are Forever (a film he reputedly hated shooting). See the man widely regarded as the best dressed James Bond of all time in two-button Savile Row suit and Turnbull & Asser shirt, chilling with a baseball cap on his head. If nothing else it reminds us that the Bond experience is contingent on viewing our hero in a bubble. Backstage is enlightening but sometimes ignorance is bliss.
American model Barbara Bach who played Major Anya Amasova/Agent XXX in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Photographed by Terry O’Neill.
Scrutinising these photographs can feel like detective work. A snap of one-time 007 George Lazenby and Diamonds’ Bond girl Jill St. John relaxing by a pool in late 1969 seems to imply that Lazenby was actually hired again for the role and then walked away. Did St. John get the part because she was his girlfriend at the time? Pure speculation of course but that is part of the fun. These photographs will send your mind tripping in all sorts of directions, particularly a nightmare print of Roger Moore topless in bed sporting the creepiest reading glasses ever. Actually Moore is a photographer’s dream. He plays up, mugs and pouts all on cue. O’Neill’s pic of Moore pretending to snip tailor Douglas Hayward’s tie has been seen before (it was published in Dressed to Kill: The Suited Hero), yet always brings a smile.
If O’Neill is a whizz at photographing Bond, he is even better at capturing the Bond girls. A shoot featuring Britt Ekland from the mid-sixties is pure Twiggy inspired coquettishness. Sporting a ribbed sweater and yellow panties, there was no other decade when combining underwear and knitwear could result in so much sex appeal. O’ Neill has a gift for sensual female images that held back on flesh and relied heavily on provocative poses. Barbara Bach lounging demurely in an off-the-shoulder gypsy dress and opaque tights is a case in point.
Sean Connery clothes shopping during the Diamonds are Forever shoot. Note his ‘Daks tops’ trousers. Photographed by Terry O’Neill.
For all its exciting promise, the ‘Bond Street Style’ chapter written by Dylan Jones is rather disappointing. Jones has edited men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine GQ for 13 years; he clearly knows a knitted tie from a grenadine which makes his ill-informed observations seem even more bizarre. Connery’s suits were never ‘razor sharp’ for example; they had padded shoulders, plenty of drape and pleated trousers – ‘timeless’ might be a more accurate description. And to imply Lazenby’s main sartorial contribution to Bond was a ski suit is ridiculous. Lazenby wears one of the SHARPEST suits of the series in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (a single breasted, two-button grey Glencheck), and has more in common with current style trends than any Bond, bar obviously Daniel Craig.
However O’Neill’s photographs are All About’s Bond’s main pull and having a coffee table collection of his best work to dazzle guests over a dry martini justifies the book’s admittedly hefty price tag (around £30). For clothes aficionados too – male and female – there is much to appreciate and study. Our personal favourite is (again) taken from behind the scenes on Diamonds are Forever; a simple shot of Connery clothes shopping on his tod in Las Vegas. At least now we know who to blame for that nasty pink tie when he meets Bambi and Thumper.
All About Bond is available to buy in the UK now and is released in the U.S on 1st December.
© 2012, Christopher Laverty.